The following post is an entry in DigitalBro’s ‘Diary of an Anime Lived’ series–an open project for anime bloggers with the dual purpose of expressing the author’s honest feelings about an anime and evaluating it as it relates to our own lives. This is actually my second entry into the series–the first was written two years ago, under the penname ‘UltraEternalBlackout’, entitled ‘Toradora In the Mirror.’ Rest assured that I’ll be uploading that article at some point in the future.
I am extremely honored to be a part of this project, and it’s really helped bring closure to the way I feel about some of my favorite anime. I hope this entry is received as well as, if not better than, my previous one–and may it be the kickstart to a successful anime blog.
I remember those days.
Years past, when life just didn’t seem good enough. When I was a kid, trying desperately to turn away from the sad, ugly world I’d heard so much about, but could never really understand. Hunting desperately for the next glimpse of the beauty and wonder I believed to be real—and always so afraid it would never come. The only reason the realization didn’t crush me, I think, is that it came over time. I learned as I grew—more the man, less the child, but always the dreamer. Nevertheless, one day the realization was there:
Life isn’t anime.
It never would’ve mattered how many summers I spent waiting. Never would’ve made a difference how many people with similar passions I surrounded myself with. I understand now that I am never going to live ‘in’ an anime. It’s embarrassing to admit to myself now that there was a time I wished for that, but I was just a kid. That’s what kids do—they live dreaming of fanciful futures. I’m not a kid anymore, though. And for a while, I was pretty damn afraid that finding my place in the world was going to mean giving up on the beautiful world I believed to be around me. I hung on, though. Clung to those dreams, and though it hurt to watch and love and not understand, I clung to anime.
It brings me more happiness than I can express to say that it was anime that showed me the way; And more than any other, there’s one that deserves credit for keeping lit the fire in my soul—for ensuring that I remember love:
Ano Natsu De Matteru.
“People say that when someone dies, they can go to heaven. But I don’t think that’s the case. When someone dies, I’m sure that person journeys into people’s hearts… They live on as a memory… That’s why people desire to leave something behind in this world. So others don’t forget them. So they’re not forgotten.”
I thought I had this one really figured out when I first started watching the series. I felt as though it was rather straightforward—it points to finding meaning in life by fighting to ensure that you’re never forgotten. Even if I had looked deeper, even if I had searched for the barest truth hidden inside it, I never would’ve found it. Not before watching this series. Not before falling in love with the characters, and experiencing the summer that defined their lives right alongside them. Before I could understand, I had to learn all the same lessons they did—and in that way, this anime, more than any other, has immersed me in its world and led me through the story it had to tell.
I suppose you could paint me the fool for it, but I won’t lie—just once through wasn’t enough for me to understand. I had to experience it once again, this time sharing it with one of my closest friends and the one who can understand my passion for anime better than any other. Though we’d try our hardest to sync up the episodes down to the instant during a Skype call, there were plenty of instances where I’d jump ahead of or fall behind him, if only by a second or two. But when it happened, it only added to the experience. If I fell behind, I’d hear him laugh, or just barely catch the sound of him fighting back tears—and I’d know to watch for something I just might have missed the beauty of my first time through. When the roles were reversed, I would watch for the moments filled with emotion that I knew were going to trip him up—and I could appreciate knowing that I was experiencing the same feelings as someone else, if only for a moment.
It’s pretty unlikely that I would’ve been able to walk away from this series until I really understood its message, no matter how many viewings I needed. Regardless, two times through was all it took—though I can’t say for certain that’s a good thing, given how very much I love this anime. But if the lesson learned in an anime about a bunch of friends spending one chance summer making a movie together, an anime that opens with a monologue like that, isn’t ‘fight to be remembered,’ then what is it? It’s simple, and humbling, and I’m proud to say it’s really changed the way I live my life. This anime doesn’t preach, “fight to be remembered.”
Rather, it pleads: “Remember.”
Years are going to pass. Things are going to change. Life goes on—but there is nothing, nothing that forces you to forget. To give up on the things—and the people—you keep in your heart. So many people put their all into making something or being someone worth remembering. We’ll all succeed, in our own way. But it seems to me that it’ll be far too easy to reach the end of your life, the closing moments of a story that has captivated so many, and realize that, to your eyes, so many of those pages are blank. In being remembered, we ensure our lives will have meaning after we are gone. But in remembering—remembering happiness and pain, remembering the moments that shape your life, remembering the love you keep locked in your heart for a girl an impossible distance away—in remembering, we bring meaning to every moment we’re alive. That, to me, is what Ano Natsu De Matteru strives so very hard to teach—and it succeeds, every step of the way.
That isn’t all this anime taught me, either. Of course, I can’t give Ano Natsu every ounce of the credit. It’s thanks to every anime I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching that I don’t have to give up on the belief that life is beautiful. Every anime teaches us something, because every anime is a lesson in what it means to be human—to be alive.
An anime is a story we’re given the honor of experiencing. It’s filled with characters which are, in their own way, just as frail and small as we are, yet who always manage to become larger-than-life. We experience these stories, told by these characters, are practically drowned in the animation, the writing, the directing, the music—and when it’s through, when we can finally tear our eyes away, having learned so much, what do we see? Others—other anime fans, other people, just as alive and struck with emotion as we are. And by experiencing those things alongside others, we’re given a means through which to grow closer to one another.
In my opinion, that’s something a lot of people find difficult to do—and the emotions and ideas and lessons anime brings to the table make it much easier to succeed. And with every success, we grow just the tiniest bit closer to ensuring that no one, no child or adult, has to wish for life to be an anime, or any other work of fiction that offers an escape from reality. So it’s plenty alright that the gap between reality and fiction is so wide. There’s no need to be upset that life isn’t anime—
Because anime is life, a little bit of it at a time. It’s beautiful, it fills you with emotion, and the memories you gain from having experienced it will always be worth remembering.