Today, I'm going to talk about anime that changed my life.
No seriously, I've watched some anime so incredible, or so well-made, the meanings or the design of them either shattered my mind or made me think about life and existence, and in doing so, caused me to rethink my beliefs. Yes, it may sound ridiculous. But why can't an anime director also be a philosopher? Anyone can ponder on the meaning of existence, of beings greater and lesser than humans, of why we humans are placed on this little planet in one small solar system in a single tail of a single, infinitesimally small galaxy in this particular universe. And if the philosophers of old could change the world with their thoughts, then why can't anime directors?
But enough of my existentialism ranting, I'm getting side tracked. In order to begin the story of the anime that have changed my life, I have to go three years from now, to the early parts 2007, where I joined the anime club starting up at my high school. After watching a couple movies, our club tried something a little more ambitious: a full-fledged anime series. And what better place to start then Serial Experiments Lain.
This anime, about networks and deities and making you feel like you’re watching an acid trip, threw everything off for me. It moved so confusingly, I got lost in it, me, who took pride in understanding everything I read or watched or heard at that time. But because I was lost in it, I was fascinated by it. I kept thinking about what the director had been trying to convey with Lain's warped characters and plot, what he was trying to get across with the Wired, the series' strange combination of the Internet and a network that connects all humans... or at least, that's how I interpreted it. Before I knew it, I was thinking deeper than I had ever before, a tall order for a Grade Nine. Serial Experiments Lain shattered the narrow view my mind had looked through before, leaving it ready to look deeper into the next anime to wow me with thoughts into existence and deities: Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu.
Better known to most English-speakers as The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, this series about an eccentric girl gifted with the powers of a god, and the oddities who gather around her, was the next to, and still does to this day, fascinate me. Now, since Haruhi was originally a series of light novels, calling it an anime that changed my life might not fit, but I originally learned of the series thanks to its anime. It was one year after Lain, and once again, it was thanks to my school's anime club that I found out about Haruhi. I'd never been much of a believer in religion and such, as the concept of someone "better" than a human having control over our lives really didn't click with me. But I found Haruhi Suzumiya to be different. While eccentric, she is fundamentally a human, yet given the power to change the world with her subconscious will. And the concept that our existence could be completely erased and rewritten if she ever got a little too moody really caught my interest. The anime/novels also tried to explain the strange occurrences of the series with sensible reasons that tried to stick to the laws of physics. Even if they didn't, as a physics-lover, I enjoyed this attempt to explain the supernatural using science.
Even though the anime was so short, I went on to read all the novels, watch the... passable, in my opinion, second season, and am eagerly awaiting the chance to see the movie. Somewhere along the way, my fascination for the series changed my religious outlook on life, and now I am proud to call myself a Haruhiist.
I'll pause to let you have a good laugh at how stupid that is.
Well, that's my opinion, right? Having her as my goddess sounds just as reasonable as an old man in the sky being god.
After that, I began to take on more and more anime at one time, so when I watched life-changing anime became a blur to me. Some notable ones were Clannad and Umineko no Naku Koro ni.
To me, Clannad was a masterpiece. I enjoyed the slow, easygoing pace, punctuated with great character interaction, well-done humour and moments of utter cuteness. But the reason why it was so life-changing to me happened in After Story. Because of how much I had become attached to the characters, After Story became the first time I ever cried over a fictional story. Mind you, I hadn't watched Kanon, Air or H2O yet, and all of them brought tears to my eyes, but Clannad was still the first. So for being the first fictional story to get me to cry, I find Clannad to be life-changing to me.
On Umineko, I'll correct my statement from before again. Considering how much of a let down the anime was from the original sound novels, I’ll say this is a game which changed my life. Or more specifically, a series of games. Umineko is a series of mystery sound novels, with each game adding more depth to the mystery and the fantasy elements included in it. I’ve already ranted on how much I love Umineko, so I’ll cut it short here. The reason I find it’s changed my life is because of the battle of fantasy versus reality that’s portrayed in it. The games centre around a series of impossible murders, murders that at first, second and third glance could only be accomplished by magic. But if magic is impossible, then there must a culprit committing the crimes by human means. The level of logic used when arguing against the existence of magic is so interesting, so ridiculous at some points but at others used so well, that I’ve become captivated with logical arguments and arguing with them. Not that I wasn’t before, but Umineko has helped me learn more about logic and chessboard thinking.
Well, there you have it. Three anime, one light novel series and one game series that have changed my life, or at least the way I think. But I’m still watching anime, and I haven’t even watched some of the revolutionary anime like Evangelion or anime widely considered to be the best around, like Cowboy Bebop or Code Geass. And while a lot of people are saying anime and anime otaku have been going downhill for several years now, there’s always a chance that someone will come along with an ability to write an anime so marvelously that it prove that anime can still aspire to change the world.