Let’s get serious for a moment, totally dead serious. Sure anime and manga is just a hobby for some of us, but for me it’s a life-long love affair. I’m 33 years old and though that’s still quite young (don’t mess with me here), I’ve gone through quite a bit (career, marriage, child). I’ve started watching anime just about after I learned to walk: Mazinger Z, Voltes V, Gatchaman, and of course Macross.
Since I’ve been watching anime for just about 30 years I thought I’d look at my life in the context of shows I’ve seen and liked. Some shows I just found very relatable and maybe they would at least superficially describe parts of my life.
Now, I’m going to be looking back here and I’m going to be using shows or manga that I’ve read quite recently. This isn’t an exercise of compiling a soundtrack of my life or something, wherein the songs should be ones I actually listened to at the time. I just used shows and manga I thought fit best. So, onto the list!
What I lived through: Childhood
How I want to remember it as: Yotsuba&!
How it really was: 20th Century Boys
I love Yotsuba&! it’s a rather quiet story of a child with a single adoptive parent and their interactions with their friends and neighbors. The titular character is superbly charming in how everyone ends up playing with her on her terms – which seem like the innocence and wonder all these other, older kids as well as adults have lost touch with.
However, my childhood was more like the kids in 20th Century Boys in that I ran with other boys around the same age as I was in the streets of Manila. We built mock forts in our yard and shot each other with pea shooters and water pistols; and caused all kinds of mischief in the neighborhood. Even so, we were all good kids who let our imaginations run wild.
What I lived through: High School
How I want to remember it as: Kare Kano
How it really was: Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad
(How it kind of felt like: Cromartie High School)
My high school attempts at romance failed miserably. I started out going the Arima path (in Kare Kano) having great grades and graduating from grade school a valedictorian. But high school was a whole lot tougher and the school I transferred to had a lot of very studious kids. When I started struggling with algebra (and puppy love) I went bancho on everyone and decided I’d be a rock star.
LOL the chicks didn’t exactly line up for me (or my band) because we kind of really sucked and played loud punk and metal songs LOL. So when I discovered the Beck: MCS anime (and the manga) I was immediately hooked. I learned to play guitar almost exactly like how Koyuki started out, though the Minami Ryusuke figure in my life had a different band.
But strangely, I was the nerdy leader-type in my crowd of delinquents which made for a lot of awkwardness, not quite fitting in, and emo. And yeah, fights. I was banned from attending my own graduation because I roughed up some punk three days before the ceremony. FML.
What I lived through: University
How I want to remember it as: Honey and Clover
How it really was: Honey and Clover
While I was in an arts college in our uni, I was into the literary arts as opposed to visual. Nonetheless, I went through uni with very talented (and weird) friends, falling in and out of love with each other along the way. I even went straight to graduate school like Ayu, and was almost exactly like Shuji who became a teacher (I was a lecturer at my alma mater for two years) at the same time I was facing my limitations as a poet (while I got published a couple of times, I never placed in any of the contests I joined, nor got accepted in the fellowships I applied for).
It’s kind of weird since it feels so long ago, but Honey and Clover still feels so right. I only discovered it in 2007, but I pretty much marathoned it over a few days with my wife. It’s probably the most intensely relatable things I’ve ever seen.
What I’m living through: Adulthood
How I expected it to be like: Hataraki Man
How it really is: Kare Kano
Hataraki Man may not be as relatable to me as Honey and Clover but I think it is every bit as intense. I lived vicariously through Matsukata Hiroko, a 28-year old copy editor of the Weekly Jidai magazine. When I left graduate school and teaching, I started working for an AM radio station as a producer, writer and director; pretty much what Hiroko did, but in my case it was in broadcast news and public affairs. It was very interesting and exciting work, but it sucked in many other ways.
I’ve done many things, but my most important success is finding happiness in sharing a life with another person. My wife is an amazing woman, just as – if not more accomplished than I am. We marathoned Kare Kano when we were still dating and we love it so much that she used the Miyazawa Theme I as part of our wedding reception (tracks from the Beck and Escaflowne OSTs also made it).
While I never got to be the amazing student that Arima was in high school, I certainly married a woman just about as neurotic as Yukino. Just like the manga’s happy couple, our first child is also a daughter (I’m not sure if we’re up for twin boys next, but having brothers of my own, I think it’ll be great).
It’s not surprising that the shows listed have very strong slice-of-life elements (except maybe Cromartie, but still). I suppose this is part of the appeal of such shows – they’re very relatable and speak to our experiences even if we’re from different cultures.
The question “if my life were an anime, what would it be?” had always been a difficult one for me, maybe because there isn’t just one show that spoke to me, Honey and Clover notwithstanding. Now I ask you the same question:
If your life is like fiction, what anime and/or manga would they be?