Mental Health Awareness – what anime shows us about mental illness

Mental Illness & Anime

You may not have been aware, but the planet recognizes a Mental Health day on the 10th of October. Additionally, the whole first full week of October is a dedication to mental health awareness. The primary focus of these programs is to bring education, awareness and advocate against the social stigma associated with having a mental illness. What does this have to do with my normal focus on anime?

Well, anime has a lot to say about mental illnesses, mental health, and how we can deal with the stigma around it. There are anime that shine a light on the bullying that takes place against those suffering from the anguish of mental illness. Still there are others that reveal the dark parts of the mind where illness can lurk. Yet others may focus on what one can do to bolster their mental health.

It is a little difficult for me to open up about my state of mental health. However, in this context of how mental illness finds itself in the world of anime I would like to do my best to show how it affects me. Perhaps through this combination, you will find some common ground with me or these selections.

Warning: I feel like this article needs a three-part alert here. Discussing mental illness can be a trigger for some. Furthermore, there is my normal spoiler warning to consider as I may be a little too wordy and reveal a detail or two too much. And then I have to mention that my interpretations of these characters may be influenced by my own mental state.


Mental Illness – Depression/binge eating disorder

Mental Illness - Yuri
Anime: Yuri on Ice – Gif: Crunchyroll

If we take a look at Yuri at the beginning of his story, then we see a beaten, depressed man. He has recently lost his dog and placed last in the Grand Prix Final. He is unable to deal with the loss and experiences a breakdown. Yuri feeds his depression – literally. As he tumbles nearly out of professional skating and his training, Yuri binge eats (mainly katsudon). The combination of weight gain and failure in his professional life pull him down.


Mental Illness – Depression/psychosomatic auditory hallucinations/autism

Mental Illness - Arima
Anime: Your Lie in April – Gif: Aniplex

Kousei Arima may well be an autistic savant. If not for the anxiety created by the abuse of his mother and her subsequent tragic death, he might have created a life mostly free from mental illness. At least free from a mental illness that could plague his life. His depression is manifest in the delusion that he didn’t live up to his mother’s expectation. This fear causes Arima to lose his ability to hear his music.


Mental Illness – Asocial behavior/hikikomori

Mental illness - Sora
Anime: No Game No Life – Gif: Sentai Filmworks

Sora has this extremely lively, vibrant social energy that seems to subvert the idea that he has a mental illness. Yet, what we see on the outside doesn’t always match what is on one’s mental landscape. Hikikomori is a Japanese word meaning “pulling inward, being confined” or “shutter” – as in they have shuttered themselves indoors. While I don’t believe it is necessarily a sign of mental illness, it can produce a rash of other asocial behaviors. Not knowing what is appropriate to say or do with new people is one in particular. When under threat, Sora withdraws to the safety he feels with his sister. His nerves may be hidden under the bravado but that doesn’t devalue the fact that he suffers.


Mental Illness – Dependent personality disorder/self-worth

Mental illness - Chise
Anime: The Ancient Magus Bride – Gif: Crunchyroll

Chise is another character suffering from a past too cruel for her age. Her darkness is always chasing her, plaguing her existence no matter where she goes. Chise’s self-worth takes shot after shot as she is abandoned and finds herself sold as a curiosity to an inhuman creature. She latches onto Elias (her purchaser) even though she doesn’t understand what she is. Always lurking at the back of her mind is a worry that she will be tossed aside.


Mental Illness Resolutions

The question is “what does anime show us about mental illness” though. I’ve given you background and minute details but no resolution. A part of the awareness portion is seeing successes despite what we struggle with – at least that’s what I believe. We can’t do it alone.

Yuri finds a love that lights up his life. He connects with a rival that reignites his competitive spirit. Kousei sees life explode in a way that brings color back to his musical world. His love of music and connection to a temporary muse brings him out of a drowning existence. Sora is forcibly yanked out of a world with no rules. His ability to manipulate new rules and dependence on his sister help him survive in a new world. Chise comes to value her life as others build her up through challenges. She finds a way to make joy a reality.

We all have a connection to mental illness. It is all over different forms of entertainment. It is obviously here in anime. These are just a few of the potentials. In fact, in my research I came across several other possibilities that I want to watch (March comes in like a lion, Welcome to the NHK, Neon Genesis Evangelion). So, I hope I’ve shown you something that can help you out with how you deal with your own mental state. Leave me comment here or let’s talk on social media (FacebookTwitterInstagram).


Featured image: Crunchyroll


The Otaku Antics

Hello there – I’m Steven. I’m some combination of otaku, hikikomori, nerd, weeb, dork, and geek. Within this passion comes a fact that I cannot ignore: I love sharing the things that I obsess over. That’s what I want to write about in these articles. There’s nothing more exciting than getting someone interested in the things I hold dear. I also love dogs and occasionally moonlight as a cosplay handler for some of the most creatively geeky people. I get caught in binge-spirals watching all kinds of wonderful things. But here in this space I want to share a bit of my mania for all things anime, manga, and light novels with you!

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