Exploring Suicide in Anime: An Analysis of the Medium

**As the title implies, this post speaks towards suicide—how we consume it in media, how it functions culturally, how it affects personal experience. If this is a sensitive topic for you, be mindful of continuing.**

High school was the first time suicide directly impacted my life. A minor friend of a few years had convinced himself he was unworthy of living and killed himself in his middling teenage years—dead before he started. I was not overly familiar with his life, and only tangential in the scope of his social circles, but he was the widely beloved class comic. Witty without effort, smart in how he spun situations to create entertainment for others. Common class-clown things that highly depressed people are often good at. It was one of those things that is obvious in hindsight.

Despite him not being one of my closest relationships, that loss still pried open the gates to a world that, up to then, my naivety had kept in a fantastical land. Intellectually, I understood suicide was a thing that could happen. I had simply never imagined it happening to him.

Suddenly, no one was safe.

Suicide would not have any intimate brushes with my life again until much later, in the tail-end of my college years. This time, it would be a little more personal. This time it was family.

Almost family, anyways. Thank God that darkness was made to retreat, though not without years of heavy battle against some inner demons and leagues of external intervention. It was a wildly complicated ordeal, and I will not unpack it here, because ultimately it’s not what I want to talk about. I only bring up these two circumstances because they served to re-appropriate the emotional energy in my heart and made the topic of suicide one I hold up in both personal and professional interest. I spent years studying the psychology of killing oneself and interacting with people who had tried or wanted to or planned on executing that final act.

Suicide, for all its macabre implications, is important to me. And that’s why I appreciate when I see an honest, realistic portrayal of it in the media I consume. Suicide has a history of being a gimmick, a basic inciting incident or historical cornerstone in a character’s background, but is rarely made the focus of a narrative—probably out of the risk of it tonally disrupting an otherwise happy story.

But that’s what I want to talk about with this article. I write about anime for Geeks Under Grace. I’ve been reviewing anime here since before we had an “anime team,” and I’ve been aching to write an article of this nature for over a year. What eventually made me decide now was the time came after my exposure to the film A Silent Voice (Koe no Katachi), which blew up in 2017, following the international commercial success of Your Name (Kimi no Na Wa). This article is not strictly about A Silent Voice, neither the anime, nor manga versions (both of which have my meteoric recommendation), but I will be drawing on pieces of it, as well as several other anime, to reach my conclusion.

Before we go any further though, I wanted to touch upon suicide as it relates to Japan, the land where anime is traditionally forged. Japan has a long history of suicide, even if the kind we see now is different from the days of old. It’s no secret ancient Japan helped “popularize” the concept of seppuku, or the “honorable death.” You are a samurai who failed to protect his benefactor? Rend open your belly. You had inappropriate sexual relations with somebody outside your family’s favor? It is your duty to atone for the dishonor you have brought upon them, and this means willingly (often publicly) bringing about the end.

And you see, that honor… it never really went away. You can see the echoes of it in contemporary Japanese society. The nuances may be different, but the underlying spirit of the problem remains the same: if you cannot be the steadfast rock your family needs, or find success in a cutthroat professional climate, or contribute to the greater whole of Japan as a nation…well, you can always just kill yourself. Under a magnifying glass, if you break down the various economic and social factors that permeate every angle of Japanese culture, you’ll notice it’s a country almost designed to encourage self-destruction. The tides of difficulty that press against every youth and adult are so staggeringly insane that they’d almost be hilarious if they weren’t real, and the result is that Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the entire world.

As such it’s encouraging when I see an anime that takes a no-nonsense approach to the subject, because suicide and the mental elements that surround it are something Japan obviously needs to address with more frequency and greater efforts (something their government is finally taking strides to accomplish). Historically, it’s not as if anime development studios (and any prerequisite creators) have been completely adverse to showcasing suicide in their creations; it just seems to be coming into greater prominence now than years past. Suicide has shown up in many series: Neon Genesis Evangelion, Welcome to the NHK, Orange, and even Naruto, to name a few.

But more often, if a character is killing themselves, it’s not out of an innate desire to end their own lives. I want to make this distinction. Dying as a mode of martyrdom, sacrificial protection, or ignorant abuse of one’s own health are not the same things, and should not be confused with what we are talking about. This is intentional self-obliteration, because you’ve found yourself in a situation where you simply don’t want to live anymore.

I recently watched an anime called Made in Abyss, which had one of the most realistic conflicts orbiting suicide I’ve seen inside or outside of the medium. It was a short, gripping scene—one I cannot talk about without spoilers, so if MiA is on your radar, skip down to the bold sentence below and continue reading from there.

I’ll keep this pretty complex scenario as simple as possible. Nanachi is a young girl who has been through a lot. She was enslaved for use in human experimentation by a sadistic madman alongside her best friend, Mitty. Mitty got the far worse brunt of aforementioned experimentation, and now cannot die, despite being in a constant state of suffering. She cannot even die when Nanachi tries to kill her. In so doing, Nanachi only torments her friend more, even after escaping the clutches of the monster who made them this way. Then come the protagonists of the series, who are in a bind. Our lead girl, Riko, is on the cusp of venomous death, but Nanachi can save her, and does. Recovery takes a long time, during which Nanachi becomes friend with our other protag, Reg. Nanachi learns Reg possesses a means of killing Mitty. If Mitty dies, Nanachi can finally be free of the overwhelming emotional burden placed upon needing to take care of her, and all the suffering she has inadvertently caused.

But if Mitty was gone, Nanachi would also have no more reason to live. Reg picks up on this and, when approached about whether or not he’d be willing to kill Mitty, says, “Okay. But you’re not allowed to die after she’s gone.”

Nanachi pauses. “Don’t worry. I’ll make sure to take care of Riko and make sure she’s all better, too.”

“Even after that!” Reg bites down on the moisture in his eyes. “Even after that. You need to promise.”

“Oh,” Nanachi contemplates the pool of water at her feet, a sad ache reflecting in her eyes. She resigns. “That’s so cruel… fine. I promise.”

And Reg destroys Mitty in one of the saddest death scenes in recent memory, fulfilling his part of the deal. Nanachi then joins their party afterwards because, well, she has nothing else.

loved this interaction. My writing of it now cannot convey the heartbreaking rawness of the scene, but the subtle context of Nanachi wanting to die was never explicitly mentioned or given heavy foreshadowing. It was implied through small phrases and gestures leading to this moment, which Reg, being emotionally alert, was able to notice and act against. The audience is trusted to be intelligent enough to understand that Nanachi was planning to kill herself before this confrontation. And Reg—sweet, broken Reg—called her bluff in a gambit to save her life. Being as young as he is, Reg doesn’t have a good solution, so he basically resorts to blackmail. It is an honest, if brutal means of protecting one of his only friends.

Let’s take a moment to talk about Misa from Death Note. Spoilers for this, as well.  There’s a bold line for you, too. 

Misa Amane is an immensely tragic character. She is gifted in all the wrong types of intelligence, and none of the ones that save her from abuse and harm at the hands of our favorite sociopathic pile-o-trash, Light Yagami. Misa is practically designed to be emotionally manipulated into supporting whatever vague, justice-centric whim passes through the miasma of sludge that is Light’s ego, falling intensely in love with the mass-murderer because, as she perceives it, he dealt justice against the man who killed her family. Misa’s entire existence rotates around supporting Light.

So, when Light is eventually caught out by the investigation agents and brought to an untimely demise (or not soon enough, depending who you ask), Misa’s world goes with him. While we never see her commit suicide, the last image we have of Misa is one of her standing alone on the edge of a tall building. With all we know of Misa, it’s not hard to pick up on the implication that she jumped, forfeiting her life, as Light was no longer in it.

Misa was bright, popular, enthusiastic, and showed kindness to others. The number one complaint fans have against her character is how easily she was manhandled by Light’s nefarious charm. Like, we know she’s smart, so why is she so oblivious to the awful personality of the man she loves? That’s not realistic at all

I’m obviously being sarcastic. The most tragic part of Misa’s narrative is that she is a loose manifestation of thousands of people who, at any given moment, are betrayed by their better judgment into trusting people who are not worthy of trust. Misa, for all of her dimensions, was ultimately a simple character. She wanted to love, and be loved in return. She wanted to be useful to somebody, even at the cost of herself, because self-sacrifice is further evidence of how much you love someone. She would forego her happiness in favor of Light’s happiness. And, because of the precarious situation she was in, once Light was no more, she had nothing to fall back on. There was nobody else who would be prepared to save her.

Misa is tragic, because she could have been saved if people had known the whole story. She is a superb example of why we should reserve judgment against others. It’s difficult to ever truly know somebody or the struggles they endure, so it’s imperative we be kind to one another. It’s easy to hate Light, because in this example we were allowed inside his mind. We had first-hand evidence he was rotten. If we were on the outside, among his peers—among Misa—it’s likely he would have duped us, too.

There are honestly so many examples I want to explore, but instead, let’s circle back to the beginning.  A Silent Voice.

A Silent Voice tackles many heavy subjects. In the roster along suicide, there’s depression, social anxiety, bullying, and living with disabilities, to name the big ones. It’s not really spoilers to say that both of the protagonists, Shoya and Shoko, face suicidal ideation at some point in their respective lives, and for entirely different reasons. Unlike the last two examples, I’m not going to dive into this one, because the idiosyncrasies and emotional buildup are what make the movie memorable, and I cannot adequately communicate those things with words. But A Silent Voicedoes something remarkable, which is not often seen in this industry. It takes realistic characters, in a real setting, with real hopes, goals, and motivations, places them against real problems, and doesn’t water it down for the sake of the audience. But more than any of that, it doesn’t cast these struggles in a blunt light. They are not hideously dramatic or tragic. They are commonplace issues, dealt with by commonplace people, and we see the power of unity as friends and family support each other through the little ways the world falls apart every day.

I don’t want to deviate too hard from the subject, or feel like I’m bashing you over the head with what I think you should watch, but I cannot stress enough the merits of seeing this film. And, if you liked that, I recommend you read the manga, too. The latter further fleshes out the characters and narrative that the movie, while great, did not have the screen-time to capture.

I guess what I really wanted to do with this article was say thanks. It’s a wide, open letter to every creator who had the skill, courage, and insight to brave the trenches of suicide in narrative. It’s not an easy thing to do, even from a technical vantage. It’s a story that can be easily cheesed without setting the proper tones and expectations for the audience. Yet, it’s one of the heaviest and most needed stories of our modern day.

I’m not expecting any isolated anime, book, video game, or movie to be enough to “save” somebody who struggles with suicidal ideation. But if it can reach them and help them realize they aren’t alone in their struggle, that’s a worthy thing to ask of “entertainment.” Maybe if they see a story in which depression is toppled and anxiety is overcome, they could even find it in themselves to seek help.

If this is you, please understand you are stronger and more important than you believe. Please, if you have an authority figure or religious leader you can trust, reach out to them. If not, the 24-hour suicide hotline is 1-800-273-8255, and talkspace.com has an affordable, online therapy match-making program, which I have on good knowledge to be worth its weight.

You have my prayers. I believe in you.

Thanks for reading, and God bless.

(This article first ran in geeksundergrace.com, in April of 2018.)


“Area of Effect: Wisdom From Geek Culture”

Published by Mythos & Ink, “Area of Effect: Wisdom from Geek Culture” checked a lot of my boxes. Using pop culture and the wider community of geekdom as a vehicle, the writers within challenge the quagmire of life with subtle excellence. Regardless of what media is most endearing to you—whether it cinema, novels, anime, video games, etc.—there is bound to be at least a handful of insightful deductions that make you think, or personal tales that make you feel.

I know a small handful of the collaborators involved in this book. I worked with most of them, in one way or another, during my time as a writer and editor at Geeks Under Grace. But Area of Effect afforded me an opportunity to learn new things about each of them, both in their opinions on various stories, as well as formative events that shaped their lives. I think what was most impressive about this compilation, however, was the consistency of ‘oh‘ moments I had. I was challenged to think in new ways (I’d never considered what it must have been like to be an average citizen in the sociopolitical climate of the Fire Nation when Sozen decided to siege the world), and I’ve never understood the appeal of Buffy the Vampire Slayer until two or three different chapters addressed aspects of its story. Now it’s at the forefront of my list (along with Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse).

There’s something for every geek in this series of articles and essays. Do you like anime? Plenty of that within these pages. Marvel films? There are at least four topics around those. Video games? Galore. Lord of the Rings? But of course.

I think it takes a unique frame of mind to connect the fiction we read to the lives that play out before us every day, and something even greater to learn from that connection. If you appreciate good dialogue on the merits of your favorite pieces of fiction, I implore you to pick up this book, available on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback versions. I suspect you will not be disappointed.

Cooper D Barham — Published Works Compendium — 08/19/18

The proceeding is a complete list of works I’ve had published across the internet, in descending order from newest to oldest. The first half includes all of my publications with Geeks Under Grace, where I’ve been a content creator since mid-2014 and department editor since early 2018. The second half includes all publications to my personal writing blog, including my serialization of “Anarchy” which ran through 2015. Aside from “Anarchy,” “Iscariot,” and a few short stories in the early days of the blog, none of my prose writing has been formally published.

Geeks Under Grace

“Review: Tokyo Godfathers” published 08/13/18

Our Favorite Humor in Anime published 07/23/18

“Review: Banana Fish — Episode 1” published 07/20/18

“Review: My Hero Academia — Season 2” published 06/29/18

“Review: Violet Evergarden” published 06/20/18

“Anime: Dubs VS Subs” published 06/08/18

“Review: Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku — Episode 1” published 06/06/18

“GUG Community’s Favorite Anime” published 06/04/18

“Exploring Suicide in Anime: An Analysis of the Medium” published 04/06/18

“The Most Underrated Anime Soundtracks” published 03/19/18

“Review: Made in Abyss — Season 1” published 01/22/18

“Violet Evergarden: Episode 1” published 01/20/18

“The Junji Ito Collection — Episode 1” published 01/13/18

“How Weekly Shonen Jump is Evolving” published 01/01/18

“Our Favorite Anime Christmas Episodes” published 12/25/17

“Review: Boruto: Naruto Next Generation — Season 1” published 12/22/17

“22 Terms Every Anime Fan Should Know” published 11/06/17

“Remove One Character From an Anime to Make it Better” published 10/20/17

“9 Anime YouTubers Worth Watching” published 10/16/17

“The History of Anime — Part 3” published 10/13/17

“The History of Anime — Part 2” published 09/18/17

“What is Your Favorite Anime Power or Ability?” published 09/15/17

“The History of Anime — Part 1” published 10/21/17

“The Apostle Paul’s Favorite Anime” published 08/14/17

“Review: Little Witch Academia” published 08/11/17

“Review: Made in Abyss — Episode 1” published 08/07/17

“Review: Shoukoku no Altair — Episode 1” published 07/25/17

“What Makes Your Perfect Anime?” published 06/17/17

“Anime Characters Who Deserve Their Own Series” published 05/26/17

“Review: Clockwork Planet — Episode 1” published 05/05/17

“Who Is Your Anime Husbando/Waifu?” published 05/02/17

“The Moment Digimon Forgot It Was a Kid’s Show” published 04/20/17

“Review: Boruto: Naruto Next Generation — Episode 1” published 04/12/17

“Review: My Hero Academia — Episode 14” published 04/02/17

“Review: Kill La Kill” published 03/16/17

“Avatar’s Bending in Our Modern World” published 03/06/17

“What is the Best Gateway Anime?” published 01/27/17

“Review: Little Witch Academia — Episode 1” published 01/09/17

“Review: Taboo Tattoo” published 01/04/17

“How Could Christian Stories Benefit From Anime Adaptation?” published 12/28/16

“Dragon Ball’s Most Foolish Character” published 12/13/16

“Review: My Hero Academia — Season 1” published 11/22/16

“Akame Ga Kill! and Affording Redemption” published 09/23/16

“Review: Orange — Episode 2” published 09/11/16

“Review: Orange — Episode 1” published 09/03/16

“Review: Taboo Tattoo — Episode 3” published 08/13/16

“Villains & Sympathizing With Evil” published 08/02/16

“Review: Taboo Tattoo — Episode 2” published 07/25/16

“Top 8 Tournaments in Fiction” published 07/20/16

“Review: Taboo Tattoo — Episode 1” published 07/19/16

“Video Games and Coming to Terms with the End” published 07/01/16

“Review: Twin Star Exorcists — Episode 5” published 06/13/16

“Singer/Songwriter Christina Grimmie Has Passed Away — Can I Say Something?” published 06/11/16

“Review: Twin Star Exorcists — Episode 4” published 06/01/16

“Geek Week: A Testimonial” — published 05/21/16

“Review: Twin Star Exorcists — Episode 3” published 04/29/16

“Review: Twin Star Exorcists — Episode 2” published 04/27/16

“Review: Twin Star Exorcists — Episode 1” published 04/23/16

“Lyric Review: ‘What Sarah Said’ by Deathcab for Cutie” published 04/17/16

“Review: The Gamer’s Guide to the Kingdom of God” published 03/31/16

“Review: The Reason: How I Discovered A Life Worth Living” published 03/23/16

“Why I Find Dark Media Appealing” published 01/29/16

“A Geek’s Guide to Analyzing Video Games…” published 01/15/16

“Ten of the Most Endearing Canines in Video Games” published 11/25/15

“Review: Life is Strange — Episode 5” published 11/03/15

“Why I Grieve Monster Tamer Video Games” published 09/06/15

“Review: Life is Strange — Episode 4” published 08/12/15

“Review: Super Meat Boy” published 07/12/15

“What I Learned From My First Steam Summer Sale” published 07/06/15

“Review: Splatoon” published 06/14/15

“Review: Life is Strange — Episode 3” published 05/27/15

“Review: Mirror’s Edge” published 05/20/15

“Review: The Kingkiller Chronicle” published 04/24/15

“Review: Life is Strange — Episode 2” published 03/31/15

“Review: Perspective” published 03/14/15

“‘Rape’ as Video Game Vernacular” published 03/10/15

“Review: Shiftlings” published 03/07/15

“Top 10 Video Game Diseases, Viruses, & Parasites” published 02/26/15

“Review: Life is Strange — Episode 1” published 02/23/15

“Review: This War of Mine” published 02/14/15

“Video Games 101: Developers, Pioneers of an Industry” published 02/11/15

“Preview: Besiege” published 02/11/15

“The Power of Fear and Why I Pray For Anger” published 01/16/15

“Kingdom Hearts III “Confirmed” for 2015 Release By Voice Actor” published 01/09/15

“Review: Digimon (Season 2)” published 01/01/15

“Retro Review: Megaman Legends” published 12/22/14

“Iscariot — Original Short Story” published 12/15/14

“Review: Infamous: Second Son” published 12/07/14

“Writing Excuses — A Podcast for the Aspiring or Established Author” published 12/06/14

“Review: Digimon — Season 1” published 12/17/14

“Naruto: a Dedication to 15 Years” published 11/15/14

“Video Games 101: The Perception of Video Games as a Sport” published 10/19/14

“Review: Lone Survivor: Director’s Cut) published 10/18/14

“Review: Super Smash Bros. For 3DS)” published 10/08/14

“Review: The Lightbringer Series” published 08/18/14

“Review: Legion” published 09/23/14

“Video Games 101: Best-Selling Consoles & Games” published 09/01/14

“The Game that Will Destroy Your Soul” published 08/24/14

“Two Week Rock Devotional Part 2” published 08/20/14

“Two Week Rock Devotional Part 1” published 08/13/14

“Review: Ready Player One” published 08/11/14

“Review: Tales of Xillia” published 08/08/14

“Review: The Last of Us” published 07/29/14

“A Level-Up Program” published 07/28/14

“31 Reasons You Should Read Bakuman” published 07/22/14

“Review: The Rithmatist” published 07/15/14

“Review: The Emperor’s Soul” published 07/08/14

“Video Games 101: The Burning Question” published 07/04/14

“Review: Edge of Tomorrow Vs. All You Need Is Kill (Part 2)” published 06/28/14

“Review: Edge of Tomorrow Vs. All You Need Is Kill (Part 1)” published 06/23/14

“Review: Bobby Dollar — Your Friendly, Sarcastic Neighborhood Angel” published 06/20/14

THE PUPPET KITCHEN — cooperdbarhamwriter.com

“A YouTuber Worth Exploring” published 06/17/18

“Top 50 Instrumental Songs (Part 5/5)” published 12/18/17

“Top 50 Instrumental Songs (Part 4/5)” published 12/17/17

“Top 50 Instrumentals Songs (Part 3/5)” published 12/16/17

“Top 50 Instrumental Songs (Part 2/5)” published 12/15/17

“Top 50 Instrumental Songs (Part 1/5)” published 12/14/17

“Thoughts from the Kitchen (#5 — Bad Obligations)” published 09/17/17

“Thoughts From the Kitchen (#4 — I Want to be a Hero, Too)” published 08/13/17

“Thoughts From the Kitchen (#3 — Ten-Thousand Voices)” published 07/17/17

“Review: All is Vanity by Christina Grimmie” published 06/17/17

“Something Sad, Like Usual — Original Poem” published 06/08/17

“The Puppet Masters (#7 — Dedicating a Book to its Character) published 06/06/17

“Visiting Tropes (#2 — Syndromes & Curses) published 05/29/17

“The Puppet Masters (#6 — Busy, or Lazy?) published 05/26/17

“Thoughts From the Kitchen (#2 — My War Against the Beginning) published 05/20/17

“Bloody, Merry — Original Poem” published 05/05/17

“I Want to Play Piano, Dad — Original Poem” published 04/29/17

“Visiting Tropes (#1 — Hey, Bandages are Cool) published 03/29/17

“The Puppet Masters (#5 — We, the Failures) published 09/08/16

“The Puppet Masters (#4 — Magic, & Sanderson’s Laws) published 08/29/16

“Neil Gaiman on Heartbreak” published 08/29/16

“The Puppet Masters (#3 — On Writing) published 08/16/16

“The Puppet Masters (#2 — Judgment)” published 08/04/16

“Brother, My Brother” — Original Horror Short Story

“Final Thoughts. Christina Grimmie, the Girl with a Full Heart” published 06/18/16

“Singer/Songwriter Christina Grimmie Has Passed Away. Can I Say Something?” published 06/11/16 (Also appears on Geeks Under Grace)

“The Puppet Masters (#1 — Test Your Might)” published 06/09/16

“30 Day SFFH Writing Challenge” published 06/08/16

“Thoughts From the Kitchen (#1 — Organized Chaos) published 05/30/16

“Challenge Month, Day 5” published 04/10/16

“Challenge Month, Day 4” published 04/09/16

“Challenge Month, Day 3” published 04/08/16

“Challenge Month, Day 2” published 04/07/16

“Challenge Month, Day 1” published 04/06/16

“Update: 03/21/16” published 03/21/16

“Leave ‘Em Laughing — An Exercise in Myth-Crafting” published 03/18/16

“Update: 02/23/16” published 02/23/16

“The Appeal of Dark Media” published 02/10/16

“Hymni’s Broken Gift — An Exercise in Myth-Crafting” published 02/04/16

“The Spirit of Color — An Exercise in Surreal Prose” published 01/21/16

“Update 01/14/16” published 01/14/16

“An Exercise in Alliteration (Ben vs. the Asteroid)” published 01/12/16

“That One Time I Was Interviewed” published 01/06/16

“Update: 01/06/15” published 01/06/16

“The Ghost of Christmas Never — Original Short Story” published 12/21/15

“Papa’s Little Girl — Original Short Story” published 07/21/15

“The Drums — Original Short Story” published 07/03/15

“The Red Thread of Fate — Original Poem” published 07/03/15

“Ghost — Original Short Story” published 07/03/15

“The Interview — Original Short Story” published 07/03/15

“Daughter of the Rain — Original Short Story” published 07/03/15

“Disposable — Original Short Story” published 07/03/15

ANARCHY — Original Serialization, published between July 8th and October 22nd, 2015.

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14


Top 50 Instrumental Songs (Part 1/5)

Nearly eight months of godless agony later, I’ve finally completed a project I’ve been gearing up to do for years. This is the first in a five-part series to be released daily, in which I unpack my favorite instrumental songs in the history of, well, ever. Narrowing this list down was obviously difficult. There were four “waves” needed to thin out the contestants from my library of thousands, and once we got below one-hundred it was like pulling teeth.

Yet, I stayed true to my original goal of fifty, for my own sake, and not compromise that number. I wanted to know for myself what I believed were my favorites among the gallery of songs I so dearly love.  This following list is the conclusion of those struggles.  They are not in order.  Simply getting a pool of them was hard enough.  I do wish to leave with my sanity.

Many are favored because of their execution and style, while others, because of a particular attachment or association they have with my personal life.  With each entry will be a short blurb, explaining why it belongs. Click the name of the song to open a link for listening. And for a disclaimer: if I couldn’t understand what language they were singing in, I considered the vocals as their own independent instruments, and thus things like Gregorian chants do not disqualify songs from being “instrumentals.”


#1 – “The Beginning” by Factor Eight

As much as I’d like to not start with an eight-minute song, let’s open with a splash of happiness and victory.  It’s nearly impossible to listen to “The Beginning” and not feel hope pervade every atom of your body.  Nothing about this song is complicated, and for the best.  We are introduced by way of orchestral strings, dancing on melting snow.  Sunlight comes in as an angelic piano comes baring its gifts.  The drums dive in with a stomping cadence, bringing with it the claps of soldiers who have come home.  That’s a good way of thinking about “The Beginning.”  It is a rebuilding song, a restarting song.  Post-destruction and pain.  This is the spiritual anthem for recovery and renewal, having survived the long night and sown the way for good things to come in the morning.  It’s men and women seeing their families again.  It’s a child leaving a hospital from whence hope was momentarily fleeting.  It’s not only survival, it’s ascension in spite of whatever wreckage or tragedy lay behind.

#2 – “Unravel” by TK from Ling Toshite Sigure

While I can and have listened to the instrumental versions for hours (there’s plenty to choose from, such as the sexy piano cover I linked above), the soul of this track’s appeal comes from the original version.  Unravel is the opening to season 1 of a popular anime called Tokyo Ghoul.  It is famous for having some of the most immediately recognizable opening notes in anime, so much so that my brother, who has not watched the series and only heard the song once, was able to tell me it was the Tokyo Ghoul theme after only a couple seconds, long after hearing it his one time.

I am trying to make a point of not discussing lyrics in any of these posts, but for Unravel, I’m making an exception.  I believe one of the largest parts of the song’s appeal is that it was specifically written and composed to capture the mentality of the series protagonist, Ken Kaneki, and it does so perfectly.  In any of the song’s iterations, both sentimental and intense, the music synergizes with the feeling you get while watching Kaneki develop as a character.  Matched by deeply introspective and existential lyrics, Unravel succeeds in being a catch-all of cerebral, contemplative, violent, haunting, and heartbreaking all at once.

#3 – “Requiem For a Dream” by Lux Aeterna

This song was the catalyst by which my campaign for instrumental music was founded, when I was a fledgling high-schooler just discovering the wonder of high-speed internet. It wasn’t until I heard “Requiem for a Dream” that I ever sought out more music of its kind, and the deviations which naturally followed. My imagination shifted under the weight of these new strains of music, epic battles waging, worlds taking shape. My music library has never been the same.

#4 – “Rylynn” by Andy McKee

I think this may be the only song on my entire list which is exclusively composed of acoustic guitar.  Rylynn earns its place among my top 50 not only for its stature as a song itself, but for the ties it holds to my personal life.  Specifically, this was the theme I associated to my longest-standing crush and unrequited romantic interest, spanning almost three years during my college career.  In my mind, this was her song, and while I don’t much listen to the song anymore, I can’t deny it is a sonic masterpiece, and she is still uniquely tied to the dream-like strums contained within.

#5 – “Dream Big” by Mark Petrie

If the phrase “crushing amounts of joy” makes any sense, I’d like to employ it now. This song is immediately and intrinsically filled with hope and overcoming, and for me, is inevitably associated with my favorite series, Naruto. Now, this song isn’t from Naruto, but it reminds me of one pivotal moment in the story: when our scrappy little hero is finally accepted by the people of the village after his harrowing battle against Pain. This song is how that series makes me feel, which is why, despite any arguments against Naruto’s quality which might arise (and being the fan I am, I’m more aware than most regarding its shortcomings) the series means so much to me. No amount of argumentation could divorce that narrative from the feeling “Dream Big” provides. This song is like walking into a pole, but a pole made of buoyancy and tranquility and victory. It makes you stop and be thankful to simply exist.

#6 – “I Could Have Done More” by John Williams

John Williams is so masterful in so many ways. There’s an almost trans-existential ache behind this one.  One heart speaking directly to another, confiding about little demons hidden for years on end.  It’s somebody telling a best friend they want to die.  You can feel it, behind the strings. How that harping violin files down your ribs into chains? Your sternum into a lock?

I mean, it IS a song about the Holocaust.

#7 – “Blumenkranz” by Hiroyuki Sawano

(Get used to seeing the name Hiroyuki Sawano. He shows up a lot on this list.)

Beautiful evil. This is a theme which both perfectly captures the villainess of its series, and transcends her. When I hear “Blumenkranz,” I can only imagine a fallen angel, glorious and lithe and bathed in colors.  But even while shining for all to see, that angel maintains an essence of absolute cruelty.  “Blumenkranz” is the modest seductress, the scheming man with the world’s best smile.  It is power, proud and terrible.  Honestly, most of this is credited to the choir, which really sells the song on merit of its divine, alien sound.

#8 – “One-Winged Angel” by Nobuo Uematsu (The Black Mages Version)

If the spirit of menace could have its own soundtrack…

This song is one of the most well-known video game tracks ever made, and inspires both terror and awe in many a veteran player. It is the theme to Final Fantasy VII’s nightmare pretty-boy villain, Sephiroth. When those staccato strings and slamming drums break in, you need to prepare for the worst. And after about a minute, this childish foreshadowing settles into the ashes, throwing wide the gates for a sound pulled from the belly of hell itself, full of darkness insurmountable and infinite.

#9 – “Spring’s Melody” by Masaru Yokoyama

“She is the journey with no destination.”

There’s a wonderful anime of world-class caliber called Your Lie In April, which plays your heartstrings like a violin (ha).  Whenever this song begins, you want to soar.  It rounds out the narrative beats perfectly, breathing life into the tone of the story and the animation.  This track might be simple, but from the first note it jars me back into that same zeitgeist of joy and sadness I experienced through every poetic second of YLiA.

#10 – “Seigi Shikkou” by Makoto Miyazaki and various others

From the anime “One Punch Man,” this song is, for lack of a more appropriate phrase, heroic as hell.  Now, unlike many entries on this list, my love of Seigi Shikkou exists independently of the source material (which I am infamously known to dislike among my social circles).  I am enamored by this kickass, pulse-pounding song for two particular reasons (outside the obvious one of it being a mega-dope song in its own right).  First, it works wonders at breaking through mental barriers, and as such it is commonly played every time I go to the gym.  Few things cast my inhibitions to the curb as violently as when those strings break into the song hook, like a superhero taking flight.  Second, I keep the track on hand during the writing of my current and most ambitious story ever.  It is the end game—how I want the conclusion of this story to feel when people read it.  All of my work and creative labors are aiming to inevitably land upon the feeling Seigi Shikkou generates.  It is impressively, almost impossibly cool.

Singer/Songwriter Christina Grimmie Has Passed Away. Can I Say Something?

Christina-Grimmie--Performing-at-the-East-Hills-Park--07Christina Grimmie, a beloved singer/songwriter who got her start with Youtube and went on to place in the sixth season of “The Voice”, passed away this morning after taking gunshot wounds after a show.  She’d been on tour with pop-rock artist Before You Exit, and they’d just finished performing in Orlando, Florida.

While signing autographs for her fans, Christina was approached by a lone gunman and shot multiple times.  Mark, her brother, immediately took down the assailant before others could be harmed.  In the midst of the struggle, the gunman managed to take his own life.

Christina was pronounced dead a couple hours later.

To Christina’s family and friends, I am sorry.  From my gut to my heart, I am sorry.

Christina Grimmie Visits Radio Disney

If you are not familiar with the name, Christina Grimmie had humble beginnings as a fledgling Youtube cover artist, beginning at the age of 15.  Since then, she has released multiple EP’s: “Find Me” and “Side A,” as well as one full studio album: “With Love.”  Breaching the mainstream, Christina tried out on singing show “The Voice” where she placed in Season 6’s top three.

From the very beginning, Christina was public and proud of her Christian faith and walk.  After her time on “The Voice,” she got the verse “All is Vanity” tattooed on her right arm, a tribute and reminder from Ecclesiastes. Always modest and never profane, she was an outstanding exception in her industry.  Her favorite Christian songs were “In Christ Alone” which she covered a couple years back, and Matt Redman’s “10,000 Reasons.”  She is quoted as being heavily inspired by contemporary Christian artist Stacie Orrico in the early years:

“She has a really awesome voice and I was so drawn to it. I think the reason I do have a soul voice is because I grew up listening to her and she was my huge, huge influence. I wanted to sound just like her, I wrote songs that kinda sounded like something she would do.”


In addition to Stacie, Christina notes Christina Aguilera as a primary vocal inspiration, as well as many other artists ranging anywhere from Twenty One Pilots to Metallica to Skrillex to Switchfoot.  Earlier this year, she concluded a tour with well-known popstar Rachel Platten.

Christina appealed to the same audience we strive for here over at Geeks Under Grace.  In addition to her faith, Christina was an avid and vocal geek of many forms.  Big into both video games and anime, Christina loyally streamed Super Smash Bros. 4 and League of Legends up until earlier this year.  In Smash she mained Ness, in League she mained Mid Lane.  She had opportunities to play with or meet some of the best players from each.  If you look around her instagram, you’ll notice her room is decorated in paraphernalia from Deathnote, Attack on Titan, Skyrim, Sonic, Legend of Zelda, Tokyo Ghoul, Fullmetal Alchemist, and much, much more.  On one hand she had the signature “L” tattoo from Deathnote, and on the opposing arm she had tattooed “2P” to match the “1P” shared by her older brother.  Though I could not find the video in writing this article, I remember at one point she made a Triforce diagram, where the three components were “singing,” “video games,” and “food,” with “God” in the middle.  She called it her “Triforce of Grimmie.”

Christina, cosplaying as Ahri from “League of Legends”

Please forgive me.  At the risk of sounding unprofessional, I must admit, it is difficult for me to write this article pragmatically.  I’ve followed Christina’s progress for over five years.  This last April, I fasted thirty days of food for the sake of Christina’s physical, spiritual, and emotional safety in the years to come.  I do not share this to bring praise to myself, but for transparency.

I will deeply miss you, Christina.

Today is an unbearably sad day for many.  If I’m not overstepping myself, I’d like to take a brief moment to reach out to a few people, even if only in prayer and written word.

To Papa and Mama Grimmie, whose hearts must weigh more than all the world itself, I am sorry.  Thank you for loving your daughter.  I know she loved you too, and will be waiting with open arms and a beaming face on the day you come home.  I’m sure she is already hard at work composing the song she will be singing.

To Mark, from one big brother to another, please hear me out.

You did not fail, Mark.

The media is calling you a hero, but god only knows how sarcastic that must sound right now.  We both know the truth.  You were always her hero.  You were always there, watching your little sister’s back.  I am so hurt for you.  I am so proud of you.  I know she’d be proud of you, too.  It might not be soon, but please someday, find the strength to forgive yourself.  You owe it to Christina to not feel like you let her down.


To her friends and fans, please do not hate the man who took Christina’s life.  I cannot emphasize this enough.  Christina lived beautifully, smiled liberally, forgave openly.  She would not want a single one of you to be burdened by the ugly, wormy creature that is hatred.  It crawls into your heart, deep inside, and it poisons you.  It’s easy to hate things that do not make sense.  I don’t know her assailant.  I don’t know if he was crippled by loneliness, or anger, or whatever drove him to do what he did, but it doesn’t matter.  I promise, if Christina were still with us, she would not have wanted us to hold that man in contempt.  To do so would be in direct violation of everything Christina believed in, everything she was and wanted to be.

Tyler Posey, Christina Grimmie, Josh Hopkins And The Madden Brothers On "Extra"

So thank you Christina, for putting the music in our hearts.  Thanks for the laughs and the inspiration.  I’m sorry you will never have a chance to get married, or to be a mother like you wanted.  You never deserved to be stuck down here with us.

I was hoping I might meet you sometime soon, but I guess I’ll have to wait a little longer.  I look forward to the day I can hear your voice again.  Maybe we’ll all have a chance to sing together in the eternity to come.

Until then, may you rest in ultimate, unending peace, free from the pain of this world.

Forever and always, #TeamGrimmie


The Appeal of Dark Media


Hello strange and wonderful people,

I recently wrote an article over in my millings with Geeks Under Grace which has received above-par attention.  It’s an exposition on how I define “dark” in terms of media, with examples for different brands of this word spanning several mediums, as well as which facets of those series I find appealing.  I cannot copy and paste it here, so I ask that, should some pocket of your curiosity long to see why I think dark media is more appealing than its lighter-hearted brethren, you follow this little link down below and take a gander.

God bless, love your heart, and always remember to smile.