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.
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.
My first foray into anime blogging was a Cardcaptor Sakura Angelfire fan site. I had recently discovered the internet — thanks, in part, to Sailor Moon — and with that discovery came the subsequent unearthing of Cardcaptor Sakura, not to be confused with Cardcaptors, since the latter was, according to other fan sites, an abomination and a tragedy.
I didn’t know this myself until I managed to buy a few VHS tapes and DVDs of the original, and didn’t take a hard line on it one way or the other. The way I saw it then (and still see it to this day) was that Cardcaptors had at least introduced me to Cardcaptor Sakura. It may not have been very good, but it was an important gateway. I couldn’t bring myself to fully hate it. Yet, upon discovering the original, I felt compelled to write about it.
The site was about as awful as any free Angelfire site of the early aughts. It was pale pink with dark pink and white accents. The homepage autoplayed a midi version of the Cardcaptor Sakura opening, “Catch You, Catch Me.” It had episode writeups of both Cardcaptors and Cardcaptor Sakura, organized in airing order, where I would give my opinions on each episode that I had seen.
I never worried about whether my opinion was valid or meaningful in any way. I simply wrote.
I’ve previously waxed poetic on why I love Sailor Stars despite it being a bit of a disjointed mess. I’ve also written about how it’s inspired other anime visually — like the blocking of the Puella Magi Madoka Magica finale. This post isn’t about that.
Instead, it’s about another facet of why Sailor Stars is my favorite Sailor Moon season. Outside of the typical factors we use when rating anime — sensible things like animation quality, production, narrative coherency, overarching themes and symbolism — the circumstances and context of how we watched it and who with frame our emotional attachment. Nostalgia is a powerful feeling, and no other anime season inspires it in me quite like Sailor Stars due to how ridiculously difficult it was for me to watch it.
A few days before my high school graduation it struck me. I was staring out of our front bay window past the dying spider plant that hung on the right side looking towards the cloudy sky and thinking of nothing in particular.
It was the morning after a lock-in party that my school organized for the senior class as part of our senior week. I had been up all night. The day was empty with no classes, no senior activities, no preparation work, and no parties. My college had already been decided upon months ago and I had already attended pre-orientation where I had registered for classes in the coming fall.
I had nothing to do but catch up on sleep lost from staying up for over 24 hours, yet I had crossed a particular overtired threshold that looped back into being wide awake. In that moment, the day ahead seem to stretch out endlessly. School life, especially in junior high and high school, is regimented and organized. Without that order, I came to the realization that I would never have it again.