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Why Anime Hurts

I’ve watched a lot of anime lately.

Now, let’s be clear about one thing:  I’m pretty picky about the anime I watched.  Some anime that is very popular I dropped after as little as one episode.  “The Quitessential Quintuplets”, for example.  Maybe I’ll pick that up at some point, but I doubt it.  It has no real redeeming quality, and is just cringe to me.  Others I watched through and somewhat regretted it.  “My Dress-Up Darling” was in that category.  It was brainless and the main character seemed to be a little…  clueless.  “Girlfriend, Girlfriend” I dropped after maybe three episodes.  It was awful.

But not all anime is like that.  Some anime I enjoy, some makes me think, and some… some has a very emotional impact on me that’s very hard to understand.

Because the thing about a lot of anime is this:  It’s not really meant to be emotional.  I mean, yeah, some is.  It’s kind of hard to look at Kumiko’s confrontation with Asuka in “Hibike! Euphonium” S2E10 and not shed a tear.  But a lot of it really isn’t.  But to me, it is.  Like when I talked about Nijigasaki in some previous posts.  That’s not really meant to be an emotional anime.  But it was, to me.

And my last post – which had an insight in it that I didn’t realize until it was halfway written – kind of explained why I had that emotional reaction.

I’ve said before that I didn’t get a childhood.  That doesn’t really bother me anymore, it just is what it is.  I can’t undo any of that.  But, even now, I have a very difficult time in social situations, particularly ones where I have to be in close quarters with people for an extended period of time.  It’s not just that I don’t like it.  I hate it and it makes me angry.  Sometimes I don’t even understand why, but it does.  It can manifest as panic attacks, but more often it just manifests as me being particularly surly and difficult to get along with.  (What, me?  Surly and difficult to get along with?  Perish the thought!)  And even when I managed to hide it or apologize it away, it’s still there.  And I come away from those interactions feeling like I regret it and never want to do it ever again.

And most of the time I don’t.  Sometimes I have to.

I talked in my last post about how much I hated going to that “concert tour”.  I remember a few times like that.  There was a time a few years later when I lived in Portland, and I was supposed to go to Bend or Madras (on the other side of Mount Hood) or something with the choir group.  I was the pianist.  I did not realize – until we were all leaving – that we were expected to stay overnight.  They hadn’t bothered to tell me.  So, out of a probably misdirected sense of duty, I went anyway.

It was not fun.  I was angry, surly and mostly just tried to sleep while everyone else stayed up playing games.  They were probably more gracious than I deserved, and I was less surly than they deserved.  But it’s another one of those instances where I was backed into a corner and had to do something I wouldn’t have done if I’d had all the information.

But pulling back…  there are a few commonalities in those experiences, but the biggest commonality is that I hated it.

Anime defines some interesting worlds, and they’re interesting in ways that they are not for most people.  Because I have yet to meet someone in anime that is actually like me.  Maybe Hachiman from Oregairu comes closest.  While anime may depict people who are antisocial like me, or socially anxious like me, or many things that I might identify with, the difference is that they are still somewhat open to the experience.  For example, in Bocchi the Rock, the main character is at least as socially anxious as I am, but she doesn’t get upset.  In fact, she really wants to have these experiences with people, and her anxiety gets in the way.  In Hibike! Euphonium, the main character isn’t any of those things, in fact, she’s pretty normal, and that in itself is completely foreign to me.  She has all these experiences, getting backed into a corner in some ways the same way I was, but she just rolls with it.  It doesn’t make her angry.

Even in Oregairu, the main character, Hachiman, is something like me in a sense, in that he prefers to be alone and pretty much actively drives people away, but when his teacher puts him in a club with Yukinoshita, he doesn’t really care.  It doesn’t make him angry, he just kind of rolls with it in his own way.

I… well… don’t.  I would have responded in a very different way to that teacher, and it would not have turned out well.  For either of us.

And yet, it turned out well for Hachiman.  It may have been the right thing.  And I would have immediately shut it down.

The world of anime is so amazingly foreign to me in that way that sometimes it’s like a gut punch, to see simply that while it is and always has been that way for me, that it isn’t that way for others.  And that’s so completely out of the realm of my experience that it’s actually emotionally difficult.

Do I wish it were different, for me?  Well…  I don’t know.  Maybe.  For the most part, it’s never really occurred to me that it’s even possible for it to be.  How does one even do that?  How does one seek out these interactions like Bocchi does?  How does one roll with it like Kumiko and Hachiman do?  How does one even manage to deal with it in a mature way when it’s a situation you don’t want to be in, rather than just getting snarky and sarcastic and making sure people know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you don’t want to be there and that you see them, at that moment, as the dirt under your feet?

I don’t know.

I guess a part of me didn’t even think it was possible.  I certainly cannot put myself in their shoes.  In fact, I am incapable of empathizing with that in any way.

And yet… it does have an emotional impact.

Guess there’s always something to think about.

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