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Anime, Otaku, and Lost Childhood

I didn’t get a childhood.

I’m not really exaggerating in that statement, though as with every statement like that, there are nuances.  It’s generally correct. I did not get a childhood.  Every opportunity I had for “normal” development was stunted – either inadvertently or deliberately.  The end result is the same.  I didn’t get a childhood.

The thing about our society is that (and this is understandable) you only really get one chance at a childhood.  I mean, after all, you’re a child, and then you’re not, right?  If you don’t get a chance to be a child, then you, well, don’t ever get a chance to be a child.  You’re thrown into the world of adulthood unprepared.  Everyone expects you, by outward appearance, to be an adult, to act like an adult, to have had the normal development steps that adults usually take to get there.

But this isn’t always the case.

I didn’t get a childhood.

But the need for a childhood never really goes away, does it?  Just because you didn’t get one doesn’t mean that you don’t have to go through the development steps at some point in your life, right?  But those around you have already gone far beyond you and don’t understand that you can’t keep up.  While everyone else is partying and trying to understand what it’s like to be a young adult, you’re just trying to figure out what you missed from being a toddler. No one understands, maybe no one should understand, but that doesn’t make the issue any less extant.

So, someone like me, has to figure out all those steps from scratch.  With little help, little guidance, and little understanding from those around.

Anime has… helped.   A lot.

For some people, anime is a form of entertainment.  For me, as well.  No one’s going to sit through a lecture of animated girls talking monotonously about things in an entirely uninteresting way.  but it’s not just entertainment.  It’s a story that helps me to learn and understand the things that I missed.

That’s why some of the most impactful anime for me are the ones set in high school, and the ones that tell a coming of age story.  I have learned so much from them, and not in a way most other people would understand.  They didn’t really teach me a whole lot about Japanese culture and social strata, though of course they taught me something.  They didn’t really teach me anything realistic about high school life, because, well, anime.  It’s very important to be able to understand what’s real and what isn’t, and many things aren’t.

I mean, in Japan, what administration would let them get away with, no, even require, uniform skirts that short?  It just wouldn’t happen.

But that’s not the point.  The point is that it’s a safe way to learn and process the things that I never actually got to learn.  The things that were taken from me.

That’s why I don’t really like shounen anime.  It doesn’t really teach me anything useful.

For example, what I learned from Oregairu is the importance of genuineness.

What I learned from Love Live is the importance of following your dreams, and that there is at least a chance that they could come true with hard work.  (Okay, yeah, they probably won’t, but that’s not the point.)

What I learned from Hibike! Euphonium is that sometimes growing up is hard but everyone has to do it at some point in their lives – even if mine is in my late 40s.

What I learned from K-On is that sometimes you have to just enjoy the now, because the future isn’t guaranteed.

What I learned from March Comes in Like a Lion is that you can’t fight depression alone.  Am I really great at that lesson?  No, but it’s an important one, nonetheless.

What I learned from Is the Order a Rabbit is that warmth is important, even though it’s sometimes an indefinable quality.

What I learned from Bocchi the Rock is that sometimes you’ve gotta put yourself out there – even in very small ways.

And what I learned from Girlfriend, Girlfriend is that not all anime is good and some of it just needs to get dropped on the floor and stomped on.

Am I saying that watching anime is a necessary step towards growing up, especially if you never got a chance to?  No.  Not at all.  Perish the thought, in fact!  But what I am saying is that the good ones tell important stories, and for those willing to think about them, can help to process those things that are difficult to process because you missed your chance to do it in a socially acceptable way.  And now you’ve gotta figure out all that stuff on your own, with little or no support.  For figuring that all out, stories are invaluable.  And some of the stories anime tells are very useful – if you’re willing to think about them.

Anime hasn’t really saved my life.  But I think I’m better off for watching it.  And that makes it worth it.

Why am I not saying the same thing about western movies?

Simple.  They don’t care about delivering anything useful, just entertaining and making people give them money.

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