Anime has unquestionably made me a better person. Without a doubt.
A bizarre declaration to begin an article with, I appreciate that, but stick with me.
I’ll unashamedly admit to watching anime religiously for years now, and one of the things that keeps me coming back is the profound life wisdom embedded within each story. Okay, maybe not every series (there are some truly… unique creations out there), but we’re talking about the good stuff. For me, anime doles out digestible profundity in a way like no other.
One such poignant takeaway – and one I think worth ruminating on for us actor humans – is that a person’s “success” belongs to more than just them. The achievements of the anime protagonist are only made possible with the help (whether direct or indirect) of many, many others, and similarly, their wins are also the wins of these people too.
If you’re feeling a bit alone, uninspired, or simply in need of some greater appreciation for this craft you have chosen to devote yourself to, take a moment to consider this thought via the folk below.
The wider community
Think about how many random individuals unknowingly shaped the path you walk today. I’m talking big picture: the primary school English teacher who fostered your passion for stories, your boss at that bar you worked at during drama school who was always kindly amused and curious by what it is you spend your days doing, that one Uber driver who genuinely wished you every success…
If you’re momentarily coming up blank, these figures don’t even necessarily have to be ‘benevolent’ characters in your odyssey. Speaking from personal experience, I have been fuelled just as much (if not more, let’s be honest!) by proving those wrong who told me it wasn’t possible. Yeah, you know who you are.
You may only interact with these beings once, but this is a Buddhist idea in practice: zooming out to cultivate – at the very least – a consciousness of all those who have served you.
We can feel a little ostracised at times as actors, a little on the periphery. But even spending a moment here can help unravel this false belief. In an anime story arc, think of these guys as the ever-smiling inn-keeper who puts you up for a night, or the old ramen shop owner who sneaks you extra noodles. Our success is their success.
The industry community
Now call to mind all the humans directly involved in getting you up on that stage or up on that screen.
Often, actors receive the vast bulk of recognition for any given production because we are quite literally the faces attached. But most of the time, we are really just the tip of the iceberg (unless you are entirely creating your own content, in which case power to you), and the public typically don’t see, or sometimes even comprehend, the amount of work that goes on beneath the surface. The director, the producers – maybe – but what about casting, stage managers or production assistants, costume and make up, catering, building managers or location scouts, transport and etc.?
What about the accountant who ensures we all get our precious dollar bills on time? These companions are vital, and our thankfulness should be abundant.
Again, we may frequently feel like the underdog, continually having to prove ourselves time and time again, but actually, everyone in this industry craves for us to succeed. Every director, producer and catering manager wants to be working alongside the kindest, most talented actors on the planet. They want us there. Think of these folk as the various side-kicks and associates one accumulates in their anime timeline. Our success is their success.
Your immediate community
Finally – and most importantly – meditate on the circle of those closest to you: family, friends, pets, plants and teddy bears who are always there to give you the unconditional love and cuddles you need after booking or not booking the job.
As in anime, we may not always be in close proximity to these dear souls, but they are always with us in spirit. I appreciate not everyone may have a close-knit family or league of rock-solid best friends, but I pray you can picture at least one.
These people – much like those in wider society – may not always completely understand what it is we are pursuing, but want the very best for us regardless. This may manifest in less-than-desirable ways at times, but instead of bursting into an overly dramatic anime fight sequence, we can take a step back, smile, and acknowledge their responses are born of the best intentions.
Whenever I’m feeling low, I often find it tremendously motivating to daydream about what my success could result in for those I deeply cherish. Imagine that holiday I could take my parents on after booking my next big gig! Imagine the glitzy world-premiere I could invite my best friend to! Imagine the infinite pride felt by my teddy bear! If I’m not feeling driven to succeed for myself, I sure as hell do for the sake of these irreplaceable beings. Our success is their success.
When you reframe your adventure thus far like this – as if it was an anime storyline (or whatever kind of storytelling medium floats your boat) – it’s hard not to at least momentarily feel like it’s all been conspiring together for you.
This immense gratitude and sensation of trust can be hard to hold onto at times, but could absolutely change the game in relation to how you show up when things are confusing or challenging or rage-inducing.
Maybe for you, thinking of your personal Hero’s Journey as an anime protagonist’s will remain the strangest thought-experiment you will ever come across. And I am honoured to provide it. But at the very least, the awareness of all those around you – the metaphorical village it took to propel you to where you are today – can only be beneficial. Send them love and/or thanks, even if only mentally. Anime style if so desired.