As society advances forward and more and more people are forced to live more stressful lifestyles all across the board. High stress coupled with the inability to get proper help for any psychological disorders one may be coping with and suicide rates have risen all around the world. Reports say that suicide rates have risen in many states in the US, but since we’re all otaku here, have you ever thought about society in Japan? Oh yes, anime depicts Japan as a shining otaku utopia, but what is lying on the actual streets under all of that glitz and glamour?
Suicide in Japan Today
Suicide is actually quite the crisis in Japan and for good reason. It is currently the leading cause of death amongst men in their twenties to mid forties and in women in their teens to their mid thirties. According to the 2019 article for World Population Review, Japan is #14 country with the highest suicide rate in the world, The World Health Organization listed Japan as #30 back in 2016, only 4 places above the US at #34. Still, Japan is below South Korea in suicide rates, but with a declining birth rate and a rapidly aging workforce, it is still cause for a national concern (let us not forget the importance of every human life).
Today, suicide is high in higher populated cities where there is emphasis placed on the importance of the workplace, meaning long hours spent in the office are more than just a little expected. This has lead to an increase in stress in the lives of others. Combine that with the idea that your self worth is based on how others perceive you to be and you have a recipe for disaster, especially if you fail to meet expectations. This high stress lifestyle, coupled with a society that does not support mental health disorders nor promote free communication, is one of many factors that has lead to the prominence of suicide in Japan.
Attitude Regarding Suicide
While those in many other countries will view suicide as a very important issue worth discussing, people tend to have a more casual if not lax attitude in regards to suicide in Japan. Real conversations about suicide and depression can be laughed off, and more often than not, if someone threw themselves off the train platform in front of a train, more people will be more upset that their trains are delayed than the fact that someone just killed themselves due to a failing system. This is especially true in Tokyo, where most people will actually admit that their attitudes toward suicide become more desensitized as it occurs so often and creates more issues for them.
Historically, the Japanese have considered suicide to be an honorable way of dying as it saves one’s family from dishonor. It might even bring honor to one’s family such as the case in WWII and the kamikaze or during the time of the samurai and seppuku. This really sets the stage for how the society today views suicide.
In Anime and Other Media
The reality of suicide and Japan’s views on suicide, even if it is a critical matter within the country, can be seen even in anime. Dazai Osamu and Akutagawa Ryunosuke were two very prominent Japanese writers who battled with psychological issues and mental health problems for many years. They both attempted multiple suicides, though Osamu had several failed suicides before he finally succeeded while Ryunosuke only had to attempt suicide twice before being “successful.” These two writers are featured in Bungou Stray Dogs and rather than taking them seriously, Dazai Osamu is more or less made a joke with his asking every woman he comes across to commit double suicide with him.
There are works like Jisatsu Island or Jisatsu Circle that take the idea of suicide and turn it around for a plot. Jisatsu Island talks about the severity of suicide and rather than helping these people out, it’s about pitting them against each other to either find a reason to live or find a more successful suicide attempt (though mental health treatment is rarely that easy). Jisatsu Circle talks about modern society’s attitude towards group suicide that can stem off no real reason at all and goes against the traditional Japanese beliefs in honorable suicides.
Then there are works that do attempt to talk about the seriousness of suicide. One such being Orange, a manga by Takano Ichigo. It’s a manga about a group of friends who have to be told of the severity of a friend’s suicide in order to help put a stop to it because of all of the regrets these friends feel later in life. It talks about lost loves, regrettable moments, and losing dear friends. If you’ve seen the anime and hated it, you might prefer the manga over it.
Suicide is an extremely serious issue, and it’s disheartening to see how different psychological issues will lead people to committing suicide, especially considering how preventable it is. If we all step up and help one another out, maybe we can save one or two lives on our own. It’s sad to see how the attitude regarding such an important issue may be in different countries. How do you feel about the subject? How do you feel about the issue of suicide in anime? Share your thoughts below and thank you for taking the time to be with us here at Honey’s Anime.