Symbolism in Anime: If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.

Over the last few days I haven’t felt very motivated to write anything. This lack of writing on my behalf is mainly due to a friend of mine passing away on Sunday. Emotionally, my brain has been scattered here, there, and everywhere…so you guys will have to forgive me on the lack of post this week. Like…I’ve been wanting to write, but just as I’m about to get on my laptop in order to do so I kinda just give up. It’s all just meh feelings for me.

Last night, as I was watching the newest episode of Free! Season 3 I felt the urge to write. This feeling was largely enforced by the symbolism of water. Water is a HUGE factor in the series of Free! (probably because it’s an anime about swimming for crying out loud), but water is also very prominent in other anime as well. From small scenes of water droplets cascading into large stagnant pools, to main characters being dropped into random bodies of water while in the nude. Water is the sustenance and essence of life.

Water has been present in many forms of media, not just anime. Most often than not, in literature water can represent cleansing, life, and even freedom. Water is a contextual symbol in literature, but depending on the novel or story it can mean a multitude of things.

On one hand we have the ocean, which is often portrayed as mysterious, complex and emotional. It is reflected as an obstacle that one must traverse across and conquer in order to reach their destination. Either the person makes it or they end up being dragged down into the briny depths never to be seen again. The author Christopher Paolini has a beautiful and enchanting quote about the sea. “The sea is emotion incarnate. It loves, hates, and weeps. It defies all attempts to capture it with words and rejects all shackles. No matter what you say about it, there is always that which you can’t.”

On the other hand, a river can represent the flow of life or fertility. Rivers are used by authors because they are constantly flowing/moving and they follow a distinct path. Water is the literal definition of power. It has the ability to free characters as well as claim them. Water droplets falling onto a surface, solid or liquid might indicate some kind of intense focus, while other times it can be tranquility.  A water drop has the ability to suddenly break the stillness of water with its ripples. If this type of symbolism follows an actual rainstorm and/or some sort of emotional scene in an anime, then the single drop could represent the passing of the storm reflecting the resolution of said emotional event. Water is an ideal that can be interpreted many different ways, it all just depends on the person.

The symbolism of water also plays into the theory of Yin and Yang. The definition of Yin and Yang is as follows (per Wikipedia…because I don’t feel like summarizing it right now): In Chinese philosophy, yin and yang (“dark-bright”, “negative-positive”) describes how seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they may give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another. Many tangible dualities (such as light and dark, fire and water, expanding and contracting) are thought of as physical manifestations of the duality symbolized by yin and yang.

Duality is found in many belief systems. Without fire you wouldn’t have water, as you wouldn’t have darkness without light. Water at its core is best symbolized by Yin, while by contrast fire is summarized by Yang. Water is cool, deep, and vast, while fire is energetic, moves quickly, and burns its energy must faster than water. Water can hide, change its shape, and can be many things. Fire has the ability to destroy, as does water, but water does it slowly. Without water there is no life.

Yin is characterized as slow, soft, yielding, diffuse, cold, wet, and passive; and is associated with water, earth, the moon, femininity, and night time. Yang, by contrast, is fast, hard, solid, focused, hot, dry, and active; and is associated with fire, sky, the sun, masculinity and daytime. The symbolism of water can be as vast as all the water in the world. From dreams to intuition, magic and mystery, water holds endless inspiration. If you think about it, much of the deepest waters are still unexplored, that makes the meaning of water full of potential.

Incidentally, we are all made up of water. You can say it is about 60%, give or take. The ancient Greeks understood the power of transition that water holds. From being able to start as a liquid, to a solid, and then to vapor. Those Greeks knew what was up! Water is the epitome symbol for metamorphosis and philosophical recycling. In Taoist tradition, water can been seen as an aspect of wisdom. While the ancient Egyptians worshiped their beloved Nile river, which is akin to the birth canal of their existence.  The understanding and comprehension of water is infinite. Water is all around us! We can literally mold/shape water into whatever we want it to be. I feel like we can learn a lot from water…no scratch that…all of the elements!

I mainly wanted to talk about water today since it was on my mind. Water is this profound, mythical creature that always pops up in anime and I felt like I needed to say something. I love the use of water in anime series. It feels like all of the characters are being reborn into a better version of themselves. As I stated above, water has a multitude of meanings. These are just some of the concepts I found while researching about water last night. Whatever the meaning I hope we get to see more water motifs in future anime, as water is essential to our very existence.

That is going to do it for me today my pandas. I hope you enjoyed this little random piece of mine. Hopefully writing this will spur me back into action! I take delight in creating content for you all. Thank you for being patient with me ❤ Sending you all much love from Oregon! XOXO


Disclaimer: All imagery and photos come from searching for them on the internet. I have no claim or right to them.

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11 Comments

  1. I’m so sorry to hear about your friend. I’m not one who is usually one to feel at a loss for words, but at this point I am. All I can say is that there is no need to ask for our forgiveness. It’s totally understandable that you are not in the mood to write a post at this time. But still, you managed to create one here that is very beautiful and which I really enjoyed reading. You take care okay, and if you feel you need to talk about it, know that you may always contact me any time 😊

    Liked by 6 people

  2. My condolences about your friend.

    As soon as I saw the title for this post, I remembered the scene in the Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu OP (the one from the first season) where Miyokichi gradually shown to be drowning but not struggling. It’s in such vivid blue and magenta that it makes the viewer wonder whether the water is symbolic or real. That’s only the beginning of the symbolism in that show though – I think you mentioned in your sleeper post you’ve watched SGRS already, if I’m not mistaken, so I guess I shouldn’t elaborate anymore than that.

    Liked by 1 person

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