It’s true that reading books/comics/manga or watching a film/TV series can change a person’s perspective on things. We can see our faults reflected in others, we can see our virtues, we can think outside of our small bubbles and we can learn to understand others. We can also be inspired to change the things we hate about ourselves or in the world around us – we can find the courage to admit what we love.
There are a small number of characters who have affected me so much that I have sought to change who I am, and I’d like to tell you about three of my most significant role-models.
Hermione Granger: I met Hermione when I was five years old in 1997. What an annoying bossy-boots she was. She always had to be snooty about getting things right. She had to point out the obvious to Ron and Harry like they were idiots. She had this way of talking that was so irritating, so well pronounced. And she knew everything! I mean, alright, that’s pretty amazing but she was way too arrogant about it.
I disliked her for a long time and, even by the end of the Philosopher’s Stone, I only had a begrudging admiration for her. It was her sharp tongue and logic won my respect in the Chamber of Secrets. I cared about her, of course I did, but she was still a bossy know-it-all.
It wasn’t until the fourth book that I began to realise I was also a bossy know-it-all. I realised I had all of her annoying qualities and not enough of her wit or dedication. It took me years to grow out of my ‘Granger Attitude’ but I always told myself, ‘Be smart like Hermione.’ and I knew that to be smart, I had to work hard.
Hermione taught me to study; not to be arrogant, to expand my vocabulary, to be brave and stand up to your friends when they’re being idiots. She’s the reason I try so hard and she’s the reason I’m no longer a dick.
Tohru Honda: My cousin introduced me to Tohru (from the manga series Fruits Basket) when I was 16 in 2008. What a caring, considerate, loving and determined girl Tohru is. I’ve always been emphatic but not to the extent of Tohru Honda. Sure, she’s dopey, overly apologetic and keen to please people – but she truly cares. She’s not stupid. She doesn’t cling onto others because she’s incapable. In fact, despite how lovely she is it’s never annoying. You know what I mean. The unflawed Mary-Sue type.
Tohru sees – or tries to see – the good in everyone, even if they seem like the incarnation of abuse and anger. She looks past their flaws and asks, “Why did you treat me this way? What’s hurting you or troubling you? Ah, I see. I understand you. If I can’t help, please just know I understand. I won’t run away.”
She strives to be helpful and puts other’s needs before her own. She loves people without holding back and offers advice that I think everyone should hear.
Tohru is the character I relate to the most. I learnt from her how much I hate selfishness. It’s the one quality I can’t stand and I especially hate to see it in myself. Jealousy, too, is a terrible, destructive, stupid thing but that wasn’t so hard (for me personally) to master. Selfishness, however, still bothers me.
I’ll always strive to be as caring, understanding and loving towards everyone like Tohru is.
Ibis: What an insightful character Ibis turned out to be. I met her when I was 18 in 2012 and I carry her story with me every time I move house: The Stories of Ibis by Hiroshi Yamamoto. I don’t think it was her intention to have such a profound effect on my outlook on life but, nonetheless, she’s changed my world and opened it up into a gaping expanse.
I don’t believe in any religion because of this book and I don’t think that was its intention. I think it wanted to express the brilliance and kindness of the human mind, which it certainly achieved. While Tohru restores my faith in the people around me, Ibis stripped away my doubt and made me see the world.
She showed me how amazing people are when they work together. She showed me how illogical it is to believe in ‘a fairy in the sky’ (please note I do not condemn anyone who believes in God or the Gods). It still stuns me that now, even when I try, I can’t find any belief in a higher life form (E.Ts are a whole other discussion).
I feel liberated, if perhaps a little sad. I even feel like I caught a glimpse of everyone in the world, despite knowing this is ridiculous. Ibis taught me to believe everyone has the ability to be kind and that no religion will fix things; people have to fix things themselves, and they have to feel motivated to achieve change.
Ibis taught me not to put faith in the Gods but to put my faith in people, who are a lot more likely to get things done.
What about you? What characters have changed your life?