Massugu, GO! – Diary of an Anime Lived – Hitohira and Manabi Straight (w/ Others)

NOTE: This is a very heavy and personal discussion. Please comment with maturity. Part of the Diary of an Anime Lived series.

When I was done being ‘so fucked up’ like Shinji, anime helped me grow a pair of balls. It also gave me a whole new kind of worry – the future.

Flash back to summer 2007, a full year after Evangelion told me that “You Are (Not) Alone”. After Evangelion, the last four months of 06 largely involved me coming out of my shell ever-so-slowly. Tenth grade was a pretty good school year for me, as I started to make friends, especially Zerodyme, who would later become one of my closest pals and presently lives with me. In December 06, I watch the second most revolutionary anime I’ve ever seen – The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, which I largely fall in love with for the same reasons as Evangelion (Haruhi’s backstory particularly got to me.) However, I would find Haruhi’s story far more relatable a year later in late 07.

Because of Haruhi, I had a renewed interest in anime in general, and I finally started watching some of the DVDs I’d owned for a long-ass time but never gotten around to watching, as well as buying new ones like Kino’s Journey, Serial Experiments Lain, Boogiepop Phantom, and the first disk of Haibane Renmei. However, in February I was introduced to something brand new that would flip my whole world on it’s shoulders – CURRENTLY. AIRING. ANIME.

I had never even realized that such a thing was possible before. However, Megatokyo’s anime forum showed me the way, and I soon began hitting up places like YouTube, Veoh, and Crunchyroll in search of streams. I started with what was popular at the time – Key/KyoAni shows like Air and Kanon, and I was blown away by this genre of anime I’d never seen before (having formerly only ever watched action shows.) I then caught on to some currently airing joints, like Manabi Straight and Hidamari Sketch (neither of which would finish getting subbed until long after they finished airing.) When the 2007 Spring season began, I had caught on to the fact that shows start all at once, and I took on the whole batch – Gurren Lagann, Hayate the Combat Butler, Darker Than Black, Lucky Star, etc. And then, in mid-May 2007….. I started “Digital Boy’s Anime Bloggin'” (hint: It’s called something different now!).

Anime was truly what brought me out of my depressed life (that and a move in April 07 into the badass house I lived in till a month ago, when I moved into an even more badass house.) Maybe it was because I had something I could truly get lost in, or because I was a member of a real community, or just because of the changes in the outside world, but I stopped being an emo teenager, and started to genuinely be… happy.

The third anime to truly connect with me was Welcome to the NHK, because it reflected my life as a perpetual shut-in. However, I very much misunderstood NHK the first time I saw it, and as much as I wanted to feel connected to it, it didn’t change my life, and I would find it a far more interesting story further down the line, which is why I’m not going to post about it. Instead, I am going to fast-forward a bit into mid August.

I guess it was because I had been breaking out of my shell, but in the summer 0f 07, I decided I was going to do as ‘well’ as possible when I reached 11th grade. I signed up for advanced English, as well as a college course that I would be transported to bi-daily, and had filled my schedule. I wanted to really try and succeed for the first time in a long time. However, I still didn’t truly know if I was doing the right thing, or if I could really accomplish what I wanted to (I would come to refer to this summer as ‘the summer of smiling fear.’) It was in the midst of that confusion in mid-August that I watched Hitohira.

I know that you probably never watched Hitohira, and probably have never even heard of it, so I’ll give you the low-down. The show is about a drama club that is trying to survive in a school that also has a theater club. The three club members remaining are all seniors, and they are hoping to recruit some freshman to help them keep the club alive. It has also been decided that in the middle of the year, a stage competition will be held between the two clubs, and whichever club is voted the better will get to remain operative.

The main character is a freshman who is so timid she can’t even speak around other people, and yet when provoked, she lets out a beautiful voice, which inspires the enigmatic drama club president to scout her. Long, dramatic, lesbian story short, the drama club looses the competition even as they bond as friends. However, the show goes beyond that, and the real penultimate scene is when the main character pleads to the club leader that she doesn’t know what to do with her life once she graduates, and that she has no direction, but the drama club president pretty much tells her ‘you’re going to have to grow up on your own and move into the world on your own, and out there, we’ll meet on equal grounds.’

This was a pretty powerful message for me, because I felt just like the main character, with no real idea of what direction I was headed – I was just beating forward without any rhyme or reason and not really looking ahead. I had signed up for all of these classes and had this whole plan for ‘success’, but I didn’t really know where that path would actually lead me, or whether it was the right thing, and like Mugi, I was just scared as fuck of what the future would bring. But it was about 2 weeks later that I would have the megaton hammer dropped on me when I marathoned Gakuen Utopia Manabi Straight with my little brother.

I know, you havent seen Hitohira :p

I know, you haven't seen Hitohira :p

Once again, I’m sure you haven’t seen Manabi, so here’s the short and sweet version. Same timid protagonist, but this time the character who gets her through is the young female version of Kamina, Amamiya “Manabi” Manami, who revolutionizes her entire school and helps everyone in the student council to grow as people and eventually go forth into the world after graduation. If you REALLY don’t wan tot be spoiled for Manabi, you may want to stop reading, but honestly, I don’t think it’s a big deal in this case.

What struck me was the ending. After the graduation, Manabi does what I’ve still yet to see in another anime, which is showing us where all the girls went from there. The protagonist, having become mature, goes off to study in America alone. One girl goes to college, one girl becomes a professional baseball player, one works as a magazine photography, and then there’s Manabi. Manabi became a freeter – a person who hops between random part-time jobs. A freeter. A freeter! A person who is perfectly satisfied and sustaining a living through experiencing different things! A FREETER!!!!

The night after watching Manabi Straight, I had a nervous breakdown. I cried more than I have ever cried in my entire life, loudly, for hours. Everything that I was confused about had now outright been thrown into question. Why? Because I never really cared about success. I never really had this desire to go to college and get a nice job – the ideas that my dad has never stopped cramming down my goddamn fucking throat. I had no desire whatsoever to push myself in schoolwork and be a straight-A student. Especially not when there is the possibility that I could be perfectly satisfied being a freeter!

But I couldn’t bring myself to choose one side. Because I felt like I couldn’t waste this chance. I didn’t want to flush it all away and regret it some time in the future. On the one hand, I wanted to live for what I believed in, and never succumb to the pressure to be successful. But on the other hand, I didn’t want to find myself disappointed by the final direction of my life.

It was too much. I broke. the. fuck. down. I was sending messages to all of my older friends, college students and graduates who I wanted to hear advice from. I’ve actually gone and lifted one of the messages I sent out of my old sent items folder here…..

“I already just asked Rach about this, but since I figure I can rely on you just as much as him, I decided to bug you as well. It doesn’t really matter what kind of answer you give, I just really need to hear from someone. You guys are practically my only friends…

I want to know what happens to me once I graduate high-school. I want to know what it’s like when i have to move onward. I’m frightened – I’ve gotten so scared that I can’t stop crying. I’m scared of what’s going to happen to me. Where I’m suppposed to go or do and does anything I’m doing now even matter in the future?

I’m sorry to sit here and cry on your shoulder in as literal a sense as the internet allows, but I really really need some help. I haven’t cried like this since I was a little kid, I’m so afraid.”

The answers that I got back would be enough to satiate me a little, and keep me from totally giving up. However, I still to this day haven’t gotten over the confusion of which direction I should really be moving. I don’t think I can say I was cured of it – I spent the entirety of 11th grade fully intending to drop out at any given moment. It was, by FAR, my worst year of high school. I actually finished that year with a GPA of 1.9, and I failed Algebra II with like a 10% (which I would pass with a high B in my senior year.) The feelings that I have towards Manabi Straight still exist. I still wonder every moment if I should just run out and become a freeter.

I would come to feel similarly towards NieA_7 in late November 07, a show that is less about what you should do with your life after a major event like graduation, but more about whether or not you are really satisfied where you are. I would have included that show here, but that show came at a different time, and is a part of a different story. A story you’ll hear soon if I haven’t run off job hunting by morning! XD

22 thoughts on “Massugu, GO! – Diary of an Anime Lived – Hitohira and Manabi Straight (w/ Others)

  1. I think I identify with this a little too much DB, right down to the Algebra II part. In my case though it was the first season of Aria and only a like a few months ago, being so close to graduation really didn’t help, I wasn’t even sure I was gonna graduate either, and I wasn’t really doing anything to stop it, I did as it happens, but only by the skin of my teeth. I don’t remember the exact thing in Aria that triggered this, it’s all jumbled together now, but it just hit me while I was watching this light slice of life show, I have to grow up, and that scared the shit out of me, and it still does (I’m actually tearing up as I write this). I still haven’t done anything with myself, I’m looking for a job, pretty halfheartedly though, I haven’t even made an attempt to to get into this culinary school I want to go to, all I’ve been doing is watching anime, reading manga, and interwebing this summer, and I’m not any less deathly afraid of the enigmatic future. I don’t really know where I was trying to go with this, I just started typing after I read your post, which combined with this livejournal entry of mine that I got all over your blog, sorry about that, has made me feel a lot worse than I was about a half hour ago, but it made me look at a my situation, even if just a little, and I suppose you deserve a thank you for that, so thank you. Welp, starting to get pretty depressed here, and that’s about all I’ve got to say, so I’ll end with a bit of surprise that Manabi Straight is unpopular, though you saying it has made it all come together, I’d bet it’s because it’s so good, people sometimes.

    • Wow, sorry for making you depressed! I didn’t mean to! But yeah, I graduated this year as well, and with no assuredness of where to go, I just meandered into college. I’m taking a multimiedia curriculum now, but as far as I’m concerned I’m mostly just biding time until I figure out what to do. If passion wwas enough to make money, it’d be nice, but my passion is all for anime blogging, and so far it’s not making me a dime *le sigh*

      • There are things we like doing enough to do them for money, and there are things we like doing enough to do them for free. Ultimately, we need to balance three things in our lives: those that we dislike, but must do (social obligations, unpleasant high-paying jobs); those that we like, and get to do (by which I mean, society rewards us for doing them); and those that we like a lot, and don’t get to do (hobbies).

        It’s essentially a tradeoff between hobby and work. Something like anime blogging will likely always be a hobby, and thus you’ll always be doing at the expense of those things you dislike or things you like less. Basically, your pleasure and your pay. It’s up to you to find a balance that makes you happy in life.

        The best advice I can offer either you DB or you shadowbladeegde is to keep your options open. You can’t balance between a suboptimal job and an impassioned hobby if you can’t get that suboptimal job.

        Going to college is a good step.

        You can open yourself up to different things, and you can answer questions you have. In my first semester at U.C. Berkeley, I discovered that social science was amazing but that I hate dealing with statistics: political science is out. I discovered that criticizing the views of philosophers was fun but that I was too grounded in modern science to come up with my own interpretations and ideas: philosophy was out. On the other hand, I was pleasured beyond expectation both by a rhetoric class and a history class.

        Neither ‘interpretations of the lie’ nor ‘introduction to medieval europe’ is going to be my job, or my career, or my hobby, even. I have a hobby (writing fiction) and I’m going to keep it a hobby because I for my happy balance, it needs to be something with no pressure attached.

        The point I’m trying to make is that college is a big sandbox. You can experiment with different things, and if you touch on a wide enough variety of subjects you’ll probably find something fun to study. Furthermore, the more disciplines you investigate, the more perspectives you can use in examining the world. These will help you connect with people, history, and yourself: what do you want to do, and why? The more you study, the better you are able to answer these questions.

        Also, having a college degree helps you get a mean job, even if it’s unrelated to what you study.

        Oh, and you can make friends in college. You’ve probably heard this before, but it’s easier to find people who click with you “out there” than it is in or before high school.

        I don’t want to sound too preachy, so I’ll cut myself off there, but I’m more than willing to share more philosophical bullshit about how people should proceed with their lives if you guys want.

        • Very well said, though not to nullify your heartfelt advice or anything, but I’ve heard all of this a million times, lol.

          These days, I never ask for advice on life really, because I’m like the guy from NHK with the room full of self help books. I’ve read it all, but application is different from understanding.

    • Also, fwiw, Aria has also made me wonder wtf I’m doing and why I’m not growing up, in a mostly emotional/behavioral sense. It got me to start being more considerate of others, less selfish, always seeking to accommodate the needs of my friends and all that jazz. Sounds like a success story doesnt it.

  2. So I’ve concluded that Algebra is the anime fan’s kyrptonite, seeing as it plagued me in high school as well. Anyways, I think society has an extremely warped view of what success and happiness is. Some people are content with being a freeter and just making enough to sustain a life they find suitable. And I think that’s perfectly fine. I think I may have the opposite problem though, in that I shoot too high in my expectations of where I think my life should be headed, ultimately failing and hitting rock bottom. I’m the worst kind of dreamer, the kind that doesn’t have the talent or the skill to attain those dreams. I put so much time and effort into getting into an expensive art school that I didn’t even stop to think that I may not have the talent to make it, something I was forced to realize after I watched a classmate get a scholarship to the school I failed to get into. There’s no middle ground for people like me, it’s either success or failure. And so here I am going on my second year out of high school and still stuck in the same position. It might be time to give up on all my childish dreams, and that scares the shit out of me.

    I think there’s actually some safety in being a freeter if one chooses to do so. I mean, you can’t really fail in that field. And if you’re doing enough so that you’re living comfortably and can say that you’re happy, isn’t that what we’re all after anyway?

    • The problem with freeting is that there isn’t, well, tenure or long-term security. You can be living comfortably one moment, and then suddenly no one needs or can afford part-timers and your job market has disappeared. Just a caution.

      • Not as much of a problem for people who are constantly on the verge of self-annihilation anyway, but probably good advice.

          • Years ago when I was much less stable, I said ‘if I can’t be happy with what I’m doing, I will kill myself’. Part of my fear for the future is just that if life gets too shitty again I won’t be strong enough to make it.

            But I’m also pretty sure I’ll die of either bad health or an unrelated accident long before that.

  3. Freshman year, ALGE101: FLUNKED (zero point zero).

    The university experience, however, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’ve made my best friends and some of my most powerful memories while there. It’s also AWESOME to feel that you’re part of a milieu. My best friend and I still enjoy looking at our particular generation, and group of friends and the impact we’re making (and the lack of it!) on life and culture. It’s interesting at the very least.

    But here’s the big deal:

    (consider that I majored in literature, minored in philosophy, and am now in various businesses and finance)

    YOU DON’T KNOW ANYTHING, THE LEAST OF ALL YOUR LUCK. Luck will play the biggest role in your life. I don’t want to hear about making your own luck and all that bullshit. You stay active, try as hard as you can and take advantage of opportunities as they come. But you never know how or when these things happen. There’s little JUST AS PLANNED that goes on EVER.

    • Once again, as I said to LK, I’ve heard all of this myself before (after all, I do have parents :p) but it’s only experience that can really make you learn. Unfortunately!

        • in a way, yeah, experience, lol. I don’t think I ‘learned’ from Manabi so much as was reaffirmed by it. It’s more like Manabi was one of the things telling me a million times.

  4. I’ll echo lolikitsune’s and ghostlightning’s comments about college. Whether for the education or the experience, it is well worth the time and investment.

    Otherwise, I’d say most people are never really sure exactly what they want or want to do. I’ve been working for several years now and I still think that I’d enjoy being a freeter for a while, trying new things. Yeah, I’d lose some security, and I wouldn’t want to do it for too long, but I think I’d also gain a lot of cool experiences. But that’s the thing, what works for you one day might totally change the next day. It’s hard to predict that stuff. Half the fun is rolling with it and figuring it out on the fly.

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