#SAGeeks - Lessons from Anime Mentors

The SAGeeks series is all about celebrating the geeky and nerdy sides of all of us working in higher education and student affairs. The series is edited by Jenn Osolinski and Lynne Meyer. Check out our resources page for more geeky goodness.

Working in student affairs in higher education is a mostly rewarding but at times discouraging experience, and mentorship is often a great tool for us to stay motivated and guided in the field. While most of my mentors are colleagues with pronounced resources and experiences, some of them are characters with faithful dreams and pure hope. Many anime characters are gifted with incredible talents and humane missions, and I’ve always been inspired by fantasies where a girl or boy battled against destructive evil minds through a daring journey. Although my fictional “mentors” are born with extraordinary power and fate, what influenced me the most is their copious amount of love for humanity as a whole, and progressive ideals for a hopeful tomorrow.

Sailor Moon is a series that I continue to reminisce about. The original manga series had so much more complexity than the iconic TV series, as Naoko Takeuchi portrayed strong female leaders when females were viewed as “the weaker sex”. Sailor Moon, along with her squad, symbolizes love and justice: they are girls who walk the frontline, who save their loved ones, who protect their dreams. My mentor Sailor Moon Usagi, was introduced as an ordinary schoolgirl who was not the best at anything compare to her peers. But while Usagi’s weaknesses are too obvious, her genuine care for others, her abundant optimism for goodness, and her ultimate understanding on the duality of light, all point towards her greatest gift: the power of inclusion. In the end of the manga series, Usagi faced a dilemma when destroying her foes for a new start means wiping out everyone else as well. She realized darkness is where the light did not reach. Peace and war, love and hate, joy and pain are pairs that co-exist in the universe, therefore destruction was never the solution, as we will be eliminating hope instead of eliminating hatred. In the duel between light and darkness, the healing came from her argument that darkness exists because of the hope for light. Instead of excluding darkness using destruction, Usagi chose to overcome darkness through light, warming broken hearts and saving it all.

Similarly, Naruto Uzumaki from the Naruto series possesses the same boundless love that reaches anyone. For a very long time, Naruto’s persistent pursuit on talking people out of conflicts bothered me so much, but now I’ve begin to see his conversations differently. Through dialogues, we’ve learned that the cruelest enemy has a neglected childhood, and the most merciless killer has a mistreated past. They all have monsters they are fighting within, and we are all seeking acceptance in this world. For Naruto, half of his battle is trying to surpass enemy’s power, while the other half is trying to sell his vision-the ultimate peace. Ninja world is supposed to be a place where mission accomplishment and power supremacy overshadows joy of life. Competition and war are cultivated as the social norm, and emotion is being scorned. But Naruto believes otherwise: he bought in the idea that our existence is to understand one another and live in harmony. How Naruto inspired Nagato to give up on extermination and to resurrect every battle casualties was kind of bullish but impressive. It is that moment when Naruto’s strength and power became insignificant, while his ability to listen and to connect liberated others from hatred and judgement. He attempts to preach forgiveness and hopeful future, utilizes his scarred past as motivational catalyst. Characters who were once rejected and haunted often perceive power as a means to a better end, whether it’s protection or acknowledgement. Naruto understands and recognizes that the true cause of violence stem from misunderstanding and mistreatment. So instead using his power to intimidate and subordinate others, he listens, he shares, he befriends those who were hurt before, transforming societal villains to community allies.

Two very similar and yet different blondes inspired me as a child and as an adult. They are not the greatest anime I’ve read, but they made me introspect the most. In our world full of ignorance and violence, it is easy to become discouraged while you are trying to fight for love and justice. People say your work is in vain, they don’t understand why you even bother, and they argue it is more important to be realistic. You look to your right and felt your heart wrenched with all the social justice issues, but you look to your left and found yourself so powerless in front of established system and structure. But the recognizing obstacles shouldn’t interfere with holding on your values, right? When my characters ran into disagreement and opposition, what did they do? Naïve or faithful, Usagi and Naruto offered their world something people in the past never experienced, leading their followers through optimism and fortitude. It is definitely idealistic, but isn’t this what following your dream was all about? To welcome and include others, to listen and connect to stories, and ultimately to be change you want to see.

Guicheng “Ariel” Tan is a new professional working in student affairs in higher education for almost a year. She graduated from UC San Diego in 2015 with distinction in psychology, and researched the effect of hypersexualization in video games. Since she finished college in three years, Ariel decided to make her 4th year a “practicum year” by working for graduate and family housing department at her institution. She currently serves as the Leasing Consultant, providing residential life services and community programs for her residents. Ariel’s passion within the geek culture is combined with her social justice interest. She is interested in the effect of entertainment media on people’s self-perception and identity formation, as well as the impact of online community on real life community in this digital age. While her favorite anime are Sailor Moon, Naruto, and Detective Conan (although that series is getting way too long), her favorite games are League of Legends and Chinese Paladin (a classic RPG in China). Connect with her on Facebook and LinkedIn.