Japanese cartoons are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you have these fun little shows that are interesting to watch and give you a completely different perspective, one from across the world, where the people apparently have much larger, more rounded eyes than our own and frequently dress up their schoolgirls in outfits that make them the target of every ogler between here and Mary Kay Letourneau. On the other hand, these same wonderful shows give rise to another, much-different feeling, namely: The Shame Reflex.
I come in contact with this strange reflex every time I watch a Japanese cartoon show, no matter how “artsy” or “intelligent” it is. I could be watching one based on Franz Kafka’s “Metamorphosis”, and I would still feel that I was watching a movie intellectually comparable to the Teletubbies. And, yet, after awhile, it would begin to feel good, as if I were a heroin addict getting a shot of the drug. And then my mom would get on the phone for an hour, and we’d all have to stop the movie for her, and I’d get onto stickdeath.com and forget all about it. When we would finally get back to the damned movie, I would have successfully forgotten about the whole experience, and the Shame Reflex would kick in again, and ensure that I never watch one, ever, until my cousin comes back to our house and wants to play video games again. Also, I’d have a need to kill stick figures, for some odd reason.
But the Shame Reflex, as much as I wish I could kick it in its testicles, is important, I do realize, since there are many occasions I wish it would kick in, and it won’t, especially when it comes to women. I know this because of a situation I wound up in just three short years ago, in simpler times, whenever I hated the Internet, and just mainly hated everything about modern culture, especially President Bush. (For those of you offended conservatives, I apologize; the last comment was just the Mandatory Hatred Of Bush Comment Every Blogger Must Put in Every Post.) Until I met Alexandra.
Ah, what a beautiful name, and what a bodily smell, she had. I was a volunteer at the library, she was also a volunteer at the library. Except, she was an obsessive-compulsive “otaku fangirl”, whereas I was just a garden-variety type nerd. You know what I mean. And since she was female, I had to have her, in the nerd-sense of the word, meaning that she tells you that she will go out with her without either of you ever going on even one date. This is the absolute pinnacle of geek relationships.
When I first saw her, she was hiding behind one of the bookshelves, eyeing me curiously. Now, any normal person would have ran the hell out of the library at this very moment, but I, being a mature weirdo, realized immediately that this was a fellow weirdo attempting to go through Courtship Rituals. So I, of course, reciprocated. We talked for two weeks without actually doing anything, at least partly because my summer-school P.E. class had given me a Mortal Ankle Sprain, and that was not fun, in the painful sense of the word. Finally, she decided to go out with me, and our Courtship Rituals ended.
Which means that now I have to try to have the same interests as her, another aspect of dating, as viewed by a nerd. As you can imagine, I could not escape the Cultural Vortex entirely in the span of time before I first met Alexandra, and as such I had seen two anime movies, as well as having seen numerous examples of anime on HBO, which were disgusting. One of them (the movies), Spirited Away, was an Oscar-winning cartoon by Hayao Miyasaki, and as such was something an average American would watch, instead of something only a strange American would watch. The other, Tokyo Godfathers, was bizarre, and thus a better choice for Sharing Interests with her.
Unfortunately, over time I realized that this was not enough, that I was actually going to have to watch more of this stuff, especially after her friend began coming into the library and she stopped talking to me. Also, after she began chatting with me via Instant Message, wherein she talked of strange Japanese interpretations of fairies and demons using Japanese words (interspersed with badly-spelled English), none of which I understood.
So one night, instead of watching disgusting HBO “documentaries”, I decided to try one anime, just one. This particular one, Inuyasha, was a very well-known one, as could be measured by the number of people at my school wearing its T-shirts. It was boring throughout its first half, leaving me thinking, “this…?” But then of course a battle went on, taking what was left of my brain after Alexandra had stolen the rest. I went to sleep that night shaking. I thought that this was very rebellious sort of television, because the “battle” was between Japanese-style demons, in which there was all sorts of blood and violence. A couple weeks later, another episode featured some nudity. By the end, I was sold.
But a bit sad. Alexandra, during a vacation to Arizona, had decided to leave me, and showed me how much she cared by doing so via e-mail. She essentially said,
“Sorry, Justin, I have too much to do. I also have to start going to psychiatric therapy. So I can’t go out with you anymore.”
I swear, that was almost exactly what she wrote, just a little bit longer.
So now, I have this bizarre habit that I’m just now beginning to get rid of. Not entirely, of course. I now am the proud owner of maybe nine anime DVD’s (which cost about forty dollars apiece, thank you very much), one doll, and my Lego city is divided into five sections, each named after a specific anime character. Thanks a lot, Alex.
But my point is, I had no shame whatsoever in going after a girl who smelled like a locker room, watching all sorts of disgusting pornography, getting in trouble at the library for going out with a girl two years younger than me, owning a Lego city, watching stick figures kill each other on the Internet, and writing this embarrassing post. Where my shame reflex did kick in, on the other hand, was in watching anime cartoons. “Fuck no,” it said, “I draw the line at watching anime cartoons. Unless they involve pornography.”
I frankly, know only one person to blame all of this on.