Konnichiwa! Here we are at the end of the week. And today just so happens to be Friday the 13th. I was hoping to have an awesome post about some scary/supernatural anime and talk about spirits and ghosts and stuff…but then I remembered…
I haven’t watched any scary anime.
Another is definitely on my list of stuff to watch, Parasyte: The Maxim is good but I haven’t finished it yet, and as you know, I’m still trying to catch up on my reviews for this season, so once I get into my rhythm of posts the day a new episode releases, I’ll start watching other series. Can never have too much anime, y’know.
So, in the interest of talking intelligently about an anime I’ve actually finished, I thought that we could learn a lot about the symbolism of ghosts and what they mean to Christians through the activity of Menma, the friendly ghost from Anohana.
Like most fictional ghosts, Menma exists on Earth for two reasons: past tragedy and unfinished business. In her case, the tragedy resulted in her death, but the business she left unfinished is mostly unclear, so she doesn’t even know why she’s around. Making matters worse is that she’s only visible to one character: Jintan, her closest friend during her lifetime. As the series progresses and we are introduced to the rest of their group of friends, they alternate between believing in Jintan and believing that he is insane. Jintan himself is originally unsure of what he’s seeing, but he resolves that he will do whatever it takes to fulfil Menma’s last wish, and grant her peace in the afterlife.
As a Christian first encountering this show, I originally thought of it as a sweet work of fiction; very well-written, one that elicited a lot of emotion in me, but one that was ultimately just a story. But as I thought about it, I noticed that Menma’s place in her group of friends mirrors a lot of the functions that the Holy Spirit plays in the life of the believer. While the Holy Spirit doesn’t appear to us as the ghost of a platinum-haired little girl who loves playing Nokemon, the Spirit does offer us the comfort of Christ in His stead, and Menma shows this in various ways throughout the series.
- The Holy Spirit brings believers together. Each of the main cast of characters in Anohana were once close friends, but their relationships splintered after Menma’s death. Tsuruko and Yukiatsu buried their pain in schoolwork, Poppo tried to find himself through travel, Anaru tried to make new friends to forget the pain of the old, and Jintan physically shut himself out from the world, choosing instead to find peace through solitude. Christians also do various things when we encounter adversity, but we never suffer alone. The Holy Spirit brings us together with those who can help and encourage us through our troubles, and this is exactly what Menma does: she brings her old friends back together.
- The Holy Spirit comforts us. While the Holy Spirit does bring us together with other believers, the Spirit also gives us comfort in our times of need. Christ Himself promised before His ascension that “the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” (Jn 12:26). The Holy Spirit is with us whenever we need Him: when we are hurt, when we are happy, when we love others, and even when we’re in strife with our friends. He does this in various ways: sometimes by giving us peace when we seek it, sometimes by opening or closing doors in our lives, and sometimes by putting us in new situations. And we see this in Menma’s case as well: when Jintan is discouraged about his life, Menma steps in to provide love; she is the impetus for Jintan to overcome his self-imposed limitations, step out of his shell, and become the truly loving and caring person he always was.
- The Holy Spirit heals us. The climax of the series occurs when each of the friends is finally reunited and understands each other’s feelings and motives. No longer are they strangers to one another: their love for Menma that drove them apart brought them back together as closer friends. Menma brought her friends together in a unique way: she didn’t invite them all over for a talk in order to share their feelings, but what she did was help them to realize how much they truly did love her and each other, and how the pain they held on to stopped them from growing as individuals. The Holy Spirit does indeed comfort and heal us, but He can only work when we recognize our own powerlessness and submit to Him for guidance.