It’s the finale! If you haven’t read from the beginning, start with Part 1! Otherwise, let’s wrap this up!
It’s one thing if a show is bad and isn’t worth watching. It’s one thing if a show is expensive and isn’t worth buying. It’s one thing if a show is repetitive, and you’ve seen whatever it’s doing either in said show or somewhere else.
However, it’s another thing entirely for a show to have over half its episodes, with the exception of what clothes the characters are wearing and some different scene angles, be literally the same exact thing.
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya was a weird show. Not weird like Excel Saga or FLCL, which was more like a cartoony and random sort of weird. I can’t really explain it; Haruhi herself was a pretty weird girl amongst a pretty average and realistic world. Weird stuff happened in the show, but I always got the impression I was supposed to wonder if any of the weird stuff was actually happening, or if it was some kind of hallucination or delusion by the main character, who craved normalcy in his life. I think the original season was broadcast in Japan out of its chronological order – stuff like that is the kind of weird this show brought to the table.
So when the second season was released in North America, I picked it up from Best Buy and couldn’t wait to watch it. It was only 14 episodes long, so I felt like I could find time for it; a new semester of college had just begun and I wasn’t too overloaded with assignments yet. I don’t remember if it was on the back of the box or an insert inside (this was one of the shows I sold, so I can’t check), but I noticed that a whopping eight of these episodes were all titled something like “Endless Eight Part 1,” “Part 2,” etc.
“Okay, cool,” I thought. “There’s going to be an ongoing arc of some kind in this season.”
I watched the first episode of this arc. “Okay,” I said.
I watched the second episode. “Oh, I get it. ‘Endless Eight.’ They’re stuck in a time loop and need to figure out how to get out of it.” This episode was more or less the same thing as the last one. I can’t remember the details exactly (which is a little weird, considering the same thing happened eight episodes in a row), but each episode of this arc consisted of the same opening, the same middle, and the same ending. By the end of each episode, they realize they’ve been reliving the same day over and over again, but then the time loop restarts and this pattern repeats in the next episode.
If there was new dialogue, if the characters didn’t have to keep realizing they were stuck in a time loop, if they made consistent effort towards finding a way to stop the time loop during these eight episodes, I feel like this would have been much more likable.
But there wasn’t. I can’t stress enough how repetitive this arc was. Like I mentioned above, the only things that really changed were what clothes the characters were wearing and having some different angles during certain scenes. Anime can be very repetitive; I’ve seen the same tropes and plot devices reused and abused a lot by now. Single events can be drawn out for episodes at a time because characters won’t stop talking about it and just let it happen.
But this… this was a new one. I had never seen something that had the balls to literally rebroadcast the same exact episode eight times in a row. It was, without a shadow of a doubt, a complete waste of time. I was hoping, praying, that when each new episode in this arc started, that something – anything – new would happen to justify watching it.
But it didn’t. Over half of this new season was literally the same episode over and over again. The other episodes were good enough, but naturally, I really couldn’t enjoy them considering the whole Endless Eight thing. It was stupid. It was dumb.
And I felt really taken advantage of.
Ever since I first started collecting anime, I always paid for it. With the exception of a bonus episode of .hack//SIGN that wasn’t included in my box set and a couple of pirated DVDs friends in high school lent me, I never watched anything uploaded by fans on YouTube or read anything on one of those fan-translation sites. Maybe that’s one of the reasons I took this so much to heart, but after the second season of Haruhi, I was speechless. I always wanted to support anime, and any form of art for that matter, in as much of a realistic way as possible. If a show was available on DVD, I would buy or rent it. If it was on TV, I would watch it. If a manga was in the process of being localized, I would buy it or borrow from the library. I’d borrow from friends when I could, and I’d eventually buy my own copies if I liked something enough. I wasn’t comfortable with fan-translation sites. I knew how much work gets poured into making art. I wanted to support those creators. Even if the work wasn’t good. Even if it got lazy. I didn’t want to pirate.
But the second season of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya was different. I heard some of the people that worked on the show publicly apologized for Endless Eight. You know something’s bad when that has to happen. I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but it was extremely lazy and sleazy. For the first time in my life as an anime fan, I couldn’t justify why I paid for this. It cost $50 for this second season. I’ve already been a little miffed for the past few years considering I could buy entire 26-ish episode seasons for the same price when I was in high school, and now I was being sold half seasons or shorter seasons with 13-ish episodes for the same price. But I mean okay, whatever. The definition of a season changed or they did away with individual DVDs in lieu of season x part y or whatever. Fine. Times changed, I adjusted. But to sell a season where 8 of its 14 episodes were the same thing, and then selling it to unsuspecting anime fans as an entirely new season?
No. No, anime. No. That’s a bad anime. Go in the corner, anime. Think about what you’ve done.
I don’t want to say this one particular bad experience is what drove me over the edge, but considering I was losing interest in anime for about a year now, I couldn’t help but feel this purchase is what finally made me seriously reconsider what I was spending my money on. I’ve always heard people criticize me for buying the North American releases, whether it was for the quality of the voice acting and translation, or whether it was because I could have just watched it for free online. But you know what? You learn a lot about yourself when you realize what you’re willing to pay for. It’s easy to say you’re a fan of anything when you’re consuming it at a constant rate with no cost to you, but things change when you pay for stuff yourself. I loved anime. I bought it. And for years I truly felt the payoff was worth it. But the past year I was slowly feeling like my money could have gone towards better things. And after the second season of Haruhi, I decided to stop picking up every show that mildly piqued my interest. From then on, I was only going to buy stuff I really wanted.
Well unfortunately, that never happened. A month later was Halloween 2010. The story I opened up this entire retrospective with played out. I was watching the end of Soul Eater with a friend and one of his high school friends. They were awestruck in the way I was as a kid, watching “intense” fights in shows like Pokemon and Dragonball Z. And for whatever reason, I thought it was stupid. It felt really childish. I never noticed before now, but anime has a tendency to take mature subject matter like death, violence, and sex but doesn’t usually present it in a mature way. There’s a lot of melodrama in anime. Someone’s always screaming to avenge somebody else or saying things like “You bastard!!!” or “I’ll kill you!!!” Someone’s always interrupting a scene to explain what’s happening, like I didn’t have the mental capability to process that information for myself. A serious scene can never stay serious when the animation style does a complete 180 to make some kind of silly, cartoony joke with “chibi” style characters. Contrast can be good, but the way it works in anime just seems more inconsistent than anything else. I always felt annoyed that adults would never take the shows I watched seriously, but as an adult that was finally seeing their side of things, I couldn’t help but feel embarrassed as I was watching those last episodes of Soul Eater. I started thinking back on all the shows and manga I experienced in the past decade of my life, and I couldn’t help but realize the vast majority of those shows were like that obnoxious kid in middle school that acted like he knew everything but presented himself in such an immature way.
It had been a month since watching the second season of Haruhi. I hadn’t done anything anime-related since then. Maybe that step back helped me put some more perspective to things, too. I’d never been on a break that long before. Even if I wasn’t watching or reading anything, anime would be somehow involved in my life. I’d look for cool pictures online, talk to my friends about what they were watching, buy a new volume of something, etc. But this was the first time I took a much needed break. Anime is very time-consuming when you get really into it. I’ve always said it’s hard to be a casual anime fan; you usually either love it or don’t deal with it. But when you step back from it, when it stops being such a big part of your life, you start noticing how dumb it all is. Well, at least for me.
From then on, every little thing about anime just pissed me off. I don’t know why, it just really, really pissed me off. Every character trope; the same types of plots; the fights; the yelling; the way scenes get reused and faces get so many close-up shots to avoid animating; the stupid mascot sidekicks that always say some made-up word at the end of all their sentences; the over-sexualization of everyone; the merchandising of overpriced figures and other collectibles; the constant criticism for English voice acting and translations; defending English voice acting and translations; having to purchase multiple parts to a single season of a show because I was too impatient to wait for the actual full season to be released; the way characters and narrators would need to exposition the shit out of everything; how there always has to be a flashback to describe one situation or another; there’s some sick, almost sexual fascination anime has between siblings; someone’s always branding someone as a pervert even though anime is pretty perverted as a whole; characters have to stutter words in exaggerated exclamations; characters need to repeat things another character just said; the dialogue as a whole (No one ever talks like they do in anime! Everyone just recites monologues at each other!); the way a series will start with so much promise of having a fresh take on something but end up relying on plot devices and character types that have been abused to death before; the way some titles just never end; the art style –
Literally. Every single thing, big or small, irritated the shit out of me. I couldn’t look in anime’s general direction without feeling gross. When my friends and I went to Barnes and Noble and they checked out new manga they were collecting, I had to go somewhere else. Being in the anime section made me feel really uncomfortable. I couldn’t believe how much I used to love it, how much I believed it was the superior story-telling medium. I couldn’t believe how many positive things I felt about it.
And I couldn’t believe how quickly I came to hate it.
I know it was building up for a while, but it still feels so odd how quickly I came to hate it after that one Halloween night. I got the box sets of Cowboy Bebop and Samurai 7 for that Christmas from my friends. I don’t think they realized how much I couldn’t stand anime yet. I hadn’t seen Cowboy Bebop in years, so reliving it was nice for nostalgia’s sake, although the ending wasn’t nearly as good as I remembered. Samurai 7 was a show I’d wanted to watch since it came out when I was in high school, so I forced myself to watch it to at least complete that goal of seeing it. It was okay. I could have seen much worse after this newfound hatred for something I once loved so much. I picked up a couple of manga that I felt like I could still bear with, but that didn’t last long. By the spring of 2011 I’d taken down and packed away most of my anime stuff.
Other things going on in my life at that time
I was debating whether or not to talk about this, because it’s only sort of related to all this anime stuff. But I figured what the hell, it might be more relevant that I thought.
I’m going to backtrack to when I transferred to my four year school. I had graduated with an A.A. in liberal arts from my community college. When I transferred, the person I spoke to at my four year school recommended choosing a more specific major. I chose literature, because even though school had discouraged me for years from reading actual books, I was getting more interested again in recent years. I thought it might be good for me, that I might find a better appreciation for it. That was fall 2009, and in the following spring semester, I switched my major’s focus from literary studies to creative writing.
I fell in love with my intro to creative writing course. I’d been writing stories since middle school and it felt very natural to me. I loved my professor, she was so supportive and taught me a lot about the workshopping process. She encouraged me to continue on towards advanced workshops, which I did. Every semester there featured some kind of workshop for either fiction, poetry, or both.
We read a lot of interesting stuff, but the most relatable writing usually came from other students. Maybe it’s because a lot of them were the same age as me, maybe it’s because we’ve been through similar experiences, but I found more I could relate to in these workshops than I ever had in anime for the past several years, possibly ever. I was learning a lot about what made good writing, as well as bad writing. I was learning how to catch clichés and find more interesting ways to deliver them if I had to. I was learning how to be an overall better writer.
And I guess in the process of all this, I started analyzing anime with a more critical approach. I was finding a lot of stuff to be pretty bad. And maybe it wasn’t fair to compare literature and anime, but since one of the reasons I loved anime so much was for its unique stories, I couldn’t help but see that a lot of the stuff I used to like was just… not great.
I guess that’s the thing about learning to write better, you start to see the quality of writing in just about everything. Movies, TV, advertisements – I started to become more conscious of it wherever I looked. I was realizing that while anime, manga, and RPGs often had interesting concepts, more often than not they didn’t do such a great job with the process of telling their stories.
And I don’t like admitting this. Part of me feels like a stuck-up, literary snob that just shits all over anime. I have to remind myself that I had clearly been a huge fan for at least eight years; I think I’ve earned the right to share some criticisms. If I’m going to be completely honest, I hated that I suddenly began hating anime. How would you feel if, seemingly overnight, you not only lost interest in something that’s been a big part of your life for years, but hated it? It’s not fun. It wasn’t fun for the friends I hung out with at the time, either; they were all about anime and video games and didn’t really understand the literary side of me. I lost a lot in common with them, and I ended up going separate ways with some of them.
The biggest time I noticed these changes was during fall 2010. I became friends with someone from school, and I spent a lot of time talking to her on campus between our classes. I reluctantly opened up about a lot of stuff I’d kept hidden for the past several years. I had only been spending time with my one friend from high school and some of his friends all throughout college. For the most part, we just played video games and talked about anime together. They weren’t exactly the kind of people in touch with their feelings. It had been so long since I had a friend I could open up to on such a personal level, so when this person entered my life, it’s like everything I’d kept bottled up came flooding out. We relied on each other to open up and confront all of the past wounds that still haunted us. She was the one that encouraged me to try therapy for the first time, and therapy would end up playing a major role in my life for the following couple of years.
Well, long story short, she ditched me after that semester. Just like one of my close friends from high school, she stopped talking to me, stopped responding to calls and texts, and generally just snubbed me like we’ve never met before. I don’t know what happened, nor will I ever know. But needless to say, after finally opening up to someone about that one particular friend that abandoned me, especially after keeping it bottled up and ignoring it for years, and then having that person ditch me in such a similar way absolutely devastated me. I was in the middle of trying to sort through all of the personal issues I’d repressed for years, and this only made dealing with everything significantly worse.
I haven’t really explained this to the other friends I had. I don’t mean any offense to them; I just don’t think they’d understand how exactly it affected me. And I’m not the kind of person to open up about something to someone I know unless I know I can trust them to deal with me properly. In fact, giving tidbits of this story is making me really uncomfortable, so I think I’m going to stop there.
The main point I wanted to make with this story is that as soon as 2011 began, I fell into a deep, deep depression. I hadn’t dealt with depression since high school; I honestly thought I was past it all. But no, I absolutely wasn’t, and it came back with a vengeance. It was like it wanted me to play catch up for all the years I went without being depressed.
But this time I didn’t have anime to help me. I hated anime. I didn’t even have RPGs anymore. I saw too much anime in them, as well. Some of the most important stuff to me no longer mattered. And it felt excruciatingly hollow.
My semester with that friend had made me realize I needed more people in my life to talk to on a deeper, more emotional level. I’d forgotten what it felt like and I needed it. And again, nothing against the friends I was hanging out with at the time, but I felt like all most of us had in common was anime and video games. I couldn’t talk to them like I talked to her. I couldn’t talk to them like I could talk to the close friends I had in high school. I didn’t want to admit it, but it seemed like since we didn’t have much in common anymore, we didn’t really have anything to talk about. We ended up playing games in silence and it felt really awkward. Most of us eventually went separate ways.
I didn’t feel like I had anything I could rely on. I shut myself away from most people. I kind of stumbled my way through the spring 2011 semester. It felt like a giant blur. I remember bits and pieces, but it felt like my life was completely empty, except for my writing. The more I thought about why anime meant so much to me in the first place, the more I realized it was those earlier years and where I was at back then. I was beginning to understand that anime provided me with characters that said relatable things, and for a time it was a nice comfort. There’s nothing wrong with that. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get the same feelings of comfort and relatability from many of the books I read.
But after a while, I stopped trying to grow as a person and solve my own problems. I kept repeating things I heard in anime because maybe I wanted to make my life seem a little more epic than it actually was. Although it introduced me to an entirely different culture and story-telling experience, as well as became a huge source of inspiration at the time, anime eventually became a band aid. It was something cushy I could fall back on to make me feel better. It stunted my growth. I stopped seeing new things in the world and withdrew deeper and deeper into the world of anime.
Part of that was teenage rebellion; so many people fought me on my interest in anime going back all the way to Evangelion in eighth grade, and I was determined to stick up for it. I was so dedicated to convincing other people and myself about how unique and cool it was, that I didn’t make the time or effort to experience much else. And it’s a shame, because I wasted a lot of valuable opportunities to experience other things over the years .
Where I’m at with it now
Anime has played virtually no role in my life since then. My one friend I still have from high school is occasionally into it, but he sold most of his shows back. He also feels like there really isn’t anything too new in the world of anime to delve into, but he’s more willing to check something out than I am. Aside from an occasional wall scroll or poster in his room, he took down most of his anime stuff as well. Although it wasn’t nearly as extreme as how I felt, I think he began thinking anime wasn’t exactly the greatest thing in the world either.
Occasionally, when I’m in Barnes and Noble, I’ll head over to the anime section to relive memories. It’s weird, but even though I grew to hate it, my fondness for certain memories as an anime fan regrew after a couple of years. Sometimes I consider finishing off a manga series that I feel I could enjoy, if just for nostalgia’s sake. I was so close to completing Evangelion and Fullmetal Alchemist, but realistically I don’t think I care enough. I could use that money to buy other books I actually want (and that I’ll probably read more than once, too).
As strange as it was, I left a couple of anime things up in my room. I took most of it down, threw a lot of stuff out, and packed a lot away. But I have this one figure of Rei from Evangelion doing some kind of trick on a bicycle. It’s not too big and it’s been on my desk for years. I don’t know why, but I always thought it was neat and never really wanted to pack it away.
And then I have a collage of Yoshiyuki Sadamoto pictures on my wall. I used to have a lot of anime pictures all over one of my walls, but I took most of them down, save for the Yoshiyuki Sadamoto ones. Despite how I feel about anime, I still really love his drawings. I love them so much I even kept them and put them back up when I moved last fall. They’re mostly Evangelion and FLCL art. Part of me wants to take them down. I feel too old to have them up there, and I don’t know if I would even still like those shows, despite the overwhelming nostalgia towards them. But they’ve been up there since… forever. It’s been one of the few constants in my life, as sad as that may sound. So… ugh. It’s complicated.
Video games have always been a big part of my life. During my high school and community college years, JRPGs pretty much dominated whatever I chose to play. When I started to hate anime, I started hating JRPGs too. There was too much anime in them. I took a dramatically different turn and played some first person shooters with one of the friends I had for a while, but it eventually became pretty dull. I discovered let’s plays in the fall of 2011, and even though I’m only interested in watching/listening to two specific people do that now, they kind of taught me how to have fun with video games again.
The amount of time I spent playing games decreased a lot in the past few years and definitely became more of a recreational activity than something I was passionate about. I didn’t play a lot of RPGs anymore, although this past year I have. Not that I want to go into detail, but I’ve been in a pretty deep state of depression for about a year now. As a way of coping and keeping my mind off things, I replayed an RPG I used to really be into during high school, The Legend of Dragoon. And while I couldn’t take the story and characters nearly as seriously as I used to, I still found myself having fun with it. I’ve ended up revisiting a lot of RPGs this past year, and I think I can enjoy them enough. It kind of depends on how much anime is in them. Certain games like the Tales series are a little too much for me. But games like the Final Fantasy series, Suikoden II, and the original .hack games are things I can still enjoy. That doesn’t mean I won’t cringe or shake my head when plots get predictable or other tropes become too obvious, but I think the main difference between JRPGs and anime is that with a JRPG, you’re at least playing something. All I’m doing with anime is watching it, and it’s easier to get irritated by the story. I may still get irritated by stories or characters in RPGs, but as long as there’s enough gameplay that’s doing something for me personally, than I think I’ve learned to look past it, or at the very least not let it bother me too much.
I feel like after the depression in 2011, I wasn’t able to really let myself be silly or goofy anymore. Don’t let my criticisms against anime fool you; I can be a totally dorky and silly person. And I feel like after all this time, even during the depression I’ve been in for the past year, I’ve regained some of that fun side of me. I can balance seriousness and silliness much better than I used to. That being said, I feel like my hatred for anime has died down. It’s still not something I can see myself enjoying as a whole, let alone something I even want to get back into. It’s too time-consuming and addicting. I still stand by most of my criticisms, so it’s not like it’s even something I would want to try liking again. I want my time as anime fan to stay in the past. It’s such a past me thing, and I don’t want it as a present or future me thing.
But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to rewatch some old shows again. After all this time, I’d like to know what I would really think about the shows that held more inspiration and nostalgia for me. Evangelion, FLCL, Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, and .hack//SIGN are all shows I’d like to form a more recent opinion on. Part of me has always held back, though. I’d rather leave my memories of them where they are. I’m afraid they might get tainted if I end up hating these shows now. At the same time, nostalgia has a tendency to prevent a lot of potential hatred, so who knows? Maybe one day I’ll check one out again, if only for the nostalgia.
But that’s about it. My history with anime. This went on much, much longer than I expected it to, and if you’ve been reading up until this point, thanks. I really appreciate it. I really hope I didn’t offend anyone who likes anime; I know I got a little passionate with the hate in this particular part. At the end of the day though, whether anime is good or bad, thoughtful or just plain mind-numbing, I don’t really care. I don’t care whether the Japanese or English audio is better, and I don’t care about arguing the morality of how anime fans choose to experience it. Above all of those things, anime isn’t something that’s for me anymore. While I can sometimes appreciate an art style again, I think that’s about as far as I can go with anime.
I hope you enjoyed this retrospective. It was fun reliving some of the earlier memories, as well as embarrassing reliving most of the latter. Either way, I’m glad I was able to put all these thoughts about the entire experience into words somewhere, even if the writing was a bit sloppy at times.
And since I don’t know how to end this, here’s a picture I drew a couple of years ago of Asuka from Evangelion. We may as well come full circle back to the show that got me into anime in the first place. 🙂