[A really, really condensed version of how I got obsessed over Japan. (Really!) I just felt the need to explain clearly this part of my life one day (even to myself). This was meant to be a separate page, but maybe I’ll link this post to me ‘About’ page…Anyway, enjoy!]
It all started in the year 2009, the year a friend recommended a Japanese comic and wrote down for me a link to a website that hosted scanlations of it. Back then, I was not particularly interested in anything and didn’t think much of this recommendation. If you wanted to describe my interests, ‘random’ would be the word. Linkin Park, history and literature in general…I’d say that’s pretty mixed.
One fine day, with some spare time in my hands, I checked out the oddly named ‘Bleach’. As I casually investigated this so-called Japanese comic, it gradually struck me as fresh, interesting and inspiring. The battles between the protagonist and the malevolent spirits that plagued his town were a welcome escape from a ho-hum life and the rat-race. The never-say-die attitude and dedication of Ichigo and his gang also pulled me in and gave me a first look at Japanese pop-culture. Up till that point, I’d regarded comics as somewhat entertaining, but not inspiring.
Looking back on that year, I now know that Bleach was a major catalyst that made me focus my passion in life towards a foreign culture whose past weighs heavily on that of my country, thanks to its past imperialistic ambitions .
That culture, my friends, exists in a group of islands called Japan.
Before Bleach, I did not think much of the islands next to the giant Chinese mainland. Sure, I read a few translated comics (which I didn’t understand at all thanks to my poor grasp of Malay) and even watched Pokemon when I was a kid. But to me, Japan was a place I’d give a miss if I were travelling the world. Other than samurai and a few ‘minor’ differences, Japan looked like a clone of China, the homeland of my ancestors.
As I was saying though, I was in love with Bleach. The art, story, settings and themes were all new and enthralled me. I was a little curious about the origin of this work, but I didn’t have enough interest to pursue this lead-Bleach was already more than enough. Something else was needed to set my passion for Japan ablaze. That something was a spark.
Okami was that spark. A spark that showed me plainly that Japan was a unique culture, a culture with a rich history along with a myriad of myths and legends. A culture influenced by, but totally different from its fellow ancient neighbour, a culture worth exploring. In short, I fell in love with the game, and in turn, with the country of Japan.
Funny thing was, this was my second time playing it as I had bought it a few years before out of curiosity, only to leave it after finishing a mere 10% of the game’s story. Baffling? Yes, even I think so too and I wonder what would’ve happened if I had finished it in one go earlier. Perhaps the perfect storm that gave a chance for this passion to blossom would not have happened…
However, as time went on and school life started to get in the way, my interest waned a bit and exploration took a backseat. I had also finished Okami for a while already and my motivation for reading Bleach started to fade due to the fickle plot. These facts further dampened my new-found interest. I was hungry for something new to keep this interest alive.
I scoured the Internet for recommendations on manga at first, clicking through ‘authoritative’ lists and scanning reviews along the way. The news sites and blogs I came upon turned out to be the second wind I was in need of. Some of them (like Japanator) later became a source of my passion, because now I knew that I wasn’t alone, and that plenty of people felt the same way about Japan.
At around the same time, I pondered about watching anime as well. After giving up on Bleach (the reasons of which I’ll go into detail in a later post), I’d been limited to reading the odd interesting manga or listening to some game OST’s. I heard about a particular series being popular, so I buffered the first episode and sat down to watch it.
I confess, my first anime after I counted myself as a Japan otaku was Lucky Star.
Laugh all you want, but I think it was a rather good choice. It gave me a quick insight into the anime/manga otaku subculture while giving me a quick laugh or two. I do admit though, that I could’ve tried some classics or some more critically acclaimed series. Blame the moe, I guess.
As the credits rolled down the screen, I became curious about the language the characters conversed in-Japanese. In a futile first attempt to master it by self-studying it, I bought and borrowed a few books and then studied them vigorously. A few weeks later, I threw in the towel and considered attending a real class. Then, out of the blue, Textfugu appeared and gave me a chance to learn it the HARD way. Curious, I took up the offer and after being pricked by countless failures (and the spines of its mascot), I am what I am today-a guy who knows just about enough Japanese to not end up in jail (like Okabe).
My passion has also, in turn, given birth to a dream. A dream of turning my passion into my 9-to-5 job in the future. I may not know what exactly that job will be yet, but I roughly know what field I want to dedicate myself to-language.
So now, a few years down the line, as I watch Madoka fight off her mecha enemies (not THAT one), Sakakibara as he endures the death permeating his class, I think a word of thanks is long overdue for everything and everyone that took part in the birth of this passion.
Thank you very much, whoever and whatever you are, for giving me my first love-Japan. The road will be long, the one towards my dream will likely be even longer (and tougher), but I’ll keep eyeing The Rising Sun until the day my heart stops to make it up to all of you. Until then, I shall 頑張る (ganbaru : persevere).
[That’s it for me. How did you find yourself ogling 2-D instead of 3-D (or even Nippon itself)? Share your thoughts! I’d like to know whether I’m the only one who’s been inspired by detergent…XD ]