The Weight of Family (feat. Senjougahara)

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I still haven’t shared much from my time in Korea–for reasons–and unfortunately, the poignancy of the trip has faded quite a bit since then. But there may be another way to share its individual stories, and this may just be a better method in that it gives me the opportunity to really flesh out the themes. And of course, I’ll be going back to the basics: using anime to help me talk about things that are otherwise difficult.

So I just got off the phone with my aunt in Korea, and what I didn’t know was that it was also Thanksgiving there–thematically equivalent to our Thanksgiving. And in that short, 12 minute phone call (Kakao Talk), I reconnected to the experience of ‘family’ that I had felt in Korea.

What I learned only after my trip–from listening to my friends–was that this experience of losing ones family is quite common for immigrant families. And I mean families aren’t just your mom, dad, and your siblings living in a house. It’s your grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and all of their children spread across the country. And I have like 30 cousins. Apparently.

In Bakemonogatari, we learn about Senjougahara’s past when she chose to cut off her ties with her mom, which is how she–literally, in the anime–lost her weight. Now, I’ve seen this arc a couple of times, mainly while trying to get people into Bakemonogatari, but it never hit me as hard as it did when I watched it after my trip to Korea.

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You see, I had lost all my ties with my family back home. I mean, my situation wasn’t as intentional, but rather as a direct result of moving far away. But there definitely were some heavy stuff in there as well. Like the fact that I didn’t always get along with my family. Or that identifying as Korean became difficult and embarrassing to do as I grew up on Vancouver Island. There’s brokenness for sure. And for the past 5 years since I’ve moved out, I’ve completely lost knowledge of the bond known as family. I mean the way I saw everyone, they were either my friend or they weren’t. Even at church, forming a family centred around Jesus–as special and amazing it is–was simply the idea of companionship and sharing life together. And not to undervalue the church but to reveal my capacity to understand the depth of relationships.

When I met some of my relatives back in Korea, I could physically feel the weight of our bond. It was actually too much, because it was deeper than anything I had known. It was heavy and I knew I wouldn’t be able to understand it yet. And by no means I’m saying it was bad, but to think that I had lived most of my life without this? It was really sad but at the same time, I’ve never actually missed my family because… how could I miss something that I don’t know about? I was overcome by this new feeling familiarity, unity, bond, and support.

And that’s when the weight of my family came back to me–good and the bad. And tonight, I felt it again. It’s not fluffy (fuwa fuwa) or pleasant like that, but it’s certainly something I will treasure. And for sure, it’ll be a long journey and a healing process that will undoubtedly be painful, but like Senjougahara, I’ll desire it.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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Tsundere irl: anger, bitterness, and trust issues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Self explanatory.

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

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

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This depicts wanting to be left alone to avoid problems.

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

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

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Self explanatory.

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This depicts feeling bad after being emotional.

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This depicts some classic self loathing.

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Self explanatory.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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This depicts being scared of getting hurt again.

 

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

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

Our pastor David opened up with Romans 7:15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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PS

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

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

PSSS

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

PSSSS

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.

A discussion on Harem, Tsundere, and Romance genres through Masamune-kun no Revenge (2017)

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(Note: This post was written after intentionally only watching 4/12 episodes)

I was feeling conflicted after watching the first few episodes of Masamune-kun no Revenge because, even though I didn’t think that the show was very good, I’ve been enjoying it nonetheless. And as someone who judges anime based on their first episodes, I had to question the reliability of my first impressions. Even as I watched each consequent episodes, I was struggling to determine whether my frustrations about the anime were warranted if I was enjoying it. I’ll be exploring the answers to these questions by discussing Masamune-kun’s harem, tsundere, and romance narratives.

Masamune-kun no Revenge, from Silver Link., is a currently airing Winter 2017 anime. MAL lists it as Harem, Comedy, Romance, School, and Shounen, and there are certain expectations to be had with this set of genres. Without a doubt, we can expect to encounter a story about a boy and his struggle to navigate through the drama and misunderstandings that come with having multiple girls like him at once. I understand that this premise is quite prevalent in anime, but for the purpose of this discussion, I won’t be drawing comparisons to its contemporaries (but Nisekoi is probably the most apparent).

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The intentional reason why I had decided to write this review after watching only the first 4 episodes is because the harem plot had just started at the very end of episode 4, when a rival/competing girl arrives and halts what seemed like a guaranteed relationship development between the two main characters. Frankly, I would have been perfectly happy to have the show ended right there before this had happened because the promise of their relationship had been establish enough. But the fact that a new girl character was introduced exactly at this point is a clear indication of its frustrating purpose. The problem with harem genres, other than it being a fanservice device pandering to the male audience (watching girls fight over a guy), is that it usually takes precedent over the show’s romantic narrative. The harem plot decides the length of the show by introducing new girls after each arc and have the main couple go through yet another drama and misunderstandings. And you can see how this quickly becomes uninteresting and rather annoying.

But I think the reason why many people, including myself, stick through this drama is because we’ve become invested in the characters. And to be fair, the establishment of connection with the characters was executed well in Masamune-kun, and this should be praised. And the essential component to this success, I think, is by having the main girl character be a tsundere character. Nearly all the harem series has a ‘tsun’ to ‘dere’ plot, which is when a girl with trust issues eventually falls in love with the guy because of his willingness and kindness. I think it’s unfortunate that tsundere characters are mostly exclusive to the harem genre because I find it easy to engage myself with tsundere characters. I find myself naturally empathizing with these characters because their brokenness and inability to trust feel incredibly human. But let me make it clear that there is a distinction between realistic tsundere characters and tsundere characters that were written just for the plot.

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Unfortunately for Masamune-kun, it’s more of the latter. The main girl, Adagaki Aki, is incomprehensibly and inconsistently warm and cold towards the MC, Makabe Masamune. And as a result, Adagaki’s character loses authenticity and becomes annoying, to the point where the show became frustrating to watch. But — just when I thought I was done with the show — they introduced the tsundere hook, which is the “sad” backstory of why she is the way she is: she had her heart broken by a boy when she was a kid. And even though I realized the emotionally manipulative nature of this device, it was effective because the flawed actions of someone with a trust issue is just as understandable as it is frustrating. The fact is, a lot of us live our lives by doing what we think is the best for our happiness. And this is Adagaki’s inner monologue:

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“I’m such a terrible person. I’ve always hurt other people so I wouldn’t get hurt. [But] if it means never having to go through that again, I’d rather be hated and have people keep their distance from me.”

Although my explanation of the show’s conventions have been pretty standard up to this point, there was something that made Masamune-kun different. Normally, the MC of a harem series is heart-warmingly (and impossibly) nice. They are altruistic, kind, and would easily sacrifice themselves to help another person. The twist in Masamune-kun’s story is that Makabe draws his intentions from wanting revenge (hence the title). It’s revealed to us that he had been planning this revenge, for the past 8 years of his life, because a girl had rejected him when he was a kid. This single event motivates him to change his name, move, and to “get hot”, in hopes that one day, he finds her and makes her fall in love with him, only to dump her afterwards. The show makes it clear that Makabe is a petty character.

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I’m going to go talk about the episodes for a bit. The show starts from Makabe’s first day in his newly transferred school. Just as Makabe walks in to the school, he sees Adagaki, who is the very girl that he had been plotting revenge against. She makes this big scene in front of the whole school as she publicly humiliates a guy for asking her out. The first half of episode 1 establishes the fact that Makabe is narcissistically proud of how all the girls (except for Adagaki) think that he is hot while Adagaki is described to “[have] the best grade in [their] year and is really beautiful [but acts stuck up]”.

There is an interesting dynamic at play as I realized that the show benefits — to a certain extent — from being intentionally frustrating. The cycle of frustration and relief, if done well, reels in the audience. And at the same time, when there is a payoff, it just becomes that much bigger. This is probably romantic drama 101 though.

For me, the main appeal of the show was watching Makabe and Adagaki interact. The tension between the two characters hating on each other, in a fun mix of explicit and implicit actions kept the show engaging. I appreciated how Makabe’s efforts to win Adagaki over often highlighted both of their inabilities and flaws. And this is where the heart of the show is revealed: as Makabe invests a lot of time and energy on Adagaki in trying to make the revenge happen, and as Adagaki is thereby shown persistent affection from Makabe, the two start to inadvertently fall for each other. And I think that this progression of closeness when they actively want to be mean to each other creates a certain sense of authenticity in their romance. As well, as the viewers find out more about their flaws, the more it appears that they’re actually perfect for each other. These underlying implications keep the overarching story engaging.

From here, I’m going to switch the tone to a negative one, because, even though the show has been enjoyable, it is hard for me to fully reconcile with the fact the show used cliche romantic plot devices along with a rather flat tsundere character. As the episodes progressed, the show’s push for the romance agenda between Makabe and Adagaki became painfully obvious and at times felt forced. What I mean is that in bringing the two characters to bond, Adagaki was put in vulnerable situations that caused her to need to rely on Makabe, and Makabe, in turn, was given some decent and reasonable characteristics that seems to contradict the pettiness of someone how would harbour hate for 8 years (spoilers):

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Episode 1:

  • Makabe finds out about Adagaki’s secret related to food. Adagaki is deeply embarrassed and tells Makabe not to tell anyone.
  • Makabe gets cut while protecting Adagaki from a guy that Adagaki had rejected earlier.

Episode 2:

  • Makabe is very aware of his good looks and popularity, but he still feels very shy when it comes to him meaningfully interacting with girls.
  • Makabe goes out of his way to help bring food to Adagaki.
  • Adagaki rejects Makabe, but does so without the usual the public humiliation. Soon after this she’s completely mean to Makabe again. (+1 for tsundere)

Episode 3:

  • Adagaki finds out that Makabe actually gets good grades and she sees him helping his friend study in a genuinely kind way.
  • Adagaki makes a fool out of herself by wearing cosplay to her date because she didn’t know any better. This implies that Adagaki is actually (in anime terms) an “airhead”. (+1 tsundere)
  • Makabe conveniently remembers in a flashback that Adagaki was actually quite nice to him 8 years ago, and that she is not all meanness. But only after all these years.

Episode 4:

  • Adagaki reflects on her past and how she had her trust broken as a child. (+1 tsundere)
  • Makabe literally saves Adagaki’s life from an oncoming traffic.

These events weave the characters together and puts them under a sympathetic light, but I feel that there is some artificiality in it. The strange eating disorder, cutting incident, and the car incident especially are clear plot devices — basically the deus ex machina of romance. And I also didn’t like how all of this seemed to be at the expense of Adagaki.

Although Masamune-kun is entertaining and engaging enough as a romanctic comedy anime, it wasn’t much more than what you would have expected from the start. Although this doesn’t mean that the show isn’t worth watching, there were definitely some scenes that made me go, “not this again”. But, of course, the show hasn’t ended yet. Somewhere along the plot, because of his original intentions of wanting a revenge, Makabe is going to have to prove to Adagaki that he really likes her. But in the end, the thing that makes me want to keep watching is because the show has its own emotional plot and integrity.

In closing, here are some of my romance anime recommendations:

Toradora!: romance drama (w/ tsundere)

Bakemonogatari: romance mystery (w/ tsundere)

Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun: romance comedy (romance not actually developed)


[Source]

Image is from Masamune-kun no Revenge

ぜんぶ / 전부 / everything

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At the end of Bakemonogatari, this is what Senjoughara tells Araragi while they both look up at the night sky (spoilers):

“That’s everything.

That’s everything I have.

What I have is no more than this.

What I can give you, Araragi-kun, is no more than this.

No more than this… and everything.”

This scene touched my heart. Her honesty and vulnerability transcended the narrative and became a part of my own experience. Fictional or not, Senjoughara’s actions were a beautiful display of humanity and love.

Since watching this scene, this idea of giving my everything has been on my mind. In anime, we often hear the ubiquitous term がんばって [ganbatte], which translates to “do your best”. While there is, of course, a limit to pushing yourself, I don’t think I hear this notion enough in western culture, and so I find this to be a good reminder on how I should live my life — by doing my best.

In the Bible, we are told to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” (Luke 10:27). Whether you believe in God or not, I think it makes sense that love should be given with all that we have. And I would expect nothing less from God. Even in our relationships, we should strive for love and kindness; we should try our best.

Now the problem is, doing your best becomes increasingly difficult to do as you age. Gradually, it becomes harder to care about things. Things become boring or difficult, and I certainly admit to easily losing motivation. Basically, it becomes impossible to care about things in life without getting hurt or being taken for granted — or even worse — be taken advantage of. We often hear that the way to happiness is to “not give a shit about anything”.

But when it comes to love, at least, I think it’s necessary that we should try to love with our whole being. Otherwise… it’s not love. And I learned that by limiting my giving, I’m also limiting my receiving. Now just to be clear, there is a clear distinction among infatuation, dependence, and love. I am not advocating that your partner should be everything, because they’re also human beings with brokenness and flaws. But nonetheless, we should be striving to give without the fear of losing. The popular Bible verse about love comes from 1 Corinthians 13:4-8:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

And when we witness real love, it transcends time and culture. And it necessarily changes us because when we experience something good, we won’t accept anything less. It’s that simple. This idea of love is all around us, and we can see the passion of love appearing in pop culture:

“Cause all of me loves all of you” – John Legend

“Give me your all and nothing else” – Selena Gomez

And these are just from a quick Google search. But although the love here is love too, it’s not the complete picture of love. Love is not dependant on time or based solely on physical desires. Passion is indeed a part of love, but I think that our pop culture’s idea of passion is often mixed in with sexual desires. And in many ways, this only limits our understanding of how amazing the fullness of love can be. But wait — if love is so amazing, why are we all so broken? Why is it so difficult to find real love?

I’ve mentioned before that I was a camp leader at RockRidge Canyon during New Years. The main theme of this camp was this: we were made for relationships. And as I spent 5 days getting to know a group of high school boys, I soon realized that they, too, have trust issues. Not that this was surprising — unfortunately — but at the same time, it’s really sad to see brokenness in kids. Trust is a necessary component of love, and if trust is broken for a person, it leads to them breaking future relationships with others.

I don’t mean to romanticize kids like they’re perfectly innocent human beings, but I would be lying if I didn’t call attention to the fact that they’re different from adults in that they still have a spark of light in them. Maybe this is a generalization, but I think I have some integrity to speak about this, as I’ve been working closely with two kids on the spectrum for the past 3 years.

Speaking of kids, high school is the most common setting in anime. Even if you’re saving the world, you still have to go to school. I appreciate the fact that in anime, the time of adolescence is not trivialized. The challenges that kids face are very real, and let me acknowledge that it is not easy being a kid; their pain and their suffering can just be as overwhelming. And I think it’s important to have this compassion for kids because we were all once kids. It’s widely known that the anime director (and co-founder of Studio Ghibli) Hayao Miyazaki has a passion for kids, and his work in the anime industry is regarded as one of the best. This is what Charles (TWWK) had to say about Miyazaki’s work in his post, Hayao Miyazaki’s Common Grace:

“[The] theme of children understanding and demonstrating love better than the adults surrounding them is frequent in Miyazaki’s works.” … “He taps into truths that cross the lines of culture, and conveys them with the signature lines of his proverbial brush.”

Charles then goes on to mention Luke 18:16, where Jesus says, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these”. From being around kids, it’s clear to me that kids’ still have an innate willingness to trust that many adults have lost (understandably, to be fair). When bad things happen to kids, their mind naturally floats rather than sinking into depression. These trusting and joyful tendencies are needed to love fully.

On the last night of camp, the boys and I were able to have a great discussion. It was amazing to witness what can happen when you love kids for who they are, even in just 5 days. As I talked to the kids, they seemed to have been inspired by love, and so was I. And it became painfully obvious that somewhere down the line, I had stopped trying my hardest in relationships, and that this was the norm of our culture.

So how can we establish and maintain a culture of kindness, love, and respect? A culture where asking for consent does not needed to be taught because it’s so obvious that consensual sex is better. A culture where it’s obvious that relationships are more important than wealth and fame. A culture where it’s obvious that money doesn’t bring you happiness. A culture where real love has inspired us to not want anything less than the best.

And perhaps even more so, for Christians, how can we strive to reconnect with our ability to trust and give everything? To pour ourselves into the relationships that we have, with such love like 1 Corinthians 13?

I urge you to all find the answer to these questions. I found my answer in Jesus, but that’s just me. In my experiences, it’s worth finding the answer because having the ability and the capacity give your all can be incredibly satisfying and fulfilling. You deserve this. You deserve love. Because you were made to be loved.

I have a lot of respect for those who come out of brokenness and is able to put faith back in love. And obviously, this is never easy. The fact that I was able to do it is a blessing and a privilege. When I look back at Senjoughara, I see what love can do. Coming from a broken family and a history of sexual assault, she said that she didn’t have much to give. But the remaining “treasures” in her life, she vowed to give it all to Araragi. What more can us humans do? What more would God ask for us? This is all He wants.

And for those of you in darkness, suffering a loss, or feeling the weight of this world, let me say this: there will be things in life that will make you believe in love again. Such beauty is still present in this world.

So my thank you goes out to God. For His glory, for His redeeming of my ugliness into beauty, for His healing of my heart into trusting again, and Him giving me His everything first.


[Source]

Image is a screenshot from Bakemonogatari E12

Origin story: TV and I (B-side)

nge4

[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!


[Source]

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