Saturday, November 4, 2017

Can We Talk?

It's difficult to have an intelligent conversation about waifus.

Maybe I should start with some context: Hi, my name is Jim and I used to run an anime blog called Anime Breakfast Buffet. I thought the name rolled off the tongue and I had a gimmick to go with it, but that's neither here nor there at this point. It was fun, and it definitely got me back into anime by virtue of making me less shy about checking out new shows and giving them a chance (in some cases, giving them too generous a chance...).

Everybody makes mistakes. Some just make very expensive, public mistakes
that last half a decade (and counting).

But now I find myself wanting to adopt a new mission statement, which I partially adopted back in August of 2014 before entering the Great Dark Phase. At that point, I had just watched School Days, an anime which, while a bit clunky in its execution, did have something interesting and insightful to say about the way we run away from responsibility and how it shapes our interactions with others. While certainly not one of my favorite anime it definitely made me reevaluate the way I treated some of the people-- women, in particular-- in my life. I found it a very introspective experience and I thought I came away better for it.

All of this happened during a time when I was playing hooky to avoid going to work because I wasn't able to drag myself out of bed and the system we use to call in sick is comically easy to exploit. Back then I didn't think I was sick. I was. I just wasn't equipped with the name of what I was sick with. Spoiler alert: It was clinical depression, then undiagnosed but since identified by a professional. This wasn't a surprise to anybody who knew me. After all, I'm a self-proclaimed writer and I think the DSM-V actually lists that as a symptom of depression.

You know, along with staying at home and watching anime when you're supposed to be working. The big two, they call it.

So flash forward some months in the future, after all of this introspection occurred. I'd like to say I came out on the other side of it a better person and have been living a healthy and productive life since then, and in fact if you saw me on the street you'd probably assume that would be the case. I'm still employed, make enough money to live pretty comfortably and support my hobbies, and I don't generally look like a hot mess.

The thing about depression-- and I'm hardly the first person to say this-- is that you sort of learn how to internalize it. Particularly if you go as long as I do without doing anything about it, it has a way of normalizing itself into your life. This means that even if you're wrecking your life in private and the soundtrack of your life is just a combination of confused screaming and dial-up modem sounds you can generally put on a brave face and go about your life. It has a way of blending into the background, like the street noise that goes on in the city. Yeah it's there and it's probably not great for you, but it's normal. It's life.

Not helping any of this is the fact that I've been living alone for the past four years and some change. While this gives me a considerable amount of freedom to travel and go wherever whenever, it mostly amounts to a lot of time lying in bed, staring into the middle distance, and contemplating the vague concept of being alive. You spend a lot of time in a fog, letting vapor lock set in. You don't really think about anything except the fact that you're not thinking about anything and you should really be thinking about something but you don't even have the drive and energy to do that. This is made worse if you live in a community that revolves around "traditional values" where men are supposed to keep their emotions to themselves and just go out and shoot some pheasants if they feel any weird girl-stuff welling up inside.

If you're wondering what this has to do with anime, I'm getting to that. Suffice it to say I had a monster living inside of me and I kept feeding it exactly what it wanted. By the time my 24th birthday rolled around I started recognizing that something wasn't right. It was the day that Monty Oum died, and it affected me in a way that started to make me realize that maybe the way I feel all the time isn't normal. Maybe I can feel a different way if I can actually look at that monster, identify it, and come up with a plan that might not ever be good enough to kill it, but it can at least put it on a diet.

I started going to therapy, and again I was kind of hoping to turn things around. I cannot recommend seeking professional help enough, by the way. The mere fact that I had somebody to talk to without any judgment was a huge help and it went a long way toward making me not feel quite so alone. It was a break from the silence, and it taught me how to focus my thoughts a little more. There's a certain physicality to depression that becomes easier to identify if you can be coached to recognizing what your body is trying to tell you. It can make you more equipped to fight it. Ultimately it wasn't doing anything about the limiting self-beliefs I carried about myself. At the end of the day, no matter how much I can push my body out of that physical misery, it does nothing for the fact that I come home every day to an empty house.

Therapy gives you a lot of tools to resist the siren call of your own bed and the feedback loop of depression, but you can only give yourself the "I'm just fine the way I am. The things that go wrong in life aren't a negative reflection on me. Only I can define myself," speech so many times before you're completely inoculated to that level of self-care. At that point you need to switch treatments, either by finding newer, more intense regimens while maintaining high levels of alertness for negative thoughts...

... or you can adopt some unhealthy coping mechanisms. I chose the one that let me sleep next to a pillow with titties drawn on it, among a variety of other techniques which skirted the line between tongue-in-cheek irony and hands-down-pants sincerity.

There seems to be a common thread running throughout.
What was that old saying? How did it go?

That's the one.

So yeah. At that point, when you've gotten to the level of feeling alone you just eventually reach a critical mass of "Fuck it, I'll just approximate the feeling of human closeness." After all, isn't the sensation of touch enough? Even without the emotional connection between two people who care deeply for each other? There were two flaws in this thinking.

1) Pillows start out cold and only gradually get warm. This is not how human beings work, and if you think that they do you're actually spooning with a lizard.
2) Trying to replicate the physical aspects of a relationship by hugging a large pillow is a bit like trying to cure a potassium deficiency sculpting a banana out of play-dough and then eating it.

Regardless of how effective it might have felt in the beginning, that inoculation sets in and you eventually need to once again switch treatments or up the dose. Presently, I feel like treating the symptoms and not the underlying cause would be the absolute stupidest way to handle things. This brings me to today. The Great Dark Phase is still ongoing, but I'm trying to overcome it in different ways, hopefully ways that are a bit healthier. I'm travelling more, trying to find the beauty in the world around me while trying to come further out of my shell talking to the people I meet along the way. I can only stay trapped in my head, staring into the middle distance while thinking about nothing, if I don't open myself up a little more (which is why I'm writing this right now).

Full disclosure: A lot of it is centered around anime and gaming conventions. These are probably not the most healthy environments considering, but I'm weaning myself off of the bad coping skills. Regardless of how far things went in these past couple of years, I do feel more comfortable and have an easier time talking to people in the atmosphere of a convention. If nothing else, it usually allows me to be the best smelling person in a room at any given time.

Another thing I'd like to do more of is write. My superpower is my apparent otherworldly talent to not have people read or engage with anything I write or produce, but it's another thing that I enjoy doing which I've deprived myself of through the vapor lock that only major depression can bring. Who knows, maybe someday I'll write that big screed against the anime industry, complete with anticapitalist overtones and the call to action for all of us to seize the means of anime production. Are there people more talented and entertaining than me who can write and talk intelligently about anime? Absolutely. I've always learned best by doing things for myself, and maybe by writing this down I can learn more about myself and others no matter how rocky the initial form appears.

If there's one thing that I was supposed to have learned from School Days, it's that we can't really love other people until we love ourselves enough to face life's uncertainties head on. Anything else is empty, putting on a brave face without the actual context of what that bravery is even supposed to represent. I don't really want to do that anymore. I think I'd rather try to understand it. I'd like to figure out what that looks like to me. Maybe then I won't care so much what it looks like to other people.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

August 13, 2014 -- What We Most Fear

Late update, as per usual! This week we'll be taking a look at the star of this show, Makoto Itou. As you'll recall, I did not have very kind things to say about Makoto last week. I used some strong names such as "dumbass," "miserable prick," and "sentient penis" to describe the main character of this anime. However, I have resolved to put my personal feelings behind me in the interest of analyzing this character.

When asking who the most responsible for the horrible events that transpired in School Days, any discussion should begin and end with Makoto Itou. Let's go into the hows and whys behind this student's sexual coup d'edouche after the break!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

August 2, 2014 -- Back To School!

It's August, which means that the end of Summer is upon us. I've been all over (the middle of the northern part of) the country, I planted a vegetable garden, did some dogsitting, helped people move, attempted to build a PC, failed at building a PC, and began the arduous task of writing the most nonsensical crossover fanfiction ever written. Despite all of that, I'd be lying if I said it's been a busy time. Really, the bulk of my time has been spent doing this:


Now it's August, which means that soon many of us (At least those of us in the United States will be heading back to school, so to celebrate this time of year we're doing another theme month! Welcome to August:

School Days Month

So it goes without saying that there absolutely will be spoilers in this month's post, especially this one. If you're one of the five anime fans who hasn't seen school days, I would recommend you stop reading and watch the series-- all twelve episodes-- before reading this. It's on Crunchyroll, and you can watch it there. I can't honestly say that you'll be glad you did, as School Days is a very polarizing show, but everything you read here will make a lot more sense (and be easier to get mad at) if you've at least seen the show. It goes without saying that there will be MAJOR SPOILERS.

We'll start this journey after the break!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April 1, 2014? -- Don't Lose Your Way

I've been holding my tongue about this one for some time, and now that I've gotten my mojo back with Fresh PreCure, I'm ready to give Kill la Kill a piece of my mind. What, you thought that I'd somehow be okay with this show when I so thoroughly lambasted Fresh PreCure for its weird fascination of sexualizing underage characters?


Join me after the break and we'll take a look at one of the poorest examples of storytelling you'll ever see.

Monday, March 31, 2014

March 31, 2014 -- I've Been Beaten Up

This will be my final struggle. It's time to go toe to toe with my old adversary. I'm ending this month by scraping the bottom of the barrel and talking about my least favorite Pretty Cure series: Fresh PreCure.

What makes this show so special? Why, when other PreCure series had plenty of stupid stuff in it as well, does this series in particular send me to the back of the grumpy bus? Find out after the break.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

March 30, 2014 -- The Music Shuns Sunshine (...and Smiles)

Well it looks like the anime convention and the subsequent spring break had more of an impact on my ability to write a post than I'd originally anticipated.

The original plan was to go through a sort of order for the various series I wanted to look at this month. The first week was HappinessCharge, the newest series. Why not save the newest for last? Well, if I wound up liking it (spoiler alert: I did) that would make for a pretty boring finale post. I wanted to save something special for the finale.

Devotees will remember that I watched Yes! Pretty Cure 5 last time, a fan-favorite of the franchise that I found decidedly vanilla and underwhelming. Last week I was planning on following that up with a series that I really liked but other PreCure fans almost universally put at the bottom of their list: Suite PreCure. Then this week I would've reviewed my favorite PreCure series, HeartCatch, which means that next week for the finale I would be watching...

Anyway, I decided to change the rule a bit (as I'm wont to do) by looking at the three series that got me hooked on the franchise. I enjoyed them for different reasons, and I'd only go as far as to say that one of them is a particularly good anime. That said, they all struck a chord with me on some level and hopefully you'll see why after the break.

Let's take a look back at Suite PreCure, HeartCatch PreCure, and Smile PreCure!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

March 11, 2013 -- Les Cinq Lumieres

Merde. Mon ventre.

This post is coming a little later than I would've wanted. So much happened this Saturday night, the night I usually write these. I was planning on getting started after playing Dead Space with my best friend in the world, but my stomach and lower intestines had a slightly different idea.

In hindsight, that linguine was pretty sketch.

So then I alternated between one hour of sleep and fifteen minutes of something we won't talk about for the next few hours. This would not have been too detrimental to my well-being if it hadn't occurred during

Yeah. So this is coming in late.

Speaking of long, drawn-out intestinal distress, we're continuing Pretty Cure month with Yes! PreCure 5! It's a fan-favorite, but how strongly did it make an impression on me, an expert on all things magical girl? Have I already given away the answer to that? Find out after the break!