Ghosts

This is probably my last post of 2015. It seems appropriate. I always meant to get around to writing about my dad dying. 2015 was not a great year. Terry Pratchett died. Christopher Lee died. Satoru Iwata died. My rabbit died. Two of my high school friends died. And my dad died. With the sort of vague, ambient irony the universe is sometimes fond of, it’s also the year I got married. But that’s another post. My dad died two months ago — I’m not here to tell you how I “got over it.” I’m just telling you an idea I encountered in the course of my living with it.

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1: Binbo Bamboo

What’s missing from our header image this time? If you’re having a really hard time answering that question, then you’re experiencing the phenomenon that underlies my revelatory moment this year. I watched Bamboo Blade with TheKittyMeister (I’d seen it before) and she helped me realize one of the reasons I like the show so much, something I’d never thought of myself. Something I’m in a much better position to notice now…

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2: Accidental Wedding

I finally got around to the latest Fire Emblem game since they sort of put it on sale on the digital store. This isn’t anime per se, but I figured there was only so many times you could deal with me talking about watching a show with somebody. So. Did you know it’s possible to get people married in Fire Emblem? (Oh, and I should probably mention this will spoil stuff in Awakening)

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Does it matter if Rey is a Mary Sue?

Hoo boy. Yeah, I saw Force Awakens. It’s a common argument online already: is Rey, one of the new characters, a Mary Sue or not? I can say, spoiler-free, that through the first third of the movie I kept rolling my eyes because “gee, those assholes on the internet sure don’t want a girl to matter in Star Wars.” And then… the rest of the movie happened, and I sure did wonder some things. Please don’t click through unless you either: A sort of want to read about Star Wars not having seen Force Awakens or B already saw the damn movie. Spoilers ahoy.

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4: Harem Bros

I’m sure you know Otouto-kun from Bros before Shows. Early this year — way back last winter, in fact — we started talking on Skype about harem shows. I think they sort of exist right now in the “fanservice’ no man’s land, where very few people seem to want to take them seriously. But one of the first anime I watched as a thing that was different from anything else I could be watching was Tenchi Muyo. I still consider myself a fan of Love Hina, but only the manga I suppose (the anime pacing leaves me squirming at all the really awkward shit I can breeze through when reading myself).

Well, we took on a project. We’d watch a bunch of harem shows just to see. We watched a bit of A Good Librarian Like A Good Shepherd, which I went on to finish. We watched both seasons of Amagami SS (though we’re just a few short. His schedule changed). And yes, we watched Shuffle. Now back in my easy breezy early grad school days, where I was getting paid to browse the internet for odd pictures and had no classes, but my short story collection was basically done, I watched a lot of anime. Big surprise, huh? So I’d seen Shuffle already. But Otouto hadn’t. But he knew what happened in it. There was an interesting back-and-forth where O. would realize the shitty stuff in the backgrounds of these characters, but then we’d slide right back into “shit as normal.” You know. Until the end.

If I’ve had trouble watching anime with Kitty, I just haven’t had much of an opportunity to watch it with other dudes since anime club. So it was refreshing to watch a harem show — which, you know, caters to straight dudes — and be at least interested enough in ladies to discuss that aspect. It’s the closest I’ll get to the creepy dudes in the back of the classroom swapping porno mags around (seriously though, why is that a thing? Use the internet, protagonist and bro).

This moment is dedicated to Otouto-kun, who made watching shitty harem shows fun again (I actually hold that Amagami is better than some people say, but you see my point here).

Oh, and he watched me try to play some of the original Shuffle game. I… couldn’t make it very far. Wow it’s dumb.

5:Nostalgia Filter

What could we possibly do after watching as much Sailor Moon as we dared? Watch Utena, of course.

This was one of those situations where I was leery. I’d wanted to suggest we watch Utes for years now, but finally got around to it. Kitty was leery too, and still is. I have never finished watching the show, and she has never watched it before now.

We stopped. Almost exactly where I stopped. It was bad luck, to begin with — friends came in from out of town, Dad died, I got married — but now we seem to keep forgetting to get back to it.

Have you ever had one of these moments? When you enjoy something you know pretty well, but you’re afraid to see anything new? You see, I just so happened, years ago — without knowing this — to stop just before the Akio arc starts. Now, I know a bit about what happens, but not that much, surprisingly (given that shoujo-ai fanfiction was my jam back in undergrad, even for shows I hadn’t seen). But the nostalgia will stop working for me.

Kitty has already helped me see some… problems in the show I hadn’t really noticed. Utena is kind of dumb, is the main one. I followed her around, back in the day, like any protagonist figure. Now, Kitty’s right — Utena’s kind of dumb. The show also does a lot less with gender dynamics and sexuality in this section than I remember. My memory of it comes primarily from having seen nothing really like it.

But. You know. I’ve read Orlando now.

So for anyone out there getting mad, cut it out. I haven’t seen the whole show. I’m not saying it’s bad, just that it isn’t as world-changing (revolutionary?) as I remember. Keep in mind, that’s based on exactly the same episodes.

Maybe when we finish One Punch Man

6: Tear Adorably

We have all had fights that, afterwards, seem pretty stupid. You can probably think of some of yours right now. Did your face get kinda warm? Like you should open a window or something? Yeah.

Well. My partner and I once had a huge, screaming, crying, hours-long fight about Toradora.

This is not a joke. But it happened this year, so it’s certainly a moment.

See, remember when I said I have a problem watching anime with people now? Yeah, I wasn’t kidding. I did that thing I’m supposed to be way too mature and old and experienced and educated to do: I got mad someone didn’t like a show I did. So when people tell you to relax and calm down and let people like what they like, that’s great advice and absolutely what you should do. But it appears to be somewhat natural to want people to like stuff you like. Not everyone feels that way, but way more than one or two of us do. So it’s cool, relax. We all do that. Well, I do that, and I’m kind of paid for my skill not to do it.

I’m not going to get weird and talk all about our fight and personal stuff and what have you. Basically it was a fight instead of a discussion because I should have gotten a glass of water and come back in the room after a minute and said, “Hey, you know what?” I didn’t do that.

But basically it was misinterpreting behavior as meaning. Yeah, that thing we have to do all the time, but are bad at all the time.

So why is this a moment I want to remember? It certainly gives me something to avoid doing. I kind of did that recently, remembering this and not getting bent out of shape. That was nice.

But for anyone reading, the point is more that it revealed my deep attachment to a show I hadn’t watched for a while (it has a good Christmas story, too). It was a moment when I wanted to share something and got confused. Which is pretty much what the characters do all the damn time. So that’s insightful. Probably.

7: Ore Monogatari and Mourning My Dad

I mentioned a few days ago that my dad died recently. Well, this one’s sort of about that.

I started watching Ore Monogatari the day before yesterday (I’m writing early in the morning 12/19; I’m already up to episode 12). I was exercising and watching episodes (like you do), and damn if there isn’t an episode about Suna’s dad in the hospital.

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8: Buns, hun

I mentioned that TheKittyMeister and I sit around and watch anime sometimes now that we’re all married ‘n’ shit. Here’s another one of those. I totally made her watch Sailor Moon Crystal. See, I watched Sailor Moon in the days of yore, back on Toonami. That’s what I did when I got home from school (when band practice didn’t keep me at school late). I basically assumed she had also done this, but in fact she’d never seen it.

Well, what was I going to do? I wasn’t going to watch the original show, that’s trash (I kid; seriously, though, it’s too damn long). I hear the consensus when Crystal came out was that it wasn’t very good? For the first six episodes I was totally on board; Chibi-Usa arc started to show some of the cracks in the edifice this redux was trying to build, but still I liked it.

More importantly, TheKittyMeister managed to make sense of everything with minimal input from me, so clearly it kept track of things well enough (she hated Chibi-Usa too! It’s nice to keep bonding in a relationship).

It was a fun experience to “rewatch” something while watching something new. That’s the appeal of this stuff, I imagine. But more importantly, at this precise moment, is the conversations Kitty and I had. She spent time speculating all sorts of weird things about the show. I can’t remember any, I hope she’ll reply with some. See, anime is, for some reason, one of the things I have trouble sharing with her. It’s super-weird; we bonded a little when we were doing the awkward “hanging out while mutually wanting to date” thing over anime. She recognized Tenchi Muyo dvds from images on the case (yes I own the latest Tenchi OVA series in the metal case, don’t judge me). If I were to psychoanalyze myself, it might be partly because I tried to watch some anime with her and our friend, who was sort of present during the entire first act of our relationship (and was a groomsman at our wedding). I, uh, failed to gauge their interests and tried to show Haruhi Suzumiya to them. The friend got up and walked out.

I was in an anime club — I even contacted the president of the anime club at my new school when I left to start my MFA (who never wrote back actually). It’s not as though anime is the shameful thing I do in my room alone because no one understands, man. My mom watched Hellsing with me and liked it (she likes vampire stories)! So I am still getting over this weird thing, and Sailor Moon Crystal helped some.

And ok, I’m way too proud of myself for my title here. “Buns, hun.” It’s from “Baby Got Back,” it’s a reference to Usagi’s hairstyle, and it’s a reference to the rabbit imagery of the show. You like puns? Have some damn puns! Triple-layer heart stopper puns!