Even after surviving World War II, beloved manga artist Shigeru Mizuki always kept his verve in both life and creativity. As you might expect, such a life left a wise imprint, but when he passed away last year at the age of 93, he left us with the lingering enchantment of the yokai from his seminal GeGeGe no Kitaro, an impression that even over five decades later is kept alive in myriad manga and anime.

We may sometimes think we could never live a life so fulfilling, joyful and meaningful, but Mizuki also passed on the knowledge to set off on the right track. He had seven rules for happiness, which first appeared in his book Mr. Mizuki’s Happiness Theory, and we wanted to honour them for ourselves as a tribute to his wisdom. Here’s Shigeru Mizuki’s Seven Rules for Happiness (translations via Zack Davisson), and what they mean to us through the anime that make us happy.


‘Don’t try to win – Success is not the measure of life. Just do what you enjoy. Be happy.’

Death Note

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Light Yagami aimed for glory. L, on the other hand, did not. It never seemed like he was looking to get one over on the Death Note killer, or indeed fretting too much over who the hell they could be. Instead, he took it day by day simply doing what he loved, whether cracking a top-secret case or eating a platter of cakes. Even though his gently shaded free and easy nature meant he developed an intense frenmity with his twisted compatriot, he worked through this most intricate of obstacles to give his team the necessary knowledge to trap and apprehend Light. Pushing for that success wasn’t part of the plan. It all came from having faith in his ability, and solving problems one at a time. And we all know where Light’s delusions of grandeur landed him in the end.


‘Follow your curiosity – Do what you feel drawn towards, almost like a compulsion. What you would do without money or reward.’

The Comic Artist and His Assistants

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Yuki Aito certainly has a compulsion. He’s fanatical about panties, and is forever feeding it into his other passion; creating manga. His obsession more often than not lands him in embarrassing or uncomfortable situations, but he seems to have a limitless capacity for shaking them off to keep doing what he loves, and whether he intends to or not, it’s this fervour for the next project he passes on to his assistants. He teaches Sahoto Ashisu to let loose her own creative, passionate heart to become a published mangaka herself, and even his brusque editor can feel relaxed around him. Maybe not in the way he’d imagine, he gives joy to others through the true self he expresses unashamed in his art, and they give it right back in love and encouragement.


‘Pursue what you enjoy – Don’t worry if other people find you foolish. Look at all the people in the world who are eccentric—they are so happy! Follow your own path.’


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When Shoyo Hinata decides to follow in the footsteps of his volleyball idol the Tiny Giant, he drags together his own school team and takes pride as its leader, even though their first match ends in an embarrassing defeat. His classmates don’t know what to make of this pipsqueak practicing a tall sport with the girls, but his hero spurs him on to create his dream;  his own unbeatable team, supporting him as their ace.

Now, having a hero is a tricky thing. While it gives you the fire to accomplish something greater than you would without their example, at the same time it can blind you to your own strengths. Fixed on his fantasy, Shoyo suffers from tunnel vision until he takes his sight off the straight path, seeking revenge on his first game rival. Winding up in the same school instead, in Shoyo’s own nightmare scenario, he soon finds that it helps him blossom, and that his unique talents, combined with his teammates’, give them true potential to be invincible.


‘Believe in the power of love – Doing what you love, being with people you love. Nothing is more important.’

Fullmetal Alchemist Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

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Alphonse Elric loses his body in a disaster of alchemy. Though he’s become no more than a little soul given shelter and form by a cold metal shell, Edward is willing to sacrifice all out of love for his younger brother, and his profession as a State Alchemist. In their loneliness and heartbreak, they’ve sworn never to return to the home they lost and failed, and set out in search of a way to restore their original bodies. They travel together to save each other, and do so over and over again, fighting against calamity and villainy and sustained by their devotion to each other. Theirs is the perfect, indestructible brotherly bond, and together they can meet any challenge eye-to-eye.


‘Talent and income are unrelated – Money is not the reward of talent and hard work. Self-satisfaction is the goal. Your efforts are worthy if you do what you love.’

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Satoru begins his story caught up in earning a wage, rather than giving the crucial time and effort to his manga. He’s afraid to reflect on what he wants from his art, scared of reaching what he calls “the heart of his own mind” and unleashing all the light and darkness locked up in his gift. Avoiding the pain of acknowledging the abyss the artist must stare into before they express their deepest truth, he must learn to bare his soul and fail before he can succeed. He takes this chance with his Revival; the power to turn back time. In his determination to save the friend he never made the first time round, he learns to take command of his losses, his renewed innocence freeing latent truths and the power of releasing them to the hearts of those who matter most.


‘Take it easy – Of course you need to work, but don’t overdo it! Without rest, you’ll burn yourself out.’

Tanaka-kun is Always Listless

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Tanaka-kun knows the importance of rest very well. But perhaps he takes this advice a bit too much to heart, with his aesthetic of listlessness taking all his effort to maintain. Still, even without noticing it, his commitment to a lazy lifestyle makes him someone who’s admired by his friends and classmates. He shows us that slowing down lets us see the simple pleasures of a world that usually moves too fast to stop and savour the moment. In having a nap in the shade of a tree to escape the mid-afternoon sun, or taking our time to enjoy a delicious meal, we can take invigoration and inspiration from joys that the over-proactive wouldn’t even spare a passing thought.


‘Believe in what you cannot see – The things that mean the most are things you cannot hold in your hand.’

Spirited Away

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It’s Chihiro’s courage to believe that gives her the means to rescue her parents, but just as essentially, to make the most of the strange new place she stumbles upon. In exploring the spirit realm, she learns the same way we do when we first go to school, or begin to travel, the value of the bonds, knowledge and experience that comes from that brave first step. Standing up to anyone and anything that keeps her from going home with her family, she teaches a world the power of belief, whether in yourself or someone you love, or fighting through the facade to uncover the truth.

When she restores her parents’ lives, though they can’t, or won’t, remember what happened, Chihiro will always know the hidden power and protection that’s hidden, yet in harmony with the world we see. And in turn, that wondrous world built by Hayao Miyazaki wouldn’t be there as we know it, if Shigeru Mizuki hadn’t first believed in the wisdom behind the ancient terrors of the yokai.

2 thoughts on “Seven Rules for Happiness: our anime take on Shigeru Mizuki’s wisdom”

  1. No, no, no. It’s “Be Lazy”, not “Don’t Get Lazy”. Everyone seems to get this wrong ever since Kotaku posted it wrong on their page. But that’s a fundamental difference. Mizuki was all for relaxing, and though he drew and wrote a great amount of manga, he did this in a much longer period of time than many of his colleagues. He also slept a lot.

    1. Thanks for pointing this out, that’ll teach us not to take Kotaku at face value. We’re overhauling this piece soon and tying in one of our favourite new anime under the “be lazy” heading. Thanks again ^^

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