What I've Learned from Animé/Manga 6: Feeling Strongly

>> Tuesday, November 2, 2010

If you hate animé/manga or don't know what I'm talking about, see the intro or the disclaimer here. This series is all about trying to figure out what is so appealing in animé/manga, given that they almost always have nonsensical premises and ridiculous storylines, yet they appeal to millions, including me. Why? Note, I'll use observer to refer to both an animé watcher or a manga reader.

You know, there's a perception that the Japanese are very stoic, very subdued emotionally. Well, I don't know. If animé/manga (and not just the stuff I love best) is any indication, they are anything but. Over and over, emotions - adoration, affection, hatred, revenge, anger, sorrow, despair - is played to the hilt. The characters in these manga feel with everything they have and often show what they're feeling overtly. They cry (no one cries with the abandon of an animé character), they shout, they fall to their knees, they frequent respond with violence, they squeal with anticipation or joy.

So much extreme emotion frequently adds to humor (a theme in nearly every type of fiction I favor), but is also frequently over the top, even irksome. However, one of the side effects I've found is that a moment can be unbelievable poignant, so emotionally charged yet right in a way that might be hard to sell in a western book. Those moments are so powerful, so enthralling an observer can fall in love with a story or a character no matter how challenging they might otherwise be to love.

That open-heartedness makes the characters very accessible, vulnerable in ways that real people often aren't. Given that they also are focused on their love of others and acceptance of who they are, it is frequently a moment of surpassing tenderness or connection.

I can think of dozens of moments like this in the
animé/manga I love. I'll only be touching on a few, but they got to me, touched me. And, really, isn't that what a story should do? Suck you in, make you part of it, touch your heart, make you laugh and, yes, make you cry. In every one of the animés/mangas I listed, there was at least one moment that made me cry or completely compelled me. (Literally getting caught by one from Fruits Basket as I write this where Momiji explains how his mother chose to forget him because of what he was and how he didn't want to lose his own memories, even the sad ones.)

The problem I have is that the artwork is so intrinsic to this that I'm not sure I can capture this in my writing, though it's exactly what I want most to capture. Frequently, there's no dialog. There's no need.

Like when Tamaki, restricted from seeing his mother again, finds out his cold calculating friend spent his vacation tracking her down and talking to her so he could tell Tamaki about it. So he'd know she was alright. (Ouran High School Host Club)

Like when Kyo hugs Misao as if she were the most precious thing ever, not because he wants her (though he does) but because she's been the focus of his life for ten years. As if he needs to touch her, hold her, know she's real. (Black Bird)

Much the way Tamaki hold Haruhi when he finds her after she'd been kidnapped, as if he needed to feel her to know it was real, that she was really safe. (
Ouran High School Host Club)

Like when Kyoko realizes that during her descent into despair after her husband's unexpected death, she has forgotten about her own toddler daughter. She did have a reason to live in her little Tohru even though her husband was gone. (Fruits Basket)

That connection when Haruhatsu reminds Rin that, no matter what she says, she does care about something, or rather, someone. (Fruits Basket)

That moment after Kyo firmly tells Kagura he doesn't love her, but holds her as she cries for something she herself destroyed (and if you know what she put him through, you'd realize how very decent that was). (Fruits Basket)

I wish you could see them like I do. I wish I could do with words what these pictures, these scenes do for me.


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