This is part one of a three-part series of posts on the month of March 2011, in all its fantasy and fragrance.
I was in a misanthropic mood this morning. The morbid cloudiness and bone-soaking chill probably contributed. Oh, and I had Opera Fantasia stuck in my head. I’ll admit that last sentence is non-sequitur.
I’m putting myself under a bit of pressure to write the best post I’ve ever written. That’s because, the weeks I’m covering in this series of posts is probably going to be the most important week in my life for quite a while. Important spans of time deserve important amounts of focus — and copious concentration is required to produce my best writing. As lately I’ve been watching a lot of anime to de-stress from the to-be-described events, I hope my cerebral tissue has not deteriorated enough to cause a reduction in the quality of my penmanship.
I’m a fast learner. No, strike that. I would like to claim that I am a fast learner. Memorably, I completed all of introductory college level E&M in one weekend. However, like all of my flawed kinsmen, boredom sets in.
If I were to put out my own edition of the Bible, I would add Boredom as a Cardinal Sin. It is the one deterrent to human progress, both as an individual and as a society. France got bored of absolute monarchy, so Robespierre pulled out the guillotines. Dudes got bored of work and invented slavery. Totally against human progress. Steve Ballamer got bored of Google and invented Bing. God got bored of being omnipotent and omniscient, so he created mankind, its own biggest threat. (I told you I was misanthropic today.)
I got bored of physics. So I stopped studying, the Friday before the competition. I think the last practice exam I did was 2003 or something; I had started from 2009 and worked my way towards the past. Now don’t worry, this isn’t running towards any sort of tragic conclusion, so just listen. I was enraptured that Friday night in a web of feeling and meaningfulness that can only be attributed to art of Japanese nature.
(See how good I am at excuses?)
I like stories. The preceding line is likely to show up again in another post. That is simply because it is so true. I like stories. There isn’t really anything particular about anime sometimes. I simply like stories: beautiful, tragic, soothing, and thrilling adventures of the soul.
I’ll admit, I am very much a sucker for many of the stereotypical characteristics of anime sometimes. I choose anime and manga largely based on the art. No works are produced in any other country that can rival the art and production quality of Japan.
But, fact is, I like stories. I read because I like stories. I watch anime because, again, I like stories. Unfortunately, I have become too genre-savvy in my quest for new, original adventures to embark on through the mirror of my monitor.
Some plots never die. But most need to. Really need to. Some phrases and plot devices need to perish from the face of the planet. Really need to.
One of the plots that never dies for me is the idea of the Journey of the Hero. I hated 9th grade Honors English, but that is irrelevant. I like stories where the protagonist begins the story flawed, is called upon to embark on an adventure he’d never even dream of, make friends and sacrifices along the way, and return with a “foundation”, a sort of personal understanding of the reasoning behind society, of the cogworks that drive the world.
Why do a lot of children’s shows employ plots that often revolve around a neverending journey, besides the continuous status quo, maintaining its differentiability over all real numbers? Children often represent our pure, primal desires (or so I would like to believe but am led to see otherwise due to my rowdy siblings). The fact that this pure, untainted type of adventure appeals the most to kids must mean that the desire is present in all of us.
Personally, I would decline (I especially like the example on that page; it’s from Samidare, totally the best manga ever) a call to adventure. On the scale of male protagonists, with 1 being moralfag, and 10 being moron, I’d transcend the boundaries of the real number line as the lamest main character ever.
Anyways, I spent that time (the time I should have been spending reviewing for this really important national competition) searching high, far, and wide for a breathtaking story that matched my expectations. I wanted a protagonist that could score “just right” on the scale — not an insensitive bastard, and not a moral-obsessed catchphrase-spewing preacher. I wanted traveling companions that had depth and dimension. Something lighthearted on the surface, with a nostalgic or longing tone that belied great meaning and significance.
Closest I got, it seems, was Tales of the Abyss, which gets the journey and character development parts down, but is a bit lacking in general plotline and side character appeal. Most of all, the biggest gripe I have about Tales (I haven’t finished it, I still have about 5 episodes to go) is that the protagonist scores 10 out of 10 on the moron scale. I haven’t seen such a moronic MC since… I just haven’t. Which I guess was the point, in order to get his character development going, but… no.
To get to Tales, I was looking along the lines of Tears to Tiara. It’s probably the closest anime I have found to this ideal journey story. We have the best side characters ever, the awesomest MC ever (Arawn-sama!), and a very satisfying plot until the end, which was still OK by my memory. The fights were brilliant, and the animation and music were gorgeous. Tales… it’s a long shot.
In manga, though, I can name a couple. Negima comes to mind; the Magic World arc specifically. Samidare has the “interesting main characters” down pat — Yuuhi+Samidare brings me inexplicable joy, and I’m saving the remaining unread chapters of a manga like a dog buries his favorite toys. Then there’s Beelzebub, which does partially incorporate a journey into Hell, but mainly on the humor and general interest part. I realize most of these aren’t “journeys” per say — they’re not person-departing-on-journey-to-save-the-princess journeys, but more at-home journeys. I wish I could find more, but perhaps it’s just that the traditional journey is too cliched to use on a regular basis anymore.
I am and will continue to be incessantly on the lookout for new adventures.
Thus went my weekend, plus Pi Day. It intrigues me that the school has scheduled a holiday on Pi Day. Despite the fact that pi is wrong and should die, I think Pi Day should be a national bank holiday, and there should be celebrations around the world. We should hold an Arcadia Pi Day Competition… Arcadia Invitational Mathematical Olympiad. That actually sounds nice. The AIMO. It’ll totally be prestigious.
(There was not much to say about the first week of March. The only event of consequence listed on my calendar that week was the Orchestra Vertical Concert, and that’s not of very much consequence really.)
I also had an English project conveniently due on Tuesday, the all-important Day. I do my best to keep up with schoolwork, I swear, but there is still an order of things to my life. Really. There is.
First comes anim— I mean, first comes the physics competition. Then comes the math competition. After that is anime. The next thing is ACS, the chemistry competition, then Skyping, then Mabi, then cleaning my room and doing what my mom tells me, then listening to music, and finally, schoolwork.
I’m not dissing school or anything. It’s just that it serves relatively no use, neither as entertainment or mental-stimulation, as anime can do with its thought-provoking movements, nor as college-application page-filler (as long as you get an A, nobody cares how much you learned). It’s the truth of the matter, and I am free to complain about it as much as I would like to on my personal blog with an audience of about 5.
So Tuesday was United States Physics Olympiad semifinals.
The March 2011 Trilogy:
thinly veiled apathy