Reflecting on Episode 1 of Kotoura-san and the Newtown School Shooting
The mindset someone has while viewing a piece of media – book, art, movie, anime TV show – will, obviously, effect how that person will react to that piece of media. My mindset doesn’t often visibly bubble up when I want to talk about anime; though, I’m sure it subtly does all the time.
As the new season of anime starts and I’m watching the many anime series for the first time I was surprised when one, Kotoura-san, had a moment where it connected to and gave me an answer to a question I’d been pondering and reflecting on after the Newtown school shooting.
Before I get to the answer Kotoura-san provided I need to start with the question.
The question that I have been asking myself – why did this happen and what is the best way to make sure this doesn’t happen again? – is one most, if not all, of the people, after hearing about this event, asked themselves at least once.
Some rushed to answer this question with their personal biases and political causes even before the facts were clear; which annoyed me, though I was hardly surprised by it. What did surprise me was that once it became clear what happened that these “answers” were still being treated like actual answers.
I’m talking, obviously, of those that are pushing “gun control” measures in response to and as the answer to the Newtown school shooting. By nature, I’m leery of these measures because I know how important the Second Amendment is towards ensuring the federal government never becomes a tyrannical government. However, I am willing to consider them because I want to arrive at the correct answer.
Of the many ideas being put forth under the “gun control” umbrella I would ask myself – would X (where X is banning a certain type of gun, size of ammunition clip, etc.) have stopped/limited the Newtown school shooting or would X stop/limit a future massacre like the Newtown school shooting. The answer has been a big No in every case. None of these measures come even close to helping stop or limit the chances of another shooting like the Newtown school shooting. So, it’s this disconnect between the desired result with the results if these “gun control” measures are enacted that makes it clear that the people pushing for them are either uninformed and detached from reality or only care about their political agendas, with the latter being the majority of those people.
I almost decided to write a post here on how infuriating it is to not only see these people attacking the Constitution like they are but to see them use a tragedy of this magnitude to do it; but, I convinced myself to stick to purpose of this blog – anime with a little SF thrown in – and I let it go. Which is why I’m going to move on before this becomes a rant.
If “gun control” isn’t the answer, I asked myself, what is.
One of the first things I thought of was my own high school. It was a good high school but it was an inner-city high school and even back in the mid to late 1990’s, when I attended, there was enough of a need that we had an armed security guard in the school at all times. My high school also had big thick metal doors with very little windows that would be exceedingly hard to break through and all these doors were kept locked to the outside at all times except the main door before classes started (and you can guess where the security guard stood in the morning).
Concurrent to that I thought that it was a shame that none of the staff had a gun.
I myself don’t own a gun but I did take a marksmanship class in college and that semester taught me, among other things, that you can’t just give teachers guns because something would go wrong. Any teacher would need extensive training to know what to do in a situation like the Newtown shooting without potentially harming innocent by-standers; but, even just allowing for the possibility that one teacher might have a gun in school without anyone knowing which teacher it is would provide a very strong deterring effect. A less lethal option I thought of is having trained teachers equipped with bullet-proof vests and tasers (without the students knowing the number and who is so armed).
All three of these answers – armed security guards, structural improvements, and some form of arming of the school staff – would definitely limit the severity of school shootings and probably reduce how many will occur but they aren’t the full answer I’m looking for since these address what happens after the shooting starts and does not address the issue before the shooting starts. (And the reduction might only come from the shooter deciding to go to a softer target then these improved schools.)
Almost all of these mass shooting seem to end with the shooters committing suicide which leads me to think that the shooters perform their terrible crimes knowing that hundreds of millions of people will be talking about them long after they kill themselves. If this is the case then maybe the media need to change how they cover mass shootings like this. Instead of plastering the shooter’s name, picture, and life story everywhere, I’m guessing there would be less of an incentive to commit such a crime if the potential shooters knew they would be referred to generically as “Shooter A” and no identifying personal information (including pictures) would be used.
Another near universal feature shared between these shooters is they have some form of psychological issue which makes the idea of making it more difficult for people like that to own firearms worth exploring. Though, anything done on this front needs to be carefully thought out and done sensitively because I’d be worried about over-zealous or ill-guided enforcement. And, the Newtown shooting shows that the person with the psychological issue can just steal what they want. (If the mother was that worried about her son, she should have been storing her firearms in such a way they couldn’t easily get stolen.)
Related to the previous issue, I also think comprehensive studies need to done to see if the medications used to treat these psychological issues might be contributing to these shooters going through with their mass killings. I know in recent years many anti-depressants have needed to add an additional warning that teens and young adults have an increased risk of suicide when using or just coming off the use of drugs. I also know many types of medications are proscribed “off-label” meaning the drug companies get their drug approved for some group, say “men 45-65 with a history of cancer”, and then push doctors to proscribe it all men and women over the age of 14. And it happens regularly; the article I remember reading said with some drugs 98% of their use are from groups of people not in the original studies. I wonder how many of these drugs that get proscribed to the teens and young adults that commit mass shooting are actually safe to give to the teenagers and young adults in question.
(I find it troubling that both the Newtown shooter and the Aurora theater shooter were taking something(s) at the time of their crimes but, while we know everything about the guns used, we’re told a couple times they were taking something but never anything more. Maybe these shooters are all taking the same or similar medications or maybe they’re not but, either way, it’s obvious some decision has been made to not let the public know.)
Once again all these answers – making it harder to gain fame from a mass shooting, making it harder for those with mental issues to own a gun, and looking if certain medications help push the shooters into committing their crimes – would almost assuredly help reduce the number school shootings but they’re not the full answer either.
Even combining both groups of three real answers, they would not eliminate school shootings from occurring and this is where I got stumped and where Kotoura-san comes in, unexpectedly.
Kotoura-san was advertised to be an anime comedy set in a high school paranormal club with the main character being a girl that can read minds. The first episode starts and, instead of the expected happy-go-lucky atmosphere, in 10 minutes the viewer watches as the girl’s ability to read minds slowly destroys her life.
It begins by making her an outcast at school when the kids get old enough to have secrets they didn’t want accidentally exposed (which girl like what boy, etc.) and this leads the teacher to tell the mother that the main character is a compulsive liar and needs help. The doctors can’t help which leads to increasing levels of stress at home which pushes the mother to drinking and the father to having an affair (which the main character inadvertently exposes). Eventually, neither parent can stand the other or the main character so they divorce and dump her with the grandfather. The main character changes schools many times but each time, sooner or later, she responds to something she’s learned with her mind reading and her schoolmates turn on the creepy kid that invades people’s minds and she once again becomes an outcast.
As I’m watching this tale of despair, a thought popped into my mind – I wouldn’t be surprised if she decided to shoot up her school before killing herself. And then a second thought added – and afterwards everyone would talk about how weird she was and how she never made any friends.
I realized both thoughts were correct.
This is the type of mindset that is needed for someone to shoot up a school before committing suicide.
The mechanism that got her to that point was not the same (I don’t think any of these school shooters claimed to be mind readers) but I bet many of the same situations and feelings played out in the pasts of those that became school shooters. I then got curious to see how Kotoura-san was going to solve the problems of the main character because this anime was still supposed to be a comedy series. Their answer was so simple that I feel stupid in not figuring out it earlier. The main character in Kotoura-san met a guy who wanted to be her friend and didn’t mind the fact that she could read his mind.
This was the answer I was looking for to the question after the Newtown school shooting – why did this happen and what is the best way to make sure this doesn’t happen again?
It happened because the shooter didn’t have at least one good and true friend. If all potential shooters could find one good and true friend then there wouldn’t be any more school shootings.
It’s a simple answer and a difficult one. Difficult because, instead, of merely having some nice speeches given and a law or two passed, it would require everyone to be a little slower in categorizing, dividing and excluding people; to be a little more understanding, open, and accepting; to not demean or bully people that fall outside one’s nicely constructed “tribe”; to try a bit more and maybe feel a touch inconvenienced by it all.
Difficult? – yes – the sexy, cool answer? – not really; but, it’s what we need to do to ensure another shooting like what happened in Newtown doesn’t happen again.