When I began labeling these newsletters I wanted to make silly references to different shows corresponding to season and episode number in the title, but quickly learned that being so clever requires more effort than I could spend. I stuck with the numbering scheme nevertheless, but still needed a reason to move up to season 2, so why not the new year? I think I'm getting the hang of writing these letters, as I enjoyed the last few especially, so I think this season/year will be much more consistent – I promise fewer breaks, and also making it past Episode 4 (6 if you count my first three tries)!
That Time I Got Reincarnated as the Protagonist of a Sports Anime: Will I Ever Do My Homework Again?
I found myself in a state of malaise about a week into the new year as I observed that not much about my life and the world seemed changed for the better since the last. Having been through these post-holiday blues enough times to know the feeling would pass, I let myself simply be. Nevertheless, shuffling between my bed, bathroom, and refrigerator obviously did nothing to cheer me up.
You couldn't guess what got me out of my funk: the US Figure Skating Championships, of all things. My sister found out they were on and so we spent a whole Saturday catching up on the competition, gasping at falls and groaning at Nathan Chen's perfection (apparently he plays piano, too). I'm not sure exactly why – maybe it's because a lot of the skaters were also Asian American and not so much younger than me – but suddenly I felt like I had to do something to catch up with these guys, if only to say I also put a fraction of the effort they did that day. So that same night I dusted off my Fire Emblem hacking project after months of neglect and worked until 2:00 in the morning. I felt a level of energy and motivation I didn't know I had.
I've always hated competition, so even I was surprised by my audacity to pit myself against professional athletes. I've always attached my self-worth to my performance against others – I was a sore loser as a kid, and desperately avoided any and all comparison to others throughout my teens and college, to the point of hiding my scores, failures, and achievements. Perhaps these skaters were just familiar-yet-distant enough that I could decide the terms of our competition without staking my pride on our relative performances. Or maybe in my pandemic-induced slump I've also shed my fragile ego. Either way, it looks like I found what we call an "inspiration."
This small discovery helped me understand a bit more why I so often enjoy the exaggerated depictions of club activities in anime, from Haikyuu!! to Blue Period. Despite their solipsism they manage to build fully functioning communities, complete with friends, mentors, and caretakers, in which our protagonists can safely grow and explore. Though their sky-high aspirations and supernatural talent make for enough drama to fill a show, these characters and the relationships they create within their communities are what keep me watching. They have what I wish I did right now, really – a collaborative environment filled with passionate people supporting and inspiring them as they pursue their interests.
That just sounds like school to me, and the more I think about it, the more it just sounds like I just want to go back. It's a good thing I've already sent my grad apps, isn't it? Though I ought to remind myself that school was never the vacuum that dramas, anime, and orientation pamphlets made them out to be, especially for kids like us whose education was intrinsically tied to social mobility.
That said, as a slightly more independent adult, I feel like I've unlocked some new imagination about how I can spend my time in such a space. Now, more than ever, I can see myself exploring beyond what's always been expected of me. It only took a decade longer, but maybe this time I can step foot into the world that the Hinatas and Yaguchis see? Though after a friend of mine tweeted the below, I'm thinking I should also manage expectations.
What I'm Enjoying
Looks like I've kept myself pretty entertained over the past month!
The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.: Reawakened: I had a blast watching the first two seasons of Saiki K., and was honestly so disappointed when it seemed that the Netflix-produced Reawakened just reset the timeline (again) that I stopped watching halfway through the first episode. Well, after giving it another shot this month, I realized it's a bit more complicated than that! Though I still wish that Kokomi could finally have her day.
Backflip!: Another show I revisited after a while – I think the first time around I couldn't suspend my disbelief that a bunch of high school boys could dorm together unsupervised and not burn something down (yes, weird hill to die on as someone who enjoys Child Soldier Simulator: Three Houses). I came to really like our sensitive protagonist and novice gymnast Shotaro – it's a nice change of pace from watching superhuman prodigies.
Super Crooks: It wasn't quite the fast-paced heist anime it set itself out to be, nor the character study that it otherwise could have been. For instance, I wish we could have spent more time with Kasey, who ends up having the most depth and most believable ambitions out of the cast. It was fun, but maybe not as fun as the intro made me think it would be.
The Journalist: Some white guy at The Guardian tweeted his review of "this quite odd Japanese thing on Netflix", which made me realize that most people probably wouldn't know that The Journalist is based on the very real and still unresolved Moritomo Gakuen scandal. While I think the series holds up on its own, this important context further emphasizes its urgent message about corruption and free speech.
My Dress-Up Darling, by Shinichi Fukuda: This caught my eye when I saw previews for the newly-released anime last year, and since none of my streaming services have it, I decided I'd read it instead. While I was expecting a story about an unlikely pair making it big in the competitive cosplay scene, it's much more relaxed and down-to-earth, which paves the way for one of the main themes in the series: passion is for everyone, and is nothing to be embarrassed about. As for the unlikely pair in question, I support them! Especially the incredibly relatable, insecure and nervous wreck Wakana Gojou.
Word of the Week: 隠蔽
隠蔽 (いんぺい・inpei), n. v., concealment, suppression. This word came up a lot in The Journalist.
Song of the Week
I found the channel The First Take last month and have been going through their collection of low-maintenance-yet-superb performances by a wide range of artists. The first song in this video 麻痺 by yama was also the OP of volleyball anime 2.43 – it was one of those openings that I wouldn't skip every time I watched a new episode.