Anime fandom parallel to hip hop: my “normie” perspective

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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.


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Image is from K-On!

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On learning languages

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This term, I signed up for a program at my university where you get paired up with a language partner. How it works is, you teach your partner a language, and they teach you a language — it’s that simple. Expected commitment level is 90 minutes (so around 4 anime episodes) a week to meet up and talk. As you probably could’ve guessed, I’m going to be learning Japanese (and teaching English).

I actually have some formal education in Japanese. I took Japanese during grade 10 and 11 for my high school language requirement. Like most — if not all — students in the class, I was initially drawn to Japanese by anime. That, and I thought that Japanese would be easier for me to learn than French or Spanish. The biggest advantage for me was — and it still is — the fact that I can actually pronounce Japanese syllables, unlike the syllables in the other two languages.

IIRC, Japanese 10 was mostly about learning how to read and write in hiraganaと katakana (the Japanese alphabet), and Japanese 11 was about learning basic vocabulary (ex. water, to walk, and warm) and using them to form basic sentences (ex. I was walking.). Five years later, I’ve still retained most of hiragana, some katakana, and many of the nouns but not the verbs.

When I got the email announcing my language partner, Shiori, I became filled with excitement. I couldn’t wait to use all the Japanese phrases I’ve picked up from watching anime. If you’re reading this and thinking oh no, don’t worry — I soon realized that people wouldn’t actually talk like they do in K-On! in real life. Or, to be more accurate, I probably shouldn’t talk with a sociolect of that of certain Japanese school girls. And although I don’t know very much about keigo (casual, polite, and honorific/humble speech forms in Japanese) yet, being Korean, I can at least begin to discern when and how it should be used.

Story time. I have a friend named Saba who loves watching Korean dramas. She said that K-dramas were very popular in Iran when she grew up there and so she has seen a lot (so I guess it’s like me with anime). Anyways, she often talks to me in Korean, and it’s actually very impressive how well she pronounces and forms her sentences, especially when considering that she has learned it all from watching K-dramas. Now, unfortunately for her (but funny for me), she sometimes speaks Korean in the way that used to be spoken back when we had kings (for example, in English, it’s like saying thou hath). So like… I can understand her, but no one talks like that anymore.

The best example of this in anime that I can think of, is to how Kuroko talks in A Certain Scientific Railgun. She always ends her sentences with ” ~ desu wa” or ” ~ desu no”. Unfortunately, there really is no English equivalent for this. But from the fact that I’ve never heard any other anime character talk like this, it’s pretty clear to me that most people wouldn’t talk like this. And this probably the most important part of learning a language, getting a lot of exposure to hearing and using it.

The point is, me going into Japanese, I realize that I need to be mindful of the kind of speech forms I should be using. And I predict that this is going to be my biggest challenge for learning Japanese. I can’t even imagine a person with English as their first language trying to grasp keigo other than to just memorize it — at first, anyways — without really understanding the nuances of using different keigo to emphasis different positions in conversations.

Anyhow, going back to the language program, this week marked the start, and I got to meet with Shiori for the first time. Everything was great except for the fact that she doesn’t watch anime. Of course it’s not the end of the world, but it does suck not to have the other person interested in a topic that I have a lot to say in. I would have loved to hear opinions on certain trends and tropes in anime from a Japanese perspective. To be fair, though. we did talk a little bit about the recent overwhelming success of Kimi no Na wa. (your name). She even said that she liked The Girl Who Leapt Through Time better and I absolutely agreed. As for our future meets… I’m thinking that it’ll actually be beneficial for both of us to watch anime or a Japanese movie together. I guess we’ll see.

In other news, a few days after meeting with Shiori, I found out that one of my friends is Japanese and she actually did the same program last term to learn Korean. On top of this, she said that she watches a lot of anime! You have no idea how excited I was. This seemed so perfect. I got to talk to her for a bit about the similarities between the Japanese and Korean languages. This was both fascinating and insightful because, the way I learn Japanese, I always connect it to Korean. I realized then that the fastest way for me to learn Japanese would be to learn it from a Korean person.

There are these videos on YouTube made by an American-Korean guy named Dave that I absolutely love, one of which explores the differences in the pronunciation of words among English, Korean, Japanese, and Chinese (and if you liked this video, there are tons more, like this one or this one). This has been one of the most fascinating things I have ever seen in my life, as I’ve always been fascinated by this kind of stuff but have never seen it being explored before. It’s also interesting to note that his video edits are in a Korean style. I don’t know how to explain it but you’ll definitely notice it when you watch the videos. Also — one last thing — I also found it intriguing that the shared language among his featured international friends was Korean.

As an aside, I want to briefly call attention to how widely the current American pop culture has embraced/appropriated the African American Vernacular English (lit, fam, dab, etc). And this influence, or rather a complicated relationship stemming from America’s history, is clearly seen in the attitudes of the millennials. What I’m trying to say is that these aren’t just words and slangs being used, they’re an integral part the current cultural landscape. I feel that this phenomenon is a byproduct of the social media age combined with… actually, I don’t think I’ve thought about this quite enough yet. And I don’t know if it would be accurate to say that hip hop was the major driving force, when hip hop as a culture has been progressing alongside society. You know… I think I’ll resort to saying that I’ll talk about this more at another time, but this is a great example illustrating the bidirectional relationship between language and culture. I would go as far as to say that the heart of a culture exists its language.

In terms of other languages I would like to learn one day, they would be Spanish and Mandarin Chinese. Spanish because it sounds so expressive and has a completely different feel from Korean and English, and Chinese because so many people in Vancouver and in the world as a whole speak it — so it would be the most useful, as my employer would say. I don’t aspire to be a polyglot or anything but I do think I have a passion for language. Or, words and communicating in general. That certainly would explain why I’m into rap and blogging.

If there’s a reason to learn a new language, I would say that it’s the same reason for recommending travelling the world (and these two usually go together anyways). Travelling can be fun and full of new experiences but ultimately, it leads to gaining perspectives. And perspectives are a funny thing — you really don’t know what you don’t know. So let’s learn.


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Image a screenshot from Kiniro Mosaic E01

Origin story: TV and I (B-side)

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[Soundtrack: one x2, two, threefourfive]

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!


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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