Another month has passed and that means there is a new OWLS blog tour going on. This month, our prompt is strength:
“Your greatest weakness can become your greatest strength.”
In anime, characters struggle with inner demons or physical weaknesses that make them feel insecure and prevent them from achieving goals. Yet when these characters overcome their adversity, they can finally be able to express who they are or in other words, “Free to be Me.”
For this tour, we will be exploring anime characters that have overcome adversity due to a personal insecurity or physical weakness. It is these type of characters that many anime fans may identify as role models because fans are able to feel empathetic towards these characters’ struggles and insecurities.
Strength comes in many different forms. When we think of strength, many of us probably think of overcoming some kind of huge adversity, whether is physical or mental. Life presents all kinds of challenges on a daily basis, some big and some small. Everyone has a different tolerance for these issues. Some people can get up, go to school or work, interact with others, and do other regular activities without a lot of stress. However, for some people, these “simple” activities can be overwhelming. Does that make them weak? No. Many people suffer from anxiety, and this is what I will be discussing in this post, using Teko from Amanchu as an example.
What Is Anxiety?
Firstly, what is anxiety? Anxiety is a type of mental health condition where the sufferer experiences excessive worry or nervousness. They have trouble controlling their worry, and feel constantly on edge. Although some people deny its existence, anxiety is a real medical condition. Anxiety can make simple tasks or just getting through the day difficult. If a person is suffering from anxiety and cannot function normally, it does not mean they are a weak person. It means their brain and body have trouble handling stress the way other people can. It is usually some kind of chemical imbalance in the brain, such as a lack of serotonin which is a stress hormone. There are different kind of anxiety disorders with different symptoms and treatments (for example, I have Panic Disorder).
Note: If you suffer from anxiety, panic attacks, or depression, please seek professional help from a service like BetterHelp.
How does Amanchu relate to this? Amanchu is a slice-of-life anime that follows the story of Ooki Futaba, otherwise known as Teko. She is a shy girl who moves to a new town. At first, she is extremely nervous about her new life and is shy around others. Fortunately for her, she meets Pikari, an outgoing, fun-loving girl who helps Teko experience a whole new world of experiences.
Although it is never directly stated, Teko exhibits symptoms of anxiety. In my opinion, she most likely has Social Anxiety Disorder or Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or maybe a combination of both.
I am an incredibly shy person in real life. I get overwhelmed with anxiety whenever I meet someone new. I freeze up, become nervous, and do not know what to say. I usually stutter, which makes me feel stupid and then I end up just remaining quiet. I have gotten better over the years, and it depends on the situation. I am not shy around children or people with a calm demeanor.
Despite having a little social anxiety, I was able to make it through school and make friends. Teko, however, apparently did not have any friends growing up. She isolated herself from others because she was afraid. She was always by herself and did not make a single friend until she was in middle school. After moving to a new town, she was scared that she would not be able to make any new friends, especially considering her old friends were the ones that befriended her. Teko meets Pikari right away, and they are able to become friends because of Pikari’s easygoing and amiable personality. Although these two characters instantly click, Teko is still very nervous around other people. She freezes up and stutters the same way I do. She is unsure of what to say and doubts herself.
Here is her self introduction to her class on the first day of school:
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, Social Anxiety Disorder is the fear of being judged by others in social situations. “People with this disorder, also called social phobia, may have few or no social or romantic relationships, making them feel powerless, alone, or even ashamed…. Although they recognize that the fear is excessive and unreasonable, people with social anxiety disorder feel powerless against their anxiety. They are terrified they will humiliate or embarrass themselves.”
This sounds exactly like Teko (and me).
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America explains that “People with [Generalized Anxiety Disorder], which is also referred to as GAD, experience excessive anxiety and worry, often expecting the worst even when there is no apparent reason for concern… They don’t know how to stop the worry cycle and feel it is beyond their control, even though they usually realize that their anxiety is more intense than the situation warrants.”
This is Teko once again. She is always worried about something, even outside of social situations. She is always anticipating disaster. She is scared she won’t make friends, she is scared of losing her connection with her friends at her old school… The list goes on. There is one fear in particular that manifests itself multiple times throughout the anime, and that is Teko’s fear of scuba diving.
Pikari’s grandmother runs a scuba diving shop, and Pikari also joins the scuba diving club at school. Teko wants to learn how to scuba dive so she can have fun with Pikari, but the idea of it brings out her anxiety. What if she does something wrong? What if she can’t breathe? What if she gets stuck in the water, and the ocean consumes her (just like her fears)?
For example, when Teko has trouble scuba diving at first, she begins to imagine the worst possible situation:
Overcoming Anxiety- Strength
Although Teko has all of these fears, she eventually overcomes them by taking baby steps. First, she befriends Pikari, which was the most important step because Pikari supports her. Pikari also introduces Teko to many new things. Some experiences may seem a little trivial at first, such as viewing flowers from a train window. However, they teach Teko that there is beauty in everything, and that she needs to try new things in order to experience different kinds of beauty. Even though she was nervous about scuba diving, Teko joins the club to give it a try. In doing so, she meets new people and slowly forms friendships with them, helping her get over some of her social anxiety. The club also prepares her to scuba dive in the ocean, but it is a gradual process. She learns how to use the equipment, practices her swimming, practices diving in the school pool, and slowly builds up her confidence.
Eventually, she and Pikari go scuba diving in the ocean. And she loves it. Teko is able to experience the beauty and wonder of the ocean. She realizes that her fear was unreasonable, and conquering it has rewarded her in a way she never imagined. All of the hard work was worth it in the end. She also comes to realize the faults within herself and decides to her improve herself by overcoming her other fears. She admits she is scared.
This is strength.
Talking to others may not seem like a big deal for some. Dealing with everyday life or stresses may be annoying, but not impossible for many. But for people anxiety, these things can seem insurmountable.
Being able to finally get the courage to speak to someone new may be a huge leap. Proving that the fear isn’t reasonable (even if you knew this from the beginning) can take a huge weight off of your shoulders. Overcoming the extreme worry is an ongoing battle, but it is possible with baby steps. Even if it is easy for others, it is important to conquer your fears, no matter how silly they may seem.
Again, this is strength.
If you have suffered from anxiety, or would like to know what experiencing anxiety is like, please go watch Amanchu. It was my favorite of Summer 2016, and it will always be one of my favorite anime because it does a wonderful job of explaining anxiety. Again, if you have experience anxiety, panic attacks, or depression, please seek professional help from an online psychiatrist or a therapist near you.
Spread More Awareness!
If you liked this post and want to spread awareness about anxiety or other social issues, please follow the other work of OWLS. Here is the official OWLS blog.
For the full schedule of OWLS’ May blog tour, click here.
The previous post before mine was OWLS: Strength in Hope – Danganronpa by Two Happy Cats.
The next upcoming post is going to be by Arria Cross !
You can also check out my last OWLS post here and see all of the previous OWLS blog tours here: