Toru Hagakure seems happy and upbeat but her existence is incredibly depressing if you think about it
Movies and TV series are not short on depressing characters. From The Green Mile's persecuted gentle giant John Coffey, to Breaking Bad's intelligent but often misguided Jesse Pinkman, there's no end to tragic characters whose very existence leaves you in dire need of a puppy GIF or two.
Anime is no different. Neglected, abused, forced to murder Crona of SoulEater and mentally/emotionally broken Ken Konecki of TokyoGhoul can attest to that. But maybe, just maybe, the saddest character in all of anime (and maybe anything ever?) doesn't have an intensely violent or depressing origin story. Maybe they don't brood in their overwhelming doom and gloom. Maybe the saddest character in anime is a perky girl in a school uniform.
Toru Hagakure -- or, the Invisible Girl -- seems upbeat, cheery, and peppy. But there's good reason to suspect an existential crisis is gnawing deep inside her teenage brain. Hagakure is at a time in her life when she is supposed to be forming her personality, learning who she is, who she wants to be, and how that should or should not inform her relationships. Part of Hagakure's ability to experiment with her own identity has been stripped from her.
To be fair, there's something quite liberating about Hagakure's friends being unable to know what she looks like -- being body-shamed or harassed over her body would likely be more difficult. But this also makes it more difficult for Hagakure to experiment with different looks -- something that is very common with people her age. (No goth phase? No, thank you.) This might seem shallow at first - who cares if someone can't see what they look like in a mini-skirt and combat boots or an over-sized pair of jeans? At least she can't see any teenage acne! Some people would give up one of their own hands if it meant never having to go through a pimple phase.
But don't forget, Hagakure now has to watch all of her friends go through these phases, embracing or rejecting them, and ultimately finding their perfect fit. We know this occurs in the My Hero Academia world, given how much attention is given to the young ladies' formal wear in the feature film My Hero Academia: Two Heroes and how justifiably excited Class 1-A gets over their new superhero costumes. It should not go unnoticed that Hagakure's superhero ensemble gets little fanfare from her classmates. Hagakure is vying for fame and notoriety like the rest of her friends, but she's going to have an uphill battle on her hands, which she is absolutely already aware of.
Now imagine that, not only do your friends not know what you look like, but neither do you. There are about 36 million people in the world who cannot see. We really aren't exposed to many people with disabilities in the series outside of those who are injured on the job. Does My Hero's world carry the same statistics? Either way, Hagakure would have to be quite unique in that, while she cannot see her own face, she can see literally everyone else's. The only person whose appearance is a mystery to her is her own. How does this not lead Hagakure into a deep identity crisis? How is she not constantly spiraling from deep-seated insecurities and issues with self-esteem? Because she desperately clings to any sense of normalcy she can.
Why would the Invisible Girl care if her teammate looks her way after she's removed her clothes to go all sneaky spy? Does she not know she's invisible? Yes, of course, she does. And you can bet she feels awkward and uncomfortable walking around as a nude teenager, too. This is something she has to grapple with every time she's in her super suit and there's no way this isn't affecting her mentally. Her response -- despite the fact that she clearly knows her situation is so different -- is incredibly normal and grounded.
So, then, why did the Invisible Girl get so excited when the boys tricked their female classmates into wearing cheerleader costumes at the tournament? It makes sense to assume that Hagakure revels in normalcy every time she can get it. She leads such a unique, singular existence that when she has the ability to behave as a normal teenage girl would, she holds onto it with all she's got.
There's even a somewhat in-universe precedent for this admittedly over-analyzation of Hagakure. It's not uncommon for a character in the My Hero world to struggle to co-exist with their quirks, prompting the creation of a resource -- quirk counseling -- to help kids come to grips with their newfound powers. Hagakure's gonna be OK.
What's a surprising anime character that you think has had a rough go at life? Let us know in the comments!
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