French version of this post

Introvert Pic 1

I’ve noticed a surprising trend this summer 2016 anime season as I watched through the first few episodes of Amanchu!, Handa-kun and I’ll go as far as to include Mob Psycho 100 : these series feature three different protagonists as far of each other as you could imagine. The shy and diligent Teko, the reclusive and always anxious Handa, and Mob, the forever aloof and misunderstood psyhic in the making. If you look at them separately you’d struggle to see the likeness, but they share a common trait with me: they’re introverts.

This summer isn’t breaking any new ground in portraying characters who struggle with social situations and gradually break out of their inner world, usually with the power of friendship/love as seen in series like Kimi ni Todoke (Kimi ni Todoke: From Me to You) and Tsuritama, or the power of sports with the likes of Ookiku Furikabutte (Big Windup!) and Kuroko no Basuke (Kuroko’s Basket). What’s interesting this time around is that we have three radically different series and stories which portray introverts in equally different ways.

Amanchu!, Handa-kun and Mob Psycho 100 highlight several aspects of this condition that impairs your ability to have a normal relationship with most people and transform every common social interaction into a horrid awkward mess of doubts and misunderstandings. What makes it worst is that we live in a more and more extravert world that doesn’t give a flying crap about you and your problems and will keep punching you in the face until all that’s left of you is a pathetic pile of goo.

Living as an introvert means you’re largely misunderstood by most people if not your immediate relatives that WILL keep asking why you’re not laughing whatever is considered a normal amount of laughs or why you always look grumpy/stuck up and can’t just have fun, even when you genuinely are having fun. It hurts even more when people you like are unable to tell how good you feel about them. It’s certainly not the worst condition, but trust me, the struggle is real.

And please, stop making it a holy crusade to break us out of that dark place. Just let us open the door and bring you in, it’s cozy in there. Here, have some tea.

Introvert Gif

But enough ranting, back to anime. Amanchu! tells the story of a long dark haired teenage girl, Teko, and her new everyday life in a seaside town. On her first days of school she meets a cheerful and goofy girl that goes by the name of Pikari, a name like a pinch of light. Teko will discover the joys of scuba diving and, I guess, gradually open herself to her friends and the outer world. Classic, but the lighthearted setting of the series is inviting and for all of Pikari’s Manabi Straight-like goofyness (Teko reminds me a bit of Mei too), there’s a certain amount of subtlety in her way of dealing with others. She too can be shy at heart but channels it through a cheerful smile and her cute - soon deafeningly annoying - safety whistle. Amanchu! is originally a manga written by Aria’s creator Kozue Amano and it definitely feels like Aria.

The all-girls casting is compelling and that special relationship with water is still omnipresent, flowing through every tones of the warm refreshing color palette, flushing like waterfalls through the eyes of every character, drowning the viewer into the series before he can even catch a breath. The fluid animation supported by Junichi Satou and Kenichi Kasai’s pin point directing grants the pictures a life of their own, manga fans couldn’t hope for a better adaptation from what I’ve seen. Amanchu! is wholeheartedly a summer delight. And water is an element introverts can feel in touch with, it’s at the same time something that let me float out of the world for a moment of relief and a threatening presence that illustrates how I feel utterly drowned by it sometimes. Before anything else, introverts are creatures of instinct.

Handa-kun, the strange Barakamon prequel/spin-off handles things a bit differently, with comedy. Handa, depicted here in his younger high school years, is an introverted student who just want to live his usual problem-free teenage life like anyone else. But Handa, son of a famous calligrapher and talented heir of his father’s wealth and skills, isn’t anyone else. The entire school celebrates him as a hero. In my younger years calligraphy wasn’t that much of a recognized skill among my classmates but who knows how that works out in Japan, or in anime. The humor relies on one thing: Handa thinks everyone can’t stand his guts, he’s so overobsessed about the way people look at him that he can’t see how they actually see him. And yet, Handa just wishes to be normal.

Introvert Pic 2

It’s an intersting take on the matter that I haven’t seen often in anime: in Kimi ni Todoke, Sawako is an outcast mostly seen as a dark supernatural force that hides a soft side. Handa-kun is the exact opposite of this, he’s reverred like a god, with just a normal - and a tad paranoid (gelotophobic?) - student inside. The series isn’t about channelling one’s fears here, it’s a digression on how introverts deal with the problem on an everyday basis. The energy walls suddenly closing on Handa when he walks in are real, I’ve felt them many times.

They’re also in that sequence where Teko struggles to establish contact with her classmates in Amanchu! when she sees everyone grouping naturally and culpabilizes because she’s unable to do so, and when she introduces herself to the classroom, it’s all too terribly relatable. When Handa hides from people in the streets, it’s to prevent his best friend from being harrassed and mocked because he hangs out with an outcast. Introverts are not selfish by nature, beyond pure comedic relief this scene highlights the way we can think things through, in our own ways.

If we don’t answer to your polite greeting or act all grumpy, please be aware that we’re not doing it because we hate you or want to be left alone, we possibly just were surprised and overthought it. Solitude is still an important part of how we work: I personally feel the need to be alone sometimes to catch my breath and remember exactly who I am when I’m not wearing any social costume. It’s like recharging batteries, and it’s a required step to keep working and seeing people all day. I don’t seek loneliness because I hate everybody but because it’s precisely how I can still give more of myself to everybody. It’s tiring and I need rest.

Introvert Pic 4

Mob Psycho 100 is not where I expected the matter to be handled beyond the crazy animation ride that series is (Mob Psycho easily outclasses One Punch-Man in that regard), but the third episode was fascinating in regard of introverts, social behaviors, and personal development discourses. In this little single-episode story, Mob was confronted to a fresh new movement that promised him a painless and fullfilling life. The door to this newfound but long yearned happiness: laughter. Not soon after, Mob finds himself in a crowd of laughing fanatics guided by an all powerful guru. Of course Mob’s nonchalant face remains undeterred.

This reminded me of two things. First, the growing number of sectarian movements that claim to hold the ultimate truth and promise enlightenment to the faithful, and doom to the pagans, serving a nice clean black and white duality on the plate of believers. And secondly, of those popular laugh therapies that claim to have plenty of healing attributes on the mind, but are still incredibly awkward and deranging when you’re not part of it, and certainly haven’t paid your bills or resurrected a loved one when you’ve stopped laughing. Mob doesn’t take shortcuts to fullfillment, and yet he wants to be just as recognized as anyone else for his own value. That’s why his fake psychic mentor can pretty much do anything (more likely, nothing) and still be recognized as someone trustful.

Another thing: Mob has some sort of inner psychic counter that makes him go berserk when it reaches 100, hence the title. Internalizing emotions is something introverts have a strong tendency to do too, to the point we can be perceived as stupid or cold because we keep everything inside until it can’t be contained anymore and we go boom. Creating more misunderstandings in the process since no one understands where that anger came from. Introverts are not blind to the world, we just process it differently.

Introvert Pic 3

Friedrich Nietzsche once wrote, “For fanaticism is the only form of willpower that even the weak and insecure can be brought to attain.”, a phrase often brought to depreciate shy people and what is considered to be weak personality among social constructs: being shy, emotive, sensible, suggestible, everything presented as female traits in a world governed by masculinity. But that’s the dominant discourse seizing the meaning and intrinsinc values of Nietzsche’s works for its own aggravating purposes when that exact phrase was denouncing a social/moral construct based on a master-slave mentality.

‘Weak’ is equally bad as ‘strong’ because both result of a system calibrated to crush minds. Oh boy, try to force my hand at something I dislike and you’ll see what stubborn means, being introvert never stripped oneself of will and conscience. Introverts don’t need to be saved and become perfect extraverts, we, everyone, need to aknowledge that people operate through a spectrum of varied and flawed personalities/identities than can and WILL work together as long as we’re enable to nurture empathy for each other.

As bleak and nihilistic Nietzsche’s world view is, I’ve always seen in it a way to point out how important hope is, how a mere pinch of light in the overwhelming darkness is supreme, the only thing worth fighting for. Introvert friend, raise your hand, you’re not alone, and your value isn’t defined by your ability to deal with a world that made natural behaviors obsolete a long time ago for the sake of security. If anything, we’re the normal ones here, built to operate in a small paleolithic circle of relatives in a world that was and is still inconceivably wild.

Recommanded reading and thoughtpieces:

The Visuals of Amanchu!’s opening sequence via Atelier Emily

Amanchu!- Review and Reflections After Three via Infinite Mirai

Summer 2016 Anime Season - First Impressions via Everyday Anime

Weekly Motion Canon: Mob Psycho Episode 3 via Wave Motion Cannon

Mob Psycho 100: Introduction and episode 1 via Sakuga Blog