I've been watching one anime in particular in recent weeks that has confused my understanding of human motivation and made me feel that what I thought were pure intentions were actually very convoluted and chaotic.
Toradora is about a nice guy and a mean nasty girl who actually turn out to be more relatable and lovable as human beings than I ever expected them to be.
This show rubbed the notion in my face that everyone in life seems to have what I would call "Complete Self-Justification." Basically, everyone's got a friggin' excuse for their behavior however terrible it is. Taiga(The orange haired little girl.) is known as the Palm Top Tiger in school which is a hilariously ingenious nickname because she is a really tiny little girl who's also the nastiest and strongest fighter in town! Right off the bat I found myself in awe of Taiga's foolish aggression. I would think that she really needs to get a grip, because it does not matter what's happened to you in life you don't have a right to trample on others! Knocking over all the desks in class, randomly punching Ryuuji(The male lead.) just because he bumped into you, and speaking to everyone in really rude and derogatory language. Behave yourself you little brat!
"Who are you calling a brat dog!"
But things develop quickly, when at the start of the story she busts into Ryuuji's house with a bokken(wooden sword) and starts assaulting him viciously! Why? Because she accidentally gave him a love letter...wait love letter? Yep! She's in love with a classmate and in trying to pass off a confession letter she slipped it in the wrong bag.
The series goes on with Taiga gradually making best friends with Ryuuji, her crush Kitamura, and her other classmates and while we continue to receive entertainment from Taiga's powerful fighting skills and frightening wrath, we're also forced to confront the fact that her nasty behaviors all seem to be born out of great pain she's been through in life. Her father apparently left her to remarry and abandoned her to her own devices, doesn't care much for her at all and so Taiga as just a young high school girl has to fend for herself...
...a picture of a "monster".
The point is, when I see a character presented initially, I immediately judge them for the apparent kindness or lack thereof in their actions. But when the complexity of experiences and emotions of the characters are gradually revealed it becomes harder and harder to hate the ones I thought were evil and love the ones I thought were good... The same thing happened with Ami, one of the friends the lead characters make. She represents a class of people that actually irritate me in real life. She's a model and when she's first introduced she's a manipulative little princess who just pretends to be nice(What I expect from those stuck up pretty people...), but when most people aren't looking she's worse than Taiga. But then we see her suffer at the hands of a serial stalker who will not leave her alone. Driving her to stuff her face with candy out of stress and move from town to town to try to escape and so never settling down and making a real life, we discover that Ami has her own serious troubles in life...
Time after time throughout this anime I see people, I draw opinions of them, and then I'm forced to recant my judgments. In my interpretation, it seems to me that when people behave badly, it's not really a problem. Rather it is a symptom of a problem. When people are struggling and suffering they have a tendency to indulge in strange and maladaptive activity in order to escape. Some people use well known, stereotypical methods like doing drugs or becoming obsessively absorbed in a hobby like say...World of Warcraft perhaps ;). While others use more subtle methods that are largely misunderstood or even unrecognized. People with anger issues are probably acting out of an intense fear they've developed or perhaps they want attention and have no better ideas of how to get it. Antisocial people or people who are just plain shy may not have developed the experiences and aptitudes necessary to engage in conversation. Or maybe feel like they're "too different" to be a part of the group.
I think one of the big lessons that Toradora teaches is that the issues that we have in life are deeper than what we see on the surface. When someone is manipulative or mean or weird or timid, the problem isn't that the person is sneaky or conniving or weak or pick a reason. The true problem is the insecurities and struggles which that person is dealing with that prompt their crappy behavior.
I'm not suggesting now that we excuse crappy behavior. I'm simply suggesting that perhaps we need to take a much closer look at what's going on underneath the surface in order to find the true problems and true solutions of life.
One of the beauties of the Toradora story is the fact that when the characters learn more about each other and come to understand the pain of others, they not only develop powerful friendships but even learn to over come the more maladaptive sides of their personalities.
At one point in the story Taiga was suspended from school for fighting...but the suspension didn't do a damn thing for anyone. The problem was that the girl she fought refused to show proper respect to her friends love confession, and the solution was that this girl's shell cracked and she finally gave recognition to what she had failed to do. It goes to show that just punishing crappy behavior(i.e. suspension for fighting) did not solve a thing. The solution was found in the deep digging and soul searching and face to face very personal confrontation that the characters succeeded in doing with great effect.
That's right kids! This IS how you solve your problems!
Taiga also said something really compelling and amazing just before she launched her first attack. Or rather, she thought to herself: "I don't understand who's wrong and who isn't, all I know is I have to keep moving forward!!" That is a bit of wisdom I'm going to hand down to the kids and grand kids as a family legacy. Even though we can't always be sure who or what's right or wrong we have to keep living, for the rest of our lives. It follows then, that the most important thing is not praise or blame but growth and learning. Even if we don't have justice with proper rewards and punishments, maybe we can achieve widespread happiness anyway! In fact maybe it'll even be easier without worrying about who's at fault!
So I'm declaring this here and now! We must not judge based on what we see on the face of things! But instead we will study and research and open our hearts and minds to each other! In doing this we will discover what's really happening to us in the funny and painful world and while we may never solve the mystery of life, we will sure as hell enjoy the ride!!!! Falling in love and friendship as we go!!!!
I think this goes along with that concept of trying to accept people as they are. It's not that you're letting people slide on their bull crap. You're simply having patience with the thorough and deliberate process of growth and learning within individuals and relationships alike, because in truth none of us is all that smart or wise. :)
Have a good week mina-san!!