Twelve Days

[One] “My most hated self” — A return to xxxHolic

“You don’t belong only to yourself, you know?”

-Yuuko Ichihara, xxxHolic Kei, Episode 3

I don’t believe in much. This is because I find it difficult to trust even what I am able to feel or perceive with my most basic senses, but also as a defense mechanism. I make a baseline level assumption that everyone I meet dislikes me for some reason, and go forward from there, which often means denigrating myself preemptively before others have the chance to presumably do the same. Additionally, I can’t think of anything I’ve done in life that has contributed to others in any meaningful way.

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[Two] How storyboarding real life inspires the “greatest world” of Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken

The greatest technical and storyboarding triumphs of Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken‘s first episode are not the flights of fancy that take Midori Asakusa, Tsubame Mizusaki, and Sayaka Kanamori into the world of their own animations but the framework of every day life that inspires them.

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[Three] When the Safflowers Bloom (Only Yesterday)

A list of things I enjoyed over this past year includes Stardew Valley, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and Isao Takahata’s critically-acclaimed film Only Yesterday.

This is not a coincidence.

In a world where I couldn’t leave the confines of my apartment, I turned to starting over on a new island and building a community in Animal Crossing. When I lost my job later on in the year, I turned to Stardew Valley, where the impetus for a drastic job change and move to the countryside is summed up beautifully in a letter: “If you’re reading this, you must be in dire need of change.” Only Yesterday, a love letter to and advertisement for pastoral Japan (specifically Yamagata Prefecture), fits within the same ongoing pandemic coping mechanisms. Protagonist Taeko Okajima leaves Tokyo, to escape city life and visit a farm in the bucolic countryside where her brother-in-law’s family harvests safflowers on an organic farm.

If I had the means, I would escape to a rural farm tomorrow.

Yet, Only Yesterday differs from the other two pieces of media I mentioned — and not because it’s a film while the other two are immersive, community-building video games — in that it both revels and wallows in Taeko’s past. Her past isn’t something to escape from, but something to cherish, even when it hurts.

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[Four] She and her dinosaur

I’ve always understood why people loved Pop Team Epic, but I never really “got it.” It was too loud and too frenetic. I don’t like things that seem to be shouting at me all the time with excessive energy — this is why I don’t really get into many YouTubers. While I could recognize its quality on a technical level, and even read along with SakugaBlog posts on its animation, I didn’t watch an episode past the premiere.

By contrast, when Kamikaze Douga and Space Neko Company reunited for Gal & Dino, I was immediately hooked by Tomoe Nakano’s opening animation. Half I Spy picture hunt, half fashion photography photoshoot, Nakano’s opening sequence finds creative ways to incorporate Dino in everyday objects using drawn animation and mixed media. It was visibly reminiscent of Pop Team Epic, but the tone was completely different. Rather than a litany of fast-paced esoteric jokes, it was more laid back and chill (but no less esoteric).

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