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.

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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.

Solar eclipse, Zero no Tsukaima, and Expectations

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There was a solar eclipse today, and I kept on thinking of Zero no Tsukaima, a harem anime I watched back in high school. From what I understand, it was a fairly popular series back when it aired (I mean, how often is it that an anime gets renewed up to 4 seasons?). But it hasn’t aged all that well: characters pretty much follow their archetypes to a T, and it didn’t deviate much from its contemporaries in the harem, romance, comedy, and ecchi genre. But, as I fondly remembered the series’ characters, I wondered why I loved it so much in the first place, and I wondered whether it would still have the same emotional impact if I were to watch the series again today.

Speaking of the eclipse, I had been looking forward to it for about a month, and I actually felt ‘hype’ when I thought about it. I would imagine that it used to be a really big deal at one point in time, when it wasn’t possible to understand the phenomena behind the sun’s disappearing. I mean seriously, it must have raised quite a bit of concern seeing the world turn dark. Fantastical worlds certainly draws influence from this mysteriousness of the eclipse, and so eclipses are used as this rare, ‘only occurs once in every 1000 years’ sort of a thing with connections to magical energy.

ZnT is no different (I don’t want to spoil any of the others), and the eclipse plays a big role in the show’s plot (in season 1). I guess it must have left quite an impression on me because I thought that eclipses were this grand thing, where in reality–and it certainly didn’t help that it was only a partial eclipse from where I was in the world–it just looked like a white dot that wasnt quite round (and I used the necessary special viewing glasses of course). I don’t know what I had expected… I thought that there would be something of significance. And I may have thought that I could view it with my naked eyes.

Expectations rooted in fiction aside, ZnT has a type of fantasy that I’m quite susceptible to, and a lot of it has to do with expectations. Here was a self-insert protagonist who used to live out his mundane, day to day life. But all of a sudden, he is forcibly removed from that world and is brought into a world where, despite differences and challenges, he is surrounded by people, opportunities, and a space to cultivate himself.

In this context, even if there are things that are incredible frustrating–like Louis’ stubborn, abusive, and compulsive behaviour towards our protagonist–there are expectations for a happy ending. Typically, harem romance comedies can be hard to watch because of their skewed balance between frustrations and their resulting pay offs. Counterintuitively, however, there is also the idea that you don’t let frustrations deter you because with this much frustration, there has to be a equal and opposite pay off. Louis is as stubborn as she tries hard at other things, as abusive as she is affectionate, and as is compulsive as she is passionate. I don’t know, I kind of made some of that up, but like actually, everyone’s characteristics have room become good or bad qualities.

Ideally, the level of miscommunication between two people shouldn’t break verisimilitude. Often enough though, they do upset believability and I’m forced to wonder if Anno really meant what he said when he said that most people in the anime industry are autistic.

There’s another thing which I’m quite susceptible to, and it is the longing to be saved. I don’t know, I can’t be the only guy who sometimes wanted a princess to save me. That idea just sounds nice. And it was the same idea with Dragon Maid, and to an extent the Monogatari series. Whether it’s relying on someone else or on your new found power, there is a cause to be okay to act different, because the circumstances have changed. All of a sudden, you have a maid that just wants to love you, or all of a sudden you’ve become immortal due to vampiric powers.

And so… I long for this. I want to be taken out of my world. I want an opportunity for a relationship, no matter how tough it may become (enclosed in that semi-dysfunctional, romantic bond). And I want to be saved and have my circumstances changed.

But what’s crazy is that Christians kind of believe in all of this. I mean, whether they’ve contextualized their relationship with Jesus like me or not, Jesus is nothing short of a supernatural lover who wants to save me. Is this incredibly idealistic or was I simply made to desire Him?

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Back then, I fell in love with Louise, and so I fell in love her world. Very similar to Rosario to Vampire. Yes, these are all trashy shows. But as trashy as they were, I loved the incredible moments when characters were willing give their life to save their loved ones. It’s a different kind of trash compared to, say, Eromanga Sensei.

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So to answer the question at the beginning, I think I’ll still be able to enjoy the show. I like J.C.Staff’s art style, and I love Kugimiya Rie as a seiyuu. Except… I started to like these two things because I watched ZnT. So it’s a bit of a paradox.

Tsundere irl: anger, bitterness, and trust issues

I’m going to divert from my Me At 22 series to go through what happened to me last week because it captures who I am now, who I was before, and what I still need to work on incredibly well. It reveals a very ugly part of me, but I realized that this is an opportunity to admit and accept fault, which will help me grow (I hope). Moreover, I’ve been dissatisfied with my explanation of my affinity to anime and tsundere characters in my previous post, and this post will be an excellent extension to that.

So last week, I got into an argument with a friend. It was honestly so s…silly, but afterwards, I found myself feeling angry to the extent I haven’t felt angry in years.

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You know, I was initially planning to cite quotes from our conversation to show how miscommunication can happen. I was going to expertly navigate through what was said and provide commentary on what the emotions and intentions behind their phrasing was. But I couldn’t.

Going back to look at what I had said, I was reliving the frustrations over and over again, and I was quickly overwhelmed by it. And it was really difficult, even though it wasn’t my intention, to not draw sympathy towards myself over my friend. So instead, I’ll first admit that I got angry from our misunderstandings, and provide the context:

I’ve been sharing my most recent post with my friends and family (which btw, has been incredible–thank you). I shared it again when my friend asked what I had been doing lately, and I explained to him that the post was about my struggle with communicating my cultural identity. In response, my friend began to tell me about his own thoughts and experiences regarding cultural identity.

After listening to him for a bit, I decided that I didn’t like what he was saying because I felt that he didn’t really understand–or was acknowledging–the ‘pain’ behind my cultural alienation. So I told him. Or I tried, and my friend tried to assure me that he understood, and so I tried explaining how that’s not what I meant…

What transpired was a series of misunderstandings and increased emotional involvement. Ideas were repeated, earlier parts of our conversation were referenced, and the conversation eventually ended when our patience ran out. I was so upset at the end, and I could barely hold it together.

Throughout the conversation, my friend didn’t to understand me, which aggravated my frustrations in trying to explain it to him. All he did in response was justifying himself and not actually acknowledging my cultural alienation. That is, this is all from my perspective.

I should really say that he didn’t seem to understand me. The nature of miscommunication is that, I don’t actually know. And in either case, what sucks is that, stripping down all the semantics and words, my friend was just trying to help me. I tried hard to be aware of this fact throughout our conversation (and I learned to do this from many experiences with arguing in the past), but it proved to be too difficult when my insecurities were involved.

Yes, I realized mid-conversation that I was still insecure about my anime fandom (because of my relationship with Chris), but I was still insistent on my friend acknowledging that he came off in a way that seemed standoffish or indifferent. I even admitted that I was being emotional, and tried explaining why I was hurt. But here’s probably the perfect example of our communication failure:

Me: Like you don’t say calm down to someone who’s upset. That’s pretty obvious right?Him: I never told you to calm down.

Like this, I kept on getting more and more frustrated in my efforts:

But I eventually started to see my friend’s perspective as well. How he was only trying to encourage me not to feel alienated by letting me know that I’m not alone in this, and how I’m being unfair because all my friend did was respond to the topic I myself brought up. It made sense. I even realized then that some of the things I said in trying to explain my perspective must have come off as invalidating his cultural identity problems.

Instead of my anger dissipating at this understanding, I became even more frustrated. I couldn’t believe how difficult it was to communicate my feelings, and even more so to get a satisfying response. Regardless of his perspective, why was it so hard for my friend to acknowledge that how he is coming across was hurting me?

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And when he did say sorry, it was too late. By that time, I was too hurt by the fact that it exhausted me and required me to be vulnerable to explain myself to him. I mean why do I have to be the one to look at both sides when I’m the one who’s hurt?

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The thing is, at the same time, I knew how selfish and immature my emotional state was. So I was frustrated and embarrassed by the fact I genuinely felt upset over all of this. Next came all the other confusion, regret, and shame.

‘Why was I so keen on communicating to my friend that I didn’t like the way he responded to me? What gives me the right to criticize how he talks? Isn’t my perspective just self-victimizing? Am I not being self-righteous in trying to get him to admit a certain fault? This whole thing is stupid. What was the point of all that? What’s wrong with me?’

What tipped me over the edge was when I instinctively tried to reach out to a friend to talk about it. But it was Chris, and in that moment, thinking of his unavailability towards the topic, I felt backed up against a wall. My chest started to hurt. I felt like crying. I felt anger and bitterness come up. The following is just what I wrote my in journal at the time. It’s sort of a reiteration of what I said but more in a more pure and emotional form:

I feel so alienated. It’s partly my fault but could you guys just try to be a little more understanding? It’s so hard and no one seems to get it. I think I hate people if this is what’s to be expected. How should I face this? Being extremely sad or extremely angry? You just don’t get it.

I’m so angry, and I’m also angry at myself. I feel like no one understands except me. I feel lonely but angry. It makes me want to distance myself from people. Because I don’t want to see another reaction like that again. I tried so hard. Maybe I’m scared. But I’m mostly angry. Angry that they don’t get it. Angry that they get to live their happy lives without feeling like this.

I’m frustrated in thinking of putting in the effort to communicate myself. From what I’ve seen, it’s impossible. I feel so drained. I don’t want to reach out. That person who’s my friend is never good at supporting me. And I don’t want to explain this because I’ll look pathetic, selfish, and pitiful. I don’t want help, because you won’t understand. I don’t trust you. What do you know about my pain that’s so alienating?

I’m angry because I feel like I have no choice. Who will listen? No forget that, who will listen and be able to understand? This is bitterness. Holding it in is like poison. But I can’t forgive those who hurt me. It’s this process of sinking deeper and deeper into a world of hatred. I feel justified in feeling the way I do, even though it’s frustrating. I don’t want to face anyone. I just want to disappear. So much shame. This is obviously like, not a good state of mind. But what do I do?

So… that’s kind of dramatic, but also being honest. As I’ve mentioned before, I like tsundere characters because I feel like they represent me. People generally dislike them and feel that their emotional behavior is annoying and stuff, but… I’m just like that, especially when I’m like this. I don’t try to be but I’m still like that.

There’s a scene from NHK where the main character tries to kill himself, and other people telling him not to do it only motivates him further. When I saw this scene, I empathized with him. This is what happens when alienation drives anger, bitterness, and isolation. It’s quite a poisonous mind state, and most people don’t know how to approach it. But seeing that scene made me feel like someone else really gets me.

Here are some other anime instances that resonates with my emotions:

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First slide: “The vice captain…”
In all seriousness, I do think that this personality trait can trigger, perpetuate, or aggravate mental illness symptoms.

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First slide: “I must…”
This is when anger turns into into envy and hatred.

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First slide: “I can’t…”
This is typical tsundere regret and introspection.

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Self explanatory.

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Sort of NSFW. First slide: “If you’ve…”
This depicts the doubt of others not understanding our pain.

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First slide is: “Often I…”
This depicts putting distance to avoid problems.

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This depicts wanting to be left alone to avoid problems.

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This depicts not wanting to be alone, despite pushing people away.

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First slide: “I’m starting to…”
This describes self-victimizing characteristics.

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Self explanatory.

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This depicts feeling bad after being emotional.

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This depicts some classic self loathing.

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Self explanatory.

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First slide: “is that…”
This reveals the nature of “self-created” problems.

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First slide: “I don’t know…”
This depicts the fact that depression can make you feel like you shouldn’t feel happy.

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First slide: “I know I…”
This describing victimizing, blaming, and how it hurts others around you.

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First slide: “It was so bright…”
This describes self loathing, the severity of which happens with prolonged bitterness.

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First slide: “No way.”
This depicts inconveniencing friends, but in a good way.

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First slide: “At the time…”
This depicts why someone might isolate themselves.

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This depicts being scared of getting hurt again.

 

So the argument I mentioned happened last Saturday afternoon. As the day came to a close, I realized that I had church the next morning, which was an uncomfortable realization. What should I do? I was still angry, and I had fully transitioned into self loathing and hating people. And I thought I would stay in this state indefinitely. How could I go to church like this? Plus I’d see Chris. Do I put up a facade? But that’s so uncomfortable…

So what I did was, because I was told to, I gave it up to God. It didn’t make any sense and I didn’t want to, but I just did it. And I also went to church the next morning, with the spirit of duty over my feelings.

Our pastor David opened up with Romans 7:15

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.

That’s a tongue twister but I was like, yeah I get that. I won’t summarize the sermon but it reminded me that the horrible state I was in was not me, and that God’s grace was even bigger. David went on to describe something that would become incredibly useful in explaining my anime fandom:

So many things in my life are special but I never understood why. Christmas is an example. It’s my favourite time of year, but it wasn’t until I was in my 40’s before I realized that the warm, comforting feelings that surround me at Christmas go all the way back to my early childhood when my whole family was together. It was a safe time filled with joy and anticipation and safety and belonging–even though all the other days reminded me of war surrounding us in Vietnam, and loneliness, and shame. Christmas was my childhood’s safe place. As an adult I was able to connect the dots and realize why it is doubly significant for me today. It was one of the first places God showed me that I was genuinely special.

We had communion that Sunday. David prompted us that communion is about declaring Jesus’ death over our lives, proclaiming His authority over any difficult aspects of our life. I knew what I had to do, and I knew how to say it. I went over to Chris and asked him to pray for me.

I told him that I hadn’t forgiven him in my heart for his attitude towards me watching anime. I told him that anime was my safe place, and somewhere I could remember that I am loved. Chris told me that he didn’t understand before and that he was sorry. And I believed him. Chris prayed the words, “thank you for Simon’s strength because it’s something that only he can do.”.

And that was it. That did it. I no longer felt angry, and I felt so glad that I came to church. Chris summed it up beautifully afterwards, saying that, in the end, anime and hip hop are just mediums in which people can connect with each other, and God can use both.

Throughout this emotional experience, I learned, once again, that it’s fear that separates us from love.

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PS

Since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of space that reminds people that they’re truly loved. Looking at mindfulness, attention, meditation, being absorbed, not worrying about being and just being, etc…

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Fun fact.  from BTT has an awesome post called The Christian Tsundere that also quotes Romans 5:17. It’s a really good read.

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Great advice from reddit: listen to understand rather than listen to respond.

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Excerpt from Joy Everyday: May 20 – “Jesus Calling”, by Sarah Young

When your sins weigh heavily upon you, come to Me. Confess your wrongdoing, which I know all about before you say a word. Stay in the Light of My Presence, receiving forgiveness, cleansing, and healing. Remember that I have clothed you in My righteousness, so nothing can separate you from Me. Whenever you stumble or fall, I am there to help you up.

Man’s tendency is to hide from his sin, seeking refuge in the darkness. There he indulges in self-pity, denial, self-righteousness, blaming, and hatred. But I am the Light of the world, and My illumination decimates the darkness. Come close to Me and let My Light envelop you, driving out darkness and permeating you with Peace.

Me At 22, Part 2: Anime and Mental Illness

Okay, let’s talk about this thing that was one of the biggest aspects of my life at 22. Let’s talk about how a president of a hip hop club went from DJing trap music to watching this:

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from K-On, which is my favourite anime

Coming into terms with, embracing, and exploring the anime world has been an incredible journey in these past few months. Having watched a lot of anime since last September, I’ve even heard complaints like, “all you talk about is anime” from my friend Chris. What may not be as obvious is that I’ve come a long way from watching anime for the sake of nostalgia to being able to consider it as an integral element of my life. This blog itself is a testament to that passion, and given this, I think I owe it to my friends to explain the whole phenomenon.

To be honest, it’s difficult to convey my fondness for anime because its personal significance is… well, very personal. I grew up watching anime so there’s that familiarity and nostalgia factor, and as I’ve said before, watching anime allows me to affectionately revisit the cultural attitudes and feelings of my upbringing. So yeah, some of it is definitely cultural, but saying this doesn’t really help anyone understand the extent of the emotional significance I have with anime.

When I actually meet people who watch anime, chances are, they’ll only be familiar with 少年 [shounen] anime, which is the genre of anime with action and adventure that predominantly features male protagonists. And you probably know them: Naruto, One Piece, Attack on Titans, One-Punch Man, and so on. This is the most popular genre of anime, and it’s probably the most similar to Western television shows. As for me though, I mostly watch 日常 [nichijou] anime (aka slice of life), which is where shows like K-On fall under the category of. It’s not for everyone, unfortunately, as Chris echos the general criticism that there’s no conflict and that it’s boring.

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I’m not even going to argue with this because honestly, much of K-On is watching cute girls drink tea, eat cake, and just goof around in general (it’s part of the sub-genre known as ‘cute girls doing cute things’). But on the other hand, people enjoy watching slice of life anime for its pleasant, comfortable, and heartwarming viewing experiences. I think it’s comparable to quietly enjoying a cup of tea for 20 minutes. But really, the strength of this genre comes from its characters, and in the case of K-On, its emotional climax at the end rivals just about any other story I’ve encountered.

Having said that, what initially drew me to K-On was its cute aesthetics, because I like cute things. And this was sort of a significant acknowledgement; being in contrast to the traditional ideas of masculinity, cute shows like K-On have allowed me to be able to embrace those aspects of myself that I wasn’t always the most comfortable embracing: being cheerful, cute, and silly. I mean it helps that I work and volunteer with children, and these attributes go together very well. Something I noticed is that a lot of adults, especially those who work with children, enjoy Disney films, and I think some of the appeal is the same.

Yet another reason why I liked K-On so much is because it’s about 5 girls in a music club. There were surprisingly a lot of parallels between running their club and running my hip hop club. And being a ‘musician’, I have to say that anime music and 声優 [seiyuu] (voice acting) work in general is super interesting. The style of music that make it to the charts in Japan compared to here are unimaginably different. Moreover, coming out of the lifestyle of drugs, and at the same time seeing the truth behind what is portrayed as a good lifestyle in hip hop, I just felt really sick of the derivative 808 trap sound. So me listening to anime music is partly the result of that.

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ganbatte = ~do your best

When I wake up feeling tired to go to work, in addition to drinking my matcha kale thing, I listen to one of these anime songs. And like, I can’t help but laugh while I’m biking to work because the whole thing is ridiculous–the songs themselves and the fact that I’m listening to it. The soundscape is just so different compared to my surroundings and context (a university campus) that it never fails to make me feel weird. But while strange and hilarious, the same high energy and cheerful attitudes of trying your best has helped me grow away from my habitually depressed mind.

Honestly, this 元気 [genki] (~healthy) spirit and the 頑張って [ganbatte] attitude in anime has been such a great reminder and positive influence in my daily life. In many ways, these aspects of anime–at least the ones that I choose to surround myself around–complements my Christian beliefs of joy, peace, love, and hope incredibly well. In fact, being a Christian might be a big reason why I love anime; all the positive ideals in anime like courage, hope, and justice might have seemed childish, but as a Christian, they’re not just optimistic, I believe them to be the truth in Jesus.

On the flip side, not all anime are nice and cheerful. In fact, most anime (even the slice of life ones) so often and so casually present the hardships of life. And this juxtaposition of cute characters being ‘real’ is… probably unique to anime. Take a look at the following screenshots/animemes from various anime:

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How do I say this… seeing these struggles and thoughts–whether the characters overcome them or not–have been immensely cathartic. Just in seeing their portrayal, I could feel that my afflictions are able to be understood by someone (at least by the author). It is because of this that anime has been so instrumental in helping me navigate through my journey with depression and anxiety.

Although this is probably true for any art in general–and also maybe obvious–you have to understand that many things in anime, or the way that anime communicates these things, are completely unique to anime. I couldn’t explicitly identify what these ‘things’ are, but I want acknowledge that anime has amazed me in their depth and intimacy of the emotions and thoughts that are explored, and thereby has given me a lot of opportunity to process many of my repressed or forgotten issues (many of which stem from my childhood, as they usually do).

Among my experiences through anime, one of the most significant journeys I went through is processing cultural alienation. Thinking back, my childhood feels like a different world. Even without romanticizing the childhood era, 90s Korea was certainly and literally a different world compare to my life now. And since this has shaped my identity, in everything from my personality to perspective, I’ve struggled with the idea that other people will never be able experience or understand what I’ve felt to the same extent. I’ve cherished these inexplicably deep and profound childhood memories, especially in connection to anime, but with it also came loneliness.

What has helped a lot was finding the anime community. Take the most popular anime movie of all time, Spirited Away, for example. What’s incredible to me is that the experiencing of its emotional profundity of childlike wonder is… more or less universal. Even if it’s not exactly the same as how I experienced it, I can now believe and trust that everyone gets it. This highlights one of my most cherished aspects of anime, and even with drugs, my favourite aspect of its influences was that it somehow connected me back to my childhood. It wasn’t inventing anything new, it was in reclaiming these lost or forgotten connections that made the whole experience so profound.

There is a distinction between childish and childlike. Childlike is the uninhibited boldness, creativity, playfulness, love, and trust. It’s a state of being that makes sense to be alive and proud. I had a dream the other day that made me remember this feeling, and it caught me completely off guard. It is at times like these that I realize that we often forget really important things, even profound things. But looking around now, everything I do including work, volunteering, art, and church is connected to realigning myself with who I am, who I was, and what I was made for.

My favourite type of characters in anime is popularly known as a ツンデレ [tsundere], which is basically the characteristics of someone who has trust issues. This character archetype is overused and misused in the industry, but when represented correctly, is an incredibly human character. These characters are often sarcastic, defensive, anxious, and frustrated by their own behaviors. I myself resonate with tsundere characters, often acting out of my brokenness to other people, and it’s such a beautiful process to see characters or people overcome their trust issues.

This year was great in that I almost never watched anime by myself, but with my roommate Edward. Sharing the experience of watching anime with Edward allowed me to build trust and the feeling of being connected. And honestly, half the fun was in making fun of what we watched. But what anime was also able to do was facilitating discussions about life’s various philosophies, ideals, pain, suffering, joy, and etc. In my experience, anime covers more ‘life’ than any other genre, especially the formative adolescent years. With this once again tying back to my upbringing, as well as being able to feel like Edward and I are on the same page through watching anime together, this was a very welcomed healing experience.

As my identity became increasingly defined by my anime fandom, my interest towards other things, including hip hop, naturally receded. I would opt to watch anime at home with Edward instead of going to a hip hop show with Chris. I wanted to watch K-On with Chris instead of The Get Down, which is what we used to watch just a summer ago. Given that hip hop is what brought us together first place, we kind of started to spend less time together.

I mean it’s unfortunate because embracing anime for all that it means to me has been a paramount process. And of course, I understand that not everyone is going to enjoy anime, but it sucks that I can’t share what I love with my close friend. What hurts though is the sort of condescending and weirded out attitude towards anime Chris has been showing. Even though it’s understandable, this kind of attitude is exactly what makes me feel alienated and ashamed of my identity.

So, we talked. But at the time, I definitely wasn’t able to do a very good job expanding on anime’s significance, so I’m hoping that this post will help. We shared some good perspectives though. Chris’ main criticism was that my anime consumption was excessive. And I mean, he wasn’t totally wrong. There definitely have been times when anime was a means of escape, and from his perspective, I certainly had been only talking about anime. Where I disagreed was him saying that watching an hour of anime everyday is excessive. Really, it should be no different from watching an hour of Netflix everyday, which is pretty common, or from engaging in your hobby for an hour of your day.

Bottom line though, Chris’ advice was this: it’s not about the art but how it helps us connect with people. He explained that the reason why he is the part of the garden club isn’t so much so because he loves gardening, but because it creates community and connections. It still sucks that he finds K-On repulsively boring, and that he thinks my hobby is weird, but I’ll have to accept it. And although the conversation was frustrating to have, I see arguments and conflicts as a necessary thing in order for people to grow together.

Two days after this conversation, however, God gave me some comic relief. After church that Sunday, I met two students from Japan, and I instantly connected with them. I looked at Chris and couldn’t stop laughing. As soon as I saw Sotaro, I was like, this was meant to be. I talked to him about Madoka, which he has seen, and drew the connection to Jesus. I was like bam, anime isn’t so useless. Anyways, since then, I’ve been spending a lot of time with Sotaro, watching anime, exchanging languages, music, cultural, and so on.

This bring us to the last story, regarding NHK. I had been meaning to watch NHK for a while, understanding its significance from such comments in GendoMike’s post. I mean just look at this amazing moment in history; back when Digibro still commented on other blogs, and before TWWK had watched NHK:

nhk comment.fw

The week that I watched NHK (two weeks before the aforementioned discussion with Chris) was brutal. As enjoyable NHK was, it was also very raw and deeply sad. As it dealt with what it’s like to live in isolation, with paranoia, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts, I realized then that what I had gone through in my first year of university was hikikomori. And sure, I knew that I was depressed and stuff, but this was me to a T–it didn’t just hit close to home, it hit home directly.

The night I finished it, I was overcome with the familiar feelings of sadness, helpless, and wanting to escape. I didn’t even feel like watching K-On to cheer up, I just felt numb. Just… what was I supposed to do when NHK had revealed my own brokenness and insecurities that I had not thought about for a long time? I even felt frustrated in knowing that drinking nor smoking nor masturbating would really help me. So like… after wrestling with my thoughts and praying about it, I eventually fell asleep.

Even during the next morning at work, I couldn’t shake the heaviness off. I was plagued by the weight of this despair ridden feeling that I used to live with. When I was eventually able to make sense of my sadness, I realized that what I really wanted was to be able to console Misaki. So after work, I came home and told Chris (who was there) about my conflicting realization.

I was sad because I loved Misaki. She was a sweet, lovable, cute, and sad girl who I wish I could hug and tell her that everything was going to be okay. That there is in fact a God out there who loves her and that I would love to do with her. But I felt conflicted in wondering if it was unhealthy to feel this strongly about a character. Because really, people like her exist, as did I, and if anything, I should be concerned about them not this fictional character…

Chris, as usual, thought all of this was a bit weird, and didn’t really say anything in response. So I prayed. I wanted God to give me an answer. Is anime bad for me? How should I process these feelings? Just what should I do? I wanted to retreat to my bed and have a feels trip, but I had to get going to a long meeting.

As you may or may not know, I work with children on the autism spectrum, and that day was our monthly team meeting. As the child would be turning an adult soon, we were having a big discussion regarding his future. These aren’t always the most cheerful conversations because things can seem bleak in assessing and affirming the child’s limitations.

But what came out of the meeting was truly a Disney moment. In considering what really mattered in life, it was that “all we need is a few good friends”. In such circumstances and context, we all felt the validity and reality of that statement. There are a lot to consider and stress over in life, but really, life is satisfying with good relationships. It was like magical and encouraging, and it helped me to snap out of my depressed state of mind.

By the time I got home, it was already getting dark. I was starting to fall back into despair mode when I got a phone call. To be honest, I didn’t really want to talk to anyone then, but I picked it up. One of the first things my friend disclosed was, “I don’t like being alive very much”. In that instant, I was ready. I wasn’t prepared per say, but I was on his frequency. I felt strongly about this, and I could tell him, with genuine conviction and understanding, to live. I felt so heartbroken for him. But in that, and in realizing my heart to pour love into Misaki, I was able to let him know that he is loved.

It took me a while till after the phone call to realize what had happened. I got my answer, and shockingly so quickly. I kind of couldn’t wait to rub this in Chris’ face. And so, this day communicated to me that God can use me, and God can use anime. A week later, I watched Madoka with Edward on Good Friday.

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PS
This was obviously a celebration of anime. There are, undeniably, a lot of questionable aspects in anime, which is why I’ve been so intentional in researching the medium and the surrounding culture.

PPS

This post took me such a long time to write and I was wrestling with it for 2 whole weeks. In the end, I realized that 1) don’t try to be perfect but just enjoy the process and 2) not everyone will resonate with my emotional experiences, but still, sharing them might show someone that they’re not alone.