I turn thirty this month.
According to Daryl Surat, otaku reach their expiration date around about this time and I am supposed to scale back, if not outright cease, my love for anime or risk my DNA realizing that I am a pathetic waste who will not be passing on his genes. I managed to skirt around this ultimatum by getting married, having kids AND ALSO retaining my anime-loving ways. Boy, this cake I have sure tastes good.
In all seriousness, I am getting older which means I am (a) thinking about getting older and (b) moving farther away from the demographic that most anime is about and is made for. The medium tends to glamorize and fetishize youth. Most shows give the impression that if you’re out of college, you’re just another ojisan. Well, that is just depressing. A lot of folks would prescribe Turning Girls as an effective pill to help you accept leaving your twenties behind. While, I do fully intend to check out the show, I can go one better in this particular instance. Why just cope with turning thirty when I can be deliriously happy about it?
What magic elixir makes me glad I’m getting older? Watamote, that’s what.
Suggested Soundtrack for Reading – Jay Z “30 Something”
Watamote is many things: dark comedy, therapy for those who have/had anxietty disorders, as well as biting satire of otaku and the media they consume. I think the show successfully pulls off all of this, but it also struck an additional chord with me, something which I haven’t heard anyone mention. It reminded me that being young fucking suuuuuuuuuucks.
Personally, I think it’s a wonder that the modern, first-world human experience does not produce more Mokocchis. I mean, look at what you kids have to go through. There’s the complex and unforgiving social life of le academe (it’s like the goddamn royal court from Berserk out there), figuring out the opposite sex and all the while dealing with the raft of physical, mental and emotional changes brought on by hormones. Many boys grow up without their fathers (and girls without their mothers), in which case they have to also learn how to relate to the same sex. Lots of kids have to move when they’re teenagers. That’s a lot of additional change and reorientation to heap on top of this other stuff.
Poor Tomoko never solves the rubix cube known as conversation, but imagine if she, you know, had to navigate a real relationship. Think about dating. …Oh God. I feel like figuring that shit out is like being on the wheel of Samsara, and getting married is like achieving Moksha (aka getting the fuck out of there). OK, I may be exaggerating how I feel, but I remember that period of my life being quite stressful, and it is even worse for Tomoko. She expends so much energy worrying about being (forever?) alone that she oscillates between inner, emotional frenzy (which produces mad attempts to gain popularity) and complete retreat and isolation. The former basically guarantees her failure and crash back into the latter. I recall experiencing this sort of thing, on a smaller scale than Mokocchi, of course. It was exhausting, and I very much doubt I was alone in thinking about that stuff at that age.
It’s easy to look back now and laugh. Like Tomoko, I was over-dramatic and tended to internalize and personalize every interaction I had. But, while it may be quite simple to crack a smile from my current, almost-post-twenties vantage point, when you are young–when you are in it–you can’t really see beyond your present situation. Teenagers aren’t known for having perspective. So, talking to girls/guys, worrying about how you look (all the time), over-analyzing ten-second conversations, trying to make friends, maintaining the image you cultivate for yourself (and scrapping it and starting over): that shit is your whole world when you’re a teenager.
Now, plainly Mokocchi goes through some ridiculousness that not everyone can relate to, not to mention her mental and emotional problems. Yet, by so effectively placing the viewer inside the mental infrastructure of someone who is “in it,” Watamote does a fantastic job of reminding us (even if we weren’t a teenage otaku) of what it’s like to be a teenager, living in that tiny bubble-world you can’t see beyond. It reminds us how difficult, painful and isolating that those days of youth could be for reasons that seemed so big yet prove to be so small. Being in Tomoko’s head-space leads to the realization that those days were not, in fact, the best days of our lives.
Helloooooo otaku expiration date!
Perhaps I’ve got it all wrong, though, and I’m just projecting far too much. If you think so, click dem buttons and lemme know.