I don’t watch anime. Therefore for many years I remained blissfully isolated as all my high school girlfriends talked about sexy 2-D characters with huge eyes and one-item wardrobes, and went to conventions and wrote fan fiction and refused to read each other’s blasphemous fan fiction. It wasn’t that I disapproved of the culture or anything. I just had more important things to do, like homework.
I watched my first anime show, Steins;Gate, from beginning to end over the last summer vacation at another friend’s insistence. Mainly I remember being struck by the impossible beauty of the women (despite their technicolor flatness) and by the burgeoning quality of the plot. Like a mass of parasitic worms, it seemed to writhe aimlessly in various directions within the intestine of the confusing time-travel concept until finally towards the end it tied itself nicely in a knot around the liver of the overly lovable main characters. Yeah, I liked it okay, but it wasn’t life-changing or anything.
When the same friend hooked his computer up to the t.v. amidst the lavender lamp and chocolate raisin jugs in his family room, preparing to play the first episode of another anime show he liked, I must admit my expectations weren’t sky-high. That changed shortly after the riveting opening theme, when I was jerked car-crash style into a world of characters that tickled the reddest splashes of watercolor emotion out of my heart’s depths and splattered the eternal story of the introverted human across every wall, sidewalk and book cover I would see from that day forward. (It’s been almost five days so far.)
“Erased,” transliterated from Japanese as “Boku Dake ga Inai Machi,” is a first step for anyone interested in trying a new genre of time-sink. But more than just a way to get your digital vitamins in, it has emotional undertones that spark the literary, even activist potential of the genre.
Specifically, this show will ring true for introverts/pessimists. From the first moments of episode one, the main character Satoru embodies the flat hilarity of hiding any sign of humanity, the dull gnawing fear of abandonment even by one’s own mother, the looming shadow of failure that descends on older young people at their dreary jobs. I promise I am not projecting. If you are a different species of introvert and suffer from slightly different symptoms, you will probably recognize those as well, in most of the principal characters and even some less-prominent ones.
Beyond its psychological accuracy, the storyline starts up right away and carries through faithfully to the end, more like a sea snake migrating from one bank to another as opposed to a bundle of intestinal worms. (This statement is partially substantiated by my friend’s report, since I have not seen all the episodes yet.) What I can assert from the first four episodes is that the story is about people who have their reasons to be cold and distant or downright evil, as well as those who have their reasons to dig deeper into dangerous relationships and to hold the hands of those cast out into the snow by their stronger litter-mates. It is a story about love, but not one that will make you throw up (at least, not so far within the first four episodes). It tugs at the corners of my brain, prompting me to wonder how anime can be elevated to the level of literature, or whether it needs to?
If I were to characterize anime based on what I have seen, I would say the ultimate goal is to engage the audience in a movement of true characters towards connection on the level of the soul. It is a love story (ANY type of love) whose plot line strikes harmonious chords of magic, colors, suspense and intrigue all the way along. It is a song about humanity that echoes in the pinna of the real world but never drains into the gutter of our boring lives as we hold our breath and wait for the moment to finally express ourselves, or find out what it is we would express. It is creativity.
The images are from this painting I did over the past few days, based on a rural winter scene from the second episode. To evoke the sparkle of the snow and stars I used some splotches of glitter nail polish amidst the sky, branches, the fox’s fur, and on the snowy ground.