Spring is stirring in the air and threatens twitterpation, but I wanted to appreciate a different kind of love that’s sometimes overlooked this time of year. Friendship, as we’ve all learned from anime, is a force to be reckoned with, bringing it home as something to treasure and celebrate as much as romance. And when you see it captured in some of our favourite series, they seem to get to the roots of the pure, spiritual resonance that helps love flourish, providing sanctuary and guiding us even in the worst of times.
The partnership between Soul and Maka in Soul Eater, for instance, might be one of the most literal images of this power in action, but in their hallowed partnership saving sinister, lost and misled souls, there are much more relatable truths in the strength of their bond. Before they met, they seemed to float in worlds of watercolour all alone, the waiting rooms for finding out the meaning to their lives. As soon as their worlds intersected, they could leave those safe but dreary places, and face the dangers of the wider dark for the preservation of humanity, as partners.
Thinking about it on a level with reality, you can’t imagine doing anything of the sort, right? At least, not on your own. It’s these partners we find that make us brave enough to feel we can tackle the shadows of our world. In a shoujo series about achieving dreams, however great or small, the love between NANA’s heroines is heavily hinted as reaching past friendship, but ultimately it’s their ties as friends that anchor and brighten their lives. It lets them forget their weaknesses, taking heart in each other’s achievements and reinforcing their own.
Even when they’re apart, with each other’s love they’re twice as strong. Their anxiety in the thought of failing, not finding the lives they want, is outmatched by their despair in being pushed to lead separate lives. Powered by this passion, they run parallel towards their own horizons, sparking off each other’s joys. It’s this same fire we create when we meet someone who seems totally different, but we can still feel that shared fervour in a familiar dream under the surface.
You see it all the time; the ‘odd couple’ who find each other under glad circumstance to mend and inspire one another. In Hunter x Hunter, when you see Killua after a few months knowing Gon compared to his past life, you can hardly believe it’s the same person. And their discoveries in gradually coming to know the other’s history and hurts are tender and truthful. Particularly in the reboot, the series is faithful to how we shield our troubled selves from others. When Gon meets Killua, he glides on his skateboard like he’s come from the same carefree stock, but in hindsight, you can remember that wild wariness in his eyes.
With Gon’s intense senses, of course, he could probably tell from the off that Killua was pained and in need of companionship. And so, he teaches him to seek and achieve what he wants from life. But what Gon doesn’t realise, and what we start to see, is that the boy from Whale Island hasn’t gone untainted either. His missing father left him with a need to prove himself equal, which edges over to the obsessive when he lets himself get mortally wounded. He’s justified in thinking he does it to protect his friends, but there’s a disturbing neurosis there that needs just as much care as Killua’s. The way they balance each other, often in ways they don’t even realise, to help each other out of their remarkably similar shadows marks out friendship as the saviour they see in each other.
But those two were blessed with hyper-awareness of spirit and surroundings, and for regular humans like you and I, not all friendships that should have been made are fulfilled. ERASED, this season’s tale of a man who can correct life-threatening events through time-travel, gives its lead Satoru a chance to do something we often wish for. To go back to a situation we regret in a position above our ego and ignorance of the future.
When his mother’s death triggers a flash back to the days before his classmate Kayo disappeared, Satoru understands that she needs someone to care she’s safe. He returns to a state of childlike sincerity that he couldn’t enjoy even the first time round, weighed down with that familiar feeling of wanting to be liked over doing what he knew was right. Enjoying their birthdays, this time together, they learn to speak without fear or apprehension, and realise the ease of hope and happiness that comes with finding someone you know you can trust.
Just as a friendship found can warm us through for life, a chance missed can live as long as regret. Its power is what makes love stay its course past romance, letting us see each other in honesty, and help each other become our strongest, bravest selves. In part anime, in capturing this meaning, has helped me understand its power. So, as springtime breathes its softness through the winter air, why worry about finding romance? After all, friends, companions and life partners are the loves that shape us and our lives.