Aniki! Aniki! Aniki!

Aniki! Aniki! Aniki!

Or Big Brother in Japanese. As you might imagine big brother is an important word in my life. Taking care of my sister was essentially my raison d’etre for the better part of my earthly existence. I had always thought of Anthony way back on the EVA ML as sort of my big brother. And yes, it was also the stage name of my one of my (if not my favorite) singers – Mizuki Ichirou, probably the most famous singer of anime songs on the planet.

Thanks to a friend of mine a bunch of fans and I actually got to see him at the airport the day before and set off a rousing cheer (that is the chapter title) led by yours truly.

His actual performance was amazing (of course!) I couldn’t believe that I was getting to see Aniki perform live and I went more than a little nuts. I think there’s a Youtube video of the performance somewhere floating around with me jumping around like a madman in the back row. Aniki himself was very touched at his warm reception and actually came around to shake everyone’s hand, as well as bow deeply to the audience. What a class act.

Oh, and JAM Project came the next year and it was probably even better than Aniki the year before (especially since he performed with them as well!) The concert just had so many cool moments but the one I remember the most was Masaaki Endou leaning his foot over an amplifier and belting out “TATSUMAKI ZANKANTOU!” (Maelstrom Blade) as nonchalantly as if he was calling a taxi.

My sister’s reaction was more along the lines of “I heard Rinbu Revolution live, I can die with no regrets now.” As a SRW fan seeing all those singers on-stage in front of me was a dream come true.

Where did this all happen? At AFA (Anime Festival Asia) Being at the event sparked off a whole host of memories, especially of the first anime convention and the others that we had tried to hold in previous years. So much effort was spent to just get things off the ground – getting government grants, talking to people here and there, finding and staging a venue. And then here Dentsu just comes in and finances this huge regional affair in one fell swoop.

I didn’t like its highly commercial nature. It clashed with my memories and notions that things like these should be “by fans for fans.” However at the back of my mind I also had to acknowledge that if AFA didn’t exist I wouldn’t even be able to see Aniki (let alone JAM Project) unless I went to Japan. Globalization was here and alive and anime was just riding the wave.

I walked around the event hall and all my previous sour grapeness and insecurity came flooding back. I kept on looking at this booth and that booth and I would be all “I could do that” and “that could be me” and “argh look at what anime is coming to these days!” Not the best frame of mind with which to attend an anime convention. I was all like “I’m going to get in, see Aniki and get out” – which I did. I even gave away my May’n ticket which I sort of regret now (she’s not as good a singer as Aniki but then again…who is?)

I think a lot of me was still in my “here I am, the world is out there” frame of mind at that time. I didn’t want to accept that things had changed and so I didn’t. Everywhere the signs were around me. I saw cosplayers and I couldn’t recognize a single series they were from, whereas in the past I would have been able to name each and every single character and their moves, their weapons, and their last names.
Maybe it just wasn’t the time. I had come a long way but much of my past still writhed and screamed inside me. I think at this stage of my life I had worked out a lot of things but unconsciously repressed was still happening on some level – which was no surprise, given that I still had literally more than a decade of repressed emotion that had not been fully dealt with.

As much as I was in my lamenting for things past mode – which actually was probably just a reflection of my inner issues – there were two anime series which would be very important to my life and personal development, plus they would shatter my conception that old anime was always better than new. (except that it is! Just kidding…)

When I first watched Code Geass I was blown away – not by the mecha (which were decent) or the story (which was fantastic) or the music (which was pretty good) but because I was thinking to myself – “Oh my God they made an anime about Meimei and myself when we were younger!”

There was a lot of myself that I saw in Lelouch, and a lot of Meimei that I saw in Nanali. A brother and sister alone against the world, the former going off to fight battles but coming home in time to reach bedtime stories to the latter. It was like seeing myself in my late teens all over again. If I had had a Geass of my own at that time given my hatred of Singapore I would have totally done what Lelouch did – raise my own army and change things forcibly from within.

Lelouch was an even better strategist that I was, possessed of a fiercer will (well, at least as fierce) and also had the same kindness. Meimei was quite emphatic about this. She used to fix me with a piercing look and say as CC did – “you are too kind, just like Lelouch.” Maybe. But in my life I have had to learn like he did that kindness is not bound by kind deeds.

The subject matter of Code Geass resonated deeply with me. As Lelouch himself asks – what makes a person? Country? Language? Or something more intangible – the human heart? Freedom. Personal responsibility. And of course, betrayal. I spent a long time thinking about these things again. I even dreamt about the series in both languages (a sure sign something had affected me deeply)

In the next few years when it was hard to let go of the past I would tell myself – but you see, Lelouch let go at the end. Of everything. After all the strife and bloodshed, after everything he had said and done and seen – he let go and went to his death willingly. All he wanted was a better world for his beloved younger sister, just as that had been my greatest desire so many years ago. But he had to see that being fixated on that alone would never let him achieve it, as I did. “Nanali no tame no Zero, sekai wo kaeru tame no Geass, soshiete mirai wo koeru tame no Zero Requiem.” (Zero for Nanali, Geass to change the world, and Zero Requiem, to surpass the future.)

Code Geass was a pretty important milestone in my life. Firstly I had to admit that new anime could be as good as or better than the old sometimes. Secondly, it was just a really great series, personal connection or no. Thirdly it did really get me thinking in a different way about the world, and that’s always a good thing.

On to the next. I often call Gurren Lagaan the Evangelion of Super Robots and I think it’s an apt comparison. Firstly it wouldn’t even exist if Evangelion didn’t exist. It’s from the same animation studio and definitely pays a great homage to its forefather (just look at the Lazengan) If EVA was a deconstructivist look at anime (and the human psyche and soul) then Gurren Lagaan took apart the giant robots of the 70s and 80s and put them back in a way never seen before.

The scene where Shimon comes to terms with Kamina’s death, shouting and crying his love with every word, is probably one of my favorite scenes in all of fiction. Even now I sort of get goosebumps even just thinking about it. I think my sister memorized the entire speech and used to scream it out at every karaoke she went to. That’s Meimei for you. If you think I like mecha anime you’ve never seen my sister.
“Believe in you, who believes in yourself.” When Kamina said those words I think I began to believe. And when the core drill spun its way into the brilliant emerald spiral of evolution I felt my soul begin to change as well.

They also saved me from explaining things to Meimei. For years I had struggled with how to make the depth of my emotions known to my younger sister – she was still quite fragile in a lot of respects and I’m not sure how she might have taken some of my admissions. It sounds strange but in a way I was afraid that she might know just how much I loved her. But here were two series that dealt with everything that I wanted to let her know about her big brother.

So I just said “Meimei, go watch Code Geass and Gurren Lagaan” and she did. It didn’t take much convincing – like I said, she likes mecha anime more than me! (I’m the one who knows about magical girls.) She watched them and we talked and I think she got what I was trying to convey. She did think Nanali was a better younger sister than her but frankly that was impossible (and just her own internalized inner critic speaking)

Around this time I also tried to but failed to watch the second Evangelion movie. Why failed, you ask? It was just too much for me. When I got to the scene in which Zeruel is about to cut off Unit-02’s arms, I was overwhelmed by terror. I felt that I was about to blackout and I had to leave the theatre in a hurry. I tried to watch it about five or so times later but sometimes I couldn’t even get past the early scenes. In some ways I was making progress but in others I could (not) advance.