Tanabata is a yearly celebration in Japan that stretches back to the 8th century. It gets the more colloquial name of Star Festival from the observing of the stars Vega and Altair. The mythology goes that these two star crossed lovers began to neglect their heavenly duties. The punishment from the gods put the Milky way between them. It dedicates not only the love between Orihime (Vega) and Hikoboshi (Altair), but also their devotion, determination, and loyalty to one another. Despite the tragedy of their separation, they possess the opportunity to meet in the skies above on the 7th day of the 7th month. This is the day of Tanabata.
People gather together to celebrate in all sorts of elaborate festival atmospheres. They enjoy foods that are particular to the jubilee. Oftentimes a visit to a shrine is in order. Shopping arcades will feature over-the-top decorations. Most commonly, hundreds of thousands of little strips of paper will flap and dangle from bamboo branches. All of these strips (or tanzaku) have wishes written on them. The hope being that the wishes will find their way to the stars; that they will come true.
In the same spirit of the celebration of the Cherry Blossom Festival, I want to share a few instances where Tanabata shows up in anime. Additionally, I feel that it is appropriate to share some of my wishes as a way of celebrating the festival. I don’t have a branch of bamboo with which I might tie these wishes. However, maybe this article could be my own good luck charm to see them to the stars.
Spoiler Alert: Here’s my standard warning that there may be a spoiler or two in the descriptions below. As always, I hope that they’ll be as vague as possible so that they entice you to watch/read/enjoy.
Tanabata – Date a Live
Is there a more bittersweet wish than to be with one that you love just one more time when you know you must leave them? To my mind, I can’t think of one.
Shido treats his most dangerous enemy to a date on the day of the Star Festival at her request (a request he probably couldn’t refuse). They discuss the story of Orihime and Hikoboshi at the planetarium. They take time to write wishes on the tanzaku. But a confrontation comes that leads to that bittersweet parting playing out. Shido’s only recourse is to climb the tallest bamboo tree he can find to tie the wish at the highest point.
Tanabata – Wish #1
I guess you could say that my first wish came in an article I wrote a few months ago. Give me another season of The Devil is a Part Timer, Spice and Wolf, Noragami, High School of the Dead, Accel World, and all the other animes cut short too soon, please! Being an otaku, I cannot get enough of an anime that ends before the whole story finishes. My completed anime list is nearing a hundred titles, but I still can’t get enough of these wonderful stories!
Tanabata – Is this a Zombie
In what can only be described as a misunderstanding, the residents of Ayumu’s home celebrate parts of Tanabata as Chrisma-ween (at least according to Haruna’s insane interpretation of the holiday). Haruna at least gets the part about the bamboo tree and writing wishes right. However, the blood-soaked Santa nightmare and mandatory pony tails might be pushing the creative parts straight into left field. Still the patchwork family manages a few wishes for Tanabata including swimming in a sea of vegetables pickled in soy sauce, that all repugnant things be eradicated (including zombies, of which Ayumu happens to be), and for the world to become a hard-boiled egg. Off the wall ideas to be sure but wishes none-the-less.
Tanabata – Wish #2
Part of the reason why I write here (or why I’ve written in the past) is that I have a wish to live in the hearts of the people I connect to. I share and share and share some more so that I can bring a little bit of the joy I feel to anyone willing to listen/read. It is an ever-present wish to make that connection. I want to introduce people to these obsessions I have in the hopes that they’ll enjoy it as much as I do.
Tanabata – The Devil is a Part Timer
How would you like a free small beverage with your wish (limit one per costumer)? Sadao Maou, the devil-king trapped on Earth, uses this corporate ploy to drum up business for his restaurant while it struggles in the face of new competition. Customers flock in when this promotion goes live during the business district’s Star Festival celebration. Maou brings in a couple of bamboo trees to set the MgRonald’s stand out and to trade wishes for a free drink. The impromptu publicity event is wildly successful.
Tanabata – Wish #3
Let’s get rid of gatekeeping in all fandoms! In a recent tweet, I finally put words to what it means to me. Gatekeeping really does make no sense. Why would anyone want keep others from the things they enjoy? My passion for one thing couldn’t possibly negatively impact your enjoyment of the same thing. Sure, we can all have differing opinions. Yet, we should be able to find a mutual satisfaction in a shared passion. I want to connect. Tell me about the things you relish and let me find out if it speaks to me as well!
On this 7th day of this 7th month of 2018, let’s hope that there is no rain so that Orihime and Hikoboshi may be together on the bridge over the Milky Way. Take a moment and a scrap piece of paper (or be bold and use the comment section down below) to share a wish with whatever wish granting power is out there in the universe. Feel free to reach out to me on social media (Twitter – Instagram) and let me know about the other Tanabata festivals in anime that I might have missed! I still have a few Deku notebooks I’d love to give away too.