Toward the end of Episode 6 of Angel Beats, we learn about the life of the controlling Naoi. He had been ignored as a child at home. His twin brother received all the glory and praise from his father and, when his twin brother died, his father forced him to assume his brother’s identify. He forced him to become his brother acknowledging him only so much that he resembled his brother.
As Naoi remembers his past in a flashback sequence, we see Otonashi approach him, acknowledge him by name, and hug him. It’s a gripping moment. Naoi just wanted to be acknowledged for who he was, not for his brother. He wanted to be loved by his father and acknowledged as an equal to his twin brother.
I’m reminded of another pair of twins – Jacob and Esau. Isaac loved Esau more than Jacob, much like Naoi’s father loved his twin brother more than him. Unlike Naoi, we have a mother in the picture who is active and loving. Also, conniving. This unequal love from parents leads to jealousy, bitterness, feuding, and animosity between the siblings. It breaks their relationship, causes discord among the family, and eventually leads to Jacob being forced to flee for fear of his brother – after he stole the birthright and blessing from his brother by tricking his aging father. This pattern of loving one sibling more than another is seen again in the line of Abraham in the Bible as Jacob does the same thing – only with his son Joseph. Again, this leads to jealousy, bitterness, and the brothers selling their brother into slavery. Theft, anger, bitterness, kidnapping – uneven relationships, loving one child more than another, it hurts families; and it hurt Naoi.
Naoi’s father failed him by loving his brother more than him, by manipulating him and only finally acknowledging him as he was dying himself. It’s a tragic tale and we see Naoi’s father fail him on so many levels. A father is supposed to train up their child in the Lord (Proverbs 22:6). He is supposed to be loving and not provoke his children purposefully (Psalms 103:13, Ephesians 6:4). He also has guidance from Moses in Deuteronomy 6:1-9. We are to love the Lord Your God above all else for your children’s and grandchildren’s sake, so they will know the Lord. Naoi’s father wasn’t that man, but, as Naoi fails to realize in the process of his god complex he has a father waiting for him who will never fail, never falter, and be on his side, always. This, of course, is his and our Heavenly Father, the Lord.
It is an amazing thing when you realize who our God is. He knows what we have gone through as He lived as Christ (Hebrews 4:14-16). He is ever present with us (Joshua 1:9, Psalms 23:4, Psalms 139:7-10) and dwells within those who have accepted Him as Lord (1 Corinthians 3:16). He knows all that we needs and is ready to provide for those needs (Matthew 6:8, Matthew 6:26). He will be our Father, if we accept Him and embrace what He is offering us through Christ Jesus. Naoi needs that more than he needs a hug from Otonashi.
In Luke 15:11-32, Christ tells a tale of a lost son. When we read the story, most of us focus on the prodigal son – he’s relatable and we see the sinful man falling down and begging as he returns home. We understand that we are like that son, rebellious and acting against our Father in Heaven’s wishes. But when we only look there – we miss the important part of the story. We have a Father in Heaven who is ready to embrace us, who is ready to love us in spite of our past actions. He’s doing all the work. He’s coming to us and dwelt among us as Christ Jesus. He sacrificed Himself on the cross to save us. He did that because of His undying love for us. He is the better Father, far better than any father we have on Earth.
Naoi needs to see the better Father, the perfect Father in Heaven; but he never understood it in life. The Lord is the Father to the fatherless that Naoi needed. It’s sad he never got the chance to hear about his Father in Heaven…
For more on fatherhood in anime/manga, check out my piece here on “Being a Present Father” on the Fullmetal Alchemist manga.