Memories and Dreams – 2016 Reflections and 2017 Goals

“Memories and Dreams” is a new collection of posts I’m beginning as I pick up blogging more – they’ll be a chance for me to reflect on the past (memories) and look ahead to the future (dreams). Although these posts won’t be something I write consistently, they’ll likely be a bit more personal as I think about where I’ve been, and where I’m headed. This first post is a short reflection on my time watching anime in 2016, before looking ahead to anime, writing, and other goals I’m setting for myself in 2017; I hope you all enjoy it!

It’s a bit crazy to look back to the beginning of 2016 a year ago and see how much has changed in my life since then. I had finished up a round of job interviews before Christmas time, but I was still unemployed and out of school so I was basically watching anime all the time (or at least was trying to); now I’ve been working for 8 months and somehow manage living on my own. But it’s not just challenges in real-life stuff like figuring out how to adult properly (spoilers, I still don’t know how to adult properly); it’s honestly hard to believe how much has changed for me in my passion for anime in just a year. Even looking at the differences between what shows I was watching then compared to now is sort of wild: to think it’s only been a year since keeping up with r/anime’s rewatches of Nichijou, Haruhi, and Toradora; burning through Railgun and Oregairu S1 (when it wasn’t completely destroying me emotionally); and finishing up my first seasonal watches (Noragami, Owari as the gems, and Sakurako-san and K: Return of Kings as the, er, not-gems). Things are so different now – I watch a lot more seasonal shows (or, well, I say I’m going to and then on-hold half of them during the season), rush through bundles of 2 or 3 shows, and then drag out another 40ish shows for 6+ months. And going beyond what I watch and how I watch it, I also have such a different perspective while watching shows now – I’m simply not the same anime fan I was 12 months ago.

And I think that’s a good thing! I’ve really seen myself mature as a watcher, and as a person over this past year. Things really changed in life for me, with the whole getting a job and moving out on my own thing. My time is more limited, and therefore every minute I get to watch anime is more precious to me – there are so many shows to get through, and so little time to do so. And on top of that, all of the new shows airing every season, combined with older shows to watch as well, mean it’s an overwhelming task to simply stay afloat in everything I’m watching. I’ve grown more comfortable with this over time, through multiple cycles of strict watching decisions to “well just watch whatever” – and as I usually am with most things in life, my ideal spot is almost certainly somewhere in the middle of those two extremes. Looking back to winter season and the start of spring season, I kept so many post-it notes with how shows were airing on certain days and how I wanted to budget time to different shows – mind you, I had MAL at this point so all of this was SO far beyond simply keeping track of what I was watching or had seen. And all of this was for the insane goal of “well I wanna watch a month’s worth of anime this year so 4 episodes a day it is!” Man, I don’t even think that make it out of January! All of that was thrown out the window when I started working – I certainly kept up on tons of seasonal anime that spring, but it took a lot of effort to do so. It’s a hard task to commit time to something at the expense of something else, and it’s something I still struggle with as I spend many nights looking indecisively at my computer for HOURS.

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Me after yet another evening of taking more time to pick a show than to actually watch it..

But even within the past few months things have changed so much – I’ve definitely been affected (in a good way) by all the anitwitter folks I’ve started following in the past month or so (and of course those I had been following before then), and 12 Days of Anime clearly had a massive impact on me expressing my own thoughts on anime, not just through a blog but on twitter and elsewhere as well. Considering that in the past I’d say things like “oh I’m sure I could talk about [x] for ages” and then be unable to convert what I felt into actual words, writing for 12 Days was a massive success for me – I got posts out on every day without fail despite multiple 2am panics of “should I really try to go forward with this post” (and one of those panics turned into my Planetarian writeup, one of my favorite posts from the whole 2 weeks). With these recent things in mind, I’m hoping that I can set goals for myself over this next year and intentionally pursue after them – in the past dreams I created at the new year were more vague and open-ended, but I’d like to set more definitive goals to pursue after in addition to the themes I strive after in my personal life. So with all of that together, let’s get started on the first goal after the jump…

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A Heart of Song

This post is the twelfth and final of my 12 essays for the 2016 edition of 12 Days of Anime, a joint project between many anibloggers. For more info about the project, check out appropriant’s introductory post here, and check out the full blog spreadsheet here if you’re interested in the work of everyone participating!

Spoilers for all of Sora no Woto, Hibike! Euphonium 2 episode 9 (Asuka’s arc), and The iDOLM@STER episode 20 (Chihaya’s arc). Each show is available for free on Crunchyroll, and specific episodes are linked with timestamps listed for the moments being referenced – I highly recommend watching these moments alongside the post.

The language of music is one that all understand. Backing tracks and OSTs for shows and movies of all types help create atmospheres ranging from lighthearted and fun to tense and anxious. Both soaring, epic melodies and quiet, subtle harmonies paint color and feeling across landscapes, adding a new dimension to images we see with our eyes and words we hear with our ears. And when we lack the words to express how we feel, music and song help us to communicate and share our emotion with other and with the world.

In this regard, anime is no different than any other medium, letting whole sequences be guided by insert songs or setting the tone of a scene with backing tracks ranging from quiet pianos to driving electronic melodies. But anime stands out for its key advantage in creating highly emotional scenes – through visual framing and storyboarding only possible in a drawn medium, or with voice acting and character animation that expresses deep feelings ranging from joy to anger to sorrow. These scenes are scattered amongst mainstream favorites and hidden gems, within acclaimed series and shows with only mixed reviews. In many of these sequences, our emotions are guided by song – along quiet, hallowed paths or flying high above in the sky. And theough these scenes we can hear and feel thoughts and memories and and ideas and emotions better than could ever be expressed in words alone.
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The Melancholy of Homura Akemi

This post is the eleventh of my 12 essays for the 2016 edition of 12 Days of Anime, a joint project between many anibloggers. For more info about the project, check out appropriant’s introductory post here, and check out the full blog spreadsheet here if you’re interested in the work of everyone participating!

Spoilers for the entirety of Puella Magi Madoka Magica (excluding Rebellion)

Homura Akemi lives a rough life. She only recently finished a 6-month stay at the hospital, and her aloof personality keeps her from making friends at the school she just transferred to. She lives on her own, so the only person she can really count on in her life is herself. To make matters worse, Homura is also secretly a magical girl, and spends most of her evenings battling witches and their familiars throughout Mitakihara. She’s also recently been in conflict with another magical girl and her new protégés recently, just in time for the witches in Mitakihara to strengthen and threaten the lives of those living in the city. A storm is brewing, and Homura is not able to face the coming fights on her own.

Hidden well beneath the cold demeanor she shares with others, Homura’s heart aches at the sight of the coming storm.

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Bakemonogatari – 100 Kilograms (Hitagi Crab)

This post is the tenth of my 12 essays for the 2016 edition of 12 Days of Anime, a joint project between many anibloggers. For more info about the project, check out appropriant’s introductory post here, and check out the full blog spreadsheet here if you’re interested in the work of everyone participating!

Spoilers for the Hitagi Crab arc of Bakemonogatari (episodes 1 and 2). This essay is intended as a look at specific elements of the Hitagi Crab arc that build into the core narrative and themes of the arc, rather than a direct analysis of those things that I might complete in the future when I have additional writing time available.

Hitagi Crab is a tale of weight. The weight of our bodies, of our emotions, of our memories; weight made from our choices, from our words, from our perspectives from one moment to the next; weight we choose to carry, to reject, to share. It is a story of a young woman facing the weight of her past, accepting her weight in the present, and sharing the weight of her future.

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Shirobako and the Journey of a Lifetime

This post is the ninth of my 12 essays for the 2016 edition of 12 Days of Anime, a joint project between many anibloggers. For more info about the project, check out appropriant’s introductory post here, and check out the full blog spreadsheet here if you’re interested in the work of everyone participating!

Spoilers for Shirobako up to around episode 16 (“Table Flip”); this post also only covers plot developments up to that point in the anime and may be updated in the future if necessary to better cover the whole series.

In some form or another, every one of us is on a great journey known as “life”. Every 24 hours we take another step, and some days we take a few more than that. These paths we walk can be shared, or parallel to others – or trail off in completely different directions. But we are all united by the fact that we are all voyagers together in life, and can bond and connect in those moments.

The characters in Shirobako are no exception to this: the Kaminoyama High School girls and the staff at Musashino each have their own dreams and aspirations that they strive for and work to achieve. Their journeys, much like ours, vary wildly: Rinko stands further along the same path that Yumi is currently walking down; Yūichirō and Ryōsuke travel parallel to one another in the realms of 3D and 2D animation; and Aoi and Shizuka’s journeys are just one combo of many with very few similarities. But even though the paths these characters walk may have nothing in common, they all share experiences and ideas and occasionally practical goals both short- and long-term.

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Beyond the Boundary – The Genuine Empathy of a Flawed Tale

This post is the eighth of my 12 essays for the 2016 edition of 12 Days of Anime, a joint project between many anibloggers. For more info about the project, check out appropriant’s introductory post here, and check out the full blog spreadsheet here if you’re interested in the work of everyone participating!

Let me get this out of the way first because I’ve seen comments about the show online and I know what people might be thinking about me writing this post: yes, Beyond the Boundary is a confusing, messy show with oddball characters (varying from charming to creepy) and wanderings into occasional melodramatic nonsense. The ending of the show is mostly inexplicable and there are many parts leading up to that point that could be described the same way. It may look pretty on the outside, but go any deeper than the surface and the show is a mess.

And yet, Akihito and Mirai together makes me not care at all.

How unpleasant.

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A Certain Scientific Railgun – The Strongest Superpower is Carried in Our Hearts

This post is the seventh of my 12 essays for the 2016 edition of 12 Days of Anime, a joint project between many anibloggers. For more info about the project, check out appropriant’s introductory post here, and check out the full blog spreadsheet here if you’re interested in the work of everyone participating!

Spoilers for the Level Upper arc of A Certain Scientific Railgun (Season 1 Episodes 1-12)

The concept of supernatural powers is one that fascinates us. In western culture, Marvel movies have dominated the summer blockbusters for years, drawing on decades of comic book mythos; fantasy novels are widespread in many circles and it’s impossible to ignore the ways the Harry Potter has enchanted people both young and old. I can’t claim to be an expert on similar media in Eastern cultures, but if the recent success of My Hero Academia is any indication, our excitement for unnatural, heroic abilities isn’t limited by the cultures we grew up in.

And key among this is the thought of how cool it’d be if we were the superheroes. I mean, who hasn’t dreamed of being able to fly, run fast, or speak with animals or spirits at some point in their lives? It’s something that ties into many different internal desires: wanting to be someone special, helping to make the world a better place, or simply for the convenience it would provide us in our daily lives. I personally find myself drawn to media that allows me to imagine these fantastical worlds and immerse myself in the logic of their powers and talents. It is something that allows me to dream beyond the ordinary and into worlds that are simply a joy to imagine.

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