This article originally appeared in Sage Creek High School’s ‘The Sage’ in December 2021. It has been lightly edited for republication.
Among popular TV shows and movies, the anime category is the one most overlooked. Anime is a style of animation that originated from Japan and is often seen as silly or never taken seriously due to its “childish” art style. While some anime is intended for all ages, many others are meant for teenagers and young adults.
While anime can have captivating characters or beautiful animation, beneath the surface they tend to reflect darker tones and deep themes. These make the shows all the more interesting and relatable since they are able to reflect real-life issues. The relatability the viewer may have will allow them to connect more, leading to the possibility of resolving problems they may be going through or learning advice for the near future.
Here are three anime movies/shows that are both entertaining and meaningful.
Kiki’s Delivery Service, 1990
Studio Ghibli, one of the most reputed anime studios around the world, is known for its stunning animation, well-developed, relatable characters and amazing soundtrack. While it has touching animation and music, the films also communicate deeper topics such as finding oneself and coming of age. One example is the fully pictured film released on December 20, 1990: Kiki’s Delivery Service.
Kiki’s Delivery Service takes place from the perspective of Kiki, a 13-year-old witch in training, who leaves home due to the traditions being a witch has. During her journey, she is offered shelter by the owner of a bakery in exchange for delivering bread to their various customers.
Along her adventure, she meets Tombo, a boy that she starts having a crush on, and learns about the emotion of jealousy when he is seen hanging out with other girls. Later, after putting through relentless effort to deliver one package, the recipient throws away the hard work as if it was nothing. Her depression and jealousy begin to add up, causing Kiki to lose what she loves most: the power of flight. Eventually, however, she manages to find herself and her magic thanks to the many people that she met from the delivery service job.
Jealousy is a natural human reaction. Through the choices that Kiki goes through after experiencing jealousy, one can learn what the consequences could be. Another natural response is that of depression. Depression is something that a lot of people have, so they could relate to that feeling of sadness Kiki has.
In the end, once one makes their way through these emotions, one can come back better than ever. The viewers can learn from the themes since they may go through similar experiences when growing up. It is overall a great film worth watching with the whole family.
Angel Beats, 2010
Some stories have issues with being able to draw out various emotions from the viewer while reflecting relatable topics. This anime, however, does it almost flawlessly.
“Angel Beats,” a 13 episode anime, follows its main protagonist Yuzuru Otonashi alongside Class SSS in their fight against the school structure and Kanade Tachibana, otherwise known as Angel. Although this may seem like it takes place in a typical school situation, a common anime trope, it actually takes place in the afterlife, with the surrounding students being non-player characters (NPCs) and the Class SSS being people who didn’t accept their lives when they were alive.
Class SSS believes that falling into line with what the afterlife presents would cause them to be reincarnated back into the “cruel and unjust” world they came from previously. Therefore, they became delinquents and rebel against the school and Angel.
In the afterlife, characters are able to do actions that they normally couldn’t while alive. One such example of this is as simple as being able to walk. This new life in the afterlife allows them to relive their most “unfair” and led-by-fate moments from their past.
By learning about these characters’ backstories and trauma, the watcher realizes that some characters were not accepted by society. In some cases, for instance, a disability caused characters to give up on the dreams they had and because of these experiences or disabilities, they feel as if they can’t fit in. In order to finally move on, the young teenagers need to come to terms with their short lives on Earth and do all their unfulfilled wishes.
This anime brings tears of laughter and heartbreak while allowing the viewer to reflect on their own life. The audience can realize how much better their lives may be in comparison to the characters, which can cause them to think optimistically towards their circumstances.
Komi Can’t Communicate, 2021
As the title suggests, “Komi Can’t Communicate” is focused on a girl named Shouko Komi and her communication disorder. Alongside the help of her first friend, a boy named Tadano Hitohito, she wishes to make 100 friends.
Although on the outside Komi is seen as the class princess, on the inside she’s scared of everyone, making her seem intimidating and hard to approach. She wants to talk to people, but due to her communication issue, she is unable to.
The main theme for this anime is that of social anxiety, which the main character, Komi, is diagnosed with. Social anxiety is one of the main problems people have today, so watching Komi attempt to resolve hers can be inspirational.
The anime also describes how some people, although seeming neurotypical, may have a situation with so much more going on.
There are a lot of varying degrees of anime. From sad ones to comedic ones with many meanings and deep topics behind them. Anime such as these three can benefit whoever is watching. The issues displayed are real and potentially very relatable, especially to teenagers.
A thing or two can be learned from anime, such as the darker themes of life that might have been neglected previously, or to not judge a person by their looks alone.
There are countless amounts of anime and even more constantly being created so there’s bound to be an anime out there for everyone. So stop overlooking anime and give it a chance! You may learn from the anime or find relatable topics that can help a current situation. Some of these anime could also possibly change your life.
By Austin Jew, Sage Creek High School | Class of 2025