(Author Note: Find my top favourite manga/anime series at the bottom of the post! 😉 )
“Babe, why is there an Amazon box in the garbage?”
I feel my cheeks burn as I hide in my writing den, feeling the sheepish grin stretch across my face, “Oh, something I ordered a while back came in the mail.”
My fiancé is not amused. “What did you buy?” he questions as he finally steps into the door way of my home office.
My eyes don’t leave my computer screen, “Oh, nothing of importance.”
I’m met with immediate silence. I feel my cheeks turn hot as I wait for the impending explosion of annoyance.
“You bought more anime stuff, didn’t you?” My finance’s voice is an octave higher, his eyes looking at me with disapproval.
“It’s called manga,” I muttered under my breath, but I don’t make an effort to fully correct him. He’s not a geek boy. Yes, he’s obsessed with Star Wars, but he’s not super geeky. Not like me. He doesn’t eat, live, and breath the geek life like I do.
“Oh, Amanda!” His eyes are disapproving but he shakes his head. A small smile starts to form across his freckled face. And really, he’s not that mad. Hell, I’m wearing an Assassin’s Creed hoodie wrapped in a Sailor Moon blanket with a stack of Black Butler manga on my shelf and a Sailor Saturn doll sitting next to my keyboard. This is nothing knew to him, and really there is no harm done (unlike the day I suggested we name our kids from one of my favourite anime shows…the conversation did not end well.)
“You’re weird!” He rolls his eyes before walking away, likely questioning how he ended up loving someone “quirky” like me.
“Love you too!” I call after him, finally pulling the latest Black Butler manga from under my blanket as I finally dig in, feeling both embarrassed and self-satisfied at my actions.
To you, this may seem like a strange interaction. For me, this is something that happens on a regular basis in my household.
Yes, I am a self-professed geek girl.
From the moment I was four years-old and my Mom sat me down in front of our old TV and turned on Sailor Moon (English dub unfortunately – Thanks for nothing, 4Kids!), I was hooked on anime instantly. Gone where the days of silly cartoons and kid shows, and soon I was waking up at 5am every Saturday to turn on Fox so I could start my three-hour ritual of watching all my favourite anime shows. My room instantly became a museum of things that resembled an early geek life, and the older I got, the more merchandise and fan art I acquired. It did eventually get to a point that I was embarrassed to have friends over, but over time I did meet people who were just as obsessed with geeky things too, and I came into my own.
Even though I’m sure there were times my Mom probably thought she was raising a crazy person and probably wondered where she went wrong with her parenting skills, (Sorry, Mom!) I was always encouraged to be proud of the things I liked and I embraced my weirdness despite how much I was mocked for it. I grew older, moved away to university, made more friends obsessed with the geek life, discovered the wonders of the internet and found sites where I could watch original animations with subtitles. (No joke! Watch the original Sailor Moon with english subtitles. You’d be blown away by how different (and more awesome!) the show really is!)
And while some of you are probably rolling your eyes and thinking, “Jeez, Amanda. You’re a 25 year-old adult woman. Shouldn’t you grow up?” To that I reply, “I didn’t choose the geek life. The geek life rose from the pits of hell and dragged me down and by the time I realized it, it was too late to stop my obsession.” (Honestly, I wouldn’t really say that, but hey, I like what I like, so there!)
I’ve come to embrace being uniquely different from everyone else and I’ve accepted that I like things that aren’t necessarily mainstream. Yes, I’m older but I still enjoy the things that make me happy. So what if it’s watching anime or reading manga? That doesn’t make me any less of an adult. If people can geek out over video games like Assassin’s Creed than I can geek out over Attack on Titan. And really, when you discover the big, wide world of Japanese animation, you realize just how many shows are not kid-friendly. Sure, my workout playlist on my phone is filled with many anime theme songs and J-pop tunes, but I’m still like any other civilized adult my age, except when I’m drunk and make too many fan references at parties. (Sorry friends.)
But while I’m a quirky geek girl, there is another reason I treasure so many anime shows and graphic novels. Yes, sometimes I watch things just to have my daily dose of obsessive fangirling , but another main reason I fell in love with anime and manga novels is because they were my escape from the world. During some of the most difficult times in my life, anime shows and manga series gave me an “out” from the terrible things happening around me. My geekiness, to a degree, helped me deal with the trying circumstances I went through as a kid.
We’ve all have had fiction characters that we admired. Heroic tales of characters battling against all the odds and overcoming trying adversary. Protagonists who found the courage to keep fighting and acquired strength through the allies and friends around them. For me, anime provided me with the same batch of characters to revere and admire. Manga whisked me away with stories of fantasy lands full of magical characters who overcame all the odds. Tales of brave warriors and beautiful princesses allowed me to block out reality and let me disappear into those worlds, to pretend to be apart of those magical kingdoms.
When I was growing up in a violent household, characters like Usagi Tsukino (Sailor Moon) and Yuri Katsuki (Yuri!!! On Ice) taught me (and still teach me) that it’s ok to be afraid sometimes, because even in fear you can be brave. When I felt isolated and alone because I was too afraid to tell anyone what was happening to me, I found comfort through shows like Inuyasha and Escaflowne (whose protagonists found themselves in worlds they didn’t belong in and felt alone). Or in the moments my father berated me and took away pieces of me, I lost myself in manga stories like Black Butler and Death Note, where I wished I had the supernatural powers to stop the people who were hurting me (and also help me channel the internal anger for not having any control of my circumstances). And finally as I battled through living with a mental illness, series like Attack on Titan remind me that you can still survive, no matter how horrifying your back story is – that through insurmountable pain we find our true strength to keep fighting.
And while childhood Amanda wishes she could have morphed into a bad ass anime character and become unstoppable (Seriously, you have no idea how upset I was when I finally realized I would never be a Sailor Scout), grown-up me finally realized the great lessons all of these amazing series have taught me – through pain we find the courage to keep fighting, that giving up is never an option. Once I realized that there was more than the suffering my mental illness has caused me, I finally accepted that I could be unstoppable, that I am a force to be reckoned with. I might not have supernatural powers or live in a magical kingdom, but the fact that I am still here, that I am still fighting – that makes me as brave and powerful as my favourite anime characters.
But despite feeling a bit ridiculous, and a tad bit embarrassed of taking this metaphor a bit too far, my geekiness has provided me the outlets to help me come through my childhood trauma. Being an anime fan and an avid reader of manga, I learned some of life’s toughest lessons through those character’s battles. Long gone are the days of running around in my backyard and pretending to be Sailor Moon, but now I have those fond memories to remind me that I found comfort (that I had moments of feeling like a superhero) despite my circumstances.
Maybe it seems a bit weird to be an adult geek girl. Maybe my fiancé gets annoyed when another Amazon box shows up on the doorstep, and maybe I get weird looks when I wear my Sailor Moon tee-shirt out in public, but despite all that, I am proud of being a geek girl. I’m happy that my quirky niche brings me extraordinary happiness, and on the really bad days, I can just pick up a volume of Black Butler and disappear for a few hours. Yes, I’m a geek girl and I make no apologize for it.
So, I’ll end this post the best way I know how…with one of my (many) favourite, inspirational anime quotes:
“A lesson without pain is meaningless. For you cannot gain something without sacrificing something else in return. But once you have recovered it and made it your own… You will gain an irreplaceable Fullmetal heart.” Edward Elric, Fullmetal Alchemist
And as always,
Fight the good fight.
3 thoughts on “Why Anime (and Manga) Helps My Mental Health”
I cried just trying to get to the end of this post. So incredibly moving and motivational! Awesome job being so honest and open about your situation as a child, Amanda! I admire your ability to cope with turbulent times; it shows just how strong you really are as a person. Glad to have found your website/blog, and now you have a new follower :)! Looking forward to your next health-related blog.
I also enjoy some anime myself lol (Attack on Titan, Seven Deadly Sins, Magi: Adventures of Sinbad, Mirai Nikki – which is kind of a dark anime/manga series, definitely not kid-friendly lol!)
That is An amazing blog. You are one strong lady my dear. Admire you greatly. Keep writing. Beautiful
Excellent post. And go you for being you. I can totally relate. Anime and manga helped with my mental health too, especially during my teenage years. And yes, I don’t deny that what we do is a form of escapism but I think trying to escape from the unbearable painful emotions we sometimes feel is okay, as long as we don’t completely lose hold of reality. Thank you for sharing this post with us. Cheers!