My liking for Hanayamata came as a surprise to me, as the show falls very solidly in the slice-of-life genre. I often find that I enjoy shoujo more than slice-of-life! However, like GJ-bu, the characters were endearing, which made me feel a genuine interest for their ordinary struggles, especially the difficulties within their own families. As an added bonus, the last episode of the series struck me with the inspiration to write this article on how many people hold a distorted vision of God the Father. Curiously, it was Hana’s mother who drew my thoughts to Our Father with her going halfway around the world to meet her child and her statement: “Who will listen to their child’s selfishness if not their parent?” How a mother becomes an icon pointing to God the Father reminds me of how God’s love is often compared to a mother’s for her children, whether one reads Scripture or the lives of certain saints.
But, I should like to focus my meditation on three Fathers: Tami’s, Naru’s, and Hana’s. Everyone acknowledges that one’s father has a great influence as to how they view Our Father in heaven. Sometimes, one’s father is an excellent image for Our Father, other times imperfect, and rarely it is necessary to completely discard the idea of father imparted by our earthly fathers. (But, usually the father must be a total villain for that to be necessary.) So, how might we expect Tami, Naru, and Hana to imagine God the Father based on their relationships to their fathers? Might any of us be like them?
I wish to group Tami’s father and Naru’s dad together for the purpose of discussion. “What?” you say. “How can you compare that strict, rigid, and aloof father of Tami to the gentle, solicitous, and understanding father of Naru? Naru’s father might even be called the anime dad of the year!” (I saw that last bit as a comment on Crunchyroll.) I compare them through their daughter’s perception of them. For all the secrecy and diffidence with which Naru treats her father, we might imagine that she thinks of her dad as if he were like Tami’s father! She keeps secrets from him because she thinks that he will only approve of her if she adheres to a specific path and group of interests. Any deviation will meet with his frown.
In a similar way, most people believe that God is strict, aloof, and uncaring. They see God’s demand for our perfect moral goodness juxtaposed to our lack of virtue as calling down His just anger. We often might believe that God does not care how we suffer or even sends us sufferings from a sense of vindictiveness. Our dreams lie fallow, and we believe that God cares not a fig to aid us. Some souls imagine that God is like Tami’s father, who sets a stifling way of life as a duty and for whom love seems conditional. This duty is impossible to meet, and so God not only does not love them but may never be pleased. Is it any wonder that so many souls run away from their sole Salvation and perish despite God’s infinite mercy and love?
But, the fact of the matter is that souls with the legalistic image of God do not know God as He really is.
But you have mercy on all, because you can do all things;
and you overlook sins for the sake of repentance.
For you love all things that are
and loathe nothing that you have made;
for you would not fashion what you hate.
How could a thing remain, unless you willed it;
or be preserved, had it not been called forth by you?
But you spare all things, because they are yours,
O Ruler and Lover of souls,
for your imperishable spirit is in all things! (Wisdom 11:23-26)
Who is it that restores people’s understanding of God and removes their fear of approaching Him except God Himself? It may be something as simple as Naru’s father saying “Where are you going?” in episode 12. Naru becomes nervous–perhaps as fearful as Eve when she heard the words “Where are you?” in the garden–and joins her explanation of her involvement with the yosakoi club to an apology for not practicing iaido as much as she should, fearing that her father would be upset. Might she not be compared to a soul which neglects Mass and saying its prayers? Instead of condemnation, Naru finds that her father is pleased that she is expanding her world and wishes to see her dance. In a fit of joy, Naru realizes that her father’s love is unconditional, and she embraces him in a fit of joy.
In the same way, our sins and way of life do not diminish the love of God for us. In the first case, there have been as many ways of life as there are persons. Of each of the saints, it will be said “there is not another like him/her.” (I forgot the Latin expression I’ve seen used for this. Oh, well.) And, God’s mercy is abundantly seen when one reads the Scriptures or the Lives of the Saints. God is ever ready to forgive as long as we come to Him. After all, which child wrenches his father’s heart more: a son who commits a crime and gets locked up for it or a son who believes his father’s love has ceased with the commission of the crime? Obviously the latter! And yet people are so willing to believe that the love of God ceases when we commit grave sin. Perhaps, a father like Tami’s just might, but not the Father of fathers! St. John Vianney even told of a soul who willingly committed suicide and yet was saved in the very act!
Actually, might not God be much more like Hana’s father, though with more dignity? Hana’s father is overjoyed merely to see his daughter happy. Does not God desire our happiness above all things? What else is our salvation and perfection? We ourselves are the causes of our own unhappiness as we deviate away from these things, which is the Will of God. That God wills for us to be happy is often a shock to some souls, especially those who have experienced or are experiencing suffering and evil. But, God promises happiness: “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Luke 6:38).
But, so many things militate against a soul realizing the goodness of God. We must keep in mind that all our efforts must be adduced to the attainment of heaven. Then, when perfect love has driven out all fear, we shall see the Merciful Father as He really is and wonder why we ever doubted Him.