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Depression Comes in Like a Lion} ?> Rei Kiriyama is a zero. Literally. The kanji for “Rei” means “zero” in Japanese. It’s an apt description for how the main character of March Comes in Like a Lion feels about himself. Although he’s a well-known and celebrated prodigy at shogi, a Japanese variant of chess, Rei is depressed and sullen. His parents and sister died when he was young, and he was adopted into a family led by a father who obsesses over shogi and envisions Rei as succeeding in a sport where his children failed, creating disharmony in their home. Without a loving family, and having even been told by relatives that he’s “nothing,” it’s no wonder that Rei finds it difficult to value himself.
I know what it’s like to feel like a zero, where I couldn’t see my own worth. After graduating high school, my life plans were destroyed (at least in my teenaged mind). For months, because of my shattered dreams, I was unable to find the energy to do the simplest tasks or spend time with people who cared about me. Ultimately, though, it was those loving people who helped bring me out of depression.
Rei experiences something similar. The Kawamoto family, comprised of sisters Akari, Hina, and Momo, and led by their grandfather, welcome Rei into their home just as he hits rock bottom. In the ensuing months, Akari, the eldest sister, frequently texts Rei, inviting him to their house for meals. He also spends holidays and other special occasions with the family, even experiencing very personal moments with them, such as when the sisters honour their deceased mother.
This new, makeshift family isn’t always comfortable for Rei. But the bonds of love between him and the Kawamatos are strong and secure. The love the girls and their grandfather pour into the teen fills him up so much so that his cup overflows—Rei eventually becomes their advocate, too, their comforter when they struggle. He is able to respond in love, when once it didn’t seem there was any love in him to give. After weeks of the middle sister Hina intentionally standing up for a friend who is being bullied, the bullies turn their attention to her. Although distressed, Hina declares to Rei that she doesn’t regret her actions; she did what was right. Those words move Rei, who declares to Hina that he will be there for her. As the Kawamotos have saved him, Rei is determined to save her.
For Rei, the love he needed to start moving out of depression has also been a model for him. Whereas once he may have been overwhelmed and unable to aid others, he can now comfort and support a loved one—all because they loved him first.
Sometimes I forget the lessons Rei learned when my loved ones are suffering. I try to solve problems and become frustrated when I can’t. I quickly lose patience and tire of helping. I retreat, sometimes angrily, from the hard work of encouraging someone who is experiencing hurt, because I’d rather preserve myself than share in their pain.
When a situation is miserable, it’s hard to be selfless. It’s hard to be patient. It’s hard to be calm. But when others are hurting, they need someone who exhibits these exact qualities. Love is a self-sacrificial act. I can’t love someone if I’m unwilling to be hurt, too, and to push myself into places that are uncomfortable and even painful.
For the broken and introverted Rei, it’s agonizing to be vulnerable, to reach out to others and reveal what’s inside of himself. But he does just that when Hina is hurting: he comforts her, seeks advice about bullying from a teacher, and opens his heart to Akari in encouraging her as well. Rei goes all the places he doesn’t want to go because Hina is worth the journey.
When I ask myself if the people around me are worth the discomfort and tribulations that come with going down the path of support, the answer is a resounding yes. As brushy and thorny as the path may be, I know I should take it. I only have to choose to embrace love, and all the joy and pain that word carries, and stand by my loved ones in their hurt—even when it hurts me.
He can also be found, however, feeding his other nerd habits, including A Song of Ice and Fire. Charles also remains hopelessly stuck in the 90's, maybe best demonstrated by his unexplainable passion for The Phantom Menace.
A historian and director at a government agency by day, Charles joins in the work of college and digital ministry is his off-time, while growing each day in the round-the-clock charge of being a husband and father.