When I tell people that anime changed my life I get two responses: 1) a laugh accompanied with rolling eyes, and 2) eyebrows creased together in confusion. Curiosity usually ensues from this second response. How can anime change your life, exactly? Isn't that just like... cartoons?
Now my response goes a little like this.
"Well, yes and no. They're Japanese animations with really awesome plots and music and there are so many genres—" aaaaaand before I can continue I realise the person I'm talking to is disinterested and probably slightly uncomfortable with the fact that a grown woman is getting excited over cartoons.
Though I've experienced countless moments where I've met a fellow anime/manga fan and we've immediately bonded over the new technique Naruto learned or (spoiler) finding out that other characters in Attack on Titan are, well, titans, more often than not the person usually facing me does not understand the depth and impact anime has had on me. That's okay, of course, but allow me to explain how anime (Shonen to be particular) has influenced me more than any school teacher and most adults.
1. They never give up.
Whether our protagonists are orphaned and outcast children like Naruto or immature and weird like Luffy, one thing they all have in common is the will to never give up. How many times have these characters come face to face with death and danger? How many times do they have to keep training and learning to be stronger every day? They start off being mediocre, not skilled enough to fight the strongest villains they'll face in future episodes but with so much potential regardless. With dramatic monologues and sad scenarios, these boys have taught me how to keep striving higher and trying my best in this game of life—all while keeping a smile on my face.
2. You can't do anything alone.
It's kind of expected that these children will grow up to be extremely strong (or like Gon and Killua in Hunter x Hunter, be strong at a very young age). Yet despite this, and out of every Shonen anime out there, not a single one of our heroes would have come so far if they had gone through their adventures alone. Naruto's desire for friendship after being alone during his childhood taught him to fight for his friends regardless of anything else. Luffy openly admitted that he cannot steal like Nami or even lie like Usopp, teaching viewers to admit to personal flaws and being okay with accepting help. The strongest people seem to have a good team supporting them, a sidekick one can rely on and a goal they all seem to share—even if it's for their own personal reasons. Whatever the case may be, no protagonist will truly be the strongest simply on their own. Laughter and coming of age with the people closest to you and holding a friend's hand in times of need are all crucial in the real world too. If Naruto can befriend everyone in his village after being an outcast by these exact people, anyone can.
3. It's okay to be you.
It's weird when I think of my favourite character out of each anime series. In Bleach, Urahara Kisuke, a goofy shop owner who doesn't seem to take life too seriously stood out to me the most for his masked mystery and interesting fashion choices. In Attack on Titan, Sasha stands out to me because she loves potatoes as much as I do. Each character has their own unique quirks, the same way you and I do. Do you listen to K-pop and read risky fan-fictions about your bias? Do you like to dye your hair four different colours at once? Or perhaps you like to sandwich a Jammie Dodger and an Oreo together and eat it in one bite. Whatever it may be, anime truly enforced the fact that it is most definitely okay to be you. It may sound quite silly but all of these life lessons that I subconsciously learned whilst growing up alongside my favourite characters have truly shaped me to be a better version of myself each and every day. I hope to someday be eighty years old and rocking out to the opening of probably the millionth episode of One Piece at that point and smiling at the fact that I'm happy to be me, with friends by my side and a determination to never give up on my dreams.