One can learn a lot about an anime character by studying how they respond to deeply traumatic situations. In addition to adding drama, alarming plot lines can expose viewers to aspects of their favorite characters that aren't usually on display. By paying close attention, one can gain valuable insight into who a character is, and why they behave they way that they do.
In A Silent Voice, a young girl is bullied for being deaf, leaving everyone involved traumatized. Meanwhile, in Tokyo Ghoul, Ken Kaneki's personality completely changes after he experiences torture at the hands of a man-eating monster. Some characters' responses to trauma accurately depict real-world PTSD, whereas others' reactions feel imagined and unbelievable.
At first glance, Gintoki Sakata of Gintama is a lazy good-for-nothing who scrapes together a living doing legally-questionable odd jobs. That's not totally untrue, but there's more to the character than meets the eye.
Gintoki begins life as an orphan who is forced to loot corpses for food. He is taken in by a school that teaches children how to become samurai, and soon finds himself fighting in the Jouei War, so that he can rescue his missing teacher. Nearly everyone in his battalion is killed in combat, and Gintoki is one of the few survivors.
After the war, Gintoki leads a normal life, wherein he rarely discusses his combat experiences. To hide his trauma, he's bitter, sarcastic, and shows little regard for his own life, but in reality he's haunted by his inability to save his comrades.
Kousei Arima of Your Lie In April starts the series off with a major problem: he's a pianist who can no longer hear his own music.
Before a terminal illness left her unable to play, Kousei's mother was also a famous pianist. She decided to teach her son how to play piano, but her methods were so strict and severe that the young boy found the lessons to be torturous.
At one point, things get so tense that she actually hits him until she draws blood. Eventually, Kousei's mother dies, leaving him orphaned and unable to play the music that once brought him joy.
A Silent Voice is one of the most popular anime movies to appear in recent years. The story focuses on Shouko Nishimiya, a deaf girl, and Shouya Ishida, a classmate who once bullied her and who is trying to make amends.
Interestingly, although Shouya is the bully and Shouko the victim, both are traumatized by the experience. Shouko's self-esteem takes a serious hit after she is mocked for her disability, yet Shouya is repulsed by his own behavior, and wants desperately to make up for it. Both characters are emotionally shaken to the point of attempting suicide, and they can only find reprieve through exploring their shared connection.
For a shonen anime, My Hero Academia features a surprising lack of tragic backstories. That said, some characters still show signs of having experienced serious trauma. One such character is Shoto Todoroki, a student at a school for would-be heroes.
Shoto's birth was the result of his father Endeavor's attempts to combine his fire quirk (the in-universe term for power) with his wife's ice quirk. Unfortunately, Endeavor only cares about his son's abilities, not his well being. Endeavor begins beating Shoto when he is five years old, and claims that abuse will make the boy stronger. He also beats his wife, who is so traumatized by her husband that she decides to pour boiling water on Shoto's eye, scarring him for life.
Shoto grew up despising his father, and once swore to only use the ice powers he inherited from his mother. By letting his fire powers lay dormant, Shoto is forced to opperate at half-strength. In order to achieve his full potential, he needs to learn to view his flame powers as more than just an extension of his father.