Posted in #AniMentalHealth

#AniMentalHealth: Character Study – Light Yagami

Light Yagami became known in the anime world a few years ago, and everywhere I go I always seem to see him or the show he’s from, Death Note, plastered on every list that recommends anime or the top something villains. Personally, I think Death Note lost a bit of steam towards the end of the show, and I somewhat knew what to expect. However, I am not one to ignore a good villain so I wanted to delve deeper into Light’s character—he does deserve to be on those lists for this simple reason: He’s a manipulating genius. He’s not as good as say, Johan Liebert from Monster, but let’s give credit where credit is due shall we?character-study-light-yagami

SPOILERS AHEAD

When we first meet Light, he’s not the maniacal, scheming, egotistical killer that he becomes. He’s actually quite likable, for the most part he’s your average senior. Well…not really his faults are his psychopathic interior, cynical outlook on life, overconfidence in himself, and belief that he is never wrong. He’s a genius and he knows it, and geniuses often get bored if they’re not challenged enough. Light can predict all of the possible scenarios that could happen and plan a solution in advance, even in the most impromptu situations. It’s actually quite impressive and he had quite a future ahead of him. His lack of patience, and his cynical outlook are the seeds that grow into “Kira.”

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The path to hell is often paved with good intentions, and Death Note is a prime example of this. Light is frustrated by the lack of justice in the world, believing the world to be “rotten.” He wants a world where only “good” people live, he wants to rid the world of crime and make a utopia of sorts. But what can a high school senior do? Sure he could become a police officer like his father but even they are powerless in the arms of the law. Light knows all this and resorts to a cynical view of the world. He finds the “Death Note,” a notebook in which its wielder can kill anyone whose name is written in it, and thus begins his spiral into madness.

A psychopath is not the same as a sociopath, a psychopath is a person with a personality disorder manifesting itself in extreme antisocial attitudes and behavior and a lack of conscience. Light, because of his cynical nature, only hangs out with people he deems worthy to bask in his genius—thus making him more of an antisocial person. Being antisocial to an extent isn’t a bad thing, sometimes you just don’t want to be around people, but it is a sign of a serious mental illness if one is antisocial all the time. Light spend way too much time focusing on the negative in this world, he starts to develop delusions of grandeur—if he was in charge it wouldn’t be this way. With the Death Note, Light can enact his will to rid the world of evil people. His main goal is to create a new world that is free of injustice and populated only with honest and kind people, thus becoming his ideal: the “God of the New World.”

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There’s a tiny problem here…

Who the hell is he to say who is good and who is bad? He’s not a god, he’s far from it even with his genius, he has no right to determine right and wrong. At least that’s what someone with a non-psychopathic train of thought would say. However Light is a psychopath, he has no conscience and he becomes judge, jury, and executioner in order to enact his utopia. He views himself as the only rightful savior of mankind—that all his actions are justified, no matter how inhumane they might be. The fact that he is intelligent also adds to his notion that only he is fit to judge humanity and steer it on a proper moral course. In his mind, he is right—he is good—he is god.

Here’s the thing about psychopaths: They never think that the universe is going to screw them over and they’re going to get caught. Light is so caught up in his Utopian delusion that he truly believes it will come to fruition. I won’t spoil how it happens, but Light eventually does get caught and he (unfairly) dies peacefully.

The creator of Death Note certainly created a wonderful example of a psychopath. Light is complex, maniacal, and a cold-blooded killer. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and Light learned that the hard way—Death Note shows us that with every single action one takes, one must eventually face the consequences of those said actions.

Who else do you want me to do a character study on? Heroes or villains? Let’s discuss!

You can stream Death Note on Hulu! Or Buy it on iTunes!

Sources:

http://deathnote.wikia.com/wiki/Light_Yagami

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Posted in #AniMentalHealth

#AniMentalHealth: Character Study – Edward Elric

edEdward Elric has become one of the more popular anime characters in recent years, since his appearance in Fullmetal Alchemist he is considered one of the “gateway” anime characters.

Some have argued that Ed is more of an antihero rather than your traditional, honorable hero. I tend to agree with them because the basic definition of an antihero is a central character in a story who lacks conventional heroic attributes. They basically go against the grain and do things the way they think they should be done. Sometimes this is good, other times it’s not but antiheroes are often a lot more fun to analyze and watch than a traditional, somewhat boring hero.

So what makes Edward Elric so likable and unique? Let us begin!

Let’s start off with this: Ed is not the kind of guy most people will instantly like. He’s immature, stubborn, strong-willed, and often allows his pettiness and vindictive nature to get the best of him. He has a Napoleonic denial of his height and is extremely sensitive about it. He generally acts out of self-interest using any success to stroke his ego and throw it in the face of people, and is an extremely loose cannon. Often he resorts to physical violence rather than a more calmer negotiation to solve his problems, he is also foul-mouthed, disrespectful towards other people’s religious beliefs, impatient, cynical, hostile towards authority figures and doesn’t follow orders to which he doesn’t agree, and he just cannot sit still for very long.

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Yeah he’s definitely your basic antihero. So what on earth makes him so…likable despite these tenancies? Well I think I have a hypothesis: Edward is a product of his own personal tragedy and there are much deeper parts to his personality if one were to give him a chance.

Spoilers HO!

In the beginning of the show we are introduced to Ed as I described, but in episode three we are taken back to his childhood and that’s where this character analysis begins.

Ed was, for the most part, a happy child. He was strong-willed, but this was often met with an enduring and patient love from his mother. Ed, who recognized that she was all he had, adored her—worshiped her even. He took his “big brother” position very seriously (still does) because of the importance his mother placed on their relationship. Ed’s mother, Trisha, is portrayed as basically the mom that everyone either has or wants. She is extremely gentle, incredibly sweet, and loved dearly by her family and friends. She was deeply affected by her husband’s departure, but she being a steadfast and strong woman never really let her ache for him show. She often would stare out windows, hoping to see him walking home. Edward and his little brother Alphonse noticed her unhappiness and would always try to cheer her up with their alchemy. Alphonse said that their mother’s happiness was part of the reason that they continued their research in alchemy. They would do anything to make her smile, and forget her sadness. This was somewhat of a paradise for Ed: his mother and brother were his rock, his lifeline, and he would do anything to keep them safe and happy.

Sadly, Edward and Alphonse’s world would be shattered when their succumbed to an illness during an outbreak and fell fatally ill. Edward knew that his mother’s longing for their father was only making her worse, and he thought that if she saw him again, she would have the strength to recover. Initially, Edward was reluctant to attempt to enlist his father’s help, but knew that it would make her smile again and that, along with her getting better, was the end goal. And for the both of them, terrified by her illness, it was all they could hope for. Despite the brother’s attempts to contact everyone who had sent letters to their father, using return addresses on the envelopes, he never came. Whatever little feelings of affection or respect Ed had for his father were now completely gone.

Trisha died shortly after she became ill, Ed and Al were at her side when she passed. Now as someone who has lost a parent, I can’t begin to tell you how much this affects someone. I had the same relationship with my mother that Ed did, she was my anchor and my guide for everything. To have that taken away, for it to suddenly disappear—it was devastating. I felt as if my entire world had crumbled, I had never felt such a deep pain or void in my life. To this day I still cannot watch episode three of this series without crying and feeling the pain that Ed feels.

After her death, Ed is determined to make things right—after all this wasn’t supposed to happen. The grief-stricken brothers performed the most forbidden of all alchemic practices: Human Transmutation. Which is defined in the wiki as such: “Attempts to bring deceased human beings back to life are the most common practices to be called Human Transmutation and play a significant role in the Fullmetal Alchemist series. Using various experimental theories and methods, multiple alchemists in the manga and anime have endeavored to resurrect dead loved ones, but such pursuits are always failures, forbidden by the flow of the universe and alchemy itself.” In return, Ed and Al are given a mutilated mass of organs and body parts somewhat resembling the late Trisha’s corpse before it quickly dies. The failed experiment results in Ed loosing his right arm and left leg, and Al loosing his entire body. It was Ed’s quick thinking that saved Al’s soul: he bound it to a suit of armor.

Edward is someone who has had to suffer greatly at such a young age, he sort of creates this wall so that he doesn’t have to suffer anymore. He is everything I’ve described but to those he cares about he shows extreme selflessness, unflinching loyalty, and great compassion. He wants to make sure that nobody makes the same mistake that he did, and he sort of hides all of this with a brash and almost unlikable attitude. Despite what he portrays, Edward cannot ignore the true suffering of others and becomes sympathetic upon sensing pain in hearts. His advice to people is often tempered with harsh criticism, but it’s because he genuinely wishes to place them on the path forward. As one who has to struggle with a mangled body, he urges those with healthy bodies to use their strong legs to move forward,(“Walk on, move forward, you’ve got a good strong pair of legs Rose you should get up and use them.”) and as one burdened by the mistakes of his past, he stresses the necessity of people taking responsibility for their own mistakes. He has a strong belief in the concept of Equivalent Exchange, stating that humankind cannot gain anything without first giving something in return. In order to obtain, something of equal value must be lost. The experience that he had to endure strengthened this resolve.

Edward Elric is a complex and admirable character despite his faults. I hope that this has helped you see him in a new light, I know that most people can’t see and relate to him the way I do but he’s definitely an admirable character that I so enjoyed to study.

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You can stream episodes of Fullmetal Alchemist and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood on Funimation. As of this entry, it will only be available until March, Funimation is loosing the rights to stream it then. As far as I know, both may still be available on Netflix.

 

Sources:

http://fma.wikia.com/wiki/Main_Page

Posted in #AniMentalHealth

#AniMentalHealth: Character Study – Mikasa Ackerman

Calm & collected on the surface, but…

Arguably considered one of the most formidable characters in Anime, Mikasa Ackerman often exhibits a calm, cool, and collected manner when showcasing her “god-tier” skills.

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On the surface, Mikasa seems fairly straightforward as far as a character goes, but there is much more to Mikasa than just a stoic, skilled Titan-killing machine. Mikasa is a complex and fragile character that hides behind a stone-faced mask. Having watched through Attack on Titan twice, and watching some episodes multiple times, I’ve spent a lot time to getting to know her character.

SPOILERS AHEAD

Let’s start off with young Mikasa: she is bright, energetic, and all in all your pretty average child. It’s not until we get a few episodes into the series that we get a true understanding of Mikasa’s past.

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At a young age she notices how the strong prey on the weak; however, being an overall happy child causes her to push these thoughts to the back of her mind. We discover that she’s half-Asian, her mother being the last known Asian woman of that time. This makes Mikasa unique and her family a target during the series. Mikasa’s family is attacked and her parents are brutally murdered in front of her by slave-traders. She is then taken as their captive to be “sold” on the black market as her Asian heritage will bring a high price. The unfolding of these events is where the development of her character happens. Trauma does damage to one’s psyche. It changes a person in ways in which you can’t even imagine; thus, Mikasa completely shuts down, and shuts off. She is left in a state of shock and has given up.

Enter Eren Yager.

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Eren seemingly “rescues” Mikasa in more ways than one. He manages to trick the slave-traders into letting him in the house where they’re keeping Mikasa and kills two of them, but then is taken by surprise by a third kidnapper while untying her. While the kidnapper has his hands around Eren with every intention of killing him, Mikasa is frozen with fear with a knife in her hands. Having given in to her thoughts of the strong preying on the weak, there’s no hope for her.

Then, Eren’s words give her a new meaning in life: “FIGHT. If you don’t fight, you don’t live! FIGHT!” A fire burns in Mikasa now ­– she is electrified with his words and gathers her courage to save Eren from his attacker. Thus, a new bond begins that Mikasa treasures more than her own life.

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Some may argue that Mikasa’s perceived dependency on Eren doesn’t make her a strong character, that it in fact makes her weak and, by extension, annoying. Let’s unpack this idea: I will agree that Mikasa is somewhat dependent on Eren, she even states “Eren, as long as I have you I can do anything.” I don’t necessarily see this as dependency, but as an association between two people. Later, when Mikasa suspects that Eren is dead, we are presented with a powerful scene.

The scene in question I consider to be one of the best in the series: Armin tells Mikasa that he witnessed Eren get eaten by a titan. To those around Mikasa, it seems as if she isn’t phased by what has happened, except to Armin. Armin is someone who has known her all of his life, and he sees Mikasa losing her will to live and putting her life in harms way, after what is believed to have happened. He sees her forgetting her responsibility for the lives of the soldiers she had taken upon herself to lead. Mikasa then goes into a blind fit of grief, slaying every titan in her path until she runs out of energy and falls in an alley. Here is where we witness another dramatic change of character within Mikasa.

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Mikasa—in a sense—is back in that cabin, lying on the floor, completely giving up on life. She has lost everything that matters to her. She reverts back to her dead, sorrowful eyes—eyes that can’t shed one tear because she’s just too broken to do so—she’s already dead. She’s on her knees in the alley as a titan comes up on her, his hand outstretched to grab her, before she slices his fingers and hops out of the way. She is perplexed by her actions, thinking that she has nothing to live for. She then hears a familiar voice say the only thing she needs to hear: Fight. If you don’t fight you don’t live.” Eren’s words ring in her head. She curses herself, disgusted that she nearly gave up. Mikasa realizes that if she dies, her memories of Eren die with her.

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My hope is that you see Mikasa in a new light. She is one of my favorite characters—not just because of her badassery (that’s a word now), but because of her strength of character in realizing that there is always something left to fight for no matter the situation. And that’s something that we all need to remember in our times of sorrow. To find one last glimmer of hope in an impossible situation takes immense strength of character. To continue fighting through the pain, to keep moving forward—that is something that we all can relate to. That is something that makes Mikasa formidable. It makes her strong.

Posted in #AniMentalHealth, anime, mental health

Anime and Mental Health: Shattered Fragments

Anime has been one of the only few mediums that openly deals with issues like depression, anxiety, psychosis, PTSD, and many other conditions. It unapologetically portrays it in a raw, gritty manner, not pulling any punches and it’s just…real.

As someone who has been in this world for some time, there is an authenticity to it, an authenticity that you just can’t find anywhere else. I never set out to be an advocate for mental health, it was never something I was passionate about because I didn’t understand it. As a matter of fact, it terrified me because of the stigma that is associated with it. It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety that I really began to understand what it’s like to live with something like a mental illness, what pain really was, and what it’s like to live in a world that fears and misunderstands you. I may sound a bit dramatic, but when you’re constantly told that your condition is something of an imaginary concept and these feelings that you have aren’t valid, you get fed up and want to speak out what is in your soul.

It’s hard to explain what it’s like to someone who doesn’t have a mental illness what it’s like to have one. I only know how I feel on my darkest days, and I am very different from someone else with a similar condition. That’s what makes this so hard: no two people with a mental illness are exactly alike. What works for one may not work for another, it’s not an exact science; it’s mostly trial and error because the human brain is one of the most mysterious “organs” of the body.

Here are just a few characters that I relate to, and characters that I think portray what it’s like to live within this often dark world. I have done my best to explain how the subjects of anime and mental illness relate.
The following character analysis contains spoilers so read with caution!

Yuki Takeya: School-Live!

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Yuki is a classic case of someone dealing with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and psychosis. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) classifies PTSD and psychosis as so:
PTSD develops after a terrifying ordeal that involved physical harm or the threat of physical harm. The person who develops PTSD may have been the one who was harmed, the harm may have happened to a loved one, or the person may have witnessed a harmful event that happened to loved ones or strangers.”

The word psychosis is used to describe conditions that affect the mind, where there has been some loss of contact with reality. When someone becomes ill in this way it is called a psychotic episode. During a period of psychosis, a person’s thoughts and perceptions are disturbed and the individual may have difficulty understanding what is real and what is not. Symptoms of psychosis include delusions (false beliefs) and hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that others do not see or hear). Other symptoms include incoherent or nonsense speech, and behavior that is inappropriate for the situation.”

She sees the world as she wants it to be and not how it really is. After witnessing both her classmate Kurumi kill her senpai because he turned and her favorite teacher sacrifice herself to the zombies, Yuki completely shuts down. She enters a psychosis where it is not the apocalypse and everything is as it should be: she’s at school with her friends, she regularly goes to classes, and she enthusiastically bounds through the hallways as if nothing has happened. The most tragic part of this situation is her dealing with the death of her favorite teacher Megumi. She still speaks and addresses her as if she is still there, even having hallucinations of her.

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As the show progresses we find that Yuki’s world is slowly collapsing around her and she is forced to accept the fact that her favorite teacher is in fact dead, and her life as she knew it has changed. It’s often very hard to watch and even the most experienced doctor has trouble with patients suffering with these conditions.

Shinji Ikari – Neon Genesis Evangelion

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Shinji, like me, suffers from major depression and anxiety. If he’s not isolating himself and questioning his will to live, he’s constantly seeking approval from his peers to make up for his lack of self-worth. (Source) Going back to the NIMH, it has several definitions for depression, so I’ve somewhat formed my own: It is a condition where you feel worthless; no matter what you do, it doesn’t amount to anything. You hurt and you want to cry, but you have no idea why, nor is there a good reason for it. It’s like a dark cloud hanging over you that is constantly telling you how stupid, worthless, and insignificant you are. Add anxiety into the mix and you have this feeling of falling and seeing the floor coming up fast on you—all the time.

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Shinji is constantly questioning his worth, he’s always worrying about what others think of him, and he’s contemplating that he’s just not worth anything. The creator, Hideaki Anno, suffered from depression and psychosis. He actually wrote the original ending during a psychotic break; the show is said to be a projection of the author’s own mental state (Source).

Sakurako Kujō : Beautiful Bones: Sakurako’s Investigation

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Sakurako comes from a prominent family, is incredibly smart, and is beautiful. She also is a perfect example of what some people do when faced with mental health crisis: they repress. Repress is a fancy term for “holding stuff inside.” This can be catastrophic to your health, and I’m not just talking about your mental health; physically you begin to decline as well. Now I haven’t read the manga, but I have watched the show so I’m going off of what I learned from that.

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From what I can gather about Sakurako, she is the antisocial type because of something traumatic that happened in her past. She briefly mentions that her little brother died when they were kids, but we don’t really know the circumstances beyond that (unless you’ve read the manga…in which case don’t spoil it). She rarely lets her emotions show, but when they do, they are often strong and very direct.

In the case of Shotaro, with whom she has grown quite attached to, I’m assuming because he reminds her of her younger brother. She seems very distant often referring to him as “shōnen” (“boy”) instead of his real name. However there are two distinct instances when Shotaro has either put himself in danger or has become seriously injured, that Sakurako shows just how much the death of her brother has affected her. Especially when Shōtarō becomes injured protecting her, she shouts “DON’T DIE! DON’T DIE SHOTARO!” using his name, or is it the name of her brother? It’s intentionally meant to be confusing because that’s how Sakurako’s mind is: it’s a contradiction of analytical processes and overpowering emotions.

If you are one of the 350 Million People Worldwide that suffer from depression, if you are suffering from anxiety, if you are suffering from any sort of mental illness I want you to know something:

I’m here to say that it is okay to say that you hurt, that you matter very much, and you are no different than someone with any other medical condition; you just hurt in a different way. That’s the key to getting a handle on your mental health: remember that you matter, that there is someone out there who does care, and your story is an important addition to this world we live in.

Your story is important; you have something wonderful to give to this world. Sometimes anime can be a mirror of someone’s heart and soul. This is not weird; it doesn’t make you a freak. It makes you human.

What are some of your favorite shows? Who in an anime has spoken to you? Let’s have a discussion. That’s how change happens, that’s how stigmas gets kicked out.

If you want to read more on this topic, here are a couple of great articles done by Shrink TankWhy Troubled Youth Love Anime, and Why You Should Too (Part One) & Why Troubled Youth Love Anime, and Why You Should Too (Part Two)

If you or someone you know are experiencing similar feelings or thoughts to please contact a medical professional or your local suicide hotline. For more information, please visit the MentalHealth.Gov Website for more information.