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The Wasting Disease Conspiracy

November 13, 2010
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I’m really digging Kuragehime. The whole “nerd vs. popular kid” angle has been done to death and done better, but the series has a great sense of comedic timing and the characters play off of each other awesomely.

One thing’s bothering me about the series, and that’s Tsukimi’s mother.

This boils down to something far more fundamental with anime as a whole: Why can’t people (namely women that aren’t either really old or involved in some violent profession) die in some manner other than wasting away due to some unnamed mystery illness?

It really bothers me that so many series play off of this trope. If someone wants a quick dose of melodrama so the main character can have an angsty backstory, they have the character’s mother slowly wilt like some sort of delicate, rare flower. Little in the way of pain or suffering is shown– she just lays there, the only sign of illness being an unwillingness to get her ass out of bed. Then she’s dead.

It’s like the writers want the pain of losing one’s mother, but they’re unwilling to actually show that pain. Sure, the character cries due to their loss, but they don’t have the guts to show the mother actually suffer. She doesn’t grab her chest as if she’s having a heart attack. She isn’t rushed off into surgery for a desperate attempt to save her. Hell, you never even see anyone try to use CPR or a defibrillator or anything like that. She slumps over peacefully and that’s that. DEAD.

It also bothers me that we rarely find out what, exactly, is killing the character. They never come out and say “my mom had cancer” or anything like that. It’s like all of the characters in Harry Potter refusing to say “Voldemort”– it’s as if naming the disease in question is taboo or something. I’d almost think that the writers think that if they name the disease, that’ll somehow grant it power. “Yeah, dude, if you say she has cancer, you’ll get cancer. Better not go and say what she has, man.” It’s the only rational answer to explain why anime and manga writers are so afraid of naming diseases.

And why is it that only women seem to get these diseases? If a man dies in an anime, it’s usually through some violent means. Why can’t someone’s dad contract one of these vaguely defined illnesses that causes him to speak in hushed tones while sitting in a hospital bed? Is there something imbedded in the anime woman’s genetic code that makes it to where only they can develop these diseases? And why is it that when a writer wants to create separation within a family, they’re more willing to have the father leave rather than die? Why do the dudes get the “luxury” of absence, thus robbing them of responsibility rather than robbing them of their lives? Why can’t the mom up and leave with the same frequency as the dads? Maybe that’s genetic as well, causing some inborn mental illness in all anime fathers that causes them to want to leave their families if the mother’s wasting disease doesn’t trigger.

And why is Kuragehime, a series that’s otherwise fairly intelligent, resorting to this stereotype? You’d think the creator would know better. They can craft a decent little love triangle between a jellyfish otaku, a straight-laced 30-year-old virgin, and a crossdresser, but they can’t see that “my mom died for no damn good reason” isn’t all that clever? Maybe it’s something in every anime and manga writer’s contract. Or maybe it’s like Escape from New York, where Snake is injected with some disease and he has to save the President in order to get the antidote. Maybe every anime and manga writer is given an injection when they sign their first contract, and they only way they won’t contract one of these wasting diseases is if they off at least one character in that manner. If, by a certain amount of time, they haven’t done so, the disease is allowed to take root and they wither away in place of their character.

Yeah, I’m sure that explains the phenomenon. Damn, anime and manga editors. Y’all are evil.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. November 16, 2010 3:19 PM

    Interestingly, if you’ll recall, Angel Beats! had a father who succumbed to mystery illness. But that show was an exception in other ways, too.

    And it’s not always like that. Sometimes they get into car accidents, another surefire death trap without too many side details to fill in. :)

  2. November 16, 2010 5:13 PM

    Just as another example, Takemoto’s father in Honey and Clover had pretty much this exact disease. That doesn’t make the ‘generic wasting disease’ any better of a cliche, just offering up another exception to the annoying rule.

    If you haven’t already seen it, Canne diagnosed this as “Chronic non-specific wasting illness of parents” from a medical perspective.

  3. Marigold Ran permalink
    November 17, 2010 1:34 PM

    Because leukemia is cool.

    It would be more realistic to show the parents without hair when they’re on their deathbeds. But that would be aesthetically unpleasing.

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