A pitfall I fell into during junior high school was making tenuous and superficial friendships based on my concentrated efforts to fit in with my classmates. This would come back to haunt me my second year when I missed nearly two months of school due to illness. Keeping up my studies by sending in homework and reading the textbooks at home, I did not fall too far behind in schoolwork. This was fortunate, as it meant that I could go back to school once I had wholly recovered instead of continuing to wander around the house, lonely.
The night before returning to school, I dreamed of how my reintroduction would go. I would command attention as soon as I walked into the classroom. Everyone would be concerned about my welfare, asking me where I’d been and if I was okay. In these delusions, I somehow forgot that I was a self-centered junior high school student who had not opened up to anyone prior to falling ill.
While preparing to attend school for the first time, Hime Shirayuki (HappinessCharge Precure!) imagines herself easily making 100 friends. This dream is wholeheartedly supported by the one friend she has managed to make thus far, Megumi Aino, and Hime sets out for her first day with this specific goal in mind. Her confidence begins to waver when she sees just how many people there are at Public Pikarigaoka Academy, and completely abandons her once Megumi’s friend Yuko Omori appears. Hime desperately wants to make friends, but remains terrified of most people and unwilling to open up herself. Like the junior high me, she wants all of the attention without any of the work or effort it takes to establish and maintain a friendship.
In her attempt at a classroom introduction, Hime falters. Her classmates grow enormous in size compared to her, and she runs out the door without properly introducing herself. Her teacher quickly retrieves Hime, ensuring the nervous student that her fellow students will not harm her with the class happily echoing this sentiment. They are naturally curious about Hime, and immediately flock to her desk to bombard her with questions at the earliest opportunity. This type of attention is what Hime had initially wished for, but without the inner confidence to interact with others she becomes overwhelmed and faints.
Hime’s introduction woes, and HappinessCharge‘s visual representation of them, calls to mind another series’ portrayal of social discomfort and fear. Tsuritama has the best depiction of social anxiety of any series in recent memory, with protagonist Yuki Sanada imagining that he is drowning when he is unable to navigate a social situation. It is sometimes assumed that if one is afraid and isolates themselves, they don’t want to make friends with others, when the opposite is actually true. Those with social anxiety will obsess over the most minute details of every social interaction, from imagining how specific situations will go beforehand – much like Hime’s preparation and delusions of 100 friends – to replaying social failures over and over in their minds. In Yuki’s case, his days appear to him when he lies down, visually represented by moving film.
Tsuritama makes it a point to replay various events in Yuki’s mind while he attempts to sort out his own thoughts and open up to other people. Through the course of the show and the activity of fishing, Yuki is finally able to express how he actually feels towards others, cementing his respective friendships with various characters in the series. This is book-ended visually in the final episode of the series, when Yuki calls on his inner film reel to put pieces of a larger puzzle together, saving his town in the process.
“I’m not doing my job properly and always rushing things through, so I can’t be open with other people.”
-Teacher, HappinessCharge Precure!, episode 4
Unable to deal with the social pressure of making just one friend in Yuko, Hime runs away to a storage shed where she encounters a teacher, also hiding from his own anxiety problems. The two lament how terrible the world is for them, while at the same time admitting that they both are attempting to take shortcuts without fully committing to overcoming their respective problems. The teacher feels isolated from his fellow staff, but concedes that he takes the easy way out while doing his work. Likewise, Hime dreams of having 100 friends, but is afraid to open herself up enough to simply talk to one person. Hime is additionally shown agonizing over an inability to properly thank Yuko for her gift of honey candy, citing it as a reason why she, as the warrior Cure Princess, must triumph over her fear. Although this is not as visually well-represented as Tsuritama‘s film reels in Yuki’s mind, HappinessCharge shows us that Hime is looking back on her social failures.
Hime’s nervousness, like Yuki’s, is not easily solved within one episode. Hime is shown continuing to struggle with getting to know Yuko, even after she offers Megumi’s friend her thanks. As Hime tells the teacher that she confided in, she is going to try to be more open and make friends one by one, instead of wishing for everything without putting in an equal amount of effort.
Naturally, my own first day back at school hardly resembled my selfish desires of pity and attention. My homeroom teacher did announce that I had returned, as I gave a bit of a weak wave and smile from my desk. Their eyes did not leave me for a few moments, perhaps expecting me to say something. Unable to come up with anything clever, or anything at all, I mumbled something about having to go to the bathroom and ran out of the classroom. I stayed hidden in a bathroom stall for the entirety of homeroom and first period. It took years for me to open myself up, and that first day back is something that I can still replay in my mind with vivid detail. Social anxiety is not something that is quickly solved, especially when the person in question is a junior high school student with limited social experience, like Hime. I look forward to Hime’s growth within HappinessCharge Precure! and hope that the series doesn’t abandon this rather true-to-life portrayal as it progresses.