#1 Everybody Loves Somebody

Sometimes the simple rhythm of typing gets us from page one to page two. When you begin to feel your own words, start typing them.” – William Forrester, Finding Forrester

Frequently, change happens slowly and without notice. We wake up every day to the same routine, convincing ourselves that nothing has changed, or will. It’s incredibly easy to settle in to doing the same thing repeatedly, never pushing forward, unwittingly passing up opportunities that present themselves daily.

When one is stalled, it is difficult to recognize a change in one’s self, but it takes that one single moment to realize that change is inevitable, or in my case, that change has already happened, and all that is left is the emergence of someone different, someone who you may not like, or if you’re lucky, someone who you always wanted to become. Regardless of outcome, it’s important to recognize the change in yourself and the feelings that come with it, lest others discover it before you do.

I have no idea when when that kind of change happened to me, but it was when I watched episode 9 of Tamako Market that I realized that I was in love. It’s in this episode of the series that we begin to see more clearly the feelings of a number of characters in the story. In a conversation between Naoko Yamada and Reiko Yoshida, the show’s director and series composer, respectively, their thoughts on love and how they wanted it to be portrayed centralized around Tamako, a girl who showered with love by everyone in the shopping district, as well as her father, Dai. Tamako lies at the center of a complex, yet understandably resonant web of relationships between people who, by the very nature of knowing each other and Tamako, are capable of loving each other:

Perhaps it would be better to say she’s a symbol of everyone’s happiness or perhaps she opens doors for people. Even though she’s supposed to open doors for them, she’s supposed to have a lot of problems. She makes resolutions to open those doors for others. I wanted to convey that through her conversations with the others in the shopping district.” – Naoko Yamada, director

As we come to know Tamako as the treasure of Usagiyama, she remains a catalyst for others to realize their feelings. What makes this show adept at making these feelings resonant to its audience is how gradual these revelations are exposed for some, and how sudden they are for others. For Dai, his love for Tamako and his late wife, Hinako, has always been present. For the former, it is much more apparent to the audience, usually played for laughs with his hot and cold tsundere act towards his daughter; for the latter, however, it’s something that lies a little bit deeper in the story. It isn’t something that had changed throughout the series, but has always been, hidden in the melody that Tamako spends most of the series trying to identify.

In episode 9, those feelings  rise to the surface and figuratively erupt in a series of flashbacks, pushed along by Tamako’s “accidental” discovery of the song’s origin. She overhears his wistful singing and slowly strummed chords on an acoustic guitar she probably never knew existed. Upon that fateful discovery, that Eureka moment, she drags her father to the record store, triggering the penultimate flashback of his performance with his band, Dynamite Beans: an expression of his love for the person who meant so much to him in life, and still means so much to him after death. By reluctantly sharing those memories with Tamako and Anko, he extends that love to them as well. He has always meant to do so, but it took a little, albeit accidental push for him to get there.

It’s kind of funny, how the tiniest unintended coincidence can spark such a significant torrent of change. It’s even more funny to not even realize this change until years later.

I have always considered myself a romantic, but have come to accept the fact that, due to my “unique” personality and unconventional choice of hobbies and interests, I wasn’t the “right kind” of romantic for most women; I even conceded that I wouldn’t be an ideal partner for the vast majority of them. The compatibility requirements for someone to not just accept me for who I am, but to also appreciate and support it, left me thinking that the odds of finding someone, anyone, who could fit that particular mold would be so rare that it would be a futile effort to actively try and search for her.

And thus, instead of going on that obsessive search, I wrote and reflected about that hypothetical search instead, which was perhaps just as obsessive (if not more). I reflected on matters of the heart, but mostly matters regarding my own heart. By writing about Serika Itou, I reflected on where I was in life, and how I longed for someone on the same cusp as me, or at least on the other side of it. By writing about Katawa Shoujo, I reflected on the weight of gesture, and that I could appreciate someone who was kind and thoughtful enough to appreciate the value of the time we’d spend with each other, regardless of circumstance. By writing about Yuki Nagato, I reflected on the idea of a person who could love me from the sidelines, silently supportive and who could communicate her feelings to me without having to say it directly.

By writing about iDOLM@STER girls, the penultimate romantic self-assessment, I reflected wholeheartedly about my ideal partner; it was a journey of deep introspection and discovery, albeit experimental and hypothetical in nature, and I learned many things about myself and the kind of person with whom I wanted to fall in love.

As I watched Tamako Market, I realized that the feelings born from my introspective writing had been building up underneath for the longest time and became what they were, and just like Dai, they revealed themselves unto me in a volley of emotions from the show that I had come to identify with so closely. Throughout, I had been subjected to nearly every single kind of love: first love, unrequited love, love that moves on, love for friends, love for family, love ephemeral, love eternal. Somehow, I had connected to every single loving feeling in this show, and it allowed me to contextualize the love that was within myself, from which I discovered I was capable of sharing it with others, namely one person:

She would be loving and supportive of your writing endeavors, able to cheer you back up should you ever fall into a funk or suffer from extreme writer’s block. Not only is her positive attitude seemingly inexhaustible, but you both value family.

Underneath her dreaminess I think lies a very loyal and loving person, who is also very whimsical and humorous. She would take most everything in stride and laugh at all of your puns.”

For someone who had previously commended my honest self-assessment, this ideal partner that she painted out was a lot closer to me in real life than I had imagined, far closer than any idol, astronaut, or humanoid interface ever could be; it took several years of friendship and a series of her own sudden changes for her to become that very person she had described. Before I afforded myself the opportunity to reveal my love for her upon my late, late realization of this development, I would instead share a moment watching an episode of Tamako Market with her instead.

I had no idea why I had extended such an invitation so late that Thursday night in March of this year; somehow I should have known that sharing an anime experience such as Tamako Market would have led to something significant happening. One could say that invitation was sent on a whim, by chance, by accident. But as episode 9 so easily showed, such accidental occurrences could make all the difference.

No, it wasn’t a climactic and dramatic gesture that had set this entire event in motion, it was something that had been there, hidden, and revealed so gradually, yet at the same time even suddenly. It was like that of the emotions of love revealed and expressed in the show that we had watched; it was the show’s ultimate resonance that had caused the appropriate outburst and response. The rest, one would say, is history.

And thus I bring myself back to the original quote that I used to open this post. Whenever I find myself in a writing slump, I always turn to my favourite film of all time, Finding Forrester. In its iconic scene where Jamal Wallace learns to write and to love writing, he starts with words from the person he eventually comes to admire the most, and quickly fills in the rest with his own. For the Twelve Days of Anime, this particular installment was the most difficult to write, not so much in terms of gathering the courage to express what I wanted to say, but rather to take the next step in my writing. As such, I followed in Jamal’s footsteps and started with a piece I loved, and let my words take over once I felt comfortable.

All this time, I’ve been writing about finding that person, but what now? I should feel confused and lost, but all I know is that, like Jamal, I am also inspired the wonderful words of those that came before me. If it weren’t for that wonderful post that was so honestly written, this one would not exist today, and I am as thankful for that as I am for Tamako Market itself. And while I will continue to write, it will no longer be about finding that person; it will be entirely about myself and for the purpose of sharing my love for writing with those who mean the world to me: family, friends, future fans and a fervent fiancée.

Everybody loves somebody. With time, Everybody eventually loves somebody, just as I have with her. And I couldn’t be happier.

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