Exploring Suicide in Anime: An Analysis of the Medium

**As the title implies, this post speaks towards suicide—how we consume it in media, how it functions culturally, how it affects personal experience. If this is a sensitive topic for you, be mindful of continuing.**

High school was the first time suicide directly impacted my life. A minor friend of a few years had convinced himself he was unworthy of living and killed himself in his middling teenage years—dead before he started. I was not overly familiar with his life, and only tangential in the scope of his social circles, but he was the widely beloved class comic. Witty without effort, smart in how he spun situations to create entertainment for others. Common class-clown things that highly depressed people are often good at. It was one of those things that is obvious in hindsight.

Despite him not being one of my closest relationships, that loss still pried open the gates to a world that, up to then, my naivety had kept in a fantastical land. Intellectually, I understood suicide was a thing that could happen. I had simply never imagined it happening to him.

Suddenly, no one was safe.

Suicide would not have any intimate brushes with my life again until much later, in the tail-end of my college years. This time, it would be a little more personal. This time it was family.

Almost family, anyways. Thank God that darkness was made to retreat, though not without years of heavy battle against some inner demons and leagues of external intervention. It was a wildly complicated ordeal, and I will not unpack it here, because ultimately it’s not what I want to talk about. I only bring up these two circumstances because they served to re-appropriate the emotional energy in my heart and made the topic of suicide one I hold up in both personal and professional interest. I spent years studying the psychology of killing oneself and interacting with people who had tried or wanted to or planned on executing that final act.

Suicide, for all its macabre implications, is important to me. And that’s why I appreciate when I see an honest, realistic portrayal of it in the media I consume. Suicide has a history of being a gimmick, a basic inciting incident or historical cornerstone in a character’s background, but is rarely made the focus of a narrative—probably out of the risk of it tonally disrupting an otherwise happy story.

But that’s what I want to talk about with this article. I write about anime for Geeks Under Grace. I’ve been reviewing anime here since before we had an “anime team,” and I’ve been aching to write an article of this nature for over a year. What eventually made me decide now was the time came after my exposure to the film A Silent Voice (Koe no Katachi), which blew up in 2017, following the international commercial success of Your Name (Kimi no Na Wa). This article is not strictly about A Silent Voice, neither the anime, nor manga versions (both of which have my meteoric recommendation), but I will be drawing on pieces of it, as well as several other anime, to reach my conclusion.

Before we go any further though, I wanted to touch upon suicide as it relates to Japan, the land where anime is traditionally forged. Japan has a long history of suicide, even if the kind we see now is different from the days of old. It’s no secret ancient Japan helped “popularize” the concept of seppuku, or the “honorable death.” You are a samurai who failed to protect his benefactor? Rend open your belly. You had inappropriate sexual relations with somebody outside your family’s favor? It is your duty to atone for the dishonor you have brought upon them, and this means willingly (often publicly) bringing about the end.

And you see, that honor… it never really went away. You can see the echoes of it in contemporary Japanese society. The nuances may be different, but the underlying spirit of the problem remains the same: if you cannot be the steadfast rock your family needs, or find success in a cutthroat professional climate, or contribute to the greater whole of Japan as a nation…well, you can always just kill yourself. Under a magnifying glass, if you break down the various economic and social factors that permeate every angle of Japanese culture, you’ll notice it’s a country almost designed to encourage self-destruction. The tides of difficulty that press against every youth and adult are so staggeringly insane that they’d almost be hilarious if they weren’t real, and the result is that Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the entire world.

As such it’s encouraging when I see an anime that takes a no-nonsense approach to the subject, because suicide and the mental elements that surround it are something Japan obviously needs to address with more frequency and greater efforts (something their government is finally taking strides to accomplish). Historically, it’s not as if anime development studios (and any prerequisite creators) have been completely adverse to showcasing suicide in their creations; it just seems to be coming into greater prominence now than years past. Suicide has shown up in many series: Neon Genesis Evangelion, Welcome to the NHK, Orange, and even Naruto, to name a few.

But more often, if a character is killing themselves, it’s not out of an innate desire to end their own lives. I want to make this distinction. Dying as a mode of martyrdom, sacrificial protection, or ignorant abuse of one’s own health are not the same things, and should not be confused with what we are talking about. This is intentional self-obliteration, because you’ve found yourself in a situation where you simply don’t want to live anymore.

I recently watched an anime called Made in Abyss, which had one of the most realistic conflicts orbiting suicide I’ve seen inside or outside of the medium. It was a short, gripping scene—one I cannot talk about without spoilers, so if MiA is on your radar, skip down to the bold sentence below and continue reading from there.

I’ll keep this pretty complex scenario as simple as possible. Nanachi is a young girl who has been through a lot. She was enslaved for use in human experimentation by a sadistic madman alongside her best friend, Mitty. Mitty got the far worse brunt of aforementioned experimentation, and now cannot die, despite being in a constant state of suffering. She cannot even die when Nanachi tries to kill her. In so doing, Nanachi only torments her friend more, even after escaping the clutches of the monster who made them this way. Then come the protagonists of the series, who are in a bind. Our lead girl, Riko, is on the cusp of venomous death, but Nanachi can save her, and does. Recovery takes a long time, during which Nanachi becomes friend with our other protag, Reg. Nanachi learns Reg possesses a means of killing Mitty. If Mitty dies, Nanachi can finally be free of the overwhelming emotional burden placed upon needing to take care of her, and all the suffering she has inadvertently caused.

But if Mitty was gone, Nanachi would also have no more reason to live. Reg picks up on this and, when approached about whether or not he’d be willing to kill Mitty, says, “Okay. But you’re not allowed to die after she’s gone.”

Nanachi pauses. “Don’t worry. I’ll make sure to take care of Riko and make sure she’s all better, too.”

“Even after that!” Reg bites down on the moisture in his eyes. “Even after that. You need to promise.”

“Oh,” Nanachi contemplates the pool of water at her feet, a sad ache reflecting in her eyes. She resigns. “That’s so cruel… fine. I promise.”

And Reg destroys Mitty in one of the saddest death scenes in recent memory, fulfilling his part of the deal. Nanachi then joins their party afterwards because, well, she has nothing else.

loved this interaction. My writing of it now cannot convey the heartbreaking rawness of the scene, but the subtle context of Nanachi wanting to die was never explicitly mentioned or given heavy foreshadowing. It was implied through small phrases and gestures leading to this moment, which Reg, being emotionally alert, was able to notice and act against. The audience is trusted to be intelligent enough to understand that Nanachi was planning to kill herself before this confrontation. And Reg—sweet, broken Reg—called her bluff in a gambit to save her life. Being as young as he is, Reg doesn’t have a good solution, so he basically resorts to blackmail. It is an honest, if brutal means of protecting one of his only friends.

Let’s take a moment to talk about Misa from Death Note. Spoilers for this, as well.  There’s a bold line for you, too. 

Misa Amane is an immensely tragic character. She is gifted in all the wrong types of intelligence, and none of the ones that save her from abuse and harm at the hands of our favorite sociopathic pile-o-trash, Light Yagami. Misa is practically designed to be emotionally manipulated into supporting whatever vague, justice-centric whim passes through the miasma of sludge that is Light’s ego, falling intensely in love with the mass-murderer because, as she perceives it, he dealt justice against the man who killed her family. Misa’s entire existence rotates around supporting Light.

So, when Light is eventually caught out by the investigation agents and brought to an untimely demise (or not soon enough, depending who you ask), Misa’s world goes with him. While we never see her commit suicide, the last image we have of Misa is one of her standing alone on the edge of a tall building. With all we know of Misa, it’s not hard to pick up on the implication that she jumped, forfeiting her life, as Light was no longer in it.

Misa was bright, popular, enthusiastic, and showed kindness to others. The number one complaint fans have against her character is how easily she was manhandled by Light’s nefarious charm. Like, we know she’s smart, so why is she so oblivious to the awful personality of the man she loves? That’s not realistic at all

I’m obviously being sarcastic. The most tragic part of Misa’s narrative is that she is a loose manifestation of thousands of people who, at any given moment, are betrayed by their better judgment into trusting people who are not worthy of trust. Misa, for all of her dimensions, was ultimately a simple character. She wanted to love, and be loved in return. She wanted to be useful to somebody, even at the cost of herself, because self-sacrifice is further evidence of how much you love someone. She would forego her happiness in favor of Light’s happiness. And, because of the precarious situation she was in, once Light was no more, she had nothing to fall back on. There was nobody else who would be prepared to save her.

Misa is tragic, because she could have been saved if people had known the whole story. She is a superb example of why we should reserve judgment against others. It’s difficult to ever truly know somebody or the struggles they endure, so it’s imperative we be kind to one another. It’s easy to hate Light, because in this example we were allowed inside his mind. We had first-hand evidence he was rotten. If we were on the outside, among his peers—among Misa—it’s likely he would have duped us, too.

There are honestly so many examples I want to explore, but instead, let’s circle back to the beginning.  A Silent Voice.

A Silent Voice tackles many heavy subjects. In the roster along suicide, there’s depression, social anxiety, bullying, and living with disabilities, to name the big ones. It’s not really spoilers to say that both of the protagonists, Shoya and Shoko, face suicidal ideation at some point in their respective lives, and for entirely different reasons. Unlike the last two examples, I’m not going to dive into this one, because the idiosyncrasies and emotional buildup are what make the movie memorable, and I cannot adequately communicate those things with words. But A Silent Voicedoes something remarkable, which is not often seen in this industry. It takes realistic characters, in a real setting, with real hopes, goals, and motivations, places them against real problems, and doesn’t water it down for the sake of the audience. But more than any of that, it doesn’t cast these struggles in a blunt light. They are not hideously dramatic or tragic. They are commonplace issues, dealt with by commonplace people, and we see the power of unity as friends and family support each other through the little ways the world falls apart every day.

I don’t want to deviate too hard from the subject, or feel like I’m bashing you over the head with what I think you should watch, but I cannot stress enough the merits of seeing this film. And, if you liked that, I recommend you read the manga, too. The latter further fleshes out the characters and narrative that the movie, while great, did not have the screen-time to capture.

I guess what I really wanted to do with this article was say thanks. It’s a wide, open letter to every creator who had the skill, courage, and insight to brave the trenches of suicide in narrative. It’s not an easy thing to do, even from a technical vantage. It’s a story that can be easily cheesed without setting the proper tones and expectations for the audience. Yet, it’s one of the heaviest and most needed stories of our modern day.

I’m not expecting any isolated anime, book, video game, or movie to be enough to “save” somebody who struggles with suicidal ideation. But if it can reach them and help them realize they aren’t alone in their struggle, that’s a worthy thing to ask of “entertainment.” Maybe if they see a story in which depression is toppled and anxiety is overcome, they could even find it in themselves to seek help.

If this is you, please understand you are stronger and more important than you believe. Please, if you have an authority figure or religious leader you can trust, reach out to them. If not, the 24-hour suicide hotline is 1-800-273-8255, and talkspace.com has an affordable, online therapy match-making program, which I have on good knowledge to be worth its weight.

You have my prayers. I believe in you.

Thanks for reading, and God bless.

(This article first ran in geeksundergrace.com, in April of 2018.)

http://www.geeksundergrace.com/anime-cosplay/exploring-suicide-anime/

Advertisements

Emotional Repression, and The Girl Who Would Be Tank


**I will refrain from using game-specific terminology in this post, as it would break the flow of the article.**

Presea Combatir is one of, if not the greatest example of a tragic character in the beloved Tales franchise of video games. In a gambit to make herself useful to her struggling family after her sister falls ill, she subjects herself to a malevolent experiment, wherein she gains increased strength at the cost of her emotional and physical growth being permanently subdued. As such, she turns into a shell of the child she once was, and by the time she is found in the game, sixteen full years of this repression have cost her much of her humanity.

Though technically twenty-eight, Presea appears as a twelve-year-old girl, with her emotional and social maturity being practically non-existent. She is in a routine of soulless labor, with no cognitive attachment or awareness for the world around her. Even when her father dies, she doesn’t notice or care, allowing him to rot in his bed. Her freakish nature and questionable history have turned her into a pariah within her village, completely ostracized from peers and adults.

When at last the main cast of Tales of Symphonia is able to recover part of Presea’s humanity, much of the damage cannot be undone. Yet, she begins to age normally again, and slowly starts to form new connections with the world. She remains blunt and distant to communication with others, and does not understand social protocols. This is occasionally endearing, but mostly it’s sad. It becomes quickly apparent that her lack of emotions was something resembling a boon, for now that they were coming in full force, they were almost all negative. She grieves the years she lost, the family she doesn’t have anymore, and suffers without a clear purpose in the world. At the core of her reservation and ongoing melancholy is the tantalizing perception that, even with her new friends, she is ultimately still alone in this world. It is the bulk of her character arc from this point until the end of the game that she must realize, through the actions of her companions, that she is loved and has a home. It might not be the home she originally wanted or remembers, but it is something worth cherishing and protecting.

Protection is Presea’s strong suit, even as a combat asset within the game. Her size and cute appearance are deceptive. With her aforementioned inhuman fortitude, she can shrug off harm that would critically wound her friends. As such, she operates best as a “tank” for the team. That is, she offers herself as the one who, when everyone else must play it safe, walks into challenges head-on. She has faced hardship and hurt and damage, physically and emotionally, and they have strengthened her in a way her companions don’t immediately recognize. So, she’s the tank in every sense. The one who endures injury, but never relents.

Presea is my favorite character from Tales of Symphonia. Her tragedy aside, she is a wonderful, quirky little girl, fascinated by animal paws and woefully ignorant to the innocent flirtations of others. She is lost in the world, but possesses a durability in spite of her loneliness that things will somehow get better. It’s these things that I want to see more in myself, and hope to inspire in others.

When Romance Faces Depression

Anybody who has ever faced any level of depression is familiar with the deep, wormy feeling of not wanting to do anything. Anybody who has ever faced depression and tried to participate in an active, romantic relationship knows that wanting to do anything is kind of important. Whether it’s related to intimacy or simple, day-to-day activities, depression can make everything either more difficult and exhausting, or altogether impossible.

Below is an article that sadrunner.com ran back in 2017 (penned by psychology writer Katie Davies) that explores the crux of this problem in greater detail. It provides not only further definition to the struggle of romance and depression, but tips on how to fight back, both on your own, and together.

http://www.sadrunner.com/2017/romantic-relationship/

“Susano’o” Chapter 2

Chapter 2_StarScythe

“Dude, what is up with their Mid?” Norman said in-between bites of tailgate hot wings. “He’s only killed like, four minions in the last minute.”

“Cut the guy some slack,” Stark didn’t look up from where he reclined in comfort seating. He scratched out notes on a sheet of paper as he analyzed the game. “He’s the backup and it’s his first match all season. Plus he’s going into Rechio with a Yggdras. He’ll get punished if he’s not conservative.”

“Not that conservative. The meta favors Yggdras right now. Plus the Rōnin is camping Bot lane, so it’s not like he’s gonna get flanked. Maybe if he built like an actual mage instead of trying to play like a tank…”

“Yeah, but late game Yggdras can play like a tank,” Arthur tossed some whole natural almonds into his mouth and crunched down on them. He didn’t partake in the tailgate. Today wasn’t his cheat day. “And since their Support keeps dying, they’ll need him for that if they want to take objectives later.”

Whitney leaned against the back of the couch facing away from the screen that filled Stark’s basement wall. She held her phone at arms-length, video cam running a live stream. She impulsively swept her hair up over her ear, despite it not really being in the way. “As you can see, Saturday game time is as fun as ever,” she spoke at the camera. “Isn’t that right guys?”

“Oh. Oh! The Yggdras is actually going in. What is this madman doi—”

“Nah, look the Rōnin is coming from behind, they’re good.”

“His flash is down, he’s not gonna be able to—oh my god, the crowd control is real. Oh oh, and the ignite and—”

“IS THE ENEMY RōNIN TELEPORTING IN.”

“Well, now they’re all gonna die.”

“Not unless they freaking kill the Rechi—THEY GOT HIM. Wait…”

Norman sat forward, pensive. All were silent.

A beat later. “There it is,” Norman said. “The Yggdras died, but they traded two for one and they’ll take tower. Not bad.”

“See?” Arthur crunched some more almonds. “Faith, Norman. You just gotta have faith.”

Whitney smiled at the phone. “See? Fun. Say hi, team.”

Everyone in the room answered, with mixed levels of enthusiasm: “Hi team.

“Who do you think is gonna win tonight?” Whitney addressed the phone again and pointed downwards. “I’m going to leave a poll in the comments. I think the Redhawk’s are gonna take it—”

“No way,” Norman spoke loud enough for the cam to pick him up. “X4 all day. They’re 6 and 0 this season and Merci is crushing Top records.”

“—As you can see, we’re a house divided. Let me know what you think! I’ll be streaming later tonight after the game. See you guys there,” Whitney made a peace sign and saluted with it. “Whisper, out.”

She took a moment to put together a digital poll, threw it into the comments section, and pocketed her phone just in time for Moshe and his girlfriend to descend the stairs into the basement.

The basement was wide, with stylish walls of blue and gray and a bar in one corner. It’d been retrofitted into a den for gatherings such as theirs. Stark’s dad used it to watch any of several sporting activities, mostly of the traditional, ball variety, but on Saturday nights Whitney and the team went in together on food and watched the Susano’o matches for that week. Technically there were more games on Sunday, but that would be stretching their schedules too thin. They could just look up stats and highlights on their own time.

“What’s the score, what’s the score?” Moshe said to no one in particular. His hair was in a tight upward sweep, with a clean-shaven face, and he kept his back straighter than most of them. His attention slashed across the room as he took inventory of everyone present.

“X4 is up,” Stark said. “Mid just won a good exchange and Merci is on fire.” He slipped out of the chair to grab a slice of pizza at the bar. “They’ll probably go for the Wyrm soon.”

Moshe absorbed the myriad details on the screen, and listened as the commentators gave feedback about the most recent play. “The Yggdras is building weird, but okay. Holy cow, Bot Lane is getting slaughtered. What about MechaLapras?”

“Don’t worry,” Norman said. “Your boyfriend is doing great. He only has one kill, but he’s putting up a ton of map pressure and harassing the enemy
Rōnin, like the douchebag he is.”

“It’s not douchy to be aggressive and confident,” he nodded his head at Norman, a smug glint in his eyes. “You should try it some time.”

“I’m the Support.”

“Speaking as our ADC,” Whitney caught Norman’s eyes and grinned. “A little more aggression might not hurt every once in a while.”

Norman snorted. “Girl, that’s all you needed to say. Next game, we’re doing a kill lane.”

“Yesss. I love kill lanes. Let’s murder everyone.”

“Kill lane?” Lenalee, Moshe’s girlfriend, perked up from the bar, where she put together a plate of bread sticks and hot wings. “I don’t think you’ve explained that one to me, yet.”

A wonderful juxtaposition to their band of video game junkies, Lenalee did not play Susano’o, but absorbed plenty through osmosis. She and Moshe had been dating for most of their respective high school careers, which was plenty of time for him to pollute her mind with the in’s and out’s of the game. There was give-and-take, of course. She managed to indoctrinate him as an amateur card shark, so it was a fair exchange. Plus, even though she didn’t “get it,” she wasn’t adversarial towards the hobby either, which is always nice.

“Kill lanes,” Whitney explained. “Are when the ADC and Support both play highly aggressive champions, especially in the early game. It’s not a super common strategy, but in the right match-up, it works wonders.”

“So it would lighten up pressure on the Rōnin to go help other lanes more?” Lenalee answered.

“That’s the idea.”

“MechaLapras just got a triple kill,” Stark commented. “Caught out the Bot Lane and the enemy Rōnin with his ultimate.”

The game commentators stated the exact same thing as Stark, but with more fervor, bantering back and forth and judging the decisions of the Redhawks players.

Everybody settled in, and the rest of the match moved forward without a ton of fanfare. As things progressed, X4 established more and more dominance over the intergalactic Susano’o arena. Eventually they had too much momentum to be stopped. They took the game at thirty-two minutes. Seventeen kills against the Redhawks’ six. MVP went to X4’s Merci, followed closely by MechaLapras, their team’s Rōnin.

Next she read it, Whitney’s poll sat at 77% in favor of X4. She was on the losing side, but that wasn’t unusual. She always voted for the underdog. At this point, it was part of her brand. Her fans even made memes about it.

After the game ended, Stark slapped his notepad on the coffee table between them and the screen. It was burdened with details, neatly organized and articulated.

“Debriefing,” he said, crouching on the opposite side of the table. “Okay guys, what could the Redhawks have done differently to win this one?”

“I don’t know much about this,” Lenalee was first to answer. “But I feel like, considering how well they were doing in Bot for the first half of the game, they could have done more down there.”

Stark nodded, approving. He pinched the tie around his neck, which he wore over a t-shirt. He kind-of, sort-of pulled off the look. “Yeah, they had that lane on lock for nearly fifteen minutes, but dragged their heels in knocking down the turret. Good point. What else?”

“The Rōnin should have roamed Top more,” Arthur said. As their resident Top Laner, this was usually his first course of commentary. “Merci is doing notoriously well this season, so the added pressure would have helped balance things out, even if it was just one or two more visits. The Redhawks gave up both first blood and first tower in Top.”

“Yeah,” Moshe said. Resident Rōnin coming to the defense. “But their Top also just had a bad champion for that match-up.”

“All the more reason,” Arthur answered.

“Good,” Stark said. “Thanks Art. What about Mid?”

“Mid Lane or mid game?” Whitney answered.

“Both.”

“The Redhawks’ Mid had no excuse to lose their turret first,” Whitney said with a sniff. “They had advantage in meta, and in experience. As Art said earlier, Yggdras can and did work as a late-game tank with his build, but he shouldn’t have been able to get that far. Redhawks should have shut him down long before he became relevant, Rōnin intervention aside. As for mid game, with the Bot Lane constantly pushed up, they could have rotated to take Wyrm at least twice, and never did, thus costing them those stacks. They didn’t even contest when X4 went for the objective. Bot was just trash overall in this game. No wonder they’re 2-4 this season.”

“2-5 now,” Norman corrected. “As for their Support, I agree with Whit. He was hot garbage all game. They should have played safe and stayed under turret while the ADC farmed, but the Support kept getting caught out because he needed to land attacks to build stacks. He would have been irrelevant regardless, but he only made things worse by being too aggressive.”

“Which only failed because the ADC didn’t commit with him,” Whitney added. “We don’t have that problem.”

Norman shook his head and smiled. “You really want to do a kill lane.”

“They’re so much fun!”

Stark grinned. “Alright, class dismissed. Take some pizza on your way out. Last time you left it and I’m pretty sure I gained twenty pounds in four days. We’re still on for tonight at 9:30? Gotta keep sharp.”

There were approvals all around, and they went their separate ways.

On the way home, Whitney took a rare moment to appreciate what Stark brought to the table. He was their leader since the beginning, but back then it was mostly just a label, a bit of a joke. The Mid is frequently the de facto head of a team. But as time went on and Stark crystallized his ambitions, his behavior and practices followed suit. He’d taken notes on games for as long as Whitney knew him, always trying to improve his understanding of the game. Then he expanded and made an active effort to get to know each team member more deeply. Learn what they love or hate about the game, their goals in life, their emotional state, among a hundred other human dimensions. He created strategies, and then strategies to beat those strategies. He watched replays of their games, helped critique and improve their techniques, and encouraged feedback for him in return. He tracked character stats, changes in metagame, and a ton of other calculating details that frankly would have overwhelmed Whitney if she tried to process all of it. Sometimes people joked and called him a robot, a computer program. Others said he was like Iron Man, without the muscles or women or money. His name didn’t help that perception.

But Whitney knew him as StarScythe. The commander. Precise and weaponized by design to be the best at Susano’o. As StarScythe, he possessed the largest pool of champions of everyone on their team. He is especially fond of “complicated” characters, who demand a lot of skill. Where Whitney plays powerful champions and is good with them, most of her skill came down to other aspects of the game, and was less about mastery over mechanically difficult play styles. If Whisper is their team’s overwhelming power, StarScythe is the calculating, adaptive virus that finds weak points to exploit.

But most of all, he is kind. And that is why they trusted him to be the leader.

After Whitney arrived home, she showered quick and wrapped up what was left of her homework. She hopped online a little early to set up her stream and talk to fans before the rest of the team joined. Her eyes checked the chat section as comments started rolling in. She started a brew from the coffee machine that sat beside her bed.

LLLoraxx: Ayy!! I can make it to this one. I’m so happy.
Floopisamadman: Hi Whisp! Totes called X4 winning tonight
boss: X4 was a givn. Thy’r gonna tak da split.
Floopisamadman: Maybe! Merci is crushing face, so who knows
Your*Fav*Dominatrix: Evening, Whisp. Just rewatched the finals of your last tournament. Love it. 🙂
boss: Mrci is my waifu
NerfRito: Good morning from Scandinavia. Sooooo is StarScythe going to run Yggdras tank build? Apparently that’s a thing Mid’s do now.
Floopisamadman: @NerfRito, no way, that’s not his play style. Yggdras is too laid back
LLLoraxx: @boss, You know Merci is a dude, right?
Your*Fav*Dominatrix: @LLLoraxx, shhh, don’t tell him

Whitney pulled on her headphones, embraced the slight persona shift into Whisper, and went live. “Hey bros and bro-ha’s. Let me know if my voice sounds off to you. Equilibrium is funky on my end.”

A few minutes later, Norman hopped on. His voice filled her ears.

“You excited for this kill lane or what?” He said. “Watch them do a kill lane of their own and we just have a bloodbath in Bot. Moshe won’t even want to come near us.”

Whitney snorted and checked her email really quick. She ordered a jacket off Amazon and wanted to check that it was still set to arrive tomorrow.

Instead, an unfamiliar email address sat at the top of her inbox. It read a tantalizing subject line: Sponsorship Opportunity for Whisper and Team

Whitney felt the shock as if she’d fallen backwards into a lake. Her fingers went cold as her heart rolled up into a knot. She opened the message, mouth dry.

“Good evening. My name is Andres Fortuna. I represent Silverwave Software as part of their e-sports recruitment division. If you and/or any members of your team have time for a quick chat, I’d love to set up a call later this week to discuss a possible future sponsorship opportunity. What time works best for your schedule?”

Whitney didn’t blink for several seconds. Didn’t smile, didn’t…anything.

“Whit, you there?” Norman said, tentative. “Whit. Yoo-hoo, Whit. What’s happening?”

Susano’o Lore #2: The Arena — At any given time, Susano’o is indulging in the theater of ten worthy champions as they go about bloodletting through his Arena. Isolated in the vastness of space, wreathed in his eternal storm, the Arena is sculpted of materials made to last until the universe burns away. An invincible, labyrinthian sprawl of platestone and godmetal, the Arena cannot be tarnished or wounded by the teams that battle amongst its great valleys.

Yet, it is not without its beauty. A violet river runs diagonally through the Arena’s heart, separating it into equal halves—one for each of its competing teams. On either side of the river you will find the lanes: Top, Mid, and Bottom, as they travel like a forked vein through each side of the map. A vein, as it’s in these lanes that most combat lives and dies. Yet, there is space in-between these lanes: the Wasteland.

The Wasteland is where the R
ōnin roams. Unlike most players in any particular match of Susano’o, the Rōnin is not tethered to any particular lane, choosing instead to spend most of their time wandering the Wasteland (or simply, the “Waste”), killing the many monsters scattered around it. Monsters of the Waste (which will be explored in further detail in a later installment) include the Red, the Blue, the Choco, the Grubs, the Feral, the Beetle, the Wyrm, and the Titan.

As for the lanes themselves, they are decorated with an alien aesthetic of glass-like flora, crystalline glyphs, and small white and black fox-like creatures that, while adorable, cannot be influenced by actions of the combatants. Unlike the minions.

In the beginning, Susano’o was content to proliferate the butchery of his combatants, but he quickly grew tired of the game in this form. He needed more entertainment. Thus, he established the ideas of “minions” and “turrets” within his arena, to diversify the strategies employed. Minions are soulless, simple-minded drones that wander down each lane in small clusters. They exist to die, and make the combatants of the Arena stronger by absorbing their essence. In so doing, there is a sense of rapid improvement and delegation of new powers, which leads to greater battles.

The turrets accomplish much the same. Every lane has six turrets, three for both teams. They abide by a simple principle: they attack whatever first steps into their range. The logic then, is to destroy the enemy’s turrets as they, in turn, shoot down allied minions. But of course, the opposing team will be trying to do the same, and attacking an enemy champion while within the turret’s range will prompt it to redirect fire at the attacker.

Thus, the crux and infinite dance of the game is born. Two teams of five champions (each helmed by individual, real-world players) must navigate the battlefield, defeating minions/monsters and enemy champions to grow stronger, so they can destroy the other team’s turrets, which guard entry into the enemy’s base, which holds that team’s Core.

Destroy the Core, win the game.

Podcast Spotlight — Anime Addicts Anonymous

Dedicated to making your anime addiction worse, the AAA podcast has stood the test of time in my gallery of weekly podcasts. Now a regular listener for nearly four years, I’ve seen a handful of hosts come and go, each contributing their own flavor to what the podcast would eventually become in the present. In my opinion, the series is as strong as its ever been. As one of the longest-running and most popular anime podcasts in the world, they’ve had plenty of time to come up with fun, interesting segments to engage the hosts and audience, as well as streamline the format into something digestible and concise.

Each of the hosts goes by a Japanese moniker (because, you know, weeaboo trash and such). This isn’t to preserve secrecy as much as it’s just fun. Mitsuki (also known as the Anime Pope within their thriving Discord channel), is the founder, moderator, and most consistent host presence on the podcast. He is the “old man” of the group, which is as endearing as it is occasionally annoying. He’s still a very fun person, and could probably bench press me into the ceiling. Kazuo is the resident goofball. They’re all different brands of goof, but if they were stuck in a horror movie, well, he’d die first. Mandi (that’s both her real name and host name) is the manga enthusiast and essayist of the group. She goes into the greatest detail in her reviews and lines of reasoning. Enzo rounds them out (also his real name) as the one who is arguably the most sentimental of the group (maybe) and thus engages listeners most on an emotional level. Mandi and Enzo are the two newest hosts, both starting at the same time about a year and a half ago, and each of them have personalized segments in “Mandi’s Manga Minute” (you can probably guess what that’s about) and “Enzo-Senpai’s Notice Me Corner” which has Enzo reading out a listener-submitted positive-report about things that are going well in their lives and requests for continued support. Both of them are some of my favorite segments in the podcast’s history.

The best segment is obviously “Does Mitsuki’s Mom Know?” But that only shows up every once in a while, which is fine, otherwise the novelty would wear off.

Every episode generally consists of a topic of discussion, submitted by the fan community, a weekly anime review, two news breaks, two pieces of trivia (in which you can win actual prizes), and otherwise a ton of natural shenanigans. There will occasionally be special interview episodes or guest hosts or any number of other variations, but what I listed above is the most common formula for their episodes, and it works like a charm. The AAA podcast is one of only two podcasts that I listen to as soon as it comes out. I can be in the middle of an episode of tv, a song, another podcast, whatever, and I’ll immediately stop and change to them. It is a consistent, reliable comfort in the growing bleakness of our modern landscape. Maybe I’m just getting old and jaded. Either way, it’s an aspect of the podcast I can’t overstate enough. They (and the Discord) make you feel welcome and at peace, for just a little while.

As for where to start, I’d suggest you listen to episode 466, wherein the entire cast is present to discuss their Spring 2019 anime selections to review. It is a recent example of an episode that holds all of the charm that defines this podcast’s popularity, and if you’re new, would be a good place to pick up the show. If you end up liking the hosts (which I suspect most people would), you can entertain retroactively exploring their older episodes and reviews at your discretion. Or, you can become a patron, as I have, and enjoy the bonus episodes of their After Parties and Hobby Addicts episodes, which are both a blast (THEY’RE AT THE BEGINNING OF A NEW D&D CAMPAIGN). There’s another tier for their Hentai episodes, which I suspect are hilarious in their own right, but that’s not my speed. To each their own.

If you like podcasts and you like anime, you can’t sleep on the AAA podcast. It offers the best of both worlds, quality and geekdom. The personalities are brilliant, the show is meticulously crafted, and the fun times show no sign of stopping.

Thank you for making my addiction worse.

The BBC on “Grave of the Fireflies”

The late Isao Takahata left us with many endearing and/or morbidly insightful tales, using real events and emotions extracted from the world around us. He was a visionary who sought to wield anime as a tool to capture the pestilence and resilience of the human spirit. Among his body of works, none capture that cocktail of ambitions quite like the Studio Ghibli classic, “Grave of the Fireflies.”

In 2018, the BBC ran a retrospective on this landmark film, following Takahata’s passing, wherein they explore the heartbreaking and vaguely heartwarming events of two orphaned brothers amidst the bombs and blasts of World War 2.

It is a foundational movie for the committed anime enthusiast, but its personal take on war (drawn from Takahata’s own childhood experiences), is meaningful on its own worth.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-43695803

The Scrappy, Little Owl

I recently lost my job. Considering I spent eight months working to get it, and lost it in two for reasons outside of my power, I did not take to this development especially well. A lot was riding on that position. By it, I’d intended to pay off what remains of my embarrassingly large credit card debt and, since it was a remote job, transition seamlessly into a move I’m planning for July, wherein I’ll be driving vertically across the entire United States.

Yet, though this blow was pretty demoralizing, I must admit it didn’t hit quite as hard as many other tough life events to date. It helped that I still had a part-time overnight job, so I wasn’t completely sunk in terms of income, but more importantly, I had recently, finally, articulated something resembling a life ambition. I don’t like calling it a dream. Dreams are flights of fantasy, and subject to be discarded without much permanence. But it was as if a dozen small, unconnected ideas that had been germinating separately for years had at long last collapsed together into a coherent, meaningful project.

I immediately crystallized the idea in words, then plans, then bullet points and timelines. It felt good, finally having some semblance of a direction, after what felt like years of trying to figure that out.

But I still had to get a new job, and deal with episodes of depression along the way. Working at the gym was an easy side-gig for a little extra money, but it would not be able to carry rent, let alone all of my other payments or paying off my credit cards.

I’m going to talk about this debt openly for the first time. Its continued existence and growth both is and is not my fault, and I’ll be the first to admit, much of this could have been avoided if I hadn’t been so naive. I like trusting people, but that is rarely left unabused by strangers. For the sake of brevity, I’ll keep things short, as I’m not going to occupy this post with five years of misgivings. There was the problem of falling for a scam when I was trying to buy my corgi (who was her own separate issue. Good life decision, bad financial one), which cost me about $300. If that was the extent of it, it would hardly be an issue, but a couple years later I fell for the same goddamn scheme, but lost $1,450. Those? Those are on me. Those are the consequence of an ignorance which I have since tempered.

What isn’t my fault is the rest of the list. I had to pay a couple months of rent for a roommate, only partially recovered, and only after interest had accumulated. I was promised $2,000 schooling reimbursement after a year of work by a behavioral health job who went back on their word because I was in the wrong position (despite my having the packet from orientation that said it applied to my job as well). The student loan help program that I was reluctant to accept, but was eventually convinced to join because of trusted sources, ended up costing me $5,500. That smelled of a scam, but I don’t remember the details of how it was sold to me. All I know is that the company responsible has been caught out and shut down, and I was only one in a long line of people who were duped. None of this is even to mention my continued, egregiously-priced student loans that I am continuing to pay off.

The above are a list of financial setbacks, because they are the most tangible to discuss, but the last several years have seen what feels like no shortage of complications. Nearly every attempt at self-improvement, or actively trying to better a life circumstance, has been met with a negative consequence of equal or greater weight. And if they were isolated incidents, perhaps my emotional state would be more stable and resilient in the face of each, but as I am now I feel like every new transgression against my forward momentum, real or perceived, is a critical loss or personal failure. It’s a toxic mentality that is hard to shake.

Yet, as I said before, I’m feeling particularly scrappy right now. I’m still going to move across the country. To Texas, specifically, because when you see as many -50 degree winters as I have, you’d hate winter, too. Winter is godless, but that’s another topic. If things go poorly on the job search in Texas, oh well. I’ll be homeless in Texas before I spend another year enduring the all-consuming, death-freeze of the North.

Speaking of the job search, I did get another job after losing the one mentioned in beginning. It’s not glamorous, nor fun, but it works, and allows for overtime. Right now I’m putting in about 60-65 hours a week, not counting my continued dedication to physical fitness and writing. Between work and those two things, I do almost nothing else right now. Someday, I will resurrect my other passions and hobbies, but that day will come once I’ve learned more about myself and better understand where I’m going. I’ve never had career ambitions, and only ever fabricated some to shut up the people around me. I don’t know what I want to do. Hell, I’ve recently come to terms with the fact that high school and university did an awful job of helping me learn what could be done. In the past 6 months alone, I’ve learned the names of maybe 300+ jobs that I could not have told you what they were called before, or that they even existed. I feel like I only ever had a knowledge of 1% of my options, and those options all required college. I wish I could tell my younger self that, lo, this is an illusion, but hindsight is a bitch and such.

That said, I don’t mind working, and I will do everything I can or need to do in order to realize something more for myself. I’ve worked in security, housekeeping, hospitality, fast food cooking, fast food driving, grocery stores, movie theaters, mental wards, those awful people who try to sell you useless shit in CostCo, a cushy desk job (which was honestly one of the worst), in-home mental health assistance, among about half a dozen other things. I’ve worked overnights on and off for what totals about 7 years. I am no stranger to 18 hour work shifts. I am currently working 60-65 hours a week just to make ends-meet and relieve debt. That’s not counting the time I dedicate to my ongoing physical fitness or writing, which together qualify as another job, minus the income. I must think of them as jobs, otherwise they will be abandoned, and I can’t afford to do that.

Again, I’m feeling unusually scrappy right now. A scrappy, little night owl, who in spite of some less than fortunate tides of life, now feels more determined than ever to strangle my fears and doubts and shortcomings to death through hard work and the audacity to believe, for the first time, that I could make something good.

So, here’s the plan. I’ll leave out the bullet points and timelines, as those are soft numbers and fragile like most human plans are. These aren’t necessarily in order, but there will be some overlap between a few of them:

1. I’m going to establish at least 4 streams of income. I hate talking about money, and have almost no entrepreneurial spirit whatsoever, but I’ve recently come to realize the magic of passive income. I have no intentions to ever stop actively working in some form, but if I can do something that allows me to work on things I at least vaguely enjoy without the stress of making my rent for that month, I’ll call it a win.

2. I’m going to pay off my credit card debt. If all goes the way I want (which it won’t, but at least my expectations are grounded), this will be entirely, or mostly paid off by July when I make my move. If I get it down to sub-$1,000, I won’t sweat that too much. That’ll mean I killed almost 90% of it in a few months, which will be a great feeling.

3. I’m going to network with and learn from other freelancers and entrepreneurs. While their goals are likely very different from mine, these types possess an untapped wealth of resources and knowledge that I have until now been both ignorant of, and ignored. Even if I don’t aspire to become them, I find it hard to believe I won’t learn something useful from their means of doing things.

4. I’m going to establish a distinct brand and work for myself. I know, this is the hot, Millennial thing to do right now. I hate the word “brand” on an almost gut-level. But the changes of this already reflect in my website and the environment around me. Both aesthetically and philosophically, I am striving to make everything I do have intention. So far, it seems to be working.

5. I’m going to get a book traditionally published and present it to Christina Grimmie’s grave. This is a bit of a dead horse at this point, especially to the uninitiated, so I won’t go any further than to say it would be the fulfillment of the greatest promise I’ve made in my life. Considering that my steadfastness to my promises is one of the only things I’ve always liked about myself, I’m not about to let that slip.

6. I’m going to cultivate a community of like-minded individuals who believe in character-centric, emotionally intelligent storytelling, and create a publishing company that showcases those merits in our works.

7. And ultimately, I’m going to create a not-for-profit that unites the geek community to raise funds for awareness and treatment of emotional and mental wellness. Kind of like Patrick Rothfuss’s Worldbuilders, except for depression, anxiety, etc. I was thinking of calling it, or the publishing company, the “Dark Blue Owls.” We’ll see.

Again, it’s a soft plan, and I fully expect things to go awry no less than a thousand times between here and the end goal, but I’m going to do everything I can to stick to it.

And if I chance upon joy, love, family, or a place to call home between now and then, I don’t think I’d have any complaints.