Why YOU should read Tsubasa RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE

FeaturedWhy  YOU should read Tsubasa RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE

*Light spoilers for Tsubasa Chronicle volumes 1-12*

Tsubasa RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE is my favorite manga (not that I’ve read many) and one of the most recent works of fiction that I’ve consumed that I feel has changed me, how I view life, how I view love and how I view fiction, and, therefore, being myself, I naturally want everybody else to jump on board and read this manga.

     Tsubasa Chronicle is a mid-2000s CLAMP manga. Syaoran is a young archeologist in the Country of Clow who, although not officially dating, is romantically involve with the country’s princess, Sakura, a young woman with extraordinary ambiguous latent power within her. Their lives are thrown into disarray when, in a trance late at night, Sakura is drawn to the country’s mysterious ruins, which Syaoran has been studying, and has her memories scattered across space and time to several different dimensions in the form of feathers. Though a mystery to our heroes, it is revealed to readers that the man responsible is the mysterious Fei Wang Reed, a powerful warlock of unknown relation to Sakura’s late father, the equally mysterious Clow Reed. 

The high priest, a warlock named Yukito, uses all of his power to transport Syaoran and the seemingly lifeless body of Sakura across dimensions to a distant world wherein lies a shop where wishes are granted kept by the space-time witch, Yuuko Ichihara (of course, that’s an alias). Syaoran wishes for the ability to save the dying Sakura and collect her feathers, a task which requires the ability to cross dimensions, Yuuko’s specialty. In order to grant Syaoran’s wish to save Sakura, Yuuko requires a fair price be paid, something of equal value—even if Syaoran recovers all of Sakura’s feathers, she will never regain her memories of him. 

     Joining them on their journey are the rugged samurai Kurogane, who was banished from his world by his retainer, princess Tomoyo, for his excessive violence, and the mystery warlock twink Fai D. Flowright, who hails from the icy country of Ceres. Kurogane requires the power to cross dimensions to return home, while Fai requires it to stay on the run from the mad king that rules his home country. Together, they will lend their assistance in Syaoran and Sakura’s journey to collect the feathers, each of which contains a fraction of Sakura’s latent power and therefore cause chaos wherever they land. 

     That’s just a synopsis of the first three chapters, the basic premise, but the appeals of Tsubasa Chronicle extend far beyond that. Tsubasa covers 14 worlds in 238 chapters (28 volumes), and each world is vastly different from the previous world. You might be wondering if the Sakura and Syaoran from Tsubasa are the same as the ones form CCS— they’re not. They have the same souls, but grew up in different worlds and were shaped by different societies. You’ll encounter quite a few characters like that in Tsubasa Chronicle, many of whom are alternate versions of characters from different CLAMP manga. Not just any alternate world versions of other CLAMP characters appear here, however, only those most overflowing with personality appear. Yo, Tsubasa is so fucking good, there’ll be moments where characters meet alternate world versions of characters they knew from their own world and get really confused, its great. Anyway, I guarantee you’ll fall in love with the cast of Tsubasa, core and supporting.

     Another thing the different worlds allow for is genre hopping. Tsubasa will hop between several different genres, many of which correspond to the different settings of each world. Tsubasa, in its journeys across worlds, often feels a lot like Rolling Girls, and that’s especially pronounced in the first two arcs. The cool urban alternate world Osaka is a Jojo homage, the second arc is an alternate world of CLAMP’s earlier cancelled manga Shin Shunkanden and the creepy wintery pre-industrial eastern European Jade country is where the detective mystery arc takes place— that’s the arc when things really pick up. The Country of Oto is a spin on a concept that you’ve probably seen in anime, but to tell you which one would spoil it. Despite that arc being focused on fighting demons in an urban pseudo Taisho era setting, that arc is mostly filled with slice of life stuff. The Shura/Shara country arc is a classic tale of dual star-crossed lovers. The Piffle World arc is an extravagant and fun arc, one which, due to the prominence of Sakura and an alternate world Tomoyo, gives a great idea of the feel of your typical episode of Cardcaptor Sakura. Piffle World’s narrative revolves around an epic “dragonfly” race reminiscent of the pod race from Phantom Menace, except way better. 

     Of course, another obvious appeal of Tsubasa is CLAMP’s art, which covers a breadth of different aesthetics across its 28 volumes. I think the best demonstration of this would be visual. Once you get to the eighth world, Tokyo, Tsubasa changes substantially. I won’t spoil anything, but I guarantee you it turns the angst up to 11, and the shift in artistic style and aesthetic really reflects that. It’s really really good shit. So yeah, read Tsubasa Chronicle.

The Subtle Art of Anime Recommendations

It’s tiring to watch the way some Anitwitterers run around recommending the same show, perhaps, for example, their favorite long-running shounen, to every single person they come across. There are many techniques to recommending anime, and I think I’ve practiced most of them. There’s the strategy of constantly preaching the merits of a show and inevitably becoming depressed when nobody pays attention to those tweets. There’s the option of directly harassing somebody to watch a show until they block you. And, of course, my personal favorite, blackmail. Guilting then into it is another play I frequently employ.

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On my way to recommend Cardcaptor Sakura to you.

I’ll touch more on the technique of how you recommend a show later. The most important dimension of the art of anime recommendations is what you recommend. In performing the art of recommending an anime, the anime you recommend should not be predetermined, though you can have anime that you are certain you won’t recommend. To recommend an anime is to serve not yourself, but the person that will receive the recommendation.

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To gracefully perform the art of recommending an anime, you must try to divorce yourself as much as possible from the process. Think not of the anime you’ve seen as an assortment of shows that you’ve seen arranged in a manner that denotes how much you enjoyed each, but simply of a catalogue of the shows that you are able to recommend. There is no self that extends through time. The ‘you’ of this moment is different from the ‘you’ of the last and different from the you that consumed those anime. Recommending an anime is an act of selflessness, so you must truly believe, while you are performing, that there is no self. This is asking a lot. I’ve not yet met a performer of this sacred art that has performed it without flaw, but I believe that is for the best, because I believe that the flaws of a performance make the performance all the more interesting.


If a selfish anime recommendation is a recommendation of an anime you love for the sake of either having more people to discuss the anime with or for the greater glorification of that anime, then a selfless anime recommendation is one that is entirely tailored to suit the one to whom you are recommending. Unless one has attained enlightenment, I believe it’s impossible to perform an entirely selfless anime recommendation. It will always land on a spectrum.

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Me depressed when you end up hating Ladies Vs Butlers

In order to recommend an anime to someone in good faith, you must know that person intimately, it is not enough to simply have access to that person’s MAL/Anilist/Kitsu. You can’t simply base a recommendation based on every show the person has rated that you’ve seen. A show that you use as the foundation for a recommendation must fill a few criteria. First, both you and the recipient need to have seen the show. Secondly, you must have an understanding of what specifically about those shows the person liked, how much they liked them and why. Likewise, you must also understand what about those shows the person disliked, how much they disliked them and why.


This last point is crucial. You must especially have a clear gauge of the recipients tolerance for problematic content. Many folks will have clear policies about automatic drops with regards to specific genres of problematic content. For example, on their own, a person might never watch fanservice heavy anime with uncensored breasts, regardless of whether or not they actively cheer for when uncensored breasts are shown when watching such a show in a groupwatch.  Be careful, because if you strike out with recommendations too many times, your career as an anime recommendation artist will be over before you can say, “Nakaimo was anime of the decade.”

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tfw you watch the anime I recommended.

It is important to understand the different types of problematic content and the nuances between the different ways problematic content is presented, because folks will have different levels of tolerance for those different types. For example, I can’t stand High School DxD, but I love To Love-Ru. One difference in similar problematic content between those shows is that Issei from DxD gropes female characters on purpose and has a stupid fucking mullet, whereas Rito from To Love-Ru only ever does it on accident. While both are tiring for me, I tolerate it in To Love-Ru, but actively hate it in DxD. However, I think many people are probably unable to tolerate either in equal measure because the purpose in both shows is to titillate the audience and both are non-consensual. Okay, I should probably be in this camp. On the other end of the spectrum, where the idea of problematic content is considered a conspiracy by SJWs to ruin anime, there are folks who get tired of To Love-Ru’s accidental gropings and Rito’s overall lack of sex drive and love DxD specifically because they appreciate the fact that Issei owns perversion and doesn’t let things like consent get between him and groping or exploding the clothes off of female characters.

While we’re talking about it, pleeeeeeease watch To Love-Ru?

Once you have an understanding of the specific elements in each anime that both you and the recommendation recipient have seen that the recipient likes and dislikes, you can begin to construct your recommendation. The first and most obvious step is to narrow down the field of potential recommendations. You don’t want to simply eliminate every anime that features one element comparable to an element they disliked from another show because it would narrow the field too much. You should still eliminate every anime that has an element that is prominent in the show and comparable to one of the elements in another anime that they disliked with a passion. This is why it’s important to understand not only what elements the recipient dislikes about a certain anime you both have seen, but also how much they disliked them. Any shows that share at least five elements comparable to elements that they had more minor complaints with in other anime should also be eliminated from consideration for recommendation unless the anime in question also has a considerable number of elements comparable to elements that the recipient found favorable in other anime.

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Me rewarding you for watching Gargantia.

Now that you’ve narrowed down the field, you want to pivot to finding anime with elements that are comparable to elements the recipient found compelling in other anime. Identify each anime that features an element similar to an element the recipient found exceptionally compelling in another anime and set these aside in a group. Next, you want to separate this group. You should sort the anime that feature two or more of these exceptionally compelling elements into a group designated ‘First Class’ and those that only feature one into a group designated ‘Business Class.’ From the remaining anime in the field, select those that that feature a few elements comparable to elements they found moderately compelling in other anime and sort them into a final group designated ‘Economy.’

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Me writing this post in the car on the way to New Jersey

How do these classes come into play? Well, First Class is where you pull from for the anime you are expressly pushing them to watch, your primary recommendation. You will never draw your primary recommendation from Business Class. If you witness somebody else pushing the person to watch an anime that’s in Business Class or above, you should collaborate with them in their recommendation. If the recipient asks you if any anime in Economy or above would be worth watching, you tell them yes.

Me blowdrying your hair.

Narrowing down your primary recommendation from among the First Class selection is the final step in this grueling process. You shouldn’t prioritize any anime that you think a mutual friend of yourself and the recipient will also recommend to them. You should raise in priority the anime that tackle the elements comparable to elements the recipient found exceptionally compelling in other anime in the manner most different from the styles and contexts to which the recipient is most accustomed. One goal of the Anime recommendation artist should always be to expand the horizons of the recipient. The objective and selfless selection, the selection only the bodhisattvas will be able to make, is the show with the most elements similar to elements they found compelling in other anime. However, most cannot achieve that and it is at this point in the process that the self of the artist factors in. At this point, it’s different for every artist. In my case, I typically recommend the show with the staff that I believe deserves more attention and appreciation or the show I’ve seen discussed the least in our circle of friends. This is where the basics end and where your define your style of anime recommendations.

Raising our child after I finally get you to watch Clannad.

Now comes the methods of anime recommendation. The key is to be persistent, but not annoying. You shouldn’t often preface a conversation with the recipient with the recommendation, but rather work the recommendation in organically if an opportunity arises. Playing AMQ is a great example. Say that I want to recommend an anime to, for example, just using a random name, Noel Gallagher. I’d play AMQ with Noel Gallagher along with other folks, and whenever the anime I want to recommend comes up, I would say something like, “OI, NOEL, I RECKON YOU’D RIGHT FANCY REVOLUTIONARY GIRL UTENA, MATE.”

I’mma keep it real with you fam, y’gotta watch Flip Flappers.

Dealing with rejection is a part of the artistic process. Best case scenario, they watch it and don’t like and/or drop it. You must interview the recipient to gauge your mistakes. If a show that they ended up not liking made it all the way to first class you need to reassess your whole operation. My only advice would be to read this again (and like, share and subscribe). If they don’t even watch it, which is what will happen most times, I don’t know what to tell you mate. There’s nothing that can ease the soul-crushing depression caused by the rejection of someone not watching an anime you recommended, unless their reason is something like they’re too busy which is totally understandable. Otherwise, sorry mate, that fucking sucks. Maybe try not to identify so heavily with an anime that the rejection of your recommendation of it feels like a rejection of you personally. As a matter of fact, the whole process outlined above is designed to spare you from that.

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tfw you reject my anime recommendation.

In conclusion, don’t be the person that recommends the same show, which they only just watched for the first time, to everybody they know and never even acknowledged the person that recommended the show to them in the first place. Hope you enjoyed this wonderful exploration of anime recommendation theory.

Me to myself tomorrow when I find out people actually read this.

Notes’s very special chili recipe, yeet

First yr gonna need a crockpot; okay, then add 2 lbs ground beef (browned beforehand, then spend like 20 minutes draining the fat because you weren’t paying attention when your mom taught you how to do it, so you kinda had to figure out how to do it on your own and you’re still to lazy to google it, so you really suck at it (wait, no, actually I did google it, that’s why I started using a spoon to like shovel it out, I guess I don’t know why it takes that long then, is it supposed to take that long, I feel like it isn’t) then add a cup and a half of water and sprinkle in some spicy taco shit from the ethnic food aisle (sorry, but I am too tired to go into my well-rehearsed rant about all of that bullshit [I don’t actually have a well-rehearsed rant]) , 28 oz kIdney beans (whichever kind at the store says spicy chili style), 28 oz Diced Tomatoes (also whichever kind at the store says spicy chili style. I want this chili *spicy*), 14 oz Tomato sauce; once these ingredients are in that crockpot add the spicy chili mix stuff (unless you’re me and have to use the regular stuff because the spicy stuff ain’t gluten free), then stir that shit up (you’ll know when you’ve stirred it enough when your arm starts hurting [it’s, like normal for that to happen after like just ten stirs, right?]); then add 4 fucking bell peppers (get the green ones so it’s more colorful, you don’t want the finished product looking like bloody stool) and 2 big ass onions [idk, the only onions the store had when I went were like twice the size of normal onions], after you spend like an hour cutting them up while singing along to Joni Mitchell’s Blue (though that’s actually only 40 minutes long, idk what you should listen to for the remaining 20 minutes [sike,of course I know, use that time to get some fucking Oasis in your life]) and crying (don’t worry, it’s because of the onions [also maybe not just because of the onions, but still don’t worry, this is normal for me{well, it wasn’t *always* normal for me, but unfortunately, adulting}]), (don’t worry when it turns out that you have, like a million times more onions than peppers, there’s like a lot of fucking onion in a single onion, I don’t know how they fit it all in there) I also sauté them beforehand, but I don’t know if I’m, like supposed to do that, idk, I don’t know how fucking cooking works; okay, now stir that shit up real good (using the other arm this time to give the other one a rest [also, apparently, like, using your non-dominant hand to brush your teeth is like healthy or something? so, same logic as that]); okay now turn it on high and leave it for four hours, wait, well, four hours is what the bag of spicy chili mix (also the non-spicy chili mix, it’s the same, except not spicy and gluten-free [so, kinda not the same, I guess]) said, but that didn’t account for my vegetable overkill, so idk leave it for four hours then every fifteen minutes come and taste it to see if it burns your mouth, and when it does, you’ll know it’s probably ready; BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE, while you’re letting the Crockpot do whatever crockpots do, cook two cups of rice (idk what brand you use, they all have different cooking instructions [I use, uh, wait let me go to the kitchen real quick to check… *waiting* … {sorry, it’s like a long walk to my kitchen}… okay, it’s uh {sorry now I have to actually go check instead of typing that I’m going to go check, brb}{god, I do not want to get up and walk all the way to the kitchen right now}{actually, I have t’go to the bathroom anyway}{note: I didn’t actually have to go to the bathroom}{it still took me like another two minutes after typing that to actually get up} okey dokey *typing from the kitchen* {that wasn’t so bad}{*is actually out of breath because I’m extremely out of shape and that’s something I really need to fix or else I’ll never attain the twink status I yearn for*} {still typing from the kitchen while holding my computer and my arm is getting tired again} wait why am I here again? {switches arm} oh yeah, rice, {okay now my arm really is getting tired}{also my back hurts} okey dokey, I use, uh, Our Family brand Enriched Long Grain White Rice {actually switching arms now}{wait, duh, I can just rest the computer on the counter}{it’s not like I didn’t realize that, I just didn’t plan to be here long enough for my arm to get tired} Why was I here again? Oh yeah, anyway, that’s the brand I like, it’s like, fluffy as fuck] wait we’re still in the parentheses? actually, I think I said all the parentheses stuff I wanted to say) what was this post (well, I actually typed all of this in  a discord channel about food then realized I had typed over a thousand words) about again? oh yeah, anyway, cook that rice, preferably (back on the couch from the kitchen now) only shortly before or once the rest of the chili (you: wait, what  do you mean, “rest of the chili”; I know what you’re thinking and you’re correct: I looked at that perfectly fine chili and said “WHAT IF THERE WAS RICE”) has finished cooking; btw, once the rest of chili has finished cooking, set the crockpot to warm, its like a life hack to keep it from going cold, if life hacks can include features on crockpots that are deliberately designed for the convenience of keeping your chili, or whatever the fuck else people put in crockpots (not here to judge), warm; okay once your rice has finished cooking, dump that shit into the crockpot, which, if you’ve been following these instructions carefully, should be borderline overflowing by now; of course, you know what I’m gonna ask y’all to do next, right? that’s right: STIR THAT BINCH (don’t worry, I’m not going to beat the dead horse of my tired arms). Okay! You’re done! Simple enough, right?

IMG_1663There she is.

A Little Reflection on the First Episode of Sarazanmai

First of all, I’m thankful for Sarazanmai’s premiere because it made me realize what  perspective I specifically have to offer. Perhaps one reason I fail to put out content frequently is that, when I want to analyze a work, I want to analyze everything. Nobody can do that. That’s what I’ve tried to do with Clannad and have failed spectacularly, barely scratching the surface of the first season alone in a total of over 100,000 words. I was most successful when I focused on very specific elements of the story, like the Ibuki Sisters. The work that I’m consistently the most proud of, like my (hopefully only first) piece on Suguha from Sword Art Online, focuses on specific topics, in that example, one scene in episode 15. 

Anyways, I’ve realized that, in order to contribute to the Sarazanmai discourse in as meaningful a way as possible, I need to utilize my own perspective, and I think the most interesting perspective I can bring to the table is my own neurodivergency. One of the few things I’m not too hot on in Monogatari is how, in Hanekawa’s case, they make a point of comparing her apparitions to a multiple-personality disorder. I think it’s wrong to try to squeeze Hanekawa into a box like that. Fortunately, that’s the only instance in which Monogatari does that. Society’s insistence on pathologizing neurodiversity is a structure that I think I can actually engage with meaningfully in fiction. Okay, I’m not saying people shouldn’t get diagnosed, medicated and go to therapy, I’m saying that they should not have to hide their struggles out of fear of being treated differently for them. Folks should not be othered  for any reason, including neurodivergency. But this is all obvious stuff.

In my own case, I’ve had ADHD and struggled with anxiety since childhood, struggled with depression since high school and have struggled with self-hatred and experienced delusional and psychotic episodes with varying frequencies since starting college. There’s a difference between me outlining those things myself and having them imposed upon me. The phrase “struggle with” is particularly empowering when it is applied to mental health issues, as I did above. Its better than saying “I’ve struggled with depression,” for me, helps me avoid the conflation of my bouts of depression with my identity, even though they have shaped who I am and will likely continue to in the future. Perhaps most importantly, I think, is that, in many cases, the social pathologization of neurodiversity misrepresents some of the frequent causes of many mental health issues. In my case, my anxiety is the consequence of my traumatic experiences with my second grade teacher. The social pathologization of anxiety does not accommodate the variations in each individual case. For example, my trauma shaped me so that I’m constantly afraid of “getting in trouble” even as an adult. For many people, life-shaping trauma comes at the hands of oppressive structures, and this is something Ikuhara has explored before. Honestly, whenever I’m watching anime, I’m always considering the specific ways characters might be neurodivergent. So yeah, my analysis of Sarazanmai will focus on what insight I can provide from my own perspective of being a neurodivergent individual. 

Anyways, enough rambling, onto the actual content.


First of all, you should have expected me to point out this:

And this

oh and

And most memorably.


Just had to get that out of the way. Those are probably meaningless parallels found only by grasping at straws, so they probably don’t mean anything.

Actually that’s not true, especially considering the fact that Bakemonogatari didn’t have to start with the scene from Kizumonogatari. The light changing at the crosswalk is a really classic way of indicating that the story is beginning. For both Araragi and Kazuki, these crosswalks herald the dramatic ways in which their lives will change, blah blah blah. The second parallel I noticed both seem to serve the purpose of contrasting the characters with the largeness of the world around them. In Monogatari, characters rarely explicitly engage with that outer world, but in Sarazanmai, I expect that to be different. As for the architecture, I’ve always interpreted the intricate architecture of Ikuhara shows to represent the oppressive structures that his characters are struggling against. Oh and Nobuyuki Takeuchi who storyboarded the first five episodes of Bakemonogatari is codirecting Sarazanmai, but I expected everyone to know that connection already.

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Anyway, Kazuki is the member of the main trio that receives the spotlight in this episode. They spends the first half of the episode asserting their need to connect with a certain girl and carrying around a box, one they says they always keeps with them. These boxes contain the characters’ secret desires. The contents of Kazuki’s box “leak” and are broadcasted to Enta and Kuji when they are performing the Sarazanmai sequence. In Kazuki’s box are the clothes of the idol that appears on the TV. The conclusion I immediately came to is that Kazuki is a closeted trans woman. The woman they’re trying to connect with is themself and the model for their femininity seems to be the idol, Sara. Their reaction to the leaking of their secrets to the others is to say that they themselves are “messed up” and that they never asked anyone to understand them. Kazuki seems to have some negative feelings directed towards themself, feelings that are imposed by society’s values which label their behavior and trans identity as being deviant. Having the context of their box leaked put Kazuki on the spot, and their instinctive initial reaction was to affirm the assertions of the systems oppressing them. Kazuki’s assertion that they are “messed up” also seems like a fairly accurate reflection of the systematic government-imposed pathologization of trans identity in Japan, where gender dysphoria is legally considered a mental disorder.

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The character acting of the silhouette in this scene was phenomenal

Of course, at the end of the episode, we see a little girl that seems to be receiving their texts and my presumption was that Kazuki is sending the selfies to her, so perhaps their assertion of their need to connect with a certain girl has a double meaning. Another interesting thing is that Kazuki becomes anxious at the idea of being taken in by the police, and it seems that their assumption is that the cops would confiscate the contents of their box. The show has clearly set up the cops as the villains. Perhaps they are supposed to represent the oppressive structures our characters will be struggling with.

I’m not sure what’s going on with Kuji, but Enta explicitly states to his sister that the contents of his box are for Kazuki, and it seems like the contents are representative of romantic feelings. There seems to be a lot of anxiety between the three main characters regarding the secrecy of the contents of their boxes. I was considering taking this down cause I’m just stating the obvious, but it seems like that’s what some people on twitter want, based on what I saw of the tweets reacting to this episode.




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senpai;notes/John Clark

So apparently there are people that don’t like senpai;notes—no, that’s not the right way to start this. However, that being my instinctual response to feeling I need to apologize is very telling. I believe I’ve said this in the past, but senpainotes is an exercise in performance art. Sorta. It wasn’t always that way. That doesn’t make any of my problematic behavior any better but hmmmm. I was going into this intending to say that the most problematic  of Notes’s behavior was performative. But… I’ve always been unhinged Online. I’ve always been impulsive and obsessive. That has always been true of me. So while I had been intending to dismiss my more problematic behavior as elaborate performance art, I’m finding upon just the slightest reflection that I cannot say such things honestly in most cases. That’s just me being me. I’ve always been the kind of guy that won’t leave it be, that doesn’t know when to stop, that needs to have things spelled out explicitly in order to get the message. I’ve always been that kind of fool. Maybe the whole idea about it being performance art is a lukewarm justification that I manufactured to create separation between the real me and my abusive and otherwise deeply troubling behavior online. Perhaps it’s just one of my many delusions. 

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There is some problematic behavior or comments that I can categorically rule out as the product of my performative instincts, and that’s all the questionable little sister stuff. Leave it to me to replicate in my behavior the greatest flaw of the anime closest to my heart. I was wrong to think that people would be entertained by that, and I’m sure that many reactions I perceived as affirmations were really just folks trying to hide their discomfort. I’m sorry everybody. 

I think… I think a big problem I have is that I’ve become so dissociated with the real world. I haven’t had a conversation with somebody my age outside of a classroom in over two years, and I haven’t regularly conversed with folks my age in almost three. Over the past four years I’ve gone through two major nervous breakdowns. The first one was the reason I originally had to withdraw from Notre Dame. That was the first time I hit rock bottom, and it was at that rock bottom that I first watched Monogatari. And no, I’m not gonna say Monogatari saved me, because I spent the following year and a half consistently sabotaging my efforts to get back into Notre Dame each semester, a pattern that culminated in my second nervous breakdown in the late Fall of 2017/Early Winter of 2018. 

If you’re reading this, you probably knew me at that time. During that time I was particularly active on here. I went on a number of “crusades” during that time, a label that’s certainly reflective of my performative embellishments on my problematic behavior. That being said, Mr. Cynical is a rapist by his friends’ own (later) admission. So I’m not apologizing for that. Even so, those “crusades” as I call them, or “witch-hunts” as the folks on the receiving end called them, even though I almost always acted alone, were nothing more than harassment campaigns and they weren’t healthy for me. All notions of justice aside, those harassment campaigns always corresponded to manic episodes I was having, symptoms of the greater mental health crisis I was falling into at the time. I’m not trying to excuse any of my problematic behavior as symptoms of mental illness. My harassment of progrockboy carried on well into 2018. He didn’t deserve any of that, he’s just a reactionary kid who doesn’t know any better. 

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I was under the delusion that I’d be able to convert him, I had fantasies of him going on to become a model SJW in his own right and convert all of his reactionary followers. I really was delusional. I don’t know what to attribute that to. Maybe it’s from spending so much time stuck in my own head. Maybe it was boredom. Maybe those delusions, which trace back to that Fall of 2017, were born out of a need for something to preoccupy me, to distract me from how my life was collapsing during that Fall. I couldn’t face the reality of my deteriorating mental health, so I played at being a hero of justice on twitter dot com. The following Spring, when I wasn’t in school, I had nothing to do, so I think I probably hung onto those delusions as something to waste time on. Now that I think about it, whenever some reactionary would reply to me asking me about my motivations, I always replied that I was just wasting time. 

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More than anything else in that Spring, I spent my time really planting my roots firmly in this corner of Anitwitter, something that I think really solidified when I finally let go of the progrockboy delusions. That was also when I started the summer term, which ended up being my first totally successful semester of college since 2015. I’m confident that I only managed to do it because I’ve finally found a home with the community in this small corner of Anitwitter.

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Old habits die hard though, and, as you probably remember, in late August/early September, I struggled to kick my tendencies as a provocateur. It was only when I thought I had seriously endangered  my standing in this community that I was finally able to kick the bad habit. Though, with the whole Juju situation I was often tempted and sometimes tried to use that to relive past glory, each time I did, I got tired of it before it became a shit show over which I’d lost control. 

I think I can confidently say that I’ve finally really once and for all kicked that habit. At the present time, I have no desire whatsoever to engage in that sort of thing, but I know that may change and I may be tempted in the future. Wait no. I was sure I’d end it here, but reflecting upon my recent behavior, the belief that my obsessiveness only manifests in “crusades” is yet another delusion of mine.

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Actually, I haven’t quit that habit at all. I haven’t learned anything and I haven’t changed. I’m still that same kind of fool, except this time, my foolishness is alienating people close to me. All I’ve retired from is crusades against people I dislike. Arguably it’s even worse now, it’s been reborn lately in my aggressive recommending if Monogatari. 

Looking at my tweets from the past month, this too has been nothing more than a thinly veiled harassment campaign. And what’s worse is that this time, I’ve directed my obsessive energy against folks that I care about and respect. I’m so easily influenced by my own fantasies, and in this case, it’s my fantasy of the idealized Monogatari experience, a belief that everybody can find something of value in the series. I also conveniently forget that people have lives and are busy, or are just so turned off by what they’ve heard about the show that they’re very reasonably resistant to the idea of watching it. All of this just adds up to more delusions. 

At the end of the day people should just watch what they want to watch. There’s no need to mention any show more than once.  Nobody deserves the harassment I’ve been responsible for and I’m deeply sorry for this behavior. Maybe I’m talking out of my ass, but I’ve probably come to identify with the series so heavily that my aggressive harassment of folks that haven’t seen it is likely a manifestation of a deeper craving for acknowledgement and affirmation. 

     And, to bring it full circle, perhaps that craving for affirmation was caused by my inconsistent treatment of senpainotes as a practice in performance art. It’s hard to feel affirmed when the person receiving affirmations isn’t totally you. There’s a definite deviation between senpainotes and the real world John Clark —or at least there was. Now it feels a bit blurry, though it shouldn’t. Maybe it’s just because I live my life so totally online.

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I think I fell in love with Sword Art Online, and specifically the Fairy Dance arc, on my rewatch because of the show’s theme that your real world personality adjusts to conformity with the persona you’ve built online. Well, I say it’s a theme, but Kirito just comes out right and says it, so, yeah. Anyways, that’s something I’ve experienced over the past five months especially. 

There’s also the factor that I’m personally fond of this persona I’ve built under the name senpainotes. Like Sinon, I’ve built this online persona that’s the version of myself I  most want to be, one that I can’t make happen for myself in the real world. SenpaiNotes, the confident and bold hero of justice. Of course, that’s not my image here at all. I blunder too frequently for those ideals to be realized in the ways I want them to be.

“Confident and bold,” I’d like that to remain true of senpainotes, I think it’s part of what makes this special and it’s nice to be this version of myself that won’t come out in the real world, or at the very least, hasn’t yet had the opportunity to. But I’d also like to be SenpaiNotes, the guy who loves his friends and demonstrates it. SenpaiNotes, the guy that goes out of his way to make sure everyone he interacts with is as comfortable as possible. SenpaiNotes, the ally. SenpaiNotes, the guy that puts out compelling original content. SenpaiNotes, the guy that everybody feels comfortable relying on. All of those traits are more valuable than the aggression and obnoxiousness that my ideals have until now mostly been realized as. Those are the traits of folks that are heroes to me when I encounter them in the real world, where I don’t have any confidence in social situations. 

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Of course, I’ve been talking about how I’d like to change so that I don’t alienate any more people, but I’m not entirely confident that I deserve a place here anymore. Now that I’m taking the time to frankly assess my behavior, I’m bewildered as to why you all haven’t abandoned me. I know I would have. I’ve made myself utterly unlikable, and it’s going to be a Herculean task to try to rectify all the horrible impressions I’ve left on people. I’ve always thought I understood why people block me, but now I really do. Its for protection. This community is supposed to be a place where we can all feel comfortable. To those that I’ve already alienated beyond the point of no return, I will make no effort to win their favor or trust. I’ll leave them alone as they wish. As I type this, my overwhelming feeling is that Anitwitter as a whole would be better off if I left everyone alone forever. But if I did that, I mean, this is my entire social life, this place means more to me than anything in the world. I hate to believe that I’m poisoning it for the rest of you. I always see folks tweeting unwarranted self deprecating commentary, but in my case, there’s demonstrable evidence and likely dozens of personal testimonies that can attest that this place might be better off without me. For now, at least, I’m going to try my best to improve my behavior based on others’ complaints and my findings in this reflection. Please never hesitate to tell me how my behavior might be bothering you or making you feel uncomfortable.

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There have been a few folks along the way that haven’t beaten around the bush at all and called me out when I’ve made the atmosphere uncomfortable, and I’m very thankful to all of them.

Damn, there’s so much stuff that I had in my head that I was gonna add. I definitely feel like I haven’t been as totally honest in my self assessment. If nothing else, my use of Monogatari screencaps clearly indicates that I haven’t given up on getting people to watch it, but they’re thematically relevant, so I’ll keep them. Oh yeah. If I’m a liability to you because of my problematic behavior, just cut me off. 




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I hit rock bottom in March of 2016. I was forced to withdraw from my dream school because my depression had made it impossible for me to succeed academically. I can remember telling myself that I’d manage to fix everything, but those were delusions. I was “averting my eyes” from the truth. I was so lonely. As my life started spiraling downwards, I never once considered asking for help.

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it me

I kept telling myself that I had the power to fix my situation all on my own, but every time I tried to focus on fixing things, I ended up just going to bed. I was spending so much time escaping into anime, especially shows like Clannad in which I could live my ideal wholesome trad fantasy.

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I love how I can just randomly insert these Monogatari screencaps an y’all can tell how they relate to my experiences. You can tell, can’t you?

I had reached the point where I figured that I don’t deserve the company of other people, but I still strived for companionship, always sabotaging my efforts as a way of sparing the person to whom I was trying to reach out the burden of having to deal with someone as rotten as me. Nobody had to suffer besides me when I spent time with anime. When my entire world finally came crashing down on me, I blamed myself for being lazy, piling on even more self-hatred than I had already accumulated.

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We all have that Ougi voice in the back of our heads.

It was not too lit fam. Anyway, part of me is still ashamed of the fact that I had to take a medical withdrawal from Notre Dame. I know I shouldn’t be ashamed and that I had long lost control of my life by no fault of my own, but I still haven’t internalized that.

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When I returned home, I spent like three months almost entirely in my basement, curled up on the couch listening to music or watching anime (It was during that period of time that I first watched Monogatari 20 times in a row). A few days after I got home, I rolled over on the couch in the basement and heard some noise. It was my little sister playing with her barbies, which she hadn’t done in a long time. I chatted with her. I’d been crushed with shame whenever speaking to anybody since getting home, but for some reason, I felt totally comfortable chatting with my little sister then. She was in eighth grade at the time. This became a regular occurrence, and she’d always tell me she loved me when she was done and went back upstairs. My little sister became my best friend and helped save me when I hit absolute rock bottom. Screen Shot 2018-12-23 at 11.28.29 PMOne of the most compelling scenes in Sword Art Online is in the first episode of the Fairy Dance arc, after Kirito has met Sugou *gag* and learned that Asuna is going to be married off. Kirito is absolutely devastated. His wife is going to be married off without her consent to a creep that she hates and Kirito can’t do anything about. And yes fuck this conflict it fucking sucks. Maybe it’d be okay if he wasn’t so rapey and the objective wasn’t so blatantly for Kirito to protect Asuna’s “purity,” but oh well. Its a testament to how great a character Suguha is that this is my favorite SAO arc despite all of that. Anyway, with a creeper stealing his online wife, Kirito has totally sunken into a pit of despair. This is rock bottom for Kirito.

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You can’t see his eyes, so you know shit’s serious

That evening, Suguha enters Kirito’s room after he fails to respond to her when she tells him the bath is ready. She enters his room because she cares about her br- see, there I go, that’s way more specific than I need to be, I’m just stating the obvious. Anyways… Suguha’s perspective shapes this scene in Kirito’s room, which Sword Art Online utilizes as a representation of his now devastated internal world.

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Suguha opens the door to Kirito’s room, and with her brings light and warmth. The Nervegear, in the foreground, was responsible for stealing the already distant Kirito away from Suguha for two whole years.

She finds her brother sitting alone on his bed in his room. The room is illuminated only by the moonlight streaming through the huge window in the corner of the room behind the bed and is freezing because it’s the middle of January and he hasn’t turned on the heater. In the first three shots of Kirito after Suguha enters the room, his eyes are hidden by shadows. Suguha turns on the heater and asks what’s going on. Kirito tells her that he just wants to be left alone, which is, of course, the last thing you should say when you want to be left alone. Perhaps Kirito was subconsciously trying to reach out to Suguha in that moment.

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Love how she’s got a bit of that Virgin Mary look going on with that towel

The concern in Suguha’s voice grows stronger in response to that most obvious of red flags and we see a look in Kirito’s eyes more harrowing than anything we were privy to during his experiences in Sword Art Online. Our (new) heroine immediately swoops down on him, taking his hands in hers, and asks him what’s wrong and if he’s alright, to which Kirito initially responds that “its nothing.”


Suguha’s demonstration of her love for her brother brings warmth to the room (she turned on the heater) and to Kirito (grasping his hands). That warmth, that love, allows Kirito to open up to her. We get to see the extremely rare “vulnerable Kirito,” a side of him we’ve only seen him show Asuna. He apologizes to Suguha, expressing his despair, saying, “I’m so hopeless and weak,” then expressing his regret that Suguha has to see him in such a compromised state, something he had sworn not to allow happen. Kirito gives an extremely vague explanation of his situation, breaking down into tears in the process.


Suguha throws her arms around him, allowing him to cry into her, uh, bosom, and tells him to hang in there and not give up on being with the one he loves. She instills hope in Kirito.

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The next morning (after waking up in same bed as her), Kirito reflects on and affirms Suguha’s words of comfort and encouragement. And then he conveniently gets a message that leads him to the answer to all of his problems BUT THAT’S NOT IMPORTANT.

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*plot convenience inbound*

Just as Suguha brought love and warmth to Kirito when he needed it most and encouraged him to keep fighting, so too did my little sister comfort me when I needed it most. And since then, like Suguha, my little sister has always been my biggest cheerleader, encouraging me not to give up in my struggles to overcome myself. Oh, and now I’m finally going back to Notre Dame, I’ve finally finished clawing my way back up from rock bottom, and I was only able to do it because I had my little sister cheering for me all along the journey.

Screen Shot 2018-12-23 at 11.29.26 PMScreen Shot 2018-12-24 at 2.31.12 AM.pngI’m gonna be writing more about Suguha, since this isn’t as much about her character as it is about the projections of my own experiences onto this one scene in particular.


Kotomi is, like, the worst of Clannad’s heroines.

Tomoya didn’t have to be Kotomi’s childhood friend for this to work out, in fact, it would have been better if he wasn’t. We don’t get any other glimpses of Tomoya’s childhood at that age until After Story episode 18. The only thing that these scenes tell us is that he’s wary around adults at that age. Well, actually, it wouldn’t have made sense for Kotomi to be comfortable talking to Tomoya if they weren’t childhood friends.

Kotomi doesn’t have much agency. Tomoya whisks her away on a tour of the school with the intention of making her friends and teaching her to be funny. Neither of these things did Kotomi ask for. The suitcase comes out of nowhere. Couldn’t Kotomi have overcome this on her own?

Kotomi has a rich internal world invisible to all those on the outside, she sees herself as being on a mission to complete her parents’ research as penance. As a result, it is almost impossible to get through to her. She talks to Tomoya because she remembers him, but what would the benefit be to her of interacting with others and making friends? How does making friends help her in her mission? I’m not saying that there’s no benefit of Kotomi making friends, I’m just questioning whether or not she’s able to recognize those benefits or if she’s just letting Tomoya drag her around. Why, Tomoya, why does she need to socialize more? Some people prefer to be alone, and Kotomi’s willingness to sacrifice her time to learn to socialize makes little sense in the context of her fixation on continuing her parents’ research.

Kotomi’s arc is just a really shitty version of Rin’s development in Yuru Camp, and unlike Yuru Camp, Clannad seems to be forcing Kotomi into socializing, whereas Nadeshiko slowly coaxes Rin into camping with the club. It’s hilarious that Ryou is basically a more nuanced version of Kotomi. It’s obvious that Ryou is just as timid as Kotomi, but has developed strategies to overcome that.

Kotomi, like many characters in Clannad, is excellently animated. Special care seems to be given to her movements compared with other characters. Kotomi’s movements are somewhat sluggish, like she’s some moe sloth. One example that really stands out to me is the scene where Tomoya approaches her in the library and she pats the floor next to her, urging him to sit next to her. The way she sidles on the floor of the library is also well done, and, in my opinion, is evidence of my belief that she isn’t as inattentive as she seems and simply doesn’t want to exert the energy to pay attention to people when they approach her. Ugh, it’s like she’s playing dumb!

Kotomi almost certainly fails to see the point in socializing with anybody other than Tomoya until she’s become friends with Nagisa and the Fujibayashi sisters. If Tomoya hadn’t forced her to introduce herself to all those people, she would never have left the library. Don’t get me wrong, I sure as hell am not praising Tomoya. Some people prefer to be alone. You shouldn’t force people to interact with others if they don’t want to. For Kotomi, there was no reason to have a social life. Her entire world revolves around her quest to complete her parents’ research, and friends would only get in the way. Of course, the way Kotomi was living up until this arc was not healthy at all, but Tomoya has no way of knowing whether or not Kotomi simply prefers to be by herself, and Kotomi is too weak willed to resist being pulled around the school.

Kotomi’s back story is handled extremely well, which is a shame, considering how contrived and manipulative it is. The highlight of these flashbacks is Kotomi’s father, who reminded me a lot of my own. The way he is trying to teach his daughter theoretical physics with a metaphor which he has clearly spent a lot of time carefully constructing felt very true to life, the way a real father would get excited when their child demonstrates interest in what they’re passionate about. As great as this, Eureka Seven does it better in its second episode, when Renton feigns interest in becoming a mechanic, causing Axel, his grandfather, to pull out a special set of tools he had been saving for Renton.

Another great moment with Kotomi’s Dad is when he asks her what she wants for her birthday. When Kotomi tells him that she wants a teddy bear, his voice is giddy with excitement, saying that he’ll find the biggest teddy bear there is. Kotomi’s Dad was so elated because it was the first time that Kotomi said that there was something she wanted. This moment is reflected in episode 18 of After Story, when Ushio stubbornly searches for the toy Robot that Tomoya gave her. When Tomoya says that it can be replaced, Ushio says that she wants the original, because it was the first time that Tomoya had picked out and bought her a toy. That’s a pretty great callback, five points for Clannad.

YEET this is the last Clannad post.


Triumph is not a word many people will ever associate with 2016. Last year was a pretty rough year for everybody, but nobody wants read about how much 2016 thoroughly sucked. I’m going to focus on perhaps the only redeeming aspect of 2016, which was, of course, Flip Flappers. Given that a majority of humanity’s suffering in 2016 was self-inflicted, I’m still not sure that we deserved such a fantastic work of art as Flip Flappers, but I’m not going to complain. Of course, in typical 2016 fashion, this masterpiece went largely unnoticed even in the anime community and continues to be criminally underappreciated. It is worse than bad things happening to good people; it is as if nobody realized these good people even existed. Of course, being a ridiculously well versed connoisseur of music (something with zero real world applicability), I am quite used to works of art that change how I see myself or how I see the world or how I perceive the human experience going unacknowledged and unappreciated by any humans with whom I actually speak. Whenever I think about that, it upsets me that so many people are missing out on such great, beautiful moving music. Funeral by Arcade Fire triumphed by winning the attention span of music fans across the country in the mid 2000s. Arcade Fire was able to rise above the ocean of competing indie rock bands because Funeral, the band’s debut album released in 2004, is itself the essence of triumph. Funeral is triumph over relatable obstacles that we all face: depression, the struggle with identity and the many other mundane toils of the human experience, and it does so by dreaming. Funeral exhorts us to adopt the disposition of a child. Dreams can come true, even once we’ve grown up, and we need to remember that in order to hold onto hope for the future.

And this brings us back to 2016, the year in which it seemed hope had finally been extinguished for humanity. But we had Flip Flappers (and when I say “we,” I mean the infinitely small fraction of humanity that spent each week this fall excitedly anticipating what adventures Papika and Cocona would embark on next). Flip Flappers, like Funeral, is triumph incarnate. These two works of art deal with all the same themes and struggles and both deliver a resounding message of hope for the world. Funeral and Flip Flappers aren’t concerned with what’s going on with the rest of the world. They are focused on the generation of hope through perseverance as an individual through all their personal struggles. These two works hinge on triumph. Flip Flappers is the most flamboyantly triumphant anime in recent memory, and Funeral might very well be the most triumphant album of all time. In dealing with their shared themes and conflicts, Funeral and Flip Flappers frequently mirror each other’s uses of imagery and tone. The expansive orchestral nature of Funeral’s instrumentation is the perfect match for the vast visual vocabulary of Flip Flappers. Funeral and Flip Flappers are exuberant celebrations of Life, specifically youth, of the beauty and struggles of growing up, and of the fantastical journey of self-discovery.

In order to make its message hit hard, the world shown from Cocona’s perspective in the beginning of Flip Flappers is dark and claustrophobic. Nick Creamer wrote about this in his crunchyroll column early on in the Fall season, and it provides a perfect articulation of the implications of the barren and oppressing world in which Cocona finds herself wiling away the days of her adolescence. Whether the viewer realizes it or not, they have been given a glimpse into Cocona’s mind, and this characterization is much more efficient, subtle and compelling than any rambling Oregairu-style monologue. Cocona is depressed.

Screen Shot 2018-12-18 at 11.34.40 PMOne of the most original aspects of Flip Flappers is the probable source of Cocona’s depression. Natasha from Isn’t it Electrifying argued in an article for crunchyroll that it would only be reasonable for Cocona, who is clearly grappling with her sexuality, to suffer from depression. It’s a consequence of the alienation that she experiences from realizing that she is different from the rest of society, which assumes that all people are heterosexual until they say otherwise, and the difficulty of being different, especially when your differences may cause others to resent you. They may even cause you to resent yourself. The struggle to escape depression is equal parts self-discovery and regaining control of the direction of one’s life. Flip Flappers is one of the best depiction of struggling with depression anime has ever given.

Dealing with depression is, for too many people, an essential part of growing up, and the greatest challenge is always grasping the reins and seizing control of your own life. This is a theme that serves as a foundation for the entirety of the album Funeral. Flip Flappers and Funeral are triumphant because they tell of overcoming immense difficulty and taking action and seizing control of your life. They also are fantastic artistic documents of the power of love and self-discovery. The coordination between the anime and the album is not a direct song-to-episode one correlation, so I’ll just organize this essay using Funeral’s track list.Screen Shot 2018-12-18 at 11.28.11 PM.pngDespite what I just said, Neighborhood 1 (Tunnels) is almost a line by line parallel of Pure Input. The crunchyroll synopsis of this episode was “girl meets girl; girls go on an adventure.” That’s exactly what happens. Neighborhood 1 tells of two young neighbors who, at the height of a blizzard so strong that the snow has completely buried their homes, run away together. The meet by digging a tunnel to connect their windows, and then they run away, leaving behind their sobbing parents. Flip Flappers’ shifting settings of Pure Illusion provide mystical worlds that are spawned by characters’ thoughts and perceptions. The snow covered world Arcade Fire creates in Neighborhood 1 is very similar to the first Pure Illusion that Cocona and Papika visit together. Papika takes Cocona by the hand in Pure Input and brings her on an adventure to a winter wonderland within pure illusion. In both the show and the song, the snow can represent both the crushing weight of depression and all the other petty burdens that weigh us down as humans. In Pure Input, Papika and Cocona appropriate the snow for recreational use, throwing snowballs and building snowmen.

Screen Shot 2018-12-18 at 10.33.14 PMSnow also represents the impermanence of youth and the magic of love (2018 note: no clue where I pulled that from but okay). Change is inevitable, it’s merely a matter of how we change and whether or not we embrace it. In the chorus of Neighborhood 1, the speaker reflects on how his/her partner helped them to change for the better during their experiences together after they ran away from home, from their parents, and never looked back. As the series goes on, Papika changes all the lead in Cocona’s head with her Golden Hymn, “Dai-dai-dai suki!” By going on adventures with Papika, Cocona comes to recognize what has been missing from her life.

Screen Shot 2018-12-18 at 11.30.04 PMWe see the first sign of evidence that Cocona may be changing for the better after her half-transformation, which was triggered by her desire to save Papika. Cocona makes a decision, a decision to step out of her comfort zone to do something. She rejects her anxiety and indecisiveness to take action, and when she does so, she transforms and gains the power to save Papika. This is Cocona’s first step toward seizing control of her life.

Screen Shot 2018-12-18 at 10.33.40 PM.pngThe theme of escaping to fall in love is also especially relevant to the fifth episode, in which Cocona, Papika, Yayaka and the twins have all been trapped in yuri hell, a version of their school that crosses the Class-S genre with horror. The Class-S genre revolves around very deep “friendships” between young women. The horror that Flip Flappers pulls from the genre is its expectation that these relationships inevitably end before adulthood. Bloom into You’s seventh episode also dealt with this notion, which Sayaka’s former girlfriend had left with her when she said she’d grown “too old” for their relationship. That notion is dispelled when Sayaka learns of the relationship between her teacher and the owner of a local coffee shop. Flip Flappers depicts an epic escape from the restrictions of the Class-S genre, one that I think is reflected by the escape Neighborhood 1’s young couple into the snow.

Screen Shot 2018-12-18 at 11.21.16 PMNeighborhood 2 opens with driving drums. The drums carry on the momentum and the potential for growth, change and love that lies before Cocona now she has proven to herself that she is capable of taking action. Cocona must continue to push and play an active role in her own life, but she’s afraid, and understandably so, since Papika had nearly died in their first journey to pure illusion. In Neighborhood 2, the chorus reads like a cheerleading squad, singing, “come on Alex, you can do it, come on Alex, there’s nothing to it!” Cocona wants connection with Papika because she isn’t totally rejecting her. However, Cocona’s anxiety hinders her ability to express herself, as the chorus demands, “if you want something, don’t ask for nothing.” Within Cocona’s heart, her desire for connection with Papika doesn’t override her fear of losing Papika. However, as they plunge into pure illusion once again, the decision is no longer for Cocona to make. This song’s exhortations are relevant throughout the entirety of Cocona’s coming of age story.


Screen Shot 2018-12-18 at 11.36.44 PM“Une Anne Sans Lumieree” is the intermission in the four Neighborhood songs that make up the first half of the album, and the mood becomes much less urgent. This reflective song, with its nostalgic guitar motif reminiscent of the Beatles’ “In My Life” and Radiohead’s “No Surprises,” allows us to open our ears and listen to sound of blossoming love. Cocona is inherently self-conscious and must be noticing bits of evidence that she may be falling in love with Papika, especially in school from the Yuri Hell, which is loaded with Yuri imagery. What makes this experience so blissful for Cocona is the fact that Papika both prompts and embraces Cocona’s feelings. Beforehand, nobody seemed to be able to relate to Cocona’s experience of being different, but Papika lives and breathes being different and, as shown in episode two, is embraced for it. The song repeats that “if you see a shadow, there’s something there.” Cocona is bright enough to realize what’s going on. Just as the show relies heavily on visuals to accomplish most of the storytelling, the music of “Une Anne Sans Lumieree” itself perfectly captures the feeling of falling in love. The coda of the song, especially, perfectly captures the acceleration of romance. The tempo picks up at the end of the song and it becomes much heavier. Once you realize that you are falling in love, you can’t step on the breaks.



Screen Shot 2018-12-18 at 10.42.53 PMNeighborhood 3 (Power Out) is the first of three fist-pumping anthems on this album and is the thematic centerpiece of the album. It perfectly boils down what Cocona must do in her coming of age story in order to liberate herself from loneliness and depression. It is a call to arms to fight for what you want and for what you love. It also grounds itself in a very real stage of development for children in the suburbs of the first world. Arcade Fire’s third neighborhood is one populated by adolescents who no longer feel any responsibility to obey their parents, or whose parents have grown apathetic. Essentially, the third neighborhood is one without any parents, so basically any anime neighborhood ever. All jokes aside, the absence of parents makes this setting the stage in life in which you are forced to become independent. The energy and urgency of the song are perfectly suited to the challenges of self-discovery and agency, challenges that Cocona knows very well. The song is predicated on a problematic turn of events, but the decision of those in the song to go out into the town are framed as having ends other than ameliorating the situation. They go out to find a light, to chase dreams. At the beginning of the series, Cocona is faced with the dreaded career survey, a staple anime representation of uncertainty about the future, the most universal kind of anxiety. Part of Cocona’s problem is that she doesn’t have a light to go out and find.Screen Shot 2018-12-18 at 10.55.33 PMThe kids in the song also go out to pick a fight, meaning they feel strongly enough about something to take a risk and go fight. Cocona first acts confrontational when Yayaka reveals to her and Papika that the end game for collecting the amorphous is world domination. These things that are important to us are fundamentally linked to who we are. Cocona expresses distress and reluctance to return to Pure Illusion after she realizes how their Inception inspired meddling changed Iroha-senpai. At the end, Cocona turns against her mother to fight for her independence and agency, which she built over the course of the show, and her relationship with Papika. She knows she loves Papika. Loving Papika is central to who Cocona is, who she has become. At the end of the series, it would be true to say that Cocona is Cocona because Papika is Papika. The power was out in Cocona’s heart before she met Papika, but as a result of their adventures, Cocona learned to take it from her heart and put it in her hand.

Screen Shot 2018-12-18 at 11.22.01 PM.pngNeighborhood #3 is also very reflective of Yayaka”s personality. Yayaka is impulsive, and if you were to ask yourself which characters from Flip Flappers would ever pick a fight, the first name that would come to mind would be Yayaka. Of course, Yayaka despises this aspect of her personality and wishes somebody else could make all her decisions for her. Cocona, on the other hand, is struggling to learn to make decisions for herself, and must reject Mimi, her mother, when she says that Cocona can’t be trusted to make decisions for herself. One line in particular in this song captures Cocona’s mindset at the beginning of the story. Arcade Fire uses a storm as metaphor for growing up, singing “growing up in some strange storm, nobody’s cold, nobody’s warm.” Cocona rediscovers warmth when she meets Papika and Yayaka must ignore her orders and protect Cocona, who is a source of warmth for her. Musically, the melodic cacophony of Neighborhood 3 is a great reflection of the messiness of youth.

Screen Shot 2018-12-18 at 11.08.18 PM.pngNeighborhood 4 expresses frustration at how slowly things change, if they change at all. Cocona’s passiveness, her inability to make things happen on her own is captured in the song’s chorus, which says “a watched pot never boils, well I closed my eyes and nothing changed.” Flip Flappers contradicts this song by introducing Papika to Cocona, a wildcard who forces Cocona to start to change.

Screen Shot 2018-12-18 at 10.39.13 PMUltimately, Papika and Cocona aren’t too concerned with preventing the bumbling Asclepius’s plan for a New World Order. They are concerned with each other and themselves. The song notes that all the neighbors are burning. Everybody else falls in love, and Cocona is having a difficult time navigating her first experience with romance. The Crown of Love, which comes next, reverts the focus to a key scene earlier in the series, the Mad Max pure illusion and the mask. Tension boils between Cocona and Papika in the first three episodes, exploding in a fight and a reconciliation. The Crown of Love is a plea for forgiveness, and is an important reminder that real love, a real healthy relationship needs both partners to be comfortable enough with each other to fight. Cocona is forced to that point by the mask, but it is not the last time they will fight.

Wake Up is the thematic successor of Neighborhood 3 (Power Out). Wake Up is about braving your way through life. For Cocona especially, this is a much more difficult struggle. The song exhorts children to wake up and seize the opportunities to make mistakes now. Cocona’s fear of making mistakes prevents her from taking an active role in her own life. Not only does Cocona need to “hold her mistakes up,” she needs to realize that mistakes are a fundamental part of growing up. Cocona has to wake up and start playing an active role in her life. In doing so, she has to accept who she is, regardless of how much her identity deviates from society’s norms, and then actively embrace Papika and her feelings for her. At the beginning of the story, Cocona is faced with the career survey, but she can’t see where she’s going. By the end of the story, Cocona has accepted who she is and has the confidence in herself to believe that wherever it is she’s going, she’ll be comfortable with herself.

Screen Shot 2018-12-18 at 11.03.25 PMWake Up also repeats Neighborhood 3’s emphasis on agency with the lines, “with my lightning bolts a glowing, I can see where I am going.” Once Cocona learns to become independent and take control of her life, she’ll have less anxiety about the future. Yeah, Haiti’s lyrics are way too specific and violent for any reflection on Flip Flappers. Musically though, its lush and playful, which is an excellent description of Flip Flappers.

Screen Shot 2018-12-18 at 11.32.30 PMRebellion (lies) is the final of the three anthems that dominate Funeral and it returns to the theme of embracing the naiveté and idealism of childhood. These are assets in the journey to knowing yourself and understanding life. The defiant message of this song is that happiness is possible, contrary to what the world tells us, and that’s not a lie.  Honestly, anything else I have to say about this song in relation to Flip Flappers would simply be retreading points I have already made. For example, the line “sleeping is giving in” is another exhortation to take control of your life and not running away from your problems. To be honest, the reason I originally scrapped this was that I figured it was all so obvious that it doesn’t warrant me going in depth.

Screen Shot 2018-12-18 at 11.05.04 PM.pngIn the Backseat just perfectly captures Flip Flappers’ understanding of dependency. The lines, “I like the peace in the backseat, I don’t have to drive, I don’t have to speak” are a perfect portrait of Cocona at the beginning of the series and in episodes 11 and 12. In those two episodes Mimi returns and assumes the responsibility of making all of Cocona’s decisions for her. This is also exactly what Yayaka wanted, to have other people make tough decisions for her. The line, “I’ve been learning to drive my whole life” is a great expression of how growing up is entirely oriented towards eventually becoming independent.

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Okay this was really messy, but I’m glad I’m getting it out there in some form, since so many people have expressed their desire to see it. Honestly, I didn’t even really touch on everything. Most of this was written in January of 2016, I can’t believe how much my writing has changed since then.


BxBvCshCEAAgUyY     Tomoya’s depression gradually fades away after he meets Nagisa. Tomoya’s attitude toward school before he met Nagisa was one of resignation and hatred. Tomoya expresses his desire to erase all of his painful memories in the anime’s opening scene. Over the course of the show, except at a few vulnerable moments, Tomoya is dismissive of these experiences when they come up. Tomoya’s actions lead him to join other characters as they explore the most painful memories of their own. Tomoya manages to avoid thinking about his own problems by thrusting himself into the problems of others, not unlike Araragi.

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“Mr. Okazaki, you’re no Araragi.”


Tomoya’s outward attitude toward his Father up until the Ends of the Earth was one of disgust and resentment.

In the first few episodes of Clannad, we see a few scenes in which Naoyuki approaches Tomoya at home. In those scenes we catch Tomoya the narrator off guard. Tomoya, during the scenes with his father, is much different than his usual aloofness would suggest. More than anything, when face to face with his father, Tomoya regresses to a more Shinji-esque character. In these scenes, Kyo-Ani’s expression work really drives home that Tomoya is still a child, one that has been hurt and handles problems by running away.


Naoyuki is reaching out to Tomoya, trying to reconnect with him, and Tomoya responds by running away. These scenes also betray Tomoya’s aloofness and indifferent attitude toward his relationship with his father. If Tomoya really didn’t care about being family with his father, he wouldn’t cry out in episode two, “don’t treat me like a stranger!”


Tomoya’s desire to help Nagisa, Fuuko and Kotomi is fueled by his resentment for his father and his resentment for himself. Tomoya knows he’s fallen to pieces since the incident with his father. What Tomoya hates most about his slip into delinquency is that he sees himself becoming his father. Tomoya’s desire to become a better father than Naoyuki drives him to help all of these women that he comes across in his school. This may also explain why Tomoya seems to treat all these girls like children.


Tomoya carries with him a burden of self-hatred that he lets slip into his speech from time to time. For example, in episode seventeen of After Story, Tomoya asks Ushio, “are you sure you want to go on a trip with a guy like me?” Tomoya, between his meeting Nagisa and [the last time Nagisa gets sick] her death, made a lot of progress towards coming to love himself, but after blaming Nagisa’s death on himself and coming to regret all of that time, Tomoya walks back all of that progress. And also actually becomes exceptionally shitty by abandoning his daughter.

Naoyuki’s violent episode when Tomoya was a freshman ruined Tomoya’s school life by forcing him to quit Basketball, the one thing that gave him purpose. Without Basketball and filled with resentment for his father, Tomoya lapsed into delinquency after that incident. That must have been when Tomoya came to hate his school.

Along with the untimely death of Tomoya’s mother, this incident is his and Naoyuki’s shared sob story. The portrayal of Naoyuki in the anime is very interesting. Despite the way Clannad is filtered through Tomoya’s point of view. Every depiction of Naoyuki is supposed to be sympathetic, and I often doubted that he ever hit Tomoya at all on my first watch. Should Kyo-Ani have animated a flashback to that incident? Hmmmm.

Even though Tomoya came to hate school in the wake of his forced retirement from the Basketball team, it wasn’t as though there was nobody at the school that cared for him. Koumura-sensei, noticing Tomoya’s growing disinterest in school, orchestrated his first encounter with Sunohara. In doing so, Koumura brought into a Tomoya’s life a reason not to totally give up on school. A person with one friend is much more social than somebody without any friends, in my experience. It’s not explained in the anime how Kyou became friends (though none of them would have admitted it) with Tomoya and Sunohara, but I have a feeling it wouldn’t have happened if the latter two weren’t already friends. Tomoya was likely en route to voluntary total social isolation before he met Sunohara. Koumura-sensei saved Tomoya from becoming totally antisocial. Without that intervention from Koumura-sensei, Tomoya would have adopted an Araragi-esque loner ethos and probably wouldn’t have been inclined to reach out to Nagisa, let alone embark on his woman-saving crusades of Clannad’s first season.

Tomoya’s perception of each heroine is partially determined by Tomoya’s perception of himself. Tomoya’s perception of each heroine changes based on how Tomoya sees himself in relation to them. ‘Cause he’s a selfish bastard.

Tomoya, in his first interaction with Fuuko, is condescending and takes it upon himself to take away something from her as a disciplinary measure with Fuuko’s best interest at heart. Imagine that you get a B- on a test in Math class because you’ve been texting in class lately rather than paying attention. Then imagine some stranger comes and takes your phone away from you so that you have no choice but to pay attention. That’s what Tomoya does to Fuuko… Fuck that! Who does that? Who the hell does Tomoya think he is? Everybody has a right to make shitty decisions, but Tomoya just takes it upon himself to take Fuuko’s carving tool away from her since her hand is hurt. Nobody asked you, Tomoya! What gives you the authority to just march in and take things that aren’t yours? This is mirrored in episode seventeen of After Story when Ushio’s toy breaks and Tomoya fixes it. After fixing the toy, he tells her to let it dry after before playing with it, but she does not listen and the toy’s wheels stop working. Unlike the case with Fuuko, Tomoya doesn’t actively prevent Ushio from playing with the toy before the glue finished drying. Though it might not have been his intention, this was a far more effective parenting decision. Tomoya treated Ushio like a big girl and allowed her to make her own mistakes. In Ushio’s case, she probably learned from this mistake the importance of listening to adults. Ushio’s mistake was also a step toward her learning the value of patience, which is probably one of the most important things for children to learn. Tomoya’s approach to parenting Fuuko, on the other hand, was to make it impossible for Fuuko to make her own mistakes.

That being said, Fuuko probably didn’t need Tomoya’s aggressive parenting. Tomoya’s first impression of Fuuko is that of a kouhai stubbornly continuing to hurt herself. In Fuuko, Tomoya saw an opportunity to demonstrate to himself that he can be a better parent than his father. In designating himself as the father figure, Tomoya’s lasting impression of Fuuko became that of a child in need of guidance. After Tomoya realizes that Fuuko really is a goddamn coma ghost, he realizes that he actually feels a sense of responsibility for Fuuko. Little does he know that Fuuko is way more mature than him.

So why does Tomoya feel motivated to help all of these infantilized helpless heroines? Everything we know about Tomoya would seem to suggest that he wouldn’t be inclined to waste his time with other people, least of all those like Nagisa who are trying to get the most out of high school and enjoy things like club activities, which Tomoya and Sunohara feel they had snatched away from them. Sunohara even says as much when he notices Tomoya spending time with Nagisa. It’s all about Tomoya’s Daddy issues, that’s what runs his life throughout most of Clannad.


Yeet yeet yeet. Fuuko’s arc is the part of Clannad that I enjoy discussing most. If Clannad was just the Fuuko arc, it would be one of the most absurd anime I’ve ever watched. Even more absurd is that Kyo-Ani decided to drag it out for a whole six episodes. That’s like one FLCL! All dedicated to Fuuko…


Of course I say that, but to say that Fuuko’s arc is about Fuuko is to miss the point entirely, because it’s not about Fuuko at all. Fuuko’s arc is basically a drawn out less compelling version of Mayoi Snail (though Clannad does predate Monogatari). Like Mayoi, Fuuko, who at first seems to be the focus of the arc, really serves as an agent that brings two other characters closer together. Mayoi Snail brings Araragi and Senjougahara closer together and ends with them becoming lovers, while the Starfish arc uses Fuuko to bring Tomoya and Nagisa closer together. The biggest differences are the means by which these arcs bring these characters together and their duration. Mayoi Snail takes place over the course of a single day, while the Starfish arc lasts a few weeks. Mayoi Snail limits itself to just six characters, two of which only appear over the phone or in flashbacks and another who appears for just one scene. On the other hand, the Starfish arc’s focus on the three central characters is diluted by the importance of the supporting cast and way the narrative ropes in the entire school. That’s not to say that it was a bad decision on Clannad’s part to involve its mostly maddeningly dull supporting cast, I’m just laying out the contrasts between these two similar arcs. Yes, even Kyou is dull, just compare her to actually compelling tsundere characters you’ve seen in other anime, or any Monogatari girl, and Tomoyo isn’t made compelling until after this arc. Obviously, I firmly believe that Mayoi Snail, which I consider to be one of Monogatari’s most foundational and underappreciated arcs, is far more compelling in the manner and degree to which it brings its couple together.

Mayoi Hachikuji is a far better character in her own right than Fuuko, and Mayoi has half as many episodes in her arc as Fuuko. Even though I’d say that Araragi and Senjougahara are the focus of Mayoi Snail, Nisio Isin still crafts Mayoi into a compelling character over the course of her arc. Mayoi comes across as hostile and defensive, not unlike Araragi’s first impression of Senjougahara. Like Senjougahara, Mayoi actively tries to prevent people from getting involved with her, but unlike Senjougahara, Mayoi does it out of concern for the people she encounters. Mayoi’s nature as an apparition isn’t revealed until toward the end of the arc. When Araragi is told that Hachikuji is the lost cow, he immediately realizes that this means Mayoi has been wandering as a ghost for eleven years, trying to prevent people from keeping her company. That alone is just a sad story, and all it tells us about Mayoi is that she is selfless and wise, having resolved to wander alone endlessly rather than preventing people from losing her way just as she had before her life was cut short. On the other hand, Fuuko’s sob story is that she’s the coma ghost of a loner girl whose primary character trait is that she loves her sister and starfish. Later on, it’s implied that she likely won’t ever wake up, though that ends up being untrue. Mayoi, on the other hand, is dead. Mayoi’s character becomes most tangible when she is reflecting upon her family issues with Araragi, in which she articulates her complicated feelings for her father, who she loves but who has been preventing her from visiting her mother.

Monogatari, like Clannad, is very much an anime about family. Clannad is pretty much the poster child for anime about family, yet the extent of Fuuko’s relationship with Kouko, as depicted in the six episodes of Fuuko’s arc is that Fuuko is a good sister and wants Kouko to be happy. Of the two sisters, Kouko, who receives much less screen time, is far more interesting. Nagisa and Tomoya express awe at Fuuko’s devotion to her sister’s happiness, but is it really all that impressive? I mean, Fuuko is a coma ghost, one that doesn’t seem to anticipate ever awakening, so she has all the time in the world. Fuuko doesn’t have to go to classes, and she receives information from her ears in the hospital, so she knows that her sister is hesitating to get married for her sake. Fuuko, being a coma ghost, knows that she can’t effect the world as tangibly as a conscious physical person can, but she can do her best and by a stroke of luck, she manages to find a couple of people that happen to know her sister that are bored enough to spend their time assisting in her efforts.

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Kouko is actually interesting. Why the hell is Kouko spending every day in the hospital rather than going out and living her own life? Yes, the obvious answer is that she stays with Fuuko every day because she loves her, but I have a feeling that there’s more to it. At some point, wouldn’t Kouko be seen as lazy for quitting her job and spending every day with her sister rather than working? As long as somebody is with Fuuko every day, isn’t that enough? Why does it have to be Kouko? For some reason, Kouko must be the only family that Fuuko has. Why else would she take it upon herself to take care of Fuuko herself when she finally does awaken? Wouldn’t Fuuko’s parents want to live with their recovering daughter that had been in a coma for ten years? They would if they were good parents. In Kouko’s flashbacks during the arc, we see that they were living together before Fuuko’s accident, but it didn’t seem as though Kouko was the head of household, so I don’t think the sisters’ parents were dead.

My theory is that Fuuko’s parents wanted to pull the plug on Fuuko. They should have. Just Kidding. Kouko must have taken them to court and sued for custody of Fuuko. Regardless of whatever the real story is, Kouko is far more interesting than Fuuko because she really sacrifices time from a tangible life to care for her sister then takes her into her home once she awakens. On top of that, it doesn’t seem as though Kouko and Yoshino ever have children. Knowing Clannad, there must be a significant reason that a couple would decide not to have a child. Nagisa tells Tomoya to put a baby in her as soon as Tomoya asks her what she wants. Kouko is so dedicated to her sister that she refrained from having children of her own so that she can take care of Fuuko. But is Fuuko really a character worth taking care of?

My instinctual response is yes, but as soon as I try to think of additional qualities that make Fuuko a good character, my mind goes blank, so I’ll move on and explore how Mayoi and Fuuko function as narrative devices.

Mayoi’s case brings Araragi and Senjougahara closer together by putting on display some of each character’s anxieties and insecurities. By coming to understand a bit of each other’s vulnerabilities, Araragi and Senjougahara’s relationship becomes more intimate, which is demonstrated perfectly when Senjougahara declares to Araragi, “I love you.” The situation also provides an opportunity for Senjougahara to watch Araragi rescue somebody other than herself, which affirms the feelings that Senjougahara was harboring for Araragi. Fuuko brings Nagisa and Tomoya closer together by causing them to work and spend a lot of time together. Not only do they spend a lot of time together, they spend that time together caring for a child (though Fuuko is technically the same age as Okazaki). Nagisa even remarks at one point that she and Tomoya are like Fuuko’s mother and father, and at the end of the arc, the two start addressing each other by their first names.

Tomoya to Nagisa (sin Fuko)

Fuuko’s arc is so mind bogglingly stupid, but at the same time its absolutely delightful and charming. I think I’m good at talking about my feelings, so to wrap this up, let me do a bit of that and hope it will be compelling. Yeah, I really love Fuuko’s arc. Its so fucking silly, and I think its precisely because it feels so silly that it manages to also feel so sincere. But honestly, for this arc, I don’t have some dark personal shit that I can dig up to relate to it. I guess… I guess it feels so satisfying to watch because its so boring, its so much nothing. Just watching a little girl running around trying her hardest is entertaining enough for me, I suppose.