Hundreds of ways to say hell is other people and also love is other people: Evangelion 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon A Time

There are myriad reasons why I feel unqualified to talk about anything related to the Evangelion franchise, but the primary one is that it’s not my thing. It’s a lot of other people’s thing, but not mine. Evangelion 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time, is the first time I felt myself so deeply affected by an Evangelion product.

My thing is the much less acclaimed ending of Sailor Moon Sailor Stars where Usagi Tsukino tells us that the proper place for chaos or evil is in the hearts of everyone — a shared burden for humanity that can only be mitigated (not defeated) by love. This is hardly a new concept but I’d not seen it done at a time where I could understand the message in anything close to its simultaneous simplicity and depth. You cannot defeat your darker impulses, only mitigate them with genuine connection. The message of Sailor Stars was accompanied by another major influence my obnoxious and precocious high school self was obsessed with, Jean-Paul Sartre’s Huis Clos (No Exit). Combined, this meant that the mantra of my younger self was that even if I could never understand others and building relationships with them would sometimes make it more difficult to understand myself, seeking genuine relationships with them would provide profound answers to the many questions I had about the value of my own existence or why I existed at all.

Despite thinking I understood this on an intellectual level (I didn’t), I certainly didn’t follow this example on a practical level. I still don’t always follow this on a practical level.

Relationships are difficult. I seek them out despite this.

(Spoilers for all of the Evangelion franchise below.)


[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.


[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.


[Eleven] I want to discuss, but I don’t want to be an authority — Sarazanmai

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.