A writing teacher once told me that the more personal your work is, the more people can relate to it. I think that’s what draws readers to Nagata Kabi’s work. After years in the medical system, it wasn’t a mental health professional that identified the source of my depression—it was her debut book, My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness, that revealed that both she and me were missing “the sweet nectar” of knowing our places in the world.
In her third book, My Solo Exchange Diary 2, she guides us through another self-revelation: you are loved, even if your mental illness convinces you otherwise.
At a Sailor Moon panel I attended in 2013, Susan Roman (voice of Sailor Jupiter) shared a story about an encounter with a fan. The fan told Susan about how she was abused as a child, and how she would imagine Sailor Jupiter’s voice telling her to be strong whenever she experienced abuse. “You don’t know how much Sailor Moon means to me,” was the refrain the voice actors kept hearing from people at cons.
I’ve heard so many stories of TV shows or film franchises helping people process trauma or mental illness. Even Anime Expo had a panel called “Fandom Saved My Life” last year! But what is it about fiction that reaches people when nothing else can?
Content warning for suicide, bullying. Spoilers follow.
When we first meet Shoya Ishida, he is making death
arrangements. After years of bullying and isolation, he stands on the edge of a
bridge, ready to fall. Only the sound of fireworks stops him, reminding him of middle
A Silent Voice’s opening is grim, and while the film handles weighty topics of suicide and mental illness, it ultimately tells a story about the beauty of personal revelations and recovery.
The viewer is taken back to Shoya’s sixth grade class, where transfer student Nishimiya Shoko is introducing herself to her peers. Shoko is deaf, and while her classmates are amused by having to communicate with her via notebook at first, their amusement quickly turns into frustration. Shoya leads a band of students into tormenting her, even throwing a number of her hearing aids out the window.