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.
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.
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?
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?
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:
First slide: “The vice captain…”
In all seriousness, I do think that this personality trait can trigger, perpetuate, or aggravate mental illness symptoms.
First slide: “I must…”
This is when anger turns into into envy and hatred.
First slide: “I can’t…”
This is typical tsundere regret and introspection.
Sort of NSFW. First slide: “If you’ve…”
This depicts the doubt of others not understanding our pain.
First slide is: “Often I…”
This depicts putting distance to avoid problems.
This depicts wanting to be left alone to avoid problems.
This depicts not wanting to be alone, despite pushing people away.
First slide: “I’m starting to…”
This describes self-victimizing characteristics.
This depicts feeling bad after being emotional.
This depicts some classic self loathing.
First slide: “is that…”
This reveals the nature of “self-created” problems.
First slide: “I don’t know…”
This depicts the fact that depression can make you feel like you shouldn’t feel happy.
First slide: “I know I…”
This describing victimizing, blaming, and how it hurts others around you.
First slide: “It was so bright…”
This describes self loathing, the severity of which happens with prolonged bitterness.
First slide: “No way.”
This depicts inconveniencing friends, but in a good way.
First slide: “At the time…”
This depicts why someone might isolate themselves.
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.
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…
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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
So I finally got around to watching Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica–I thought the timing was appropriate. Given that it’s the second highest grossing anime series–and now I understand why–Madoka has been thoroughly discussed since its release 6 years ago. Well, here’s what I thought from my experience today. Spoilers below:
Even right now, I can’t believe how perfectly executed and paced Madoka Magica’s plot was. The ending’s grandness easily rivaled The End of Evangelion, but Madoka was even more beautiful. And what was so profound about Madoka was that it left me overflowing with hope. And for a show that was saturated with darkness and despair, this was an incredible feat.
When Madoka sacrificed herself and changed the universe on a fundamental level, I couldn’t help but see Christ in her actions. The concept of her becoming hope itself and claiming victory over despair… that’s who Jesus is for Christians. But the most notable difference between who Jesus is to Christians and who Madoka was to Homura is in the active relationship we have with Jesus, who is our source of joy, hope, love, and peace. Our God has made Himself known to us, and we know the depth of His love through His sacrifice. Despite many portrayals of Christianity, it all comes down to having a relationship with God with faith that He loves us and that He won over death. That’s seriously all there is to it. And so, even though Good Friday marks the death of Jesus, there is no need to be sad like Homura, because we know that hope exists, and not just as a concept but as a relationship.
Image is a screenshot from Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica
As indicative of my recent posts pertaining to anime in general rather than individual anime series, my intention is to build a solid knowledge base in anime. Although in part motivated by my novelty to the medium, I’m also genuinely interested in learning about it; I don’t want to just enjoy consuming anime, I want to be able to understand and celebrate the thing I love. And in seeking this holistic understanding of anime, I want to be able to explain and share this passion with others.
Myself prior to getting into anime can be described as a twentysomething student living in the Canadian West Coast who would use the word ‘fam’. I never went as far as using vernacular such as ‘mad ting’, but it wouldn’t have been so out of place among my friends, many of whom are rappers. Speaking of which, I would like to call attention to how prevalent the African American Vernacular English (AAVE)–and the currently emerging Eastern-Canadian/London patois popularized by Drake and BBK–has become in the North American popular culture; hip hop has undeniably been integrated with the American society, growing alongside America since its come up.
While this is sort of obvious, at least when you think about it, what fascinates me is how anime seems to be becoming mainstream as well, in the West. Although my personal subscription of media content is biased, I think noticing anime’s popularity is a reasonable observance, which has been especially noticeable in meme culture. And in my frame of reference, Porter Robinson’s Shelter signaled a groundbreaking assimilation of anime into the popular culture, which cemented my anime fandom that only really started (a month prior) in September of 2016.
A semester (4 months) later, I would be experiencing my first time following an anime season (Winter 2017), which–by the end of this week–I will be finishing 9 of the season’s titles. This number isn’t even including many older series I’ve also been watching and… I found myself asking why, as this is objectively a lot of anime. Well, you could say that I’m obsessed (aka otaku), but probably, this is just a phase. I’m not implying that I’ll stop watching anime–it’s too culturally and nostalgically significant for me–but the time allocated to anime will naturally decrease.
There used to be a time when I would listen to at least one hip hop album a day as I felt inspired by rap and I wanted to learn everything I could about hip hop. I actively researched for ‘classic’ albums that I should listen to if I wanted to understand the culture. And I seriously dove right in: I’ve rapped, produced, DJed, and right now I’m even running a hip hop club at my university. What’s crazy is that this only started (almost exactly) 3 years ago when my friend invited me out to Rappers Without Borders, the aforementioned student club. But even though hip hop has solidified itself as a major element of my life, it doesn’t replace people, relationships, and community–and it’s going to be the same for anime.
In saturating myself with anime for the past 8 months (and I’ve actually yet to be satiated), I feel a satisfying sense of understanding for the current landscape of anime. And in feeling this way, I also realize my separation and differences in perspectives compared to the people who have watching anime for years: my appreciation of the ‘moe’ sub-culture. Before some of you dismiss me–although, really, who cares–what I understand of moe is that it’s very difficult to define it due to how diversely it is being understood and used today. And so, in clarification, when I say moe culture, while still acknowledging moe blob, loli, and CGDCT, I personally enjoy its focus on relational aspects of story telling (although this is slice of life), and the clean, cute, and colourful aesthetics they usually entail. In music genres, moe is the bigroom of EDM (generic), trap of hip hop (over-saturated), pop music in general (good production)–and all of these things are easy to consume.
Now, even if I recognize this, someone like me who actively enjoys moe may be frustrating to many. Although I can try to explain my pickiness within the moe genres, I can certainly sympathize with this frustration: hip hop has ‘youngins’ who only listens to Lil Yachty, Kodak Black, or 21 Savage. No shade against them, it’s just that they represent the currently over-saturated and derivative (mumble rap) trap sub-culture of hip hop. But let me offer this perspective, in prioritizing togetherness, understanding, and celebration of the positives: not that we can even stop art from evolving, new fans of the medium are nonetheless new fans. There’s no reason to discredit them or worry about the medium’s demise, because true fans will always seek out for more, as I am doing.
But I’ll admit: I have not seen all the ‘classics’, and at this point in time, it’s not my priority to watch all of them anytime soon (my MAL has over 100 PTW titles). I’m talking abut Ghost in the Shell (I couldn’t finish it), Your Lie in April, Clannad, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Code Geass, Gurren Lagann, and the list goes so on. While it could be argued that the classics must be watched in order to truly understand the medium, I think having this reference (at this point in time) is relevant in reflection of how newcomers come into the anime fandom.
My perspective, then, is when I came to the fandom that was post-Eva, post-Haruhi, post-NHK, post-K-On!, and post-Shirobako. I came in and enjoyed the likes of New Game! and Gabriel Dropout while also enjoying NGE and NHK. I didn’t hate One Room, I didn’t think the Monogatari series were confusing, I agree with the popular opinion that FMA:B is great, I’m slowly watching Cowboy Bebop… and K-On! is my favourite. Compared to modern anime, I don’t particularly like the character designs of early 2000s like in Clannad. These are just some of the ways to describe my viewing experiences.
In hip hop, there is a fairly vague divide in what we call old school and new school, in which old school is now synonymous with boom-bap (Just Blaze) and G-Funk (Dre). The original 80s sound of hip hop is probably called ‘super old school’ or ’80s hip hop. New school is whatever is new, which is trap right now so I guess the stuff in the middle like early Drake and MBDTF Kanye are… throwbacks? I guess it really depends on who you ask. And if Kanye’s 808 is said to have influenced all following 808 focused productions, K-On! is analogous in having created the CGDCT boom that is still popular today. Or was that Lucky Star (and Man on the Moon: The End of Day)?
In closing, I find it incredibly interesting that hip hop and anime actually amalgamates in some crossroads. Lupe and Logic watches anime (regularly?) and Kanye, at the very least, appreciates anime. And in both cultures, music is a huge part of the medium, which is a big reason for me being involved in the first place–I’ve seen entire anime series just because I liked the OP. I also can’t help but love the intonation of ‘seiyu’ (voice actors) and their dramatic, syllabic delivery of lines reminiscent of rapping.
There’s also vapourwave, which stands at an interesting junction between the two, a genre which is the soundtrack to the meme culture, that has the sampling aspect of hip hop and in which many of these samples are from ’80s Japanese funk records. How did this come to be? I don’t know, but it feels somehow catered to me.
Thanks for reading, I hope you found my frame of references as interesting as I did thinking about it. To read up on other personal perspectives, check out Diary of an Anime Lived.