During my short week writing and sharing opinions and getting acquainted with the many people here, I have heard marvelous stories of inspiration, revelations, and resilience. A life policy of mine has been whenever someone shares how something has impacted them, or if I hear of another’s life journey, I give my best to sit down and listen to their words. While I am a sucker for seeing stories on TV (I cry a lot during the Olympics hearing life stories minutes before the events), there isn’t anything quite like talking to people directly or reading their own accounts. No matter how big or small the experience or event might be, someone else is painting the picture of the important questions people spend lifetimes seeking: who are they, why are they the way they are, and what they want to do with their lives.
No matter what the source may be, there are plenty of things that impact everyday people in vastly different ways. In the obvious case of my newfound community (“newfound” might not fit in the case of me finally joining it after reading articles for over a year), people who have shared with me have all spoke of anime, manga, visual and light novels. Without going into detail of the sorts of stories I heard, it really makes me believe that the heart of people will always shine through when it comes through those places. People wanted me to link them to a story I wrote a while ago on an indie blog about an influence I had, but I didn’t want to rely on my old words. One can never really gauge themselves without seeing the world through others, I have traveled around the world since then and seen many more walks of life that fueled a fire in myself. After meditation on the topic today, I feel ready to share my own story in its entirety. For friends, I usually omit parts related to anime, but here I can share the full thing. I was going to make this a list of the anime that influenced me and why, but in some way, they all contributed to the same thing. I apologize for the rushed quality of writing this, as it is really difficult to get out there without getting too worked up. Respectfully, I ask you to read it before jumping to conclusions of my motives for sharing it, and if you are triggered by any types of misfortune, I want to give you a heads-up it won’t be a smooth ride, but I think it has a good end.
When I was in the seventh grade, I started to lose a lot of my handwriting abilities due to my hands poorly developing with shortened tendons. I was unable to write legibly, and as a result I lost my spot on the competitive writing team. Most of my writing started to come from writing in-depth opinions on a moderately sized forum for Naruto (this was way before the second one came out). While I wasn’t rocking the world with my thirteen year old vocabulary and grammar skills, I found a lot of peace in an outlet in my increasingly difficult passion. On this forum I met a boy my age from Singapore (it pains me I only knew him for his screen name and never actually learned his name, but for the sake of telling the story to people, I just say his name was “Brian” and was my “pen pal”...not something I’m very proud to admit, but a lot of people wouldn’t understand the circumstances of our friendship without the exposition) whom had a lot of similar interests as myself besides liking Naruto. We also were both bullied relentlessly from our classmates for not being the most secretive of the things we liked (I would carry around manga as reading material between classes). We also both had a secret admiration for athletics, but were far too unhealthy to really make a splash on a team. I voiced out against all of it, and told “Brian” we needed to believe what we wanted to. I wasn’t anticipating those words actually carrying weight to another when I feigned them like some protagonist.
All of that negativity changed in “Brian” one day when he was influenced by a (at the time) relatively new anime series. All he could do was talk about it, saying I reminded him so much of a girl from it and it shifted his outlook on life. Suddenly we were agreeing that we should work our hardest to inspire people like us to go out and be athletes and the sort. It was a wonderful little world we built ourselves up in all the way to the top, when “Brian” went all-in on his ideology. He was trying out for the soccer team. Hesitantly, I agreed to try for my respective interest sport, basketball. Camps were brutal on the both of us, and we didn’t speak much to one another at the time. I slowly determined by my own will for once to stick up to the bullies and show them I could do what I wanted to do. If he could think this way, I could too. I can be exactly what I was pretending to be for him.
Time went on, and young “Brian” started to dim on his optimism. Conversations were shorter and shorter, and his articles started coming in late. Eventually one day, he flat out told me the truth- something to the extent he didn’t make the team and his classmates were even worse to him now over it. At the same time, the bullying from my classmates (namely those on the basketball team) was reaching a high pitch for myself as well. I think I told him something lame like “We can still do this!” and he simply agreed without offering much else. One night after dinner, I was reading blogs written by the members of the forum, when I saw a post from “Brian”. In it, he proclaimed he was going to jump off the roof of his building and kill himself. Hastily, I messaged him everything I could think of to calm him down. At the time I think the best thing I was writing was “God has a plan for all of us” just in a hyperventilating craze. The storm passed over, and he wrote a large thank you list with my name, among others, praised. I didn’t try to help him more. I just kept living that fantasy, and when he went through that again, we never heard from him again. I know someone could say he might still be alive (I hope he is), but that didn’t change the fact I lost what was a dear friend to me for the rest of my life.
That week, the basketball team got to the point they were ready to get rid of me. With all of the worst timing in the world, they started throwing my homework around the locker room, shoving me to the ground every time I tried getting back up. Keep fighting, it is what he would want you to do! raced through my head furiously as I got back up. I didn’t know how to fight. Everything I knew of fighting came from shows with ninjas and magicians. The good guys always won, the bad guys ran away. I was beaten by thrown objects until I had permanent damage to a certain region done as a few of the team members held me down. I remember limping a long, long ways back home that night and telling my family I didn’t need anymore rides to basketball practice. Like all the other times I was bullied, nothing came of me talking to the staff about it. Some laughed about it even. I never watched anime from that point on. Never read manga. Never watched the NBA. FIFA. All of it. I hated to even think about it.
For the next six years, I furiously lived an ideology I borrowed, swearing I would not let the dream die. I started doing it so much, it became my own way of life. I wanted to help people more than anything, and I didn’t care how hard I had to fight for it. Those kinds of things sound good, but obviously people took advantage of it. The same cycle kept going on- I’d befriend a new group, they’d use my passion for helping people, and then they’d burn me in the worst way they could. Several times through those cycles, I started to struggle with the concept of the same course the author I was inspired by took. I would play the very kids who bullied me in one on one games outside after school to massive groups of students, there to ridicule my self-taught jump shot and temper flaring over the cheap plays of the bullies. I never made the JV team, I never won a game against the bullies. I broke my hand trying to do it all, and the writing became next to impossible at the time even on a computer (I didn’t have anything to write about, anyways).
Thankfully, I had a sort of coming to reality talk with my family, and things started looking up for me. I ran every day, and lost a bunch of weight. Finally in my senior year, I got some parting shot on everyone when I made the varsity soccer team off of my running ability and reckless abandon for taking a hard kick just about anywhere out there. After my family got through to me, I started to calm down a little bit and just avoided those people from before. It didn’t make my problems go away entirely, but separating myself from them and taking college courses while in high school got my right foot in the direction I needed to head. I applied for a job I was not very sure what I would be doing, just knowing it would get me out of where I was and would start giving me money for college (I had been so determined to carry out my goal in high school, I had no idea what I even wanted to do with my life after).
The job ended up not being what I thought it was, and I realized even what I signed up for was completely different. I had been lied to, and I was working as a financial consultant. I was assigned almost on the other side of the country, and could barely contact anyone. All of my training was on-the-job, and the office I was assigned to was toxic. People working there were there for a very long time, and due to work performance, or just bad luck, they were just short of reaching their retirement by the time they would leave. Like anyone with insecurities, they targeted others (no surprise who that was, right?) just like those bullies. Life kept testing me, as I received the heartbreaking news my mother had been diagnosed with stage three lung cancer. Suddenly my family, who were my everything in pulling me out of my crazy pursuit, was looking to me for strength in a time they had no answers. I ran harder and studied the work manuals front to back, only burning myself out even worse. One day, I tore my patellar tendon while playing soccer, and couldn’t find solace in running. I really needed something to pick me up.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is when I got into anime.
A friend I made online asked me if I had ever seen a show she really liked. Hearing the title made me cringe, ever so hard. The title? Why, none other than The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. Compared to a traditional article I’d write, I really don’t feel like there needs to be a description of what the show was, especially when the important part is what it did for me rather than what it was. I started watching the series just to hear out a friend, but really my change as an entire person began. My imagination started flourishing, and writing began coming to me easier than before (well, thinking up what to write anyways). There wasn’t enough free time in my days to binge the whole thing, so over the course of that November, my days consisted of doing everything I needed to do, then a solid hour before bed bent over my laptop watching some DVDs of the show I picked up at Goodwill.
Have you ever watched something because someone told you “Oh you have to watch this one part...” to the point you didn’t care how much more you’d watch than usual to get there? After watching far more anime than I was familiar with doing in those weeks, I got to the part in it where Haruhi stood up on the stage and performed “God Knows...”. In that moment, everything clicked for me, and I think that was the point I truly became alive. Despite everyone laughing and booing at her to get off the stage, she was still fighting through, giving it her all. I didn’t ever think I was that way, but a certain someone always did. That was what he thought of me. I kept thinking over and over again. This was what inspired him, I was like this character to him.
In the weeks that followed, I became easier and easier on the show, until it became a happy memory of my lost friend. I didn’t think poorly of anime anymore, and my heart started to grow bigger and bigger. Life was filled of adventure, and I started to rehab stronger. Perhaps in a smaller way, the show Kuroko no Basuke was airing, and I resonated with one of the players, Kiyoshi. His injured knees wouldn’t stop him from being the protector of his loved ones. My mother was inspired by my sudden resurgence and I would send her newer and newer mileage updates as I eventually got back up to running a half-marathon.
The last big hurdle I faced at work was getting through the hardship that was work. I felt so defeated and useless from the crushing weight of the real world that no matter how much I was trying to get it all together, the office torment was keeping me from blossoming. Enter Gurren Lagann. Such a terrific story I am positive I will (among all the others listed here today) go in-depth on my favorite aspects of, was the sparkplug to bring it all together. The iconic line “Just who in the hell do you think I am?” became a motto of mine, and I worked my hardest until I got all of the flak off my back. I wasn’t the best at my job, but I managed to impress enough people to get a transfer out of where I was out to South Korea. In ten years there, only two others in my position ever managed to have the credentials to transfer like that.
Thankfully, my mother beat her cancer, and we both confessed how much we relied on one another’s courage and strength to get through our respective hard times, on top of the things we read/watched to help out. My mom watched Gurren Lagann and The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya with me before I departed for my transfer, and was moved just the same as I was by it.
As the last year has panned out here South Korea, I really like to thank the shows Fate/Stay night: Unlimited Blade Works and Hanamonogatari for helping me move on from the ideology my friend had and shaping into my own man. I saw where the pursuit of a dream like the one I had could go in a haunting way in UBW’s Archer character. Then, the brave Kanbaru let her friend’s spirit go to rest finally after said friend was plotting to scorn the world for her misfortune (and, spoilers, that friend had killed herself, too). I ended up having a moment quite like out of the latter, laying out in the middle of the road after a long run and coming to the actualization of what I needed to do, not only for the memory of my friend, but in the best interest of myself moving on. The entire reason I had been running, I had been fighting as hard as I had been, was because I thought my actions could inspire another out of their slumps.
I’m really proud to say when I finally raise enough money to go to school (which shouldn’t take any longer than the end of next year), I am going to major in Screenwriting for Film and Television and also pursue a career in professional voice acting. Obviously I thank family and faith first, but things like anime helped me through one of the toughest times of my life, and I want to be able to create content that will help people through that kind of stuff. I just know now there is a much safer way of doing that that doesn’t lead to manipulation like when I was younger.
I know it doesn’t have the same flow as a real formulated article might, but those are my actual feelings and my story. I just want to thank you for sticking through on this and especially thank you for letting me be such a welcomed member of this community.
Thank you so much, and have a wonderful day!