When Himouto! Umaru-chan aired, thousands of anime fans immediately reposted gifs and images with the simple caption, “me.” So many of us saw ourselves in Umaru, a young woman who became as slovenly and nerdy as could be when she came home from school. But there’s another layer, too – Umaru presented the perfect opportunity for to do the social media humble brag. “I’m just like Umaru haha” indicated a hedonistic, lazy home life, but the inference was also that, when I’m on, I’m on. After all, Umaru is smart, athletic, and popular. It’s a badge of honor to be like Umaru – we can embrace our sloppy selves while also knowing that we’re something special.
I watched a few episodes here and there, but am only now making my way through the entire series. Two years later after it premiered, I can finally join in and say, yes, I’m like Umaru, too, humble brag and all. But maybe it’s not bragging, because the truth is that neither part of myself (the got-it-all-together public persona nor the be-my-real-self home body) is the person I want to be. I want to be someone in between – and someone who’s neither.
Growing up, I was like “school Umaru” in that I excelled in the classroom. But we also both put up appearances that hid our true selves. I found so much value in my academic achievements that I wanted to be appreciated for it, admired for how smart I apparently was. But even further, I just didn’t want to be exposed – I didn’t want people to know that I wasn’t as intelligent as my grades made me seem. I didn’t want them to know that I stole and lie and deceived all the time. I didn’t want them to see that I was just another boy trying to manipulate girls, like every other dude I knew. Umaru-chan’s appearance is even more difficult to shoulder – she has beauty, athleticism, and popularity, to boot. That’s a lot to flush away if some random person were to pick her out at an arcade.
It’s strange that I was so conscientious about my appearance because I also totally justified my inner self. I defended how I deceived others, how I treated women, and everything else I did that now makes me cringe. Umaru’s actions are similarly not-so-good. She often deceivers her brother, for instance, to her benefit. Both Umaru and myself occasionally feel bad about our actions, but that didn’t stop either of us from reveling in them. Pleasure outweighed compassion.
It was not a good place to be in. As much as I enjoyed watching Excel Saga while munching down on Wendy’s and drink Sunkist, all the while selfishly prioritizing myself and asking a masquerade in front of all my friends, there came a point where I had to face the fact that I was absolutely a child. I admit, it took me a long time. And the process away from being an Umaru-chan is still a work in progress.
As I grew in my faith, though, I progressed, turning away from these two sides of Umaru-chan. But like flipping a piece of paper, I turned in both directions – I showed my inner being more often, though my inner being became less about me and more genuinely about others. I also became a more sincere person, decompartmentalizing myself and being who I am wherever I am. And as I become a more Christlike person, that sincere self is more excellent, more like the appearance Umaru sets for herself or that I did in school, but in some ways, even better as it’s tinged with mercy and kindness and love.
Here on Beneath the Tangles, you may see me admit to lots and lots of vices, both past and present. It’s my way of trying to connect with you, of being that guy who doesn’t switch on “school Umaru” when he’s writing, but is who he is no matter the circumstances. I hope that in doing so, I’ll be able to face the issues that prevent me from becoming the man I intend to be – and maybe, if I’m connecting well enough, help you also to challenge yourself to become more than who you are right now.