When we think of mentors, we normally think of a wise older person, particularly in fiction. You know who I’m referring to, folks like Gandalf, Yoda and Iroh just to name three.
However, from my personal experience, my mentors have been my friends. Of course, I had teachers who taught me about my ABCs and the like but the ones who taught me about myself by introducing me to new ideas and helped shape my morals and beliefs were my friends. In my case, namely my best friend, Shiloh.
The perfect example of this world of anime would be Tamaki Suoh and Haruhi Fujioka from Ouran High School Host Club.
Two very different people from contrasting walks of life. From the start Tamaki takes Haruhi under his wing, teaching her the art of being a host, but by the end of the anime, Tamaki has learned more than his fair share from her as well.
This is what I like to call mutual mentorship. Both parties involved play both teacher and student. During the process, they not only learn about the world and each other but themselves.
First off let’s talk about Tamaki. He is an overly confident person who lives in ignorant bliss compared to Haruhi. He was born into wealth and for the most part, hasn’t had a lot of setbacks or hard moments.
After “persuading” Haruhi to join the Host Club he instantly tries to mould “him” into the perfect Host, only to discover that she is a girl. While he tries to encourage her to be more feminine he still persists in teaching her how to be a Gentleman and the ways of the rich.
Nonetheless, he starts to learn about the world outside of his rich bubble, in fact, he is fascinated by it. So much so he wants to learn more. As he does, he begins to understand Haruhi, why she is the way she is and he respects her for it.
I mean, the dude was so keen not to lose her to a rival school that he and the rest of the Host club donned full drag in an attempt to win her back.
Thanks to her he also learns how to keep a cool head, that he is more than what others believe him to be and matures over the course of the school year.
Haruhi, on the other hand, is a very independent person who is used to being alone. In fact, in later episodes its shown that she is independent to a fault, refusing to ask for help even when she needs it. Even putting herself in danger.
While at first, she finds Tamaki to be an obnoxious airhead after spending more time with him she sees another side to him. His compassion, his curiosity and well-meaning enthusiasm.
She learns to be more confident and open, she is taught to enjoy life and to not be afraid to ask for help. She doesn’t need to do everything by herself anymore, her friends are there for her, just like she is for them.
The first time the duo properly fought was when she ran into a dangerous situation to help her classmates only for her to get hurt.
Tamaki rushes to her aid and once he discovers she is alright he gets angry that she charged into a fight like that She gets mad, she did what she thought was right and saw no reason not to try to help.
Later Tamaki finds out the reason. She is so used to doing everything for herself, not even relying on her parent. Watching her close herself in a closet hiding from her fear of thunder of lighting as she has done for years. He apologises, he meant that she shouldn’t have gone alone as well, she wasn’t anymore. She now has people who want to help her and support her.
While our parents and teachers help our development, our peers and friends are the ones who shape us. Take a moment and think about one of your closest friends, now think about the person you used to be before you met them. You were different to the person you are today. Maybe only slightly, maybe you are nothing like who you were back in the day.
Now, in the case of Haruhi and Tamaki it is clear they have grown for the better, but it isn’t always positive. Take me for instance. When I was little I was a very friendly person, extremely open with everyone I met.
After years of bullying in High School and a really bad moment in Primary, I have trust issues and struggle to make and keep friends. In fact, I was duped into thinking I was friends with someone only for them to tell me they have hated me for years.
Thankfully, Shiloh helped me out in more ways than I can ever thank her for. She made me feel less like a weirdo, gave me my confidence back and introduced me to new interests. She was the one who helped me get into anime and manga.
I know how sappy that sounds but my point stands. We never truly stop growing, we evolve year after year thanks to those around us. I have learned so much from my friends (you know who you are) and I would like to think I have helped them along the way as well.
In conclusion, well I think this quote from Wicked sums it all up pretty well.
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better? But because I knew you, I have been changed for good.