Wishing for Hope, Reaching to Help

I’m grateful to be in a position where I am mentally and emotionally well, even in this pandemic. It’s easy for me to assume that fear and concern over COVID-19 is what’s on people’s minds, but the recent deaths of so many people and figures in my social and fandom spheres just has me hyper-aware of the challenges many face that are likely exacerbated by current circumstances. 

In the world of anime, Zac Bertschy of Anime News Network died in his apartment on May 21, 2020. In wrestling, Shad Gaspard died at age 39 after helping save his son from a rip current on May 17. Another wrestler, Hana Kimura was 22 when she died by suicide on May 23 after online harassment due to her appearance on the reality show Terrace House. And while this isn’t recent, it’s been almost a year since the suicide of gaming youtuber Etika, who was 29. Death may be unpredictable and inevitable, but the fact that they all left so young makes me shake my head in disbelief.

I wasn’t close to any of the people I mentioned, so my perspective is not as a friend or peer, or even necessarily as a fan or follower. Yet, I feel something: sadness, anger, frustration, or maybe something else I can’t describe. In the case of Hana Kimura, I kept saying to myself, “I really need to check out Stardom because she seems like a star,” and now all I’ll have is past videos to reference. It makes me want to reach out to my friends, and those I’ve lost contact with over the years. It’s easy to just assume that the last image you had of them is roughly how they are today, but time passes and people face challenges both internal and external. I always worry about overstepping my boundaries or thinking I’m closer to someone than I actually am, and maybe I just need to find the tiny ounce of courage to get over that and maybe, just maybe, help someone turn away from a bad decision. 

I used to frequent a chat room that was named after the anime Maria-sama ga Miteru (aka Maria Watches Over Us). A few years since I last visited, I decided to stop by, and the chat topic included a person’s name: “So-and-so ga Miteru.” It turns out they had passed away. A couple more years passed, and I visited again. This time, more names had been added to the topic. It feels like I blinked, and more of the people I knew had vanished. As far as I know, none of those deaths were due to suicide, but they stung nevertheless. And while I never really interacted with them on any deeply personal level, it made my infrequent visits feel like “too little, too late.” When it’s related to physical health, there’s only so much any of us can do. When it’s not, it hits differently. 

I hope we can connect to our fellow human beings, those we love and even those with whom we have the barest connection, so that we can help lift up one another. If you’re feeling like life isn’t worth living, reach out to suicide prevention for professional help. If you’re hurting and just need someone to listen, feel free to even leave a comment below or contact me on Twitter

Remember: you’re worth something.

iNcontrol, You Will Be Missed

On Sunday, Geoff “iNcontrol” Robinson passed away due to a sudden illness. A beloved figure in the StarCraft community, his gregarious nature and sense of humor did a lot to push and keep StarCraft in the limelight for many years.

The news hit me in a way I wasn’t entirely expecting. I enjoyed his work, but I haven’t been avidly following StarCraft for a few years now. Still, I remembered all the times I would stay up late to listen to a State of the Game podcast or leave a match on in the background just to hear the entertaining banter between him and the other casters, and I realized what an impression he had left on me. When I did check in on what he’d been doing as of late, it seemed like the world was open to him. He had so much potential left.

33 years old. Damn it, that’s much too young. While jokes are made in esports that anyone over 30 is a relic, iNcontrol always looked like the picture of health. To say his passing was unexpected is an understatement, and it saddens me in a profound way that I can’t fully describe or understand.

iNcontrol leaves behind a hell of a legacy. He was a major figure in the early days of non-Korean Brood War. He helped to bring esports to renewed prominence in the early days of Twitch streaming and being a positive force in his community. I can tell his impact because I find myself impacted by him, and my deepest condolences and respect for those near and dear to him.

 

Ishiguro

Last week saw the passing of one of the greatest anime directors of all time, Ishiguro Noboru. I’m not an expert on Ishiguro, so I don’t think it’s appropriate to talk as if I am keenly aware of his entire history. Instead, I would like to just talk about his impact on a more personal level.

Ishiguro’s list of influential works is almost second to none, and I know from personal experience that his finest works stand the test of time in a way that few can. Back in 2004, I was a college student who finally managed to get all of the original Super Dimensional Fortress Macross. The show was so utterly engrossing that I managed to finish all 36 episodes in two nights. During that time, I felt myself moving from cheering for Minmay to cheering for Misa; the way the show had developed and grown its characters amidst the backdrop of pop-songs-as-simple-ideals and war made it feel like I might  never experience that kind of thrill burning through a show again. Then came late Autumn 2008, and Legend of the Galactic Heroes.

At a daunting 110 episodes, it wasn’t a show that was really possible to marathon in a short period, but I still found myself often unable to stop. This wouldn’t have been any sort of a problem except at the time I was also studying for my Level 2 Japanese Language Proficiency Test. Was it worth it to cut into my study time so much? Well, the fact that I managed to pass probably colors my reflection, but again I was treated to one of the most well-crafted, intelligent, and hopeful pieces of fiction I’ve ever had the privilege to enjoy. I know Macross and LOGH aren’t Ishiguro’s only works, and there are even people who hold them far more dear than I do, but together they shape much of my views of the man.

I first had the opportunity to talk to Ishiguro as part of a press conference at Otakon 2009, and asked him a question about Nagahama Tadao, director of Combattler V, Voltes V, and Daimos. The way I framed my question was that since Nagahama had passed away decades prior, the only way to really know about him was to ask those who had worked with him, which included Ishiguro. Reflecting on this question, I realize that I had mentally placed the idea of Ishiguro dying far away from Nagahama’s own passing.

Then at Otakon 2011, I attended a panel which had both Ishiguro and Shinkai Makoto (5cm per Second, Place Promised in Our Early Days), and seeing the significant age gap between the old veteran and the newer talent and how that difference also meant the difference between cel and digital animation, I asked if Shinkai had any advice for Ishiguro. I caused a fair amount of light-hearted controversy for suggesting that the younger Shinkai could advise Ishiguro on the craft in which he made his name, but Ishiguro was more than open to it. For a man who was still looking for his next anime to work on, the hierarchy of age didn’t matter to him.

One question about the past and the old, one question about the future and the young, both assuming the man would live for many more years to come. Funny how things work.

I hope Angel Scandies makes it somehow.

The Passing: Satoshi Kon

Satoshi Kon, dead at age 47, will always be remembered for creating great animated films.

In writing this post, I am aware that I am nowhere near the biggest Kon fan. I’ve only seen a handful of his total output, owning none of it on physical media or in digital format, but I know that of the films I have seen, all have had a profound effect on me. To this day, I distinctly remember that scene in Millennium Actress where the titular character is moving gracefully between still paintings, stepping out of one and taking up her pose in the next. It’s visually creative in a way rarely seen in anime, even with someone like Miyazaki, who usually goes a much more orthodox route when it comes to representation of events. It’s the kind of thing that gets burned into your memories, and you’re all the better for it.

When I say that the man will be remembered for creating great animated films, you might be wondering, by whom? And the answer is nearly everyone. Not just film buffs, not just the casual movie-going audience, and especially not just anime fans who themselves come in all varieties, but just about anyone who’s had the opportunity to see one of his films. Satoshi Kon’s recurring themes of psychology, memories, and dreams have the potential to be incredibly heavy and complex to the point of driving people away, but instead Kon managed to create incredibly accessible works which get their audiences to think. Not every film is for every person, but there’s inevitably one you can show to your friends or your family and have a nice discussion afterward. You want to know how to mature your tastes as an anime fan in a short amount of time? Watch a Kon film, and see where your mind takes you.

I’ve seen around the internet that people are worried about the fate of anime and the creativity therein after all of this. To this I say, losing Satoshi Kon, especially at such a young age, is a serious blow to the heart and gut of Japanese animation, but great creators die. It’s kind of what they do, being human and all, and to dwell on what they could have done, while a worthwhile exercise, only takes you so far. A creative form of expression such as animation, Japanese or otherwise, is not so simple that it can be felled by the death of one man, great as he may have been. There is mourning, but there is also the next step.

Rest in peace, Satoshi Kon, with the knowledge that it’s impossible for you to not have inspired someone.