On Completing the Kanto Dex

When I got Pokemon: Let’s Go Eevee last year, I wrote that it was everything I’ve ever wanted in a Pokemon game. It allowed me to pick a non-traditional starter (in this case an Eevee) and allowed me to dress it up like a pet and let me dress up a character that got to be a younger version of myself as I was doing the Kanto run. Longtime readers will know that I have played almost every Pokemon game that has come out except for a few of the fighting tournament ones and the one weirder JRPG one that I don’t think any American played. And if you have been reading the blog for a while, you also know that I am an avid Pokemon Go player and one of the things I’ve especially loved about Let’s Go is its integration with Pokemon Go. That integration comes in the form of a very clever little feature that allows you to transfer Pokemon over from the mobile game to the console game. And since I’ve logged too many damn hours in playing Pokemon Go and a nearly questionable amount of hours playing Let’s Go, I’m about to hit a milestone. I am one Pokemon away from finishing up the original Kanto Pokedex.

Now, I’m giving myself a pass on two Pokemon since Let’s Go comes out during a strange time in Pokemon History with well over 800 Pokemon and that pass I’m giving myself is Meltan and Melmetal. I don’t need them for the Pokedex and they take too much effort to evolve. I’ll get there just not today.

Let’s back up for those who have not managed to sink two decades into the Pokemon franchise. The PokeDex or Pokemon Index keeps a tally of all the Pokemon you’ve seen and/or captured during your journey. Each new region in the Pokemon world has their own Dex and completing the Dex is one of the ultimate goals of the franchise. It’s given to you early in your Pokemon journey and shows you how far you’ve come or how far you still have to go on your quest.

I’m competitive. Most people who know me know that. But on a first glance, I don’t come off as a very competitive person. This is mostly mitigated because I play a lot of games by myself. It’s hard to be outwardly competitive when it’s about beating your personal best and the few games that I do play with others tend to be more friendly. It’s one of the reasons why the boys (Ricky and Carlos) and I like Pokemon so much. Even though there is a bit of friendly competition, of course there is, it’s more about helping each other, supporting each other and talking about the game with each other. That was especially true during our run of Pokemon X/Y and Carlos’ fervor to complete the Pokedex had its benefits, I got Pokemon I wanted while still playing the game at my pace. Here’s a funny thing about me. I tend to rush. I am very goal-oriented. My goal when I play Pokemon is to be the very best and that means completing the main story. During my Kalos run, I beat the main story in less than 24 hours and I missed a lot of side quests and caught only the Pokemon I wanted and that I thought were cute and/or useful to me. But I didn’t mind that because it wasn’t like I’d never return to the game again. Since then I’ve logged over 200 hours in the Kalos region and have explored many small homes, trash cans and skated around not-France France while flirting with a very hot regional professor.

Carlos was determined to complete the Kalos Dex as he had not played a Pokemon game since Hoenn but I was content to spoil my Fennekin and enjoy all the clothes I could buy. We just play the game differently and there’s no wrong way to play. One of the benefits of Carlos’ desire to be the very best was the occasional message where he’d offer up a legendary or a shiny because through extensive trades he had a surplus of legendaries for some reason.

But it’s just never been my primary concern to finish the PokeDex especially as the number of Pokemon ballooned from a daunting 150/151 to now well over 800. I’m content to collect the Pokemon I want and keep the ones I like and the rest of the Dex be damned. Especially because most of the games now have many game-locked types of Pokemon from game specific legendaries to different types of Pokemon entirely based on which one of the game you get. Fortunately, between me and the boys, we typically have each variant game covered so if someone really wants a particular Pokemon, there is a friend who likely has it.

But with all the hours I have logged in Pokemon Go I have amassed quite the collection of Pokemon and the ability to transfer from the app to the game I was able to fill in many of the gaps I have in the PokeDex from my race to be the Pokemon League Champion.

It actually took me a while to sync up my app to my console version of the game. I was having fun running around playing with my Eevee and exploring the very familiar nostalgic region that is Kanto: where many of us started our Pokemon journey decades ago.

It was when I finally did start to sync some Pokemon in that I realized that I was very close to finishing up the coveted Kanto Pokedex. Something I have not done, well, to be honest: ever. I for sure didn’t care about catching them all when I was 6 and by the time I was more serious about the games around the time Crystal and Ruby/Sapphire came out, a Dex of a few hundred seemed daunting and like a challenge. It took a few transfers to really make me understand that I was very close to doing something that was quite a challenge.

So by the time you’re reading this post, I’m likely tormenting a Goldeen because Seaking is the last one I need after I move one Mew over (that’s why it doesn’t count in the tally: I already have the Mew).

And that eagerness to finish the Dex, finish the list, be the best has been thrilling. I feel like it’s an accomplishment. At the end, you get a little certificate for finishing the Dex and the thought of having a little set of pixels that said I did something is a pretty powerful motivator.

I’m not delusion. I know this is a game made for children but I’m genuinely excited. Every time this dumb fish Pokemon gains a level, I’m one step closer to my goal. One step closer to a goal 20 years in the making and a bond decades old with Pokemon and me.

I’m on my way to being the very best like no one ever was and I couldn’t be happier about it.

Return of the Hype

Man, it feels good to be the king.

Finally, after the summer that hype died, I finally know what it feels like once to be pandered to. My patience has paid off. Now I get to have my time in the sun. Today I want to talk about how I have been vindicated and all by a special anime announcement.

I’ve gone on record saying that Kou Yoneda’s Twittering Birds Never Fly is on my recommended reading list to better understand me as a complex human person. And it’s one of my favorite boy’s love mangas of all time. And after the summer where hype had left me, I found that I quickly retreated to things that made me feel alive. Twittering Birds Never Fly was one of those series I took refuge in and I continued to fawn over the brilliant artwork, complex storytelling and excellent pacing. Here’s a brief synopsis: Yashiro is the boss of a rather lucrative yakuza group and he is…complex. He has pent up feelings from a crush he’s had since high school on top of a sex drive that would make most hosts blush. Emotionally, he’s pretty calm, you never really know what he’s feeling as he often will say rather cruel things with a smile. Yashiro finds himself smitten over his new bodyguard, Doumeki, who is pretty aloof and pretty cold but rather quickly expresses feelings for the handsome Yashiro. Yashiro wants nothing more than to sleep with his bodyguard but Doumeki confesses that he is in fact impotent. The series covers plenty of twists and turns, emotional highs and lows and lots of yakuza action as well as a love story that makes sure you feel every ounce of tension between the characters. The cast is actually fairly large, you meet plenty of other yakuza bosses and plenty of underlings but no one is a waste of space or is just a filler character. I could honestly write an entire blog post on just how much I love this series but I want to highlight a particular point: the series is problematic but there’s a few things that save it; what saves it is context and reward.

Yashiro is a garbage person and I’m not going to fight anyone who dislikes this series’ strange obsession with sexual violence and the cesspool that is literally every character. Really, there’s only a couple of characters that you can “look to” for relief one of them being Yashiro’s childhood crush, Kageyama and Yashiro’s underling, Nanahara, and really that’s it? Everyone else is pretty terrible but it is a series about gangsters so abandon all hope ye who enter here. But for every act of violence, every cruel sexual act, every crass line is framed in a way that does not reward terrible characters and without giving too much away, no one really gets off easy when they do something terrible. I can respect that this is a bitter pill to swallow narratively but no one gets rewarded for being a monster and that’s what makes it so much easier to digest this series for me. It was, in fact, the darker storyline that really related to me. Longtime blog readers will know that my childhood and teen years were a little less than sugarplums and rainbows so I don’t always relate well to candy-coated stories: I can relate to Yashiro’s background of abuse, pain and wanting to run away from feeling anything negative and thus sinking into hedonism.

But considering that I was one of five people in the U.S. to read this series, I never held out much hope that it would get an anime. In fact, I had done a few fan casting moments with friends. I had picked Daisuke Namikawa for Yashiro and Kazuhiko Inoue for Doumeki because of course I did.  But oh I was wrong that no one would be willing to animate this wonderful manga. Blue Lynx decided to take a chance and have animated this series and I was over the damn moon. When I saw the mangaka tweet about the pilot, I nearly cried. The animated teaser was so fluid and so beautiful and seeing the lines from the first volume of the manga come to life with brilliant color just made my heart sing. So that’s what color Yashiro’s suit is. That’s what Doumeki sounds like. That’s what the city looks like and Yoneda-sensei’s art style lends so well to being animated. She has a mastery of lines, proportions and design and it looks almost like someone just filled in the manga pages with color.

And that’s not all. An anime means merch and after the pandering that came with the summer that hype died, now I get to feel what it’s like to be pandered to. Yashiro and Doumeki dressed as 1920s American Gangsters? Sold. Want to see Yashiro and Doumeki dressed like they’re going to the beach? Done. Want to see side stories, omake, hear Drama CDs and see promotional art? You are in luck. It’s wonderful to see one of my favorite series of all time all over my social media feed. It’s wonderful to hear people talk about a manga that when I mentioned it, no one else seemed to know about. It’s wonderful to feel hype for once. I want to see how they’ll adapt certain parts of the manga, how they’ll tackle certain issues. Will things change? Will they stay the same? Oh the suspense is killing me, I hope it never stops.

I was worried that the hype center of my brain had died, that I had lost something, that I would never be excited for something again. But no, dear reader, I’m not broken: just bored. And now, I have something to look forward to, something to set my sights on, something to look forward to and talk about, study, and discuss.

I can’t wait for this anime to really get started. And it feels so good to be excited about anime once more.

The Legend of Gendou.Com

In 2006, I made a choice that would change the course of my life. I joined the website Gendou.com.

For those who don’t know what Gendou is, it’s a website that was at its height, the premiere place to find music from anime. Anime has always tended towards having fantastic music and unless you’re in Japan or had friends in Japan, during the early 2000s, it was nearly impossible to find this kind of stuff. Gendou was a site that allowed users to upload music, add lyrics and organize music files.

Gendou has two features outside of the huge library of music and that was radio: a radio station hosted by different DJs and a chatroom.

I don’t think I entered the chatroom until 2007. And when I was I was suddenly no longer alone. Let me give you a little primer on what it meant to be an anime fan back then. Sure, there were fans everywhere but it certainly was not popular. I had my anime club, sure, but I knew very few people in the real world that loved anime as much as I did. Gendou was full of people who loved anime just as much as I did. And more importantly, I could be myself, a truer version of myself. It was on Gendou that I got comfortable working through male pronouns and nouns, something that’s stuck around with me. Gendou helped me form better arguments when it came to anime as far as what I liked and what I didn’t like. Gendou also gave me a place to go that was relatively safe. My home life was a little less than ideal back then and thus I was able to be myself in a safe space surrounded by people who knew what I liked.

The chatroom was diverse, I cannot impress that upon you all enough. We regularly had dozens of chat regulars from all over the world: we learned each others time zones, we learned each others languages. I became a chat regular along with names that are still etched into my memory: Chaotic, HT, Holkers, Eng, Emi, Kiba, Lat, Yat, Stel, Risa  and so so many more. In time, I became a moderator for the chat, keeping away the dreaded all caps and preventing things from becoming a massive cesspool and with more devotion I became a DJ. Being a DJ brings us to the radio station part of Gendou. DJs could host radio which was often a mix of music they were listening to. The few times I ran music radio was a good mix of what I was into at the time so pretty much any big shonen anime and probably half of the Gravitation OST. But not all DJs did radio. For a while, I did talk radio which lead to one of the most infamous moments of my life. I had returned to my dorm room in college and I had consumed entirely too many Monster Energy Drinks as I celebrated Fiesta with the rest of San Antonio. I started hosting radio and hosted with one friend: Lat for about two hours before another friend, HT tagged in. HT and I are in the same time zone and we just started talking. We answered questions, talked about what we were watching, gave advice about long-distance relationships and before I knew it, I looked out of my dorm room window and asked: “Is that the sun?” HT replied: “Yes, yes it is.” I remember blinking and looking to my Skype call window that had been open for hours now and asked “Have we been hosting radio all night?” to which my co-host replied. “Yes, we’ve been hosting radio all night.” I told my co-host that I was going to bed and he said that sleep was a good idea. That’s how effortless radio felt.

And chat remained that effortless for years. When my beloved fish of twenty-four hours, Szayel, passed away, the chat header was changed to reflect my loss. We rallied around each other, supported each other. The girls insulated each other from the advances of creepy boys: it’s why so many of the girls with accounts had gender neutral or even male presenting names.

And we didn’t stop there, many of us had become friends for decades and some of us even decided to meet. It met with a friend Wurm who I now know as Carlos. We met online years ago and in 2010 decided to meet in real life. We’ve been friends ever since. We took our friendship offline and moved into a real friendship and he is now one of the most important people in my life. That can be said for Risa, for Kiba, for Eng, for HT, for Chao and Stel and Flora and Lo and Zuru. In fact, last year a lot of us met up because you should never give up on your dreams of meeting your online friends.

When I met Risa in real life for the first time, we naturally picked up a conversation that we had just started online while she was traveling. I’m not sure which one of us said it but the comment was thrown out “It’s like we’ve known each other for years.” and one of us did reply “Well, we have.” Many of us have grown up together, many of us have now been friends for easily over ten years. Gendou was my safe place, my family, my community, my people. They were family when I needed it, friends when I felt alone and support when I was scared. And all from a website built to house anime music.

Now, Gendou is not what it used to be. The chat always had some in fighting and recent mod changes have left the community fractured. There’s really three phases of Gendou and I was part of the Gloriana phase unto really its functional end. As the software that kept the chat going phased out, so did the chat. Eventually, the place that became a home for so many became empty. Though there’s one host who still does radio regularly (Shin) and one day I plan to join Shin and host radio at least one more time.

Fortunately, many of us had found ways to reach other outside of Gendou be it Facebook or Twitter or Skype. I don’t think I’ve lost many people from Gendou’s decline that I would truly miss having in my life. I think that speaks to the strength of the bonds made there.

And now with these people I met on the internet, we no longer use screen names but human names. We talk about our problems, our successes, our hopes and dreams: just like we always have. We’ve all matured together, grown together, been there for each other and I know I have been changed for the better because I knew them.

It warms my heart when I still get called by my old SN or and now we do regular calls when we can and sometimes it almost matches the frantic energy of a busy chat room. We’re all older now. Some have families now. Most of us have office jobs now but there’s one thing that connects us all: we’re all Gendounians; now and forever.


Le Critique S’Ennuie

It started in a fairly innocuous manner. It started with a friend of mine (who is younger than me [yes, that matters]) and I started an anime together after I had spent our time together recommending shows that I watch and it ended with a show that neither of us had watched but both have heard of: Food Wars. Now, this anime started out with plenty of promise, the animation was really pretty and the opening reminded me of many of the other shonen series that got me to sell my soul to anime to begin with and before we go to deep in this, this is because the last of the nice things I have to say about this anime. If this is your show: I’m not here to bash you but I know that I can and am probably going to for the remainder of this post sound like an old man yelling at a cloud. Just because I don’t have nice things to say about a show doesn’t mean that I don’t have nice things to say about you.

So back to Food Wars. I’ve run out of nice things to say about this series as far as episode one goes. The plot seems to be yet another “hard/challenging school” plot and the main character seems as bland as wallpaper. Now, I’m an old smut peddler, but typically one doesn’t go full tentacle until episode five and the idea that food can remove clothing, induce orgasm and make boobs grow is just…well, I’m tired, okay? I sat mostly quiet and tried to write while my friend sat and processed the nonsense on the screen and when she looked at me to ask if it was okay to change it I said “No, you’ll never learn unless you really sit and realize your mistake.” I was kidding, of course, but when it comes to anime, you have to sift through plenty of nonsense to find a gem but what matters more is what we watched after we had finished with Food Wars. We watched InuYasha, one of the first anime that really had turned me into someone willing to go to bat for glorious Nihon. And as we watched the opening my friend said something that made me really give thought to a feeling I’ve had for a few years now. She said “There’s been more story in this opening sequence than the entire first episode of Food Wars.” and she wasn’t wrong. We weren’t even very far into InuYasha. I chose episode six: because of course I did. And she was not wrong, in the minute and a half or so of opening, you get so much more of a feel for the anime that is to come rather than just mindless technicolor fanservice. And we had even watched an anime before Food Wars that had plenty of technicolor fanservice in the form of Space Dandy.

Her comment really struck me because recently I’ve had a bit of a crisis of faith. I can say I’m an anime fan but really, there hasn’t been an anime in a few years that has done much for me if we ignore the fact that DevilMan: Crybaby turned me into a puddle of goo and misery and I still watch Free! because of course I do. I haven’t really had any positive things to say about newer anime, especially newer shonen, which is my bread and butter. It was shonen anime that got me through some of the darkest parts of my life and now when I watch what the youths are: I’m just disappointed. I gave My Hero Academia about five episodes before I bailed because it was boring. Sword Art Online is just a rehash of plenty of other isekai anime that have never done much for me. Attack on Titan takes itself too seriously for being as trash as it is and Yuri On Ice is just Gravitation with less plot and more skating. And before you all get your indignant pencils out and say:

Well, you’re watching anime meant for children.

Hello, and welcome to my blog, Strawman #5. There are episode of Fullmetal Alchemist that can still make me feel all the power I need and desire to follow Roy Mustang into my eventual death and Avengers: Endgame made me cry for about two hours in a theater. I may be an old soul but my heart knows no bounds for what I love.

But these series feel hollow to me. They feel cheap to me. If I wanted to watch a cheap knock-off of an anime I love, I’d just watch the series they’re clearly ripping off. Why watch discount Naruto when I can just watch Naruto?

And this feeling has been with me for a while now as I continue to panel. Before panel season really starts, I go on a little binge because the anime the children are watching are the anime I get asked on and increasingly as I try and watch newer shows, I’m forced to come up against this wall of miserable mediocracy.

They’re all so painfully average and none of them have been able to get me really as thrilled about anime, animation or the characters as the shows I grew up were able to do in an episode of less. I remember watching Space Dandy and within moments being absolutely sold on the premise, characters and all and I was well into my twenties when that show was given a dubbed release. It can’t just be my age because as I mentioned with Devilman: Crybaby I was exactly as many years old I was last year and I was pretty sold from jump. So it isn’t just an issue of “I want the backwards comic books to make me feel like I did when I was a kid.” I find a lot of newer shows devoid of passion, devoid of grit, devoid of stakes or consequences and honestly, I have an even bigger issue with newer anime.

I have seen an anime before.

One of the most tragic but also freeing things I can think of when it comes to how I feel about modern anime is this:

This isn’t for me.

And:

If this was my first (insert genre here), then I’d love it.

And this is very true. If MHA hit me at the same time Naruto had then dammit I’d be all over class 2-A and yelling “Plus Ultra!” from the rooftops. But it didn’t.

That feeling came up when watching Food Wars. I’m old now. I’ve heard boob sound effects for twenty years. Fanservice doesn’t do much for me unless it’s pretty meta (like Space Dandy) and none of the gimmicks are new to me. It’s another challenging school anime like the fifteen or so I’ve grown up with.

Ennui is described as a feeling of listlessness or boredom that comes from a lack of stimulation and truly, it’s the best way to describe how I feel with modern anime.

That doesn’t mean it’s bad, it just means I’m old now. And here is a point I cannot stress enough. Without giving away my age, you need to understand what I was watching when I came into anime.

My love of anime began when I was six years old with Dragonball. I didn’t know what it was but on the screen in front of me I saw a kid with a monkey tail punch a pterosaur out of the sky while riding a cloud and then cook and eat the dinosaur. I was hooked and from there moved on to Dragonball Z, Sailor Moon, Cardcaptors, Pokemon and the like.

I fell out of anime a bit as a kid but rejoined in full force with YuYu Hakusho and One Piece.

As twelve I was willing to give up all of myself to Splendid Nihon and grew up with InuYasha, Cyborg 009, Big O, Case Closed, Lupin III, Trigun and Cowboy Bebop. I got these anime during formative years of my life.

At fourteen I got to watch Fullmetal Alchemist, Wolf’s Rain, Death Note and by sixteen I had Bleach, Naruto and Ouran High School Host Club. By the time I left high school I had Antique Bakery, Gravitation and too many other series I cannot list here because I would simply run out of time.

I cannot impress to you enough that I was formed in the heart of the best of the best when it came to anime and at the height of power for dubbing in America. I was forged by fire when it came to fangating, gatekeeping and the height of fanfiction and the rise of online communities.

I am a fan forged in darkness, smut and shipping. I grew into anime with the best of the best.

So please forgive me when I sound a little callous. A little jaded. A little cynical. A little elitist.

I have been at this for a long time and it takes a little more than just large boobs and a shiny paint coat to really make me go wild. I grew up in the shadow of giants, so you’re going to really have to show me what you’ve got when it comes to modern anime.