#9: I Remember Love

On the night of January 29, 2013, I decided that I would take the dive into the wonderful, wacky world of Macross. I had never seen a single entry from the franchise before, and while the entity itself wasn’t as large as the Gundam family, it still had quite a number of entries to its credit, and finding a good starting point was an interesting proposition. Unlike Ghostlightning’s Gateway Gundam (which I did take, and am currently following its diagnostic for reasons), or the Starter Precure Quiz that I put up a while back, I had no particular referential framework to work with. Luckily, I decided to watch Do You Remember Love? first.

As I’ve mentioned before, I was still blogging back then, but was never really deep into the mecha genre, nor did I familiarize myself with the myriad of analyses into the Macross franchise strewn across the blogosphere. I was happily outside of discussion, ripe for the possibility of, as I’ve mentioned before, enjoying the franchise on my own terms. Instead of writing about the movie itself in a post, I livetweeted it. I loved it. And so did others:

Do You Remember Love? isn’t the first Macross experience that most people have, partly due to its age compared to other entries like Plus and Frontier, both of which were my immediate follow-ups, and will have Twelve Days entries of their own. 2013 was the year I dipped into the pool of Kawamori and his ecclectic style, and while my first Kawamori experience was AKB0048 (perhaps even a more rare occurrence than DYRL being one’s first Macross), I certainly could see myself delving deeper into this directorial style. What I feel about Macross as a whole was remarkably similar to that of my love for the Pretty Cure franchise (although nothing will ever hold a candle to that, more on this later).

In Pretty Cure, I found a franchise that had no qualms about telling the same story over and over again, with differing bits and pieces here and there. While most would dismiss this approach entirely out of commercial rehashing and milking a lucrative cash cow, I was fascinated by the show’s ability to take the same tenets of what makes a series Pretty Cure, and expand on this mythos through different angles, with variation on theme, character, and even artistic styles. Through history, one could trace such storied franchises through a literary taxonomy of sorts, and after taking a more holistic view of the series itself, can identify those tenets.

That isn’t to say that one couldn’t do this for a single story (which constitutes adaptation), but the journey of discovering what is truly PreCurian or Macrucian about those franchises begins with a single step. With PreCure, I enjoyed (and still do) that particular journey, but leading off with Do You Remember Love and following up with the other entities within the franchise was like listening to a musical piece composed in a Theme and Variation form. The main idea in its purest sense is introduced, then played with in several ways, presented in a specific developmental order to create artistic effect.

On a more personal level, the eponymous song from the movie laid a foundation for much later on the year, when I got together with my fiancée. The song held a shared meaning between her and myself, and over time, it became “our song.” It was the song that I couldn’t stop singing at work in the days leading up to my visits to her city. It was the song that we slow-danced to together in the parking lot of the airport right before I flew back home. It was the song that we slow-danced to together in her apartment shortly after I proposed. It’s the song that we will dance to at our wedding.

As I’ve said before, it’s not just this movie that brings me back to places past, but also the other entries. They somehow fill me with such memories that only I have, that I keep to myself and value so much. While I truly love Kawamori’s directorial style, what makes me love Macross specifically is its ability to not only do the “theme and variation” effect with its story, but somehow, it rings true to me with my own life as well. My life is a story in itself, with its own themes and memories, and somehow, watching the different iterations of Macross allows me to see my life in the same way.

What will seven bring? What will SDF bring? What will I remember? I look forward to seeing these questions answered next year, though feel regret that I didn’t get to find out this year.

#10: Manifestations of Idiot Blood

Even though I am the only child of my mother and father, I always considered myself as a middle child of sorts amongst an older wave of cousins within my extended family. In my younger years, I looked up to three cousins several years my senior, while I huffed my chest at the fact that I was (barely) older than the other three, born only several months after me. I’ve since been fortunate to have had even more cousins added to our humble unit, but the seven of us were my formative circle, the family with whom I grew up.

The eldest, Isabelle, despite being an only child like me, took up the mantle similar to an eldest child, bearing the responsibility of setting the example, yet paving the way with her rebellion, much like her mother, who was also amongst the eldest of her many siblings. The eldest male, Mikelle, perhaps set forth on his own individual journey, far from the expectations of what was originally the traditions of our asian family – as any tiger parent would agree, it’s doctor or bust – yet completely his own, and has grown into them in the best way possible. Jenny, two years older than me, perhaps came closest to that idealized image of success that our parents ingrained into our upbringing, and was the golden standard for that particular image; however, her accomplishments were entirely her own, and fully deserved.

Leah, the third of us three only-children, came up from modest beginnings to realize a completely different sort of success, much like her mother, who sacrificed everything to provide a comforting life for her daughter when she immigrated to Canada. Mikelle’s younger sister, Gliselle, only 6 months younger than I, was the jewel of her family, her second name aptly named Princess. She traveled not too far behind her brother on a similar, yet somewhat charted journey, much like that of my mom’s younger siblings. Christopher Jencen, the youngest, the “baby” of the group, and little brother of Jenny, found his way beyond the spoiled upbringing so typical of youngest children. He made use of this privilege and became his own independent person.

At the middle of all of that was me, always on my own, and always unsure of where I fell in the wide spectrum of personalities and temperaments that my cousins represented. We were the children of the oldest siblings amongst my mom’s family, and together under a single roof during many a family gathering, and we weren’t any different from them.

Frankly, we were idiots. We all always were. We acted goofy and made no apology for every fart, burp and smell emitted from whichever convenient orifice. We had our stupid in-jokes that nobody else got and laughed at ourselves without any restraint, much to the confusion of anyone in the outside world who had the misfortune of seeing that large Filipino family on one of their many outings. No single person was above the rest, despite their age or occupation; everyone had their moments worthy of lower pegs.

I never considered myself as anything particularly special within the family; I was merely there. I always went off on my own, often stuck in my own world. As kids, while the rest of us played some dumb imaginary game involving lava on the floor or whatever made-up Mario Bros scenario, I eschewed jumping from couch to couch with a sock hanging out from the back of my pyjamas – they were the next best thing to having real raccoon tails – in favour of playing a game of keep-ups with a balloon. It was my own balloon, and I batted it around everywhere, never touching the floor.

My mom will never admit it, but that’s pretty much how she fit into her siblings as well. While everyone contributed their own unique dynamic with each other, she was pretty much off by herself as well, especially in her teens, when she met my father, the youngest and aloof as well. They were loners who belonged to each other, and somehow I wonder if I’ve gone and done the same in my life.

I’ve found my loner. There’s nothing idiotic about that, but the way I act around Emily is fondly reminiscent of the stupid things I did when I was around my family. She’s told me numerous stories about times where she would trail off from her friends and simply stare at something, or randomly draw on a chalkboard sign at a bar, or simply going back to her own place to paint while the rest of her drunken party raged on into the night. She understands what it’s like to be so incredibly unique that it often doesn’t seem to fit within a social dynamic.

All that matters is that we fit with each other, our own brand of idiot blood born from different families, and I wonder how that will play out amongst our children-to-be. Even though our wedding is still a ways away, albeit remarkably close, I’m already looking ahead to our middle child, who we’ve predicted to be a boy in between two girls, Karen and Sophie. His tentative name, as dumb as it sounds, is scarra. We couldn’t think of any suitable boys’ names, so we stuck with the in-game name of a professional League of Legends player from Team Dignitas, William Li. We could have simply called him William, but Emily and I are idiots, and scarra he shall be.

Will ‘scarra’ stick? Probably not, but I wouldn’t be one bit surprised if he turns out as ludicrous as his tentative namesake. In a unit of three children, two of which are girls from what I envision to be opposite temperaments – Karen the steady, emotional rock, and Sophie the lackadaisical prodigy – for scarra to be in the middle, yet so far removed in his own world, would be a blessing, and I would treasure and nurture his oddities. They will be forever a part of him, and he will forever be a part of me. He will be a manifestation of my idiot blood, flowing freely from one eccentric generation to another.

#11 Adaptations of Evil

One of the things I enjoy the most about watching anime is that it can be enjoyed at any pace. When a show is simulcast on an online service like Crunchyroll, it remains archived and readily available for viewing at any time. Similarly, fansubbed shows that are acquired by torrents can be torrented and watched at a moment’s notice. This allows for anime fans to catch up on currently airing series rather quickly, and keep up with the rest of their peers, while others, who aren’t necessarily interested enough to keep up, can watch whenever they want.

For me, this sort of freedom allows me to enjoy the show on my own terms, picking up on random tidbits here and there, and forming my own opinion and like/dislike based on the experience itself, rather than the watercooler discussion that surrounds it during its simulcast run. It’s nearly impossible to truly experience the show in one’s own terms without being informed by others, and while I don’t necessarily allow myself to form my opinion based on what others think, it’s hard for me to not pay attention to things that people talk about, and as a result, I miss out on something that I personally enjoy that others don’t care to talk about.

For The Flowers of Evil, I originally watched the first episode the same day it aired, with a sort of anticipation that was difficult to explain. I never read the source material, but I did know of the mangaka’s storytelling style of incorporating quirky, yet intense characters into very heavy situations that create shock value. When the first episode was over, the only shock in the audience came mostly from the visual style rather than the story itself; “rotoscope” was the overly discussed and often misused and misinterpreted term of the month, temporarily replacing others like “satire” and “deconstruction.” The word I concerned myself with was “adaptation.”

Sometime after the episode aired, I had a very interesting conversation with Emily, one of many that we had before we started dating, about this show and the nature of adaptation. In an interview between mangaka Shuzo Oshimi and director Hiroshi Nagahama, the director talked about narrative vision, that Oshimi’s vision of the story was presented in his own way in the manga, and that any sort of straight adaptation that is taken from the manga itself (that is, adopting similar character designs and art styles) would be pointless. Adaptation, according to Oshimi, required insight into his original vision, and the ability to convey that vision and emotional impact through a different medium. Nagahama’s medium of choice was originally live action drama, which led to the decision of rotoscoping the story in its entirety.

This is the core concept behind adaptation, that an original artist’s idea is taken and reinvisioned to reflect another artist’s interpretation of that idea. In anime, one of the biggest problems of adaptations is that the anime often exists to as a promotional medium to sell the source material, and because of this, there’s often an expectation that adaptations stay as close to the source as possible. The sacredness of canon is fascinating to me, but also infuriates me, knowing that a director’s creativity is stifled. It’s the reason why I gravitate to anime-original works than simple adaptations, but because of what Nagahama showed in what he wanted to do with The Flowers of Evil, I felt like I owed it to myself to watch it all at once when the show ended.

It wasn’t until the end of October, with NaNoWriMo coming up (a “failed” endeavour this year, although only in certain respects), that I looked to finish the rest of the show, having only watched the first episode when it aired. I was months removed from discussion, and months removed from the anime blogosphere itself.  Still keeping in mind the concept of adaptation, and that wonderful conversation that I had with Emily, I thought about both auteur’s intent to leave an impact on people.

One of the wonderful benefits of watching a show in its entirety over the course of a single sitting is the ability to more clearly see the overall form and structure of the plot and the involvement of its characters. As a writer, I’ve always been mindful of structure, often planning out how a story will begin and end in my head before putting the proverbial pen to paper. What I saw with Flowers was a series of narrative tenets, reflective of Oshimi’s style: clumsy, awkward outcast characters put in heavy situations, resulting in the blossoming of unlikely relationships in the midst of those situations.

And there it was, the element of adaptation that I was looking for. Of course, I didn’t want to simply write The Flowers of Evil fanfiction, but rather I wanted to put my own spin on these tennets and write something for myself, putting in ideas that mattered to me. I loved two things about Flowers, the love triangle and the “pact” between Kasuga and Nakamura. I wanted to preserve those two elements and fill the rest with my own ideas. I ended up using different characters, and planned out different circumstances that led to the formation of the blackmail pact.

And thus, Unseen Horizon was born. Unseen Horizon is a story about a boy in high school who loves to write, but is ashamed to share his writing with other people because of what he loves to write: romance novels. He’s always scribbling in his notebook about romantic adventures between unlikely characters, and often uses people from real life as inspiration, namely, his crush, the most popular girl in class.

While working on a particularly racy novel involving this girl, he loses his notebook, which is discovered by another girl, the school librarian, a lonely girl whose experience with social interaction comes from those in the books she reads. She blackmails the boy into writing stories for her, threatening to show his crush his manuscript if he doesn’t follow her whims. They spend time together writing stories and discussing the nature of narrative and people, but his crush develops a crush in return, completing the twisted triangle.

I love the idea of a love triangle that exists between people who have their own personal demons that affect the way they communicate and interact with others, namely those in the same triangle. Oshimi carefully built up all three characters in relationship to each other, which reached a fascinating climax in the first arc of the story, which was adapted into the anime that I’ve come to enjoy for these particular elements, despite not necessarily loving it as a whole.

The Flowers of Evil, both in manga and animated format, made me realize an interesting thing about adaptation, that the best ideas come from the tightest restrictions. It forces creative types to think outside the box, but keeps them grounded and gives direction. It’s a creative approach that I’ve always subscribed to, and watching this show in its entirety reinforced that notion tenfold.

As for Unseen Horizon, it’s still a vision in my mind, as I ended up writing something else for NaNoWriMo. It will remain a vision in my mind, because it’s my own, albeit inspired by someone else’s, which is completely fine. That’s how adaptation is; it’s evil, and it’s fantastic because of it.

#12: A Garden of Words

The Twelve Days of Anime is an anime blogging tradition where writers put up 12 consecutive days worth of blog posts, reflecting on their experiences with anime, primarily within the past calendar year. In today’s anime blogging landscape, with the amount of literary theory and analysis applied to these cartoons that we love, it’s such a wonderful breath of fresh air to shift the writing style of the entire sphere to a more personal approach.

I personally prefer this type of approach, especially when it comes to talking about anime. There’s a sense of identity and voice that allows me to personally connect with person behind the cute anime girl avatar that I see on blog posts and in twitter feeds. In a way, anime bloggers naturally put on a mask of sorts that comes off for a few weeks each year, and it allows me to truly enjoy everyone else who loves anime just as much as I do. We let ourselves become human, become humble, and share those experiences with others.

I used to blog about anime not too long ago, and my departure from the anime blogosphere and my decision to distance myself from the community was out of insecurity and fear of the unknown. The obligation to stray away from the my style of writing weighed heavily on my ability to write at all. I didn’t know what I want to do with the blog, nor did I know where I would fit in the community after the dust settled and my relationship with Emily was established. It was an interesting story, but I digress; I promise it’s a topic that will be addressed in a future installment of Twelve Days.

Unsure of what to do, I simply left. I left twitter. I left my blog. I left the audience that I’ve cultivated through years of honest writing and being myself. It wasn’t as much about no longer being myself, but rather the idea of not being the same person about whom I was writing; once I realized I was in love with Emily, I was a different person, for the better, I feel. However, I was no longer the person that was portrayed on Baka Laureate, and as such, I had to stop writing there.

I look back on the blog itself and see a number of interesting posts there, namely on love and romance, and the improbability of being with anyone due to my “unique” interests. I sell the anime fandom short in saying this (as there are a large number of amazing, datable people who happen love anime), but when lined up with the rest of the world, it’s hard to imagine there are that many reasonable people who would accept our hobby and all of its associated problems and achieve the impossible task of reconciling our odd natures with our large hearts capable of loving another (and by this, I don’t mean loving the anime series, Another, which is actually rather entertaining, but I don’t necessarily love it per se).

We’re left with finding love amongst each other, and in the socially awkward foray through this odd jungle of the anime blogging fandom, and I can’t help but imagine that 2DTea was onto something when he wrote about his friends in the blogosphere and shipped them with idolm@ster characters. Was he simply being creative with his knowledge about the friends that he’s come to know and want the best for, or was he leaving behind a portrait of happiness that his loved ones can achieve when they’re with the right person?

I loved those posts that he wrote, and I’m not surprised, therefore, that my favourite post from my own blog, Baka Laureate, is my own romantic self-assessment with potential pairings with idolm@ster characters:

“This post is going to be utterly self-gratifying and ridiculous, yet people will probably read it anyway.” – Imaginary Dates with the iDOLM@STER Girls (And Their Dubiously Written Reports), Part I

Yet, as self-gratifying and ridiculous as it was, it turned out to be one of the most well-received posts on the blog from a personal standpoint. Somehow, by putting myself out there and being completely honest about how I see myself, I manage to paint a picture of what I was looking for in a relationship and in a partner. I also managed to open myself up to a receptive community that could, in turn, want the best for me, as selfish as that sounds:

“One thing I really love about this post is that you open yourself up and have a good outlook on yourself as a person. You’re not self-deprecating, but well-reasoned, and each of these dates are a reflection on you. I feel as if I know you a bit better now, enough to say this: Idolm@ster girl, or no, someone is going to be very fortunate to have you.” – AJTheFourth

That comment comes from none other than Emily, who at the time, had just started commenting on my blog. Neither of us had no idea that several years down the road, she would end up being that fortunate person. Don’t be fooled into thinking, dear reader, that this was the foundation for the relationship ever happening. What I’m trying to say is that this is an example of the payoff that happens when one writes so comfortably and honestly. Just write the words you want to write, and the readers will come.

This is why this blog exists. Because, despite all of the questions that I still ask myself in regards to where I fit in the world, online and off, I’ve come to a point where I can only find the answers if I keep writing. I have to keep writing for myself, so I can learn more about this weird person who loves to write, who loves to watch anime, who loves a wonderful woman named Emily.

In The Garden of Words, Takao Akizuki knows of only a few things: that he loves to design and create shoes, and that he is in love with Yukari Yukino. In his little world at the bus stop during Kansai’s rainy season, he finds himself in a personal space that he truly owns for himself. It is through owning that space that he is able to comfortably develop his relationship with Yukari while pursuing his dream. My dream is to write, and I hope that this little garden of words will help me discover more about myself while pursuing that wonderful little dream.

And I hope that my Yukari Yukino will be sitting close to me for every moment of it.

I’m Very Happy When it Rains

“Whenever I see drops fall outside of my office window, I look out and down into the streets. I see cars drive by on their way home, attempting to beat the morning rush. Their wipers slide back and forth against their windshields in syncopated rhythms as their tires splash over puddles close to the storm drains. I take a seat on a cold filing cabinet and smile as I imagine the rhythmic patter of rain hitting me on my head and shoulders.

Sometimes it’s cold. Sometimes it’s not as cold. Most of the time I forget to bring an umbrella. It doesn’t even matter. I feel as if the stresses that build up over time simply wash away if I bare myself to the sky above me. I’m left alone, vulnerable, but open to what is in store for me ahead. So I march in the rain. I sing in the rain. I dance in the rain. I let out my joys and happiness as if I were baptized and reborn anew. I can clear my mind and focus on what’s waiting for me in the distance: a person who I love and can’t wait to meet and spend my time with.

I’m the most happy when it rains.”

Hello, this is the first post of a blog pertaining to anime. The content here is mostly inspired by anime, but will reflect mostly on my life, dreams, and desires. I’m happy that you have found this place. Please enjoy your stay.