Soul SearchingPosted: January 15, 2012
Allow me to rant a bit.
I’m at my quarter-life crisis. I first heard the word mentioned while reading a review of Solanin.
A midlife crisis occurs when a person begins to judge how their life has gone, brought on by the realization that most of their life is over. A quarter-life crisis, on the other hand, is the uncertainty caused by the transition to adulthood.
The characters in Solanin face their uncertain futures and resolve to take life one step at a time. In Katawa Shoujo, Rin’s good end comes to the same conclusion: both Rin and Hisao decide to enjoy the present as much as they can.
My crisis could not be more different from Hisao’s, and I’m not sure whether my predicament could even be called a quarter-life crisis. While Hisao struggles to find a goal in life, my goal is fixed and specific to a fault. I’ll earn a Bachelor’s degree in Physics, spend six years in graduate school studying an area of physics, move on to a post-doc for two or three years, and end up teaching physics at a university. I will spend seven years or so struggling to earn tenure, and by the time I do, I’ll be almost forty years old.
It’s scary. And Katawa Shoujo has come at an important step in this process. You see, tomorrow I’ll head back to college. And the day after, spring semester classes start. This isn’t your average semester – it’s my first taste of upper division classes. So today and tomorrow are quite literally my last chance to change my plans for the future. Is this what I really want to do for the next twenty years?
Rin says no. Shizune says yes. Lilly tells me to enjoy it while it lasts.
Don’t get me wrong. I like what I study. I’m good at it, it’s interesting, and the very notion of “explaining the mysteries of the universe” is so romantic and appealing, who wouldn’t want to do it? It’s just that I’ve been playing an on-rails shooter my entire life. I hit all the marks and get a perfect score, but in the end I can’t venture past what I see.
To clear that up: My entire life has been planned out. My family’s expectations of me, my peers’ opinions of me. They all point to success. I’m not going to be humble, and I’m not trying to brag, but I’m smart. When you hit the books for twenty years, something’s gotta come out of it, and academic success is my end result. But that only steers me further into academia. I like doing what I’m good at, and I’m good at studying and researching because I’ve been doing it well my whole life. A vicious cycle, though not an entirely bad one.
So this is why I like anime, manga, and gaming. Something as ordinary as walking home from school with a couple of friends is something that I’ve never experienced. Running late to class with a piece of bread in my mouth? That could never happen. (Though I did run late to band with a baritone in hand, so maybe that counts for something) In the end, my hobbies are a window into a life that I will never lead.
And this explains a lot.
I don’t actually love Rin or love Mikoto. I admire their outward personalities because everything about them is so foreign to me. (Think Death the Kid and the Thompson sisters)
This is why I like Nichijou. Because my life is so predictable, I search for unpredictability in my anime. So even if the joke’s confusing or you don’t laugh, I still laugh.
This is why I like Katawa Shoujo. A visual novel that plops me straight into the shoes of Mr. Arrhythmia, giving me a taste of uncertainty? Fantastic.
Originally, I was going to write a post about my personal connections to Katawa Shoujo.
And then I realized that I have almost none. I do have my share of experiences with solitude, but Inushinde hit all the points already. I had a panic attack-ish thing before, but it was at my home when I was trying to sleep. Hell, the guy in the ER room never told me what happened, probably because nobody knew what happened. It was during summer vacation and it was annoying.
But aside from that, I don’t even share the inner conflicts that Hisao has about the future. A big part of any route in Katawa Shoujo deals with what Hisao wants to do in the future. And in general, there’s a theme in anime about career choices. The “future career plans” form always comes up in school life anime (95% of all shows), and usually the conclusion is to take life one step at a time, waiting for the answer to appear.
Unfortunately, that was never an option for me. I fear that my lack of a quarter-life crisis will end up in a severe midlife crisis.
A couple of years ago, I was at a banquet for National Merit Finalists from my high school. We each had to go up to the podium, fake a smile to the camera, and say something into the microphone.
Alphabetical order again? Ugh. I went first.
I got up to the mic, and leaned in way too close, testing it. Several people in the audience nervously laughed as I asked if the mic was working. The principal was standing behind me, and he urged me to hurry up. We had thirty or so people waiting behind me.
So I said my name, then said that I’d do physics in the future, and the crowd clapped politely. They were all waiting for their own children to go up, anyway.
As the principal was taking the mic out of my hand to give to the next Asian student (oh no the racism), I grabbed it. I didn’t hesitate when I said, “I’m going to change the world.”
And that I will.
I have resolved to keep on going and see where life takes me. I know that if I try hard and try harder, I will accomplish whatever I want to accomplish.
As long as games like Katawa Shoujo are a thorn in my side, I will continue to think deep and hard about myself, and why I do what I do.
Sorry for the depressing (?) ending. I don’t have a satisfying conclusion to whatever I’m brooding over, so you don’t get one either.
Also I hope that what you take away from this post is not “flomu is an arrogant bastard.” You should have known that beforehand.
And yes, I am typing all of this right now in order for there to be a lot of text at the bottom. I hate seeing small amounts of text between pictures.
P.S.: Play Katawa Shoujo. I did.