So at the end of the A-side, I had mentioned that I rewatched Neon Genesis Evangelion after my first year of university where I was dealing with depression and paranoia. It spoke to me, and it forever established a special place in my heart. I felt deeply understood, perhaps even for the first time in my life. Going on a bit of a tangent here, I think that Hideaki Anno (director or NGE) uses his art to try and connect with other human beings because he can’t do it by any other means. That’s just what I see. And although this is socially maladaptive in a very real sense, I see him as a genius and an artist (I want to add here that in my current perspective, the greatest artists are not tortured geniuses). And this is exactly how I feel about Kanye West, but that’ll be a story for another time.
Just as a quick disclaimer, I want to mention that this next part was rough to write. It’s not that I felt hesitant about sharing it, but that that it was genuinely difficult to navigate through the details of events when I was experiencing some degrees of psychosis and my marijuana use was high no pun intended.
I think it was around the same time when I — almost obsessively — started seeking out anime titles that I saw as a kid in Korea. I would become increasingly distraught by artifacts of memories (be it a 5 note motif or a certain sequence of plot) that I would happen to remember randomly. This wasn’t triggered by weed, as I’ve been wondering what the sources of those artifacts were for serveral years, but weed definitely acted as a gateway that connected me back to my childhood memories (google “weed childhood memories”, it’s a real thing). Especially during stressful times, I found myself strongly yearning for a childlike simplicity and innocence.
I was able to find one of my favourite childhood anime fairly quickly, called Cooking Master Boy. It’s a classic 90s shonen anime where you have a skill (cooking, in this case) and you as a kid would go on grand adventures while honing your skills, making friends, and saving the world. This anime couldn’t have come at a better time because for the majority of my first year, I was eating about one meal a day. I wasn’t anorexic — although I definitely had some pervasive self-image issues — I just didn’t have the appetite. For most of my life, I remember not liking the food that my mom cooked me (ungrateful, I know), but this led to many fights between us that led to me forming a bitter attitude towards food. Mao (MC from CMB) on the other hand, learned to cook from his mom, and he always cooked to make other people happy. This, along with weed, revitalized my appetite and made me appreciate the love that my mom had for me.
For a bit, I’m going to change the narrative from chronological to ideological.
One of my biggest fears in life have to do with forgetting. It’s no accident that I started keeping a journal, though this wasn’t my primary motivation. My grandmother had alzheimer’s and it can be incredibly sad and difficult to deal with. It also seems that memory loss is inescapable with old age. That’s scary. As I had mentioned earlier, I had these pieces of my past (sorry for dramatizing childhood memories) coming to me every so often. I’ve always wanted to figure out from which anime the memories came from, in part to remember my Korean culture and heritage. Ironically enough, one of the most resonating and haunting plot/theme that I could remember was about this girl who was pulled into a magical world and made friends there, only at end she had to go back to her own world knowing that all her memories in that world would be erased. Incredibly heartbreaking, for me anyways. I even remembered this 5 note motif that played during when she was saying her farewell to her friends. Well, I was eventually able to find it, and if you want to check it out it’s called Petite Princess Yucie. It made my eyes roll when I had realized that Gainax (anime studio of NGE) produced it.
Similar to this story, I spent a lot of time tracking down anime that aired in Korea based on bits of my childhood memory. This became quite easy at some point, with the emergence of 나무위키 (a Korean wiki that’s a degree closer to Encyclopedia Dramatica but still mostly legit) and many YouTube videos of old Korean anime. None of these resources were present prior to ’10s. I can honestly say that these OP and ED brought an incredible amount of joy to me as I re-listened to them a decade later. I was surprised at how much memory came back as soon as I heard the very first sounds — I felt like a child again. Also, I couldn’t believe how much TV I had watched as a kid (I knew at least a 100 anime titles). It was a flood of memories and feelings.
This also led to my fascination of the linguistic differences between Korean and English, as the themes and sounds of the music present in OP were so incredibly different from the sounds and philosophy I had acquired here. For me, the OP felt familiar, yet completely unfamiliar at the same time. It was so interesting how expressions were translationed, how one culture was more partial to certain ideas, and how certain words just could not be translated. I then realized just how much language plays a role in shaping and even directly processing one’s thoughts. With two cultures and two languages inside of me, I started to appreciate the duality of my perspectives. And although I watched anime in Japanese, in my head — as I read the English subtitles — I would try to figure out what the Korean dub would be saying. This allowed me to affectionately revisit the cultural attitudes and feelings of my upbringing.
I want to briefly mention Fullmetal Alchemist. When I tried to watch it as a kid (maybe around the same time as when I watched Naruto), one of the very first scenes traumatized me. I became afraid of the dark all over again. I was able to finish it, but it was years later. Let me finish my opinion on the franchise by saying that to this day, every time I watch FM: Brotherhood, no matter which episode I start watching it from, I will stay on the ride until the end. It’s that engaging of a story.
Now let’s go back to the somewhat chronological order. In my second year, I didn’t really watch anime. I was back to watching American TV shows like Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones. I also took a break from smoking weed for the whole 8 months. A weird thing happened near the end of my second year: a friend from my jazz combo put me onto hip hop. I remember not liking hip hop in high school (to be fair, it would be like someone saying that they hate metal because they don’t see the appeal of Metallica) but that attitude slowly changed. Starting from good kid, m.A.A.d city (because I wanted to understand why this Macklemore person made so many people angry about this album), I was listening solely to hip hop by the beginning of 3rd year (I went all out too, like I joined a hip hop club which I am currently the president).
In the spring of 2015, during the end of my 3rd year, I came upon something that truly touched me. It was the Korean OP of Nadia: Secret of Blue Water. I don’t know why, but as soon as the OP started, I froze, and I had a feels trip. I vaguely recognized it as something that I had caught a 10-minute glimpse of when I was like 7. But I was immediate thrown back into that space. It was something that I didn’t know I had been longing for until the moment came. I think I cried. It was so nostalgic and it seemed to define the happy and adventurous spirit I was as a child — a part of myself I had completely forgotten about. So of course I watched it. And I think for the first time in a while, I was constantly having a good high with no anxiety.
That month (I think March?), I was intensely engrossed in the world of Hideaki Anno (also directed Nadia) as I also fell in love with Kare Kano. Surely enough, I remember seeing the title as a kid, but I mean, as an elementary kid, I had no interest in something titled “That man that women” (translated Korean title). It was a magical month, and to this day that month feels like a very special time in my life. This event ultimately led to the start of me producing music. At the time, I just wanted to share the joy I found through music with other people. This sometimes became delusions of grandeur (people need to hear this, I am what the world needs) while I experimented with psychedelics.
As for my 4th year, I have three words: The Boondocks, DJing, and dark-Atlanta-trap. The bad news, however, was that I failed a lot of courses that year. And the depression that I thought I had finally gotten a handle on, was once again depriving me of life. It guilted me out of happiness, it petrified me in times of stress, and it made me blind to the love around me. And the scary thing was, it consistently seemed to come by around 8pm everyday.
While I had a few strong moments of determination to change my life over the years — to stop eating unhealthy, to exercise, to stop watching porn, to stop skipping classes, to stop feeling like shit basically — it was all unfortunately temporarily. After years of depression, perhaps the worst voice to come about was maybe this is just my life. I felt like I was drowning, and I felt so confused all the time.
So how did I go from there to here? I’m not sure. At the time, I found myself desperately praying that I wanted to change. I didn’t like my current self and how I was feeling all the time — I just wanted to be good and to feel good. For once, I thought it couldn’t hurt to try and actually put faith in God. I don’t know, I’ve been running with it.
Winter 2015 wasn’t without its great shows, however, Rick and Morty was simply superb. What helped generalize my anime fandom was when I saw my new roommate watching Konosuba. He doesn’t normally watch anime and he doesn’t know that I watch anime. But as soon as I caught a glimpse of it, I thought oh god what is this fanservice trash? Well it turns out that it wasn’t trash, but anyways, at this point, I’ve never ever disclosed my involvement with ecchi anime to anyone. I felt like it would be like telling people you used to watch porn but it’s not quite porn and it’s in drawings. Although… to be fair, that’s kind of what it is. But, at the time, I didn’t know how to feel about it. I felt some shame for having watched them, but also, there was undeniably something about it that I enjoyed. I couldn’t understand what it was at the time so my intentions felt misguided. Moreover, I found it hard to understand many other parts about myself in general. Who was I? Why does the me from my high school years seem like a complete stranger? How could I being to explain what had happened with my first relationship? How will I ever reconcile with my family?
These were incredibly difficult questions for me, but I knew that I had to sober up first. I’ve come a long way since my first year of depression, and I’ve certainly learned and healed a lot. Well, somehow, I found myself at a church even though I hadn’t gone for years. It was a weird service, or rather, it wasn’t a service at all. It was the resignation speech of the head pastor saying that he couldn’t afford the housing prices in Vancouver (oversimplification and a joke). What really touched me though, was how the congregation was moved into weeping. I mean even from what I could tell as a first impression, he was a man who really poured out his life to the people that he was leading.
That was it. I wanted to become a that. I wanted to become a leader. I had always wanted to help people — afterall, this was the primary reason for switching into psychology. That and the fact that I really wanted to understand this thing we communicate as depression. I loved hip hop for its ability and platform to encourage people through words. And it was music at the same time. As I took a good hard look at myself (which was long overdue), I realized that I wasn’t doing the best I could at my school, my job, or even in my music production. I was constantly in a cycle of anxiety. That needed to change. And for me to want others to change, I needed to change first.
So it’s now 8 months after that Sunday. And we’re nearing the end of 2016. I thought I was going to talk extensively about all the anime I saw this winter term as I prefaced back in the A-side, but I guess I won’t be doing that on this post. But just to mention my favourite titles, they were: the Fate/stay night visual novels, K-On!, New Game!, Bakemonogatari, and Toradora.
By the way, K-On! straight up changed my life. It accounts for why I’m in the slice-of-life anime phase now and it plays a big role in explaining my personal love for anime further. It somehow even ties together with my promise to elaborate on porn and fanservice anime. I also won’t be talking about this on today’s post but I got my inspiration from a post by Bobduh called Nisemonogatari and the Nature of Fanservice, Ctrl+F “Episode 8. Dental hygiene.” There is also an incredible editorial by gendomike (who has now unfortunately retired from blogging) on the broader topic called “I’m Only Interested In 2D Girls!”: On Lust, Animated Desire, and Gender Expectations.
This post turned out to be a lot longer than I had anticipated. I never meant to break it down into 2 parts. And although even I can tell that I could have written some of the parts better, I feel good about this as a starting place. I definitely learned a lot, both about myself and about writing. It has been an amazing past two days for me — writing on the ferry, at Blenz, and whenever I came home from work. It was also such a wonderful opportunity for me to reflect on basically my whole life through exploring what TV series I had been drawn to over the years. It seems very fitting for an end of the year post. Thanks so much for reading!
Image is screenshot of LCL Sea from The End of Evangelion
Soundtrack one is [When I Think About the Lord by James Huey] played on piano by Melody Henning Long
Soundtrack two is Ame iro Rondo by Hashimoto Yukari
Soundtrack three is Akogare by Mitsumune Shinkichi
Soundtrack four is Peace Reigns in the Land by Sagisu Shirou
Soundtrack five is Greendale is Where I Belong by Ludwig Göransson