As a child I was very isolated. My family was relatively rich at the time and disassociated themselves with those surrounding us. As such, my education also had to reflect my place in society. Therefore, I was saddled with a tutor who taught me all by her lonesome. My memories of her teachings are hazy, but quite simply put, I was raised from young to be an elitist. I spoke with the arrogance of Gilgamesh and saw the many people around me as unfit to converse with.
They always say that pride comes before the fall, and fall we did. After my father lost most of the money we had, my parents divorced and I was sent to live with my father. He was not a very nice person. My father was abusive, and that was highlighted all the more now that we lived in crippling poverty. I am not a stranger to physical or mental abuse, and it has caused me my fair share of depressive episodes over the years.
With my disassociation of social norms and a devastating fear of reality, I sought an escape. And I found it completely by chance in the very first anime I watched; D.Gray-Man. At first I liked it because it was flashy and cool. The heroes were strong enough to fight against their circumstances unlike me. When I saw Naruto burst into a berserker fury to crush Orochimaru, all I could think of was my longing to do the same against my oppressors.
Then came the time when I decided that I would do the same. I would become like the heroes I envied. The values that each of them held, I tried to emulate them for myself. I wanted the tenacity of Naruto, the friendship of Luffy, and the aloofness of Lelouch. And the longer I pretended to be just like them, the more I actually became the person I pictured to be.
Anime has taught me many of the life lessons that I sorely lacked from the beginning, much more so than the people around me. It’s possible that many will refer to me as a Chuunibyou for learning lessons from a show rather than actual life experiences, but these heroes are the best examples of humanity possible.
Anime is life. That isn't just the weeaboo in me talking. It is my very soul reverberating with the lessons that each and every anime has imparted to me, many of which I still carry till this day. It is therefore the truth for me that anime is life, in the same way that people die when they are killed.
But there are some that have shaped me more than others, and today I want to share them with you, my loyal readers.
Note: Do note that while I won’t go out of my way to do so, there is more than likely full spoilers awaiting you.
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: Jul 8 2005 – Jan 2006
Shuffle came to me at a time when I experienced great lethargy with regards to anime. It was a time when I had finished watching all the major shounen anime to the last episode, and any major anime that was popular at the time was also done with. So I needed something different. Something that would stand out from the rest not in quality, but in that it does something so unique my love for anime will be revitalised.
It might be confusing to some, because on its surface Shuffle isn’t special at all. The synopsis of it paints the picture of a harem anime in the making. So what makes it so different? It’s different because it’s not actually a harem anime. It only seems like it is. While it starts out like a harem anime, it ends with the guy actually picking a girl. And the story isn’t developed half-heartedly either. They do have real chemistry and ups and downs. In the end, he loves her so much that he would do the equivalent of suicide just to save her life.
This was very mind boggling to me at the time, because the market was saturated with harem animes that ended so ambiguously. But not Shuffle! That anime was so meta for its time that I just had to put it somewhere in my Top 5. So here it is.
4. Angel Beats!
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: Apr 2010 – June 2010
For reference sake, I only watched Shuffle after I had watched Angel Beats. As stated earlier, I suffered depressive episodes due in part to the circumstances surrounding my family and the unkind treatment that stemmed from my father. Contrary to popular belief, depression is not a state of sorrow or sadness that a person feels. After all, everyone has experienced sorrow to some extent but not everyone is diagnosed with depression.
I would describe depression as a state of emotional detachment from the world. Wherein I could no longer feel the sting of sorrow or the burning inside when anger is appropriate. I believed that it was for the better at the time, because if it couldn’t hurt me any more then it’s just an added benefit. But then came Angel Beats!
Angel Beats! first showed me that we have to face our demons, or we will never truly grow as a person. Each and every one of the characters in the show have faced trauma worse than I ever encountered but they could still stand up to their fears and move on with their life. And as the healing process started, the anime came to a stunning conclusion. And for the first time in a long time, I could feel sorrow. For the first time in a decade…
3. Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso (Your Lie in April)
- Episodes: 22
- Aired: Oct 2014 – March 2015
Though it is never stated outright, I believe that Arima Kousei experienced some form of depression following his mother’s death. It would be the very thing that disabled him from hearing the notes of his own music, as a way to hide from the pain that carried forth from her death. At this time, I was already recovering significantly by the setbacks in my life, but the recovery was never fully complete.
The journey of Arima throughout the series shows his own recovery from depressed to a much more lively version of himself. All of this was punctuated by the emotional OST behind the scenes and the downwards spiral of Kaori in parallel. Despite the many hurdles he faced in life, he could find it in himself to finally place a masterful piece in a competition setting.
As for Kaori…she never gave up on life no matter how bleak it got. Even to the end, she was smiling for Arima and for the happiness that he gave her. Life may have been short for her, but she lived more than anyone else. And thus I came away with a warm feeling in me. Angel Beats let me feel sorrow for the first time, but Shigatsu let me believe in myself.
- Episodes: 23
- Aired: Oct 2007 – Mar 2008
I avoided Clannad for the longest of times. In fact, I only watched Clannad a year ago at the behest of a now dear friend. This was because while I wasn’t a shining beacon of humanity, I still felt much more whole and complete as compared to 5 or 10 years ago. So I didn’t feel the need to go through what I knew was a potentially heart breaking experience, especially because of the internet hype around it.
That was clearly a mistake.
When I finally watched it, I cried and was moved to tears so easily. Whenever Roaring Tides played in the background, I got terrified for the characters that I came to care for so much, because that music always means bad news. And when the worst news of all came in After Story, the loss of someone important to Tomoya, I felt like I could empathise with him to an extent.
I had just lost someone dear to me as well. Nothing as dramatic as what happened in Clannad, but someone whom I once thought would be with me for life departed from me on horrible terms, leaving me in another state of depression. And following the show to the end, and seeing how Tomoya struggled through the hard times in After Story, I learnt that it was okay. It was okay to be devastated.
And that was how Clannad taught me to deal with loss.
1. Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: Oct 2012 – Mar 2013
Sakurasou is named after the quirky and air headed Shiina Mashiro who comes to live with the dorm residents because her aunt is the manager of the dorm. That dorm is named Sakurasou. In this dorm, there lives the weirdest weirdos to ever walk the halls of their school. Each one of them is exceptionally gifted in their own field like art, animation, stories and programming. So much so that they tower over the one resident who is completely normal. He also happens to be the main character, Sorata Kanda.
There is nothing intrinsically bad about Sorata. But when surrounded by such giants it’s easy for him to feel worthless in the grand scheme of things. He has become jealous and lethargic of his dorm mates and slowly started to waste away into nothingness. As would most people in the end. But his life is stirred up by the ever needy Shiina. And it is through her that he finds the vital spark to carry on.
Sorata starts to learn game design and picks it up as his passion. He tries over and over again to succeed, and fails over and over again. But he doesn’t let it get him down. It is unclear if he got what he truly wanted in the end, but the important thing here is that he tried. Talent is not the true measure of success, it is what we do to get there that matters.
I myself am not a particularly talented person. All I have is a slightly above average IQ and a predisposition to sit at home and watch anime like an Otaku. But it doesn’t mean that I don’t have the potential to achieve my dreams. Even if I am nothing but a bug I can struggle my way up into the sky. And maybe one day, I can become like the heroes I once envied. I can be my own hero, and if I’m good enough, maybe someone else’s hero as well.
There’s not much I can say at this point that hasn’t already been stated above. While the list is about how anime has touched my life, they are good anime regardless of their emotional impact on me so you should give them a shot as well. Maybe they’ll have an impact on you, or maybe you’ll just have a good time. It’s win-win either way.
Hopefully you got something from this. I’ve been writing for almost a year at Honey’s now, and it’s something that’s become a close part to my heart. And so I decided to share who I am with the community, because that’s what I want to do. I hope you enjoyed reading this, and that you continue to read my Infinite List Works for a long time to come!