I will openly admit to anyone who asks that I watch anime. I usually get one of two reactions when I do this:
“Aren’t cartoons just for kids?” Well, no—unless the Simpsons, Family Guy, Futurama, and oh, let me think here… South Park are for kids, too.
“Isn’t that porn?” Oh, it definitely has a subset of NC-17 material. From what I’ve heard, I’m glad it’s not something that’s piqued my curiosity. But no, not all of it—not by a long shot.
Anime (and its comic-book counterpart, manga) span just as many genres as does your average library. Heck, I’m sure that for any book you could find in, say, Powell’s, you could find something on that same subject handled the same way in an anime or manga.
I happen to be attracted to a certain subset—the subset about how life goes on, even as it changes. Considering that I got into this whole scene as a teenager, this is pretty unsurprising. From the school-days stories of Fruits Basket and ToraDora! to the mystery of Spiral, from the adventures of FullMetal Alchemist and the political intrigue of Saiunkoku Monogatari to the… somewhat genre-defying but probably overall magical girl Princess Tutu, one thing has stayed constant: dealing with change.
I won’t bore you here with a billion different summaries of all the amazing things I’ve read and watched, though I highly recommend each of those and more, for what that’s worth. Instead, I’ll head straight to the heart of the matter.
As I’ve said before, I’d like to think I’m adaptable, but the truth of the matter is, I’m a big picture person, and so, big changes cause me great anxiety. I have a pretty nasty fear of the unknown, and when I try to conquer it all at once (my MO), it usually gets the best of me. Even so, things usually turn out fine, but my experience would be so much better if I could just relax and take life one thing at a time.
This hasn’t stopped me from forging on, of course. Through moving past (thankfully fairly minor and infrequent) middle-school bullying through the hormone-addled confusion of high school and onto college, where I’m supposed to have figured out my whole life, or so it seems, no matter the setbacks I’ve encountered, I’ve soldiered on because I’m just horrible at giving up. When I get sad or fearful, my first instinct is to get angry. It’s a coping mechanism of sorts. It gives me the courage to keep going; to do what needs to be done.
A few weeks ago, I was feeling pretty low, so I sat down to watch some Princess Tutu and just have a good sob-fest. After all, it’s good to just let it all out every once in a while. But no, even though this is a magical girl anime with a horribly bittersweet ending that has me reaching for my tissues every damn time, it does have a bit of grit to it; a bit of that fighting spirit. At one point (and repeated again later as an echo), the puppet Edel says this: “May those who accept their fate find happiness; those who defy it, glory.”
It’s an interesting little quote. The second part makes a whole lot of sense. We’re the heroes of our own stories, after all—why shouldn’t we fight what we might see as fate? And why shouldn’t we come out better than ever? When I can, I take that tack in life.
However, the first part is a poignant reminder that even when we have to accept things as they are, we can be happy. It’s all a state of mind, after all. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t ever be sad. Grief and sorrow are completely natural, but we can’t let them rule our lives. At the risk of sounding self-important, I am going to include my own flowery quote from a fanfic I wrote a little under three years ago:
“Why does the rain have to fall?”
“So that when we see the sun shine again, when we feel its warmth, we realize just how much we take it for granted, and we are all the more grateful for its presence.”
Yes, it is horribly romantic—this was part of a romance because I’m a not-so-closeted romantic and I like my fluffy happy endings. I refuse to apologize for it, though, because it’s the best way I can frame my point. There are good things and bad things and meh things in life, and through it all, we just have to keep going, because that’s what we do.
And some day, we’ll see the sun again.