I’m going to go ahead and address you as the cowardly pillow humping anime fan that you, myself and purveyors of Japanese cartoons are often depicted as. Despite anime exuding badassery on every conceivable front, consumers of anime have almost the opposite reputation. We’re overweight, socially traumatized, asthmatic and have awkward masturbation rituals. Basically, we’re all afraid to get in the fucking robot.
Clearly not all of us fit into any of those categories, and it’s really quite the opposite. Anime can instill in us (yes, even in the pillow humpers) the traits of all our heroes and 2-D friends.
When consumers of fictional media are truly engrossed in a narrative it’s possible to adopt the beliefs, behavior and mentality of characters the reader or viewer is invested in. I’m sure some of you out there were suddenly stricken with Hououin Kyouma’s mad scientist laugh, or jumped on top a pool table with your core drill to proclaim that you’ll pierce the heavens before a horrified crowd of bar patrons. Researchers at Ohio State University call this phenomenon experience taking. Specific to the study this experience taking can leave one more likely to vote, or even more impressive, change a heterosexual male’s attitude toward gay men in a positive way. Stranger yet is that this change can happen subconsciously without you even knowing. In anime our favorite characters face moral dilemmas that would make ancient philosophers engage in straight up fist fights. These characters are caught in realities crafted to push them to their physical and psychological limits, and in watching this struggle we are left with hopeful and well contemplated ideas and a sense that we can do anything. It’s gifted to us through watching and discussions with friends or on the internet, and it may’ve happened to you without even realizing it.
If the day ever comes where you happen upon an ageless mech during an extra dimensional world ending fissure, you know you’ll jump right in and somehow manage to operate its controls. However, there are more practical ways we can use the feeling associated with being mankind’s robot piloting savior. Like asking out the cute boy or girl that’s always glancing at you in line at Starbucks. It should be no problem since you’ve mentally prepared to fight off an alien onslaught, or lead an underground guerilla army to topple a tyrannical world government. You know these things are possible and you know the characters that made it so.
You can craft the most baller spreadsheet in existence with the exuberant overconfidence of Soul Eater’s Black Star in order to show your boss he can cram his snide comments about your cubicle decorations up his shit hole. You can gather up the courage to tell your friend their substance abuse is affecting their social life. You can go for a nice walk and just feel good about yourself and the world. With your favorite characters imprinted on your back and in your heart there’s nothing to stop you from being the badass/genius/good friend you’ve always wanted to become.
In some cases channeling your inner anime hero can help you overcome the most insignificant, arbitrary task you’ve ever completed and leave you feeling like you’ve saved the universe, or in my case, an entertainment system.
Battle for the Living Room: Part One
The lights were cut and the volume was cranked. Myself and a trusty friend buttoned our Scouting Legion capes and fastened our 3DMG tight. We were new recruits of Fixed Couch Maintenance Squad 4, and we readied ourselves for battle with the horrors looming in a new episode of Shingeki no Kyojin, the uber hyped Attack on Titan. Apprehensive and nervous, we’d both been hitting General Pixis’ secret flask to ease the pain of watching our beloved characters systematically gnawed limb from limb. And like Hannes and the wall maintenance crew drinking and gambling, oblivious to any real danger, an intruder breached our defenses. Tore right through the window I’d accidentally left open beside our front door.
We were to come face to face with it.
Diptera Schizophora Musca Titanus: the (un)commonly large house fly.
It appeared out of nowhere. The thrum of its flight made its presence known before the airborne terror came to rest on the screen of our television. Perched atop a striking shot of Wall Rose, the fly twitched its wings and reclaimed its territory. The buzzing black dot took us both by surprise, and with the anger of a prepubescent Eren Jaeger I jumped up and swatted it away. But it came back. Again and again. With every pillow thrown and every pinpointed water gun blast the fly deftly dodged our attacks, leaving us screaming and out of breath as we punched the pause button for the fortieth time. It didn’t take long before we dangled our helpless legs over the brink of defeat. We just watched the drama play out on T.V. while the fly mocked us with its vomit-laden proboscis and hairy fly feelers.
My friend sat defeated with a wet paper towel in his lap, the last of many weapons in our fight to reclaim what was rightfully ours. It was over. But as the music score of the show swept in I suddenly felt my hope return, in full force, with the entire Scouting Legion at my back. Suddenly I could not rest until that fly was dead. Until I’d killed every single fucking one of them. I jumped up and yanked a bandana out of my backpack, wound it as tightly as I could and stood boldly before the behemoth insect as my friend sat in awestruck Armin wonder, mouth completely agape.
I cocked my arm back and whipped the bandana with the precision of Mikasa’s blade and the strength of Levi’s Sonic Spin Attack. The cloth tip produced a trademark whip-crack sound which propelled the fly with a miniature sonic boom that shot it off through the room to make an audible ping off an angled ceiling grate. The fly then ricocheted back across our entire living room, in the opposite direction, to tumble its tiny body midway through our kitchen and come to rest beside a dented can of PBR for a total kill distance of 24 and a half feet with a flight time of 1.6 seconds.
I roared alongside Eren with my arms flexed under the weight of total annihilation and victory. My friend cried. We hugged and drank and measured the distance of what I believe is the most epic fly death of all time. If it weren’t for the bravery of Attack on Titan’s cast I would’ve never found the courage and confidence in myself to seize such glory and respect from my peers.
The earth won’t be inherited by the weak. It will be inherited by grown-ass men and women in their pajamies watching anime and believing in themselves.