This isn't a story about finding happiness despite the harsh reality of terminal illness.
It's not about saying goodbye or leaving no stone unturned. Achieving greatness before its lights out. Or even keeping a brave face while fighting for your life.
Honestly, this story isn't about illness at all.
Instead, I Want to Eat Your Pancreas is a look at one young girl's attempt to REALLY live life to the fullest & the impact she leaves on a boy in her class.
It explores what a life might look like if you lived without pretense, without wasted moments, & without regard for the societal niceties we all observe by default.
How would you act? What would you pursue. What meaning would you give your life to keep you going?
For Sakura, her answers are pretty clear.
She is going to die in a few years when her pancreas gives out. This is not new information. She has already gone through the stages of grief and come out the other end resolved to live while she still can.
To aid in her endeavor she keeps a diary she calls "Living with Dying"
She wants to live a good, true, life while she's here. This means she has no time for fakery, or for sadness. This puts her in the odd position of lying to her classmates. But by keeping secret that she is ill, she can continue to experience a true life.
That is until her secret is revealed to our male protagonist, the class introvert, who, by chance, picks up her diary.
Sakura takes advantage of this opportunity to start a unique relationship with him as the sole "friend" who knows her secret.
As a true introvert he doesn't need or want companionship, and can seemingly handle spending time with her while knowing she will be gone someday.
Sakura finally has someone she can be fully herself with, without pretense.
Living With Dying
The truth is that every single one of us mortals is "Living with Dying" so why should it take a terminal disease diagnosis to get most people out there living life to the fullest?
Our male protagonist is of the impression that Sakura keeps a "glass half full" outlook on her terminal illness, but the way she jokes about dying & speaks of her limited time left is down right crass.
This will probably be jarring to anyone going into this story expecting it to be focused on terminal illness. But once you realize its about living a full, honest, exciting, life it makes sense.
Her illness is unfair, scary, and going to win in the end. There is nothing she can do about it. That's quite a weight to bear, and she bears it by honestly expressing herself in this crass manner.
While illness is the catalyst, and her illness is killing her, its not making her sick.
She has no symptoms. The only thing that indicates she is sick are the test results. She doesn't even have health restrictions placed on her. In fact, Sakura largely does what she pleases.
She likes all-you-can-eat buffets, alcohol, and intimate conversation. She pursues whatever interests her. And she enjoys stirring up excitement.
As our male protagonist puts it, "She's so full of energy."
Meaning > Happiness & The Story You Tell Yourself
Happiness is fleeting.
It's hard to rely on happiness during hard times, but knowing the meaning your life has can get you through anything. To keep a strong sense of meaning, you need to tell yourself stories that express the meaning clearly.
As for Sakura, the main story she tells herself, "I am living with dying," keeps her going.
Our introverted male protagonist is almost completely numb to life. He enjoys reading books, but his life has no story --> no meaning, no impact.
This idea is highlighted by the fact that we don't even learn his name until the very end.
When others interact with him his name is replaced with whatever role he feels he is fulfilling at that moment. As if he is inconsequential.
Through getting to know Sakura, and the experiences she brings him, meaning is returned to his life.
Two Halves Make a Whole
These two teens have completely opposite personalities.
Each one recognizes a strength in the other that they themselves lack.
Introvert-kun doesn't need other people. While Sakura bases her own worth on interactions with others, he's secure in himself just the way he is. She admires this about him.
But when it comes to living life to the fullest, our introvert will stick to himself, while Sakura will stick her neck out for what is right. She'll meddle. She'll tease and manipulate, but people love her for it. She makes things happen. She has fun. He admires this about her.
The irony of course is that Sakura is leaving an impact, while her time is limited. And our introvert is completely healthy, resisting life, and leaving no trace that he was there.
I Want to Eat Your Pancreas
It was believed in the past if an organ was ailing you, you could heal it by consuming that organ of an animal. Having liver trouble? Have some liver for dinner...this is where the title comes from.
But Sakura knows there is nothing that will heal her.
So when she says "I want to eat your pancreas" to our male protagonist perhaps she is really referring to the fact that she wants that quality of self assuredness he has.
We Find Ourselves Here as a Result of the Choices we Have Made
This is the other story Sakura tells herself. It's an interesting choice since the illness which is killing her only affects her by chance.
But if you are courageous enough to tell it, this story gives you an active role in your life.
When you recognize your current position as the result of the series of choices you made, rather than seeing life as just randomly happening to you, you'll be ready to recognize opportunities and take advantage of them.
Maybe it was all chance.
Maybe our class introvert was in the same room as Sakura's diary by chance that day -- but he also chose to read it.
And to begin with, Sakura was interested in him because of the introverted life he chose to live.
If meaning is important to living well. And meanings need to be chosen. Then choose the story which adds more meaning to your life, not less. This is what Sakura teaches Introvert-kun.
Human Connection is Valuable, Even to Introverts
Sakura positively impacts Introvert-kun in the end.
With regards to his introversion, there is possibly an argument to be made that he isn't even an introvert. He never says "People exhaust me" -- a hallmark of introversion.
We know he felt no lack in his solitary life, and he says he's never found himself interested in other people, nor can he imagine anyone would be interested in him.
But in a roundabout sort of way I would argue that whether or not he's truly an introvert doesn't detract from the overall subplot of drawing an introvert out into the world.
Human connections are valuable. Even to introverts.
You know how it goes...
If a tree falls in the woods & nobody hears it, did it fall?
Without consciousness observing the universe, does it exits?
If you live a life that leaves no impact on others -- did you actually live?
As someone whose energy does tend to get drained by people, I would say there is nothing more exhausting or unappealing than dealing with human PRETENSE.
When people are playing a role, giving you a rose colored version of their reality, or trying to be something they're not its draining to keep up with.
But when people are honest human connections feel great.
So I would argue that Sakura coming at Introvert-kun full force with a messy, interesting, exciting, honest dose of humanity is exactly the kind of thing that could convince an introvert to take notice.
This story is not grim. It's full of life.
And it's a great look at the kind of life you could live if you were willing to have real fun with life.
Say whatever you wanted. Pursue anything or anyone you found interesting. And get closer to the core truth of them.
If you were willing to live life as if you were dying.
People come and go. Years come to an end. Even without death in the equation, things that are right now won't be forever. So anyone can apply this message to their life.
Have you read or watched I Want to Eat Your Pancreas? Did you also find yourself smiling at this core message about life?
Thanks for reading!
Header made on canva.com
Images included to identify & promote this manga were taken by me.