Where I want my blogging to go

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Now I’m aware that I just wrote a whole post on Digibro, but I wanted to quickly reference him again to highlight something different. In a follow up video to the vlog where he calls out anime YouTubers (which reminded me of Kendrick’s verse on Control), he starts the video off with, “… if you’re following [me], you probably have a deep interest in who I am as a person as opposed to just my opinions about anime…”. This is absolutely true–for me anyways–and this relationship aspect of blogging is what I want to discuss in this post; this is what I want to build.

I enjoy watching Digibro’s videos because of the approach to communicating with his viewers that he has established. While it certainly helps that my opinions are generally aligned with his, I love how Digibro is just being himself (his drunken rants partially notwithstanding). His anime analysis, then, are just elaborations of his “what” and then the “why” opinions.

When it comes to music analysis, I subscribe to theneedledrop (Anthony Fantano). Fantano uses distinct and colourful adjectives to describe sounds in a way that usually leaves me appreciating a record in a new way. His impressive knowledge base (the current culture, origins of sound, landscape of the industry, etc) allows him to look at a record through multiple perspectives (commercial value, originality, influences, etc). And although his reviews aren’t necessarily objective, by offering his singular subjective analysis on a such a vast library of albums, he has established meaningful objectivity for those who follow him.

This style of reviewing feels more like sharing critique rather than claiming authority on art. Since objectivity is impossible and pointless when it comes to art anyways, I think that the idea of following a critic for their personal opinion is far more interesting. Both Fantano and Digibro employ this style–and they make this transparent–and Digibro takes it a step further and shares his life outside of his content creation. The art of sharing one’s life, I guess. And it’s always interesting to see the life of someone who really likes the same thing that you like.

This is where I want my blogging to go; I want a writing voice that sounds conversational. Not only is it easier for me to write this way, I think that it is necessary to establish a relationship to be able to talk about the heart of challenging or emotional topics. Topics like depression, sexism, racism, religion, politics, and etc. I want my friends to be my readers, and vice versa. This is why I love and believe in Young Life, which its core philosophy is based on the idea of forming relationships and sharing life together. As my supervisor loves to say, “Christianity is not a religion, it’s a relationship.”

As I realized from working with various ages of children, there is so much joy in teaching and sharing the lessons and perspectives that you yourself have learned over the years. Like the mistakes that you’ve made that you don’t want them to repeat, if possible. Or just simply knowing that you shaped someone’s perspectives in a fundamental way.

I love analyzing, but even more so understanding its process. I am fascinated by the ability to categorize and compartmentalize ideas and problems, to better understand the topic in relation to everything else, and to be able to easily explain it to others. I desire to share how I see the world connect together and how the world makes sense to me. And especially, I’m curious about the psychology behind why people like the things that they do. And in the core of the curiosity is in wondering why I am the way I am. Sometimes, when things amalgamate in ways that you didn’t expect, it just feels like life makes sense, and at the same time appreciate its complexity. What I’m trying to describe is my enjoyment of looking at things holistically, rather than being an expert in one area.

Realistically speaking, however, in order for anyone to care about my opinions in the first place, I have to be an expert in something. This may be broad and ambiguous, but I would love to understand relationships. This reflects why characters are the most important part of a show for me.

A quick shout to FrankJavCee, who I think has found an amazing balance between being informative and entertaining in his videos about music projection and music trends. And Vsauce, who I think does such a wonderful job capturing the curiosity of the human mind in his ‘stream-of-consciousness asking more questions than giving answers’ videos.

These would be my influences for my blogging and thinking patterns. To end, here are some quotes that I thought of while writing this post:

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
– Albert Einstein

“The simplest explanation is usually the correct one.”

– Occam’s razor


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Image is from Hyouka

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A thank you letter to Digibro

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Note: this is an open letter because I’ve been wanting to address Digibro on my blog ever since I started blogging.

Dear Digibro,

I think that a brief introduction is warranted because I want to explain where I’m coming from. My reaction to your newest vlog, just shittalking other anime youtubers for like half an hour, oh god what have i done, was that I have to talk about it. Whether you know/care or not, you’re a figure I look up to when it comes to writing, critical thinking, and establishing a presence, I’m hoping that you might read this if I post it to r/Digibro.

Simply put, watching your analysis videos is what seriously got me into anime, and I want to express my appreciation. Before discovering your videos, I didn’t know that people were looking at the anime culture critically. Of course, since then, I’ve found other YouTubers who also do this, but none have resonated with me as much as you have.

At the risk of sounding like a fanboy/stan, it makes me so satisfied to hear you talk/rant because it so closely resembles my thinking patterns. And I love the way you articulate your thoughts because I often feel that this is how I should be writing. Here, you say the exact same thing about another person, and I love that. I can’t remember from which video it was, but your advice to new writers was to just keep on writing no matter what, because your writing also sucked for the first few years. You’ve been very humble and open about your beginnings, and admit that you’re excited to continue progressing. The fact that you sought out a mentor, ghostlightning, is a passionate indication of you wanting your writing to improve.

Because of this, I can’t help but be a little envious of what you’ve established. The way I understand your come up is that you’ve just been doing what you’ve always been doing: blogging. But you make it look like an inevitable progression, even though you’ve been putting in the work.

I strongly relate to your act of reflecting on and explaining yourself. The way you reflect on your writing style, the way you look back on the year, and the way you revisit your past and turn it into an interesting reveal about who you were and who you are now is intriguing and inviting. A few weeks ago, I posted a blog describing my blogging tendencies, and like a day later I see you’ve put up On the 3 Types of Videos I Make. Crazy.

The impulse for writing this post/letter was further motivated by a few other instances. One, after finishing Girlish Number back when it aired, I couldn’t help but think that you would actually love it. It just made sense that you would from following your videos. So I felt this sense of validation when you announced your favourite anime of 2016. Two, I also didn’t enjoy Non Non Biyori, even though it totally makes sense that I would based on the other anime that I like. Finally, in the aforementioned vlog, you highlight the issue of weak writing in the anime community by mentioning Gigguk’s unnecessary introduction. I know that this is a particular pet peeve of yours (and I admit to doing this — my bad). I can definitely relate to the frustration because 90% of MAL reviews start out like this and I remember lightly thinking, ‘who cares?’. But I couldn’t help but think that this was what I was supposed to do since it’s so prevalent.

From time to time, I do notice a difference in our opinions, but I think we both welcome different perspectives. Overall, I really wanted to express the sense of connection and understanding I feel when watching your videos. I don’t know if I’ll ever make videos myself but I’ll definitely be around. I feel very passionate about anime (among other things), and I hope to join in on the conversation at some point. Even if you’re not reading this, then, at the very least, my thoughts are now out there.

If you are reading this, thank you.

simok


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Image is of Shinobu from the Monogatari series

Linguistics of anime and moe

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(Note: I don’t have the necessary experience to discuss this topic myself, so I’ll be doing a meta-analysis on what has been discussed already)

A video by Geoff Thew (Mother’s Basement) called, “Avatar is an Anime. F*** You. Fight Me.” went to the top of r/anime today. But the focus of this video wasn’t really about Avatar: The Last Airbender as it was about discussing the changing definition of “anime”. I highly recommend watching it, but what the video discusses is the growing problem with defining anime as a “Japanese produced animated series”. Geoff starts his argument with Shelter, which is a music video that challenged the integrity of the definition in a way that has never been challenged before. Can we call the work of an American music producer (Porter Robinson) collaborating with a Japanese animation studio (A-1 Pictures) an anime? Moreover, what about the fact that what most people would consider anime are actually produced in Korea or China?

Digibro acknowledges this dilution of the term but makes a point that having a distinction is convenient for discussion. r/anime certainly agrees in having the distinction as it exists to “focus on the discussion of anime”. So then, the question is, “What Is Anime?” We’ll come back to this after we look at moe.

In his video, “The Evolution of Moe Anime” (which was posted just 2 days ago), Lewis (Anime Everyday) defines moe as pertaining to both a genre and an aesthetic, where moe is a certain characteristic and art style used in anime. My interpretation of this is that moe is a device used to invoke feelings of ‘cherishment’ and love towards what the moe aesthetic was applied to. Lewis suggests that this moe aesthetic has pretty much always been an element in anime, as far back as Astro Boy: the focus on facial expressions, the emphasis on innocence, and the marketability of creating characters that live beyond the screen. Lewis highlights the introduction of lead female characters in anime which led to an increase in female viewers in the ’70s, thereby pushing anime productions to include moe aesthetics to appeal to both male and female viewers.

Digibro has also released a video in which he discusses moe. Digibro, however, is more concerned about how the word moe has been used and makes a clear distinction that initially, moe referred to neither a genre nor an art style, but was a word to describe a feeling. Thus, in its initial usage, otaku would use ‘moe’ to describe the feeling they had for anime characters — as in, they would feel moe towards a character that they wanted to see do well and succeed. This is different from how moe is presently understood as “something that triggers your protective instincts”. Digibro concludes by saying that moe is a dead term that only exists now to be used derogatorily to describe bad “cute girls doing cute things” shows.

What I think is interesting about all of this is the lack of Japanese perspective on these terms and their usage in Japan. But, understandably, the focus of the discussion is the cultural landscape of the international audience of anime. After all, we are using the word “anime” instead of cartoons to describe the predominantly and initially Japanese medium in our discussions. The definition of moe seems to be continuously debated and disagreed upon, but I think that as language evolves and definitions change, moe will largely be referring to the aesthetic of cute character designs.

Geoff and Digibro agree that, as time goes on, the distinction between anime and other mediums will be impossible to make. Geoff concluded in his video that anime is a movement and that it influences the American anime that we see today (like Avatar), and that the future anime creators are being influenced by the what’s popular now. As I’ve said before, one of the reasons why I watch anime is because it allows me to affectionately revisit the cultural attitudes and feelings of my upbringing. What I think will be interesting is to see how the specific cultural values and relational hierarchies that exist in Japan and thus in anime will translate to other mediums.

Origin story: TV and I (A-side)

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[Soundtrack: one, two, three]

After experiencing a sense of community and excitement from exploring the anime blogging community (like Digibro‘s excellent Diary of an Anime Lived project), I thought it would be appropriate for me to write about my starting place. In an attempt to keep the narrative coherent, the focus of this post will be on how I became the anime fan I am today. Note the italics.

Let’s see… I’m 22, and currently, I’m in the slice-of-life anime phase.

I’ll start by saying that I’ve watched more anime this winter term than at any other point in my life. This was a fairly big surprise for me along the way because I never thought that I would become this into anime. Let me explain — I like to think that I play a fairly big part in the hip hop community at my university. I like to make beats, DJ, and just last winter was the height of my dark-Atlanta-trap music phase. I found myself asking, “What’s happening?” constantly throughout the term. Anime completely deviates from hip hop culture, down to the rhythm and feel (and yes, I’ve seen Samurai Champloo).

Having said all of this, however, I’m by no means unfamiliar with anime. I started watching anime in ’90s Korea before my family and I immigrated to Canada (I say this like I had a choice but really it’s just what you do as a kid in that time and place). I was part of the generation that grew up with Pokemon and witnessed and experienced its international phenomenon along with the rapid progress of globalization facilitated by the internet. I might even go as far as to say that anime has played a significant role in shaping my perspectives, but for the most part I would have agreed with the idea that anime is for kids.

The other thing, which I’m still in the process of understanding and navigating the landscape, is the fact that anime by definition is a Japanese medium. What’s wrong with that? Nothing. But at the same time, I grew up with my grandma lamenting about the hardships and injustice she experienced during the war by Japanese people almost on a day to day basis. I’ve also heard from my Korean friends years ago that it’s frowned upon for a Korean person to like Japanese culture. When I asked my parents about it recently, they told me that it’s completely fine, especially in my generation, but it’s nevertheless a sensitive and complicated topic. I digress, but I wish to one day be able to confidently open conversations about it. At this time, I have a much better understanding of the black struggles in America.

Going back to the narrative, let me talk about my earlier experiences in Canada. Anime, in all of its context, was quite different from the predominantly white and first nations population that I went to high school with. And in the very first days in Canada, I remember feeling weirded out when I saw Pokemon on TV. It was just so different — everyone’s voices and even the theme song. To me, the English Pokemon felt like a completely different show. I remember feeling quite upset about it for a while, and it embodied the feeling of being different and perhaps even alienated in this new country.

In the very early years of living in Canada, I remember watching Naruto (with subtitles, of course) with my siblings. So I guess it was around 2004. I remember that some scenes were quite brutal and emotional, and it would make me physically shiver throughout some of the episodes. The fact that a show could make me experience something like that seemed simply amazing. Moreover, I liked the ideals that Naruto had, which I mean, to put it simply, was about trying your best and overcoming your odds — the classic shonen genre mindset. At some point, however (I think it was around episode 190), I stopped watching it. It was either because the site bad stopped working or our parents raised the pressure to not spend time doing things other than studying English.

And I guess, for better or for worse, I started to watch the TV shows airing in Canada. Let’s see… it was mostly stuff from YTV and even some stuff from Treehouse (it’s a kids channel). This is just what was accessible via the basic cable plan. At the time, YTV had some seriously weird-vibe TV shows (ex. Jacob Two-Two & Yvon of the Yukon). As for the shows on Treehouse… well I mean they were easy enough for me to understand and it was rather pleasant to watch (I just realized that kid shows are in many ways, “slice-of-life”).

Well, that was elementary school and by the time I went into high school, I’ve started to hear people tell me, “Wow your English is really good!”. By that, they meant that I didn’t have an accent. So I guess watching only English media paid off. Throughout the first half of high school, I didn’t watch any anime. Instead, I watched shows like Arrested Development, How I Met Your Mother, Friends, That ’70s Show, and Community. I guess I’ve always had an affinity to sitcoms (there’s also a Korean sitcom called High Kick! that I’ve seen a few episodes of). Out of that list, Community is easily my favourite. I absolutely loved all the referencing, meta, and (seemingly) quirky and intelligent humour. I mean, Abed is the product of the TV generation.

Around grade 10 or so, I remember my younger brother occasionally bringing home the shonen jump magazines from the local library. It was in one of those pages that I discovered Rosario + Vampire… which led to a harem/ecchi anime phase (this is when I watched Zero no Tsukaima & To LOVE-Ru). I mean something was so intriguing about watching a male protagonist trying his best to be a nice guy and… having inadvertent sexually gratifying things happen to him all the time. I mean, it was like porn (mind you, sex never happens) but for your mind and ego. While this certainly has its own problems pertaining to expectations and perception (much like actual porn), but at the time it’s just what I was into. I’ll talk more about the similarities/differences and my current thoughts on fanservice later.

Funnily enough, I think it was during this time of me checking out anime again that I encountered Neon Genesis Evangelion. I mean it consistently ranked high on lists and it seemed to be one of those “you have to watch this in order to understand the culture” kind of a thing. So I watched it, and it was the first time where a show really fucked me up. I would summarize the person I was in my adolescent as: a kid harbouring a lot of angst unbeknownst to him while trying his best to obey his parents’ authority while feeling frustrated. Needless to say, I connected with Shinji almost instantly, and I could not believe that there was someone who understood my feelings so well that they could create a character like Shinji. I remember at the time, the scene (from episode 2) where Shiniji sort of goes berserk to defeat the enemy felt like the most intense experience of my life. I was almost too scared to continue watching the show.

Well I managed to finish the show in three days. I didn’t quite get it, but I thought for sure I experienced something crazy. In the end, though, I felt that this was yet another thing that I couldn’t share with anyone else from my high school. The majority of the disconnect stemmed from the natural differences in our cultural upbringing. For me, it just felt so weird trying to connect with kids who seemed to have this whatever attitude towards everything while I tried my best not to get punished from my parents (I know, sounds real healthy). How I felt at home was just so different from my surroundings.

To describe my surroundings, I would say that perhaps because of the geographical restrictions of being on an island, it seems that the decades stay a little while longer. And with a large percentage of the population being seniors, it seemed like the ’70s and the ’80s kind of stuck. That’s just what it felt like. One of my best friends introduced me to the ’80s one hit wonders while another got me into metal (Metallica, Dream Theatre, etc). In a very real sense, my high school experience felt very similar to That ’70s Show, and I was Fez.

When I had graduated from highschool, I moved to Vancouver for my university. It was during this time — upon a fairly messy breakup — that I fell into a deep depression. And it was not until this year (4 years after the break up) that I’ve been able to fully understand and accept what had happened. I’ll just say that I was both too immature and young to know how to deal with my own problems, let alone anybody else’s. This doesn’t excuse me from any of my actions, of course, but that’s what happened. I started smoking weed too, and I would genuinely feel paranoid that everyone hated me. For much of the first year, I would be trapped in that mindset and I spent a lot of time alone. Anyone’s who has spent a lot of time alone can tell that it makes you go crazy.

Well, time went by — as it does — and I got better. I mean I was still struggling and I would be struggling for years to come, but I stopped living in isolation. In the summer after first year, I watched NGE for the second time, and I understood it a whole lot better. A big realization that I got out of it was the fact that coexisting with other people will inescapably bring you pain, but there’s a lot of joy in it too. This was catharsis and it played a huge role in affirming my interested in psychology. If you also resonate with NGE, Digibro wrote a very personal post called Shinji and I – Diary of an Anime Lived: Neon Genesis Evangelion and I highly recommend reading it.

See you all on the B-side!


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Image is a screenshot from Community S4E12

Soundtrack one is [Corridors of Time by Yasunori Mitsuda] performed by Super Guitar Bros

Soundtrack two is Disillusion -2006- (instrumental) by Tainaka Sachi

Soundtrack three is Snow Storm (instrumental) originally sung by Kugimiya Rie