“Anime Mental Health” is scaling, varying, and is not limited to just adding depth to the character. Anime & Manga have a history of projecting mental illness to justify the dark aura around the character. Hold on! Anime is not a cartoon. I don’t think anyone would want to describe Anime as a cartoon show after looking at the visuals and the deeper themes that they explore. I feel a lot of mental health specialists would agree with me on this that the depiction of mental illness is quite a sensitive take. Realism and humanisation of the issue is something that is often displaced with creative freedom and overt scenarios & acting. However, anime comes with a lot of background and complex characters which widens the scope of authentic depiction.
My first binge worthy interaction with an anime was “Death Note” (and no, I did not watch the movie. I watched the series). After that it was an unstoppable binge race that I picked up. One thing that I happened to experience was a formula driven narrative. A lot of anime series happen to navigate towards teenagers, teenager boys who are considered ‘hopeless’ and later on realise their self worth and do great. (This opinion is very subjective to my viewing experience.)
Anime and mental illness
Anime and mental illness have quite an interesting relationship. Some shows project the stigma around it, some shows depict the dark & gory side of the same whereas some try to better it. There are countless anime characters that show signs of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and more. While exploring the topic I came across this organisation called “Anime for Humanity”. This organisation aims to share how anime has been an inspiration and encouragement for the community to reach out and challenge mental health. The organisation has an exhaustive list of anime characters who people bond with. They also have a “Stigma free Anime Library”. The organisation believes that this open conversation will help in the path of healing. They also have in-house therapy resources for people who want to consult someone professionally.
Why do (troubled) youth love anime?
In the Japanese culture, communication is very reserved. Most of the understanding takes place through non-verbal communication, unlike some other parts of the world. The beauty of anime is that it beautifully combines both of these types of communication. Hence, the global popularity of the content is rising. Anime has this unique quality of matching the energy of different age groups throughout the globe quite well. The visual language is something that a lot of people resonate with. If I could boil down the reason for youth viewership, it would be due to: main characters incorporating mental illness & victimisation or high end characters that give the youth hope, the seamless communication across culture and of course the visual treat! The exploration of mature content in a very youth friendly way makes it relatable and likable.
This is what a regular anime viewer had to say:
“…I’ve watched a couple other anime too( Inazuma Eleven, Bleach and Naruto). Every protagonist had their challenges and they would face them, I believed that they did not have everything right in their life but still somehow sorted it, and all I needed to do was to be my version of them. Every character has their purpose to set in these stories, and I was bound to relate to at least one character. It made me comfortable with myself. When I feel a little low in life, I binge watch some shows to muster up courage.”
Anime to brighten your mood
Personally, I don’t endorse the concept of “anime cures depression” but I do like to put forward the different shows that talk about mental health and illness and some of which lightens the mood. (This does not nullify or challenge anyone’s lived experience.)
Here is a list of anime that can brighten up your mood or talks to you about mental health!
- Neon Genesis Evangelion
- Natsume Yuujinchou
- March Comes In Like A Lion
- Welcome to the N.H.K.
- Yuri!!! on ICE
- The Garden of Sinners
- Comical Psychosomatic Medicine
- Violet Evergarden
- A Silent Voice: The Movie
- Hataraku Mao-sama
Happy viewing! I am currently watching “Orange”. Let me know what is on your list.