#82: Zubat

Age: 23

Location: Michigan

When did you discover anime? Anime was something I had seen at various points throughout my life. Growing up, Pokemon and YuGiOh! made it into my Saturday morning cartoon block every so often, and in college some of my roommates would occasionally have friends over to watch whatever “popular” show they had discovered at the time (Sword Art Online and Steins;Gate being the two I remember most clearly). But I didn’t “discover” anime for myself until April 2015, when right near the end of my time at school one of my roommates decided to spend his whole Saturday watching the first 25 or so episodes of Soul Eater. I was present and while at first I only sorta paid attention to what he was watching, by around eight or nine episodes in I had actively joined my roommate in watching something that felt FAR different from and much more emotionally engaging than the usual anime I had been exposed to.

Fast forward some months from there after graduation, and I mentioned to a friend offhand that I had been introduced to Soul Eater and was curious if there were more shows that would be good to start out with. That friend recommended a short 12-episode show called Madoka Magica, and well… judging by the “Puella Magi” in my Twitter handle I don’t think it’s an understatement to say that it literally changed my life. Madoka was a revelation for me—never before had I been exposed to media that was simultaneously so emotionally devastating and uplifting, and it left me shell-shocked for the better part of a week as I grappled with the numerous themes I saw in the show’s story. Though it would still be a few more months before I fully dove into anime, these two moments always come to mind when I think about where I started with anime.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? One of the key parts of both Soul Eater and Madoka Magica that appealed to me in my first watch was the surprising emotional depth and compassion shown by and towards their characters. I had never seen media that really emphasized the emotional connection between characters besides a few rare cases—before anime, media was often simply entertainment save for that one special show/movie. But Maka’s steadfast pursuit of and desire to connect with Crona was stunning to watch. Here was a show that was saying, “Empathy and compassion and fighting to reach the hearts of others are just as important as the fight happening around them.” Soul Eater was already appealing enough on the action and comedic bits but to have what to me was such a clear emotional message and themes was stellar, and I wanted more media like that.

Madoka Magica hit this mark as well. I related deeply with Madoka and empathized just as much with Homura throughout my first viewing of the show, and the revelation of the show’s finale left me thinking over what it had meant to me for nearly a year.

Past these first two big anime, shows like Noragami and Monogatari, a KyoAni trio of anime, Railgun, and many more shows continued to deepen my love for the unique ability of the medium of anime to convey deep, powerful emotional themes and stories in a way I had never experienced elsewhere. It drew me in and gave me a way to feel during a time where I was struggling to do so; and even now as I’ve moved into a better spot in life, I still remain deeply in love with the emotions anime creates in me.

If it’s not too personal, could you elaborate on how anime helped you through a difficult emotional time? My senior year of college was one of the most difficult years of my life. I had invested a lot of my emotional energy into my different clubs and their communities in the three years prior; and while I don’t regret my decision to put so much of myself into doing so, I was left completely burned out from those efforts. Combine that with the usual college stresses and a hostile roommate situation and I had little to no energy left to reach out for the support I needed for the entirety of my final two semesters of college. The result of this was me coasting through over 9 months of my life with little ability to express what I was feeling, in addition to being limited in my ability to empathize with others as well. For someone like me who is naturally very compassionate and empathetic and others-oriented, to not be able to express those sorts of emotions was devastating and identity-shattering. It led to me questioning whether all of the effort I put into building up the communities I was a part of for my four years of college was really worth it.

But then I found Madoka Magica. The show that I expected to be a parody of magical girl shows (not joking!) was instead one comforted and encouraged my heart and gave me a way to feel again through its characters, even if I didn’t realize it at the time. Despite how hard it had been for me to connect with others for months up to that point, it was easy for me to understand and connect with Madoka and Homura’s thoughts, actions, and emotions; something about their characters resonated with me, as if I was implicitly able to understand their feelings as if they were my own.

[Major Madoka spoilers starting here] In particular, Homura’s repeated efforts to reach out to Madoka, her continued fight to share her feelings with Madoka despite all the pain and sorrow it brought her, was something I strongly connected with having experienced much of the same over my four years of college. And Madoka’s response to Homura’s efforts was a quiet affirmation of all of my own efforts over that timeframe: “I know just how hard you tried to help me across all those timelines… you were my very best friend.” It felt like the show was telling me, “Even though you’ve been left hurting and weak from your efforts, they didn’t go unnoticed, and they were worth the effort.” The person you are, the person you’ve become is something beautiful, and it’s ok to continue to feel the compassion that’s such a crucial part of who you are.” It was one thing for me to feel the emotions I did towards Madoka Magica‘s characters or to empathize with them as they struggled against the cruel realities of their world, but for the show to speak so directly and clearly into my life at that time… there aren’t words that can adequately describe how much Madoka Magica means to me.

There have been other shows that have had helped me through hard or trying times in my life: Oregairu and Sakurasou both helped me remember and celebrate some of my best friendships from college, while New Game and Shirobako offered me encouragement while I was dealing with the stress of starting to work full-time last year. But no show has ever resonated with me as deeply as Madoka Magica did; it remains the most important show I’ve ever watched and continues to reaffirm the person I am today. It is something I will likely cherish for the rest of my life.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? I spent a large portion of my first year watching anime on my own, so it was hard to say I was really part of the larger fandom. I would ask friends who I knew watched anime what they thought would be good shows to watch, but for the most part I looked around every so often for shows and watched what sounded good. Anime was still solely a personal endeavor for me at that point, so it was mostly keeping to myself unless I knew prior of someone who I could talk to about what I was watching and ask for recommendations.

It was many months before I would discover r/anime, close to a year before I considered taking part in any discussions on the subreddit, and my involvement with the Twitter community only started at the beginning of the New Year. At the time, I only connected with people I knew IRL who were also into anime, and would spend time talking with them about what I or they liked and what would be good to watch, later also watching shows together.

Do you remember your first convention? My “first” convention was 2015 ColossalCon in Ohio; I was only there for a day, it was before I discovered anime, and ColossalCon is also… not that much of an anime con (people are there for the giant indoor waterpark, among other reasons). But I have plans in the works to attend AnimeNorth as my first “real” convention next month and I’m looking forward to the new experience that will bring!

It took me a while to respond, and your first con, Anime North, must have already happened! Can you tell me about what it was like? What were the highlights? What surprised you? Anime North was a great experience, if a bit different than my usual norm for day-to-day plans. I’m the type of person who likes to fill every day with plans while I’m traveling so I feel like I’ve gotten the “full value” of my time on vacation, but oftentimes it felt like the best option was simply to wander the dealers room and browse the artist alley without any set “goal” in mind. I wouldn’t say I was terribly surprised by this—I knew there’d be a lot of free time in my schedule where there wasn’t a panel or signing that I wanted to attend—but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed simply wandering and looking around at what all the dealers and artists had to offer, even if I didn’t plan on buying anything from them.

I think the biggest highlight was simply being able to spend a weekend surrounded by other people in the anime fandom. I don’t really talk about my anime interest with many people in my day-to-day life (it’s not something I feel comfortable sharing at work nor do I have much desire to talk about it there), so to spend a weekend with thousands of other people all openly sharing our interest in anime and related fandoms was a pretty joyful experience. And as a smaller part of that, being able to meet some of my Twitter friends who happened to be attending was another great part of the experience. It may seem basic to others, but it was nice to simply have a weekend where I could celebrate my love of anime with friends and many, many others.

I actually also attended Anime Expo recently as well! That experience was mostly similar to Anime North, though on a much larger scale. Anime Expo did have the advantage of having Anisong World Matsuri with Aqours performing on stage, and well.. anyone who’s been following me on Twitter these past four or five months knows how big of a fan I am of Love Live Sunshine, haha. But the AWM concert was an incredible, joyful experience that I hope I get to experience again someday; and beyond that, I actually managed to have a great weekend at AX despite the issues many people reported with the lines (I only missed one event due to a line being capped but was able to attend another event as a result, and I managed to get in all other events I wanted to see). I don’t know if I’ll be attending AX specifically next year due to costs, but both Anime North and Anime Expo were great experiences and I’m definitely looking forward to the next time I can get out to an anime convention.

Zubat can be reached on Twitter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.