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Existentialism in Shounen Anime and Manga

Existentialism is often seen as a depressing philosophy, but I ultimately see it as a hopeful response to absurdity–a struggle for meaning and maybe a better life, whatever shape that may take. On that line of thought, popular shounen series with their various "never give up!" themes and questioning of humanity, morality, religion, and so on, seem to fit right into it. Naruto in particular reads like a bonafide Kierkegaardian Knight of Faith.

Does shounen anime/manga seem existentialist? If so, what kind of specific existentialist themes are in play? Does this help readers coming of age prepare for life by giving them a taste of having to figure things out in the face of adversity (and absurdity)? Or does it exceed itself and become naivety?

More broadly, what’s the relationship between philosophy and fiction? Does fiction “play out” the ideas of philosophy, or does it create its own philosophical ideas?

  • Interesting topic. Shonen is all about existentialism. In any Shonen anime, especially those like Bleach, Naruto and Fairy Tail, willpower goes a long way. Whoever has higher will has higher power. – SpectreWriter 8 years ago
  • This is a really cool topic -- if I knew more about existentialism I would write it. I think it's important to take into account Japanese philosophy and culture and how that affects the writers of shonen manga and anime. – Chris 8 years ago
  • I would love to read this article!!! – Abie Dee 3 years ago

Existentialism in Anime

What is living, and what does it mean to be human? Analyze themes of existentialism through various anime series; this could include series such as Evangelion, Haibane Renmei, or Ghost in the Shell.

  • I think this topic could use some narrowing down. For one thing, existentialism can mean a lot of things, so maybe one should focus on a specific field within it. Second, it'd be good to pick a select few titles to examine in detail instead of discussing the topic more generally, so that the article avoids becoming scattered or meandering. Also, it would be interesting to include some thoughts regarding existentialism particularly /in anime/. Are there approaches to the topic that can't be found in other media? Does it provide any unique explorations or perspectives? Or does it perhaps cinematically/animetically execute the topic in ways that are exclusive to its audiovisual language? Essentially: what distinguishes anime's take on existentialism as a medium? – blautoothdmand 6 years ago
  • I agree with blautoothdmand. Perhaps you should focus efforts on Ghost in the shell and the construction of the women. Philosophically you could use Simone De Beauvoir and "The second sex" and Sarte for Existential backing on what it is to be human. You could also use Donna Harraway's Cyborg Manifesto to bridge the gap between the female and her sentience. – Lousands 6 years ago

The Shin Megami Tensei Persona series and how it relates to identity and existentialism

In the Persona series by Atlus, we see the characters evolve through the story and normally attack difficult questions of life, existence, what is better for society, and how the individual grows. If one looks at the late game in Persona 4 we see that one has many options to choose from that can lead to the so called bad ending. We also see growth the of the characters and the theme that the bonds we make with people strengthen ourselves.

  • Definitely go into more about how the characters are developed in the Persona series and give examples to how you see the character reveal more of themselves and grow as the player goes through the game. – Kmo 8 years ago
  • It would also be helpful to compare Persona to Megami Tensei series(so-called "main ones"). Persona started as a kind of spin-off, so seeing how much it deviated from post-apocalyptic and dark MegaTen main series would strengthen the argument. – idleric 8 years ago
  • You can also compare between the Persona games themselves; how much the themes have changed from the first game to the fourth. – uiorra 8 years ago

Infinite: examining existentialism in some literary works

A concept that is and continues to be used in various works of art, literature, and in our lives. But can it be related to the theory of Existentialism? For example in "The Stranger" by Albert Camus the main character is impassioned and has this sense of being nothing and nothing and nothing in this world. So could we say that infinite is "nothing" because it is such a vast number of time that time is ruled out because it is beyond us. So an accumulation of infinite would turn to be nothing since it is impossible to measure it’s feat? What is infinite and can it be compared or connected to Existentialism?