7 comments on “Anime’s Less Than Flattering Depiction of Mental Illness

  1. I can understand what you are saying. In fact, I also suffered from anxiety and depression. To be honest, I still have a small bit of anxiety, but I can say that I’m closer to the healthier I ever been.

    However, I don’t know if I can agree with this one. It is true that there are many Anime shows that could not represent that well mental problems. But, I think you are going for a certain genre of Anime that will give you just that. As you said, if you go to Orange, Silent Voice, March Comes in Like a Lion, Nana and other type of Animes that want to show psychological distress in a non-violent genre, such as slice of life, you will get (normally) a good representation of mental problems. However, if you go to a genre that is supposed to be psychological inside the violence genre, of course you will get the more violent representation of mental health.

    And, to be honest, it’s normal that the characters who are way too violent or something like that are portrayed as having some kind of mental disease. If we look around us, the more attrocious cold-blooded murders were made by people who had psychological problems. This way, this contribute to the general people thinking that people with psychological ilnesses are more violent than people who are healthy. Of course, due to this, the entertainment (ran by also people) end up giving some kind of psychological ilnesses to this kind of characters. Normally, in a way to construct the character deeper and to give an explanation why the said character is behaving like that.

    So, I think with a little bit of research you will be able to find many animes that talk about psychological problems without putting that negative conation to it! 🙂

    Sorry for the long comment, though! 😀 By the way, great post! I wouldn’t have written such a huge comment if it was not! 🙂

    • Alright, I’ll concede that by choosing to watch horror or psychological shows (or shows of that vein) I’m probably setting myself up for failure! Naturally, these shows are going to present mental health issues in a way that is scary and/or thrilling in order to fit into the genre. And I’ll also concede that mass murderers and other heinous criminals are probably not the most sound of mind! This post wasn’t intended to disparage either of these things. What I take issue with is anime’s tendency to portray individuals with serious mental health problems as dangerous and violent more than as people deserving of sympathy or help. Although, as I acknowledged in my post, I do believe that anime has started to turn a corner and is beginning to depict people with some mental health problems, e.g. suicidality and depression, a bit more sensitively. But I do still think it has a long way to go in terms of its portrayal of people with personality disorders, for instance…

      I hope that that makes sense? Thank-you so much for writing such a lengthy and thoughtful response to my post! And I really appreciate that, even though we may have different viewpoints, you gave yours in such a measured and polite way! And I’m so glad to hear that you’re reaching a place of good health and happiness! : D

      • Of course it does! 😀 That’s why I love our blogging community! We all have our own opinions without being a d*** about it XD

  2. I haven’t seen all the shows you mentioned, but I do think that Kara no Kyoukai isn’t such a bad depiction of a mental health disorder. To begin with, Shiki’s dual personality is made to be more of a supernatural element than a representation of mental illness. Her family literally tries to force heirs to develop two personalities within one body, with one of them having the power to kill. And Shiki also wasn’t the one to commit the murders in Movie 2 – the first true murder she commits (excluding Araya and his zombie people) is Lio Shirazumi in Movie 7.
    Even if we are to see MPD in Shiki, I think her struggle was taken quite seriously in the film. The loss of one personality had devastating effects on her, and nowhere in the film did anyone say it was cool that she has two personalities. Mikiya’s always there to support her, and is impressively open-minded rather than judgmental about her condition.
    Personally, I find Death the Kid and Zetsubou Sensei both to be very lovable characters, and have seen people relate to Death the Kid in positive ways. But again, I don’t have as much expertise as you in the field of mental health, and definitely see why you may have issues with the way some characters are handled. Surely, there are examples of anime depicting mental health conditions inappropriately, but as Arthifis says, there are plenty of great anime too! It’s probably not an issue limited to anime specifically.

    • 1,000 apologies if I made some mistakes in regards to what I said about Kara no Kyoukai. I must admit, I did find the narrative a bit hard to follow at times, but I thought I had a fairly good grasp on it! Obviously not!

      Nevertheless, even if we exclude the example of Kara no Kyoukai, there are still plenty of other examples of portrayals of MPD or other serious mental health problems, such as schizophrenia, that are less than flattering. I already gave the examples of Danganronpa and Monster, but Paranoia Agent and Perfect Blue would be two more good examples of this! In fact, I am yet to watch an anime where a character suffers with either of these mental health problems and is not some deranged killer – though I am ever hopeful!

      And that pretty much summarises the issue that I have with anime’s portrayal of mental health problems. I’ll agree that for more commonplace (though no less horrible to experience) mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety, there are some great, sensitive depictions, but when it comes to what are considered more severe mental disorders, portrayals are usually far less kind.

      • That’s fair enough! And don’t worry – Kara no Kyoukai was super confusing for me too. I just looked up tons of secondary sources in order to better appreciate it. A beautiful series for sure though!

  3. As someone who’s suffered from a number of mental health problems since my early teens, I’ve got to agree that the way anime depicts mental illness is often problematic. Depicting characters who are coded with psychosis or dissocative identity disorder as violent and psychopathic is especially dangerous.

    Oh, and don’t even get me started on characters with OCD being treated as ‘quirky’ or ‘comedic’. OCD is a living hell and when it’s turned in to comedy it’s so frustrating.

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