Works That Inspired Me

Neon Genesis Evangelion by Hideaki Anno: An anime that’s very near and dear to my heart, even in all its imperfections. Shinji’s a difficult protagonist to follow, but his struggles with anxiety, depression and loneliness ring true. It was something of a revelation when 15-year-old me watched it for the first time – other people struggle with making friends! Other people are deeply uneasy with themselves! – and it’s still a genuine tour de force to watch as an adult. Also, there are giant fighting robots.

The various works of John Green: With books both heartwarming and heartrending in equal turns, John Green is one of the authors who got me interested in reading again after a years-long dry spell. Even as an adult, I find so much joy and insight in these stories, particularly The Fault in Our Stars and Turtles All the Way Down. If you ever read one, be sure to have a box of Kleenex handy.

The Wings of Fire series by Tui T. Sutherland: Okay, you all probably saw this one coming. Wings of Fire tackles themes of friendship, free will, nature vs nurture, and the link between empathy and self-acceptance, all while maintaining a joyfully childlike sense of humor and warmth even alongside its more brutal moments. One of my favorite book series basically ever, and not just because every character is a dragon.

“Sticks” by George Saunders: Weird, short – like, less than two pages – and the equivalent of a knife straight to your feelings. There’s not much more to say here, except: go read it!

Revolutionary Girl Utena and Sarazanmai by Kunihiko Ikuhara: Both of these anime are insightful, hilarious, more than a little dark, and utterly, utterly bizarre. It’s incredibly satisfying to sit down after an episode and ask yourself “What in the fresh hell did I just watch?” before you start piecing it together, bit by bit. Fun fact: the title of Smash the World’s Shell comes from a line from Utena!

Bittersweet Candy Bowl by Veronica Vera: A comic that was massively influential to me during my teen years. The art is pretty and evolves over time, the characters grow even as they make bad decisions again and again, and despite a cutesy exterior, there’s a genuine element of tragedy in how some of the relationships play out. Plus, it’s available for free on its official website, Give it a read!