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.