Enjoyment, like any emotion, is a time and place thing–a state of being which we find ourselves inside or out of. It can persist and take place in our minds long after the cause has faded away; and it can be remembered, like the event that it is, long into the future.
There’s a funny play of expectations which follows enjoyment. Often I find that knowing I’ve enjoyed something in the past leads me to expect that I may do so again, even under completely different circumstances. Other times, I can enjoy something simply because of the enjoyment which it gave me before.
In this way, enjoyment is a time capsule. I can remember who I was at a given time by thinking about what I enjoyed back then. I think of how the current me was shaped by things which the past me enjoyed; and I can enjoy those things all over again, knowing how they brought me to where I am. Here, enjoyment acts like a boomerang, returning to me as a matter of course, since I’ve thrown it out to myself long ago. The memory of the boomerang which I’ve thrown leaves me nostalgic for the one which I receive, and reminds me that nothing is ever truly cast away.
What follows are the things I’ve captured on the receiving end of a tale of memories.
The sounds of a young man’s introspection always carry a familiar tone; yet, every so often, ring true. Before the generic becomes generic, it begins from a place of resonance, which carries itself along, unbeholden to criticism. The young innately glimpse and sloppily put to words what they will later fully grasp and hone their ability to relate.
Our tale of memories takes place at the intersection of many stages of youth and understanding. Twenty-three year-old me relating this story to you now; sixteen year-old me telling the story for the first time; a fairy tail of the two, as told by Minori; a tale of memories, as told by SHAFT; of three intersecting love stories, shared across twelve episodes. Every character in the story, relating the story, and relating TO the story, intersects with the core idea–the story itself–again and again, across many interactions, weaving a tapestry of memory which stretches beyond the idea of the twelve-episode 2007 animated series.
“There’s no point in living if I can’t do whatever I want.” A Digital Boy made this promise to himself when he had little control over his life, and a Digibro has never really forgotten it in a time when he can do as he pleases. The Digital Boy watched three young couples reach similar conclusions on New Year’s Eve before 2008, and felt affirmed in the life choices which he aspired to. The Digibro is more humbled and understanding of what those young couples were really accomplishing–which may not have been much more than the same self-actualization which the Digital Boy underwent all those years ago.
I remember telling a girl from my class in the 11th grade, who wanted to become a doctor, that I was planning to drop out of school that year. She argued that I was never going to be able to get a job or make it anywhere in life if I didn’t have a college degree. Sharing my career options and name-dropping the successful high-school dropouts whom I idolized did not impress her. She was visibly, audibly angry at me for even suggesting that I might do such a thing, in spite of the fact that I barely knew her.
She wasn’t completely wrong. I’m glad that I didn’t drop out back then, because I had no idea what I was doing; though I’d later leave college and my first job to pursue my current insane career. I see more of my current self in Hirono Hiro than I could have seen as my high school self, as he is deeper into his career than I’ve ever been. From an early point, I can see the disengagement between Shindou Kei, who takes for granted that one day she’ll straighten him out into her loving husband; and Hirono Hiro, whose mind has already moved far into the future on the path that he wants for himself.
My earliest memory is one that I suspect resembles no real moment in history. It is of myself in the middle of a clearing near a wheat field in some part of Midwestern American nowhere. It is a memory of when my brother and I, at three and four years-old respectively, toured the US with our parents, who were running a clothes stand for the Lollapalooza tour.
There is little chance that I remember this image from firsthand experience. I remember when I was maybe eight years old, seeing a photograph of my brother and I in a stroller against a wheat field background; but by now it’s been long enough that I even doubt the legitimacy of my memory of seeing that photograph.
There are two version of this memory: one which resembles a fantastical golden plain, which I’m certain came from the imagery at the end of the movie 300; and another which tries to rationalize the memory by imagining a much more drab, desaturated field, like the ones I might see at the southern end of Virginia Beach. None of these memories are the least bit reliable.
Shindou Chihiro reconstructs her memories from beyond the accident that she experienced in middle school by reading her daily diary in full every thirteen hours or so. Between her ability to transcribe a memory in a relatable way, and her ability to interpret her writing and relate to it later, her memories are entirely farcical. Her mental self is reconstructed in whole on a daily basis, and her decisions rise from however her present self interprets her previous self’s writing.
In response to situations like this, people often say that they, “can’t imagine;” but I can imagine. In fact, I don’t need to, because I know. I may be able to string every day together coherently, but I wonder if every five year period makes quite as much sense. I wonder if it’s reality that leads me in a logical progression from point A to point B, or if my mind is constructing memories in a logical progression to justify my existence to myself. Even as I can explain the logic behind my state of being, I doubt with every fiber of it that there is any objectivity to my self-perception.
The jealous would regard Miyamura Miyako as a gold digger. In reality, a relationship is all about filling a niche. Not many pegs find holes which they fit into just right, but every attempt is made with such hopes. A freewheeling girl who cooks and cleans and only wishes for someone to give her a home, and a man who only needs someone to fill in the blanks in his tightly constructed, yet socially abnormal schedule, fit together like hand in glove. I know, because I live like Hirono Hiro, and I dream of a girl like MiyaMiya falling into my lap. Arguably, I’ve even had one like her before, and wonder if she could slip away from Hiro just as easily.
Funnily enough, a tale of memories is also a tale of romance–a fairy tail of the two–which skirts so close to reality that it reminds us how fairy tales are born from the template of our real desires. Romance is for the romantic, and we are the romantic. Every story is a retelling of our own story, and proximity to non-fiction can almost seem inconsequential. After all, my memories; and now, your memories; meet at this crossroad as well.
“Learn the rules before you try to break them.” Every professor of the arts will tell you this, but they do so in the hopes of appealing to the ambitions of young people. They play into our hopes that rules are indeed meant to be broken–and that by learning them, we will get permission to do so. In reality, the rules are underrated. Most of them became rules because they worked so many times in making something resonant; and more often than not, the works which follow the rules will please everyone, including the creator, before the works that try to break them.
Tsutsumu Kyousuke is the spitting image of myself in high school. He wants to reach an audience, but to do it entirely on his own terms, believing that he can only move the audience if he can move himself. Hiro, the experienced artist, knows that art is communication, and is therefore dependent on the participation of both the artist and the audience.
To make an accessible work is to invite the audience to understand. Niche audiences will often appreciate a work the most deeply, but only because they are so specifically experienced. Much of what becomes heralded as great art by our culture, is that which can reach the broadest audience while reaching that audience on the deepest level. Every artist has to find a place to plant their flag on the gradient from niche appreciation to widespread appeal, and I think that as most artists mature, they will try to have the widest appeal that they can while being true to themselves. In spite of this highly indulgent video, I’d like to think that I’m pursuing something closer to what Hiro is; but I don’t know if I could’ve made it there without having run around like Kyousuke for a long time.
Creativity begins life as imitation. Each of our mental selves becomes structured by way of imitating others–from our parents, to our friends, to the society surrounding us–and the unique ways in which these influences coalesce within each of us, gives us the chance to produce something new out of them. There never comes a time that we stop imitating others, but there seems to be a moment for each person in which they step out of the shadows of the world around them and into their own shoes.
Shindou Kei tries to imitate someone whom she doesn’t fully understand. Hiro is already in his own properly-defined world, while her’s is a confused amalgam of things that she thinks she wants. She’s taken up basketball because she thinks Hiro will only respect someone who’s passionate about something, without realizing that she’s already passionate about him. She only knows how to follow along and copy suggestions from the world around her, and destructively misunderstands the desires of others. She fails–very, very hard–but learns a lot from it, with the help of another, much more self-aware failure, who knows better than she does that both of them are just at the outset of their adulthood.
I’m certain that at sixteen years old, I saw the most of myself in Kyosuke, and the least of myself in Kei; but I didn’t realize just how like either of them I really was. To me, Kyousuke was right about everything; but now I see that even he knows he isn’t. Really, I was most like Kei, chasing after a dream that I didn’t understand with a complete lack of self-awareness. Growing up, something like the realization that I was going in the wrong direction and needed to change course, would have come as a world-shaking shock. Now, change comes with the weather. I’m too old to feel these things as strongly as the kids do in this show do. To me, this could only ever be a tale of memories.
Hirono is blasted by Kyousuke for being half-assed at everything, and for never wanting to let anything go. I’ve been there and done that a few too many times. To this day, I’m terrible at decision-making, too easily controlled by moods, and willing to half-ass it until I find my muse time and time again. You know this–you see my content; you see its ebb and flow, between moments of high creativity and stretches of willingly grinding away.
When Hiro was told that his own work hadn’t seemed enough like him lately, it came as a gut-punch. I’ve always thought my most defining characteristic was my distinct written voice, yet there’s been no consistency in that voice for the whole of 2015. This post sounds more like how I imagine my style when I picture it in my head, and yet is probably the style that I use the least. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m scatterbrained, struggling, and clinging to the hope that things will work themselves out.
I don’t think for a moment that Hiro’s ending is happily ever after; it’s only him coming to realize his flaws, so that he can acknowledge and work to battle them. Speaking from the perspective of someone older and more experienced, I can see his continued struggle, and the fun that he’ll have in fighting it, all laid out before me.
If there’s more to tell of a tale of memories, then it’s more than I can say. This terrible-looking, yet beautifully directed coming-of-age story happened right when I was coming of age myself, and it rocked my sixteen year-old world. The series was a melodramatic, overwrought mess in the same way that I was, and I found myself promising to pursue my own Euphoric Field the same way that all of these characters did. I can’t pretend that it means as much to me now, as someone who’s seen a million portraits of the artist as a young man, and found others to be better-painted; still, this is the one that existed at the time, and is therefore the one that I can always return to and remember how I enjoyed it before.
If you have a tale of memories, then feel free to share it with me; and, if you’re up to it, help me to create more memories by sharing a little more. I’m gonna toss this boomerang out again for now; and I’ll be curious to see what I receive in the future.
God knows if anyone will ever stumble upon this comment but I thought I might as well…
I’m a complete fucking moron, so I watched all of A Tale of Melodies before A Tale of Memories wondering what the hell was going on while being really sad. I thought the second season would clear things up and this was just someone imitating Akiyuki Shinbou who I had heard was an artsy director. It never occurred to me to actually check the writing on the discs about which one went in first because it was late at night on a holiday and I couldn’t be arsed to figure out if the woman at the shop had done her job right and put them in correctly (I don’t really blame her because they have incredibly similar titles). So I watched an incredibly tragic, confusing and oddly visualized tale of love and tragedy which made me very uncomfortable that night. Once morning hit I felt like I needed to figure out what all this shit was supposed to mean in the next season, so I stuck out until morning watching it as well.
At first I thought it would be a prequel to the original story, creating a thematic link between the two and filling in the backstories of the adults and the teenagers, but as time went on I realized there was no tension anymore because I knew who everyone was going to end up with and the adults aren’t showing up again. Not only that but the stakes were way lower in this this season despite it being a teenage melodrama. That’s I learned all the really tragic shit happened in A Tale of Memories and that was meant to be the big emotional payoff.
Goddamn am I stupid. I’ll have to rewatch it again if I ever want to gain clarity into that acid trip of a night.