On Bullying in Anime (A Ramble)

Bullying is a very common subject in anime, namely school anime, which seems to be natural because I guess it just happens all the fucking time in Japanese schools. I’ve actually gotten pretty tired of bullying as a plot device because it’s always the same damn thing. However, I was watching Great Teacher Onizuka, which features bullying very prominently, and felt like talking about it. It’s well worth noting that GTO constantly tackles very serious psycho-social issues but does so in a positive, comedic light in which Onizuka reforms people from their place in a negative society. Ordinarily this kind of story is usually dark (a la Boogiepop, Shigofumi, or anytime bullying shows up in a regular show.) I have a rather strong reaction to the different portrayals of bullying which I’d like to get into.

For starters, I will give a bit of personal history. Growing up, I was always the shortest, skinniest kid in my class. I wore glasses all the way up through 7th grade. I had long hair for most of my life, getting a haricut maybe yearly and never really that short. When I got into 3rd grade, I was into stuff like Pokemon and Nintendo while everyone else was considering it too little kiddie for them. Needless to say, I was like a magnet for abuse. I was a straight-edge kid who’d never even consider doing something bad, and was always struggling just to keep my grades above a C less I disappoint my parents,, who I’m sure had their own issues at the time.

Kids were never as mean to me as they are on TV or in anime, but they’d take my glasses or other personal belongings, call me names, etc. I remember a bully in 3rd grade ho took his yearbook and drew all over the faces of people and showed it to the teacher saying I’d taken the book and done it (naturally, she knew he was lying.) It was extremely stressful for me back then. I was going to an advanced school, too, so there was a lot of work, and I couldn’t handle it, but people had always told me I was a genius and that I should be doing better. I remember like it was yesterday that when I was in third grade, I attempted suicide by putting clothespins over my mouth and nose.

I continued to be an outcast all through school. When I got to 8th grade, I started acting like an idiot around my friends because I just wanted to feel like a part of the group. I hung out with a bunch of nerds, but even among them I was the uncool one. Everyone thought I was an idiot. I still acted very much this way up through 10th grade. Needless to say, I had been depressed a long time. I acted that way on the internet too, which is why I was always considered an idiot online and was a troll-magnet as well. It wasn’t until I was in 11th grade that I really started turning shit around. For various reasons, I started realizing that I could be fine in life without having to make a fool of myself. Mind you, I hadn’t been really bullied since the 7th grade (after which i no longer wore glasses which likely helped) but I was tired of pretending to be an idiot so that people would listen to me.

Last December I finally hit the point where I realized my true potential (longtime readers may have heard me mention this a lot) and started acting more like I thought. I started being more honest, trying to say things from my heart and be less fake. By the time I was a senior, I had become the most open person there is. I break rules, I yell at people, and I really don’t give a fuck. I don’t say something fake for someone, I just go at them full force. I am what I am.

So when I see bullying, it’s a little difficult for me to figure out how to take it. It’s less that I get bothered by the bullying itself, but the person being bullied. Now in some cases, as in GTO, the person is so beaten down and psychologically insignificant that I really feel sorry for them. However, sometimes it just pisses me off. Namely, Beck. In this show, the main character starts being bullied and it keeps going on and on (I’ve seen 8 eps and I didn’t feel like continuing since the plot wouldn’t leave) and the thing is, he even does attempt to stand up to the bully but when he fails he goes right back to being his bitch. All I could think was ‘dude, fucking stop letting this guy push you around.’ i couldn’t respect him for being such a total pussy.

There is no bullying at all at the school I go to, and have been at for my high school career. I’ve pretty much never witnessed it. There have been a couple of assholes who have put me down or tried to pick on me, but I’ve never seen someone really focus an attack on someone. I’ve always said it was just because our school is lazy. Everyone is pretty much friends with one another. SO it’s gotten a little hard for me to relate to a bullying situation even though I used to be a part of it when I was young. I feel more like an outsider wondering why such a thing could happen, when really, there are probably more reasons for stuff like this to happen.

GTO does a very good job of exploring the long chains of psychological oppression that follow people around. A child will be a bully because of a home situation, and the home situation is happening because of a job situation, etc. And in the story, Onizuka is always getting to the heart of matters and solving them. The show really captures the nature of school, student, and teacher mentality perfectly and Onizuka is just the right person to be at the heart of everything – an enigma.

Seeing this show really makes me want to become a teacher like him. I look around every day and I try to read the expressions on peoples’ faces or read their reactions, and I can see the pain in everyone. I can see a large mass of people who have issues that are driving them into the ground. Other than myself, I have yet to meet someone at school who made me think ‘his person is happy’ or ‘this person will find happiness’. The students may not be bullied, but the bullying is just one outlet of the psychology of our society which is still coming out in every other way. Seeing Onizuka get to the heart of things, like a brilliant psychologist, and fixing them in a way that is treated so optimistically is outright inspirational. It makes me want to help these people in some way – and it really does have to be so over-the-top as this show is because that’s the only way to really get through to people.

Anyway, I should save that for a psycho-sociology post, sicne this is very unorganized, and I’m not totally sure I made a point.


8 thoughts on “On Bullying in Anime (A Ramble)

  1. Beck and GTO are quite good examples. The bullying scenes are very tough to watch. I was never bullied, as somehow the bullies tried to get on my good side.

  2. I don’t know, but I would imagine since the school shootings like Columbine and Virginia Tech, bullies must be getting scared..That’s as far as the States goes anyway..

  3. I’m actually feeling a little guilty looking back at myself as a kid. I was a bit of a bully and a troublemaker back in my gradeschool days, but I don’t believe I ever did it out of malice. I dunno, I just never really stopped to consider the consequences or the other person’s feelings. The detention hall was practically a second home to me (I claim the infamous record of most pink slips in my class) and actually got suspended a couple times (1 short of being expelled). But as long as I kept bringing in my constant stream of ‘A’s, my parents didn’t seem to mind too much. Student advisors claimed I had ADHD or that I was acting out because I wasn’t stimulated enough intellectually in my studies. To me, that’s all bullshit. It’s rather simple: Kids will be kids.

    My life story is sorta the inverse of yours, apparently. I went from free-acting kid to well-restrained adult. Over HS and college, I built up a false facade of “nice guy” for reasons I don’t even know myself. I notice a lot of filtering in what I say and make a concerted effort not to step over too many toes these days. But whatever…I get by.

  4. That was in referrence to this quote:

    “I yell at people, and I really don’t give a fuck. I don’t say something fake for someone, I just go at them full force. I am what I am.”

  5. Y’know, this pretty much summed up my school life:
    “I was always the shortest, skinniest kid in my class. I wore glasses all the way up through 7th grade. I had long hair for most of my life, getting a haricut maybe yearly and never really that short…I was a straight-edge kid who’d never even consider doing something bad, and was always struggling just to keep my grades above a C less I disappoint my parents…”
    Sadly, I can’t really give any advice beyond ‘if someone beats you up, punch the bastard in the face.’, if only because it’s the exact opposite that I did (which was, let the said bastards walk all over you). I’m afraid I only got relief from bullying by going to university (which puts you alongside mature people with a similar way of thinking) then becoming a virtual social recluse afterwards. Sorry if that ruins any hopes of a happy life for the poor sods who get their head flushed in the toilet for not being ‘cool’ while at high school, but I’l be damned if I found an answer.

    The depiction of bullying in Beck is excellent because it’s a very true-to-life portrayal. If that realism puts you off (honestly, I found it difficult to sit through as well), rest assured that it does get better for him. Hell, the kid’s in a band! Seriously, don’t let one bad aspect put you off a really fun series. I’ll check out GTO as soon as I have time!

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