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Memorial Day Anime

Members of the Kurosaki family pay tribute at Kurosaki Masaki's Grave

For most people in the United States Memorial Day is a time set aside to remember our military dead (and to be fair that is the official purpose), but for my mother’s family weekends in May are taken up by memorial services at our family cemeteries where we honor all of those who had gone on before. Here are a few examples of episodes that give their characters time to pause and remember in the places where their loved ones are memorialized.

  • Fruits Basket; episode 15, “There are No Memories it’s OK to Forget”: Honda Tohru and her friends make a visit to Tohru’s mother’s grave on the anniversary of her death. Yuuki and Kyo who are still getting to know Tohru are amazed at the festive atmosphere the girls bring to so solemn an occasion. The episode stresses the importance of remembering the good and the bad.
  • Major; more than a few episodes: After Honda Shigeharu dies early in the first season, his grave becomes an important place for Goro, his son, and the other members of his family. It is also a place for Joe Gibson, Sr. to reflect upon the circumstances that led to their fatal encounter. There are plenty of scenes throughout the six season run when people drop by Shigeharu’s grave to remember the importance his life had played in whatever future accomplishments have come their way.
  • Usagi Drop; episode 8, “Grandpa’s Precious Thing”: Kawachi Daisuke and Kaga Rin return to their hometown to visit the grave of Souichi Kaga, their grandfather and father respectively. They find that they aren’t the only ones who have observed the anniversary of his death. The episode provides a chance for Daisuke to take stock of how much his life has changed, and how much Rin has changed since he first met her at his grandfather’s funeral. Rin remembers that the Bellflower for which she is named was grandfather’s favorite flower and so brings that to places at his grave, reminding us all that while cultural conventions are important, it is also important to personalize the remembrances of important people.
  • Bleach; episodes 8 and 9, “June 17: Memories in the Rain”: Kurosaki Masaki died protecting young Ichigo from a hollow, and each year the family gathers to spend a day at her grave. As Ichigo learns more about the circumstances surrounding his mother’s

    Fruits Basket characters enjoy a picnic during their cemetery visit

    death, he wonders why no one ever blamed him for his mother’s death. Using the visit as a teachable moment, his father reminds Ichigo that he is the person that his mother died to save. He hopes that in the light of that weighty sacrifice Ichigo will live well and long. Ichigo uses the visit to solidify his commitment to being a protector.
  • Saraiya Goyou; episodes 7, “Thoughtless of me” and 12, “Already Wasted”: Yaichi, the servant of a noble household, was the only friend to their young adopted heir and sometime drinking companion to their neighbor who would eventually come to be adopted himself into the Yagi household. When the young heir “dies” and Yaichi himself is found dead in a well Yagi is left with questions and no way to answer them. Even as his life sets him up in comfort, he still takes time to dress Yaichi’s grave and remember his friend who helped the people around him. The presence of this grave becomes important to Yaichi, the leader of the Five Leaves kidnapping troupe, after learning the truth about his own past.

So there you go. Visiting graves doesn’t have to be a sorrowful or depressing time, but what it should always be is an acknowledgement that we are who we are, in part, because of the people who have come before and a time to remember them. If you’re looking for an anime that takes time to honor their military dead, one of the best I’ve seen is Naruto Shippuuden– seriously. They take time to bury their dead and use the time to remember that sometimes the important things need to be protected even at the cost of precious lives. I don’t have specific episodes in mind but they are there. Another good example (and more grounded in this world) is Yomigaeru Sora: Rescue Wings and I think the scenes I’m remembering were in episode seven (but the show’s worth watching all the way through). So Happy Memorial Day and live well and long, as Kurosaki Isshin teaches, it’s one of the best tributes you can pay.

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