If I had to pick a word to sum up my current place: It’d be ‘questioning’. Questioning the things around me, myself and the relationships between the two. It can be a scary position to be in. There’s been times where my anxieties and stresses have increased massively because of it, with my previous post being a prime example of that. Despite all this, it’s also led to the times I’ve felt the most reassured about myself and comfort within the things I experience.
This inevitably led to me thinking about anime, the countless interactions I’ve had with the medium and where I go from here.Anime is a big part of my life now, but it wasn’t always like that. I discovered anime in my early teenage years. Thinking back to my mindset, it’s amazing that I’m as deep into the medium and culture around it I am today. I couldn’t tell you why I watched as much anime as I did back then, I only ever considered it as something dumb to watch whilst procrastinating from school work.
However, I did discover something hugely important out of that. Internet communities.
Initially only using it as a way to find out about new anime, these communities were the first time I felt part of something. I always lived a sheltered life, avoiding interacting with anything around me. This forced me out of my shell. I was finally talking with people that I felt understood me, even if just a little.
Why is this important? It was also the first time I saw people talk about anime as an art form, as something to be analysed and critiqued. It baffled me. I hated it. People were taking the dumb cartoons I watched way too seriously.
But I kept reading them. As much as I wanted to deny it back then, I was fascinated by it. These people were feeling something that I wanted to feel for so long. A deep emotional connection to the things they experience.
My own journey to find this connection has been a long and arduous one. For many years I was still in the mindset of anime being throwaway entertainment and nothing else. I only kept watching to keep up appearances within the communities I found… but there was something brewing underneath I never noticed.
What I hadn’t realised is that I was slowly moving away from a lot of the live action shows and films. I knew I liked them, but it just didn’t feel “real”. I now realise that this goes back my feelings back then of not wanting to interact with the world around me. I couldn’t find myself in a lot of what I watched. It all felt manufactured, or stories that were for people who weren’t me.
So that’s why I kept watching anime. Slowly but surely, as ridiculous this might be to say, anime was becoming a part of me. I kept on discovering more stories, more characters, more worlds that I hadn’t encountered anywhere else. I felt myself slowly becoming more intrigued by them and the people behind it. There was a lingering feeling that the connection was being made, that something just “gets” me. My initial frustrations was that I just didn’t know how to express it, or find out what I was truly feeling.
Until I watched a show I now consider to be my favourite. Sound! Euphonium.
Euphonium changed everything for me. At first, I didn’t really think much of it. It was just another anime which had all the fun high school antics I liked! However the more I watched, the more it unravelled itself. I was invested in the band’s journey, and the conflicts of its members like I hadn’t done so before.
This is a story about a band. A band who started their journey right at the bottom. They’re nothing special, they didn’t really care about anything other than playing music. However, the band takes on a whole different meaning once new members are introduced. Everyone interacts in a different way now, the previous fun and care-free days are over in favour of a more serious approach. They have to rethink what they know about music in order to fit this.
It’s the main source of conflict in Euphonium. Reina gets frustrated when people don’t see her way of thinking. Kumiko has a burning desire to improve. Tensions only escalate as the date of the competition gets closer. For some it’s too much, and quit band all together.
But… It all works out. The band’s passion, talents, hard work. All the previous stresses and tensions didn’t matter any more. Changing how they viewed and interact with music and the world around them not only brought them success, but something far deeper than that. They found each other. They found themselves.
Watching the show end made me cry a lot. Because for the first time, I found that connection I wanted for so long.
This is why I keep coming back. This is why I keep analysing no matter how much I question my abilities or how much worth it has. It’s in these moments that I truly understand who I am. Anime’s greatest appeal to me is the fact that it can detach itself from reality. Reality always seems too fixed, with exploration not encouraged. Whilst with anime, I can get lost within it. Find myself in places that I never have been before, with myself slowly working towards becoming a better person with each experience.
That’s only half of it though. There’s also the fact that I get to share this with so many other people. Nothing makes me happier than hearing about other people’s experiences. I feel like we’re not only learning about each other, but about our own selves through these conversations. I hope this post can inspire others to share their stories, or look through their own histories in a different light.
Jakitauji. Jaki. Kitauji. Not just a dumb pun, but a reminder of what I felt that night. A reminder of a feeling that I never want to let go.