Are anime fans depressed? And if so, how many?
Or is the idea of most anime fans being depressed nothing but a stereotype we’ve come to accept either within the community or outside of it when people scapegoat anime fans?
Does coping even imply you’re “depressed” and can it be healthy in terms of anime?
Whatever answer you come up with, all I know is being in the anime industry for the last 6+ years has shown me that some people do use anime as a coping mechanism.
I suppose it’s not surprising because, like other forms of entertainment, escapism is a big part of the allure, the attraction, and what makes it so good to get “lost” in and forget about your problems.
If that’s the intention.
Let’s talk about WHY some anime fans use anime as a coping mechanism.
Here’s a list.
1. The weight of escapism
This one shouldn’t surprise anyone. Escapism is like getting high, being on certain drugs, or feeling better temporarily as you escape reality.
This is mostly true for those who are trying to escape reality because they’re not happy with the way things are going in their lives.
When used in this way, anime or any form of escapism is unhealthy and only makes the person worse, more dependent on the things that help them escape, and forever solves a symptom instead of the root problem.
Making it a growing tumour over time.
But if your mindset is healthy, that changes the meaning of escapism, what it does for you, and the fact you’re not gonna feel awful after stepping away from anime.
2. Searching for something you don’t have
In the words of one anime fan on Reddit when talking about this topic:
“Who here gets really sad after finishing a good anime because your own life is so painful, boring and nothing like the lives of the characters you’ve watched?”
In this case, an anime fan will use anime as a form of escapism to find something they don’t have, like an interesting life, people on screen who appear more interesting, and have more “colourful” lifestyles that are fun.
Of course, we’re talking about an anime series, not a bunch of pretenders on a reality TV series so you can only expect anime to have perfect characters,s scenarios, or lifestyles in certain shows.
Still, it’s an unhealthy way to cope but a very real one that some fans feel stuck with.
Another fan says this from the same Reddit thread:
“I watch anime to remind myself that there might be something interesting out there. It feels good to observe it.”
See what I mean?
Some anime fans find the things they don’t have in a fictional series, which is unhealthy, and use that to validate their lack of it, or because they find it interesting and it makes them happier as they watch it unfold.
3. Dealing with hardships
One person on Reddit put it like this:
“Over the past month I’ve experienced some hardships that have drastically amplified how active my depression has been.”
I think a lot of people can relate to or understand this point of view. Whether you like it or not, you’re gonna experience some form of hardship in life sooner or later.
I know it personally. You can’t escape it. What matters is how you handle those hardships, and if anime in this case gives you the escapism you need to heal and solve the problem (as long as you’re being delusional), it can work.
As is the case with stress, depression, and things like that, it can only heal from the inside out and not the outside in, so anime’s power of escapism can only be used to a certain degree.
4. To deal with school
In their own words:
“I started wacthing Blend S and with the combination of good writing, great and mostly clean humor, fun characters, and all the girls being so freaking adorable, the anime gives me sheer joy i never felt before to that point that i had a take a break because of this overload of happiness. Perhaps every day after school i should wacth anime like this to keep me good inside.”
This is again from a separate Reddit thread talking about anime as escapism, how anime made them feel good, and how it can be used for those in school who don’t like school or having a hard time.
I hated school so on some level I get it. Especially if you’ve already figured out that school isn’t for you and it has no place in your future because you lean more towards business and entrepreneurship.
Or something else.
But anime can be a healthy escape in this case.
5. Crippling anxiety
It’s nos secret that levels of anxiety have gone up over the years, especially from the pandemic.
Feeling anxious, stressed, having certain conditions like bipolar, and so on, can contribute to anxiety as well as low levels of self-esteem.
When dealing with anxiety, many fans go to anime to feel more at ease, at peace, and feel much better after the fact. So in this way, it can be used as a healthy escapism.
The benefits of using anime as a coping mechanism:
6. It’s an innocent form of escapism
Think about all the types of escapism we have in our society, regardless of the country you may live in.
- Anti-social behaviour.
- Video games.
And so on.
Anime is one of the more innocent versions of escapism there is because:
- It doesn’t involve any type of substance abuse.
- You’re not abusing your body.
- You’re not damaging your brain.
And you’re not causing any worse damage than was already the case.
Entertainment can be helpful if used in the right way. Getting lost in it and using it as an extreme escape to the point where you dislike real life vs fiction or virtual reality is a problem.
But that’s not the aim or the point here.
Anime can be a form of therapy for some people. Just like exercising, the gym, music, being in nature, or reading can be a form of therapy.
A perfect example of anime shows that fit this category are:
- Non Non Biyori.
- Tanaka Kun Is Always Listless.
- The Angel Next Door Spoils Me Rotten.
- Aharen San Is Indecipherable.
- Flying Witch.
- The Girl I Like Forgot Her Glasses.
- A Galaxy Next Door.
- Mitsuboshi Colors.
And other anime like it or similar.
These anime are called Iyashikei, or at least some of them are, which translates to relaxing, chilled, calming anime shows with a calming message.
Very good for coping and to use as a coping mechanism.
Anime can teach you valuable things if you pay close attention.
Anime is full of:
- educational insights
- new things to learn from
- life lessons
And so much more. Many can underestimate it because it reminds them of a cartoon (which can ironically be educational as well) or because they associate animation with childishness, which is ignorant.
But in practice, watching anime and using it as a form of escapism is healthy because of its educational components.
Little Buster can teach you about narcolepsy, a real-life condition, and A Galaxy Next Door can teach you how to manage life and stress while taking care of your siblings, and dealing with life after the death of your parents.
It comes down to what you look for, but there is educational escapism everywhere in anime.
Anime can inspire fans in all sorts of ways.
- From how you manage life
- to wanting to make something of yourself
- to learning a new instrument
or finding better ways to ironically cope.
Anime’s quotes, life lessons, characters, their struggles, setbacks, and their journey in overcoming their challenges provide inspiration (wanting to do better) and motivation (having a strong reason to improve).
While using anime as escapism, inspiration can be an added benefit in helping you in unexpected ways.
In the end, anime and its fans use escapism for different reasons. It’s not the typical, cliche “depressed weeb” nonsense people spread on the internet, projecting.
Sometimes it’s just another outlet besides the more typical ones that people use to deal with whatever is happening NOW.
And that outlet being anime can be positive or negative, depending on the person.