Anime Blamed For Suicides

Over the past two weeks in Russia, six kids have committed suicide. They apparently came from good homes. They did well in school. So why did they kill themselves? Child psychologist Olga Makhovskaya thinks she knows: Japanese anime.

"Of course anime by itself cannot be the cause of teenage suicides," said Makhovskaya. "But it is a visual art that attracts many teenagers and that intensifies all their feelings. And death, the heroics of death that is typical of the Japanese culture a lot more than other cultures, often serves as a measure of friendship or loyalty."

"To jump down from a high-rise together holding each other's hand -- it is specifically typical of girls' behaviour," she added. "Heroic adventures of girls, stories of inseparable friendship between girls -- these are all anime stories."

Continuing, the psychologist added that some Russian kids begin watching anime from as young as six years old. While she says anime by itself cannot be blamed, it sure sounds like that's what she's doing. Listen:

"It is a whole subculture that despite varying story lines and styles all romanticizes death. And one cannot exclude indirect influence," said the child psychologist, before commenting that anime "also erases borderline between reality and virtual culture. Sometimes virtual culture due to its graphic imagery appears to be brighter and richer than real life."

How the hell does it do that? Anime is anime. Reality is reality. If you cannot tell the difference, then perhaps you have issues that need to be addressed. And if it wasn't anime that caused you to blur real and fantasy, it would be something else: movies, books, or, yes, religion.

For Makhovskaya, teenage suicides all have one thing in common: "they don't realise that it is the absolute end and that there will be nothing afterwards. They don't understand how irreversible death is. In their minds it is really just a transition to some other world..." Isn't that what people who believe in heaven think? And not just Russian teenagers who are committing suicide?

No, what teenage suicides have in common is that the youth are troubled, and they need help dealing with issues that are enveloping and overtaking their entire being. Perhaps those good families aren't so good. Or maybe the teenagers have illnesses they need addressed.

But instead of talking about that, it's easier to point the finger at whatever kids are into: heavy metal, movies, video games, or here, Japanese cartoons. It trivialises the whole problem and enables to write off these tragic deaths and the country's high suicide rate as the result of Japanese cartoons.

Can anime really provoke suicide? [The Voice of Russia]

Image: Mikhail Metzel/AP.


Comments

    This comment has been reported for inappropriate content and is awaiting review.

      I rarely do this, but you are an absolute asshole. These kids aren't making a statement or doing anything except trying to show their, platonic or otherwise, love for each other. They are having trouble understanding that when you die, you're dead. We don't know what happens afterwards, if anything, but they believe they will rise to a higher place together. To belittle something as beautiful as that, even if it is terrifying that someone could kill themselves at such a young age from a belief like that and I really don't agree with their choice, is absolutely horrifying and disgusting.

      To be clear, I disagree with doing that. I can understand, and have trolled like that, when it's someone making a stupid statement like "I'm killing myself to try and draw attention to dole bludgers" because that is a stupid, calculated decision that the person has made with a definite decision. These kids are doing this out of passion and love for each other and are young enough to not quite understand the finality of death and that just because you have been exposed to an interpretation of another person's belief of what could happen in the afterlife, does not mean this is what is guaranteed to happen.

      In summary, people like you are heartless, these are kids doing something beautiful (with which I disagree), and to make a joke of someone's final statement like that is disgusting.

      Not to mention the families of these children who loved them and are devestated at the loss of someone so young with such potential that teenagers have. I would wish that this would happen to you to make you think but if you have kids, I can only hope they are better people than you and will understand the tragedy behind these losses.

      All of that aside, kids are dumb and do dumb things and I really hope that this doesn't, in some way, inspire a "media can cause kids to kill themselves" which will spill over to video games, especially considering the investigation into our R18+ Bill has just begun. Just more fuel for the ACL to incite their unique brand of idiocy

        This comment has been reported for inappropriate content and is awaiting review.

          This comment has been reported for inappropriate content and is awaiting review.

        Well, that's a nice way to think of it, but unfortunately isn't always the case. Often it's the inability to cope with life that gets people, which is far sadder.

    Anime? what about community, society, depression, mental illness, our natural impulsive nature, a cry for help?

    It just seems this Psychologist it just pulling the short straw.

      That and seriously has anyone seen jdrama crikey that stuff is way more sadder then anime..... Also am i the only one who thinks this reminds me of battle royale when the best friends in school jump off the cliff holding hands....

      Well, she's not completely insane. Anime could cause the scales to tip, like any entertainment media, because of how it works with emotions and things. Sad anime makes sad people sadder because they can relate to the feelings, so those feelings get stronger. If this happens regularly, they'll start to sort of "think" as the character. Character then jumps and.. well you get the idea. They see the actions glamorised, but the repercussions are never shown to the same intensity, for lack of a better term. Think drug use and current media.

      I think that's her point, and it sounds pretty on the money, just poorly explained. Anime, games, movies, pretty much everything, doesn't cause the suicide, but it can help to enable it. It's kind of like putting someone with a history of trying to slice their wrist in a knife factory unattended - not the root problem, but it can be more than enough to stab the camel in the back.

    This comment has been reported for inappropriate content and is awaiting review.

      But your kids the entire collection of Bleach, Naruto and One Piece and make him watch it all in one sitting.

      I agree to a point. Children, as children, are seemingly useless. In the industrial revolution they were used as cheap labour since that was something they could do until they became adults, at which point they had no education and stuck in the same job so that backfired. However children are amazing, I am not a father, I'm not even finished being a kid (19 so make your own assumptions).
      The thing people are referring to, I assume, the potential that children hold as an adult.
      Whether you agree or not, for this example, let's assume that Winston Churchill was the key point in Britain surviving WWII the way they did. Had Winston Churchill perished at a young age, the war would have been lost. Again, this is assuming that he was the key variable for Britain's survival. When people refer to the potential of children, this is what they mean. Unfortunately, we have no way of knowing which people are going to be absolutely key in the future so when a child dies, they could, potentially, change the future.

      So if your son committed suicide, you'd just say, 'Oh well, we can make another one?' O_o That is ... unusual.

      (That said, if you're a nihilist or a sociopath, perhaps less so.)

      Like with all deaths, isn't it more about what you've lost? Their future, their potential.

      Jeez dude, if you're not trolling, I feel really sorry for your son...

    Real life gives you real problems. They may have seemingly come from good homes and did well in school, but that's just surface stuff, you don't know what pressures they're really under.

    Blaming it on media is disgraceful.

      ...And discounting the media, which is one of the most influential driving forces in society, is ignorant.

    Thanks anime for taking the heat of video games for five seconds!

    This is ridiculous, blaming anime is not looking at the real causes, it is just a scapegoat. Why not blame country western music as well? Even the news is depressing lets blame that.

    *NEWS FLASH*

    Anime saves thousands of teens around the world from falling into depression!

    I love how some articles are titled. "Anime blamed for suicide" then the article contains the psychologist stating: “Of course anime by itself cannot be the cause of teenage suicides,” ...

    She said you can't rule out indirect influence: "And one cannot exclude indirect influence". You don't like her hypothesis, so you put words into her mouth making her out she is over simplifying the problem when she is suggesting that watching content that involves romanticizing death might influence someone already suicidal. That doesn't seem like a huge leap to me.

    The article title suggests someone is drawing a direct line from viewing anime and committing suicide. The article itself only suggests it may influence already suicidal kids. Huge difference.

    People need to detach themselves from their passion for a minute and look at the reasons given in this report. Psychologist's arent always right, thats why its such a peer-reviewed field (one i'm lucky enough to be a part of), but they do have a grasp on things most people would either disregard or dilute.

    I would argue she probably does have a fair point... children are very interesting because their behaviours, emotions or reasoning arent as sophisticated as adults. If they grow up believing one thing, or being desensitized to a medium, then they become less afraid of it. Shes not saying anime IS the cause of the suicides, she's stipulating a point where she believes (and others do too) that projections where death is everyday, fun, glamorised or honourable, is detrimental to the development of a child, so they become less afraid of it -- less afraid to sacrifice themselves or become martyrs to a inanimate cause.

    Spot the video game reference!

    Did you see it yet?

    There it is!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCw7bcHxUGQ

    Reality is, unless we knew those kids or even knew their families, we have no idea why they committed suicide. Whether it was because they had problems in their life or were influence by some form of media that "romanticizes" death, we wont know. We do need to address what it might of been and look closely at both sides, in order that we might pinpoint areas on both sides they may of lead to this tragic circumstance and learn from them.

    I almost agree. Watching advent children depresses me cause the real world is nowhere near as cool

    Ignore the blatantly misleading headline and this article is spot on. Regardless of whether depression and suicide is indicative of another, less tangible and more difficult to rectify problem, the way people and especially younger people will react to their feelings is in part influenced by their culture, and the media that surrounds them. An anime that in some way glorifies suicide or makes martyrs out of characters that commit it could well be a factor in the deaths of many young people.

    When I was a kid I was really depressed. One day I thought to myself 'well, maybe listening to the most depressing crap on Earth isn't the best thing for me' and cut that stuff out in favour of other genres I liked. Interestingly enough my depression got a little better. That's not to say the devils music made me depressed just that it isn't a good idea to take someone who is depressed and surround them with music that drones on and on about how terrible everything is.
    Likewise when feeling a bit worthless and like nothing you do matters surrouding yourself with stuff that makes varying forms of suicide look deep and truly meaningful probably isn't a great idea.

    If she was proposing that kids were becoming kinder and more helpful thanks to anime like Pokemon I don't think anyone would be sitting here arguing that maybe they were just raised right and happy. It's just the knee jerk reaction that something we like might have a negative influence on some people in some other situation (keep in mind that while the title may imply she thinks it's solely responsible, she makes it pretty clear she only considers it a factor).

    *sigh* No. It doesn't romanticize death. It romanticizes honor. Death is an easy way to solidify and contextualize how honorable a character is. Only very depressed or deranged individuals will see it any other way. Or, and I suspect this applies to our psychologist here, someone who hasn't even bothered to watch more than an episode of any given anime.

    I bet it was Neon Genesis Evangelion. That shit is depressing.

      I totally had my the trailing edge of my puberty line up with Neon genesis on SBS years ago. That was depressing, but I loved the show for years...

      You obviously didn't watch the original series all the way to the end. The movies (the 2 new ending movies that replaced the original ending of the series) were pretty full on, but not depressing, they end in a pretty intense way but not a negative light.

      The rebuild movies are going pretty cool, still waiting for 3+4 but so far they are not nearly as dark/introspective/existential.

      I agree with you completely. After watching that series, I was so depressed that I stopped watching anime for two years. Yeah, I shouldn't have let one anime ruin it for me, but that doesn't stop the fact that Evagelion hits all your emotions at once.

    "Anime Blamed For Suicides"
    “Of course anime by itself cannot be the cause of teenage suicides,” said Makhovskaya.

    I like how the title of this article and the very first quoted line contradict each other.
    Keep on being sensationalist, Kotaku US.

    maybe they watched k-on and then killed themselves after seeing how terrible it is and that its extremely popular.

    If what the lady says is true, then I am royally screwed. Anime is my recovery medicine for when I'm depressed, because it is quite frankly, entirely the opposite of what the psychologist said. Death is indeed a common theme in anime, however, a large amount of anime that have themes of death are about fighting to live on.

    Look at any Shonen anime. Characters are always beaten within an inch of their life and keep fighting to live for the thing they must protect. The hero is always being asked "Why do you continue to fight?" (Rather than just submit and/or die), and there are a large number of characters who will put themselves in danger because they refuse to let anyone get hurt due to a belief that life is sacred.

    If you look at Shoujo anime, which is what it sounded like from the Psychologist's comments., and move past the common love triangle theme, the anime that do have an edgier side to them are often centred around a girl who has lost hope and meets the mysterious man, or the guy that's just like her and they learn that together, they can push through. Heck, even Mahou Shoujo (Magical Girl) anime are about empowerment, maturity and facing life's difficulties without taking the easy way out.

    Granted, those are generalisations, but what the psychologist fails to realise is that any fictional medium, whether it be cartoons, movies, or books from both West and East, themes of death and heroicism are common enough that you can point at any one of them and blame it for contributing to a feeling that death is ok.

    I fail to see how anyone can take anything claimed by psychiatrists serious, a little like that guy with the tinfoil hat claiming to communicate with aliens.

    Psychiatrist hold people captive against their will, torture them, electrocute them, force medicate them
    with their "Medicine" (LSD, Cocaine etc) and this has been going on for decades.

    These scumbags label people with their invented "Diseases" and act like doctors, in fact
    they have zero scientific evidence to prove any of their claims.
    Simply put they can not prove that someone is insane or sane.

      I bet you think depressed people just need to 'snap out of it' right?

        I made no such claims, but you would be crazy to go see a psychiatrist.
        Go see your Family and Friends or Church to get support, they have
        known you longer than the 10min Psychiatrist "Evaluate" you.
        Modify your diet reduce sugar,processed food, and eat more fruit vegetable as raw a possible.

        Do some research about what these leeches have done and are still doing.
        They invent these "Diseases" sounding like doctors and label people as ABC or XYX ohhh and here is a drug we make that we want to "Treat" you for the rest of your life.

        I see them no different to your corner drug dealer pushing their drugs that
        CAUSE DEPRESION and SUICIDE, It's on the damn bottle, almost all these school shootings have shown that they were using or coming off those drugs from psychiatrist a few have medical records closed so we don't know.

        They repeatedly claim chemical imbalance but the FACT IS there is no such thing and their claims that can not be proven scientifically whatsoever.

        So next time educate yourself first and don't just repeat the nonsense that they spew forth over and over.
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IanwpbqoEcs

          Go and see your CHURCH? That's probably the worst thing to do, they'll fill your head full of way more lies than any psychiatrist.

          While I don't agree at all with the rampant 'prescription drugs cure all' philosophies of society I do believe it's much better to talk to a non-partisan person rather than a friend or relative who would unwittingly have some form of bias (being related to you/being your friend for sometime). You may not realise it but your reactions and interactions towards people you know already and have some connection with could hinder you ability to make sound decisions, in this case a totally unbias individual, trained in the working of the human mind/personalities, would be better to receive advice from.

    Um, I can't help but notice that nobody has pointed out that this woman never gave any examples of Anime that portray what she claims 'intensifies feelings'. Reading her descriptions of Anime showing honor through death sacrifice and girls 'jumping off sky scrapers' didn't remind me of any mainstream Anime I have seen at all. The exception being Animes like Dragonball Z where death is more an optional vacation rather then some dramatic finale to your existence. Otherwise death in Anime has never striked me as being depicted in any more of a 'intensifying' way then any other media & now that I think about it, most anime carries a distinct 'don't give up no matter how hopeless the situation look, giving up means absolute failure/dishonor' message . Pretty much everything she said sounded like it came from out her rear. Russia has not been doing well with providing any decent health care for their people for decades & last I checked depression had reached epidemic levels. I think these kids killed themselves because they suffered from some form of mental illness (something that can and does happen to everyone) & nobody could/knew how to help them.

    That psychologyst needs professional help.

    Firstly, I failed at reading who wrote this and stupidly clicked on a bashcraft artiicle ( I hate giving this formerly good writer clicks now) but....

    This isn't a new thing, this isn't even an old thing, it's an ancient thing and it's not about youth or anime. People throughout history have committed suicide regardless of external influence like art, music or religion. Suicide is an 'out'. In some cultures it may be regarded as acceptable, possibly honourable in some circumstances, in others it's a sin, or a taboo. I guarantee you that in most cases today, none of those factors are a consideration in the mind of the person who commits the act. They just do not want to spend another minute in the reality that they find themselves. This won't be the first time it's brought up in the context of modern cultural consideration, nor will it be the last. Anime isn't even 'new'. I'm surprised anime is even mentioned with things like facebook cyber bullying being directly linked to suicides* (google it for the references).

    TLDR: I honestly don't understand why Brian Ashcraft decided to report on this because it smacks of trolling and click=through payments. Why is this guy even on the payroll because article after article he is showing his disdain for his readers, and his employer by publishing such utter shite! Kotaku editors please consider your readership and remove him from your payroll. There is nothing of incite to be found here, just a troll. There are plenty of those on the internet who will do that job for FREE!

    "This comment has been reported for inappropriate content and is awaiting review." I call censorship! I want to know what they said!!!

      ME TOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

    ...did I miss something?
    @ Zac- the article IS relevant. So why is the guy posting it an asshole...?
    Do some more research kid....

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