How Anime Showed Me Anger Is Valid, Necessary, And Really Cool

Spoiler for Promare, Jujutsu Kaisen (anime), My Hero Academia (anime), and Revolutionary Girl Utena (anime and film)/

One of the (many) things I love about anime is its creative use of animation to tell a story, especially when it comes to illustrating how characters feel in certain situations. Sure, you can have characters blushing to show they’re in love, but you can also fill the space with different colors and shapes to drive the point home. Being scared to the point of crying can unleash a superpower, feeling like an outcast can have characters smothered in darkness, and wanting to experience life more can cause someone to swim quietly through the sky.

One of my favorite emotions to see tackled in anime is anger. As a black woman, anger is an emotion I’m told to stay away from. When, inevitably, I get angry about something, I’m accused of being just another angry black woman before an attempt is made to see WHY I’m so upset. Anger is seen as negative instead of being seen as a valid emotion worth addressing.

That’s why I appreciate how anime handles anger. Not only are characters allowed to leave, but in many cases anger is seen as a tool, a kind of trigger to get stronger and get things done. If a character’s anger causes them to be hurt, or even hurt others, they are encouraged to learn to channel instead of ignoring it completely.

The anime was one of the first times I saw anger validated. Sometimes it was even seen as a necessity, something to embrace instead of being afraid of. The characters would be fueled by their anger and go on to do great things to save the world, and they would be thanked for their efforts.

Super Saiyan 2 Gohan in Cell Saga from Dragon Ball Z.

As well? It always looks so cool.

Anger is powerful, especially when it reaches the breaking point

Lio pushed overboard at Promare
(Toho Animation)

The embodiment of the phrase “Aren’t you tired of being nice?” You don’t wanna do shit? is when a character has tried absolutely everything to make things right, gets backed into a corner, and completely loses it after being pushed too far. This is usually someone who has been wronged in some way. Maybe they were completely misunderstood, or maybe they had to watch the villain hurt (or kill) someone close to them.

In the case of Promare’s Lio Fotia, he and his fellow Brownies have been portrayed as the villains, but in reality their power is misused by the true villain of the story. Since they are so intertwined with their power, the real villain essentially kills them. Even worse? The villain is hailed as a hero by the whole town. Eventually, Lio reaches a breaking point where he gets so angry that he bursts out of a volcano and turns into a dragon.

The animation is amazing. The music is fantastic. And seeing him explode after being abused is actually quite cathartic. This has become my favorite scene to watch when I feel like I can’t do anything about my frustrations because, if nothing else, I can listen to a heartbreaking song and watch an anime character live a moment so epic that the dragon FLASHES an enemy. Literally. His eyelid closes to repel an enemy.

Use your anger to make people regret doubting you

Maki fighting in Jujutsu Kaisen ep 17

Jujutsu Kaisen is packed with amazing characters and stunning visuals to back up their fight scenes. Maki Zenin here is an absolutely petty queen whose whole family has excluded her. It’s easy to see that she’s an extremely capable fighter, but since she doesn’t have any powers like other wizards, her family shuns her and she’s considered “low-ranking” when gaining access to any skill. the world at Jujutsu High School.

So? She decides to prove them all wrong by becoming the best Jujutsu wizard anyway. All of his fight scenes are a sight to behold. She’s an absolute beast in battle and holds her own against quite devastating circumstances (especially in the manga). Not only is she justified in her grudge against her family, but she delights in showing them how wrong they are about her. I wish I was that level of petty when I grow up.

Sometimes you gotta fight to process your feelings

Deku and Bakugo battle in My Hero Academia

Arguably the point of anime rival battles, every once in a while two characters have to punch each other in the face to resolve all the pent up feelings they’ve been keeping inside. In the case of My Hero Academia Deku and Bakugo, this confrontation was so necessary that even All Might himself allowed it.

After dealing with the guilt of All Might’s retirement, Bakugo must deal with his feelings on his own. He blames himself because All Might fought so hard to save him from the League of Villains, but no one really checks how Bakugo is handling this. Deku isn’t the only one who has looked up to All Might since he was a child, but because of Bakugo’s wild and wild childish behavior, not too many people think to watch it.

These feelings have combined with many other emotions that have spread since, for example, the second episode of the series. Bakugo has always been considered the “strong” kid. He talks about a big game, but he kind of felt he HAD to do it since he was constantly overloaded with gas in situations he shouldn’t have been (note: if a child is caught in hostage, you should probably ask him if he’s okay instead of applauding their bravery). Even his own mother comments on this.

Bakugo has a complete breakdown in front of Deku and then the two fight so he can drop all that shit. It’s done him A LOT of good in the show (especially the manga), and while he’s still an angry Pomeranian, he has a lot more clarity than when he started.

You should definitely fight for something better for yourself

Anthy finally leaves in Revolutionary Girl Utena
(JC staff)

Something anime fans point out whenever someone says the medium doesn’t tell stories about the fight for a better future is the fact that, uh, anime ABSOLUTELY tells stories about the fight for a better future. Not just figuratively, the characters ignite and fight entire battles to shatter the land in the name of a better future. It can be for the good of the entire universe, or it can be a moment when someone finally decides to stand up for themselves and fight for something that could be uncertain, but it MUST be better than their current situation.

To take Utena’s Revolutionary Daughter Anthy Himemiya, someone who spends much of her screen time being used by everyone around her, including her own brother. While the series ends in a way that shows her driving away, the film steps it up a notch with plenty of wild symbolism, like Utena transforming into a car so Anthy can pick up the key and drive away.

It’s not a fight in the traditional sense, but Anthy reaching this point feels really good. In fact, his Screaming feels really good. And watching her drill into her brother’s grip in a flurry of rose petals (again, symbolism) feels really good.

Anger can be dangerous, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be helpful.

Megumi REAL fight

Of course, anime has its moments where anger is seen as something too destructive to fight. This doesn’t mean it isn’t treated as something useful, it just means the character must learn to channel it.

Jujutsu Kaisen Megumi holds back a lot, but her potential is seen by everyone around her (including the King of Curses himself, Sukuna, who decides that Megumi is the only person worth it). When Megumi has moments where he finally lets go, it’s easy to see why he’s always hesitant. His power is amazing, but you can see the danger signs flailing around every time he releases it. for real. However, instead of being encouraged NOT to do the thing, characters like Megumi are encouraged to figure out HOW to do the thing in a way that won’t hurt themselves or others around them.

Basically, the moment when Megumi and characters like her figure out how to properly use that buildup of anger? It’s finish.

Shoto Todoroki extinguishes flames in My Hero Academia.

(featured image: Crunchyroll/HBO Max)

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