Snap Discussion is the weekly round table discussion on a topic relating to Japanese pop culture as selected by the almighty Snapodile. Each week the SnapThirty team will weigh in with their thoughts on that week’s topic all with the hopes of providing some interesting and perhaps even conflicting view points on the matter at hand. This week’s topic is Feeling Inspired – Characters That Changed Your Life.
For this topic we each looked into our own personal lives and the characters from Japanese Pop Culture that changed it for the better. Be them inspirational, relatable or simply a badass, these characters changed our lives in immeasurable ways. Whatever reason it may be here are some of our own personal picks for characters that changed our lives.
For me this was a pretty simple question to answer: Simon from Gurren Lagann. It’s the anime that really got me into what I’m doing now and I don’t think I would be running an anime website or calling myself an anime reviewer today if it weren’t for this series.
I related a lot to the character of Simon when I first watched Gurren Lagann, he was just like me, a hopeless dreamer, down on his luck and down on his life. Back in my younger days in my final years of High School I was a very negative and cynical person and I honestly didn’t think much of myself. There was a time you could say that I hated myself and my lot in life, I was truly depressed and lost in this world. However through his character and his bond with Kamina I came to realize that like Simon I had people in my life that believed in me too even if I couldn’t yet believe in myself. That said the fact that they believed in me eventually helped me come to believe in myself too, I mean if they could then I suppose I could too.
With that in mind I took a chance, a leap of faith if you will. I hopped in the proverbial mech and took a chance at this whole writing thing all the while knowing that money wasn’t going to come easy from it but still hopeful that I’d gain some measure of fulfillment from it and I’m happy to say that for the past 6 years I have gotten just that.
I’ve been fortunate to be afforded happiness, love and friendship in my life and through Simon and Gurren Lagann I was able to change my perspective on things, stop being so damned negative and see that there is so much positivity and good around me. That show and character changed me and I’m thankful every day for it.
There was a time in the early 2000s wherein which I went through a period of extreme growth, both physically and mentally. Young men and women, as they transition into their teenage years, will find that the world around them has become a strange one. Things that were once so clear are no longer, things that were so easy before now seem so hard, and the things that made you happier than nothing else could are now pushed to the wayside in an attempt to “fit in” with fellow young men and women.
As my love for illustration, music, and Japanese pop culture began to grow, so did my level of insecurity. Why? Well, the answer is simple; because young men and women have an unyielding need to fit in, and that means not straying too far from the “norm”. People cope with this transitional issue in a number of ways. I, for one, looked towards what I loved for the answer, which, in the March of 2008, was given to me by one Goichi Masuda in the form of his cult-classic hack-n-slash title No More Heroes.
Travis Touchdown, the “protagonist” of Suda 51’s angst-filled title, singlehandedly taught me that you can be exactly what you want to be out in the open without feeling as though you’re less than what people believe you to be. Anime, Manga, Video Games, cute two-dimensional girls, strange genre-crossing songs, blood, gore, violence, style; No More Heroes in a nutshell.
Travis, being the type of guy who cares not what people think about him, was the perfect role-model for a young man like myself who cared far too much about the judgement of his peers…disregarding his incredibly bad attitude, and his penchant for homicide.
Playing through No More Heroes, and then No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle, truly helped me come to terms with myself as a fan of the seemingly “strange”, but also as young man trying to find his place in the world, and that started with the accepting myself. Since that time I have put myself on show for everyone that I have met, never holding back, allowing them to see who I am instantly before they have a chance to discover otherwise.
No More Heroes’ Travis Touchdown taught me that there’s no need to ever hide your true self from the world, that being honest is not simply attained by only telling the truth; it starts with simply being yourself no matter what the circumstance. Suda 51 is seen as quite a cook, as a man that makes strange, outlandish games just for the sake of it, but his character Travis Touchdown has a lot to teach someone willing to learn, and that says more about Suda 51 and his creations more than anything else can.
As weird as this sounds, I think our grip on life gets worse the older we get. But maybe it does make sense, because the older we get the more we know, and the more we learn about the screwed up nature of reality the more paranoid we become. I think we do tend to get more cautious when we’re older and wiser, and most would accept this reality as it is and just learn to work around it. Some, however, choose to let the fear drive them to crippling paralysing anxiety.
Sato Tatsuhiro is far from a hero or someone to model yourself after, but he is relateable and real in every sense. Welcome to the NHK highlights a real social economic problem, particularly in Japan where an increasing number of young adults become shut ins, refusing to work in the real world or acquire any tertiary education. There’s many reasons that can cause a person to give up and lock themselves in their room, but the most powerful force that does this is anxiety. There is rationality fearing the world, and normal society, that seems so structured and normal and yet so much unfairness and cruelty passes by as normal.
I understand Sato, despite his self-induced insanity that causes him to conjure up catastrophes. He goes through terrible ordeals… ordeals that cripple his mental health, and most of those ordeals actually… never… happen. The thing is, I totally get that anxiety, I totally get that fear of leaving your comfort zone and facing the big bad world. I may have put myself out there and have never actually been a shut in, my mind on the other hand still works that way. I can be surrounded by people and somehow just not mentally be there as a way of escaping.
As unique as Sato might seem, he is not, and that is why he and Welcome to the NHK can resonate with just about anybody. Some people cope with it better than others, some have more effective outlets, but at the end of the day I can see a lot of myself in Sato and his intense anxiety and paranoia, and I’m sure anyone, even in a small way, can see a little of themselves in this imperfect protagonist. But hey, if you think Sato’s behaviour makes absolutely no sense and that Welcome to the NHK doesn’t depict anything real then man… I kinda envy you.
Inspiration is a mysterious term, one whose meaning is unique to an individual in the most extreme of ways. Wherein one figure a person may derive courage and strength, another may see nothing but a flawed being, or even nothing at all. Now, why am I bringing this particular confoundation of personality into the discussionary fray? Well it’s because the character I have chosen to write about is a little off the beaten path, even for myself. Not boisterous, or overwhelmingly powerful, or even outwardly rousing of spirit. Yet, there is a compelling strength to this character that interests me beyond my usual archetypal leanings. But enough beating around the proverbial bush, let us delve a little deeper into the character of Jacuzzi Splot.
Existing within the chaotic world of Baccano, Jacuzzi truly shines as one of the meekest characters aboard the tumultuous train (which I did not name) on which events unfurl; The Flying Pussyfoot. However, Jacuzzi’s personality belies his strength and charisma as he is in fact the leader of a gang. To top it of, his subordinates love him and comprise on of the more personable groups within the series. Despite this 1930s prestige however, the most interesting trait that Jacuzzi possesses is his predilection to crying at the drop of a hat and, especially in a mob run New York, hats are constantly dropping. Loud noise? Jacuzzi cries. Mean words? Jacuzzi cries? Slight misunderstanding? You better believe Jacuzzi cries. Doesn’t exactly sound like the pinnacle of inspiration does he? And yet in his reasoning, his entire character pivots and a saccharine truth is revealed. You see, the reason Jacuzzi cries so often is that so, when the situation turns dire and his friends need him to be strong, he has no more tears to cry. No more reservations, no more doubts and no more fear. By his own hand, Jacuzzi found a way to overcome his fears whilst still embracing them, understanding the necessitous balance between need and want in a world that is not a fan of giving anything for free. It’s inspiring, it’s subtly powerful, it’s just down right cool.
That being said, if you want to lean even further into the sweet and cute, allow me to detail Jacuzzi’s girlfriend; Nice Holystone. Together with Jacuzzi since childhood (which anime viewers will know means they will be together forever), Nice possessed a certain love for explosives that eventually resulted in…less than fortunate circumstances. Scarred on one side of her body and having lost an eye, things were discernibly grim for this poor girl. Enter Jacuzzi. Without a second thought, this (occasionally annoying) crybaby had an image of a sword tattooed across one half of his face. Why? Well descriptions in the manga and anime provide two reasons, two equally believable, equally sweet reasons. In one account, the tattoo was to serve as a beacon, one that would allow Nice to see Jacuzzi even within a crowd and even with her damaged eyesight. The second reason, and the one that most struck a chord with me, was that the tattoo was a sign of solidarity. If anyone were to look at Nice’s scars as a sign that she was different, they would be forced to see the mark on his and know that she belonged. Call me sentimental, but that is just so intrinsically awesome. To not care about the majority of the world and instead focus on the few who are one’s world takes an amount of strength that not everyone possesses, though it is certainly one that everyone should strive towards.
So yeah, Jacuzzi Splot everybody. Not the strongest fighter, nor the smartest tactician, nor the funniest stowaway on this crazy train whose name you all know and I have no need to repeat. Yet despite all of these glaring flaws, within this particular character lies an inherent strength and charisma that have made his actions stick with me to this day. Which is saying something considering the Baccano cast also holds more than a few immortals, a couple of bloodthirsty assassins and at least one guy who can punch his way through a person…so hooray for love and self-sacrifice I guess. Makes a guy stand out.
What character inspired you and helped change your life? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below. Next week’s topic is ‘Until The Last Sword Is Drawn – How Will Bleach End?‘.