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Community college years
College was not an easy transition for me. Like many people, I had difficulty adjusting to a new place, new schedule, new people… new. The fights and tension with my close friends towards the end of high school led to us going our separate ways by the time college began, or at least shortly after.
My first semester was pretty intense, so I didn’t have a lot of time to process all that had happened. Between the commute, the homework, and the poor scheduling I’d done, I didn’t have a lot of time for me. I’d gotten really into an anime-styled RPG called Disgaea during late high school, and I was pretty excited to play the sequel when it came out late 2006. Unfortunately, that’s when all this busy college stuff started, so I never got to sink my teeth into it as much as I wanted. I even remember getting up at 5 am each morning to play an hour’s worth of it, just to make a little progress, and to have some free time to myself.
While each semester at college varied in terms of difficulty and work, that first semester was one of the worst. My second and third semesters were considerably more comfortable. The reality of high school ending and my friends gone became more apparent once I had more time to realize it. Only one of my close friends was still around, and I started spending more time with him during college. We both attended the same college, we were usually able to grab lunch at the campus cafeteria once or twice a week when our schedules lined up, and we spent more time hanging out during our free time.
Even after obtaining our licenses, neither of us took advantage of the ability to drive until we started commuting to college. We started visiting malls, restaurants, and other places more often during college, something most high schoolers started doing as soon as they got their licenses.
In fact, it wouldn’t be inaccurate to describe my entire community college experience as an extension of high school, which is a little funny because I struggled with the course work and always got mad when people said my community college was like 13th grade. (It wasn’t! It was nothing like high school!) But outside of classes and coursework, we spent a lot of time trying to stay as teenagers. We played video games at each other’s houses. We hung out at malls. It was like we were trying to extend the high school versions of ourselves because we were both so frustrated with what college expected us to be. We were mad we didn’t know what we wanted to do and frustrated when others did. In our own weird way of rebelling, we just wanted to keep hanging out and doing dorky stuff when we weren’t doing homework.
Between that and frequently visiting malls, both of us picked up a lot more anime, manga, and RPGs than we ever did in high school. Since we were in stores more often, we started to notice more shows hit the shelves as well as when things dropped in price. I started following more anime that was in the process of being released as opposed to buying things that were already completely available to enjoy at my own pace. I feel like around this time I stopped rewatching or rereading a lot of the previous titles I had enjoyed so much, not because of a lack of interest, but because I was following so many new things that captured most of my attention. For a while, I even kept a Microsoft Excel file charting when the next volume of several titles would be released because I kept losing track of what was being released when.
You’d think with so many new shows, manga, and RPGs I was picking up, I’d have a lot to reflect on. But honestly, I don’t. When I was writing the last part, I couldn’t help but notice that, with the exception of .hack, I didn’t have as much to talk about as I did during the first two. Those earliest years were definitely my most influential, and when I tried getting nostalgic for some of the stuff I was into during the second half of high school, I couldn’t get into it as much as the first half. I still had fond memories, but they didn’t do as much for me. My experiences with anime during college, unfortunately, follow a similar pattern. I was all for seeing new shows and reading new manga, but I got a little caught up with trying out too many new things too quickly, and didn’t leave enough time for a lot of them to leave a serious impact.
Or maybe they just weren’t as good.
Don’t get me wrong, a lot of the stuff was very enjoyable at the time. But seeing as how I’d been an anime fan for years now, I couldn’t help but notice similar tropes, plots, characters, etc. as I continued to experience more. I liked a lot of the stuff I was getting into, but there was less and less of a wow factor. There weren’t a lot of titles that hit home. There was less that inspired me to draw. I was still sucked into the world of anime, but that naïve sensation of wonder and awe I’d experienced in my early teenage years was nowhere to be found. I suppose that’s to be expected, but still, more titles that felt unique would have probably helped me retain an interest in anime for a little longer.
My friend and I built up a good collection of anime and manga that we let each other borrow throughout our community college days. I honestly can’t remember all of them; I sold a good chunk of shows last year that I honestly couldn’t imagine ever watching again, and my friend no longer has most of his either. But I do remember some of them fairly well.
Hellsing Ultimate was a new Hellsing anime that followed the manga more faithfully. It had higher quality production values and was significantly more over-the-top than the original series, which at the time I felt was pretty over-the-top to start with. It was kind of weird, though; the DVDs came out in these impressive-looking tin cases, and each DVD had only one episode. Granted, the episodes of Hellsing Ultimate were longer than the standard 25 minute run time of most anime; I remember them being somewhere between 40 and 60 minutes. But still, that was like maybe 2 normal episodes tops of any other anime so… it was a little weird that it cost the same amount. But I loved Hellsing, so I was willing to pay for it. Only the first four DVDs were released in North America while I was still into the series, though. In late 2008 the fourth one was released, but then there was no news of when the next volume would come out. A couple of years later I stopped liking anime altogether, so I don’t know what happened to the rest of the series, although recently I’d heard the rest was released within the past few years. I doubt I’ll ever check the rest out, but who knows? Hellsing Ultimate is something I could see myself revisiting, if for nothing else but curiosity’s sake.
Eyeshield 21 was a manga about football. I’ve never been too into sports, so I wasn’t sure what to make of it when I got the first volume for a birthday present during my senior year in high school. The friend that gave it to me said it was good, though. And sure enough, I liked it. It was an underdog story about a group of high schoolers playing football in a sort of martial arts tournament kind of story. Throughout community college, I became more interested in the series as each volume came out. This is one of the manga series I have that took up the most room; I had 20+ volumes before I stopped collecting it. This also made it hard to reread, with it being so long and all. But I enjoyed it enough. I even started watching actual football games for a while because of it!
One of the other long-running manga series I began reading around this time was Bleach. I first caught it on Adult Swim shortly before I went on a family vacation in the summer of 2007. When I came back, my friend had purchased almost every manga of the series, which was around 19 or 20 volumes at the time. He let me borrow them, I got really into it, and I soon found myself collecting the manga myself, even though I didn’t want to get into another long-running series.
Bleach featured a pretty cool art style with some interesting outline choices at certain times (at least in the manga). We both read and watched Bleach for a few years, and we often talked about the latest episode or manga that came out. We tried to avoid spoilers online; as with many anime that are further ahead in Japan, searching the Internet was a guaranteed way of finding out what happens in a series. I wanted to be surprised as Bleach was being localized. I know that’s usually not a popular opinion with shonen titles like these, but that’s the way I am.
There was a lot of merchandise with Bleach. While my friend was more into it than I was, going so far as to buying figures and wall scrolls, I never went much deeper than buying keychains and the occasional clearance item once the show was losing popularity. I’m not sure what happened in Bleach after I stopped reading and watching. I remember losing a lot of interest in the anime once the first filler arc was over. (Did something change in the animation style? I remember that bugging me a lot.) I kept up with the manga though, at least for a while. The last book I bought was Volume 34, and according to the publishing info, it came out in March 2011. A little later than when I lost interest in anime, but I think it took me extra time to shake some titles off. My friend, despite hating the direction the series took, still keeps up with some of it online. When I get curious, I ask what certain characters are doing and what the series as a whole is now about, but I never get curious enough to check it out myself. Still, I had a lot of fun memories with Bleach. From the beginning of the show through the Soul Society arc was a pretty good time back then.
Speaking of shows that aired on Adult Swim, both of us watched a lot of the new anime they had rolled forward with. Death Note was pretty fun for a while. Blood+ surprisingly held my interest for a long time; I specifically remember the intro and ending songs being really memorable. Along with some Bleach songs, my friend made me a couple of mix CDs with these songs on them. I must have been really into Blood+, because I even went out to buy the box sets for both seasons. For $100 each. Wow, that’s… overkill. Even I had to admit that. That was $200 for the entire 50 episode series! Anime was expensive, but this… I’ll be honest, that just wasn’t a fair price. But, like many times in the past, I blindly loved anime and was willing to spend the money.
Code Geass was another show me and my friend got into for a while. Him more than me; a second season came out that I honestly wasn’t a huge fan of. But he loves giant robot shows, and he was all over Code Geass. I think he even had models of some of the mechs.
Now that I think about it, both of us kind of got into building giant robot models for a while. He bought a lot, but I also purchased a few from one of the few comic stores by us. I think they were mostly Gundam models, but my friend had ones from a few different series.
If you couldn’t tell, I started picking up more anime merchandise around this time. I’d gotten soundtracks and a few other things here and there during high school, but during this time I started picking up more… toys, for lack of a better word. I think in my desire to be a teenager for a little while longer, I was trying to play catch up and buy all the things I never did or could when I was in high school. Back then I only saw stuff like this online, and it was pretty expensive, too. But as anime was slowly building up its own fan base over the years, more stores started carrying merchandise like shirts, keychains, figures, etc. All the stuff I had wanted over the years was suddenly available. How perfect for my need to distract myself from real world issues.
Madlax was another big show, too. It was made by the same team that produced Noir. Strangely enough, I bought both of this show’s soundtracks before watching a single episode. I saw it in a Suncoast one day, read that it was composed by Yuki Kajiura, and bought them right away. Another great set of music that moved me like Noir and .hack//SIGN’s soundtracks did. I got the box set for a Christmas gift one year, and… that’s about it. It’s weird, like Noir, I was super into it at the time, but now I honestly remember the music more than the show, and I’ve ranted and raved about See-Saw’s music enough as it is.
There was also this over-the-top show called Air Gear that my friend was really into for a time. Honestly, I almost completely forgot about it until I was recently looking through all the anime stuff I stored away. I found a cheap box set of it almost two years after he first lent me the series to watch. I don’t remember much about the plot of Air Gear, other than it had these impossible roller blades where the users could ride on walls and other crazy shit like that. It was pretty funny (if you like anime humor, anyway; now I’m sure I’d think it pretty immature) and a kickass soundtrack featuring a lot of techno/electronica music. I’ve kind of shied away from that genre of music, although I’ll occasionally be up for it when I’m in the mood for something energetic. My friend bought the soundtrack online and made me a copy back when we first got into the series. For a show I almost completely forgot about, I’ve got a lot of memories riding in his car and taking walks while listening to its soundtrack.
As well as being a really fun show for us, Air Gear also made us want to try rollerblading. I haven’t gone rollerblading since I was a kid, and it certainly showed. We practiced for a while, but I eventually stopped. Between my rollerblades being too tight, my refusal to buy another pair, never learning how to balance properly, feeling too old for it, and feeling like rollerblading should stay in the 90s, I didn’t stick with it for too long. My friend still does it sometimes. He got pretty good after a while, but I put it behind me. But yeah. An over-the-top, crazy anime inspired me to drop about $100 on rollerblades, a helmet, and pads. You know anime can be a powerful force when it’s not only tempting you to spend money on merchandise, but other stuff like sports equipment just to see if you liked it.
I was really into The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya for a while, too. I don’t remember exactly how I came to know about it; it may have been a combination of word of mouth from other anime fans I met during college and one of my anime friends from high school lending it to me. But I remember really liking the story of this crazy high school girl who tries to make her life as much like an anime as possible and the reactions and thoughts of the main character, who wished she would calm the hell down and let him live a normal life. It was pretty popular for a while, it had a lot of cute stuff attached to it, spawned a ton of merchandise, and even several manga adaptations. I didn’t get into everything – the main anime show and some of the light novels which the series was based on were about my extent.
But perhaps the most long-running anime related interest I had during community college was .hack//G.U. Yes, once again .hack had found a way to completely entrap me. This sequel series presented a new trilogy of games, a new anime, and a ton of other manga and novel spin-offs and side stories. I collected a decent number of them, but the main PlayStation 2 games were my big focus. It was set seven years after the events of the original. “The World” has been recreated into a different game with some of the same features as before, with some new ones added in. You play as Haseo, a solo player looking for another player that put his friend/love interest into a coma while she was playing the game (yes, comas are back). The twist? When he thinks he finds this player, it turns out to be a creepy, stitched up version of the main character from the first series of games. I thought this was so cool when I saw the trailer for it back in late high school. I couldn’t even begin to tell you how excited I was when the first game was released in 2006 during my first semester of college. Too bad I didn’t get to play a lot of it until after that semester.
I had a lot of fun with the G.U. series for the next few years. It was different than the original, but it still worked and was still fun. Well, for a time anyway. G.U. was a lot more like your usual anime, JRPG, etc. It was still good, but… well, let’s say when I replayed the PS2 games a couple of years ago, I was kind of embarrassed of how cool I used to think they were. As a side note, I’m currently revisiting the original games right now. I haven’t played them since 2009, and I have to say I’m glad I can give a sigh of relief; I can still enjoy the originals, even after all my problems with anime surfaced over the past several years. It may be pure nostalgia, but the original wasn’t so “in your face” with its anime tropes, and I think it holds up better as a result.
These were some of the more memorable shows, manga, and RPGs I was into around this time. I was consuming new anime at a much faster rate than I previously had thanks to new availabilities and opportunities. But when I found rightstuf.com, the whole game changed. I noticed this website advertised on one of the DVDs I bought in college, but I didn’t actually visit it until I saw an ad for a couple of soundtracks I wanted. They were being sold on this website for pretty cheap. I thought it was a little suspicious, but after doing some research it seems like this was pretty much an online version of an outlet center. While some shows were still around the same price you would expect to find in stores, there were a lot of things available for a heavily discounted price, especially older titles. I found entire box sets for $30 or $40 each. Even when I gave myself a budget to work with, I still found myself ordering new shows more frequently than ever before. In addition, there were also keychains, plushies, T-shirts – this was basically a giant anime store that sold things at much more affordable prices.
Maybe it’s because I had less time for them to sink in, or maybe it’s because I was watching too much at once, but it was around this time I felt like I started to lose interest in anime. Funny, considering things were now more affordable than ever. I picked up some decent shows from rightstuf.com, but I also picked up a lot of stuff that was a lot less memorable. I’d always enjoyed most of the tropes anime presented. You know – the gags, the character types, the cultural references, the perverted sense of humor, etc. But around this time I started enjoying them less and less. When I started watching a new show, I felt like I’d seen the plot before or I’ve met these characters somewhere else. It started becoming really predictable. Maybe that’s another reason none of these shows stood out nearly as much as the other things I talked about in previous parts. Granted, you could argue the same tropes and predictability were in those shows too, but it was all new to me at the time. It was when I was first getting into anime. I felt like the more anime I experienced, the less impressed I was. Like I said in the last part, that’s something any enthusiast could probably say for anything. As long as I still enjoyed it, there was nothing wrong with that, right?
Except I felt like I wasn’t enjoying it so much as I was killing time. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed it, but I began feeling like I was only watching anime and reading manga because it was something I was supposed to be doing as an anime fan. I felt like I had to do it more than I might have really wanted to.
So all this was happening from around late 2006 to 2010. Most of this took place during my time in community college. I graduated at the end of 2008 and spent the first eight months of 2009 looking for a job and sorting out where I was going to transfer to (for convenience, I always considered this part of my community college years too, as nothing major happened until I started a new job). It wasn’t until I started attending my four year school during the fall of 2009 when I started noticing my outlook on anime was noticeably worse. Well, worse than it was already getting.
It’s strange I was able to experience so much anime during community college because a lot of my time was devoted to schoolwork. I screwed myself when scheduling my courses and ended up commuting five days a week. Add in the homework and most of my days were spent doing school related things. I made sure one day each week was devoted to hanging out with friends, and because many of my classes were in the early morning or afternoon, I dedicated homework time from whenever I got home to somewhere between 6 and 8 pm depending on how much I had to do. (It also helped I arrived to classes at least a half hour early and made a nice dent in any reading assignments I had to do.) After that, I was usually playing RPGs or watching anime. So I guess despite the business, I was still able to make time for me. Maybe it’s not so strange I experienced so much stuff, after all.
But all the same, this “scheduling” time for anime and RPGs made them occasionally feel like work. Sometimes I didn’t really want to make any progress in a show or game. But hey, you know anime. It’s so “deep” and “complex” that if I don’t keep up with it on a regular basis, I’m going to start losing track of the plot. So even when I wasn’t feeling it, I kept up on the stuff I used to be into.
When I started my four year school, it became more difficult to schedule free time for those things. I don’t want to bash on community college, because it really was difficult for me to adjust to my new life as a college student. Between losing good friends, feeling lost, and having more coursework than I’d ever had in my worst high school classes, community college was a big challenge for me. But my four year school took things even farther. Switching to a literature major gave me ridiculously more on my plate to complete, and even with better class schedules, I still found most of my time devoted to school work. And now I had a job to attend as well.
I was able to schedule one day per week to hang out with friends, but it was getting harder to devote time to watch an entire anime series or play an RPG. I still bought new DVDs or volumes of manga whenever the next part in something I followed came out, but my days of rewatching or rereading entire series was just about over. During spring, winter, and summer breaks I usually picked up something again, but I was just barely picking up new stuff.
I felt myself realizing that a lot of the more recent stuff I started getting into just wasn’t having as much of an impact on me. Between a combination of losing interest and not having the time to devote like I used to, anime started becoming more and more chore-like.
Then I bought the second season of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya when it came out in the fall of 2010. Fans of the show probably know where I’m about to go with this, but for everyone else… let’s save this for the next part. I’ve been going on long enough in this one as it is.