Kanon, Air, Clannad, Little Busters. The visual novel company Key has created some of the most beloved nakige in the entire industry, with the anime adaptations receiving extraordinary praise for the most part. However, it has been some time since they produced something that was truly loved. I’m of course excluding Rewrite, that while is an amazing piece of fiction, is simply not a nakige. This has extended to their anime adaptation as it has been nearly a decade since one of their anime has struck the hearts of anime fans. Ask the average fan today what they think of Key, and a surprisingly high number won’t know who they are or haven’t seen more than one or two of their anime (and likely their more recent, poorly received ones). Thus, in some ways, Key’s newest work Summer Pockets and the inevitable anime are a chance for Key to remind everyone that they can write some of the saddest and simultaneously heart-warming stories in the industry.
I don’t want to spoil too much for now, but Summer Pockets was good but simply not at the level of their former glory. That’s not intended to place any amount of blame on them because their best is just so close to perfection, I can’t reasonably expect them to continue producing things as good or better. In the end, Summer Pockets was a story that has very much the kind of tone, theme, and execution you would expect from Key. One of the routes is centered on the girl Kamome Kushima who is in search of a hidden treasure from her childhood days. Spoilers to follow.
With a series of riddles on hand, she and the main character Hairi set out to find 4 keys hidden on the island. The keys unlock a map which then guides them to a secret location where Kamome claims a pirate ship is located. As the two figure out how to decipher the map and find the true route which leads to the ship, Hairi begins to see dreams that suggest he has already experienced this. Kamome, on the other hand, already has when she first discovered the ship with her childhood friends. Hairi continues to see visions of Kamome as a child and memories of being a part of her group of friends. He begins to wonder if maybe he was one of them and merely forgot, but that shouldn’t be possible. As they approach their goal, his memories of the journey become more and more accurate until finally they find the hidden…boat. It’s not a pirate ship; it’s a simple, broken down boat. The story shifts into a search for the truth behind the memories of Kamome and Hairi and the boat they found. In reality, the memories the two shared were nothing but a story which Hairi read as a child, a story written by Kamome’s mother and inspired by Kamome’s own imagination. As a child, Kamome was too sick to have fun like a normal kid; so, she invented an adventure that she wished she could experience. But like many things from childhood, these facts were distorted over many years. Hairi forgot the truth and experiencing the story in real life gave him a feeling of déjà vu and caused him to recall the story as his own experience. Kamome, on the other hand, truly believed the story was her own life experience. Her desire to live out an exciting adventure muddled together with her own memories and so fiction became reality.
Kamome’s route was really fun to read and one of the most enjoyable non-true routes I’ve read in awhile especially because of how well it stands alone aside from a few questions about how the supernatural elements happen. It’s fun enough that you can really empathize with Kamome who desired an adventurous experience enough that she mixed up fiction for reality. While it’s true there were supernatural reasons at play, I don’t think it is so psychologically unrealistic. And I think this phenomenon can be applied to faith in a few different ways.
I’ve met a lot of different Christians in my life, and my personal experience has found that the ones who grew up in Christian homes are actually the least likely to be true followers of Christ despite claiming they are. I would group myself as one of such people. Thinking about Kamome’s story, I wonder if a similar phenomenon happens in regards to Christian faith. We grow up being told Christian stories, Bible lessons, and surrounded by people who are “faithful.” But children are not capable of truly understanding the meaning of giving your life to Christ. Some Christians certainly grow up to be respectable and faithful Christians despite facing the harsh reality of life. But many grow up by only continuing to follow the motions without understanding how Jesus should impact your lifestyle and choices. If they go to church and listen to the pastor and say their prayers, then they are good Christians in their minds. I think when your childhood is filled with stories about good Christians, it can be easy to think that you are also a good Christian for no reason other than constantly hearing about it. Like Kamome who believes she went on an adventure she never did, people can believe they hold faith they never had.
Such a thing is incredibly ironic because your faith is not in God; instead, your faith is in a false perception of yourself as someone who does have faith in God. Anyone who questions your faith is clearly in the wrong because you are certain that you are a faithful person. How can you be wrong when your entire childhood memories are filled with stories about being faithful? Kamome’s misunderstanding is compounded by her own mother’s actions. With nothing but love for Kamome, she wrote a story that would make Kamome happy and then went on to reconstruct the story in real life. The truth behind Hairi and Kamome’s adventure: finding the keys, the secret map, and even the old ship, it was all prepared for the sake of living out the fictional tale; but this too, Kamome forgot. Christians who grow up in Christian homes must also deal with this irony. Because they are surrounded by people who want them to become respectable adults of faith, it becomes far easier to simply believe they are. When you live in an isolated community of religion where failure is met only with encouragement to be more faithful, faith is no longer a challenge; it is “inevitability.” Those who see the hypocrisy often end up leaving Christianity, while those who don’t end up trapped in a life of faith without works.
This is all not to say Christian communities are bad or this is the sole cause of Christian faith in name only. However, I do think this is a very real thing that happens to people who have only known “good Christian faith” their entire lives. Kamome got caught up in the adventure of the past which she never experienced. However, she and Hairi still experienced a real adventure in the present. In the same way, God can use even those of false faith to lead people to true faith. The question is whether or not you can distinguish which of the two you are.
P.S. The adventure of Kamome is based on the very real tourist attraction of Megijima.