I take a moment here to procrastinate from my incredible amount of work to pen something I’ve had in the back of my mind for a long time.
I watched this video by Scamboli Reviews where he took a look at the movie “I Want to Eat Your Pancreas”. I haven’t seen it, but have seen several reviews, and you all know the plot. Dying girl, generic guy, she teaches him something about life. “Pancreas” adds a little bit of depth by making some of the girls magic pixie dreamness an act, but ultimately it is what you think it is. Also it’s super sad.
The movie is supposedly well executed. It’s not a genre I’m particularly interested in but I hold no quarrel with it. It is, supposedly, well done in its particular lane.
What I take issue with – and I like Scamboli Reviews, I recommend him highly, check him out – is an argument Scamboli makes in the video.
This is a paraphrase, so if anybody believes I am misinterpreting his words, please say so in the comments. I’m not trying to.
Effectively, as I understand it Scamboli is saying that the best and most highly regarded anime are not shonen action or adventure shows, but rather heavy emotional dramas. While he criticizes some – specifically “Angel Beats”, which he is correct about – for existing ONLY to be sad, he also makes the claim that shows and movies that attempt to make you feel strong emotions are superior to…well, the sorts of shows I normally prefer.
I find this to be a very curious statement, since the shows that have made me feel the strongest emotions by far are shonen action/adventure shows.
I don’t tear up easily, but you know what made me tear up? The finale of the epic battle between All Might and All for One in “My Hero Academia”. Where the world’s strongest hero, a man we have grown to know, love, and admire for three seasons, sapped of his incredible strength, calls up the last dregs of his power in an epic final blow, a moment he knows, knows, will be the end of his time as a hero, his final act as the Symbol of Peace. It is the culmination of everything he stood for as a hero, the moment where, looking death in the face, with hero society riding on the outcome of this fight, he looked not deep within himself but beyond himself for inspiration, effectively passing the torch to his successor.
It’s amazing. And it’s emotional.
Or how about the moment in, of all things, “One Punch Man” where, after all of the most powerful heroes have been beaten down and crushed one by one, a lone man on a bicycle, the hero Mumen Rider, stands up in front of the Deep Sea King, not hesitating for even a second to sacrifice his body for what he knows is a hopeless effort, not because he plans to win, but because he knows that merely by being there, by fighting, he inspires people. That was emotional too.
Or maybe you want to look at a quieter moment, like, say, the climax of the Chimera Ant arc of “Hunter x Hunter”, where the ant king Meruem, dying slowly of a deadly poison, chooses to spend his final moments playing a simple board game with his only true friend, a tiny, blind woman named Komugi, whose only practical value in life is her skill at the game, yet who somehow has transformed the heart of the cold-blooded mass murderer. There were strong emotions.
Or how about in “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood”, where the marksman Hawkeye, believing her beloved Colonel dead, empties her mag into the inhuman monster Lust…
I could go on, of course. What I am getting at is…why are the only emotions that are valued by critics sad emotions?
Why aren’t moments that move you with inspiring heroism just as important? Or a moment that touches you by showing you how simple bonding over a shared interest with a friend can transform lives? Or moments of sudden hope, against all odds, bursting into your life at the last possible second? Do these not count because they’re not sad? Or romantic?
Let’s just say it: Because they’re not girly?
I call foul. Sadness is not the only emotion, nor is romantic love. Nor are they the most important. You can have your Anohanas, your Pancreases, your Angel Beats. Give me “My Hero Academia”, give me “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood”, give me “Gurren Lagann”.
I want to feel something, true. I want to feel inspired. I want to feel hope. I want to feel like even the worst people, when they accept the love of a friend, can perhaps find redemption.
Is that really any less valuable than feeling romantic or sad?
Speaking as a man, I’d have to say no.
The livestream between Benjamin Wheeler and me that lead to this line of thought: