Image source: TVアニメ「URAHARA」公式チャンネル on YouTube

Behind the pastel colors and alien invaders in Urahara are three girls with their own problems. And the third episode of the series begins to delve into one of the girls personal troubles.

In Urahara, space aliens called Scoopers come to Earth to steal cultural landmarks. When the Scoopers being invading Tokyo’s Harajuku shopping district three high school aged girls who run a fashion store fight back with the power of their creativity.

In the third episode of the series, we see a lull in the Scoopers invasion. During this time, our heroes Rito Sudo, Mari Shirako, and Kotoko Watatsumugi decide they’re going to open their shop to bring some normalcy back to Harajuku. As they set about in creating new merchandise to sell, Rito, a budding artist, finds herself in a creative slump. And the only way she can come out of it is realize what drives her creativity.

What makes Rito’s slump intriguing is how it’s not born from a lack of creativity, but the question of how she can make everybody feel happy when they look at her art. It’s an interesting question raised by Rito as she works through her creative roadblock as she’s actually asking: Can an artist make a piece of art with the expressed intent of making people feel happy? If so, then how? Honestly, it’s an extremely rhetorical question as art is in part an expression of the creator emotions. Any feelings of happiness, then, come from how people interpret and appreciate the piece. Because of this every artist has his or her own answer to Rito’s question and we see her struggle to find hers.

Rito approaches the question of how to make people happy by examining a piece of street art she did in the past. While her friends Mari and Kotoko enjoy it, when Rito looks at the piece by herself she wonders why she even made it in the first place. Her conclusion is that’s what she felt like painting at the time. However, for Rito the answer isn’t satisfying because it doesn’t address the fundamental question: how does this bring happiness to everybody. To her, the piece is a reflection of her self-indulgence—not something she created to make other people feel happy. However, reflecting on her street art gives her a starting point to dive deeper into her question.

Image source: TVアニメ「URAHARA」 on Twitter

However, the answer Rito is truly looking for comes from an odd place, a crepe store owner named Sayumin. She takes Rito’s question and gives her own perspective and it boils down to two basic points: 1) I do what I want and 2) I want to see people smile when they eat my crepes.

It’s the second point that drives Sayumin’s culinary creativity. The mere act of seeing someone smile makes it so she wants to keep doing what she does. While it’s inward looking to a degree, she’s addressing a key factor in creative endeavors, keeping your audience in mind. For Sayumin, it’s her customer base first, and then herself. But, since Rito hasn’t found her audience yet, Sayumin suggests that Rito’s first audience member should be herself. That she should do what makes her feel happy first and forget about other people’s happiness for the time being.

This is a great piece of advice for Rito because the question she’s struggling with is, “How can I make everyone happy?” This creates a situation where her audience is far too large, making it impossible to satisfy everybody. So, by creating something Rito is satisfied with before anything else, she can begin to see who she really wants to make happy. In essence, she’s learning to narrow her question down to, “Who do I specifically want to make happy with my art?” It’s far easier to answer because she’ll understand who her core audience is. And we see after Rito’s conversation with Sayumin the people she wants to make happy with her art are her friends.

In other words, our creative muse comes from recognizing who we, as creators, specifically want to affect emotionally, not how will this piece make everyone happy.

Urahara is currently streaming on Crunchyroll and Funimation.

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