“It’s your life. You’ve got to live it your way.”
– Jim Kido, Digimon
Season 1, Episode 38, “Prophecy”
I remember back when Digimon first came out. As we followed this group of kids and their digimon friends, I didn’t really think anything at all about the inclusion of all their families in the cast and the story. It’s kind of depressing, now, to think of how much the show stands apart from so many other anime simply with that. I mean, I know Japanese culture encourages independent behavior at a much earlier age, but, still, families are important. They support, shelter, encourage, question, advise, oppose, fight, forgive, love, and so many other things, which are key to the experience of defining oneself.
When we meet Joe’s brother, Jim, he immediately takes on a role in support of his little brother. They haven’t seen each other for a bit, it seems, and the first thing Jim asks about is Joe’s objective in life, to become a doctor. Jim seems a bit skeptical, which Joe’s digimon friend takes issue with, not realizing Jim’s motives for questioning Joe’s goal. See, he intends to become a doctor, but only because his father, also a doctor, wants him to do so. As capable as Joe is, he’s also a boy standing in his father’s shadow, living as his father directs.
Jim makes an opportunity to give his brother this particular bit of advice. He knows Joe can be a doctor if he wants, but he also knows it takes more than smarts. It takes a personal resolve and backbone to truly be a doctor (or anything else) instead of just some guy doing a job. He needs to take the wheel into his own hands and steer his life himself.
Joe eventually does just that, partially because of how he grows throughout his adventures. Incidentally, he does become a doctor, but for digimon, not humans, so it’s not quite a fulfillment of his father’s wishes, but it’s what he wants to do with his life.
I believe I commented once, way back towards the beginning of this blog, about humble victories being every bit as great as the ones we all read and sing and tell stories about. To me, that’s what Joe’s story, especially, is about. He faces the end of the world more than once alongside his friends, but it’s the life he lives afterward which is the real victory. Indeed, that is the story of most of the kids in this story, which is another reason I love it, but there’s a reason Joe is the one to hear this from his brother.
Now, of course, I do not want to diminish the importance of our loved ones and all the advice they can give us. Joe’s father wasn’t a bad man at all, quite the contrary. It’s merely that Joe represents us in how we sometimes fall victim to what other people think is best, instead of deciding for ourselves. And we absolutely must decide for ourselves, or there will always be something missing.
No matter our accomplishments, if they aren’t ours, seized with our own hands and by our own will, we will have deprived ourselves of something vital, and so we will always be less than we might otherwise have been.
To live our own life, we must live it by our own will.