Saturday, August 02, 2008

On the Thursday of the Comic-Con, I spent the time between the portfolio review and the Lovecraft documentary watching anime. I came into the anime theatre halfway through a show I didn't recognise. When it ended, at least thirty people suddenly started filing into the room, and I heard a couple people yell, "Lucky Star!"

I'd never heard of this series, but apparently it's massively popular. The theme song featured the main characters--three or four girls--performing complicating dance arm and leg routines--I think the suitable word would be "algorithms"--and three girls in the audience stood up and began replicating the movements while the boyfriend of one of them took pictures, to the delight of much of the rest of the audience.

The show itself appeared to consist of four six year-old girls having conversations about manners and pop culture, but as Tim informed me later, what appeared to be six year-olds are in fact meant to be teenagers. I found the show to be aggressively dull, and it was a genuine challenge to maintain awareness of the dialogue.

Nearly everyone left the room when Urusei Yatsura started, mainly, I suspect, because Urusei Yatsura's female characters have strange and frightening appendages called "breasts". Or maybe it's because the series was made in the 1980s. Damn kids.

It was an episode I hadn't seen before, and it was nice to see something genuinely funny after Lucky Star. The episode featured Lum's former classmates, Sugar, Ginger, and Pepper, attempting to seduce Ataru, in preparation for which they undergo intense combat training. Urusei Yatsura always used to be a reliable crowd pleaser at Comic-Con. I suppose it says something about changes in the Con and in the general anime community that hardly anyone is around to appreciate it anymore. Jeez, I can remember watching episodes of Tenchi Muyo! on a massive screen in 6A . . . Ah, the Comic-Con of yesteryear.

Anyway, after Urusei Yatsura was an episode of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, the first broadcast episode, episode 11 in chronological continuity, or let's just say it was "The Adventures of Mikuru Asahina" (epsiode order confusion may be alleviated here). Although all the anime at Comic-Con is normally shown in Japanese with English subtitles, the guy operating the DVD was fooled by the episode theme, which hadn't been dubbed, into thinking the audio didn't need to be switched, so we watched the episode in English dub version. It was still enjoyable (particularly when a girl in the audience "wooooed!" when Mikaru started taking her clothes off), but the English voice actors were every bit as terrible and ineffectual as I'd expected.

After this was an episode of School Rumble, which is a series I like, but the episode must have been completely unintelligible to anyone unfamiliar with the series.

And then there was another episode of The Melancholy of Haruki Suzumiya, thankfully in Japanese this time, and I have to say watching this episode in the theatre was one of the high points of the Con experience for me, and oddly a reflection of it.
The episode was one of my favourites, "Live Alive", which is the only episode that fits in the same place in both broadcast and continuity order--12. The episode follows Kyon, the series' male lead, wandering about his school during its cultural festival, an event in Japanese schools where classrooms are converted into cafes or theatres for stage plays and the students wear costumes and make food for parents and other people visiting the school. The atmosphere of the festival onscreen was in fact uncannily similar to the atmosphere of the Comic-Con, especially as Haruhi Suzumiya doesn't feature the hyperactive pacing of average modern anime series'.

When Kyon went into the auditorium where school bands were performing just to rest and get out of the rain, it was a reflection of the people who'd come into the anime theatre just to rest and get away from the crowds, something I've done several times before at Comic-Con. The episode's story then features Haruhi Suzimiya taking the stage as lead singer of a rock band much to Kyon's surprise. She performs well, the crowd loves her, and afterwards she receives effusive thanks from the other band members for substituting for their normal lead singer.

The episode ends with a quiet scene of Kyon and Haruhi relaxing in the shade of a tree, and Haruhi seems to feel happy and upset at the same time. She doesn't know why she feels as she does, and Kyon thinks, "You're not used to being appreciated by other people. You're always doing things that wouldn't warrant a thank you." Haruhi pours her energy into her S.O.S. Brigade club and a variety of projects, but nothing that elicits anything more than bemusement or curiosity from other people.

Seeing it shortly after the portfolio review, which had caused me to think about the value of my web comics, this bit really hit me. I know very well what Haruhi was feeling--I put all kinds of energy into my comics, and the feeling I get when once in a while someone expresses appreciation for them that I can tell for certain isn't out of mere politeness or friendliness is sort of stunning, good, and rare. I mean, I spend so much time alone creating this stuff, such a vast multitude of details for which I don't receive a reciprocating energy from an audience, that when I catch small glimpses of people actually receiving something personal from my comic--not making them like me, or feel for me, but something completely personal to them. That is a very rare and wonderful feeling and it's a big part of why I do what I do.

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