Watching anime is something that I truly cherish. While some may view it in disdain, simplifying it as only “Japanese cartoons”, I believe that the medium is a completely unique experience, unable to be replicated by any other live action film or TV show. My gateway to anime, as is the case for most fans, was through watching Pokemon. I remember religiously counting the time, sitting in front of my Television, to watch a show that took me to another world. For a while, Pokemon was a huge craze throughout the globe. Children hoarded and collected cards to share and trade with one another, and they could be seen on the benches playing Pokemon games on their GameBoys alongside their friends. Just like every other kid, I too did all this. I would stay up at night, staring at my roof, imagining that I had been teleported into that magical world and given a choice to choose my starting Pokemon. I would create my whole journey, making up each step I would take, the people I would meet. Always, before my journey was over, I would have fallen asleep. While watching Pokemon was something every kid my age was fascinated with, most of them grew out of it as time passed. Yet for me, Pokemon was just the beginning. It created a seed of curiosity in my mind about these animated Japanese shows, and so I started searching for more. I watched show after show, from the common ones like Dragonball Z and Digimon to oft-ignored gems like Princess Mononoke and Howl’s Moving Castle, considering each one to be better than the last. I watched weekly shows like Naruto and One Piece, and as I slowly grew up, they grew up with me. They started off with hard-working underdogs fighting against geniuses, of children coping with bullying, but as time passed by, they tackled more serious, darker issues as well, from bigotry to racism. Anime became a part of my life, influencing my very actions. Whenever I would feel dejected or dispirited, unable to find the energy to do a task or daunted by its difficulty, I would remember the bombastic, motivational words of Simon in Gurren Lagann, as he shouldered through the hurdles in front of him and continued forward on his hero’s journey. Of course, while I loved the action and the adventure of shows like Fullmetal Alchemist and Hellsing, filled to the brim with blood-boiling battles, oozing with fantasy and magic, the shows that left me truly amazed were the subdued, more nuanced ones. Watching a movie like The Silent Voice or a show like Welcome to the N.H.K. made me think of and understand the deeply personal issues that so many people around the world face: thoughts of suicide, crippling depression, nerve-racking anxiety, suffering and coping through a disability. Yet they managed to ensure that none of these feelings were conveyed in an overly exaggerated, stifling, dark, or tragic manner. Rather they just portrayed them as … real. But alongside tackling these difficult concepts, they managed to mix them with some of the most tender, heartfelt moments, full of warmth and joy, that can be experienced in the presence of close friends or family. They depicted life as it is – sometimes the days are good, while sometimes they just aren’t. Watching a show like Your Lie in April and seeing the pianist Kousei Arima struggle to be the best under the expectations of his peer and the society around him was something that I could easily relate to. Yet it was also his efforts in realizing that he wished to play the piano because it brought him joy, rather than to conform to anyone else’s desires, that provided me with the path forwards when I too felt those same expectations thrust upon me. But the truly sad thing is that if others are told about such stories, they would scoff at how naively stupid it is to watch such dumb, childish cartoons and expect them to play such a pivotal role in a person’s life. They would declare that we must be completely detached from reality to be able to relate to such animated characters. Yet by doing so, they completely overlook their worth. Even though these shows may appear cheesy and childlike, I have never felt shame towards my past or present self for loving them. After all, where can you find a medium that has greater range and variety in the stories it tells – from the tear-jerking, heartbreaking romance of Clannad to the thrilling, strategic, crime drama that is Death Note, from Kuroko’s Basketball that depicts the struggles and trials of a basketball teaming aiming for the top to the inspiring efforts of two gay ice-skaters fighting against ostracization in Yuri on Ice. So I’ll continue to watch my “Japanese cartoons” and if somebody asks me for what my favorite show is? I’ll tell them to sit down so that I can introduce them to the wonderful world of anime. After all, without anime, I wouldn’t be anywhere close to being the person I currently am.

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