Category Archives: art and entertaintment

A Garden Of Roses: Character Relationships In “Marimite”

While Japanese animation is better known for having flashy special effects and obscenely choreographed fight scenes, there are other shows out there that offer a very distinct visual treat. Some shows become sleeper hits, never really making the headlines but having special places in the hearts of more…discerning anime fans. Among these shows is “Maria-sama ga Miteru,” (affectionately called “Marimite” by fans) which is a show that focuses heavily on the characters’ everyday lives, relationships, and personal complexities. Unlike most other anime, “Marimite” has no plot to follow, with the story instead taking time to examine each character in turn. The focus often falls on the relationship a character has with their closest companion, but can also delve deeply into the themes like how their connection with others gives them emotional stability. Some episodes highlight the depth of the devotion that the characters have for each other.

For example, several different chapters delved deeply into the emotional trauma that one of the major characters experienced. The story is one that is told in every high school, with two lovers being forced apart for some reason. In the case of “Marimite,” it could be boiled down to one-sided anxiety in the affair. One of the girls in question, Shiori, was afraid of what would happen if she let go of her lifelong dream and decided to abandon her budding romance with Sei in favor of the stability of pursuing a goal. The nature of the relationship and the ominous end was studied in an early chapter but her recovery, thanks to her friends, was examined more deeply later on in the story. For most fans, that collective “story arc” is considered to be among the chief highlights of the show and is cited as among the most emotionally stirring moments in the history of anime.

Much more prominent, but arguably less dramatic, is the growing relationship between the main character, Yumi, and her idol, Sachiko. The pair, as noted by observers who are close to them, seem to be rather different from one another. Yumi is an ordinary girl who often sees herself as normal in every way, with more than her fair share of fear and anxiety at being in such close proximity to girls whom she saw as the “royalty” of the school. Sachiko, on the other hand, was every inch a princess bred for the sole purpose of fulfilling a role and maintaining appearances. Their growing ties with one another, along with just how much they influence and cherish one another, is the most prominent among the running threads of the show. As the story progresses, Sachiko slowly starts to open up more and learn to let go of her mask of emotional stability when needed. At the same time, Yumi is learning to become more confident with herself, along with learning to get better control of her emotional outbursts.

Ultimately, there are several other relationship threads and emotional connections than the ones presented above. The friendships between girls of the same year-level, their interactions with those that are ahead of them, and the recurring visits of girls who have already graduated offer glimpses into the depth of the closeness the cast shares. As some fans of the show have said, each girl is a window in every other girl’s soul, often appearing as either a reflection of something inside them or as that unidentifiable piece that is missing from their lives. The show certainly lacks the capacity for epic drama, but then again, it is a show about ordinary lives and ordinary girls. Really, how much “epic drama” does the average girl have to look forward to, anyway?

The Characteristics of Soul

At the dawn of spring, I am reminded by my children the joy of anticipating new life.

They will usually see a flower or two that has made its way through the soil to a world beyond itself. What starts out as a seedling or bulb is transformed by nature’s capacity to evolve.

Inside each of us lies dormant an awareness, an identity, an ability to grow beyond what we appear to be. Every moment, we are being challenged by others and by circumstances to create a life that exceeds our present state of living.

To move toward our highest good takes a willingness on our part to let go of what we know to what can be known in and through us. You and I are part of the Created Order we see around us, and we are participants in Creating Order out of what we have been given to care for.

With this in mind, let us turn to ways our soul can be described in the characteristics that make up a flower:

1. The Ground.

The ground nurtures, protects, and gives birth to a flower. Inside the womb of the ground, life is taking root long before we can see it. Because we cannot see a flower that has been planted in the earth, does not mean life is not being created. To be full participants in our world means to be fully connected and rooted in the world we have been given.

2. The Stem.

The stem begins its growth in the earth below and into the sky above. This part of the flower is the connecting characteristic of the plant. Much like humanity, we are in this world without being fully of it. This creates a sacredness to our lives. It is our unique ability to live and grow in a way no one ever has, is, or ever will.

3. The Flower.

In full bloom, a flower is the illumination of all the life that has preceded it. The radiance and color that pour out of it create life. Notice the next time you look at a flower how you are affected by it. You may notice your heart open and be filled with joy. Or, you may notice more energy and clarity in your vision for being blessed with great beauty.

4. The Spirit of a Flower.

The spirit of a flower is the life force moving in and through it. It is the essence of a flower that identifies with your spirit. This part of you opens from the inside out and becomes ONE with the spirit of a flower. It is the same energy that runs in and through you. Like a flower, you begin to radiate your own soul from the essence of your own being.

Each spring, take the time to notice the part of you opening up to new life. Just like flowers, we grow from the inside out. What illuminates in our life began inside us. We nurture these inner qualities of attention until they eventually take root and grow into our daily lives. The growth that follows is created from what we attend to or hold our attention on within us.

Like the pedals of a flower opening to the world around it, we create a presence of awareness. In full bloom, the beauty or the lack thereof touches the lives of everyone around us. As our inner patterns of attention move through us, the world illuminates the seeds of awareness contained within us for so long. Here, a life is created. It is the life of our soul

The Capacity for Happiness and Respectability

Humans are liable to experience a variety of afflictions, but they are commonly endowed with a capacity for happiness and respectability. There is no guarantee, however, that they will exercise this capacity at all times and to the maximum, whatever happens. Depression and shame remain a possibility, which increases with the severity of their afflictions and the difficulty of living up to the values that are necessary for their happiness and respectability: courage, efficiency, wisdom, and nobility.

Living up to these values is never easy, even under extremely favorable circumstances. It requires an effort of will. To make or not to make this effort is the question, central to the human existence. This question is difficult in proportion to the weight of suffering that bears on humans, while their dignity hangs in the balance. The more burdensome this weight, the more tempting it is for them to take the easy way out. The fear of losing their dignity, however, is a strong deterrent. There is no greater loss than that of dignity, save the loss of life itself. Yet, the easy way out is a very powerful temptation in extremely unfavorable circumstances. Giving up instead of living up to the values mentioned above is then deplorable but understandable. Excruciating circumstances are extenuating ones.

Amazingly enough, despite the burden of suffering that is oppressive to many, the incidence of moral collapse – in the form of errant ways like carelessness, vagrancy, and crime, often accompanied by alcohol or drug abuse to fuddle the conscience – is small in comparison with the incidence of worthy behavior. Furthermore, a moral collapse is remediable, except when the person concerned shows an inveterate or congenital weakness, or a mental illness that is beyond cure. On the whole, dignity can be lost and regained.

As for those who resist quitting the struggle for worthiness, they rarely do their best. In many instances their spirit is tainted with some degree of indulgence in laziness, cowardliness, ineffectiveness, foolishness, selfishness, and meanness. It has the grayness of dawn. Even those who shine like a late morning sun have a shadow of imperfection at their heels. In short, humanity has yet to fulfill its potential. While there is much courage, efficiency, wisdom, and nobility in the world, much happiness and respectability, there could be a whole lot more. The key to this rise is an effort of will.