4 min read

S1:E3 This Isn't About Cowboy Bebop

S1:E3 This Isn't About Cowboy Bebop

At 11:53PM on November 30th, I officially submitted my applications to grad school, and while I feel a weight lifted off my shoulders, I'm not as relaxed as I wish I could be. I'm open to recommendations on how to take it easy as I'm not capable of doing it myself. In the meantime, though, I thought I'd try a different approach to writing these letters. I've been wondering what the best way to share my thoughts on what I'm reading/watching/playing would be, but witty one-liners wasn't cutting it, so this time I'd like to try something a little more focused, and a little more connected to the title of this letter. But if you are looking for insight into where most of my free time goes, scroll down!

What I'm Thinking

In the months leading up to the Netflix release of Cowboy Bebop, I had decided I would be playfully dismissive whenever someone asked me my opinion. "Oh, but they're fundamentally different works," I imagined myself saying, "The anime ran through its budget and even got cancelled once, in a generation of media that was still learning how to discuss adult themes, while the live action is produced by Netflix, which doesn't pay its taxes."

I was very proud of this internal dialogue since it absolved me from having to defend the live action should it bomb while also asserting my status as Person Who Wrote Their Thesis On The Anime. When the live action did come out, though, first I was mildly disappointed that no one asked for my opinion. And then I realized there were more than enough people giving their opinions, which is why I really don't want to talk about Cowboy Bebop, but instead about me talking about Cowboy Bebop. Yes, you may read that again!

I often introduce Chairo+ as the offspring of my thesis, which itself I call a "critical analysis of the Cowboy Bebop's use of genre," but neither has ever been far from participating in fandom. I think once upon a time I resented that association because it always seemed like whoever made it meant it disparagingly. At my defense, a reader praised my work as he observed that most anime studies ends up "simply fandom". Meanwhile, when I shared my first article on Chairo+, a friend had asked if the blog was anything more than eloquent musings of a fan.

I think comments like these tend to stick because they imply that if my work somehow overlaps with fandom, then I've failed at what I've set out to do. But perhaps now that I have some more distance between myself and expectations to produce and perform, that association stings less. In fact, it makes perfect sense – after all, who but a fan would willingly write 100 pages discussing the minute details of handpicked scenes from an anime?

Part of my mission throughout these projects was to convince others that there are important discussions to be had about the media we enjoy and the worlds they depict. But maybe I spent a disproportionate amount of energy making these ideas digestible to complete strangers whom I thought I had to convince that I was "serious" enough, either as a writer or as a fan. Depending on the audience, if I were outed as "just a fan" or "not enough of a fan", I would have failed at a crucial step in communication, so I tried carving a space for myself between fandom and "real life". But I think I was going against exactly what I wanted to advocate, which is that our media and world around us are always intersecting.

I'll pause it there: I tried writing a conclusion to this thought, but couldn't find the words! I'll just say that throughout all of the discussion about Cowboy Bebop, it's been interesting to see others grapple with the entanglement between our world and media in real-time. There are a lot of reasons people instinctively hate live-action adaptations, but maybe one of the reasons is the uncanny valley-adjacent phenomenon of bearing witness to the artificial hand in their favorite stories as they're remade – in other words, a very visceral reminder that our real and invented worlds exist concurrently and atop one another.

Anyway, I hope to remind myself of the above as I keep writing moving forward, although another, simpler message also rings true: I'm writing for myself! Screw what others think!

What I'm Enjoying

Pokémon Brilliant Diamond: For the first time, I actually want to try filling up the Pokédex! And say what you will about Exp. Share making things easy, Cynthia's Garchomp still destroyed me.

Komi Can't Communicate: Wholesome high school love story meets somewhat concerning personalities and Japanese puns I can finally understand.

夏の約束 (Summer's Promise) by Chiya Fujino: I enjoyed getting into the heads of Fujino's characters as they experience what are mostly unremarkable events – maybe that's what makes them relatable, too?

Also, it seems like I'm just going down the list of women who have won the Akutagawa Prize at this point, so I'm open to recommendations. Any manga you've read? Authors you've heard about? I'd like to read them in Japanese.

Song of the Week

I'm falling behind in my anime-watching, but I'm intrigued by Super Crooks, if only for this smooth OP! It made me want to learn how to dance and draw at the same time.