Thursday, February 14, 2013

Closing the Loop

     Life has been rather stressful for the past several weeks. I'm easily the busiest I've ever been, with a school schedule that has me on campus for around 30 hours a week taking some remarkably difficult courses. One period that stood out in particular was the third week of the semester, in which I had three tests and one equally-weighted lab, all one after the other. On Friday afternoon, I staggered home, pulled myself to my chair, and collapsed, thoroughly exhausted and defeated. I already had plenty to do for next week, but I needed to do something that wasn't homework. What was it I did before school started, again? No, it wasn't video games - I had no time for them, either, but that wasn't it - so what was it?

     Ah yes. Anime.

     I didn't have the willpower to think of an alternative to my own suggestion, so I feebly glossed over my list of shows to watch, hoping inspiration would come from some unexpected title. No, not Penguindrum, I'm not mentally fit enough to enjoy that right now. Definitely not Hana Yori "Makino-embodies-passivity-to-excruciating-accuracy" Dango. Maybe I'll fall asleep to Ghost Hou-wait. I could watch that show. Yeah, you know what? I think I will. Let's do this.

     And with that, I resumed my journey through an anime series I'd started years ago but never finished: Inuyasha.

     I had put the series on indefinite hold for a few reasons, but one in particular. I was 114 episodes in, and had stuck with the English dub the whole way through. It had been manageable up till then; I was attached to the main cast and actually kinda liked a few of the voice actors. But then came the Band of Seven arc and, well. . .it was bad. It was so bad. I had seriously considered switching over to the Japanese dub in spite of it all, but when I did I was met with the ultimate horror: Inuyasha was voiced by my least favorite Japanese VA of all time, the guy who did the main character of the anime series Mouse. Inuyasha was the main character from MOUSE?! No. NO. I-I just couldn't deal with it. No way, no how. Even the overly serious, slap-worthy smug voice he had in the English dub was better than this.

     That, coupled with the fact it no longer captured its world in the magical way that attracted me to the story in the first place, led me to shelve the series - until I finally picked it up again that one Friday. Now, being that I felt like my brain was about to melt through my ears, I was a little more forgiving than I would have been under normal circumstances. I was willing to overlook melodrama or poor voice acting. I just wanted, nay, needed to be entertained by something. And so, I found the site I had watched it at previously (getting the DVDs from Netflix was an unacceptable option, both then and now, ever since that one day my brother found out about it and the fact I watched anime. I've never really heard the end of it since), loaded up episode 115, and jumped in after so many years with no refresher to understand the context. The results were. . .

     Not that bad, actually. I'm still a little confused why the Tetsaiga isn't red anymore - I distinctly remember it changing colors so Inuyasha could break a barrier with it or some such - and there are a few minor details I was drawing a blank on, but for the most part I was able to understand what was happening and why surprisingly well. The beginning-of-episode recap was all I needed to understand the fight happening at the time, and everything else I remembered well enough. That's not so odd, I suppose; the series did make a substantial impression on me.

     Actually, there's a reason it did, as well as a reason I'm telling this little story. See, Inuyasha was the first anime series I ever watched, way back when. It wasn't just what got me into anime; it was what got me into fiction. I remember making a vast, complex story with dozens of different characters that was made purely as an outlet for my excitement and anticipation while I waited for the next DVD to come (until I stopped getting it from Netflix, of course). It was the first time I felt not just emotional attachment to something I created, but true emotional investment. The next 15 or so anime shows I watched all spawned spin-off after side story after continuation of that brain child of mine. It was, with no exaggeration, the primary focus of my life for those years. Inuyasha may have merely been present at a time in my life when I was prone to this over-activity of the imagination, or it may have indeed birthed and nurtured a story loving side of me that wouldn't have existed otherwise. Either way, though, it ushered in a whole new era of my life.

     This period was witness to the first time I ever made an active attempt to change and better myself as a person. It was when I first gained any kind of actual appreciation for the creation and consumption of art - any art. It was also when I first started making stories of my own, which indirectly caused me to choose the career path that I did. Inuyasha was there at the beginning, and it's presence has remained ever since. It's always been something that I'm "watching" - even if I put it off for however many years.

     While free time is a rarity, I decided I wanted to finally finish the series, for real - the whole 40-something remaining episodes, Final Act, all of it (. . .okay, maybe not the movies). The profundity of this was lost on me at first, but I've started to take notice of it now. See, I'm finally starting to adjust to the reality of being a full time college student (from a homeschool/part-time situation). I'm truly embracing a passion I want to spend my life on for the first time, ever. Pretty soon, I'll be moving out from the home I've lived my entire life in - maybe even out of state. In short, I'm yet again entering a new era of my life.

     And yet again, here is this anime show about a big dog demon fighting a bigger, badder demon. Only this time, instead of welcoming me in, it's holding my hand as I say goodbye. Finishing the show, for me, has become something much bigger than just a way to get another "completed" series. It has come to represent, in no insignificant way, the passage from one part of my life to another.

     I've had a lot of unique, powerful experiences with anime before. The medium has taken me to far away worlds and introduced me to fantastic people that don't physically exist. I've discovered things about myself, about others, about the (real) world, about imagination itself, that I would never have thought possible.

     But I have never experienced an anime like this before.

     Perhaps someday I'll stop watching anime entirely. It might be in the coming years, it might never come at all. But no matter what happens to my habits concerning my intake of the medium, I don't think I'll ever forget you, Inuyasha. Thanks for being there.


  1. This was a very touching story :) I somehow know what you mean. When I first watched Utena, it started liberating me from high ideals and illogical fears. It was also how we connected with Neko. And we've promiced that when I get free (away from my stepfather) we'll rewatch it to signify a hurdle overcome. Though in our case it's planned. I'm really happy for you. Getting a closure -sorta- is a great bittersweet feeling :) Keep walking!

    P.S.:My contact with Inuyasha was only the one movie with the hagoromo concept, if I remember correct. I wasn't very excited to tell the truth. So I didn't embark to try the series...

    1. Thanks for reading it!

      That does sound very sweet. May that rewatch come swiftly. :)

      P.S. Yeah, the show had its moments, but I can't call it a hugely quality series no matter how special it is to me. Can't imagine the movies made it much better.

  2. Hello Sato, I'm glad that you're able to find something that could help you relax. I'm also on the same boat; good thing I have Chihayafuru and Love Live this season. :)

    Before I was so certain that I'm never going to stop watching anime but now I feel like I'm slowly starting to sense the feeling of detachment; probably it's because of the lack of time, evolution of tastes, or just simply outgrowing anime... however, regardless, the memories that I had with anime would always remain the same.

    Anyway, I wish you all the very best in school and IRL. Stay focus and positive, for sure you're going to achieve what you're working on.

    1. Yeah, I'm finally understanding what you've been saying about only being able to watch a couple shows a season. Good luck to us both with school!

      I definitely hear you on the disconnect thing. This is one of the first times I've ever really felt it. I'd like to think that no matter what there will always be a show or two that will catch my interest, but who knows. Hopefully it will turn out for the best (for both of us). :)

      And to you as well! Thanks Snippet!

  3. You make an excellent point, sir. We ascribe our own meaning onto stories. The emotions we feel when we watch shows or listen to music are intrinsically tied to those we felt when we first experienced them.

    Inuyasha is great because it is a story of love, tragedy, and longing for home. It's a coming of age story, but its one in which childhood is grasped firmly and never quite let go. It's not a masterpiece, but it is quite good. So is it any wonder that it would develop into a piece of culture that we can cling to?

    We started in the same place. I remember Inuyasha from those late nights when I first moved to New Jersey. I watched it all as it aired on Adult Swim, and I thought it would never be complete. So imagine my excitement when the Final Act came out? I was able to watch as that aired and finally saw the resolution only promised by the original. Suffice, I think I know where you ended up as well.

    1. Now that you mention it, I guess Inuyasha is that kind of story. Good point.

      It's pretty cool we've had similar experiences with the show. I definitely have some strong associations with how I first watched the show. Getting the dvds from Netflix and watching them on our somewhat broken portable player, having to find the episodes online when the discs were too scratched, taking bike rides every four episodes where I'd just reflect on and think about what I saw. . .Very nostalgic, indeed.

      I also remember when Final Act started airing, as I had a similar (though no doubt less pronounced) reaction. It was cool seeing the continuation of my "first" anime only a few months before I became involved in the blogosphere. Now that I think about it, that was another noteworthy coincidence of Inuyasha being there at a landmark time in my life. Thanks for bringing it up.