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    Bitter Virgin manga--”It is a secret I have only revealed to God”

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    jazzact13

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    Bitter Virgin manga--”It is a secret I have only revealed to God”

    Post  jazzact13 on March 24th 2016, 12:19 am

    To be honest, if I had come upon a story called “Bitter Virgin” without knowing anything else about it but the name, I'd likely have passed by it without much thought. I would have thought that a story with such a title would be about some young guy or girl desperate for a sexual encounter, and the story would be filled with raunchy humor, immoral activity, and maybe some kind of weak nod to “true love” at the end.

    As things happened, when I learned about this story, there was enough of a description to it that it caught my interest, so despite my continued slight misgivings because of the title, I found it online and gave it a shot.

    Summary
    Daisuke Suwa is a popular guy in his high school class, and he works at his mother's restaurant, where his mother puts some pressure on him to find a nice girl and take over the family business. Though he has an eye towards a few girls in his class, there is one girl that he has no interest in dating, Hinako Aikawa, because she acts weird whenever she's around a boy. One day, to escape the attention of a couple of girls from his class, he ducks into a church, then hides in the confessional booth when someone else enters. It's Hinako, and when she mistakes him for a priest, she asks if he'll hear her confession. Still trying to hide, Daisuke agrees, thinking anything a classmate would confess to would be silly and trivial.

    He is very wrong.

    Hinako's confession involves her telling him that she had been repeated molested by her step-father, and these molestations had caused her to become pregnant twice. The first time, she had an abortion, and the second time, she gave birth to a boy who was immediately adopted. She had never seen her child, never held him, and felt only relief to finally not be pregnant anymore. But the day she came to confess was the one-year birthday for her child, and she wonders if it's wrong to do something to celebrate that day.

    His classmate's confession hits Daisuke like a 2x4 between the eyes, and once he learns for sure that she wasn't lying or trying to play the part of some pretend tragic heroine, he's left trying to make sense of his changing feelings towards Hinako. He now knows why she acts afraid around the boys in their class, and the knowledge of what she's lived through causes him to feel compassion for her and protective of her, and causes him to consider if there was any way he could help her.

    And speaking of a 2x4, he makes good use of such a board to beat off a man who attacks Hinako one evening after school.

    As you can probably see by now, this story is not an average lite romance. The subject matter is very heavy, things happen to characters that are unspeakable, and not just to Hinako.

    This could be considered a kind of coming-of-age story for Daisuke. At the beginning of the story, he's a rather self-centered high school kid, wanting to get off to college so he can sow some wild oats, so to speak. Hearing Hinako's confession starts him to being concerned for someone other then himself, even when it proves very difficult for him. For example, he grows to care for Hinako, but the usual ways he'd try to show his care, such as physical contact and words of affection, would only scare her off.

    Concerning Hinako's abortion, assuming the translation was correct and that I've understood it correctly, the child was already dead when she underwent the abortion-like process, I assume to remove the dead body.

    God and Man
    One of the things about this story that got my interest was how God comes into it, and how seriously He is treated in a story that can't really be considered a Christian story.

    I've already mentioned how Daisuke heard Hinako's confession while accidentally pretending to be a priest in a church, Saint N's Church, though the story doesn't say who Saint N was. About the only thing we know about the church is that somehow Daisuke has created an urban legend about it, that the church is haunted by the ghost of jilted bride who chases people with a cake knife. Actually, that has almost nothing to do with the overall story, but it is one of the story's few humorous elements

    It's difficult to get an idea of what Daisuke's belief's are, except he does have some kind of rudimentary knowledge of God. When a tragedy hits his family, Daisuke's initial reaction is to blame God for it, and to not forgive Him for it. But if he is hardly a Job in such sufferings, it wasn't long after that he returns to the church, repenting of his anger and asking God to help Hinako, who had just been hurt when she learned that more people know her secret then she realized.

    A few months ago, I read a story by a popular Christian minister and author. The story did have some potentially serious elements to it, as it dealt with marital infidelity and financial irresponsibility. But my opinion of the book was rather negative. I thought it treated God in a trite way, making him seem like a Grandpa in the sky who just wants the kids to be happy and occasionally come by to chat with him. And in turn, the ways that the human conflicts were handled seemed trite, too.  Everything was resolved, but in a way that seemed to ignore the real hurts.

    It may be too simple to say “It's when we take God seriously that we can take man seriously, too”, but when I set the story by this Christian author beside “Bitter Virgin”, it seems like the two big differences between the stories is that BV takes God seriously, and also takes the characters' seriously. There is no attempt to try to downplay Hinako's brokenness. She is not given the kind of quick-fix schemes too popular in the church today, such as that she should declare positive things over herself, or not think negative things about herself, or that she should claim and declare her healing and deliverance, or that God can give her a second chance and a new start.

    There sometimes seems to be a thought, maybe an unconscious thought, that correct and deep theology somehow weakens stories. It's a thought I cannot agree with. For all that I can respect “Bitter Virgin” for taking God seriously, and even more so when I compare it to the Christian story I mentioned earlier, I do wish it had done more to show why this God should be taken seriously. What has God done to show His love for us? Can an innocent victim like Hinako be shown the love of God in the unjust condemnation of the Son of God? Can she see God's love for a broken person like herself in the broken body of Jesus? And more then that, can she be shown that this broken Savior was broken for her sins, too?

    Disapproval and Compassion
    Early in the story, the reader learns that Daisuke has an older sister, but that she has been away in the big city for about six years, first as a university student and then for work. Midway into the story, she shows up again. She's very pregnant, and has gotten pregnant through having an affair with a married man, though it seems she didn't realize he was married when she got pregnant.

    Her character adds some interesting elements to the story. She offers no apologies for her pregnancy, nor for how it happened. There are some moments of conflict between her and her mother over this, but much of it is pretty much shelved until later.

    But then, the birth goes very badly, and her baby is stillborn. In a story that has already had some gut-wrenching moments, this is one of the hardest. She struggles to deal with her loss and grief, even after some people around her think she should be getting over it. It was this tragedy in his family that Daisuke initially blamed God for.

    The question I want to ask about this part of the story is something like this--How can we Christians express both disapproval and compassion? In the context of the story, how could a Christian stand by morality and say that this woman was wrong to have an affair with a man she wasn't married to, while also showing compassion to her for her loss?

    This is especially difficult in the politically charged rhetoric of today. For many who push for the recognition of certain sexual behaviors, they wish to not only have the church show them compassion, but to define for the church what that compassion should be like, and to their minds compassion and approval are synonymous. By what they say, for the church to say that their sexual choices are immoral is not only disagreeable, but “hate speech” that must be silenced.

    One thing that would help is the Gospel. There is a place for emphasizing the law, for saying that such sexual choices are against God's law and are thus sinful. But the law cuts all of us, we are all sinful, we have all fallen short of the glory of God. The law is not just for the people “out there”, it is for the people in the churches, because we are still sinners who need to repent. But the Gospel is also for us as well as the people “out there”, because we need God's forgiveness, we need to know that we can't do anything to earn God's favor, but that “while we were still sinners Christ died for us”.

    In being reminded of our fallen condition and of God's love and forgiveness, we might be able to better offer grace to those “out there”. We might remember that God doesn't approve of our sins, and that even our works of righteousness are so soiled in sin that they are like filthy rags, yet God had such compassion for us that Christ died for our sins. We might be reminded of Jesus' words to the Samaritan woman, that he offered no approval for her living with a man she wasn't married to, but that he still showed compassion to her. Or maybe how He responded to the adulterous woman, that He didn't approve of his adultery but didn't condemn her like those who dragged her before him. Or even the disciples, those who followed Him for a few years but then abandoned and denied Him at the end, but when He was resurrected He had compassion on them.

    And when the world still hates us and persecutes us, the Gospel will remind us that Jesus told us that such things would happen. It will remind us that our Savior was persecuted and died a painful, shameful death, and those who have followed Him have often suffered similar things.

    Conclusion
    At only four volumes and 32 chapters, “Bitter Virgin” is a very short series, but it's certainly not lacking in content. This isn't a light read, and often it's not an easy one. Understand going in that some of the content and images will be disturbing. I like that it deals with some very heavy content, and does so in a respectful and serious way.

    I don't like using phrases such as “Must read!”, even when it's understood that it's an exaggeration. But “Bitter Virgin” is a series I can highly recommend.

    mikel.withers

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    Re: Bitter Virgin manga--”It is a secret I have only revealed to God”

    Post  mikel.withers on March 24th 2016, 8:51 am

    Fascinating; thanks for sharing that with us.
    I definitely plan on looking into it.

    Paeter
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    Re: Bitter Virgin manga--”It is a secret I have only revealed to God”

    Post  Paeter on March 24th 2016, 4:48 pm

    Wow! I think what you've written here is insightful and made me aware of a kind of story I didn't think would ever come out of anime! Would it be alright with you if I read this post/review on the SBU podcast in a review segment? (Or maybe you'd prefer to record yourself reading it and send me the file?) I'd love to let others know about this and benefit from your perspective on it!


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    jazzact13

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    Re: Bitter Virgin manga--”It is a secret I have only revealed to God”

    Post  jazzact13 on March 24th 2016, 10:10 pm

    Paeter wrote:Wow! I think what you've written here is insightful and made me aware of a kind of story I didn't think would ever come out of anime! Would it be alright with you if I read this post/review on the SBU podcast in a review segment? (Or maybe you'd prefer to record yourself reading it and send me the file?) I'd love to let others know about this and benefit from your perspective on it!

    That would be fine, thanks. You reading it would probably be better than me doing so. One thing, though, is that it's not an anime, but a manga series.

    If you want to take a look at it, you can do so at Mangahere. At least from searching on Amazon, I haven't yet seen anything about an English translation of the series, so what I've read was a scanlation.

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