The Art of Being an Anime Girl (or Boy) in a Hospital Bed

Sekirei Chiho
No hairbrushing in my room…or giant dog costumes. (Image from Sekirei Wiki)

Since we know that everything we see in anime accurately represents Japanese culture, I can make this statement with confidence: long hospitalizations are far more common in Japanese health institutions than in those in America.  I bet most anime fans can count off the number of shows featuring characters who are on bed rest in hospitals.  In America, though, we generally try to get people out of hospitals and back home, unless they’re in critical condition.

The thing is, this trope is quite charming.  Bedpans, IVs, and injections be darned – there’s nothing more pleasant than a teenage girl or boy quietly reading a book in a hospital with visitors in tow.

Of course, it’s a little different when you’re the one in that situation.  I’ve never been hospitalized before, so it was a new experience for me to have to remain in a hospital, away from family, work, and home.  Thankfully, it was for only two days, but even in that amount of time, I learned something about myself (and others).  Ain’t in funny how being in a hospital makes you think?

She sure looks serene for being so ill. (Art by 夏師)

Usually in service-type professions, the employee stays while the customers come and go.  But when you’re hospitalized, you’re the one staying while the employees come and go and then leave for the day, before returning the next day.  The patient’s point of view is almost a bird’s eye one – I felt like I was above, watching various people go throughout their day.

Strangely enough, I started having strong feelings for almost everyone that had a part in caring for me – either positive or negative.  I would catch them at specific moments of their day and that would give a reflection of how I felt about them.  If one technician was in a bad mood, I’d picture her as a grumpy person and dislike her, because I felt as a patient, I was owed that person’s best.

anime hospital bed
A boy in a hospital bed, too! (Art by Nada0)

Whether it was getting caught up on rest or simply the excitement of knowing I’d be out soon, by the second day I had become more empathetic.  This grumpy tech may have been having a bad day – heck, it must be hard to be cheerful at all in a health care setting.

My family, too, went through a difficult time while I was away.  They were much more stressed and pressured than I was.  While I was between quiet white walls, they had to make their way through the day without my help and knowing that I might have to undergo a procedure.

All this gave me the strength to be empathetic which, quite frankly, is an action I rarely exhibit.  I was able to sit and listen to complaints and try to heal deep divisions that had erupted in my absence.  And for once, I felt like I was being a peacemaker and not a divider.

The trick is this, though.  As I walk out of this bed and back to normal life, I need to bring with me the lesson I learned and become a better man, not for two days, but permanently.  And if that happens, I can certainly say that in more than one way, the best part of being the boy in the hospital bed is walking away from it.

Party in the Hiz-Hozpital! (Art by 茜谷あすく)

32 thoughts on “The Art of Being an Anime Girl (or Boy) in a Hospital Bed

  1. It’s great to hear you’re on the mend! From my recent experience, I can well relate to being concerned that you take your lessons away with you, rather than going completely back to “normal.”

    I knew that anime characters In Frail Health was a trope, but I didn’t realize until I read your essay just how common it was — especially when you consider characters ordinarily in good health, who happen to have to go to the hospital for certain reasons. I’m trying to identify the characters in the artwork, but I think I know only one, the girl in the straw hat. She is, of course. In Frail Health. 😉

    1. You know, I thought I’d be able to find more artwork than I did of anime girls in hospital beds, since it is so common. I was particularly looking for a character from Sola.

      Anyway, the first picture is from Sekirei, which I haven’t seen. The last appears to not be related to a specific anime. And the third, you should recognize – it’s Sayaka and her violin-playing, ungrateful crush from Madoka Magica.

  2. The whole “frail girl” archetype never really appealed to me, I guess I just never saw anything interesting besides “oh, she coughs every now and then.”

    But then I watched Hantsuki.

    1. Yeah, me neither…I wonder if there’s some cultural barrier there…

      I do like Nagisa from Clannad, however – but that’s more related to her personality and her devotion to Tomoya than her frail health.

  3. I’m glad you’re doing better! I hadn’t even read that “Pain, Prayers, and Posts” post until just now – I’ll keep you in my prayers.

    I’ve thought for a long time that anime hospitals seem to hold onto their patients much longer than necessary. Anime hospitals never run out of room, and they never seem to cost more than a character’s family can handle. Doesn’t seem very realistic, but then again… it’s anime. If it were very realistic, I wouldn’t be watching it in the first place.

    1. Anime? Unrealistic? Nahh… 😛

      It’s funny how hospitalization seems to be a cozy and warm thing in anime. I think that maybe like school, it’s presented in a way we want to see it…which is pretty much fine with me.

  4. Glad to hear you are out and about again. 🙂

    “Since we know that everything we see in anime accurately represents Japanese culture”
    Surely that wasn’t sarcasm though? I’m pretty sure anime is pretty reflective of Japan. I mean, Lucky Star uses realistic place settings and their I’m quite sure it was based on real life high school girls.

    1. Thanks. 🙂

      I’m sure any media is somewhat reflective of the culture it represents, but certainly much is exaggerated or otherwise changed for entertainment purposes. For instance, Glee is only somewhat like the high school experience for some and Grey’s Anatomy is only somewhat like how a real hospital works.

  5. It’s good to hear you’re feeling better!
    It’s interesting because I’ve been watching Kanon, and a character says something like:”Nobody is crazy enough not to dislike Hospitals” and yet, they appear in anime so much XD

  6. Here’s hoping the good health lasts for awhile! Was going to say something else, but everything that I wanted to say was already taken. Man, we have so few stock “Get better and stay better!” phrases…
    Anyway, I’ve actually never had problems at hospitals. I’ve never been on the receiving end of the care, but I’ve visited a few times for family and the like. Maybe it’s just the hospital that we go to, but everyone is incredibly courteous, given what I assume is quite a hectic schedule. Glad to hear your stay was relatively uneventful.

    I never noticed until now just how ubiquitous anime hospital stays are. Huh.

    1. Thanks for the well wishes. 🙂

      Yeah, I agree – the people are pretty courteous given the hectic schedule. Certainly, the more difficult things are, the more the staff is effected. Nurses and others in the ER were considerably less considerate than in the quiet floor I was later sent to.

  7. You know, I noticed something with regards to anime hospitals. Whenever theres an emergency, they wheel the paitent in the room, slam the doors, and a big red lighted sign comes on…I always thought that was the weirdest thing for some reason.

    In any case, I’m glad to hear you’re on the mend! Did you wear a straw hat while you were coalescing? 😛

    1. Oh yes! That definitely comes up again and again. I immediately think of Evangelion, but certainly other shows feature this as well.

      Haha, no straw hat. Just messy matted hair. 😛

      1. I remember watching an anime where this woman was going into labor, and they had to bring her into the maternity ward…the red light was there too! I mean, they may as well etch a sign on the light “BIRTH IN PROGRESS”.

  8. I’m really glad to hear you’re doing better! And this post just made me realize just how prevalent the “boy/girl in a hospital bed” trope really is in anime…

  9. I am glad to hear that you recovered and walked away from the hospital bed as a man spiritually richer. It is always fascinating hearing the patient’s perspective. From my experience, hospital brings out the best and the worst in people, so watching scenes in the health care facility has always been interesting to me. That, and rafing over how the anime got the IV needle all wrong and that the tretment is inappropriate for that symptom.

  10. It’s great to hear that you’re back on your feet! 🙂

    I agree, it’s a pretty common thing in anime. The people are usually cozy and look fine. Since it is so common, I usually don’t fall for that trick, but there are few that get me. Otonashi’s little sister in Angel Beats! actually left me feeling empathetic, and the mother in Kodomo no Jikan was a great representation – the final images before her death really hit me. They captured her last few moments battling (and losing) to cancer. She was pail, thin, tired looking, and her hair was left in tuffs from chemo. I guess when it’s realistic or you know people with similar disease/injuries/etc, you get more emotionally attached to the character. When they seem distant and well (which I understand some people are feeling great though they are dieing), like in Hanbun no Tsuki ga Noboru Sora (well, it’s only 6 episodes, too…), you look at them as what they are – a fictional, non-responsive character.

    I also agree that you can get really, let’s say, self-absorbed, while in the hospital. I mean, you’re the one who’s sick and hurting, right? Shouldn’t the people who chose this job, who are healthy, be happy to do whatever they can for you? In a way, yes, but they are only human. Having been hospitalized for long periods since I was 3, I can remember numerous times when I’ve been so selfish. When you’re a little kid and all you want to do is sleep or go outside, I can understand how hard it is for you when all doctors do is ask you questions and stick needles in you, and how selfishly you might behave. Patients have a right to do so — it feels terrible to just sit in bed having no control what you do or how you get treated (much less understand how). As I’ve grown, I’ve come to empathize more with the workers, too. They work day in and day out to help people. They’re tired and constantly worrying about patients and have to react appropriately to every scenario that might happen. They might have one patient who is on their deathbed and acts calmly and sweetly, and another in who had a heart attack and is grumpy and defensive. Everybody’s human, and everybody is going to react differently.

    Just a few years ago, I used to complain and lash out, wondering why I deserved this. What had I done wrong? Why was God doing this? It’s funny, because when bad things happen, we ask, “What did I do to deserve this terrible fate?”, but when we are blessed with a good day and wonderful people, we never ask God, “What did I do to deserve this great fortune?” We are selfish and don’t think about the people who have it worse. And, like you said, we don’t think about the people who love us and have to watch us go through everything. Now, I’m very patient with new nurses who keep hitting the wrong vein with a needle, and laugh off things like I don’t mind. Everything is routine, everything is fine, nothing hurts too much. For all I know, one of the nurses treating me has a disease themselves, or have lost a child, or is waiting for a grandparent to die after long months in hospice. The best we can do is smile and make it easier on everybody. 🙂

    ……Sorry. I got a bit off topic and went on (as usual). ^^; Anyway, great post!

    1. Oh no, thanks for going off-topic! Wonderful words of wisdom, as usual. 😉

      Thanks for sharing about your personal experiences. I can’t imagine having to go through hospitalization as a child – the experience is hard enough as an adult! It’s wonderful that you’ve reversed your attitude as you’ve grown and matured. I think one point you hit on that I try to think of (but usually fail to do) is that the person on the other side is, well, a person. He or she may have difficult circumstances going on that I’m not privy to. Empathy is something most of us want to have, many of us claim to have, but few of us really display.

  11. Good to hear that you’re feeling better. I wish for your continued good health as well.

    As for your post, that’s quite an interesting viewpoint. I haven’t really noticed this much in the anime I’ve watched (which unfortunately, are very few), but I think you could put it down to cultural differences.

    However, I’m a bit sceptical that anime accurately reflects Japanese culture, especially its lesser-known or darker aspects. I tend to view everything I watch with a pinch of salt so I make sure to research and understand an aspect of the culture before I accept it as truthful. Of course, there are lapses, but I try to be as accurate as possible to the truth.

    Anyway, before I end this, I’d like to say that one person will never understand another unless he/she has walked a few hundred miles in their shoes. Keep up the nice writing. =)

    1. Thanks for the kinds words (and the proverb). I appreciate the encouragement and wise words. 🙂

      I should have pointed out better in my writing that I was being sarcastic…you’re not the first to spot this. i definitely do not feel that anime is entirely accurate of Japan – if anything, I think we find more accuracy when digging deeper an analyzing anime than in the surface material we see.

      1. No problem. You were? Oh, that’s ok, no harm done. I’d like to correct some of my words as well, I actually should’ve written ‘never fully understand’. It’s easy to understand a person somewhat, but fully? I think that takes a little effort.

        That makes sense though, but when I start watching something, my mind usually turns off for a while. I feel that it’s kind of hard to think deeply while watching something which you regard as mainly entertainment. I could rewatch the episode with the aim of analyzing it though,,,

        How do you watch anime then?

        1. I’m a little like you. Generally, I avoid thinking too deeply about an anime episode (unless it specifically invites me to by its writing, style, etc.). After I finish it, however, I think more deeply about the show – was there something I missed that was important? What actually happened in this episode and what role do these events play in the series? And most importantly for me and this blog, are there spiritual themes that I detect in the episode that might be beneficial for me to think on/write about?

          1. Hm…I see. Part of the reason I want to start writing is because I don’t want to just ape other people’s opinion on an anime. It’s kinda hard and confusing though, since I’ve already made a habit of doing so and most of my opinions overlap with those of others. But, I’ll keep trying anyway. Thanks for the replies, they gave me something to think about.

            1. It’s hard to be original. Except for the central concept of this blog, a lot of what I write really isn’t original. Particularly when I first started, the writing I put out there was neither very interesting nor creative. But as you go along, your voice develops more and more, and with it, you find ways of saying things that are interesting and unique. And that’s often where creativity comes in – your opinions might mirror others, but it’s in how you present them.

              1. I see…Thanks (again) for all the tips there, I’ll keep on writing until I find my voice. =)

  12. Such a personal and touching post. I really pray everything’s going well with your health and recovery. ^ ^

    Anyway, yea, while the idea of the clean, quiet atmosphere in hospitals may be charming, I could never get into it, especially understanding just slightly what it may mean to have to be there.

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Yi. I consider any compliment from you in regards to blogging to be worth its weight in gold.

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