I didn’t begin watching anime until my undergrad years, something I briefly touched on in the About page of this blog. But in participation with Ayame’s carnival, below are the memorable anime that influenced me greatly into the person I am today.
ARIA the Natural
The ARIA series is by far my favorite anime of all time, with Natural being the season where I stumbled head over heels for Neo Venezia, our undines, and Cait Sith. I’ve always loved fantastical retreats, particularly with waterscapes, and Aqua and its Neo Venezia became a place very real in my heart as a home away from home. The city may be based off of our Venice, Italy, but after having been there myself, I feel that the similarities end after the physical make up of canals and streets and the public transportation of gondola and ferry. The niceness of Neo Venezia’s populace and overall cleanliness are idealistic, and the supposed threat of Cait Sith and his world don’t actually feel that dangerous (maybe because he seems solely focused on Akari). The city is a beacon of light that the hopeful side of me would love to see in actuality, as unbelievable as I really think it is.
The overall atmosphere this show exudes through Akari’s experiences and encounters with others, as well as with the music, is a calming one. Again, I can’t help but see my surroundings through rose-tinted glasses whenever I watch ARIA. I listen to the crunch of snow under my feet, smell the salt in the downtown Seattle air, and close my eyes to feel the warm summer breeze. I’ve recently discovered that fall is my favorite season–the cool air that allows me to run around in my favorite sweaters, the red, orange, and yellow canopies, and the bountiful harvest that is nature’s last hurrah before snow descends.
There are a couple of beautiful piano soundtracks to the series that I highly recommend: ARIA Piano Collection: Stagione, and ARIA the Origination Piano Collection II: Di Partenza. If you are in the mood for a slower-paced show that cherishes setting and character more than a conflict-driven plot, then give this series a try.
I consider Mushishi another masterpiece of portraits and setting. Ginko’s experiences with various mushi are split up by episode, with observation and knowledge being key themes. Mushishi has always been more about man and nature than man and man, though there are overlaps from time to time. From the very first episode, I felt in tune with Ginko’s travels to the forest and different villages, collecting useful mushi and observing or helping those around him. The ethereal beauty of the ghost-like organisms can be both inviting and frightening. There are times where mankind’s interaction with the mushi benefits both, but more often than not, humans suffer from tangling with life forms they do not understand. Ginko’s neutral presence reminds us that there is no right nor wrong in their existence as long as respect is always maintained.
Mushishi’s consideration for all manners of life is really an attitude that mankind as a whole should practice. After watching the anime for the first time, I found myself listening more to those around me. I grew up extremely conservative and religious, but after entering college, rapidly found myself broadening my acceptance of ideas and beliefs foreign to my own. I don’t view Mushishi as a religious piece, but instead a spiritual one that uses the mushi as a mirror of our own inner turmoils. A note for those interested: after several years, a second season finally aired just this past spring, and the second half of the sequel will continue this fall!
Just because this is on my list, don’t assume that I drink alcohol every day. Because, I don’t. I only drink maybe a handful of alcoholic beverages a month, and it’s usually in the form of a Bloody Mary, or the rare scotch on the rocks. I’ve also always been a fan of global cuisine. But it wasn’t until the past few years that I started to take a deeper interest in the origins of varieties of foods and drinks. Bartender inspired me to slow down and pay more attention to factors like history, variations, color, smell, texture, and, of course, taste. Instead of mindlessly shoveling food or guzzling drinks, I now try to take my time with new tastes and put some thought into what it is that I’m consuming.
On a seemingly different approach, I also at times consider how the choices we make at the table reflect our emotions and character. Sometimes people pick specific foods to help change a mood–take for instance the common preference for someone down with a cold to crave chicken noodle soup, or some variation of congee. And even when I’m not sick but just feeling down spirited, I go and pick up a large container of jook with extra century egg. Somehow curling up in PJs with a warm bowl of the Chinese rice porridge uplifts my spirits. There’s a scene in the fifth episode of Bartender where Ryuu tells a tired office worker the story of Ernest Hemingway and the daiquiri that he likes to think helped the writer pen The Old Man and the Sea. The Hemingway Daiquiri lacks sugar and is made with twice the normal amount of rum, but its surf-like appearance and cool refreshment still make for a fine revitalization after a hard day’s work. The office worker ends up taking courage from the story and drink and accepts his job reassignment as challenge to be defeated.
Seirei no Moribito
Both Seirei no Moribito and Kemono no Souja Erin began with writer Nahoko Uehashi and feature female leads whose determination, patience, wisdom, and kindness inspire me to strengthen myself, both inside and out, every day. The worlds in which they live are harsh yet beautiful, and their contributions to both mankind and nature are not meager.
Seirei no Moribito, or Guardian of the Sacred Spirit, has long been a favorite of mine in almost all aspects: character, story, setting, dialogue, and tone. Balsa was also the first anime character who I felt truly in admiration of–I’m not ashamed to say that I would truly like to be a woman like her. She is formidable on her own as an opponent, but also fierce when encountered in a group where she has someone to protect. She does not fear her own death, but prioritizes all human lives as equal and precious to one another. This mentality is what defines her as the ultimate swordsman, one able to sever the ties of conflict without taking a life. Balsa’s experiences and acquaintances have also shaped her into a patient and intelligent person. She never rushes her decisions, but bides her time for the right moment to run or strike.
Kemono no Souja Erin
Erin of The Beast Player grows from a child to an adult in the anime, never losing her affection and respect for the beasts of her world. While SnM certainly included themes of nature and spirituality, I feel that Erin more prominently emphasized the connection between man and the wild. Amazing medicines, foods, and sights can be found in nature, but not all of it is meant to be tamed. Erin’s interactions with the touda and ouju may display possible friendship between the species formed through respect and patience, but it should never be forgotten that they are feral beasts. They are not pets, and should not be forced into servitude. I remember the part where Erin is brushing Lilan and accidentally brushes in the wrong direction, hurting the ouju. Instead of understanding like a human, or even a pet cat or dog, would, Lilan lashes out and wounds Erin. It’s a startling reminder to her and the viewer that Lilan, despite having been raised by her in a tame environment, cannot be treated like long-domesticated animals.
Music has always been a part of my life, first with piano, then later with percussion. While I did have my fun moments with music, I admit that a huge chunk of my younger years were a result of my mother’s prompting and my own prideful nature. I was told repeatedly how talented I was, how good I was, and I thrived off of the attention. It wasn’t until high school where I competed for All-State honors in band, orchestra, and solo & ensemble that I realized just how many people out there were better than I. College made that realization even more harsh. During my struggle as a music major, I stumbled across Nodame Cantabile.
Watching Nodame’s cheerful vibrance reminded me that I really should enjoy the music more than conquer it. And when she buckled down in her studies to keep up with Chiaki, I saw myself in her anxiety. Her rush to the top of the piano concours was amazing and inspiring, but also a grim reminder to naive me that the music world isn’t as easy once you exit schooling. Unless you choose the path of the educator, living solely off of music performance nowadays is a rare and cutthroat way of life. Looking at Nodame, at Chiaki, and at the many colorful and memorable side characters, I realized that I did not have the necessary tenacity and passion to make music my profession. I continue to love this anime for its goofy characters and wonderful music, as well as love classical piano and orchestral percussion even though I no longer play in groups or as much as I used to. I am content to play for myself and my loved ones, and will leave the stage to those brighter than me.
Join the carnival:
In Ayame’s words,
‘The impact they had on us’ seeks to pinpoint the anime or even manga titles that aren’t just a mirror of us or even our favorites but to highlight these stories that changed the way we viewed the world.
List and talk about 5-10 anime/manga that have influenced your way of thinking and your actions.
If you’d like to participate and have your post linked, let Ayame know!
Here’s a list of other participants: