The fact that there are clashing opinions regarding my new OC doesn’t bother me, but the fact that they’re dominating my comment sections does, so I think it’s time to address this in some depth. From here on out, I will expect all comments about the OC and smoking to fall on this video, and I will delete those comments if they continue to appear on other videos.
I’ve been hearing two things again and again: that my smoking is bad and wrong, and that my pony looks depressing, so let’s address these. But first, we’ll give some history.
I have always been obsessed with both characters that smoke, and characters who have dark circles under their eyes. I used to run a fan blog for the character Itou Nobue from Ichigo Mashimaro, because she was a cool older girl who smokes. In one post, I talked about how Nobue’s determination to smoke in the comic had made me want to do the same myself. I’ve bought artbooks and stuff entirely on the basis of seeing cool smoking girls in them. The act of smoking is just really highly romanticized for me.
As for dark circles under the eyes, I love how they convey this subtle madness or sleep depravity. In this case, I’ve traced my love of it back to the manga Tokyo Azakuzin, and I’ve been in love with that kind of art ever since. In fact, if you look at my deviantart page, you’ll see that on the rare occassion that I draw myself, there are always huge dark circles under the eyes. Even on this channel, the first cartoon avatar that I used was a cross-dressing boy with the same dark circles.
When I was first given Mizu Takishima’s Digibrony designs, I immediately attempted to draw circles under his eyes, but it didn’t look right. I told Takishima at some point that I’d like to have a set where Digi looks tired or drunk for the sake of certain skits, and she was planning to draw them, but simply never got around to it.
The look of Digibrony now comes from a ton of fanart that was drawn by Hanna over the last six months or so. She drew Digi as a strung-out, tired smoker, and those pictures really resonated with me, quickly becoming my favorite Digi art. One day Hanna asked me for ideas for fanart, so I told her to draw Digi smoking and looking pissed off. That’s when she came up with the headcanon that Digi uses magic to create “smoke art,” which I thought was brilliant.
As I explained on tumblr, my style change largely came from me getting sick of talking about the same points about why an episode did or didn’t work again and again, and getting comments which responded more to my like or dislike of the episode than to my actual analytical points. I decided to move in a new direction where the videos would be able to hit people on a deeper level, leading to a better comments section–and other than all the bitching about the new design, this totally worked. Every video I’ve done so far has had a number of long, beautiful comments about how the viewer connected with the video, sometimes to the point that it made them cry.
I had to change the visual style as well though, because the whole posing of Digibrony was by far the most boring and inane part of making my videos. I’d gotten so sick of seeing his face and that same set of expressions that I started to resent him.
So, it seemed obvious that if I was going to get someone else to make a bunch of Digi art, I should chose my favorite Digi artist. I knew that Hanna worked fast and was prolific, and that she’d probably keep drawing new Digi art after the initial set. It was actually Hanna’s idea to have Digi smoke in the video so that he could eventually do his smoke art in the videos as well. I thought it was pretty cool looking, so I approved.
In real life, the first time I ever smoked was when I stayed with my mentor ghostlightning in the Philippines for a month back in 2011. Ghostlightning had been smoking for 20 years, since he was 14 years old, but he was in the middle of a cold-turkey stint. Ghostlightning had written before about his unapologetic stance on smoking, and about how when he felt it was necessary not to smoke, such as when his wife was pregnant and while raising his baby daughter, he was easily able to quit out of responsibility.
I hated smoking the first couple times I did it, as it gave me a major headache. When I came back home, it was a little while before I tried it again, borrowing from a friend who smoked as well. The moment I started smoking regularly was when my mom was hospitalized with cancer (which had nothing to do with smoking, incidentally). My family had conciously decided that we would never let my mom know that any of us were afraid for her health, so when we visited her each day, we’d make a point to act as though she was obviously going to make it through and there was nothing to worry about. Everyone became stressed, though. I started smoking to deal with that stress each day.
Around a year later, I did something similar when I was working at Target. Each morning I would show up at around 3:30 AM and a lot of the times I was dead to the world. I’d have a smoke before work started to wake me up and get my mind ready, and I wasn’t alone: most of my coworkers were doing the same.
I understand that for my generation and the one right after mine, smoking is no longer normal. While it’s still very normal in a lot of countries, and still pretty normal among older people, it’s gotten more rare for us now. It’s hardly surprising, considering how our schools and TV ads have continually drilled it into our heads that smoking is the worst thing on earth ever.
Of course, knowing a lot of older people who smoke and are in great health is one way to cast doubt, but even more importantly it’s so much easier to stop doing than anyone credits it for. Yes cigarettes are addicting and can grip some people for life, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the same for everyone. I’ve kept to a one-a-day, two in a day maximum for over two years ago, with frequent months-long breaks when I finished a pack and just don’t buy another one. That’s not to say that I’m not addicted on some level, but I don’t think my addiction has become dangerous. And if it does reach that point, then I’ll deal with it when the time comes.
Trust me that I am not proud of myself for smoking. I’m not showing it off to brag about it or something, it’s just a thing that I do and consider a part of my life. There’s something really introspective about smoking for me, because I usually do it while out on a walk or listening to music and just being lost in thought. I’ve written songs about it and stuff lately, as it’s become a source of some degree of inspiration.
To me, the imagery of smoking is tied to conversation and introspection. Every time I smoke, I remember sitting at ghostlightning’s table while he taught me about literary theory. I remember standing in my driveway with my friends talking about the hardships they were experiencing in life. I remember walking through my back yard smoking and recording improv poetry. I remember all the times in the last six months I’ve brought my friends along on my long walks through the neighborhood having conversations about life, analysis, and personal shit.
So yes, for me, smoking really does capture EXACTLY what I’m going for in these videos. Introspection, conversation, and a chill atmosphere. The reason Digi is in a bar with jazz music playing in the new video is because I wanted to convey the kind of place that I fantasize about having deep life conversations in. It’s the kind of imagery that reminds me of Friday morning at last year’s Bronycon, when Bronycurious, BVids, Past Analysis and other friends sat in the lobby of a hotel for hours and hours getting drunk and discussing Equestria Girls.
A lot of people think I was trying to rub it in the faces of people who didn’t like the smoking in my videos by showing myself smoking in the new video. This was not my intention: I just thought that it wouldn’t make sense for my pony to be smoking, but not me. It was purely a consistency thing. I didn’t actually expect people to still be talking about the smoking after my rant in the previous video, but apparently I underestimated it.
The current Digibrony setup is meant to say, “3AM conversation over cigarettes.” Because that’s how most of my real-life conversations are. Digi’s tired eyes remind me of how my friends and I are always trying to conquer sleep to make one more memory or keep the good conversations going. It’s the kind of face that conversation addicts have when they’re at their best.
While we’re here, I may as well address the whole personal anecdotes thing, too. I don’t think this is anything new to my channel, as you’ll find countless personal anecdotes if you go back through my videos. Personal anecdotes have always been a huge part of my writing style, and in the old days of my anime blog they were pretty much the main draw of my posts. Perhaps the biggest series that I ever launched on my blog was the Diary of an Anime Lived. It was a series where bloggers would talk about how things they’d seen in anime paralleled their own life, and this lead to a lot of powerful and touching stories.
The S4 Diary is similar to this in concept. It’s not just about my personal life, it’s meant to draw out the part of the show that resonates with us on a personal level. It’s about appreciating the deeper connections that we can feel with this show that go beyond “this is good,” or, “this is bad.” I didn’t really enjoy any of the last three episodes very much when I watched them, and if I’d written about them in the traditional review style, it largely would’ve been me complaining about the very same things I’ve been complaining about all through season four. Want my review of Somepony to Watch Over Me? Watch my Castle Mane-ia video. For my Breezies review, watch the Daring Don’t video. For Twilight Time, watch Castle Mane-ia again.
With this new style, I can ignore the structural things that are pretty much the same across mutliple episodes, and stick to what makes the episodes unique. Other reviewers did a great job breaking down why Breezies didn’t work, so I made a video about what I could take away from the episode if I ignored its problems. And for some people, that was really resonant and interesting.
My style change has had exactly the effect I hoped it would. People who appreciate the videos do so on a deeper level than they did before. For every message I get about how Digi smoking is pointless, I get two more demanding I not change back because the new style is better. So I don’t plan on changing, but I do want to address it all here just to redirect the discussion of the changes. I hope this helped you understand where I’m coming from.