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Tuesday, May 16, 2017
Serious Problems Not Given a Serious Solution
I had seen some things about this series, but hadn't thought much about watching it, until it was mentioned in a friendly exchange with someone with Redeemed Otaku Podcast, so I decided to give it a shot.
Now in their mid-twenties, Naho Takamiya and her four closest friends from high school meet to dig up a small time capsule they had buried ten years before, and to remember their friend Kakeru Naruse, who had died in an accident not longer after the time capsule was buried. Ten years earlier, Naho Takamiya is preparing to start her second year of high school, when she receives a letter from the person she will be ten years in the future. The letter tells her of events that will happen during the school year, things the future Naho regrets doing or not doing, and she wants her past self to do differently. Much of what the future Naho writes about concerns a new student, a boy named Kakeru Naruse, a boy Naho will fall in love with, a boy who will die in an accident that might not have been an accident.
One of the big strengths of this series is that the characters are well portrayed and developed. The way the group of friends interact with each other is very much like how one might expect a group of high-school friends to act around each other.
Given the speculative element of the time-traveling letters, it's makes sense that the older people would want to try to tell their younger selves how to act in certain situations, especially when it comes to something as serious as a friend having committed suicide.
And while the time-travel thing is kinda-sorta explained with references to black holes and parallel universes, the focus is still on the characters and what they want to do. And in some cases, what they want will involve sacrifice, something one of the older men is honest enough to show to his younger self, by showing him the future he might lose by acting in different ways.
The biggest theme of this series involves regret; the older people wanting their younger selves to not do things they had grown to regret; Naho's often faltering attempts to act on the advice her older self wrote to her so she would not live with those regrets; the guilt and regret that eats at Kakeru over his mother's death, and his friends' attempts to cheer him up and help him carry the things that are dragging him down.
On the one hand, there is something good about watching these people really try to help each other, especially as they try to help the one among them that is going through a hard time. It is good to see how they will not give up on Kakeru, not just let things play out as their future selves say it did until he ends up taking his own life. There is something very admirable and even noble in their actions.
On the other hand, the solution, which is basically friendship and love, comes off as being too much like putting a bandage over a mortal wound. It isn't that human friendship and love aren't good things; they are, but are they things to put such faith in? Can someone like Naho really be sure that she'll be able to pull Kakeru back from the edge if he is ever overwhelmed again by guilt and regret? Can any person really keep themselves, let alone another person, from feeling pain, from doing things they will regret later on? It may be good to tell a person to not die by his own hands, but that doesn't mean that that person will not eventually die anyway.
This kind of shallow solution simply cannot survive reality. No person can be happy all the time, and no person can keep another person happy all the time. In fact, a person takes on a grinding and crushing burden when they try to make other people, or even only one other person, happey all the time. What is wrong with each of us is simply too deep, too profound, too much a part of us, to allow for such a shallow solution.
Make All Things New
It is very easy for me to think about things I've done in the past, and wish I'd done them very differently. I can easily think of times when I was selfishly, when I was arrogant, when I was dishonest, when I supported things I later came to regret supporting.
For me, the forgiveness of sins promised in the Gospel of Christ to those who repent and believe in Christ is a great promise. I have some idea of the truth behind the biblical saying “All our works of righteousness are as filthy rags”. For me to say that we are sinners is not some kind of attempt at self-righteous boasting about my supposed virtues, but rather it's a statement of reality from one sinner to others. I know that even now, there is some sense in which I am a new creature, but I do find comfort in the Bible's promises in Revelation 21, that there will come a time when God will make all things new.
I've heard it said that “The Gospel is for Christians, too”. Christians need to be encouraged to do good works, true, but we also need to be reminded of what God has done for us. While we are still on this earth, still not completely sanctified, still at the same time both justified and sinful, we need to be reminded that our salvation is not something we had a hand in, and that Christ of His own choosing and by His Father's will was the sacrifice for our sins. I've been comforted in remembering that, when guilt and regret haunt me.
This is a fairly good series. It's well written and has many very moving moments. Of course, you should watch it with discernment, and not just let the emotional moments cover over its weak ideas. You might find it worth a look.