The manga series “Afro Samurai” follows the life of a black samurai named Afro, who is on a mission to avenge his father’s death. After witnessing the death of his own father, Afro no longer lived a normal life. Instead, all he wanted to do was find and kill Justice, the man who killed his father and took the Number One Headband.
Interestingly, the past that brought him pain and hatred had only given him the strength to carry on his life. As a kid, he killed anyone who stepped in his way of avenging his father’s death.
Even though Afro is brave and strong enough to continue the lonely and dangerous journey, he still faced trauma and painful flashbacks. Through “Afro Samurai”, we will be able to examine the psychological disorders and functions of memory by creating an outcome based on his childhood experiences. At a very young age, Afro had to helplessly witness Justice cut off his dad’s head. Tears fell down on his face as the head was rolling over to him. Normally, if a child experiences such thing, he/she would’ve run away. However, Afro just stood there with his eyes wide open.
It was too cruel and traumatic for him to even react with the situation. The feeling of fear, helplessness and anger had left a mental illness in Afro. Without shaking, he picked up the number 2 headband and his dad’s head. Carrying them in his bag, he set off to seek revenge from Justice. He went crazy and killed people cruelly even though he was just a kid. Based on what happened to Afro when he was young, I diagnose that he might suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is an anxiety disorder caused by experiencing life- death situation, or witnessing out-of-control events.
There are three types of PTSD symptoms: intrusive memory, avoidance/numbing, and increased anxiety or emotional arousal. Afro tended to show some symptoms that are related to avoidance and intrusive memory. While watching the first half of the second episode, I notice that Afro prefers not to talk. “Lemonade”, he replies shortly to the lady in the bar. Plus, he doesn’t join any conversation with Ninja Ninja who most of the time talks endlessly. Afro definitely has emotional numbing as if he doesn’t care about anything except revenge. Even though, his eyes are filled with sadness and
anger, there is barely any facial expression shown when he is with his friend or when he kills people. On the other hand, Afro also experiences flashback in his sleep after he is saved from a life and death situation. His breath becomes heavier and faster as he dreams about the bad incidents that has happened after his father died such as being chased, humiliated, and beaten up. The flashback comes when the event tends to happen again. It might be impossible to cure Afro’s mental illness since his emotion is numb. However, in order to help him, I need to define what he desires the most.
Since he only aims for avenging and killing, it will be appropriate to change his thinking on his trauma and revenge. Cognitive therapy can help him reflect on the whole situation. With the help of a therapist, he will be able to replace his thoughts with more accurate and distressing thoughts. “What would you do after you kill Justice? ”, “Where are you going to take your life after you success your mission? ”, “Do you think it will be the end after you kill Justice? ”, etc… These questions can be asked to help Afro determine his real goal in life.
The prognosis for Afro’s case depends upon the severity and length of time has suffered from PTSD. It will be difficult for Afro to recover since he was very aware when and how the incident happened. The treatment process can be continued for years. Afro will be more likely to have fewer traumas when he sleeps, and show more emotion. As a human-being, he should be able to live and feel like a normal person. He might be addicted to seek revenge and kill people if he is not cured. Afro’s memory is mostly filled with his dad’s death.
When he witnessed his dad died, his senses collected information and held those cruel details in sensory memory. From the sensory memory, the information was encoded and stored in working memory. Since the incident was too traumatic, it became flashbulb memory which was immediately stored in long-term memory. Better than anyone else, Afro knows that this memory can’t ever be forgotten and it will haunt him for the rest of his life. Even though, it hurt to remember, it was what taught him to be strong and to be cruel to whoever tried to harm him.
He kills people without a blink in his eyes just like how Justice did to his dad. Afro had suffered so much in the past, but it doesn’t mean there is nothing bright in his memory. While he is unconscious after being poisoned and fell down from a cliff, he dreams about the little girl who had saved him in the past. The little girl with her teddy bear is probably the only light in his dark memory. This long-term memory is retrieved to working memory as the situation seemed to repeat. Afro tends to act gently to the lady who doesn’t only save him but also reminds him of that little girl.
Maybe, after all, he is not a psycho killer. Painful memories tell him to be strong and give him the reason why he is alive. But, nice memories remind him that morality still exists in this shady world. After all, by watching “Afro Samurai”, I’m able to discover more about psychological disorder and function of memory. The movie helps me encode information deeper, store them better in my working memory, and retrieve them more affectively. It also shows me that pain perhaps is not there to destroy people, but to give them the strength to live on and do better.