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“Yuki Yuna is a Hero” and Me

21 Dec

By: Stephanie Weirich

Yuki Cover

(WARNING: If you are presently watching “Yuki Yuna is a Hero” but have not watched the most recent episode, or if you aren’t watching it but think you might at some point, I highly advise you to click away because I am about to spoil the fuck out of it for you)

Here is the most personal question I will ever ask of you: Have you ever been diagnosed with a chronic, incurable illness?

And here is the most personal admission I will ever make to you: I have.

In September of 2013 I fell ill. Incredibly ill. So ill that I woke each day surprised to be alive. And this illness lasted so long that at a certain point, when the pain had been so constant, so unrelenting, I stopped thinking that waking up alive was a blessing.

Finally, the last week of September, I ended up in the ER. After one CT scan and a colonoscopy I was diagnosed with an illness called Ulcerative Colitis. This is a chronic, incurable illness that causes my immune system to attack my large intestine, leading to immense pain and bleeding ulcers in the wall of my large intestine.

As of now, according to all medical science and opinion, I will have this disease for the rest of my life. While I take medication that allows me to function (mostly) normally, this will always be something I will have to deal with and the cost it has placed upon my life is immense and permanent. I will always have days where I wake up wracked with a red hot pain that prevents me from doing much more than suffering silently. There are places I can never travel to because should I get a stomach virus, it’s pretty much guaranteed that I will be out of commission for a great length of time. My chances of getting bowel cancer have sky rocketed and the possibility that I may someday need a colostomy bag is very real. I will always have to be careful with what I eat, what I do, where I go and I will always need to know where a bathroom is at all times (but hey, I can definitely tell you which places in the greater Seattle area have the cleanest facilities).

These are the facts of my life now. The ABCs of my existence.

Why I am telling you this at all, but in particular, why am I telling you this now? Because it is important. Because it is an integral part of who I am. Because now, for better or worse, it shapes how I view everything and how everything affects me. And that includes anime.

If you have ever wondered why I promptly disappeared, why my writing for this site has been sporadic at best, this is why. This diagnosis and its effect on my life has been the most difficult thing I have ever experienced and I have struggled to make sense of it all since then. And as with so many other times of struggle, this time too I turned to anime to cope.

At times this coping took the form of hiding from emotional engagement. For a time, my greatest solace was to come home, smoke as much pot as I could reasonably handle (as it turns out, when you have a chronic, painful bowel disease, the gatekeepers of the medical marijuana licenses just sort of hand you a card the minute you show up) and then zone out with anime. The fluffier the better. The gentler the better. I turned to comedies, like “Engaged to the Unidentified” or “Arakawa Under the Bridge”. I sought out shows that would (hopefully) make me believe that the world was still a good place, a kind place, such as “Natsume Yuujinchou.” But the common theme around what I sought out was that I was looking for ways to escape. I wanted to see things that would help me forget the reality of my situation. The reality that I had lost something incredibly precious: the life I had always known.

The world would be a better place if we were all a little more like Natsume.

The world would be a better place if we were all a little more like Natsume.

Over the past year since my diagnosis, I have had to readjust to life as I know it. I have had to grieve the loss of a life that I took for granted. I have had to fight my way back to a new baseline of normalcy. And it has been the hardest thing I have ever done. So now, while I am not always ok, while I am not always at peace, while I still have days that I am angry, so very, very angry, I am better than I was a year ago. I am learning to cope. I am learning to be better. I am learning to be kinder to myself. I am learning how to face the possibility of my increasingly impaired future.

Motherfucking heroes and shit

Motherfucking heroes and shit

The combined impact of all of this now brings me to “Yuki Yuna is a Hero.” If you have been watching “Yuki Yuna is a Hero” then you know that it’s a magical girl show about the necessary and terrible sacrifices of heroism and the way friendship and love gives meaning to those sacrifices and that heroism. You also know that while this show started off gently, beautifully, with a muted pastel color palette that matched the gentleness of the day to day activities of our titular heroes, it has recently taken a darker turn. If you have been watching it, then you, like me, have been able to see all 5 girls—Yuna, Togo, Fu, Itsuki and Karin—grow into their responsibilities of being heroes while their bonds with each other intensify and deepen. We have watched the reality of their world test them in very real and horrifying ways, and we have learned the truth of that world together and with them.

And the truth of their world and their role in it is very simple: in order to be heroes, in order to save the gentle and beautiful world that they call their own, in order to use the immense powers that have been gifted to them to prepare them for this fight, they must sacrifice their bodies. Piece by piece, fight by fight, they must give themselves away, literally, for the greater good. They have been given an ultimate form, an ultimate power (just like in every other magical girl/shounen action show/anime with powers ever made) and every time they use this ultimate power, they will lose a part of themselves. At first, it’s something relatively minor. Togo loses hearing in her left ear, Yuna can longer taste anything, Itsuki can’t speak and Fu loses sight in her left eye. Karin is the one girl who does not use her ultimate form, and thus the one girl left unscathed. Not long after this though, they are introduced to another girl, an older hero, who has lost the ability to do anything other than lie in a hospital bed, gazing out at the world with her one good eye. This, we are told, is the very real cost of heroism: the total obliteration of the girl’s bodies. They are sacrifices, in the way that young girls are always sacrifices to deities and the greater good. They will lose everything, but they will be worshiped as gods and taken care of for the rest of their days.

All of the girls react accordingly, with Yuna the only girl who 100% accepts the responsibility of heroism and all of the terribleness that comes with it. Needless to say, some of the other girls, namely Togo, are not prepared to deal with the reality of their roles. Togo is so disgusted by this (and by an equally disturbing truth about the nature of the world itself) to such a degree that she decides the world must be destroyed to end this cycle of violence and sacrifice. This destruction leads to a dire, do or die situation, and all of the girls must decide to fight for the sake of each other and for the sake of this world.

#teamkarin

#teamkarin

This leads to Karin—a character who prior to her introduction to the other girls had no friends and no greater reason to fight other than that’s what she was told she had to do, a girl who has learned the ultimate value of her life through suddenly creating bonds with people who love her and that she loves in return—making the decision to fight for the sake of her beloved friends no matter the cost. And the cost is immense. As she fights a series of enemies, again and again she enters this ultimate state, each time visibly losing the use of a different body part. First it’s an arm, then a leg, then the other leg, then everything until she is rendered paralyzed, deaf and blind. The cost of her heroism, of her sacrifice, is a fate worse than death.

Now, you might be wondering how my earlier admission of chronic illness and Karin’s fate relate to one another. What I can tell you is that while I watched this scene unfold, while I watched her body be slowly taken from her, a creeping dread set in. I began to feel so overwhelmed, so devastated by this loss of mobility and person-hood that my stomach clenched like a fist while tears came to my eyes. Repeatedly, I found myself talking to my screen, saying “Stop”.

“Please stop.”

“Please don’t do this.”

“Please.”

Because I know what it is like to lose control over your body. I know what it is like to have the use of your body impeded and/or taken from you. Karin’s loss, even though she chose that loss and I did not choose mine, resonated with me on a much deeper and more personal level than I had anticipated. It has forced me to confront in a very real way many of the fears that my own illness inspires within me. On my worst days I have a very deep seated fear that over time, through this illness, my mobility, my person-hood, my body, will be eroded and destroyed, leaving me a shell of my former self, leaving me dependent upon people who love me more than I think I deserve. This fear keeps me awake at night. Now, I have fought to overcome this fear and with the help of family, friends and an excellent therapist, and every day I get closer to moving past it. “Yuki Yuna is a Hero” and Karin’s choice in particular, while it brings that fear to the surface, brings with it hope. Hope that I can always be stronger, that I can always be better, and that I can always learn to cope with the many vagaries and iniquities that life brings to us. I have hope that life has meaning beyond what I know now, that there is meaning in the bonds I share with others, that there is meaning to this illness. And while not perfect, this is perhaps my own personal conception of what heroism means to me: The ability to look at all that has been taken from me, and balance it against that which has been gifted to me, and realize that those gifts outweigh what has been lost. Like all of the girls in “Yuki Yuna is a Hero” have come to learn, the only thing that can be done is to keep moving forward with those that you love at your side, one step at a time.

I want to believe that Karin and myself, that all of us and the anime characters that we love can find the good in the world and in our lives. I want to believe that our personal sacrifices matter. I want to believe that we can all make peace with the consequences of our particular situations. This is one of the greater lessons that anime has the capacity to teach: that the world is good, that it is even better when we are good to each other and when we face whatever comes together. It is one of the many reasons why anime matters and why it has power. It is one of the main reasons I continue to turn to it and find solace in it throughout the many phases and turns that my life has taken. It is why I believe all of us come back to it again and again. It is a mirror that shows us our (maybe only slightly) better selves. It can give us a glimpse of a better future, a better world.

So tonight, let’s be a little kinder to ourselves and each other. Let’s be a little more understanding. Let’s be like Karin and all the girls of the Hero Club and find the greater good in ourselves and in each other. Let’s keep moving forward, together, even if there is fear in our hearts and tears in our eyes, because maybe one day if we try hard enough, there won’t be.

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Annnnnnnnd We’re Back!

19 Oct

By: Stephanie Weirich

Too sexy?  Or just sexy enough?

Too sexy? Or just sexy enough?

Well hello there friends! Hisashiburi and and all that jazz, yeah? Did you think I left you all alone to fend for yourselves out there on the mean streets of anime otakudom? Well I didn’t! I would never do that to you because we’re a family and I love you.

So what happened? Well, to put it mildly, life happened. And by life I mean a bout with a pretty serious illness that culminated in a hospital stay which the best part of was the primo painkillers the nurses regularly shot me up with. Other than that, I can safely assure you that it was one of the worst experiences of my life. But that’s all (mostly) done and I am happy to get back to what I love most: writing about anime on the internet for all of you lovely folks!

What do I have planned, you may be asking? I plan on writing about a show that’s currently airing and I can safely assure you that that show will be Kill la Kill. Why? BECAUSE IT’S BANANAS AND I LOVE IT. I LOVE EVERYTHING ABOUT IT. It’s like having a pinball covered in brightly colored tits and swords ricocheting through my brain and if that’s not everything you’ve ever wanted in an anime series then I can’t help you.

Just like this, but with more breasts.

Just like this, but with more breasts.

I’m currently working on the first piece about this show, so expect to have that beaming straight into your greedy eyeballs very soon! I’m also watching some older shows, so hopefully I’ll have some longer pieces about all of that goodness ready to go in the coming weeks as well.

Until then folks, matta ne!

Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes!

24 Jul

By: Stephanie Weirich

Keep this in mind while reading this post

Keep this in mind while reading this post

Hey guys!  How are you?  Me?  I’m GREAT!  Why?  Well, that’s part of what I’m going to talk to you about RIGHT NOW.

As you may have noticed, I have not posted anything this week as I promised.  I apologize for this delay; however, I have a really excellent reason for that.  I was waiting to see how something was going to pan out because it would directly effect Anime Tantrums.  Now that thing has happened and I am so excited to finally tell you about it.

For the foreseeable future, I will be writing anime reviews and list articles for the up and coming entertainment website Sofa King News! You can head over there right now and read the first piece I’ve written for them (also, stick around and check out the other stuff that’s been written as it’s totally worth it)!  I am so happy to be a part of this site.  It’s run by some very talented and passionate people and I am thrilled to add my voice to the mix.

So what, you might be asking, does this mean for Anime Tantrums?  Let me assure you that this site will remain here and will continue to be updated.  I have no intention of stopping what I do here.  But going forward, all episode reviews for currently running shows will be exclusive to Sofa King News.  When a new one goes up, I’ll post the link here so that you know shit is GOING DOWN.  I will also do this for any list articles I write for them.

This means that I am free to do with Anime Tantrums what I have wanted to do all along: write high quality, in depth analysis of past series and other Japanese pop culture phenomena.  My ultimate goal for this site is to get to the point where if you’re looking for pieces that deeply and critically think about anime and what it means to the Japanese, as well as taking a very academic look at culture and society as it relates to anime that’s written in an engaging and conversational manner then this is where you go.

I am hoping to be able to give you guys a tasty treat every week, ideally on Fridays, but definitely at some point over the weekend.  Depending on the complexity of the piece I’m working on and the research involved, it may end up being every other week.  But if that’s the case, I’ll pop in and let you know there’s a delay.

This means that this weekend I PROMISE you will be seeing the final wrap up of Aku no Hana (I am totally, completely, deadly serious this time).

That’s it for now.  Thank you, as always, for reading.  Thank you for sticking with me, and I hope you’ll check out Sofa King News and keep coming back here for the longer pieces I’m going to write.  I’ve got some really great stuff lined up that I’m excited for you all to read!

Until then, matta ne!

Let’s Begin

21 Apr

By: Stephanie Weirich

Welcome, dear reader, to my humble corner of the internet. As you may have realized from the title of this blog, this here is the place for all things anime. If you’re into that sort of thing, awesome, welcome, lets bro down hard. If you’re not, it’s probably best to click away as fast as you can. Because it’s about to get SWEATY in here.

So sweaty it sparkles.

So sweaty it sparkles.

What if you’re into anime, but you’ve been looking for a certain type of fan page. Something a little more serious. Insightful. Thoughtful. Maybe you’re looking for someone who takes anime (perhaps) entirely too seriously. Well great, because that’s me! What exactly does that mean, and by extension, what exactly will this blog feature, you might be asking. And I’m so glad you are, because I am dying to tell you.

I am not here to wax poetic about pantsu and fanservice. I am not here to expound upon the virtues of moe and tsundere. I am not a weeaboo. I am not here to be a pretentious, poisonous and dismissive dick. I’m not here to be one of those fucking guys that you meet at every con. What I am here to do is to gush expansively, passionately and at times in a very long winded manner about one of the things I love the most in this beautiful little world. I take anime, as an art form and an artistic medium, very seriously. And I think (hope) that you do (will) too if you’re
still reading this.

Allow me to give you some background on myself and my intentions for this blog. I’ve been watching anime since I was a teenager and all we really had to choose from was Pokemon and Dragonball. The first series I watched in its entirety was Evangelion (natch). The series that got me hooked was Naruto. At least the 120 or so episodes of Naruto (Sasuke. It was all about Sasuke). After that, I had a hunger. A deep seated craving. And the only thing that could sate it was MOAR ANIME. I watched everything I could get my hands on. Every genre. Every level of quality. Never ending shonen shows and short and sweet shojo love stories. Whole 26 episode series went down in a matter of days and then it was on to the next. I devoured it all and never fully digested any of it. Such is what happens at the beginning of any intense fandom.

But at some point, I slowed down. I started to pay attention. I started to read about the history of this medium. I started to learn more and more about Japan and the strong cultural mores that had played an integral role in creating this thing that I loved. It is no exaggeration for me when I say that anime is what led to my long standing love of Japan. I think most of us feel that way deep down, and I think most of us are grateful to have found this art form.

What’s even more insane is that anime is ultimately what compelled me to live in Japan. The more I learned, the more I knew I didn’t know and the more I knew I had to know. And I knew that the only way I was ever going to know what I needed to know was if I went and lived in Japan. So I applied to the JET Program, got in, and then I went and lived in a rural town on the island of Kyushu for 2 years and taught English to a mess of Japanese kids. While living there and watching anime, so many things clicked. So many cultural cues that I had missed, moments and sayings that didn’t make sense were suddenly crystal clear through the very experience of living within the context of it all. I realized that there were so many things that the creators of these series were saying; they had infused their work with so many subtle and at times incendiary themes and cues that I had never noticed prior to directly experiencing the culture that had produced those themes. There was frustration and anger, helplessness and existential crises transpiring in these technicolor wonders.

I suddenly understood why Shinji was such a whiny bitch. I also understood why his father felt the need to force his only son to sit inside of the mutated and re-appropriated DNA monster that was once his mother. I understood why so many shows focused on the idea of an outsider becoming one with the larger group. Why so many exceptional characters tried so hard to downplay their exceptionalism. In short, I felt like I had gone Super Saiyan.

Now get inside of your mother and fight the monsters for your Papa.

Now get inside of your mother and fight the monsters for your Papa.

So to answer the question of what this blog will be about, there’s your answer. I want to share these experiences. I want to wax ecstatic about all of the many layered things that are being said in these shows that we love. I want to peel back those layers and show you what’s hidden. I want to deeply and critically analyze anime. And I want you to come along for the ride.

Won’t you?

If you answered yes, here’s the timeline of what I’m going to do. Each new anime season I’m going to cherry pick the shows I want to watch. I’m going to do write ups of the first couple of episodes that I watch. I’m then going to decide which ones to go all the way with. The write ups for these shows will continue, because I’m a giving lover. While doing this, I’m also going to go back and revisit many of my favorite shows and write gloriously long winded critical interpretations of them. It’s going to be just like upper division college courses, only nerdier!
So get ready to have your socks knocked on your ass! It’s anime tantrum time!