On Recent Events

Hello and greetings. Normally, this blog updates pretty regularly. I found a schedule that works for me but recently, that’s been a little hard to do. I promise I’ll get back to my usual schedule but it means going back to my content calendar and I don’t want to do that right now. So in the meantime, I’d like to cover a few things that have happened recently that struck me greatly and may not merit an entire blog post on their own but should be discussed.


The Burning of Notre Dame

I am a Francophile. I have been a Francophile for easily 10 years now. I am also a mostly proud Roman Catholic. I’ve gone on record saying that The Hunchback of Notre Dame may just be my favorite Disney movie. Needless to say, I watched like many did, in utter horror and grief as the Notre Dame Cathedral burned in Paris. I don’t have many moments where I express grief over buildings. Buildings are merely of stone but Notre Dame, this felt personal even though I am an American who has never seen her edifice in real life. I felt like I lost something as I watched the church burn but was inspired by seeing Parisians standing and singing untied as they watched their church burn: the very heart of Paris may have been wounded but what survived was truly inspirational to see. I was at the same time incredibly disappointed by those who quickly made jokes and memes about the fire, truthfully, I haven’t been able to listen to any of the songs from the Disney movie as they come across my phone’s music player as the themes of church, fire and hell are all a little too close to home now. I’m also disappointed at those who have taken this time to take a shot at the Catholic Church and while sure, I cannot say the Church is free of sin, but this is literally too soon. But I cannot quite express to you all, dear reader, how I sat and watched the live stream of the church burning and trembled in impotent, indignant horror wishing, hoping, longing that we could do more though no more could indeed be done. I also cannot express to you the hope I felt seeing that the Rose Windows had not in fact burned. I know Notre Dame will heal, I know Paris will heal, I know we will heal but that doesn’t mean that I did not grieve.

Monkey Punch’s Passing

I’ve mentioned that Lupin III may be one of the most influential series to me in my entire 20 year dedication to anime and manga. So when I found out that the creator of the series, most known by his pen name of Monkey Punch, passed away at the age of 81; I felt like I had lost a grandparent. And while his beloved series will continue to live on much longer than any of us, I can’t help but want to take a moment or two to really give this man the credit he deserves for creating characters that really cemented my love of anime and manga. I have always been enamored by his incredibly distinct style, it was in fact how stylized and interesting that all of the characters in Lupin’s world looked that really got me into manga and anime. The first run of the series was always quite stylish and campy, the humor really did sizzle back then and the adventures though a little silly and at times damn near ridiculous are now long-standing tropes in anime. If you’ve ever heard me lament about how little newer series do for me then it comes down to the fact that from the start of my journey was during the height of quality when it comes to anime coming into the United States. Sorry, kids. It’s why I don’t like your Dekus or your Borts. It’s because I got to have Lupin III as one of my first anime crushes.

I’m aware that as I get older and these mangaka will that I grew up idolizing will die and I too like so many will have to bury my heroes. But for now, I’ve only had to bury one. So rest easy, Kazuhiko Katō-sensei. I am eternally grateful for your creation.


This was something different. If you would like for me to comment on things more topically, please let me know. I’ve been curious about this format for a while and now with the current implosion of my content calendar, I’ve had the chance to truly explore things that are more topical. Thank you for being patient with me; I have some new and exciting posts coming up soon.

Unfortunately Required Reading: Episode 10- Their Eyes Were Watching Halle Berry

In which hosts Tori and Amanda talk about dual-consciousness, the misery of having to slay a rabid lover and Zora Neale Hurston’s fantastic book: Their Eyes Were Watching God.

https://anchor.fm/unfortunately-required/episodes/Their-Eyes-Were-Watching-Halle-Berry-and-the-Case-of-the-Missing-Audio-e3r0h5/a-adn3mf

Unfortunately Required Reading- Episode 9: Furry Mr. Nihilist

In which Tori and Amanda try and wrap their minds around existential dread, misery, a furry angst ball in the woods and stomach down spicy mead.

https://anchor.fm/unfortunately-required/embed/episodes/Furry-Mr–Nihilism-e3fnm2

Unfortunately Required Reading- Episode 8: A Scandinavian Warrior Walks Into a Mead Hall

In which we discuss Beowulf and enjoy mead a little too much.

Unfortunately Required Reading- Episode 7: A Really Shitty Island Vacation

In which Tori and Amanda discuss Wide Sargasso Sea and figure out the best way to drink a cocktail made of mostly rum.

https://anchor.fm/unfortunately-required/embed/episodes/A-Really-Shty-Island-Vacation-e37o7b

Unfortunately Required Reading- Episode 6: EyreBnB

In which hosts Tori and Amanda get port drunk and complain about Mr. Rochester.


https://anchor.fm/unfortunately-required/embed/episodes/Eyre-BnB-e35v3e

The Summer that Hype Died


I have not felt hype for a movie, anime, comic or video game the same way for a while. I have not since 2016. And after three years of trying to sort out my bitter disappointment and blind hatred I wanted to sit down and talk about hype culture, social media, and why I have not been able to be properly excited for a while now.

Before we dive in head first, let me say one thing. Mentally, I’m okay. It isn’t that I can’t get excited about things in media anymore. There’s still small things that have gotten me excited: new movie trailers, new comic book runs, new video games; there have been things that have managed to get me on the edge of my seat but that feeling is now almost immediately tempered due to either a strange sense of ennui or a fear that the hype will die like it did in 2016.

Before we talk about the summer that killed my hype, we need to discuss what was going on in 2016.

In 2016, I found myself unemployed for an extended period of time. Politically, the world was a mess. I was deeply involved with an emotionally abusive partner and had been coping with a very toxic friendship that had gone on for years. I had a paramor that I adored but would have to deal with pining over from a great distance and I had very little going for me in other regards. I was depressed, I was down on myself and I was probably at one of my lowest points emotionally, physically and spiritually.

It was a mess politically, too, considering the rise of a certain Mango Mussolini and damn Nazis returning like that isn’t a big deal.

2016 was a mess and then a little anime popped up and ruined damn near everything. That’s right kids, we’re going to talk about ice-skating, the death of criticism and the hype train.

No, I am not yet tired of my tsundere relationship with Yuri on Ice.

This anime. Gosh darnit this anime. The long of short of the plot is that Yuri is an anxiety-ridden ice skater who falls in love with the incredibly Russian ice skater, Victor; has a rival who is Russian and also way too damn good also named Yuri but different because Russia and thus conflict and love and romance and an utter lack of tension.

The anime is fine. And my feelings on it have cooled but no, we’re back in 2016. Let’s talk indignation.

This show was recommended to me by a close friend and they were PUMPED about this. Hooked from the opening before anyone spoke a line. I remember getting told to watch the series in a few frantic messages. And I had strong feelings for this friend so I was happy to oblige. They assumed it would make me feel better considering that I had melted into my sofa since I was unemployed and had nothing else going for me. I was told how amazing this show was and how much I’d love it even though there was only one episode out so far. So I watched the show after listening to it be praised for several minutes by someone I trusted dearly. We sat on a call together so my reactions could be recorded and occasionally, I was asked if I was enjoying the show or if I liked a scene or character.

On a first initial viewing: it was fine. Immediately, it gave me serious Gravitation vibes, a series that I love and adore but have seen before. It was fine. There were absolutely things I liked: Victor seemed to be pulled from all of my pretty boy dreams, Russian Yuri is amazing and is everything I want out of a rival and Yuri is…well, he’s doing his best. At first glance, I liked the show but it was nothing to write home about. And when I expressed a cooler response that wasn’t emphatic love or intense hatred, I was greeted by something rather cold. I was not willing to join the hype train. It would be one thing if the show gained no greater impact but no, no, I was wrong.

Everyone was talking about this anime.

Now, you’ve heard me mention before how much I despise the death of discourse. I think anime, comic books, television shows and more get better by being able to have conversations about them. And when I expressed my opinions about the show, I was met with mostly vitriol. That turned mild ambivalence into full on hatred.

But it did something else important: it made me feel broken.

Mind you, dear reader, I have been on the edge of my seat watching movie trailers. I have left films trembling with excitement. I am not one that usually has level-headed responses to things. Now, that does not mean that I cannot analyze things critically, it just means that I am one who gets excited by things I like.

But Yuri on Ice didn’t do anything for me that other anime hadn’t done better. I was much happier watching Free! or Gravitation or reading a Fumi Yoshinaga novel. The anime was fine and that answer to the internet and to those close to me who knew of the show was not an acceptable answer.

People wanted to claim this was the first, the best, the only and for me, an old anime fan, it just wasn’t. If I wanted to watch a show about a plain-looking kid with anxiety try and court an attractive Russian lamp, I’d write fanfiction. And while I’m happy to embrace the argument of old boy’s love being especially problematic, that does not erase its existence. Sure, Gravitation in hindsight is very problematic but if you want to talk about setting the tone for most idol animes to begin with, you have to look at Shuichi Shindou.

I felt like something bad had happened to me. Like something in my brain broke. And as I rewatched the show over and over again to try and find what in Kami-sama’s name I was missing, it only plunged me further into depression. This show was supposed to clear my acne, cure my depression, give me life and all it did was make me hate ice skating, anime and myself.

What followed was a summer that made me feel like I was defective in some way even though there was one anime that managed to make me feel everything I was apparently supposed to feel watching YoI. It was Hitorijime My Hero. But folks didn’t seem to want to talk about that one so I was left to deal with my love of the series in relative silence. And that was just fine by me.

In the fall of that year, a game I wanted to play more than anything came out: Pokemon Moon. Longtime readers will remember my very strong feelings about that game and the franchise but it was something that me and the squad were all looking forward to. And considering that some of us were down and out, the prospect of going on an adventure together was very alluring. But the game was a huge disappointment. It was too easy, the new mechanics made me angry, the story entirely lacked bite and while I adored Rowlet the rest of the game just left me wanting.

At least that time I felt a little less broken because others had expressed similar feelings to mine. But by the end of the fall, I felt hollow. I felt like something terrible had happened. That being down on my luck ruined something in me, had taken something from me, had broken me.

Fortunately, my tormented ended towards the end of the year but the lasting effects of The Summer of 2016 still linger. Now when asked about what I’m watching, what I’m reading or what I’m into I tend to give very stunted answers. I’m not willing to be vulnerable with those in that way that I don’t trust or know. Close friends get to hear me gush about movies I like or characters I’m fond of but in more normal conversation, you’re likely to hear a very blunt “It’s fine.” from me.

That summer was a pain, and thinking about it and reliving for the sake of this blog post exhausted me. But I wanted to talk about the summer that broke my mind, my heart and my expectations. Remember, you can love something and not think it’s perfect and there’s no reason to be cruel to someone who does not see things your way. At the end of the day, human connection is why I fell into fandom: not arguing falsely over an anime that had a more disappointing season two than Wolf’s Rain.

In Senpai I Trust

I take titles very seriously. I’m from a generation that took titles seriously. Things like writer, teacher, speaker and more were not meaningless. Which is why I found a particular aspect of Japanese culture and language that I liked I ran with it. I love suffixes. Using -san, -chan, -kun can say so much about a person and your relationship to them. While using -sama, -imoto, or -ototo also can speak volumes. Today I want to talk about three words I use a lot and why they mean so much to me: senpai, sensei and kouhai.

We’ll pause here to go over some grammar and vocabulary! In Japanese, suffixes follow a proper name. We’ll use my panel name as an example and use a suffix that people would know me as:

Aichi-san.

Y’all thought I was gonna use -sama. I can wait for that.  In the Japanese language, these suffixes stand in for words like: Mrs. Miss. Mister or Doctor. They can denote familiarity, respect, position or seniority.

Now for some vocabulary: for the sake of this post: we’ll focus on the three words I plan to elaborate more on.

Senpai: typically an upperclassman or person a year or to is slightly ahead of you in a career position.

Sensei: can be used to describe someone with superiority or seniority to you or an expert in their field.

Kouhai: a student or underclassman in school or a new employee in a company.

Longtime readers of the blog or attendees of my panels know that I use these words a lot. I am a proud senpai to many kouhai and I am a proud kouhai to my sepais and my sensei. I have made a chart to make things easier but here is the long and short of it. I am the senpai to my now former anime club members and a few others who have asked for me to guide them in the ways of conventions, cosplay and anime. I am in fact a kouhai to my three senpais and I have one sensei above all of them. Outlined it looked like this. I have my kouhai from my anime club and the ones I’ve gained now. I have my three senpais: Nancy, Patricia and Cris (who is no longer with us [that still feels weird to say]) and I have my one sensei: Jason. There is one disputed senpai: Jessica, who joined because she was a friend of Nancy.

I’ve even made a chart for you.


So why are we having this conversation? Well, at heart, I take titles seriously. I say that I am a writer not just because I write but because I went to the old fancy college to study ye olde book-learning. I say that I am a panelist because I regularly panel. I don’t just throw words around because without meaning, words are strange.

And I know many of my fellow…”fans” of Japanese culture (more on this soon) will throw these words around with a little less care (I know I’m generalizing, don’t sue me).

Here’s where I’ll explain myself. I won’t be that level of gatekeeper that every Japanese word must be handled with a great deal of respect: that’s why I’m going out of my way to say that this is just my connection to the word. I just know I’m a formalist and don’t go around throwing these words around.

Now, my connection to these words is of course rooted in anime and a love of Japanese culture. When I first met Nancy and Patricia and Cris, they were all I wanted to be as a fan, cosplayer, writer and more and I asked for them to take me under their tutelage.  

When I took over the anime club in college in a spectacular coup d’etat, I instilled in my club members that I wanted to be their guide to this world of media criticism, Japanese culture and anime. I showed them my competence and expertise and was humble when I didn’t know something. I was proud when they called me “senpai” and I was happy to call them “kouhai”. I took care of them. I made breakfast, I cooked lunches, I became a confidant and friend. And I learned so much from my kouhai who encouraged me to be less of a stick in the mud about newer anime and brought me out of my shell as I dealt with the loss of my mother.

And in turn, my senpais made me who I am now. Their kindness, empathy and skill inspire me, motivate me to be better. They are there for me when I am down and guide me when I have no idea what I am doing (which is more often than one would think).

I can still remember the night my longtime partner left me and I texted Nancy-senpai. She and another senpai of mine, Jessica came over immediately. They took me out to ensure that I ate because breaking up often means not eating human food in favor of hoping tears could provide nutritional value and cake frosting to mask the pain. They made sure I was okay. They checked on me. They took care of me and ensured that I was okay to go back to work before leaving me to my then solitary apartment.

I’ll tell another story because it feels appropriate to tell people just how close I am to my senpais. Cris was magnetic. Cris was an amazing panelist, cosplayer and a brilliant and patient soul. I regret that it took so long for us to get as close as we did. But Cris was to me the embodiment of what it meant to be a senpai. She was always there to listen and provide feedback that was so helpful. Before she died, one of the last conversations she had was to push me to try new things and new panels and at new conventions. She celebrated my success, she was proud of me and hearing her say she was proud of me may be one of the best parts of my existence and she was wonderful. She was smart, bright and wonderful and I miss her dearly.

I carry my title of senpai sacredly. Whenever I’m on stage, I do my best to be authority but also personable. I love it when people come up to give me hugs or tell me that my honesty helped them through a difficult time. I love being able to be not just a screeching harpy or a stern man yelling but someone who has learned and struggled and made mistakes. Every hug I give when I’m off the stage, every time I answer a message late or happily let my panels spill into the hallways after my set is done.

It isn’t just a power trip, it isn’t about ego: it’s about wanting to be the best person I possibly can be and wanting to share the knowledge I have and also wanting desperately to be better and constantly improve.

My senpais and my sensei are more than just friends to me. And my kouhai mean the world to me and I will defend them with my life.

It’s a sacred sort of bond. A title given and earned. It’s a strange sort of relationship; the purest expression of how found families work. It’s done with love and trust and passion. It’s late phone calls, early messages and maintaining relationships because anything worth having is worth working for.

That’s what these words mean to me.