“Should Anime Have a Message?”

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Anime fans have lately been discussing whether anime should have a “message,” with the general sentiment apparently being that it is better off without it.

The exchange:

“Do you lot think anime should have a message? If it’s pushy then I’d rather it didn’t…”

“Who cares if it’s good.”

“They usually get too preachy. Whether it makes any impression depends on the viewer.”

“Any kind of title has a message. It’s something someone made, after all.”

“I hate messages. I preferred the very first Gundam. Anime is for entertainment so it’s no good to lose sight of that.”

“I prefer it to have a message, but it must still be entertaining first and foremost.”

“Viewers may like a message, but the makers must remember making it entertaining is their top priority.”

“Ones which leave you with a message to think about after finishing are good. Without a message it is just empty.”

“Real drama does leave you with a message. This is what’s so good about Madocchi – it has a formal tale of spiritual growth, and the fun parts too.”

“As far as messages go, the ones in TV commercials are enough for me.”

“Eroge anime may have messages but they still just cause you to droop. If people like that sort of thing, let them.”

“Lately there are anime which deliberately quash their message element, like Geass – it seems interest in them wanes a bit faster that way.”

“Does Madoka have a message?”

“‘Life isn’t that soft’ or something like that I think.”

“Madoka’s message is ‘Don’t love anyone’ or some such.”

“Anime is more entertainment than art. It doesn’t need to have any message. That said, it’s probably best not to have  them promoting the depraved.”

“Right, those who feel a message can pick it up and appreciate it, others can just enjoy the show.”

It is interesting to speculate as to how closely the “message” and “no message” camps correspond to the so-called Type A and Type B otaku factions

 

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159 Comments

  • Anime doesn’t need a message forced into it but it does need a plot. I think many people here are confusing plot with message. They are two different things. I think forced messages will ruin the anime’s characters and plot. All an anime needs is good entertaining characters and a damn good plot. By trying to ad some moralistic message to it you’ll ruin an anime.

    There has only been one anime in history that has been successful with having an intentional message and that was Evangelion TV that aired back in 1995. And barely passed mustered anyway since with some viewers its as hit or miss series on whether you enjoy it or not. Messages don’t belong in anime but plot does.

  • Anonymous says:

    message? guys…anime is an industry,a profit, it’s not an form of art anymore,only a few anime outhere deserves even being called themselves anime, there’s lot’s of perversion out there, hell no I won’t allow my kid watch any sort of anime I don’t know about.

  • Anonymous says:

    A message is the back bone of a good story. I don’t think anime having a message is the problem. I think the problem is if anime has a message, it’s always a message that punches you in the gut, kicks you when your down, and walks away.

  • Anonymous says:

    The most important thing is to focus on telling the story. If a message emerges as a natural by-product of the story’s progression, then that’s fine. In fact, people can often interpret several different messages from a well-told story.

    Problems arise when people clumsily shoehorn a message into a story (or draw way too much attention to an existing message) out of some weird need on the part of the writers (or whoever’s calling the shots) to explicitly have one.

    Think of it this way: People usually don’t give active thought towards how they breathe and walk during everyday life. It just happens, even when you’re not thinking about it.
    In other words, you shouldn’t actively *try* to have a message while you’re writing a story. The message will emerge on its own.

  • I have no issues with anime having “messages’, of course it depends on what we mean by ‘messages’ eh.

    I am currently enjoying Shugo Chara, which I consider about the most ‘positive’ themed anime I have ever watched. It’s nice that some shows can be built around a good premise.

    But you can find personal ‘messages’ in anything, film, tv shows, books any form of communicative media.

    I’m not of course talking about intrusive crap like those tacky “Sailor Moon say’s add ons they dumped on the badly mangled English dubs.

    I have found though, even the most unlikely shows can have hidden worth in some sequences. It’s hard to avoid after all, you are getting the values of life as seen through the feelings of the people making the shows in the same way an author will impart their attitudes through their writing.

    So there is little point fussing over anime having a ‘meaning’ as it is unavoidable. The viewer will see personal meaning in all sorts of things, whether it was planned that way or not.

  • Messages are all fine and good, assuming it wont be pseudo-philosophical point of view of some geezer tending to over-think some things.

    Like that show “His and Her Circumstances”
    Would be more manageable if not the annoying attempt to express deeps and the meaning of love, from the narrators side. Ultimately, made it a single long and boring preach.

  • Anonymous says:

    Let’s not forgot important lessons about radiation and how it causes annoying diarrhea which others have to clean up then…

    When, exactly, did Japan start to go fully retarded…

  • Anyone remember when cartoons suddenly started having clumsy messages about conserving the environment? I didn’t realize at the time, but the actual message I walked away with was, “there is a douchebag from corporate telling us writers to put stupid messages about ‘green this’ and ‘recycle that’ in your show.”

    If you’re not going to be subtle about it, don’t bother. Half the time, your audience is going to make up their own morals or justifications anyway.

    • Anonymous says:

      I first started noticing them back in the 80s (e.g. He-Man).
      I think it was started by nut-job pressure groups.

      “These cartoons are just mindless violence. Add some wholesome family values messages, or we’ll whine to Congress and have your productions banned.”

      The irony was that the episodes did have messages and all the company did was have one of the characters explicitly state them (at the end) so that the morons could understand them.

      lehnerus2000

  • Anonymous says:

    I don’t think anime HAS to have a message, but if it has a great story that happens to say something insightful or interesting, that’s always a plus. Blatant preachy stuff is always bad, and it’s definitely possible to be both entertaining and immersive without being didactic.

    I feel like being something that a viewer can relate to or have an emotional connection with is better than having a message.

  • Anonymous says:

    You don’t need to get preachy with a message to tell a good story, however, the illustrating the consequences of heeding or ignoring a message can help make a good story.

    Code Geass has nothing helpful to say about the War on Terror, however it does give us an interesting perspective and a compelling story by putting us on the side of the terrorists.

    Gundam, on the other hand, always gets very preachy. What makes the show compelling is the irony that none of the characters listen to that message.

  • To quote a cartoon done by a North American animation studio in the 70’s (cartoon’s called The Point): “You don’t have to have a point to have a point.”
    Each anime’s existence is its own point in and of itself (“Watch me! I’m entertaining and here for your entertainment!”). All other points it may contain must be secondary to, and supportive of, that main point.

  • I said in an earlier post Japan should re-vitalize it’s Manga/Anime market by returning to the “Pulps”.

    And classic American “Pulp” magazines were what inspired Japan’s later Manga comics scene. Americans traveling way back before the war carried these things with them, Argosy, Blue Book (technically a “Slick”), Analog, Weird tales, Weird detective, etc. The war caused a stoppage of them, though plenty of GIs had them, but after the war they came back.

    Pulp literature, because it’s told in a direct and “Cinematic” style, is very easy for a non-native English speaker to grasp.

    And, what is pulp?

    It’s escapist fiction set in desperate times, but despite that every bit about the world as we want. Adventure, justice, fantasy. It’s chiefly MALE, two fisted tales of men fighting their way through an unjust world to force their own justice on it, or slashing swords to tread the jeweled thrones of earth neath sandalled feet or people exploring the weird supernatural that exists on the edge of reality. Manga is VERY pulp. Detectives and vigilante avengers solve crimes. Soldiers fight through battles. Brave explorers save pretty ladies from filed teeth cannibals.

    The problem with Manga is it’s getting too abstract or too vacant. And, over time, the “PC” takes over and the companies just want more “Product” but the less “Substance” the better. “Substance” = re-hashing and feeding off of past “Successful Product” but any “Innovation/risk/challenge” is avoided. The stories become so vapid the Quasi-pederasty of “Moe” is actually an “Innovation” in that case. The “Heroes” tend to be completely unmotivated people who only end up doing things “Heroic” caught up in the path of the villain who’s the only person with any real ideals. While the innocent hero in the path of the villain shouldn’t necessarily be a taboo topic, it’d be better if they at least had something going for them.

    I’d suggest some reading of good Pulp era stuff, like “The Spider; Master or Men”, various Weird Tales, detective, fantasy and so forth.

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree with most of what you say, despite not understanding a few of the words you used. 😛 Pederasty? *flips open a dictionary*

      But I get your point, and I too would like to see more of this. Cowboy bebop I would class as a good example of a well told story, with a firm, believable main character, with his own understandable agenda. 😛 Things in the industry are far too dumbed down nowadays, whether its to draw in the masses or connect with less understanding customers, whatever. We need more masterpieces!

    • Anonymous says:

      A return to great pulp writing would be nice.

      However, not all pulp writing was great.

      I would be happy if some writers managed to get some good stories out to audiences, by whatever means were available.

      Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei was weak on plot, but big on ideas – I would be happy to see more writing in that vein.

  • Anonymous says:

    answer to title: NO

    why do you need to learn family values or some dumb crap from your entertainment? i’ve seen shows like that, they suck! keep it out of my anime unless its relevant to the story. in which case, the story most likely sucks, and i will be watching something else.

  • Anonymous says:

    “I hate messages. I preferred the very first Gundam. Anime is for entertainment so it’s no good to lose sight of that.”

    You fucking serious? The original Gundam was written in influence of the cold war during the late 70s. It was a portrayal of communism and US imperialism/capitalism.

  • Anonymous says:

    Actually anime usually has secret messages within it but its up the viewer to realize it and sadly not many are smart enough recognize it.

    I say “YES” but its not as if its anything new. The only thing they can do is kinda dumb it down but why should they short change their creativity? Keep it as….

    FUCK CENSORSHIP

  • For me, the one quality that I think is most important for an Anime possess is the ability to entertain. Seriously, many people are forgetting this. Sure you can have a preachy message, convoluted plot or revolutionary concepts. But if it doesn’t entertain, it is all for naught.

    I mean, lest we forget, we watch Anime as a form of entertainment.

    This is why I like any Anime that can entertain me. From Slice-of-life comedies to those that make me sit up and think about it after.

  • It shouldn’t have to have a message – keep it as free as possible – but to be good it should at least have some meaning as a work. The ratio of art to commerce is going way down these days, even if it means there’s a lot of anime to choose from. Too much stuff is being made purely to sell more than as a piece of art. There are still great titles of course, but the sameness of most of the pandering moe stuff is a bit stifling. I even say that as a fan of that kind of thing generally…

  • Anonymous says:

    Doesn’t matter really… being well done, and having a considerable set of unique content is enough.
    Messages are good. Preaching is crap.
    You can watch something expecting to be entertained only, or to learn something from it.
    For me, what animes must keep doing is what they already do: Releasing some exceptional titles to attend both expectations.

  • Nindotaku says:

    Nearly all anime and fantasy (and fiction) have a…’so what if this was possible…’ kind of setting but i dun think that quite qualifies as a message…

    epic quotes are sometimes encouraging and can be models on how to lead ur life ^^

    anime and the messages it carried…made me question the world can overall gained a better understanding of it.

    I would vote for messages cuz there are different people who’s lives can be inspired by different messages…while the rest (who the msg doesn’t touch) can still enjoy it.

    As long as its not overly preachy…learning the same msg from watching anime is far more entertaining than any religion. +1 for otaku-ism and otaku-ists XD

  • Is it even possible to write a story without a message? People who don’t like anime with a strong message probably feel guilty or uncomfortable about something in their own lives and the anime just made them realize it.

  • Anonymous says:

    No! Anime should not have a message, or it turns out preachy crap like Arunja. Anime SHOULD HAVE A PLOT — something more than you know, cute girls going to high school and eating cake.

  • Anonymous says:

    Messages are in most anime. I can’t count the amount of shows I’ve watched that preach friendship. I’m pretty sick of seeing those types of anime, even if some did turn out pretty good. Noone needs a cartoon to teach them how to respect their friends, and if they do, they don’t know what real friends are.

    Other messages I think are important though, like Air TV. A big message I saw in that was ‘Don’t take the time you spend with people you love for granted’. A bit preachy, but done right it can make a good anime.

  • Anonymous says:

    I’m sorry, when I think of Anime with messages, I think about the complexity of Ghost in the Shell, the hundreds of subtle messages in Cowboy Bebop, and the whole “teamwork makes everything better” mechanic in every sports anime even though they’re all carried by the main character.

  • Anonymous says:

    If an anime wants to send out a message, it has to be in a way that you know has to definitely fit well with the theme that goes along with the story. It depends really. Anime is entertainment, but if the creators decides to, they can make their anime be entertaining with an intresting message that people will catch on too. I think pulling that off is a bit hard, but if someone wants to do it, it’s up to them.

  • Anonymous says:

    I have to vote for no, and here’s why.

    My first college writing teacher gave me the best advice I have heard in my life: “write what you want, not what you know”.

    When you write about what you want, you fill it with ideas and beliefs that belong to you, and perceptions which no one else has on the subject.

    When you write about what you know you often use other’s work as an example or template, the work is no longer your own but instead and amalgamation of things that others have taught you.

    If you were to go into writing, with the goal of conveying a particular message, you’ll be engaging the logical/factual side of your brain. All hope of creativity just flies out the window when you allow that to go on for too long.

  • “Should anime have a message?”

    Stupid question; it’s hard not to. Only simple SoL/comedy will just chill out for twelve episodes straight and never say anything.

    “Should anime force their message?”

    No. There are a few who need to push it because that’s the point. Otherwise, it’s just gonna be labeled pretentious and such. Do artists hit ‘pause’ and make people wait so they can elaborate on the subtle meanings of their piece? Everyone would think he’s a fucking asshole.

    Let your work stand for what it’s supposed to be, and let viewers decide what the message was.

  • Anonymous says:

    Enlighten me, o wise ones.

    …Does Excel Saga have a message of any sort? Does it need one at all?
    A message is an element that might or might not be present, just like so many others, like comedy, or romance, or drama, or horror. It isn’t needed, it is something that is used to polish the quality of the show, and it might make it better if used correctly. That’s it.

  • This question is pretty subjective tbh. Most of the anime I watched, whether it’s a plotty one or just a simple hang-around type of show, tend to naturally have their own message implanted in themselves that you don’t need the characters to keep on repeating the same tagline to remind you (Yes, I’m talking about Black Cat’s “This is the way of The Sweeper” forced catchphrase.) its message in an annoying way.

    All I can say is just don’t force it so much into the show that they’ll make you think you’re watching a motivational children’s morning cartoon telling you to take your vitamins. That’s basically the reason why I refuse to continue my dream of working as a local animator because the animation industry in my country keeps on telling us starters to make nothing other than crappy designed characters and ugly bald babies telling children to be good.

  • A good story can be wrecked by trying to force a message.

    Rideback was a perfect example. It woulda been a great racing anime. It might have been a good war anime. But because they flipped speeds four episodes in its an anime about how to avenge your friends by ballet dancing your way past sentient killer robots and I have no idea why the fuck that was important to know because the entire plot has lost coherence and taken my sanity with it.

  • Anonymous says:

    Yes, sometimes an anime which just seems average becomes a masterpiece with the right message planted at the right moment. A good example is the message found at the end of part II & III, of the first story arc of Gall Force.

  • Anonymous says:

    Animes have to have a message, the same amount normal movies or tv productions have to.
    Take any shonen anime: Always improve, never give up, your friends are the most important things so care for them.

    So.. which message is carried by Navy C.i.s ? or Too fast to furious ?…
    As long as it is entertaining, most people dont care anyway.

  • “We need stories as much as bread itself, they teach us how to live and why”… From the Arabian Nights.

    Frankly a story without a message is “Pornography” at best. Might not have some cute lady being smacked in the face and f-cked and shocked with electricity to make the mighty reptile excited, but it’s no better than such literature.

    A real story is more than this fictional event happened. That’s the body, the soul is the message.

    Modern entertainment is the antithesis of this. All that art, talent, writing going into stuff that’s nothing but pure and ultimately mindless “Entertainment”. I blame Disney, though it certainly would have happened without them. They used to say to someone who was out of it; “Didn’t ya listen when yer mommy told ya fairy tales?!” and now it’s “Do you still believe in fairy tales!?” They had to have the little mermaid LIVE, happily ever afters, etc.

    And, when a producer just “Throws money at it” and leaves the writer/director/artists alone and they make something unique… Well, they capitalize off the wild success it has, but they they endeavor to RUIN it with further “Sequels” deliberately lamed out. The original Arnie “Conan” is a prime example of this.

    They could have just said; “Good show, here’s more money for more movies” and it’d be beyond words. No, they meddle and lame out and lobotomize it. They want to make sure the entertainment for the masses doesn’t challenge, inspire, educate or anything. Just a waste of TIME in exchange for giving up MONEY…

    I’ve said it earlier, and I’ll extrapolate later;
    Anime should go to a “NeoPulp” era.

  • Anonymous says:

    Don’t let the message get in the way. That’s why the Ghost in the Shell movies suck dick. Oshii delivered his message, as the expense of making the characters 1 dimensional, and removing all redeeming characteristics.

  • Anime should have a [i]massage[/i].

    Anyway, it should have a story. Good one. I’ll make my own conclusions out of it. Whether my conclusions are equal to those in author’s message or not… who cares? When author done with his creation it is now floating on it’s own.

    [unrelated: I wonder, where should I complain that Sankaku Channel turn J interface for me every time I open it for the 1st time. And yes I clicked English. Next time I go there is is still Japanese %)]

  • Anonymous says:

    I think it’s good for anime to have a message, but it’s fine if it’s just entertainment, too.

    I still think that stuff that’s just mindless pandering fanservice is shit, though.

    • Shippoyasha says:

      On a slightly more serious note, the reason why Madoka exists is simple.

      You see all those girls making contracts with otherworldly beings, interdimensional avatars that looks like teddy bears or even goddesses of multiverses and I think it’s post modern look at just how serious that kind of a contract is. That if taken at any kind of serious light, girls would get killed, and bad, world shattering intergalactics would happen. I’m pretty sure that at this point, most Precure at their highest power could destroy most galaxies. XD

      • Anonymous says:

        Not the same anon, but most anything has a message in it if you look in the right place. Take south park for example. Of course this is balanced by scroty mc boogerballs…

        You don’t need a message in anime, but seriously, if they go out of their way to not have a message that approachs The Adventures of Sonic The Hedgehog, where they decided since they had no message they’d shoehorn one in at the end via sonic sez.

        • Anonymous says:

          @Diemeow23 : The thing is, the disney stories that don’t suck are always those that were stolen by the Americans like Snow white or the Lion King, they were never created by the Americans to begin with but just stolen to rip off the peoples money.

          The Americans can never do anything creative(just look at the stupid looney tunes or Animaniacs or Tex Avery and the whole other shit. Even things like Scooby Doo make you ask yourself why you watched them after you’ve seen Case closed(Meitantei Conan)/Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro or Spiral because the cases (in Scooby Doo)sucked and weren’t anything near to suspense/horror at all).

          Well, it’s not surprising,though,because many Americans are stupid and stupidly patriotic to say: “All that’s not American is not worth enough to watch it or to see it as a role model to enhance ourselves” and keep doing the same crap over and over (not surprising thoungh,because their genes derive from people who were kicked out of their home country (the socalled “Purigans”) because they were a stupid sect and millions of people that were either prosecuted because they were criminals or betrayed their homecountry when the times were hard and fled to an easier lifestyle,from latetime slavedrivers and Black Slaves from Africa; that tried to exterminate the indigenous Americans(the Indian tribes) to gain control over the whole land and started wars with Europe although they never did drop a single Bomb on America).

          They have inherited all the scumgenes from all around the world so it’s not surprising that the outcome is the way it is and that they can’t do any better than this…

        • Diemeow23 says:

          @12:58

          I think him being able to kind of able to quote that was just coincidence I don’t really think he was trying.

          Heck that’s the first time I’ve heard that!

          Maybe I’m just not Literary enough(or something)

        • Diemeow23 says:

          @12:41

          I totally agree, that’s what I love so much about so much about anime! It gave the medium of animation more meaning instead of the american way where they thought that meaningless and endless repetitions of adventures and jokes could go on forever(of course with a tiny variety. Man! did Evangelion ever gave them a scare in 1995 when it came out ).

          People found this out the hard way when it didn’t exist people only stuck to American cartoons or comics but when anime and manga came, they wanted nothing less, ironic isn’t it!? Of course American animated show had their exceptions like a lot of disney’s works but in the end they were never as complicated, diverse(or arousing) as anime came to be.

          To idiots who can’t get the plot’s or even just appreciate them just stick to Dora the Explorer and have a stupid mouse cursor to point you to the answers! Erotic or Not, Plot filled or just Slice of Life one thing is for sure anime was never intended for actual retards!

        • Anonymous says:

          I don’t think that anime needs to have a forced message since the anime itself IS the message.

          Its just whiners that bitch since they are too dumb to connect the dots. Go watch Barney and Sesame street instead, idiots.

          If they would put these obvious messages in anime, it would bend the personalities of the characters just to “SHOW” the message to dumbfucks who needs to be spoonfed information (unless its for kids, or a disney show)

  • Anonymous says:

    Yes and no.

    My favourite anime and show of all time will be Cowboy Bebop – entertaining and with message.
    It had some episodes that were purely entertaining but it also had some delivering the message. And I agree with every conclusion that this anime delivered.
    “Life is just a dream, you know”, nuff said.

    But still, in these episodes with message, it also provided a very high value of entertainment. The perfect show and a pinacle of japanese animated art. Peroid.

    Still, I like to watch “dumb” stuff like Nichijou or Mitsudomoe – it’s very entertaining. Dumb, it’s true, but it’s perfect for a night time show after all day of work/studying.

    All in all, japanese animation, anime, is the most versitile form of art or entertainment – everybody can find his own niche in it.

  • I rather like anime for not carrying a particular message. Lately it seems all western media has to have some kind of message or metaphor or allegory or whatever, and sometimes I just want to enjoy a work for the work without a message muddying things up. Unless it’s very careful, trying to shoehorn a message in can end up screwing up the actual work–hell, look at Family Guy since they started stuffing in liberal political messages, or South Park when they started stuffing in conservative libertarian ones. American Dad also improved greatly when they took these messages OUT of the show.

    Some shows can have them if they want, but as a whole I’d rather they kept these messages out. Unless they’re very broad philosophical ones they can date the show, and navel contemplation has only really worked well in a few shows.

  • Of course it should have a message, its not mandatory, but it makes the anime to go from being just entertainment to being something than make us grow up as persons. If Gurren Lagann wouldn’t had that message of believing in yourself and fighting till the end, i think it would have been a pretty damn boring and pointless anime. An anime with a Message can inspire you and cheer you up when you’r down, my dream is to someday make an anime (or a cartoon since im not japanesse) that will inspire people and help them go on with their lives even in the hardest moments.

  • Anonymous says:

    The funny thing is, Madoka has the whole “be careful what you wish for” message throughout… and it’s one of the best anime I’ve seen in years.

    Furthermore, I’d have to agree with a lot of those posters – it’s all well and good if an anime has an overarching message/moral; but not when it’s overly preachy.

  • Anonymous says:

    You’ll find that good animes leave you with stuff to think about after the anime has finished… this is what makes them memorable. Without that, you forget about it easily… If you forget about it quickly is it really able to be considered a good anime?

    Note, stuff to think about after doesn’t mean a message… just stuff to wonder/think about…

  • I say yes but is is mandatory no. Every so often i d indeed crave what i term a bon bon series which is basically just something comfy and mindnumbingly fun/cheesy/romantic or what have you. So yeah i’m a bit in both camps.

  • Anonymous says:

    This is just stupid. A message? Really? Maybe get anime to tell a fucking story competently, without involving a series of lame, tear-jerking wham moments. Face it: only a few anime fans actually care about sentiment or realism.

    I hear all the time that anime fans are “aging” but they sure as hell don’t care if anime ages with them. And the kids couldn’t care less about depth. And you know what? Most anime fans are kids.

    They just want fanservice, childish melodrama, and faux-profoundness. Give them Angel Beats – that shit’s entertaining. Fuck Bokurano, that’s too involved.. they’ll just call it “pretentious” and get back to re-runs of Shana.

    Give them Bakemonogatari anyday – that’s the ideal romance. But Spice and Wolf is fucking boring because it’s not about love at first sight.

    Give them little girls being tortured by an unsympathetic alien. As long as they look cool and can pull a victory out of their asses, it’ll be the best show in the history of everything.

    Anime is NOT about being meaningful or insightful. It’s about entertainment, and how many DVDs, pillows and figurines you can sell. And that’s how the fans want it.

    • Anonymous says:

      ‘Anime is NOT about being meaningful or insightful. It’s about entertainment, and how many DVDs, pillows and figurines you can sell. And that’s how the fans want it.’

      [Screen goes black and white; face turns with high contrast]

      I’m in despair! This world of anime without a meaningful insight has left me in despair!