One of the things I miss the most about being a kid is just…being able to be alone. I miss being able to sit in the quiet darkness of the early-early morning, wrapped in a blanket, watching anime or playing video games. No expectations, no responsibilities awaiting me the next day – just me and whatever new world I’ve chosen to immerse myself in.
When I think of being a little kid, I don’t so much think about friendships or family Christmases. I think about the oasis that was my Mom Mom’s computer room – being able to sneak upstairs late at night to watch Naruto on YouTube and having nothing else but the hum of the air conditioner and my little sister’s light snoring to keep me company. Or, I think about those nights spent watching [adult swim], falling asleep as Detective Conan fades into the early morning shows like Baby Looney Tunes.
I mean, I can still stay up late, I guess – if I want to risk ruining my work day the next morning. It’s not really as fun, because, you know, by one in the morning I’ve realized that I’m about to ruin my sleep schedule for the week. The immersion isn’t quite there anymore – I can’t seem to fully divorce myself from Real World Bullshit anywhere near as easily as I could when I was a kid. Hell, even as well as I could when I was a college student.
There are two reasons I started thinking about the freedom of childhood cartoon-watching and video game playing. One was that my recent winter break from the office allowed me to lose myself in the world of Death Stranding until three in the morning. It’s been a looooong time since I was able to explore a video game world for so long, without having to feel guilty about it. The other reason was the premiere of the new Masaaki Yuasa anime, Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!
In the first episode of Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!, we’re introduced to a young Midori. She has a passion for adventure and a powerful imagination that’s fueled by her passion for anime. She draws entire worlds that she wishes to explore and injects adventure into the scenery of her daily life. Her friendships are largely founded upon her love of anime – her passion intrigues Sayaka even though Sayaka isn’t into anime, and Tsubame forms a bond with Midori over their shared love and hobbies.
The way the screen envelopes Midori as she watches anime is a perfect visual metaphor for what it’s like to discover something that’s about to consume your life and shape your very being. As a kid, you’re much more impressionable, and an immersive anime (or any form of media) can feel so big that you get lost in it. For Midori, that anime is Future Boy Conan.
The discovery of Future Boy Conan ends up reinforcing her love for drawing landscapes and settings. The key thing with Midori’s love for Future Boy Conan is that she can finally figure out a tangible way to realize her dream of becoming an adventurer: she realizes that real people make the anime she watches, real people map out these worlds that she loves so much, real people are creating these adventures. This makes her realize that her love for map-making and her sense of adventure can be used to make an anime, and thus opens up a whole new world to her. The discovery of Future Boy Conan helps give her hobbies and interests purpose, in a way – it shows her just how much of an impact her own work can potentially have, and it inspires her to want to create something of a similar caliber. As the anime continues, this desire to create fills her to the brim and leads her to literally create her own worlds to adventure in (and escape to!).
Now, an interest in becoming a background artist or landscape artist is a bit niche, but we the viewers can still relate to the way Midori’s love for anime has shaped her tastes and interests, even if it’s not in the same way. I have no great passion for art, but wow, do I remember how it felt to have my own interests validated. Moving in a totally different direction, slice-of-life anime with yuri elements validated my interest in…well, girls. Despite my internalized homophobia, anime like Lucky Star and Yuru Yuri let me escape into a world where girls were cute and gay, and it was completely normal. Anime like that made me feel like the “Midori getting enveloped by a screen” picture. They pulled me in and introduced me to a world I didn’t know could exist – a world where you could just like girls and it was cool.
Then there’s the way that Midori excitedly talks about media. Us anime bloggers can definitely relate to that, right? Look at us, getting excited and writing out our anime thoughts for free! As a child, that fervor was even stronger. The real world felt insignificant: politics wasn’t on my mind, just the newest episode of BLEACH. Things like that were the only thing ever on my mind in middle school, and as result, it was often the only thing coming out of my mouth.
Nowadays, I still rant and rave about anime, but not as…freely. In school, shoving my interests onto others during class was semi-acceptable, so long as the teacher didn’t get mad. At work? I don’t think I could get away with popping up into the customer service department and trying to get everyone to read anime fanfic. Plus, as an adult, I keep getting bogged down by silly things like “self-doubt” and “insecurity,” so I’m much more reluctant to share my musings. I really miss the days where I could toil around on school grounds, doodling, writing, and forcing my interests on unsuspecting friends without a care.
Then, there’s the power of childhood imagination on display in the anime. The Eizouken girls concoct a flying machine and are whisked away into an action-packed adventure of their own creation. It reminds me of playing pretend when I was a kid – I used to re-enact entire episodes of Scooby-Doo in my backyard by myself. It felt as real as the flying machine feels to the girls. As an adult, I doubt I could immerse myself fully in a world of my own creation like that. I mean, if I started buzzing around my apartment complex pretending to be in a flying machine, my neighbors would probably call the cops. Not to mention, in general, I just don’t have the time. I’ve got dinner to cook and laundry to do!
I envy Midori and her friends’ freedom to explore their imagination. They can turn a trip to the laundromat into a whole new dimension of fun – I so very long for the days where I could do the same. It’s hard to see something new and amazing in your environment as an adult, but Midori can do it with ease. Maybe I need to take some cues from them, and start trying to find the magic in my every day surroudings…
This episode hit me in a way that really surprised me. I wished with my entire being to be able to feel how Midori feels in this episode – to be able to lose myself in a world so fully that I literally inhabit it. Then I realized that, by wanting to be in the world so bad, I kind of DID end up in it. I felt myself in Midori’s shoes and understood her desires. When she stood atop a building in a world of her own creation, I smiled with her and felt exactly how joyful that must have felt. Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! brought me back to a time where I could fully lose myself in anime and fiction – back to a time where I didn’t have to worry about waking up in the morning to run expense reports. I’m hoping that, as the series goes on, it will remind me more and more of the days I spent being unabashedly me. Maybe it’ll help all us watered down adults tap into that childhood imagination once again.