Finding Role Models in Anime

Picture 1

In my New Year’s resolution, I stumbled on an important idea.

“Anime isn’t afraid of emotional intimacy – it celebrates it. Rather than aiming for mass appeal, anime has evolved to target thousands of niche audiences. And in the digital age, it’s easier than ever to find anime that resonates with you. It’s easier to find anime that helps you through life.”

Back then, I decided to start an anime blog – a ‘time capsule’ to record why I loved my favourite shows. Because anime made me a better person. It helped me through the darkest times in my life. And I wanted to preserve those memories. I wanted to keep my feelings fresh, and share those experiences with the world.

But after rewatching my favourite shows, I narrowed my blog’s scope. I pinned down why those shows resonate with me. How they helped me through life. What I actually want to discuss.

The role models.

Anime characters helped me self-reflect. By living vicariously through my role models, I learned what I wanted from life. They unearthed wounds I hadn’t recovered from. They taught me how to heal. When I wept or cheered for my role models, I realised how I needed to change.

Through my blog, I’ll share my role models with you. Analyse how they taught me lessons. And if possible, I’ll inspire you as much as anime inspires me. Because I know how much that matters.

Let’s start with the pair who helped me the most.

Nitori from Wandering Son, and Kumiko from Sound Euphonium.

Picture 2

I never heard the word ‘transgender’ as a child.

By 14, I knew I wanted to be female. Male puberty felt like drowning in acid – burning alive and smothered, all at once. But I didn’t understand what that meant. I didn’t know ‘becoming female’ was possible.

I didn’t know the pain could stop.

My body repulsed me. I couldn’t stand my body hair, yet it constantly rubbed against my skin. Talking meant hearing my own voice. Shaving meant looking at my reflection – but not shaving was worse. Self-disgust kept me awake every night, so I’d read until I collapsed from exhaustion. Trying to empty my head was too painful.

Life was hell.

So I tried to ‘man up.’ If I couldn’t be female, I had to move on with my life. But that was exhausting. Survival took all my effort – I had none spare for living. I was burned-out and depressed. I felt worthless.

Until I found Wandering Son.

Nitori taught me what my feelings meant.

Episode 1 was a gut-punch. Watching Nitori’s wig slip was heartbreaking, but not as much as the pause afterwards. I recognised the shell-shock. The moment when Nitori crashed back to earth and remembered her body. Nitori sunk into darkness when she presented as male – that’s how I felt every day. And the assault by Nitori’s sister was too close to home. Rejection and violence, just for being herself. Seven years of school in a nutshell.

Nitori taught me what gender dysphoria meant. I could picture those scenes and say, “There! That’s who I am. That’s why it hurts.”

But that wasn’t the magical part.

Nitori showed me something new – gender euphoria. This blissful calm when decades of torture finally stop. When the internal screaming goes silent. And everything just feels right.

No more pain. No more depression.

Just a smile.

When Nitori smiled at her reflection, I wept. Because I hadn’t smiled at my reflection in years. I’d never been happy with my body. Never twirled in a dress.

I needed that happiness.

Once I realised, there was no going back.

The realisation caused an avalanche of life-changing decisions.

That night, I shaved off my body hair. The razor burns were agonising – like I’d torn off my skin. But for the first time in years, I felt calm. My internal screaming was quieter. Clearing my mind no longer hurt. I could sleep now.

I kept testing new changes. Painting my nails. Growing my hair long. Buying new clothes. I didn’t come out as transgender immediately – accepting myself took a while. But each change was blissfully soothing. Step by step, I found inner peace. Life was worth living.

Finally, I was free to be me.

It’s been 4 years since I found Wandering Son. I’m proudly out as transgender. I’ve legally changed my name. And while gender dysphoria is still rough, I can handle it now. I finally have energy spare for living. And Nitori’s smile set those changes in motion.

Wandering Son gave me a role model. It taught me what I wanted from life.

It made me a better version of myself.

Picture 3

At university, perfectionism almost destroyed me.

In my final year, I was exhausted. Exam stress and gender dysphoria crushed me. Drained my stamina. I was running on fumes – and I spent them studying. I’d revise at the library each afternoon, then collapse into bed before sunset. The rest of my life suffered – friends, hobbies and health. They needed effort I couldn’t spare.

I should have made time to recover.

But I was afraid.

I dreaded lowering my standards. I’d strolled through education until now – I couldn’t fall behind when life was hard. But matter how hard I worked, it never felt enough. Putting in less than 120% felt like sabotaging my degree. When grade boundaries were unclear, I had to over-perform. I had to be certain of success.

Because I couldn’t handle the pain of failure.

Kumiko reflected that pain – and how I learned to handle it.

I survived university thanks to Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway and its lessons:

“At the bottom of everyone one of your fears is simply the fear that you can’t handle whatever life may bring you.”

“If you knew you could handle anything that came your way, what would you possibly have to fear?”

“Whatever happens to me, given any situation, I can handle it!”

Kumiko reminded me why those lessons matter.

In the opening scene, Kumiko lied to herself. She buried her pain. Because if she let herself feel – like Reina – she thought she couldn’t handle it.

That fear left conflicted and melancholy. She was stuck in limbo. Caring about success was too dangerous – it left her vulnerable. So repressed her ambition and passion for music. But life was hollow without them. Both options seemed too painful to bear. She realised she needed to choose – but she wasn’t brave enough.

Until she found a role model.

Kumiko empathised with Reina. They were both alienated by their perfectionism – trapped in a barren world where no-one wants to improve. But unlike Kumiko, Reina screamed. Found catharsis and moved on. She proved that bravery hurt – but less than limbo.

So Kumiko took the first step. She faced her dread of Reina – a lesser fear. She learned to handle it. And her stress melted away.

One by one, she faced her lesser fears. Each conquered fear made her braver. Stronger. Less dependant on Reina. When Reina faltered, Kumiko learned to be brave by herself. She helped Reina confront the pain.

Together, they could handle it.

Kumiko escaped limbo. She cared about success. She lowered her defences. And when she failed, Kumiko opened the floodgates and let herself feel.

She had failed.

It hurt like hell.

But she could handle it.

Kumiko survived her pain. There was nothing left to fear. No reason to close her heart.

And she was rewarded.

Finding a role model reinforced those lessons.

After university, I relapsed into perfectionism. I started an anime blog in January, then didn’t update it for 8 months. Because I wanted my posts to be perfect. There was no time pressure now – I could always plan more. Research more. Write more drafts.

Then I found Sound Euphonium.

Kumiko put a face to my perfectionism – just as Nitori had for gender dysphoria. I watched Kumiko’s journey and saw myself at every turn. The same pains, fears and coping mechanisms. She reminded me that change isn’t comfortable – but it’s better than limbo.

She reminded me why those lessons matter.

Fighting perfectionism is a lifelong challenge – but I’m making progress. I set boundaries. I schedule downtime. And eventually, I just publish the damn post. They’ll always need improvement – no amount of time or effort will change that. Publishing them will always hurt.

But I can handle it.

That’s why I have a Sound Euphonium poster. Every morning, it reminds me how I want to live.

Role models don’t just teach us new lessons. They cement the lessons we’ve already learned.

Picture 4

I want to be the person I needed when I was younger.

Anime filled a void in my life. I never met people with the lessons I needed. But that’s what makes anime wonderful – it’s all online. Just a few clicks away. MyAnimeList alone has over 14,000 shows on its database. You can always find anime with the lessons you need.

In the digital age, it’s easy to find characters that help you through life.

I wish I found my role models sooner. My life would have been easier if someone taught me their lessons. So that’s what I’ll do for you.

I don’t have all the lessons you need. But artists do.

Thousands of artists face the same problems as you. Some of them make anime. Writers. Animators. Musicians. They don’t know you – but they know how you feel. And they pour all their pain, triumphs and the lessons they’ve learned into their art.

Artists create role models. Those characters teach us as much as the artists who made them.

And anime is full of good role models.

I’ve found so many role models in anime.

  • Todoroki from My Hero Academia, conquering years of repression and self-disgust.
  • Shirase from A Place Further than the Universe, spitting in the faces of her naysayers.
  • Houtarou from Hyouka, escaping from depression and his energy-conserving life.

For every obstacle in my life, I’ve found the perfect role model. Those characters inspired me. They enriched my life.

They made me a better version of myself.

Your obstacles are different from mine. You might need different lessons. But anime is full of good role models. Some of them can help you conquer your obstacles.

I want to help you find them.

8 thoughts on “Finding Role Models in Anime

  1. Thanks for sharing your experiences through this post. Likely wasn’t easy, but shows how much you take the lessons you’ve learned to heart.

    Anime hasn’t changed as much through my life since I’ve only started in around 2014 as an adult. It did make me consider being a father after watching episode 22 of Cardcaptor Sakura. Something no other form of entertainment has ever made me think about. It’s a great source of entertainment, and in those special instances, something much more.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

      Sharing was quite an emotional experience. But if other people find it useful, or love anime more afterwards, then it’s worth it.

      Cardcaptor Sakura is an outstanding show. I haven’t seen it in a long time – I watched it when I was 6 – but I still adore it. It communicates emotions so well. It’s overflowing with those special instances – just waiting for someone who resonates with then.

      It’s cool that you discovered anime so recently! How’d you start watching, and have you had any special instances with other anime?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I started watching anime by seeing the anime adaptation of Persona 4: The Animation. At the time, there was no way for me to play the game so I watched it in the mean time. I like it, so I went from there. Originally I just saw the occasional anime series to write about in a blog post section on Rotten Tomatoes before they removed that feature. One day, one of my friend who’ve watched anime regularly recommended I watch Death Note, became completely absorbed in it, and got me interested in checking out more anime.

        Fullmetal Alchemist got me to value the importance of family. I have a strong bond with my little brother, and seeing that anime portrayal of brotherhood. There’s also Persona 3 FES which is a video game that’s anime inspired that made me appreciate life a lot more.The ending in that video game still feels like its fresh in my mind, and will occasionally think about it. I’ve seen other animes like Grave of the Fireflies that reached me on a emotional level, but those two, along with Cardcaptor Sakura, I feel impacted me the most.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That makes sense! I got into anime through Pokemon, since I was a huge fan of the original games. That led to all the dubbed shows on TV, then Death Note and Psycho-Pass when I began using the internet.

        I’ve heard great things about Persona, but I don’t have a PlayStation to play the games on. Is the anime still worth watching without context?

        Fullmetal Alchemist is a *phenomenal* show. I’ve only seen Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, but it was my favourite anime for years. The Elric brothers were fantastic, but my favourite characters were the sympathetic Ishval veterans – Riza, Mustang, Hughes and Armstrong. The whole show was fantastic, but their drive to atone impacted me the most.

        Have you seen FMA:B? I’ve been meaning to watch the original series for years, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on how they compare! ^_^

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Oh Pokemon. That takes me back a lot. It didn’t get me into anime, but I did enjoy it a lot as a kid. That reminded me that I did see that good old 4Kids block, and that’s how I was first introduce to a number of series what I would learn were anime. Oh boy, that Kirby theme song will occasionally haunt me!

        Persona 4: The Animation is still worth watching without playing the video game. It tells the story of the game pretty well. However, the Persona 3 movies, and Persona 4: The Golden Animation pretty much require you to know about the games. So those I wouldn’t recommend. Don’t know about Persona 5: The Animation since I haven’t seen it yet.

        I’ve seen FMA: Brotherhood like a few months after I finished the original. I like both FMA animes, but I prefer the original. It’s goes in a darker direction than Brotherhood. In Brotherhood, it went in the direction I expected it to go in, especially the ending which I predicted around 14 episodes in, but still enjoyed it a great deal since it was fantastically written.

        One area the original does better is adaptation the early parts of the story. One example being Maes Hughes had more time dedicated to him, and him searching the conspiracy was a bit more fleshed out. The first 13 or so episodes of Brotherhood are basically like the first half of 2003 FMA. It’s slower pace overall, but it pay off when it has a rich cast of characters.

        Brotherhood has better opening themes. There’s no beating Golden Time Lover by Sukima Switch, or Rain by SID for me. Those songs are awesome. The animation is also better in Brotherhood since it’s a lot more detailed. In terms of story, Brotherhood is more optimistic compare to the original anime. In FMA 03, it had less characters compare to Brotherhood so every time something tragic happen it hit a bit harder.

        There’s also the ending which is more bittersweet. The ending I find to be satisfying since it gets across the strong bond the Elric brothers have. Many don’t like it because they work so hard to make things right, and the ending wasn’t entirely happy.

        The original FMA also has such goofy things that happens during serious parts, but they don’t happen frequently. If you like Brotherhood, you might enjoy the original series. It goes in a different, though more FMA is never a bad thing!


  2. This is honestly really beautiful. I’m really looking forward to more posts like this from you. I feel like you said a lot of things I’ve wanted to say about what anime means and how it’s helped, specifically about perfectionism. (I, too, made an anime blog and didn’t post again for 8 months back in the day…!)

    Thank you for sharing 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it! ^_^

      Starting a blog has been hard. I spent the last few months analyzing Sound Euphonium – organizing my ideas took ages, but I’ve now got enough topics for the next 6 months. That safety net will help me keep going through the first few months 🙂

      I’ll post a mix of personal stories and character analysis – like I did for Wandering Son and Sound Euphonium, but as separate posts. Early next month, I’ll start a more thorough analysis of Kumiko. All about perfectionism, coping mechanisms and (eventually) beautiful gay relationships. It’s going to be awesome ❤

      Liked by 1 person

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