[12] -introduction to small things-

A choice is made, and we follow the droplet of water until it reaches the puddle.

Nagi no Asukara

This post is the first of my entries into 2016’s rendition of the 12 Days of Anime aniblogger project. For more about the project, read appropriant’s introductory post. For a spreadsheet containing the work of all the bloggers participating, go here.

When I consider my childhood expeditions into fantasy worlds, back when my exposure to them came mainly through novels and the occasional glimpse at The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on my friend’s Nintendo 64 when visiting, I notice a rather distinct difference between the stories I read and the ones I wrote in inspiration. I never finished any of the fantasy novels I started (the closest I came was 170 pages in Microsoft word inspired heavily by Christopher Paolini’s Eragon), but I think it’s obvious in almost all of them that my younger self was motivated by certain repeated desires, evidenced by an dedicated focus on the relationships between the characters I gave life to on the page in the midst of the vast archetypal stories they occupied.

Frankly, considering the predispositions of the me that wrote so much fiction between the fourth and ninth grades, the current me sees it as almost inevitable that I found my way to anime as my primary source of entertainment. I’ve said this before, but I thought when I first discovered anime (and still continue to think), “This is where the stories I wanted when I was younger are.”

Hyouka

Japan may be a small country with a surprising consciousness for things I would consider small by nature (such as mono no aware or even haikus), but it seems foolish to me to attribute these inclinations to some inherent quality in animated Japanese storytelling. Certainly, this perception of the meaningfulness of that which is small exists in other cultures, (“[…] we can do small things with great love,” said Mother Theresa). However, whatever the reasons, I continue to find within anime the appeal of what I must call “smallness.” There is a widespread sense of the aesthetic of things less grand and large, and more quiet, subtle, and little.

And I turn my attention to these small things for the next 11 days. There are small shows and small themes, small ideas and characters who are great in small ways. I want to put those small things, executed, as I feel, with great love by the shows in which they exist. Perhaps it will not wind up as noble as that sounds. It’s a risk I’m willing to take.

To conclude: why? If this is an “introduction to small things,” I ought to address the reason I feel it’s worthwhile to spend 12 days in the midst of December addressing these small things.

Of course, to me the answer can simply because I feel that it is, but outside the echoes of my own thoughts, two things occur to me. The first is simply that anime that do small things in small ways often find themselves outshone by those that do small things with comparatively grandiose ways. The appreciators of the second group are numerous already; it is harder to talk about small execution—after all, it is akin to appreciating the skill with which the flowers we’re told to stop and smell are planted. The second is simply that to do something small in a small way, but with great love, lands far closer to the gentle padding forward of everyday life. We exist in a world of small things as much as a world of large ones; outside of ourselves, and within.

Akagami no Shirayuki-hime

8 thoughts on “[12] -introduction to small things-

  1. This seems like a really interesting theme for your posts! I think that it’s easy to get caught up in the grandiose, but there is beauty in small things all around us. I’m looking forward to seeing what ‘small things’ are worth your big attention over the next few days.

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  2. I’m very surprised that anyone would think anime that “do small things in small ways” are the best ones. I believe that one fundamental strength of anime is exaggeration, whether it’s the dreamy worlds of Atsuko Ishizuka, the emotional drama of Mari Okada, or just the various reaction faces in many anime (especially Girlish Number). With live action, you just cannot have extreme facial expressions, sharp light contrast, or extreme camera angles, among other things. I feel that fictional worlds that have mundane things happening tend to feel too unreal to me, so I suppose this exaggeration somehow compensates the inherent unrealness of fiction.

    Different strokes for different folks, I guess, and I’m interested in how differently to me other people enjoy anime.

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    • Well, to be fair, I don’t really think that anime that “do small things in small ways” are the best ones. If you take a look at my favorite shows list, the vast majority of them are sprawling, overblown affairs—but because they’re so loud by nature, it’s easy to pay attention to them.

      I think it’s worthwhile to consider those quieter shows, too, and perhaps my writing in this series will help show more why I think that’s so.

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      • By “quieter”, what kind of shows do you mean? Stuff like Flying Witch, Usagi Drop, Grimgar, and Hyouka?

        Now that I think of it, there is quite a number of that kind of anime in my favorites.

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      • This post has excellent timing. I’m still under influence of the latest episode of the fifth season of Natsume Yuujinchou, a show whose strength lies exactly in its appreciation of the smaller and quieter things in life. And while I appreciated season five for what it was, which is “business as usual”. But this week we had an episode from the point of view of Satoshi’s “aunt”, who doesn’t know anything about youkai, and we get the backstory of how he came to live with them from her perspective. The episode was entirely mundane; anything that was unuusal was downplayed, and there was a cheesy sort of poetic that ran through the show involving a crow that came to a resolution that none of the characters involved were aware of (only Satoshi’s guardian youkai and the audience knew what was going on).

        In anime terms, you can think of the difference as fireworks vs. sparklers. And many anime that have summer-evening or festival episodes include both. It’s not just a manner of shows; it’s just that the appreciation of sparklers is – on the whole – more common in anime than in other cartoons (metaphorically speaking).

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