I’ve always been a HUGE fan of bittersweet/borderline tragic anime. A lot of my friends often wonder why I like such sad dark anime. Most often I give the answer that if an anime can make me cry it must be good. That if I shed a few tears (more like bawl my eyes out) then I’m guaranteed to like it, but now that I am sitting down to write this post I want to dig a little deeper into this topic. I really want to get to the heart and soul of why I relish depressing anime.
I came up with this topic the other day mainly due to my lovely friend Kisha (shout out to you girl for inspiring this post)! I was recommending her some anime, (because she is pretty new to the realm of the anime community), and Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso (Your Lie in April) came up. Of course this anime was a large success when it came out in the fall of 2014. It is actually in my top 10 anime of all time right next to Kyoukai no Kanata (Beyond the Boundary). My mind started churning up ideas of how I could make sad/depressing/tragic anime into a topic to discuss with you all and then I came up with this…why do I love sad/depressing/tragic so much? I knew I had to write about this topic.
So here we are with another lovely Topic Tuesday for you all to munch on! My goal with these post is to get you guys thinking outside the box. For you to really get to the root of why you might like a specific genre of anime so much. It’s always good to get the gears of your noggin turning…much like a cuckoo clock…because that’s what my mind looks like on a daily basis XD *Que annoying bird sounds*
I believe that (most) people enjoy sad anime because of relatability. I’ve talked about relatability in one of my previous post (which I will link here: https://kawaiipaperpandas.wordpress.com/2017/08/15/topic-tuesday-why-are-anime-villains-so-alluring/) and why people often relate to anime characters. Being able to immerse yourself into a story in order to escape reality should be the main goal of a producer, author, or creator. In order to bring a character to life they need to be relatable to the audience, that way a viewer can see themselves in the main character or other characters of that said story. Anime being sad/depressing/dark/tragic is essentially a state of mind therefore, the anime tends to be smarter by simply being focused on a particular mindset/tone the whole time. It needs to have a certain ambiance in order to get the viewer focused on a particular emotion. Any emotion can be used; from being happy or joyful or excited, all the way to anger or envy or even being sullen. Grabbing the viewers emotions most often than not leads to relatability and likability.
Many of these emotions play off of empathy and sympathy. When we see a character going through something tragic we often feel sympathetic for them. This mixes in with the idea that we have in some way, shape or form have gone through something similar. For me personally, I can come to a sense of understanding when I see a character going through agony. It makes me sympathize with the character even more. I like being there for people it times of celebration, but more importantly I take great pride in comforting my friends in their times of sadness/depression. Which it turn goes back to the ideology of character relatability.
I’d like to quote some words from asimplelotus over at https://asimplelotus.wordpress.com/2014/02/26/why-do-i-love-sad-and-dark-anime/ because they perfectly describe what a powerful emotional anime should be:
“Simply put, I like powerful anime. I savor the moments that thrill me with adrenaline or shock me with surprise. Most of all, I cherish an anime that can make me cry. To me, in a work of art, the portrayal of heavy hearted sorrow is much stronger than the visage of happiness. However, in real life, I do consider true bliss to be the strongest thing making this a difference of reality. I prefer to watch anime that makes me feel something, it doesn’t matter what. I prefer to take my emotions on a ride, and nothing is as drastic or heart pumping as when I finally start to get overwhelmed with emotion. It’s moments like that where I can reflect with myself and others because my mind is in a wild state of understanding.”
Emotional anime hinges on personalized aesthetic qualities, from the animation, music, characters, even down to what is happening during a particular scene. The thrill of the piano being pounded on or the steady rustling of strings on a violin can enrapture a viewer into a sense of heightened emotions. It is a heightened sense of emotion that usually imprints on a viewer’s mind making it into something that is beautiful and unforgettable.
Asimplelotus also makes a great case for the difference of simply crying during an anime and actually being heartbroken in real life about a particular anime:
“There is a difference at the very base level between crying over a sad moment in an anime, and being broken hearted in real life. Tears that stem from a work of fiction have slightly different effects to me. When I tear up over a moment in an anime and regain my composure I can immediately look back on it as a work of art. And whenever I observe a great work of art, even if it makes me depressed, it also makes me joyous. I love creativity. I adore the creative process. Whenever something creative finds it’s way to my heart, I can’t help but admire it at the same time.
So if I enjoy this melancholy, and am wondering why I do, then I have to figure out what kind of situation gets me down quickly or more often than anything else. It didn’t take me long to realize exactly what that is. It’s the simple concept of unexpected tears. Whenever strong characters who seem like they’ll never shed a tear, finally break down, it penetrates my heart faster than any other downcast occasion. Whether it’s for a cheerful reason or a despondent reason, when a character starts crying that’s been putting up a false bravado, I find myself staring wide-eyed at my screen, completely oblivious to things around me. It’s as if I’m watching a massive pillar crumble into a sorry pile of rubble. However, this is only accomplished if their reason for crying is also emotional and well written. If you just have your macho protagonist cry in a pathetic attempt to gain my pity, it doesn’t work that easily.”
It’s interesting to think that their can be different types of sadness when it comes to anime…or in any story in this case. It’s that wonderful emotion we call sympathy. If a viewer can relate or even feel sorry for a character they will keep coming back time and time again. It is being able to emotionally invest in a particular character that leads me to rewatch an anime over and over again (or spend excessive amounts of money on buying the series on DVD). When a character falls from the pedestal they are put on, I will keep watching in hopes of them being redeemed into something far more better than they once were originally. I really enjoy forming a bond with a certain character because it really makes that anime story come alive in my mind.
At the end of the day what I want in an anime is something I can be emotionally invested in. I want that idea of reliability and likeness. I want to be able to have every emotion pulled out of me in order to immerse myself in a particular story/setting. This is how I am with all of the books I read too. When I watch an anime that is comedic or even heavily influenced by sex appeal I feel like we are only hitting certain emotions on the spectrum. This is probably why I also like psychological anime so much, because psychological anime also makes me think intellectually instead of just emotionally. I feel like anime needs to be bittersweet in order to pull every emotion out of the viewer as possible. With darkness you have to have light, and with happiness you have to have sadness. It needs to have a central balance. The viewer needs sadness so he/she can witness the majesty of everything great that happiness was sacrificed for. So at the end of the day when the anime stops, and we are left to dwell with the most saddening scenes, we can smile and take pride in the fact that if this utter depressing/threatening world didn’t stop our main characters, then it is sure as hell isn’t going to stop us either.
Disclaimer: All imagery and photos come from searching for them on the internet. I have no claim or right to them.