Quick thoughts on stories and cliches

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I was watching Nerdwriter1‘s video titled, “The Epidemic of Passable Movies“, when I realized that his thoughts on Hollywood movies were–not too surprisingly–relevant to anime’s ‘passable’ and derivative shows. But the problem isn’t so much that something is a reiteration of what we’ve seen before, but rather what we see isn’t realistic.

Evan says, “Stories are always about people. And great stories are always the ones that observe people truthfully, the ones that capture human experience with nuance and insight. And the best stories make such acute observations about humanity that they can show us things about ourselves that we didn’t know. Or teach us how to articulate those things against a vast unintelligible anxiety.”

I wholehearted agree. And I think this is a realization that all of us have come to understand about fiction at some point, especially in its defence. Evan continues, however, to talk about the dangers of cliche. If you would, replace the word ‘movies’ with ‘anime’, and it becomes a completely relevant dialogue that mirrors what I would hear in the anime community:

“And this I think is the big difference between great movies and passable ones: when passable movies observe human experience, they observe it not through the lens of real life, but through the lens of other movies. There is this huge vocabulary of actions built up over the years that people don’t really do but which happens so often in movies that they’re familiar enough to an audience that they become passable for human motivations. I’m not saying it’s bad for filmmakers to cite or pay homage to the movies that they love in their own work, I’m saying that too many films released today are being cobbled together from a weird alternate reality that is only a dim echo of our own. This is the long term danger of cliche. The more we allow it to happen the harder it is to escape. The more difficult it is for audiences and writers to tell the difference. The last thing we want is to see our own lives through the lens of art that’s only passable. New perspectives are what we need. Originality is what we should encourage at every chance. Otherwise, I’m afraid our movies and ourselves will change into something quite different.”

Hideaki Anno puts it more bluntly and says, “If you want to get into anime, my best advice to you as a creator is to please have diverse interests in things besides animation. Look outward, first of all. Most anime makers are basically autistic. …”

I really like anime. I love the meta humour, occasional trashiness, and all the emotionally sensitive characters that I find myself resonating with. As a Western anime fan, however, the dissimilarities between anime and reality can be confounded by intriguing cultural differences. And under that veil, I often did not understand that many actions were created for male gratification and lust.

I seem to be watching less and less anime these days, but I wouldn’t say that I’m transitioning out of anime. While I used to watch a lot of Hollywood films and now I seldom do, it’s because I found myself drawn to other mediums–anime–that tell the same kind of stories. Because in the core are stories and stories are about people.

I found solace in watching anime because you just didn’t see introverted characters represented in popular Western media. The hurt, broken, immature, repressed, and bashful tsundere characters trying to live in the (high school) world was a large part of my anime experience and reality. While I still very much resonate with being a tsundere, it’s not quite the reality of love that I’m transitioning into.

I am going through The Chronicles of Narnia right now with my fiancee. Not only is it more approachable for her, it still has everything I want: nostalgia, adventure, magic, action, and relationships. C.S. Lewis says:

“Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become.”

And perhaps the most meta aspect of it all is that our very own lives are stories, and that we appear in other people’s stories through the relationships that are created. Being a Christian is discovering God’s story of loving us by dying for us, letting God be the author of our stories, and then entering into other people’s lives with the love of God. “Jesus love you” is a cliche. It doesn’t mean it’s not true.

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‘Where is my life headed?’

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Sometimes, life can feel stagnant. I’m in that thought/mood bubble right now. It made me think back to Haruhi’s Endless Eight, and how the repetition of daily life, no matter how great, can make you feel mundane (let’s pretend that this is a noun) and lost. Here’s what I wrote in my journal earlier this morning:

Where is my life headed right now?

I’ve enjoyed experimenting with setting up an online presence
Giving hours of thought on content creation and being a content creator
Motivated by different factors at different times like artistic expression, vocational ambition, personal growth, or just a way to interact among different communities

During these last few months, I’ve enjoyed exploring and learning about cultural differences
For example, when I’m on YouTube, I watch a lot of interviews on Asian and Korean people
Ultimately, I want the knowledge and skill to be able to reconcile and bridge cultural and personality differences in my communities

On the simplified side of things, it seems as though there are bad things in every country; no culture is perfect
It’s also true that there are good people everywhere, not to be overlooked by their place of origin

And it’s not a “it’s 2017″ kind of a thing
Love has always been love, kindness and respect has always been the same way
It’s how we appreciate and listen to others

As my perspective and outlook on life extends from momentary feelings to looking ahead say, a year, I have to ask, where is my life going?

And it’s kind of a scary thought, and a thought that can only come after certain stability and consistency has been established
It’s impossible to discern or care about this if my life remained in day to day chaos

Ellie has grounded me so much
Emotionally, and, in finding fulfillment in life

So for the first time in my life, I’m starting to accept that my life is what I make of it
I simply wasn’t able to consider life like this before
There is no perfect life; I can’t possibly learn and understand everything
I’ll always have flaws and blind spots

With the ever increasing understanding that Jesus is God’s greatest and perfect demonstration of His love
And that Jesus is God, and God is good–how will my life change?

With the current prospective career path underway, what will my life look like in a year, or 5?
Life has oddly become something I need to try enjoying in the present
But there’s an interesting shift from living life for the moment to living life in the moment
It’s about appreciating and practicing gratitude

Life is life
So significant and insignificant at the same time


Well there you have it. Haruhi says, “I wonder if this was good enough”. That’s sort of my mood of the day, wondering if the choices I’ve made in my life are good enough. And even though I know Jesus is ultimately the author of my story, I recognize that this is a very human feeling to have.

I’m hoping that I can unpack what happened this year as my birthday is once again approaching. Stay tuned, I guess? Head over to my Twitter if you want to find me active.

Year One, and an update

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Hey WordPress,

It’s been a while. Today is kind of a special day for this blog because a year ago today is when I had started this blog. It was Christmas night, and everyone in my family was off in their own rooms; I was sitting on the dimly-lit living room sofa. Feelings of loneliness emerged…

I felt lonely to be at this place called home, and the usual impulses came to me: drinking, smoking, masturbating, watching anime… things like that. And as usual, I identified them as something that I didn’t fully want to do–I would much rather be having fun with people if it were an option. But there are seldom things to do on Christmas, much less last minute plans.

So looking back, I’m actually surprised at my decision–or should I say, resolve–to start this blog. I had been meaning to join in on discussions surrounding anime, and I actually did it. And what a journey it has been already.

I had been blogging fairly consistently up until my family and I visited Korea back in July. The trip was certainly an eye-opener for me in terms of me recognizing my privileges and the cultural assimilation that had taken place.

Since then, I’ve been learning about a few key concepts that has been helping me better understand who and how I am, one of which I want to share today: capacity. I learned about capacity through facing a dilemma during my trip:

The problem was that I felt incredibly torn between two seemingly exclusive methods of presenting personal narratives. One method was to share my thoughts and observations in the moments that they occur in, and the other was to wait until there is some conceivable resolution and present my perspectives after-the-fact.

This is what would happen: I would have all these passionate and emotional thoughts from events that I would write down to help me remember later. In these moments, I would feel strongly compelled to share them with just about everyone, only to feel extremely awkward in sharing them afterwards when, frankly, I don’t feel so strongly about them anymore.

I realize that running on emotions isn’t the smartest thing to do all the time: ‘don’t fight when you’re angry’ or ‘don’t shop when you’re hungry’ comes to mind. But many times, I felt frustrated in knowing that my depression had a large part in my motivation and enthusiasm levels having a very short half-life. ‘What’s the point? Who would want to read this anyways? Who cares?’

And so, I wanted to do my reporting right away in order to appropriately capture the sense of rawness of the emotions I experienced from the situations that I came across. After all, that’s what I really wanted to share, things that I found to be poignant.

As for the real world, I didn’t really have the opportunity to make that choice in Korea because I didn’t have the time or the WiFi (I know right? In Korea?) available. And so… if I ever write about Korea, it’s by definition going to be from a retrospective perspective. For better or for worse, writing things after-the-fact does tend to have more wisdom and clarity in them, which the immediate perspectives can lack.

What happened after I got back from Korea, and what frustrated me enough to make me give up on writing about it, was in my pursuit to capture my trip just as I had experienced it. It was so that readers could experience it as well, as close to mine as possible. I know that may sound silly, but it came from my strong desire to be understood. The experiencing of culture shock, discovering the weight of family, and painfully coming into an understanding my privileges after re-visiting Korea after 14 years was staggering, and I wanted to share exactly that.

I remember on the plane ride back, I started the blog off with something like: “It’s been quite a journey. As I’m flying back…”. I couldn’t finish it because it was just too big of a project. But as I kept sitting down to write the rest of the contents afterwards, I would be stuck at modifying the introduction portion of my post to match the passing of time. And with each iteration, I would try really hard to capture the challenges of the last iteration and so on…

It became a really big mess. I even considered putting all these into a prologue and calling it a day. But of course, I wanted an actual prologue to talk about my expectations about going to Korea that I hadn’t written yet…

No, it just wasn’t going to happen. At least not to the standard I wanted it to be. At a point, it wasn’t even about the narrative being shared as much as it was about the way it was being shared, in its structure, pace, clarity, etc. I wouldn’t have been satisfied unless the work satisfied me.

Yeah no… I was attempting to write about something that I myself didn’t have a coherent understanding of. The trip was emotionally dense. There were so many themes. I mean, it was my life. I thought that I unpacked and decompressed all that I was in my most-ambitious-to-date blog post series. But nope. My family issues and probably corresponding emotional issues were just starting to be identified and recognized.

That’s going to be fun to unpack, learn about, heal through, but only after understanding all the brokenness and being exposed to all the pain again. Holy Spirit wants me to be whole again. Am I going to accept the invitation?

I can’t remember where I first heard the word, capacity. But it’s become a keyword in that I think of things in terms of capacity now. I think my friend Chris the architect guy uses it a lot. Simply put, what I wanted to achieve, is beyond my current capacity.

On the other hand, my Twitter has become the medium to share the thoughts and emotions of the immediate. I use it frequently and I’m really enjoying using it.

Merry Christmas everyone!

First thoughts on Eureka Seven (2005)

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I finally gave in to Chris telling me to watch Eureka Seven, and here I am making a post to share that I’m enjoying it a lot. And I mean a lot. Although I’m only 5 episodes in, I already feel as though it might replace something in my top 5 list. The only thing is that, apart from Pokemon, I haven’t seen any series longer than 26 episodes, and Eureka Seven clocks in at 50 episodes. So it’ll be interesting to see whether the series will be able to maintain the fantastic pacing it has had so far. I’m hopeful.

A large part of why the show has been so appealing for me comes from its romance/relationship centred plot, which is something that I didn’t expect to see going in to the show. In particular, I’ve always loved stories where a boy and a girl do adventures together, like Nadia and Castle in the Sky. And these stories don’t seem all that common place. What I like about this dynamic is that it’s cute and sets up for ‘pure and innocent’ affections, however awkward or slow. And at the same time, there’s this earnest pursuit of good we see these kids navigate together.

The other thing I really liked is the setting, and it directly contributes to me getting sucked into the story. There seems to be a lot going on in that world, and I can already feel its rich history, scale, and mystery. The execution of the plot is perfect, because for the main character, there was just the right amount of boredom, threat, and life changing catalyst to kick off his adventure.

I’d like to mention that the premise of the show isn’t necessarily fresh to me. There are obvious parallels to Eva, and the character dynamics of the two main characters heavily remind me of the ones in Nadia. I feel like I could name drop Cowboy Bebop and Gurren Lagann as well. But really, this doesn’t matter because Eureka Seven feels very much its own, and a captivating fantasy world at that. One of the stand out execution in the show is capturing a young boy’s curious and energetic outlook on life. I think this really brings the story to life.

Finally, contrary to what I had expected, the animation looked great. It looks nostalgically 2000s without it having aged badly. If anything, it gives off a stylistic feel (along with the aspect ratio) that feels clean and well produced. Character designs are good, and actually, there is something about Eureka’s character design that feels unique. Opening theme is obviously awesome (sasuga FLOW).

All in all, the 50 episodes count doesn’t feel like a chore, but rather a treat to really allow myself to delve into and engage with their world. It’s like the joy of watching a show you really like knowing right off the bat that there are multiple seasons to enjoy.

The Weight of Family (feat. Senjougahara)

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I still haven’t shared much from my time in Korea–for reasons–and unfortunately, the poignancy of the trip has faded quite a bit since then. But there may be another way to share its individual stories, and this may just be a better method in that it gives me the opportunity to really flesh out the themes. And of course, I’ll be going back to the basics: using anime to help me talk about things that are otherwise difficult.

So I just got off the phone with my aunt in Korea, and what I didn’t know was that it was also Thanksgiving there–thematically equivalent to our Thanksgiving. And in that short, 12 minute phone call (Kakao Talk), I reconnected to the experience of ‘family’ that I had felt in Korea.

What I learned only after my trip–from listening to my friends–was that this experience of losing ones family is quite common for immigrant families. And I mean families aren’t just your mom, dad, and your siblings living in a house. It’s your grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and all of their children spread across the country. And I have like 30 cousins. Apparently.

In Bakemonogatari, we learn about Senjougahara’s past when she chose to cut off her ties with her mom, which is how she–literally, in the anime–lost her weight. Now, I’ve seen this arc a couple of times, mainly while trying to get people into Bakemonogatari, but it never hit me as hard as it did when I watched it after my trip to Korea.

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You see, I had lost all my ties with my family back home. I mean, my situation wasn’t as intentional, but rather as a direct result of moving far away. But there definitely were some heavy stuff in there as well. Like the fact that I didn’t always get along with my family. Or that identifying as Korean became difficult and embarrassing to do as I grew up on Vancouver Island. There’s brokenness for sure. And for the past 5 years since I’ve moved out, I’ve completely lost knowledge of the bond known as family. I mean the way I saw everyone, they were either my friend or they weren’t. Even at church, forming a family centred around Jesus–as special and amazing it is–was simply the idea of companionship and sharing life together. And not to undervalue the church but to reveal my capacity to understand the depth of relationships.

When I met some of my relatives back in Korea, I could physically feel the weight of our bond. It was actually too much, because it was deeper than anything I had known. It was heavy and I knew I wouldn’t be able to understand it yet. And by no means I’m saying it was bad, but to think that I had lived most of my life without this? It was really sad but at the same time, I’ve never actually missed my family because… how could I miss something that I don’t know about? I was overcome by this new feeling familiarity, unity, bond, and support.

And that’s when the weight of my family came back to me–good and the bad. And tonight, I felt it again. It’s not fluffy (fuwa fuwa) or pleasant like that, but it’s certainly something I will treasure. And for sure, it’ll be a long journey and a healing process that will undoubtedly be painful, but like Senjougahara, I’ll desire it.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Blog Season 2?

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I know I’ve been absent in my blogging–I’m aware of this fact pretty often. I have ideas laid out for a few posts but they’re not written yet… classic Simon.

Anyways, I thought I throw in a mini life update(?). If any of the other ones are worth writing, I’m sure their truths will stand through the test of time… or something like that.

とにかく, this September…

I am not going to school (Yay!–for now anyways).

I’m still working as a Behavioral Interventionist, twice a week. Sometimes, working with the kids make me so happy like nothing else.

I’m still leading at Young Life, and it’s an amazing community. It gives back way more than I pour into it. It encourages me so much.

I’m still leading at Rappers Without Borders, and our execs are amazing this year. I’m learning so much from this position.

I’m still watching anime, and I got some new perspectives. I feel like a seasoned anime water now, but I’m watching a lot of trash rn.

I’ve been slacking off on taking care of myself like running, yoga, and stuff like that. Stopped drinking beer every night.

Started out a bit depressed (classic) but doing well now.

Church is something I take for granted all too often. It’s the body.

I had an interview with the school board for a student support position. Kind of anxious about the results but, God is good and He is for me.

I recently had to research for kitchenware and vacuums to purchase on Amazon. It’s really not all that different from looking at phones, cameras, or any other consumer goods.

Physical touch was more important than I had realized, and it brought on a lot of healing.

I’m pretty bad at the ‘business’ side of things, whether it be networking, professional development, and ‘stuff like that’.

Maybe I should cut my hair (it’s pretty long, if you haven’t seen me irl).

I said that I would finally learn a street dance this year but…

My producing definitely pulled back to being a hobby.

This isn’t to be negative, but I could be a much, much better person. I recognize some of the areas to grow in, but then I’d have to acknowledge being blind to so many others. I want to be “transformed by the renewing of my mind”. I want lead a Christ-centred life. If anything though, I do have this desire and I know it is good, and I know my faith in God makes me righteous in Him. And in Him is my identity.

I am lazy. I give up too easily. I get frustrated and upset quickly. I’m not good at communicating. And these are all too embarrassingly transparent. Everyone around me knows. How I made it this far I don’t know. Or… no, I do know. And it’s all too clear. I have to remember this, and walk in boldness.

Thank you to everyone in my life who inspire me, teach me, encourage me, support me, help me, heal me, build into me, lets me build into them, lets me heal them, let’s me help them, let’s me support them, let’s me encourage them, lets me teach them, lets me inspire them, and lets me share Christ with them.

Update is over, for now. As Chris likes to tell me, thoughts are an ever evolving process.