#5 Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad
“You’re living your life just to write an autobiography?”
From the first chord of the opening theme I knew that this was going to be the show for me. A musician myself, I have never been able to experience being in a band for very long, and for while it really bummed me out. Then Beck; Mongolian Chop Squad came into my life, and this one simple line changed my entire outlook on following my dreams. Throughout High-School and the beginning of college I would often imagine what my Wikipedia page would look like as I grew into an adult. I thought of all the goals I wanted to accomplish, but not in a way that was truly productive. What I was doing was spreading myself too thin. I kept imagining that first sentence, “Mitchell Ruderman is an Author, Artist, Director, Musician, Professor and Screenwriter, from New Jersey.” Of course that may indeed be my future, if I have the ambition and the willpower to see it through, but living my life just to see those words on a screen was the wrong way to go about it.
From my many failings with women I have learned a few things, not just about women but about life and who I want to be. Finding a partner isn’t just about talking yourself up or being the most attractive guy at the party. I discovered that what women were most interested in was a guy with passion. If I exist solely to find someone to fall in love with, then love will most likely never find me. It all comes back to that line I’ve heard about seven million times , “When you stop trying to find a girlfriend, that’s when you’ll get one.” It took a while for me to understand what exactly that meant. To me, it means that spending my time looking for love when I could be making something of myself will just mold me into a hollow person with no passion for anything real. What it takes to find love in another person is to find what you love about yourself, and what you love to do. If you can’t pin down what it is that you love about yourself how can you possibly love someone else?
It all comes down to maturity and this quote, and this Anime as a whole, taught me how to live my life to become something. Having a passion and pursuing it may be difficult at first, but finding what makes you happy will boost your self-esteem, making others want to be around you more. People are drawn to others who radiate good auras, which is what this Anime taught me: to find something I love to do, and by extension, I will find others who love it as well.
“Nothing can happen until you swing the bat.”
While the previous quote taught me about self-esteem, this line from the bizarre and experimental Anime FLCL or “Fooly Cooly” taught me about what it means to have the willpower to carry through into my passions. To be successful, or for that matter, to progress in any way, you have to swing that bat. The main character of this 6 episode series, Naota, struggles to deal with his life at home when his older brother moves to the United States to play Minor League Baseball. Only 12 years old, Naoto lives in the shadow of his brother, who was the only person that made sense to him. A plethora of animation styles and bat-shit insane action represents how the world feels to Naota. When a mysterious woman on a Vespa scooter runs him over, a strange bump appears on the young boy’s forehead. The entire show is a series of metaphors and references to the confusing journey that is puberty. For twelve year old Naota, the desire to be like his brothers leads him to start hanging out with High-schooler Mamimi (His brother’s ex-girlfriend) who treats him both as a child and as the only link she has left with her old boyfriend.
Living your own life means to be your own person. Naota struggles to make a move with Mamimi because he is afraid that he will always seem inferior to her compared to his brother. When Naota learns that a girl in his class likes him, he brushes her off to continue his unrequited relationship with Mamimi. To Naota, it is easier to like Mamimi because there are realistic barriers keeping them apart: their age and her previous relationship with his brother. Sometimes the easiest goals to chase are the ones that are impossible to reach. The security of knowing that no matter how much work you put in you cannot succeed makes failure less of a blow to your self-esteem. It’s a strange concept, but this is also a very strange Anime.
When Naota learns to swing the bat on his own, he starts to shape his own identity. It isn’t his brother who is in control, it isn’t Mamimi that he’s fighting for. Naota is fighting for himself, which is what earns him the respect of his peers, his crush, and most importantly, himself.
#3 One Piece
“Nobody is born into this world to be alone”
I think this one goes without saying, after all, it is the tagline for my blog. I actually came upon this quote on google while looking for inspirational quotes from Anime for a different project I was working on. Needless to say I found a pretty darn good one. What I learned from this quote is much simpler than the others. This is a quote I remind myself of whenever I feel like life has left me behind, or when I feel as if nothing I do is of any consequence. As a child I had trouble getting along with others because of my AD/HD, talking constantly and hardly taking a breath to listen to others. Looking back I don’t think there’s much I could have changed about myself at that age, but I certainly have learned from my experiences and this quote reminds me time and time again that I did find friends, and that they do care for me. The world isn’t as cruel as many make it out to be, it just requires some navigation to get to where you need to go. Friends and family are the key to finding sense in the world.
As individuals grow we look to others for advice and follow patterns. If every person was a blank slate that had to write itself the human race would not have gotten to where we are now. Growth is solitary in some aspects and communal in others. When you talk to people who share an interest with you, your understanding of the subject may change, evolve, and your passion will grow because you are no longer interested just for yourself. The friends I share most in common with are the people I text at the end of a new episode of a show we enjoy or after listening to a new song released by our favorite band. The joy I feel when bonding over the things I love with my friends is proof enough to me that I was never meant to be alone. The world may be separated by language or beliefs, but there will always be someone out there who shares a passion with you, so long as you open yourself up to others and are willing to share. Nobody is born into this world to be alone, but that doesn’t mean friends will gravitate towards you for simply existing, that comes later.
#2 Gurren Lagann
“Believe in the you that believes in yourself.”
This grammatically incorrect phrase belted by the bombastic blood-brother Kamina raises my spirits to record highs every time I watch the epic, Mecha-piloting , space-time punching, reality drilling, logic-kicking masterpiece that is Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. This show and this quote are the inspiration for this post. While the other lessons I have learned from Anime hold massive importance to me, this is the show that started it all. Crazy action, an invigorating soundtrack, and more heart than any program I have ever watched, the tale of Simon the Digger and his rise from the underground village of Giha to the ends of time and space taught me that if there is one thing on this planet you can count on, it’s the indomitable human spirit.
In the world of Gurren Lagann, humans are forced to live underground by a powerful and mysterious king named Lord Genome. While most humans live unaware that there is a surface above them, or an entity that drove them underground from that surface, Simon is a digger who’s job it is to help expand his small village as their population increases. A timid boy, digging is Simon’s one and only passion. His blood-brother, Kamina, on the other hand, is a loud-mouth who encourages Simon to, “Kick logic to the curb and do the impossible.”
When Simon digs up a small glowing drill and a Mecha shaped like a giant head, he changes his and Kamina’s destiny’s forever. Kamina dreams of the surface that his father showed him once as a kid, and with Simon’s help he hopes to reach that surface. With the power that Simon attains from his Mecha, him and Kamina make it to the surface, making friends with other humans who have escaped from their underground villages. I don’t want to give too much of the plot away so I’ll end the synopsis by saying that this show is not exactly what it seems at first.
What is more important is what this show has taught me, that is, to believe in the me who believes in myself. The grammar of this phrase is off for a reason, that is, its meaning is in its bending of the rules. In order to find power within yourself, you need to stop letting the fact get in the way. While this may seem to undermine the concept in Fooly Cooly of setting up impossible goals, the sentiment here is not about finding love in others, it is about attracting the respect and love of others. Kamina is highly respected by other characters, though at first he comes off as a bit of a jerk. He is admired for his spirit and dedication, and it is for that reason that Simon looks up to his as an older brother.
What Kamina teaches Simon throughout the show is that it is important to have the respect and the encouragement of others, but when times get tough and the people around you may have lost hope, you can’t depend on their encouragement to get you going. You need to be the one who believes in you, the source of your own power. You need to believe in the person you are, the person who believes in themselves. You need to swing that bat with all your might, stop living your life to write your autobiography, and just go forward for the sake of going forward. You are not born in this world to be alone, and when the lights go out and all you see is darkness, don’t look around for others to give you the answers. In the end, the only person you have control over is yourself, and with enough willpower and strength anything is possible. Kicking logic to the curb may seem like a ridiculous statement, but sometimes the simplest challenges appear to be the most impossible obstacles. Doing the impossible is the ultimate boost in self-confidence, and watching this show has taught me what it means to achieve what seems out of reach, by believing in myself.
#1 Avatar: The Last Airbender
“It is important to draw wisdom from different places. If you take it from only one place it becomes rigid and stale.”
At last I come to the lesson that leads into my goals for this blog in general. I have learned so much from Anime, but the last lesson I will share in this post is about my own shortcomings. For quite some time I refused to watch most programs that were not Anime, believing the answers to everything I had ever asked myself could be found in these shows. What I learned is that, yes, there is quite a lot I have learned from Anime, it is not a medium that is popular on a mainstream basis. It isn’t great to admit, but cocooning myself in a world that isn’t shared by most of my friends was making me feel alienated and less ambitious.
As a writer the subjects of my stories draw inspiration from numerous sources, as is necessary for my field of study. Being a writer means to be in tune with the human condition and how people think and work. Isolating myself to a single form of entertainment is not the best way to learn about myself, or about life, in order to become successful. The lessons I have learned from these shows all meld together into the biggest lesson, that in order to achieve the goals I set for myself and put what I’ve learned into practice, I need to break out of the bubble I put myself in. Uncle Iroh is a character who has touched the hearts of every fan of this show. A large percent of the generation that I grew up with no doubt was influenced by Prince Zuko’s wise and affable Uncle, once a fierce general in the Fire Nation army who discovered the errors of his violent ways and became the spiritual guide we met throughout the series.
Thank you for reading! I hope to do more lists like this in the future on other subject, ie. Books, movies, albums, etc. so stay tuned!