Creating True Emotion in Anime

I’m sure that everyone who calls themselves a fan of Anime will have, at some point, watched a scene in a show that has made them feel some emotion deep down, generally resulting in a salty fluid leaking from their eyes. Anime is such a wide-spread medium that there are many, many shows that have been created just to make viewers feel emotion. But, in my opinion, there’s a big difference between a show that mechanically tries to tick off the ’emotion boxes’ in order to elicit a response, and the shows in which the emotional response is a byproduct of the bigger picture.

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The biggest thing that irks me sometimes in anime is the use of a character’s death as a tool to elicit emotion. Attack on Titan did this so blatantly, yet I personally hadn’t formed any attachments to the characters, so their deaths didn’t even faze me. Even Clannad felt a little forced, like it was trying far too hard to elicit a response, and while I had, by that point, made emotional connections to a character, it just didn’t hit me as hard as it might otherwise have done. Hide’s death in Tokyo Ghoul felt so forced to me, and the ending of the recent WorldEnd anime didn’t even faze me, I saw it coming from episode 1.

We also have shows such as Fullmetal Alchemist, Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash, Gundam, Fate/Zero, and more that treat death correctly, not just as a tool to elicit emotion, but rather as a real and true danger that the characters must face, an obstacle to overcome, a tie to reality and, in the end, a conclusion of someone’s story (or even the beginning of one.) But i’m going on too much about just death here, i’ll write a longer post about the subject later.

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Emotion doesn’t have to come from something necessarily sad, though. I’ve felt strong emotions created by many different scenes in anime. Though it’s a typical, pretty generic Shonen action show with somewhat excessive fanservice, Fairy Tail does a great job of inspiring a sense of camaraderie, and Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere, though it’s mainly a comedy/action show, has some of the best, most heartfelt lines i’ve ever seen in any anime, especially when heard in the English Dub (i’ll talk about dubs at a later date, as well.)

Kiznaiver gave us such a genuine attachment to the characters, that we were rooting for them through all their struggles. Kanon made me cry many a time, through the Heroine’s truly heartfelt, but not forced, pleas for help from the MC. Angel Beats never fails to make me cry, though I know that everyone is going to a better place, a place where they can truly be happy, because it captures perfectly the spirit of a parting. Shows like these, and many, many others, make us feel something not because they have put effort into crafting a scene to force emotional response, but because we can empathize with the characters, we can understand their feelings of happiness, sorrow, loneliness, desperation, bravery, cowardice, and so much more.

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On the flip side of things, a show like Re:Zero sure is shocking the first few episodes, as Subaru is mercilessly slaughtered again and again. But after only a few episodes, it begins to feel so forced, and the suffering loses all meaning. Sword Art Online’s first few episodes threw us into an incredible world, before it ruined itself with throwaway characters (Sachi) a dumb harem (literally all females) and a villain who really had no motive whatsoever. Though Kirito and Asuna’s love story was decently done, the inconsistencies and feeling of laziness that pervades the show rids it of any emotional clout whatsoever for me. And the show from the Spring 2017 season, WorldEnd, tried ever so hard to be a tearjerker, but it focused way too hard on building up the sadness and never actually made me genuinely care about the characters.

Really, though, when all is said and done, emotion is something we feel on a personal level, so everyone will respond differently to different stimuli. Some shows may inspire emotion in everyone, while others don’t affect anyone. Most are probably in the middle, though, their impact depending heavily on the individual. So, tell me, what shows have you seen that have caused you to feel genuine emotion from the bottom of your heart?

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12 thoughts on “Creating True Emotion in Anime

  1. Grimgar did a spectacular job at making me care about the grief the characters felt. The death itself was neither here nor there, though I didn’t want that character to die, but the aftermath for the other characters was so real it just struck home. Angel Beats is another one that I know is trying to make me cry but it succeeds every single time. And for some reason Sunday Without God (which I know some people don’t like but it really kind of worked for me). Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. astralgemini

      Oh, Sunday Without God was a great show, i just wish there was more of it, it felt kind of incomplete. One of the greatest things about Grimgar is definitely the way the characters try to cope with loss, and death; I don’t think i’ve ever seen another show do it quite as well.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It is still going to be Clannad Afterstory for me. It is not Nagisa’s death that directly pulled my heart but rather Tomoya’s attempt to recover from his loss. Every time he gets asked about Nagisa, it hits me just as hard knowing that I’ve just been asked about someone I’ll never be able to cross path with ever again.

    It really comes down to personal experiences. Normally I can go by and joke about how my stepfather lost his fight to cancer and died happily after getting drunk the last time, but eventually it all turns into sorrow feeling as I realize that the one person who would undoubtedly always have my back no longer exists on the face of the planet.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. astralgemini

      Yeah, that’s one of the greatest things about anime, as i mentioned, that different people will respond differently to different things. It’s a sign of good storytelling that Clannad was able to resonate so strongly with you.

      Liked by 1 person

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  5. One Piece never fails to make me tear up, partially because of the amount of time it has to get you invested in the characters, and partially because it’s so emotionally open. The lighter moments are always a ton of fun, which only makes the sad parts even sadder. The big crying scenes always feel so honest that I can’t help but feel for the characters.

    Liked by 1 person

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