It was only yesterday when the great manga resurgence happened in 2013. And the spark of it was Attack on Titan’s 1st anime season. The series became the joy and anger of all anime and manga fandom. People couldn’t stop talking about the series while the manga went from a poor-selling title to a best-selling one in America. Some manga experts in America credit the success of the Attack on Titan anime for helping to generate renewed and/or newfound interest in manga.
But then came a long wait for the 2nd season as the 1st season only covered the 1st 2 major arcs. It couldn’t be helped as the manga was still going through its 3rd arc (which would be the 1st part of season 2) at the time. The 2nd season finally aired in the spring of 2018.
This leads to how much anticipation is needed before fans just give up on whatever they anticipate. After all, there have been studies on people waiting in line for material goods and experiences. We’ve all know or seen people who wait on line for hours to days to weeks just to get a chance to enjoy something or someone that’s highly touted. Anticipation is important for the human mind because we all need something to look forward to keep us going despite any struggle we have. Some excitement is necessary to stimulate the mind.
But it seems like there’s such a thing as too much anticipation. Wait too long and life just passes you by. Opportunities that you wish you had are already gone.
I remember watching the 1st 6 episodes of Season 2 of Attack on Titan. At first, I was enjoying the experience because it was good to see the series again in anime form. However, I had the nagging thought in my head that was telling me “You don’t need to watch this because you’ve already read this part in the manga 4-5 years old.” 5 years may be short in general, but it’s considered a long time with regards to anime due to how short most fans’ attention spans are. Does this mean we blame all the fans that gave up on Attack on Titan? No. It just means the discussion is more complicated that one would think. One could argue that there really wasn’t enough hype generated or it was such a high expectation to live up to what the 1st season did in the 1st place.
I think one lesson I can take from this is to just show up and be consistent. Even if the work might look like crap sometimes, as long as you put in the effort, that’s all that matters. Take small steps. Report in from time to time to not leave people hanging. Though I realize that Attack on Titan is different as it’s published monthly. There’s a long wait time for new material in that format compared to weekly manga.
Plus, never underestimate the importance of timing and luck. People tend to devalue both because they’re psychological slaps to their face suggesting their own hard work was meaningless in the first place. The anime and manga worlds were so different in 2013 compared to today. A lot more material is streamed/published in 2019. Anime streaming is a force worldwide and manga looks like it’s here to stay for a while. There’s so many options to choose from.
You can get good, but you need to get lucky because everyone gets help from forces they couldn’t have foreseen. One group/person can’t do it all. This feels like what’s happened with Attack on Titan now. It’s still good and the animators have worked hard, but they aren’t lucky anymore due to the major lack of fandom support and way too many series competing for attention.
With that said, show gratitude and keep your connections with important people strong. I also think we have to learn how to maximize the small chances we get in life because they have the potential to be great life-changers.
I find it hard to blog about Attack on Titan these days because of the large gap between anime and manga. The manga has also become a very different series for better and/or for worse in some ways. While I find the direction fascinating, I’m not sure that it’s something that screams “Yo, this series is so intense. You gotta follow it!”
But you know what, that’s okay. Luck doesn’t last forever. The fact that I still see good love regarding Attack on Titan shows that what matters most in the end is that hardcore fans are still resonating with the characters and themes of the series. It shouldn’t matter if there’s a huge mainstream appeal to it.
Let’s be grateful that like in Greek mythology, these Titans were the ones to help start a new transition towards an amazing period of time to be an anime/manga fan.
When you live in a large city such as New York City, more often than not, you feel disconnected. A lot of people move fast to deal with their own lives while leaving many things behind. Not many people say hi to each other in a comforting manner. I recently got through a book about a woman’s perspective on dealing with loneliness in major cities. What was great about this book was her focus on certain well-known artists and learning from their works to combat loneliness.
The book left me thinking about how much looking at manga art over the years has helped or not helped any fans that feel isolated from the rest of the world.
The book was called “The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone” by Olivia Laing. Laing wrote about living in NYC while she was in her thirties. She described her time there to be very lonely, but found solace in exploring the city via art. Laing spoke about very notable artists (Andy Warhol was her first big mention) that went through loneliness in their lives and somehow tried to communicate their experiences through their works. In a way, art helped Laing process her own loneliness for the better.
Reading the book made me think about my own experiences seeing manga art throughout my years of being a fan. I thought about some of the manga art exhibitions I visited. There was a part in Liang’s book where she talks about one artist by the name of Henry Darger and his drawings of young naked girls who lead hyper-violent men in a civil war that sounds like a dark fantasy. The first thing that came to my mind was Kentaro Miura’s Berserk.
I once remember browsing through the Eclipse part of the Golden Age arc. While I knew what happened, it’s really something to see in the pages of the manga itself. Everything just felt so raw and disgusting. Seeing that moment happen in all of its glory made me think about Toshio Maeda and his works. While I respect Maeda, I never felt comfortable with what he presented at times. It just frightened me.
But now looking back and after reading The Lonely City, I think that seeing serious art that’s explicit (like Berserk) is trying to prove a point. It shows how vulnerable and violent people can be. Most of us tend in our little bubbles with beliefs that everyone else around us is the same when that’s far from the truth. The world isn’t safe for certain groups of people. Explicit art is used as a way to express that sentiment. Plus, I also think this kind art is used to tell everyone that we both have good and bad sides. It does no good to totally repress one side over the other. In a strange way, being both good and bad is something that can help alleviate the idea that we’re alone.
I did notice that the background for that mural is in a school, which obviously is a big setting for many anime/manga series. Can seeing that connect someone with another person who misses those simple days of school with friendships you thought would never die? Do we think having the friendships that shonen characters have with one another can cure our loneliness?
In the end of The Lonely City, Laing writes:
“There are so many things that art can’t do. It can’t bring the dead back to life, it can’t mend arguments between friends, or cure AIDS, or halt the pace of climate change. All the same, it does have some extraordinary functions, some odd negotiating ability between people, including people who never meet and yet who infiltrate and enrich each other’s lives. It does have a capacity to create intimacy; it does have a way of healing wounds, and better yet of making it apparent that not all wounds need healing and not all scars are ugly.
If I sound adamant it is because I am speaking from personal experience. When I came to New York I was in pieces, and though it sounds perverse, the way I recovered a sense of wholeness was not by meeting someone or by falling in love, but rather by handling the things that other people had made, slowly absorbing by way of this contact the fact that loneliness, longing, does not mean one has failed, but simply that one is alive.”
I’ve been in fandom for such a long time and there are times where I felt like I haven’t made the kind of connections I really wanted. My love of anime/manga has helped me got to know people over the years, but I slowly felt over time that I needed to get away from fandom as those bonds often didn’t feel deep enough. Social media never helped with my loneliness (which shouldn’t be used as a panacea in the first place). What helped was that I got away from most of the anime social scene and living through manga art my way. I needed to be free from public opinion to think for myself.
Yet I know that I need to be around people because no one gets through life alone. Laing made a final remark about loneliness.
“I don’t believe the cure for loneliness is meeting someone, not necessarily. I think it’s about two things: learning how to befriend yourself and understanding that many of the things that seem to afflict us as individuals are in fact a result of larger forces of stigma and exclusion, which can and should be resisted.”
A lot of shonen series revolve those two things honestly. The characters learn to love themselves and realize that a lot of injustice is due to powerful forces that are determined to divide others. I also think mangaka are the same as they (and their assistants) are often by themselves drawing. They know that 1.) they’re comfortable with themselves to know they need help and 2.) there are so many obstacles that make life hard to get by. Mangaka want their readers to fight back and/or deal with those barriers in a way that can connect others in solidarity via shared experiences.
I also feel the same about artists who have booths in various Artists’ Alleys across many conventions throughout the world. I’m sure they found their own inner comfort not with other people, but with themselves via the works they create. They’re fighting against social ignorance too. There’s a lot of talk about how STEM can change the world, but the thing about STEM (note: I support more interest in science that doesn’t get twisted for political reasons) is that the subject makes people seem more robotic.
While there is creativity in tech and tech is useful to enhance art, it’s more mainstream and commercial. You can only interpret things in one way since tech is supposed to streamline a process. Art is open-ended and we should strive to be open-ended on many things. Art is about being human and intimate. You need that human element as well to truly help make lives better.
Technology, for all its wonders, doesn’t provide a sense of intimacy that’s often lacking today. I look at photos of that whole shonen manga mural and I feel a vibe of comforting intimacy that tells me to come join inside the school. “It’s scary, but we’re all here with you. It’ll be okay.” That’s the message I got.
Finally, some fans can crap on shonen series all they want. But the genre is all about fighting loneliness, which is a major antagonist of the modern world. We’re in a long arc and I hope that there’s a build up to a climax where many of us realize that we won’t always feel the way we feel. We can connect with others in ways that make us stronger.
And maybe that will be the “lone” solution we can all be comfortable with. Photo Source: SoraNews24
As soon as I finished reading this chapter, I couldn’t help but smile.
After a lot of focus on the good guys, the League of Villains in My Hero Academia get some meaningful screen time as they try to establish themselves in the whole hierarchy of good vs. evil. As a start, they are fighting a group of heroes that’s also looking to establish themselves as well.
Everybody’s favorite villain girl (so far), Himiko Toga, confronts a hero who acts like a news reporter and tries to come up with a tragic narrative for her. This hero thinks she gets Toga’s violent history. She believes it’s unfortunate, but all Toga tells her is that she’s not what the hero thinks she is. Toga proudly proclaims that her nature is normal.
There’s so many people who want to define the narratives we go by, but you know what, no way.
Sure, Toga might not be going on a path that benefits everyone. It’s just that there’s something beautiful about the panel above as Toga shows so much confidence and belief in herself. She created and is shaping her narrative to fit her philosophy of what love is.
Toga knows she doesn’t fit in today’s world, so she unleashes her honest self in an attempt to change things for the better as the heroes may not always be right.
What I’m saying is that we have to own our narratives. Try not to let others dictate so much of how your story goes. Make it go the way you want it to or end it here. We all want to change ourselves in some way, so why not take full control of it?
Be like Himiko Toga. Transform into something that leaves you excited and blushing about life.
Starting May 1, 2019 marks the start of a new era in Japan and the end of a 30-year period which sounds as hectic as a long-running manga.
A lot of things have happened to Japan over the Heisei Era, a 30-year period between January 1989 and April 2019 where Emperor Akihito ruled Japan as the 125th emperor. Japan was a booming country in the 1980s’, only to fall hard into a recession that still has some ramifications today. Japan now has to figure out how to deal with globalization, an ever-growing aging population, women’s rights, and a lot more as the spotlight is on them when the 2020 Olympics hits Tokyo.
But Japan managed to captivate the world with the rise of anime and manga to overseas audiences during the Heisei Era. While thinking about how much Japanese pop culture has grown, some words about what makes it appealing stuck with me.
“Compared with so much of Western pop’s tired innuendos, ironies and increasingly politicized racial and sexual controversies, anime and manga often feel more like earnest expressions of personal yearning and the pleasure of entertainment. Through shared media, diversity and longing, individuals around the world have come to love Japanese culture through its most embraceable, if imaginary, gods: Goku, Pikachu and Astro Boy. Money might well ruin it.
Note that these words are from Roland Kelts, author of Japanamerica and one of the premier experts in Japanese pop culture. To put those words in context, Viz Media founder Seiji Horibuchi was quoted in the feature - saying that anime and manga shouldn’t compete with Hollywood because being mainstream would kill both. He argues that anime and manga should stay where they are as unique subcultures that appeal to online audiences.
I have thought about Western pop culture and all the controversies surrounding things like diversity, feminism, etc. To be honest, I don’t mind politically correct culture. However, I find it problematic when a lot of the controversy hits online because all it does is fuel emotions in a really bad way. Which then leads to so much unnecessary anger and fatigue for everyone involved. There are people who take things out of a grander context just to rile people up for no good reason but for attention.
I think opinions are fine, but there’s way too many opinions on things that may not be as serious as one might think. I don’t like how some controversies are handled, that’s all.
I might be speaking for those who are in-between both sides in that there’s so much expectations on how to behave, what to say, what to believe, who to be around, etc. This all creates a kind of cognitive dissonance where one has to keep questioning everything they do. No one has time to think it through or else they get left behind. In a way, it sounds a bit forced.
I know some folks don’t believe in the idea of forced diversity, but it does exist in things like workplace diversity programs. There has been a bigger initiative for companies to get employees on board with diversity. However, all the programs fell flat. Why? For starters, everyone has bias towards something. If you shame them for being (insert bad label), they don’t feel the incentive to change. You might think that they can go screw themselves, but we need as many allies as we can. And if that involves getting “terrible” people on board, then so be it.
I’ll use a good example to illustrate - tolerance of gay people. It didn’t just rise out of nowhere by gay activists only talking to gay folks. They got a majority of non-gay allies along the way, even though there was opposition from their own community. The activists knew that if they can relate to straight people in ways that bound them together (i.e. marriage and family values), then they can start a big movement. And they did. (There’s a whole podcast about this, which is REALLY good to hear.)
There have been studies where companies were told to force employees to embrace ideas like diversity/positivity or leave. What happened was that the companies who used mandatory rules didn’t improve whatever ideals they preached at all. Attitudes didn’t change or changed very little (ie people were still jerks outside of office). Minority employees didn’t get promoted. No one felt they had a say in things if the process was flawed. When things were pro-voluntary (i.e. voluntary training), then things actually improved. Employees were more willing to be diverse and there was better treatment of employees.
What I guess I’m trying to say is that there’s a “lack of control” factor that plays into why people want/don’t want diversity and such in their media. I’m not saying that we stop fighting for what’s right, but we need to ask ourselves if we’re actually fighting for something for everyone or just doing it because we want to control it to please only us.
Now how all of this relates to anime and manga? For starters, anime and manga were always made for Japanese audiences in mind. This is more evident in manga due to all the many titles and subjects the medium covers. You can’t expect a mangaka to think of the entire world when drawing. They have to make money for themselves and please their home country first and foremost. While mangaka do take others’ opinions into consideration, their diverse imagination comes from having a kind of freedom that comes from their own experiences. They were diverse without being told to be diverse.
That’s the paradox that I thought about in my head. Force should only be used as a last resort. Sometimes, I feel that Western culture preaches force as a 1st or 2nd line of defense because most Westerners were taught horrible lies on how to behave and get what they want.
Maybe that’s why I’ve noticed how folks in the West are looking to Eastern philosophies like mindfulness and Buddhism to get through their own mental issues. Western culture is indeed polarizing, so sure. However, there have been criticisms over how the West treats Eastern principles to make themselves feel more “positive” instead of actually looking at the pain/stress they go through and be humbled by it (which is what Buddhism/mindfulness are truly about). It’s very hard for some people to learn self-acceptance and commitment over here sometimes.
To be honest, anime and manga are a reflection of Eastern principles, good and bad. There’s stuff that makes you think, cringe, gasp, laugh, cry, or be disgusted. Anime and manga have gotten away with so much compared to other media in terms of censorship. For a country that’s so homogeneous, the diverse amount of anime and manga in Japan is astounding.
Anime and manga are here to stay, but I really don’t know if they will ever reach Hollywood-level. I know there are parties who want anime to be validated in America among the eyes of many. I just hope that they don’t take on corporate America strategies and preach diversity for the sake of being cool and with the times. I’m looking at you, big tech companies and companies who say they stand for something with neat ads, but don’t really care as their other tactics say otherwise. That is what bothers and scares me the most more than anything.
Japan is now in the Reiwa Era, which is supposed to preach peace and tranquility. I just hope the West does the same. If it doesn’t, then well, let’s just continue to make our lives as anime as possible because after all, we really know what it’s like to be diverse.
While many of my readers know that I love the trio of anime, manga and video games, there’s another interest of mine that not many people know about - pro wrestling. I follow WWE (mostly NXT) and used to play a bunch of Fire Pro Wrestling back in the day. So there’s this female wrestler in WWE named Becky Lynch, who’s made headlines over the past 6-7 months. She went from a happy-go-lucky yet timid, steampunk-ish, Irish redhead to a leather jacket-wearing, trash-talking, and confident Irish redhead who calls herself “The Man.”
You know who’s “The Man” right now in manga land? The breakout star from one of the hottest Shonen Jump series today, The Promised Neverland - Emma.
Emma is the main character of the aforementioned series, which is about a group of young orphans trying to survive in a world where they are hunted by demons. Emma lived in a plantation-type orphanage called the Grace Field House that shipped children out to be eaten by demons. She, along with the other 2 main protagonists, Ray and Norman, attempts to escape the orphanage to ensure freedom for herself and her fellow orphans. This was the main plot for the 1st 4 volumes and the entire 1st season of the anime. After managing to escape the orphanage and now leading a bunch of escaped orphans, Emma is thrust into an outside world where her optimism and wit come into potential conflict with all kinds of nuances and mysteries.
What’s there to say about Emma? She’s one of the very few Shonen Jump main characters that’s female. Emma stars alongside Luffy, Deku, Asta, etc. Her characteristics are as shonen as they come. She wants to protect everyone she cares about and is willing to do whatever it takes to do so. Her determination is shown right from the start when the now-famous Chapter 1 plot twist (demons eating children from the orphanage in the end when the beginning was rosy as hell) had one of her closest friends eaten. Emma swore to not let any other child at Grace Field House get eaten.
As the series progresses, Emma learns more about the various beings in the outside world. She meets humans from other orphanages, gets into psychological/physical warfare with demons, encounters humans on the demons’ side, and interacts with demons that are peaceful. Her compassion for all things that she loves grows even larger - which leads to potential disagreements with any side that prefers to kill the other.
What’s admirable about Emma is that she’s full of love despite knowing that demons are a threat to her and humanity. In a world where we are told that we need more empathy, Emma is a shining beacon.
While empathy is a good thing to have, a big problem is that it gets pretty biased in a hurry. We prefer to understand our own side. As long as they are “good” to us, it’s okay to walk in their shoes. Sounds a bit like tribalism, no? I’m not going to get too heavy into manga spoilers, but some of the human characters in the series who’ve experienced much pain from the demons seem stuck in a view that killing demons is the answer when the series tries to explore how humans and demons interact with each other for mutual benefit (not just the plantations for children).
Though empathy can get pretty overwhelming if you try to go all-in on relating to the other side to fit your own point of view. You start to question yourself over and over again. Emma, because she is a shonen protagonist after all, tries to find a balance between the friends she wants to protect and seeing how human/demon relations are important in keeping a universe in balance.
Emotions can be a problem with regards to empathy. Emma’s love for many beings can be a deterrent, but she proves herself to be as the fighter she has to be when needed. In one of the major arcs after the escape, Emma helps a colony of humans fight back against demon hunters who hunt them as game. She wants those around her to find the strength to fight back against their oppressors.
For the most part, Emma manages to keep herself calm and rational as her curiosity about things knows no bounds. Basically, to quote from a piece I read about a case for more empathy.
“The challenge with empathy is to be open to gaining knowledge about others.“
Emma is willing to get to know people to understand things. She is really good at not letting bias affect her much as the other characters in the series are a bit more cynical. Emma makes it a habit to learn from everything she can in order to survive for herself and everyone else’s sake. That’s what makes her such an optimistic person who can push her friends for the better. School knowledge doesn’t teach people how to be human beings during tough situations. Emma wouldn’t even be more exceptional (she’s highly touted as a prized child in the series) as she is now if she couldn’t
Emma is the new anime/manga role model in potentially shaping two sides on very opposite wavelengths to create a new peaceful Neverland. We have kids out in the real world who are sick and tired of broken systems hurting them. Some are fighting back, but they need help. Emma shows we have the potential to create a better kind of empathy that makes up for several broken promises that certain individuals in power promised for decades, only for those statements to end up eating youth today.
Fighting the psychological demons of a modern world that continues to burn us out - that’s something everyone can relate to with each other for once, right?
I had an interest in watching this series beforehand as I have friends who love Rilakkuma merchandise. But after watching the whole 1st season, the whole show speaks to working young adults who have to manage all kinds of emotions to get through life.
The heroine of the show, Kaoru, is an office lady whose life appears to be going nowhere. She’s serious to a huge degree, depressed about not having a man in her life, and her current job offers little-to-no chance of promotion. The closest friends in her life are the famed bears, Rilakkuma and Korilakkuma, and pet bird Kiiroitori. All 4 of them live together in a vintage apartment building and they go through experiences that help each of them grow.
Each episode title hints to a general theme of the episode. While it’s fun to see Rilakkuma and his personal friends get into trouble, it’s enlightening to see the perspective of a young single Japanese woman living in a metro city far away from family.
When Kaoru experiences a moment where she’s reminded of her seemingly low status in society, she begins to dwell on it to a huge degree. This was shown multiple times, but the biggest scene of her depression was during a flashback sequence to her days prior to meeting Rilakkuma. The scene had Kaoru fall down what she describes as a black hole.
She goes through moments from her closest friends from college all ditching her at a cherry blossom gathering to her coworkers gossiping about her seriousness to becoming an online shopping addict just to get the attention of a male delivery worker she’s infatuated with. Kaoru tries to ponder the meaning of her own life as she tries to find her purpose.
It’s one thing to enjoy being alone, but it’s another thing to have a sense of loneliness. A lot of people confuse solitude and loneliness when they’re different. Solitude is when you choose to be alone and enjoy it while loneliness is a subjective feeling that you’re alone. Like many young adults, Kaoru feels some loneliness from not being able to connect well with her peers.
Although the series was charming and made me laugh, I couldn’t help but feel like crying while watching. I was doing some research on the development of Rilakkuma and I found a Japan Times feature on the character. The article talked about how the plot of the series was developed. The director, Masahito Kobayashi, was determined to talk about the experiences of women living in Japan. He also added some details about the setting of the series.
I’m going to share this passage from the JT article.
“He (Kobayashi) also strived for geographical authenticity, creating a detailed city called Ogigaya — a mash-up of Tokyo’s Ogikubo and Asagaya neighborhoods — to serve as the setting for the series.
“I had a detailed idea of what this city would be like and what daily life in that city was like,” he (Kobayashi) says. “That is, of course, life is not just about smiles and being happy. I wanted to show the duality that exists. Even in the design of the city, it kind of represents the tension between regular life and an office town.”
The result is a visually stunning animation focusing on personal dramas that is a natural fit alongside easy-breezy Netflix offerings such as “Terrace House” and “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo.”
What sets “Rilakkuma and Kaoru” apart from these productions, however, is the simple frustration that life in a big city can produce.”
That last line hits hard and the tension is real. I live in a big city (New York) and I can’t help but feel frustrated at everything about it. I don’t like how fast-paced and expensive everything is. A lot of people here just want to win at all costs. At the same time, I like living here since there’s a lot of fun things happening and I do find some of the scenery in NY to be unusually endearing. I don’t want to romanticize small towns, but like Kaoru, I can’t help but wish for the intimacy that people living in small towns have at times.
I also began to see why Rilakkuma is so beloved all over the world. His laid-back nature is something so many of us are missing today. He reminds me of my father a bit. Maybe’s that why I got a bit teary from watching. My dad is sometimes lazy, but he would always tell me not to worry so much about things. He would tell me to relax - something Rilakkuma would encourage me to do. My mom reminds me of Kiiroitori as she’s kind of serious and gets on my dad’s case sometimes.
Now I think about it, my whole family (including my younger sister) are basically Rilakkuma (dad), Korilakkuma (sister), and Kiiroitori (mom). I’m bawling now.
We have such a hard time talking to people with depression. It’s difficult to know where to start, but I feel that from watching Rilakkuma and Kaoru, we can tell them that they won’t always feel that way. Kaoru’s spirits, despite them being down in a big way, seem to level out as she continued to move forward. She had support that knew how to cheer her up - a kind of support that hasn’t left her at all.
Modern life is both a blessing and a curse. Rilakkuma and Kaoru aren’t the full solution to that paradox, but I feel that both characters show what it means to get through life’s up and downs and that’s by helping one another out when stress happens. One somewhat heavy episode involved a ghost girl who shows up at Kaoru’s place uninvited and talks about the circumstances behind her death. She felt stuck over a high school love that moved on from her after she died. After she realized she needed warmth from another person/being (i.e. Rilakkuma), she was able to move on with peace with help that was willing to listen.
I’m still amazed at how this cute series speaks volumes about the troubles of young adults. It’s also inspiring to see Rilakkuma’s “lazy” nature be used as a vehicle for growth. Rilakkuma and Kaoru is a relaxing way to see how characters with seemingly negative attributes can be the ones who are the most positive after all.
“Kaneki…would never forget about me. We shall spend time together again..!! Kaneki!! Let little Hinami, Banjo, and his underlings be there too!! We’ll make up for lost time!!”
One of the most important things to get through life is close friendships. Yet we sometimes forget how fragile they can be when life hits you with a big whammy.
When you make friends with someone who gets you, you tend to do what you can to spend time with them as much as possible. Everything’s all smiles and full of roses. You wish that those days would never end. You don’t give much time to consider that those relationships may end. You feel that nothing will sever those bonds.
Once those bonds end, you assume there’s nothing left. You can’t move forward. But what if the only way to move forward was to chase the past? To go after and bring back the glory days of yore.
A certain popular Tokyo Ghoul character put the theory to the test and let’s just say it was quite a nuanced experience.
The character I’m talking about is Shu Tsukiyama - a major supporting character who was once an enemy to main character Ken Kaneki, but became one of his most vocal supporters and allies. Tsukiyama was once known as the Gourmet, as he always feasted on humans that seemed fancy and exquisite to eat. One day, he became enamored at Kaneki’s hybrid nature (being both half-human and Ghoul) and planned to eat him. Tsukiyama ends up getting killed at the hands at Touka Kirishima for his interest in Kaneki. He was later revealed to be alive as he ate parts of himself to regenerate his body completely.
Tsukiyama joins a rescue attempt to save Kaneki from the Ghoul organization Aogiri Tree and later became Kaneki’s “sword” to fight against Aogiri. Although he still wanted to eat Kaneki, he becomes much nicer than he was during his Gourmet days. When Kaneki tries to save his friends at the cafe Anteiku near the end of the original Tokyo Ghoul series, a tearful Tsukiyama implores him not to go. He becomes depressed and a shut-in at his home for 2 years after Kaneki disappears at the end of the Anteiku raid. But when he finds out Kaneki is alive and living under a different identity in the start of Tokyo Ghoul:re, Tsukiyama embarked on a renewed journey to get back the one friend he truly treasured in his life.
When you look up most advice on how to find closure after a friendship ends, almost all of the answers would tell you to process the loss and move forward. Processing the loss of a friendship is important because more often than not, they end without warning. They also end due to major differences in values brought out during conflicts. Regarding the Kaneki/Tsukiyama friendship, Kaneki cared about protecting people (regardless of whether they were Ghouls or humans) around him; Tsukiyama only cared about protecting Kaneki.
Moving forward can be just as hard because perhaps the lost friendship was everything you wanted. For Tsukiyama, he later sees that all he wanted was a friend to share his interests with. Kaneki didn’t shy away from him unlike most of the other Ghouls during their time together as an anti-Aogiri force. The two shared a similar social identity - Ghouls who have been thrown aside by others in the past, have very few friends growing up, and absorb themselves in sophisticated literature. Their first meeting was a conversation about literature. There are studies that show the most important things that makes friends the best of the best is a shared social identity, This is stronger than intimacy, contact, and support.
Is that a good reason to repair a lost friendship? To rebuild the social identity they once shared? There was a complication in Tsukiyama’s attempts to befriend Kaneki again. Kaneki was now known as Haise Sasaki, an up-and-coming CCG (Commission of Counter-Ghoul) investigator. He became the enemy of the Ghouls. This doesn’t deter Tsukiyama from wanting to bring Kaneki’s memory back (with some help from two of his actual closest friends, Chie Hori and Kanae von Rosewald) as they met up a few times to talk.
However, during one of the final few meetings between the two, Haise asks Tsukiyama if he knew Kaneki. Haise started to figure out who he really is after meeting old friends he made when he was Kaneki. As Haise continues to explain that he must know his past, a now-conflicted Tsukiyama begins to realize that telling him the truth would bring nothing but misery and pain and his love for Kaneki didn’t want that. Haise was an innocent personality that served to protect Kaneki. Why add even more unnecessary stress?
However, Tsukiyama’s actions gave rise to the eventual rebirth of Ken Kaneki inside Haise as the CCG began an attempt to eradicate the Tsukiyama family for good. Haise and Tsukiyama battle, but Haise begins to have a mental breakdown as he’s unable to kill Tsukiyama. He then throws him off the roof of the building they fought on. The two would later reunite as members of an organization known as GOAT to help bring change to Ghoul-human relations. Tsukiyama forgave the now-reborn Kaneki for destroying his family legacy. He would later stick up for Kaneki with a memorable speech (which was the background photo for a meat dish at the Tokyo Ghoul:re cafe) near the end of Tokyo Ghoul:re when members of GOAT were questioning a super-deformed Kaneki’s desires.
So yeah, you succeed in getting a friendship back. But at what cost? Tsukiyama once admitted that his ego got in the way and he wanted Kaneki back for his sake. When thinking about renewed friendships, it’s hard to remember why the friendship ended in the first place. The excitement of re-connection all blinds us to a reality where the friend may not think the same way you do. Be careful of allowing yourself to be like Tsukiyama and think things will be clear-cut.
The best thing to do is let the friendship process slowly. It was quite a while before Kaneki and Tsukiyama became Ghoul buddies again. And it’s all about timing. Touka once told Tsukiyama that Kaneki should only be back when he’s ready to come back. Tsukiyama didn’t think highly of her thoughts then, but does see his timing was wrong during his fight with Haise. Kaneki needed some space to gather his thoughts and discover his role in the grand scheme of things. The timing of Kaneki establishing himself as the fabled One-Eyed King was perfect for Tsukiyama to make a more-informed move without complicated drama in-between.
If you noticed a major theme throughout the whole “let’s be friends again” ordeal, it’s that there was so much pain on both sides. Haise/Kaneki lost his mind over seeing people he once knew and started going through the same insecurities he’s had since birth, Tsukiyama lost all of his family guardians and servants to the CCG.
I was listening to a podcast about what’s stronger than hate and whether love was the answer. The host asked a religious community figure what advice would be applicable in building love for someone who’s completely different from you. That figure said in order to build love, you need to let emotional pain be a part of who you are. Do not avoid or toss it aside. Embrace the hurt. That’s when the light that connects others start to shine inside you.
If you think about it, strong friendships and bonds are made when both parties allow themselves to get to a level where they feel hurt by the same things alongside each other. Each person chooses to experience the pain the other person feels even if they never felt it before. We all live in the same world together and can’t let our personal bias close us off. What affects someone can affect us too. We need to support each other during rough times as that’s how meaningful change happens. Tsukiyama saw this as he noticed his family was sacrificing themselves to save him the same way Kaneki was trying to save Anteiku in the past.
Kaneki’s and Tsukiyama’s wacky, tense, sorrowful, yet enduring and pleasurable relationship over the span of the years is all about using the tragedy of life’s circumstances to make better connections with those around you. Don’t shy away from negative feelings. It’s such pain and trauma that makes someone feel alive and human.
Like Tsukiyama’s obsession with fine delicacies, wounds may not be the best ingredients on paper. But pair them up with powerful ingredients like friends and they create a fine, delicious, healthy and well-balanced meal for the soul.
Consume something full of unnecessary fan service, abundant tropes, poorly contrived plot details, or ridiculous characterization today.
I feel like we’re always pressured to be productive. We get told that we need to jump on trends and opportunities to ease all our anxieties in life. But those same things can make our pain even worse as they may not always apply to our situations or experiences.
I worry about the guilt over doing nothing that people face. I’ve felt guilty many times over not posting on the blog as often I would like. Someone once told me to go back on Twitter because there are fans who need a voice like mine’s to listen to. I worry if people would still like or remember me. I wonder if I’m not cool enough for anyone to follow.
I later admitted to myself that I was basing my entire self-worth on the opinions of other people. A Twitch streamer I follow once talked about what does it take to quell nerd rage. He said it takes a sense of self-worth and inner peace with yourself. These days, I don’t really hate myself as much I used to. I also began to accept the fact that I don’t want my blog to be a super-huge one as it means I have to violate certain principles for the sake of being “productive.”
Being “productive” is a terrible mental trap that has ensnared many of us. I know it’s important to be busy with things (especially if you have mental health issues), but that can end up defining us in binary roles and labels that don’t respect the humanity in all of us. For example, I take some much-needed time to do some exercises and walks during lunch breaks to enjoy life around me. If I was so focused on work to the point that I ignore dormant emotions just so I could get approval from someone else, I would become very emotionally numb.
But there’s a few things I want to get off my chest. I was reading a new Otaku Journalist post that made me think about the rise of call out culture. We’ve made a lot of progress in enabling people who’ve gone through horrific experiences (i.e. sexual harassment) to speak out against the perpetrators of those experiences. I think it’s fine as I was a victim of physical harassment at an old workplace a few years ago. I now know what it’s like to have people at the top treat you like you don’t matter if you’re not making bank for them.
It’s just that there’s such a limit to being angry at things.
The post linked above goes into what it means to call someone out. It also says that while it’s noble to do so, the person who committed bad acts will still be around. Do we want them punished for life? When can we accept sincere apologies when the time comes? I left a long comment on the post, which I’ll display it here in full.
“I was reading about moral outrage recently (http://nautil.us/blog/the-c… and the case to to be skeptical of it at times because our biases/subjective morality can lead us to think more about the actions of the person, rather than the consequences. Because it’s not like everyone is supposedly dying if the person being called out isn’t in a place of power, right?
Because while the person being called out is a bad person to a certain community, to others, they are good people. No one is truly one-sided. Everyone’s both good and bad. I hate how there are forces that try to paint people as if one label defines everything about them (even though there are notable exceptions).
I’m not going to lie and say I’m a good, wholesome person. I’ve hurt other people in the past. I’ve said terrible things/comments to people intentionally and unintentionally. I’m just very human. I will admit that being stressed out from so many things in life leads to judgments that may or may not be warranted. But I’ve been able to be self-compassionate with myself and use that to take reasonable action towards improvement.
Are we calling someone out because we want to be right? Or are we calling them out because there’s a greater harm to other people (not just ourselves)? I think about this because I know some people get angry just for the sake of getting angry.
I also feel this kind of debate should be better held offline than on social media. Social media is a nightmare for topics like this because it robs so much nuance & context when we need both more than ever. I think about a Vox article I read about that Asian lady (I apologize for forgetting her name) who writes/edits for NYT and her past making insensitive jokes on Twitter. People called NYT out for the hiring and the article mentions how Twitter only rewards snark more than anything else, which only serves to generate terrible conversations online.
The only thing I can suggest is just stay away from a lot of online noise because most of it is indeed noise that serves to harm users with misinformation. I think you’re one of the very few good journalists I know I can trust.
Earlier today, I was reading a Twitter thread from a figure who works in the American manga industry and talked about a moment in the past where they subtly called out a scanlator who wanted to work for them. They showed some moral disgust over the fact that the scanlator worked on stuff that was already licensed and listed it on their resume.
The figure admitted that they had the sense of power to “whitelist/blacklist” them if they could. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. They realized that because of the inner desire to deliver Twitter snark, they ended up creating a unwelcoming feeling for a scanlator who really wanted to do legit work in an industry they both love.
While I really don’t approve of listing fan translated stuff on resumes for industries that disapprove of that, I know it’s often innocent on the part of those who do that.
It’s just that I wish more people realized how social media platforms like Twitter aren’t anyone’s friends. They don’t care about you. All they want you to do is make snarky comments and make money from people fighting each other online due to those comments.
I think about what Ursula K. Le Guin said about anger once.
“I know that anger can’t be suppressed indefinitely without crippling or corroding the soul. But I don’t know how useful anger is in the long run. Is private anger to be encouraged?
Considered a virtue, given free expression at all times, as we wanted women’s anger against injustice to be, what would it do? Certainly an outburst of anger can cleanse the soul and clear the air. But anger nursed and nourished begins to act like anger suppressed: it begins to poison the air with vengefulness, spitefulness, distrust, breeding grudge and resentment, brooding endlessly over the causes of the grudge, the righteousness of the resentment. A brief, open expression of anger in the right moment, aimed at its true target, is effective — anger is a good weapon. But a weapon is appropriate to, justified only by, a situation of danger.”
If we become angry enough to become racists, harassers, and bullies ourselves by stooping to the level of those we dislike, then what exactly are we fighting for? If you call someone out, but feel that you don’t deserve to be called out if you’ve actually done something terrible (and the proof’s right then and there), you’re not better than those you called out.
That’s why I always say that I’m both a good and bad person. I think I’m right about most things, but I know I’m full of shit about some things. And you know what? That’s okay. Being aware of my own faults (without self-hatred) gives me the opportunity to learn and make much-needed changes.
Call out culture is going to be more prominent, whether anyone likes it or not. The only things I can tell anyone who feels compelled to call someone out are (with additional help from therapy or counseling).
1.) Forgive the person/people who hurt you. Here’s why - if you let them have a presence in your mind, it will be a big distraction in your life. You will be filled with nothing but hate. We all know hate does when you just keep reinforcing it. There’s also a big misconception in that forgiveness means letting that person off the hook. It doesn’t mean you forget what they did. Forgiveness means “You know what? You did some terrible things to me, but you’re a person like I am. I’m just not gonna let the thought of you ruin my state of mind and take over the joy I want to get in my life.”
2.) Slow down. Everyone wants to jump to conclusions ASAP. I wonder what happened to stopping and thinking about the actions of others and how they come about. There was a scene I remember from the game Persona 4, where the heroes were trying to deliver justice to a proposed suspect in a serial murder case (which was the major plot point). Everyone was acting on edge due to a close associate of theirs on the verge of death. The leader of the gang knew something seemed off, slowly voiced his concerns, and then yelled at his friends to calm down. One of my favorite lines from this sequence is something I’ll always remember.
“Failing to understand and failing to listen are rather different things.”
Listening with the sense of understanding is a soft skill that’s lacking these days. The thing is our minds are not built to handle the fast nature of culture. The rapid spread of ideas have outpaced our ability to process things. That’s a big reason why you see so much conflict.
If you still feel the need to call someone out, do it for anyone who’s been hurt by that person, not just you. Don’t be the only one who benefits. Share the wealth. Do not be tempted by profit over purpose.
I think that’s all I have to say other than if you’re angry about every single thing/person that’s hurt you, there’s nothing worth being angry about at all.
If you ask Gintama fans on what arc was one of the most emotional to them, it was the Mitsuba Okita arc. It’s still one of my favorite Gintama stories ever as I even wrote about it years ago. That particular story started off happy, then got serious quickly, and ended on a somber yet touching moment. It also got a web live-action adaptation with the same actors from the Gintama live-action movie.
Mitsuba was a big focus, but another important character was her brother, the lovable sadist himself, Sogo Okita. There’s a few lines he says in the end before he and Gintoki Sakata decide to save Toshiro Hijikata from danger while leaving Mitsuba in the hospital before she died.
Here’s part of the context and the lines Sogo says at the end of this sequence.
“I’m a lucky man. Some people live their whole lives without ever making a real friend. I’ve already made three lousy friends in my life.”
This statement is pretty sad, but it rings true for many. Making friends sounds easy for certain types of people. We’ve all been jealous of people who seem to get along with everyone they encounter. However, I’ve been thinking about how many of those friendships are meaningful. I’ve met people who are sociable, but are lonely deep inside.
Before this scene, Sogo learns that Hijikata went after Mitsuba’s criminal soon-to-be husband on his own to protect him. He wants to help Hijikata as he doesn’t like owing anything to a guy he dislikes, but Kondo tells Sogo to stay by Mitsuba’s side. Sogo then harps at Kondo for seemingly preferring Hijikata over him. Kondo punches Sogo to remind him that this isn’t the case and if Hijikata were to go against Kondo’s wishes, he would punch him like he did to Sogo.
Kondo’s willing to fight Sogo to knock some sense into him, Hijikata’s willing to risk his life to protect his comrade despite a tense relationship between the two, and Gintoki’s just going along for the ride because he understands the Shinsengumi bonds all too well.
How many of us are able to find friends like that? They feel like diamonds at times.
I’ve been thinking about Sogo’s comments more than the impact of Mitsuba’s death at times because we do need people despite our need to be independent. During Mitsuba’s introduction, she asked Sogo if he had any friends to talk to and Sogo drags Gintoki to be his “friend.” There’s that paradox between wanting to express yourself and wanting to belong with a group that loves you. We have to deal with that paradox forever. I don’t blame anyone who says they don’t need friends because people do suck. But I sometimes worry that they take their personal experiences and generalize it to everyone. I also worry how they manage to deal with life’s stressors without the support of friends.
I’ve been trying to figure out how to be a real friend at times. Sometimes, I go too fast and break personal boundaries. I had a bad situation like that with a friend I tried to re-connect with last year, but it bombed. I wonder if I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be slow as I’ve gotten older. Years ago, I would have all the time in the world to build friendships. But now, with work and other hobbies and my mental illness, it feels like I’m always being rushed to do something new. I want to be the tortoise this time, not the hare who wants to rush to the end.
Though I will admit that I do have a few real friends in my life. They’ve always stuck around and hung out with me for at least 10 years now. I’m really grateful. I don’t care if it’s harder to make friends as I age. I’m gonna keep trying because I know deep down, certain people could use someone like me around in their lives. I don’t want to be someone who ignores close contact due to fear of intimacy.
Someone needs to tell the world that luck matters a bit more than one thinks in getting valuable friends. I think we need to teach kids how to create the luck they need to make lasting friendships that are sometimes lousy yet so satisfying to have as a weapon for your mind.