Random Ramblings: “Relatability”


randomramblingsrelate

“If only. Those must be the two saddest words in the world.” ― Mercedes Lackey

This post is SPOILER FREE so don’t worry all that much.

Truth be told, I haven’t had any real motivation to write on this blog for quite some time. Maybe it’s me being lazy, maybe I haven’t been watching enough anime, maybe it’s both. What I do know is that Boku dake ga Inai Machi, otherwise known as ERASED, is really good. Now I don’t think it’s anywhere near perfect, but I do think it has a great premise and taste in suspense. There aren’t enough good mystery/suspense anime out there and ERASED has clearly exploded in the Western scene. Hopefully, this will force more relatively unknown manga like it to get proper addicting anime adaptations. I think there’s something about the ever so present theme of regret that has to do with why it’s getting the attention it deserves unlike others that kind of rely on less interesting premises. Cold cases are great, but throw in a serious sense of personal attachment or time travel to the crimes and you’ve struck gold. I may know why it’s popular, but I only found out in this latest episode (eight as of me writing this) why I enjoy it so much. It’s the undeniable “relatability” to it all. That’s not considered a real word, but whatever. I relate to this show. I think we all do.

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Everyone makes mistakes. I wish I was less of a dick as a kid. I wish I could go back and show real kindness to the people who mattered most to me. Today they might tell me I’m wrong, but I know for a fact I was right. I manipulated people, I was spoiled, I knew who I was (a bully) and what I could get away with. Things have changed since then and I don’t see myself as the kid I wish I wasn’t, but it would be nice to go back to change that. We all wish we weren’t dumb as kids or that we had the balls to ask out that person we had a crush on. ERASED gives us a chance to pretend we can change that. Our main character lives a life or failure and then suddenly is given the power to change things. Things that have happened. It’s a real nuisance to him until he realizes he has to change the future for the better of the world and those closest to him. A real human moment in the series is when he is asked why he is acting the way he does and he thinks “I have to do it because I’m the hero. I’m a superhero” with someone responding that he’s already a hero for trying. More and more as this series crawls to it’s ending, we are seated in a world where things don’t always go as planned, the characters get stressed, and the future remains tangled in uncertainty. It’s pretty close to how the real world works. As each episode ends we are constantly hoping for the safety and happy ending our protagonist deserves. Probably because he’s perusing what we can’t, but all want to be. A hero.

Now, I hate throwing the word relatability around with anime. I see a lot of things getting credit for having a “relatable” character. The protagonist watches anime, plays video games, hates their life, or considers themselves unattractive. I don’t find any of that demoralizing “Don’t you wish you were suddenly insert adjective?” characterization worth my time. This type of “relatable” character isn’t the strength of ERASED. Satoru Fujinuma, our protagonist, doesn’t share much of his likable traits through his interests or past (other than being a failed mangaka which is probably Kei Sanba’s own relatable quirk as a previously ecchi themed mangaka) but rather his actions and attitude. No where do I really see a specific audience this show is catering to. It knows it can excite, scare, and get the attention of it’s viewer through it’s premise and presentation. The beauty of well executed relatability relies on a good scenario. Sometimes, a scenario can feel really genuine. Like as if the show is speaking specifically to you. That’s good storytelling. That’s not a gimmick to pull people in.

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There have been a lot of shows I’ve watched recently that break me down emotionally as a person. When a statement or situation is presented in a show like Shirobako, I choke up a bit because they deal with problems a young adult like myself has to endure or think about. Have you ever had a deep conversation with a friend about where you’re going in life? It’s like that except someone has an answer for you. No dancing around it, most psychological  questions asked in an anime are eventually answered. Very bluntly, but it pays off for both the character and you. It’s these wise and hopeful answers that made Shirobako my favorite series of 2015. I looooove that kind of relatable shit in anime. Planetes, Cross Game, and Ping Pong: The Animation are all other great examples of shows that I can relate to in a mature;existential way. I really do wish more shows would take the risk to scare the viewers into finding themselves like Evangelion did in 1997. Audiences obviously mature and the younger western scene seems to really be enjoying more and more serious shows such as Death Parade and GATE. Although, similar to Cross Game, there is another thing that ERASED does well that strikes a note in my heart. I’m gonna try to circle back to regret to end this post.

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Grief and Regret kind of go hand in hand as emotions. Someone passes away, regret sets in, and you feel as though you could have changed something by just saying one word, but that still doesn’t change the fact that they’re gone. You can ignore that feeling long after the funeral, on your way home from work, or even years after not giving into it; grief will always come back to you. No matter how close you were to them or how much you wanted to change, the feeling is the same with everyone. I regret not visiting my friend more in the months before it happened. I regret not holding his son more knowing I wouldn’t be seeing them together ever again. For some reason, after watching a part in ERASED, I regretted not talking more after hearing his final words he would ever speak to me. A week after his birthday my friend was gone. No one saw it coming and I regretted not speaking more to him in that phone call on his birthday. It’s very strange to start crying when there isn’t a real present need to. Living a safe and stable life, you never find a need or reason to reach that state of being. Sometimes, it just happens to me. As sad as it sounds, I need for something to bring me back down to acceptance and ERASED did that to me for a moment. I knew the premise was a straight catalyst, but it reminded me to never really let go of how much someone meant to you. It sucks, but I know it’s healthy. Just like that though, the regret passed over and all that was left was what I can do in the present. So I wrote this post. I know it will come back again and the pain will feel very real for a few fleeting minutes, but I can accept reality more soundly with the more I think about it. Thankfully, that’s becoming less of an occurrence.

I know some people avoid shows with themes that might remind them of something emotionally scarring, but I try to embrace it as my reality. If it’s insulting, then maybe you should avoid it. But when done in taste, it can be be rewarding. It’s a good way to silently know that you can relate to others out there because someone was willing to implement emotions you have felt before within their story.

So that’s it. Another Random Ramblings in the books. Go watch ERASED. It’s pretty gud.

Uhhh, I’ll end this with a nice scene from Good Will Hunting about regret:

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About Kefka
Writer for NeoParadigm City. Aspiring Jpop gravure idol. Look out Shakira.

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