Neo-punk Anime Forums, Discord Wasteland and The Journey of 1000 anime
It was the heart of winter at the opening of 2017; my high school days had just started to fade bitterly but were not yet “sweet.” I was hard at work intentionally tanking my Calculus 1 grade by not progressing at all on the final project. Instead, I had a well-worn composition notebook open on my desk, chalked-full of original characters and shoddy fanarts I sketched while I was busy thinking about other things. In that notebook, I started drafting my first anime “blog.” It was some very haphazardly put-together ruminations on the past 3 years of being an anime fan- the first 3 years of me being an anime fan, to be precise. I reflected on all the wonderful memories I had made within the confines of my 15.6-inch laptop screen while my peers cackled on and on about their conquests during the past weekend’s Prom event. Needless to say, I didn’t go.
During the entirety of 2017, I found myself holed up in various private Discord servers. It was probably the first time in my life that I could call the people around me as “friends.” The people I hung out with were other otaku with varying-degrees of investment within the hobby. This was my equivalent to first getting on an anime forum. Like most, I had my own run-in with reddit’s self-proclaimed “premiere anime community” as well as and other imageboards, though I was never involved with them. Their monolithic scale and sheer density of users was very intimidating. I began as a lurker and would watch every anime I would see frequently posted about. My brain’s pattern recognition feature was enabled and the database began to take form. I understood this new interest as a test and I wanted to be proficient in my background before saying something stupid due to a lack of context. However, I found myself increasingly agitated over the flooding of memes and other non-serious discussions. On the other hand, the private servers offered a more intimate experience; generally off-topic discussion with the occasionally hyper-focused discussion of anime that didn’t receive much discussion on any forum. Discord servers offered a further stratified collection of communities for a much more narrow demographic. Other communities tended to reward the novelty of seasonal episode discussions, which would gain far more traction compared to longer essay-style posts. On anonymous forums, your opinion is only worth 5 seconds. Your post or comment is only glanced at momentarily while the user scrolls past it to the next opinion. If your comment is long, regardless of how well-written it is, it will be skimmed or ignored. However, the same can be said about Discord. The honeymoon was over and my illusion had been broken. I found myself typing out massive responses encroaching upon the character-limit, only to find it buried by other opinions. I don’t blame anyone either, I don’t think I’d read some guy’s daily text-dumps because it was a waste of time. It was neither the time nor the place for writing long responses. This would ultimately lead to my breaking point with nearly all of these people I once called friends. It wasn’t really a matter of feeling like my opinions weren’t valued, it was the realization that there was a massive conflict of interest. I wanted something from them that was unreasonable. That was when I shifted focus to writing ideas I had into various Google Docs. I needed a platform.
Parz After Dark:
Looking back at my first post was certainly an interesting trip down memory-lane for me. At the time I had no direction or defined voice in my writing. I guess that is something I fear even now. I like to wear my influences on my sleeve but don’t want to define my limits to simply that of a copycat. I like to infuse my own writing with both subtle and overt references; primarily song lyrics, Youtube clips, anime quotes and random internet jokes. That is my own nod towards the parody anime I love so dearly. There are references to the things I enjoy without trying to be too dependent on them to understand. I have a long-lasting love and respect for meta-humor in the media. The intertextuality of multiple pieces of art help build a juicy referential sandwich of ideas that give me a deeper perspective of the creator. To me, there is nothing more satisfying than watching an episode of Lucky Star and being absorbed in the plethora of references to 2007 otaku culture. Yes, it dates the show, but it also makes the show a great time capsule to point at and say “this is what otaku were into in 2007.” For me, it’s “this is what I was into at this point in my life.”
Upon starting a Youtube channel and making a few fairly decent videos with strong aesthetic flair, some people have called me an “artist” or the things I make “art.” I strongly disagree with the former and am hesitant about reconciling with the latter. Reason being is that I never had considered myself an artist- that title is prescribed to those with more talent and originality than I, because I know I don’t have it. Or at least I’m too scared to admit that I have skills beyond my understanding. The things I make only stand in the shadow of the original and were not intended to have as grand of a scale as they might appear to have. I have vision but not the skill to enact upon my impulses. My analysis or discussion are never additive and are purely masturbatory writing. Everything I say feels like I am merely rewording better spoken lines before. My references are blatant self-indulgence.So I sell myself short.
Despite never explicitly stating this in a blog, the otaku gonzo-influence is very evident within the style I decided to employ within my own writing. I fancy myself a 2000’s anime blogger despite my general unfamiliarity with the era. Stylistically, I have tried to borrow a lot from those whom I have read and were inspired by before me. There are people out there who write much better than I ever will be able to and I admire their craft with starry-eyes. I dare not even emulate their skill without the fear of feeling like a liar. There are a few posts where I explicitly tried to try a similar style as one of my idols. I can only copy what I understand, not what you intend. My interpretation and re-engineering of a style is not me trying to replace them, but reflecting their brilliance- there would be no reason to admire them otherwise. I can never be them though and I don’t intend to be. All my words are my own- I’d rather be true to myself with the words I know how to speak now and sound like an idiot, than stitch together a brilliant piece with borrowed ideas.
Over the years my writing has evolved and had its fair share of ups-and-downs. At points I felt really motivated to write and had some stroke of genius ideas. Other times I had my work ethic spike and undertook massive projects. My favorite times are when I feel a rush of adrenaline after getting a good idea then proceed to pump out a few-thousand-words in one sitting. Truth be told, most of my blogs are written in these bursts of energy. A few I have crafted with a bit more care, though I have no idea if the pay-off is as worthwhile as capturing the raw unfiltered energy I have immediately upon birthing an exciting idea. All I know is that if I try to methodically plan something, it will most likely never come out. Hence the pile of documents with half-baked sentences on the “On hold (FOREVER)” folder in my Google Drive.
Love is still dead
One of the most memorable pieces I’ve written was “Love is Dead, Long Live the Otaku.” Upon finishing it, I jokingly told myself that I might have peaked. That paper is the ultimate culmination of myself as a person. I was writing with a fire lit under my ass that has never been able to fully be reignited to the same capacity since. Even now, a bit more than 2 years later, I know I haven’t been able to recapture the emotionally charged creative energy I had during those fateful weeks in November 2019. “Love is Dead” transcended simply being a case study about Honda Toru- it started to be an exploration of my own ideals in the process. Honda Toru was a man who wrote about his genuine feelings for 2D love and believed in reconstructing the classical otaku ideal. I poured over all of his English-translated works during a time when I was struggling to come to terms with my own feelings on the matter. I wanted to follow-through with my lifestyle, but I didn’t know how to explain it in a way that didn’t come across as a joke. Honda-san taught me how to tell the truth in a tongue-in-cheek manner. Love is dead, as is irony.
It wasn’t until the Summer of 2020 when I was working on translating some Honda interviews for a future project that it dawned on me: this is probably my reason for living. It was such a serendipitous moment doing an oddly specific activity that I couldn’t help but laugh. Could my life only amount to translating interviews by this one obscure Japanese writer? Not exactly. I had been studying Japanese for that moment. My reason for living was precisely to be the one to care about such things. Nobody else had been moved to write a lengthy exploration of this obscure writer. And even if they have, for whatever reason, they didn’t. All the perceivably wrong choices I made in life had led me to that euphoric moment.
I go on and on about authenticity and perceived genuinity. I’ve written extensively about Oregairu and it’s one of my favorite anime for a reason. I love Yamazaki Kaoru and Katsuragi Keima precisely because they are deluded by pathetic fantasies. It all culminated in the “Ideological Warrior” which was less an epiphany and more so a perfect storm. I had known the words for a long time but had not yet been able to say them. I sat there, listening to Nico Nico Ryuuseigun, smiling as the memories of yesteryear washed over me. I remembered my chuunibyou roots, I remembered all the feelings of extreme hatred and sweet euphoria that I had experienced in the past few years… It all coaled into a spiral of emotions coated in a caramelized-covering of happy hardcore. It wasn’t a blog about waifuism or 2D superiority or hating reality. It wasn’t me trying to defend Katsuragi or Yamazaki or Madarame in their plight, nor was I apologetic- I was coming to terms with being wrong; knowing I was losing, and accepting I was losing. I didn’t need to win, I just wanted to protect what I believed in. This was my noble sacrifice. In much the same way, “Love is Dead, Long Live the Otaku ” is painfully idealistic but unbearably honest. It’s my winding love-letter to a person who I’d want to thank but will likely never even be able to have the chance to speak to. It’s everything I stand for, and that is how I win.
Anyways, here are my personal favorite posts:
- Love is Dead, Long Live the Otaku
- Sepia Nightmare
- The “ideological warrior”
- Eternal Sunshine of the JAV-less Mind
- Resistance to change in Oregairu
- “World Famous Moe Artist” ~ An UNDER17 Retrospective
2/24/17 – 3/13/22
Pingback: Zoku Darakuron: Discourse on Decadence by Ango Sakaguchi | Maid Story