I can’t write Log Horizon

Screenshot Log Horizon

A minor character – in more than one sense of the word – from Log Horizon. Even these are surprisingly well developed (in this case only in one sense of the word, thankfully).

I have belatedly finished watching the second season of the anime Log Horizon. (Legally, in this case on Crunchyroll which is a site that lets you stream anime and read manga for a quite reasonable fee, and in some cases for free but with a time delay. They don’t have light novels yet, though, as far as I can see, but recently they have a lot more manga. I watched the anime, but it is based on light novels that I have not yet read.)

The novels fall squarely in the LitRPG category, which I have mentioned before. This genre is stories that take place inside roleplaying games, or worlds nearly indistinguishable from roleplaying games. In all cases I know of, this refers to MMORPGs, massively multiplayer online roleplaying games. While I am sure there is a lot of fanfiction on the Internet based on existing games, the games in the LitRPG books are original creations which may be more or less vaguely similar to existing games, but generally more advanced. As such the stories are usually set in the future, where games have become even more immersive. And then, in several of these stories, the characters find themselves literally transported into the game world, a parallel world that is now their new reality.

This is also the premise for Log Horizon. One day after a new expansion to a popular game has been rolled out, suddenly the players find themselves trapped in the game, their in-game avatars now their bodies, and the game world fully real to all senses. This causes various problems at first, for instance at first you cannot make food without the in-game cooking skill even if you know how to do so in real life. Some of the strongest guilds try to become rulers of the cities and enslave others. The tentative main character of the story is Shiroe, a young man who plays a fairly pure support class (Enchanter-Scribe) but is fiercely independent and introverted by nature. He is valued for his obsessive knowledge of the game and as a master strategist, and manages to organize a “round table” of different types of guilds to serve as a loose kind of government, preventing the player-killer guilds from taking over the capital city. (Players that are “killed” in the game revive at the cathedral, but it is said that each death causes you to lose some of your memories from Real Life. As such, most players avoid it as much as possible, but some seek it out.)

While Shiroe is an interesting personality, the story really shines because of its many supporting characters, which are given a great deal of personality each, and interact in sometimes dramatic and sometimes comical ways. In this regard, Log Horizon differs from many LitRPG stories, including some that have been made into anime. In a way, it could be said that these are really single-player experiences. The most extreme example I can think of is Overlord, in which only one player is transported into the alternate world, as far as we know, although certain events imply that one or more others may also be there. The rest of the cast in Overlord have personalities, but are clearly marked as non-player characters and therefore inherently less real. The perhaps most famous LitRPG anime is Sword Art Online, in which there are thousands of players, but the main character Kirito is written as superior both in skill and personality, causing the other players to seem largely irrelevant except for his love interests.

A concept often used about amateur writers (and especially prevalent in Fanfiction) is “Mary Sue”, often called “Marty Stue” for male characters. A Mary Sue is a character that is supposed to be relatively ordinary, but is written as superior in every way, unbeatable and ridiculously overpowered in every way that counts. The Mary Sue is often given character flaws that are not flaws, often an excessive humility that serves only to highlight their superiority. The story treats the Mary Sue differently from everyone else.

In Log Horizon, Shiroe is possibly the smartest person in the game, but he is limited by his supporting class character. He only shines when he can make others shine. You will not see Shiroe stand up alone against an army of enemies and defeat them singlehandedly. But because of his reliable support, he is loved by his friends and they go out of their way to help him even if they don’t always understand his plan. Several of the other characters are given opportunities to shine in their own right, including a large story arc featuring some of the underage players going on a quest.

Log Horizon is not the only LitRPG anime with multiple well-developed personalities. There is also Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash, which I actually encountered as a novel before I saw the anime. The main characters are few but well developed, including one who dies partway through the story. This story differs from most in that although the world is similar to a game world, the characters do not arrive there by playing a game.


I wish I could write stories like that, with multiple believable characters. But that is still beyond me. I am now past 40 000 words on my designated NaNoWriMo novel of the year, but it is a rough patch. I had hoped that the colorful personalities in the Royal Art Academy of Greater Akikei would interact with each other and the narrator character to fill this part of the story, but so far they have remained flat and hiding in the shadows. One of them is actually kind of active, but she is too much of a cardboard caricature, not a believable person like the two main characters. She certainly does not add much in the way of romantic tension, although I will give her a few points for trying. The rest are little more than nicknames and I find myself unable to wake them up.

Oh well, it is good that I am not a professional writer after all. I guess I shall continue in my office job until I die or am disabled.

Hyouka OP 2 metaphor

Do girls think it is fun to drag boys into their human world?

Another masterpiece by Kyoto Animation is the 22-episodes animated TV series Hyouka. These guys really know quality, but that is not my sermon today. Rather, if you’re not busy with work or some such, I would like you to watch the animation to the opening song for the second half of the series. The dream of the main character sums up the whole 22 episodes pretty well, but in a purely metaphorical way. In the series, the boy starts out with the attitude to conserve his energy, emotionally even more than physically. He does not want a “rose-colored” high school life, but a colorless one. What I would call detached. His motto is: “If it is not necessary, don’t do it. If you must do it, be brief.”

Over the course of the series, he slowly changes, and it is due to his three friends in the classics club, mainly the girl we see at the end of the animation here. Watch, preferably full screen. There will be a quiz. ^_^ No, but there will be an autobiography.

Hyouka OP 2 – YouTube.

Did you watch that? Clearly the message of the clip is that even if you think people are your friends, they will just have fun with you when you don’t watch out. *_*

The message of the dream sequence however, that is what I am talking about. As he falls asleep, the boy feels that he is drowning. When he reappears, he has become something like a ghost: He is seen only in sketchy drawings and as reflections in shiny surfaces. Time passes: We see the snow of winter and then spring or summer, indicating a very long duration in which he aimlessly watches the world from outside, noticed by no one. Finally he appears in the glass of the high school club room, where his childhood friend recognizes him and the girl with the bright purple eyes reaches through the glass and pulls him back into the world of the living.

This is entirely metaphorical. The anime is not a supernatural story in the least, although I am kind of itching now to write such a story. But it is his detachment from the hectic world of humans with their wishes and wants and  desires, their plans and their goals. He watches that world pass by as if from a slightly different world, in which he has no needs for anything from the human world, only a mild curiosity from time to time as he wanders alone in a world no one else can see. And then someone notices him, and a girl reaches into the world where he was alone, and pulls him into the human world.

Been there, as extremely long-time readers will remember. Girls are mysterious creatures with uncanny powers like that. It may even feel like a good thing for a little while there. But in the end, you know you can’t really trust humans. It’s good to be back here in the phantom zone, where there is nothing I need in the human world. ^_^ I feel sometimes like it was a near miss. But probably not really.


“It is my fate to bear the burden of endless battle with the harbingers of darkness.” Rikka is a Very Important Person.

Japanese has a new word, since a year or two ago. (OK, perhaps it only reached the world a year or two ago.) “Chuunibyou” – Middle School Second Year Syndrome – is the dreadful condition where someone discovers their individuality and free will before they discover the difference between reality and fantasy. They may dress all in black, including nail polish and lipstick where appropriate (or even if not), and hand in self-written poetry about death instead of their regular English essay. Or they may wear colored contacts and claim to have supernatural powers. They may declare their undying love for an anime character, complete with elaborate plans for the wedding. They may join some unconventional religion and try to convert everyone around them. Usually they get over it, and look back with considerable embarrassment on their actions.

The anime Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai – falling in love despite teenage delusions – is a romantic comedy without excessive display of panties and such. The main character is a high school freshman who is going to a high school a distance from home to avoid being recognized, because he spent his middle school years claiming to be the superhero Dark Flame Master, something that embarrasses him no end. But no sooner has his normal life begun, than he meets a girl in his class who wears an eye patch and a bandage on her arm to seal the supernatural powers inside her. And she knows his secret. Hilarity ensues, but despite all the awkwardness, they eventually become very close.

The anime – loosely based on a light novel with the same name – is warmly recommended for those who want a VERY Japanese love comedy without the usual pantsu glimpsing. There is some drama, but it is nothing that should scare large children. And the crazy antics and imaginary battles are wonderfully animated.


Naturally I find it interesting in terms of my own writing as well, since I like to write Young Adult novels, which for some reason is rarely about young adults but about middle and high schoolers. My attempt this year – which still badly needs a rewrite – stars a freshman in high school who takes anime way too seriously, joins a foreign religion, and believes that he is channeling the spirit of a Go player who died over 300 years ago. While I don’t go so far as to say he is deluded, I do have a side character present an alternative and more psychological explanation.

In contrast, my next story features a girl who everyone thinks is delusional or just trying to sound important, but who really spends every night in a magic world. The story is told by her cousin once removed, who comes to live with her and her mother (his real cousin) because there is no high school anywhere near the island where he grew up. The boy thinks the girl is crazy, especially when she starts reading from an invisible book. But then he starts dreaming about the same magic world…


One interpretation of the Jewish creation myth in Genesis is that humanity as a whole suffers from a kind of chuunibyou, having woken up to self-awareness at a point where we were still not ready for it. This seems to be the view favored by sci-fi writer and Christian apologist C.S. Lewis, in his book about Perelandra (a mythical planet Venus where a new Adam and Eve are created in a tropical paradise.) In that book, the first humans reject the primordial temptation and grow up to their full human potential, which seems to be a kind of demigod. So in this view, the current humanity is in a kind of arrested development, stuck in a youthful delusion that we seem unable to shake off.

But now we’re getting pretty far afield for one entry. More another day. Or perhaps not. Every day is a special day at the Chaos Node.

Heartwarming underwear

“Is it that hard for you to understand how important panties are?” I am pretty sure most regular viewers of Japanese anime of the romantic comedy type are very well aware of how important panties are, but evidently some autistic artists are not. We are not actually shown that part though, thank goodness and the Japanese television code.

And now for something entirely different from my previous entry! That’s why it is a Chaos Node. (It is not a death and destruction node though.) If it were an Order Node, I would write the same kind of stuff every time. Perhaps I should have one of those too. But now: Friendship and panties, the Japanese way.

Last night I watched 6 episodes of a romantic comedy animation, Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo (probably meaning “The pet girl of Cherry Hall”.) It is about a reasonably normal young man, studying at an art academy and living in a cheap dorm called Sakurasou (Cherry tree apartment house, unless my anime-level Japanese fails me.) The other residents are the most eccentric of the students, but they pale in comparison to the new girl who moves in: A high-functioning autistic, who is already a famous painter but has trouble deciding what clothes to put on (if any) each morning, not to mention challenging tasks like shopping food. With the main character being the most normal one around, the teacher tasks him with keeping the new girl dressed and fed and getting her to school each day. After all, he has taken care of several cats, so he is obviously reliable.

As can be expected, various embarrassing situations ensue with alarming frequency. Outsiders tend to misunderstand the situation, especially a girl in his class who has a pretty obvious crush on him, but thinks he is in an intimate relationship with Autistic Girl. And as often the case with this genre in Japan, there is a lot of underwear going around and generally semi-sexual situations.

Despite the recurring sexual content, there is as usual in this type of series no actual fornication, although one would think the thought would cross the minds of various characters from time to time, and probably not a few viewers.

The most interesting part, however, is how friendly and heartwarming the whole story is. Watching it reminded me of why I tend to greatly enjoy Japanese erotic comedies. They portray human folly without malice. Everyone is treated with a certain measure of respect, despite the embarrassments they suffer. The characters are genuinely likable and tend to find traits to admire in each other, even those who don’t necessarily get along well. I think this inherent respect for other people (or at least countrymen) is an integral part of Japanese culture.

Or perhaps, as I say about my NaNovel this year, it is “the Japan that only exists in our heads.” The Holy Land of a new era, eh?

This is indeed the kind of atmosphere I wish I could convey in my own fiction: The lighthearted but sincere friendship, youthful excitement and freshness, the heartwarming fun. Just without the panties. Wait, that did not sound quite right. Just without having to actually show the panties. Unfortunately, I can’t hold a candle to this story yet.

A little fun with anime

I just want to share the fun I've had lately! With bacteria!

I just want to share the fun I’ve had lately – including this anime, Moyashimon Returns.

I don’t spend all my time reading tomes of ancient wisdom. (Actually very little of my time, it is just particularly conductive to writing.) This time, something entirely different!

While I won’t call myself an otaku, I’ve watched my share of anime over the last decade or so. These Japanese cartoons are far more varied than cartoons here in the west, which are mostly for kids. In Japan they are an important part of youth culture, but many adults also enjoy them.

Still, I have felt for some time that the quality of Japanese anime was in terminal decline. Not the technical quality, which has benefited from bringing together handcrafted style and computer animation. Rather, I have felt that the content has more and more become extreme, in a desperate attempt to avoid boredom by going further and further. The breaking of taboos has left any pretense of art and become a competition. For those of us who don’t watch anime to be shocked, there seemed to be less and less to watch for each season. To be honest, I was OK with that – I already have plenty to spend my time on.

But this season saw the return of Moyashimon, one of my all-time favorites. This is a college-level edutainment series, featuring a bunch of college freshmen and the bacteria with which they live. Yes, bacteria, and yeast as well. The main character is a boy with the ability to see and talk with bacteria. They appear to him as roughly similar to marshmallows in size and consistency, with a big head shaped roughly like their real shape under the microscope, but more cute and cuddly. None of the others can see the bacteria, but most of his friends know that he can. The microbes also provide running commentary and humorous punchlines. The series teaches about various forms of fermentation and other useful roles of bacteria in our lives, in between the antics of the human cast.

Exactly how weird is it? Feel free to watch the Moyashimon Returns ending song on YouTube (until the takedown notice arrives, I guess). It is safe for work, unless your workplace requires sanity.


If tales of agriculture are not your major, what about history? One of the most famous periods in Japanese history is the civil wars era where Oda Nabunaga eventually did most of the work to unify Japan, although he died before the process was finished. This “ambition of Oda Nabunaga” is a familiar topic to Japanese, but perhaps less so in the modern age. But this summer a strange new anime has appeared: “The Ambition of Oda Nabuna”, which is a recast of the history of that era, but with cute girls instead of the various warlords. This is sure to renew interest in history among the male viewers! Hopefully it will not feature the enormous massacres on civilians which mar the reputation of the historical Oda Nabunaga.


A very bloodless war story is “Dog Days”, which appears with a second season this summer. In the original story, a young school boy from Japan is summoned as a hero to a magical world, where his quick wits and gymnastic skills let him successfully defend his new homeland in war. The wars of that world, however, are completely ceremonial: The defeated soldiers don’t die or even get seriously wounded, instead they are converted to “furballs” for a while, unable to fight. All people in the magical kingdoms are furries: People with animal ears and tails. The country defended by Cinque is populated by dog people, and the ruling princess is addicted to being petted. 0_0 Other kingdoms are ruled by big cats, bunnies, squirrels etc in human form. It is all very cute and colorful, and the battles are beautifully animated.

In the second season, the hero returns but brings with him two girls: A rival gymnast who ends up joining another kingdom, and an ordinary and rather scaredy-cat classmate who seems to have a crush on him. By all accounts she is going to turn into a hero of a third nation, although how that transformation is going to happen remains to be seen. I look forward to it. I believe I may have mentioned the original Dog Days under the name “The Cutest War”. I am no big fan of war myself, but the colorful mock battles of Dog Days are a welcome break from the escalation of gore and mayhem in so many recent anime which I cannot recommend or even want to watch for myself.


So that’s my summer anime this year. You can watch English translations of anime several places on the Net, but I prefer Crunchyroll, which is a legal anime streaming site that contributes (a little) to the anime industry. It is quite affordable as well, at least by first world standards.

Imaginary invisible friends day

Chasing rainbows hand in hand with your invisible best friend. I assume the manga was made without knowledge of Calvin & Hobbes…

I got a head cold as soon as I was finished with the flu. Since you still shed flu virus for a couple days after you are fever-free, spraying virus like a garden sprinkler gone wild is a bad thing. I have become a walking biological weapon! Of mass destruction! Well, the fever has destroyed some of my mass at least, though I am now eating like a wild thing to get it back. What is worse is that the sick and elderly are more likely than the rich, trim and tan capitalists to take the bus with me, and the sick and elderly may lose more than just a little fat. They might lose their lives.  I am not risking that, and my boss luckily agrees with me.

So here I have been at home all day.  My selection of edibles is shrinking faster than I expected (yay for getting my appetite back though). I still have pasta for a few weeks of siege though. And my boss sent me chocolate, although it contains too much fat to eat all in one day (or even two).

In addition to eating, I have been watching yet another long anime series: Onmyou Taisenki. It is aimed at barely teenage boys, it seems, but since when has that stopped me? It is set in an alternate reality vaguely based on Chinese philosophy, where some people can form a contract with “shikigami”, literally “ritual gods”, animal spirits with magical powers that can exterminate demons. However, these days they mostly fight each other, as there is a civil war between them. One group is trying to make a profit in the demon realm, more or less. The other is trying to stop them.

The series is very similar to a roleplaying game, in that the characters search for new seals that give them new combat techniques, and grow stronger by defeating opponents (demons or each other).  The human characters don’t normally die when defeated, their contract is only broken and they lose all memories from after  the contract was formed. Not a capital punishment unless you are left in a place where you cannot find your way back to civilization.

I pondered why this series appealed to me as much as it did. In part I think it is because it is kind of cute and innocent.  The whole not killing people, even if you could, is like a throwback to a more innocent age. (It is actually from 2004, which was not really a much more innocent age.) But perhaps what most appealed to me was the intense friendship between the main character and his white tiger spirit who fights for him.  This is intentionally a main part of the story.

The main character is a young boy who lost his parents (that’s a long story in itself and is unraveled gradually) and he does not have many friends except the girl next door. When he has to form a contract with a spirit to protect his grandfather, he does not realize that he is gaining the best friend he has ever had. The loyalty the two start to feel for each other is touching.  Also, he can see the spirit even when it is not fighting (ordinary people can only see it when fighting).  So he spends a lot of time conversing with his invisible friend.

What is not to like about that? I do that all the time. ^_^

There was one thing I disliked though even in this theme. I have never really thought about it before, but I just realized that in all such stories where a seemingly unimpressive person is chosen by a spirit or goddess or angel or whatever, that person always has some hidden great power that eventually (or sometimes pretty quickly) shines forth.  And I realized that this had also been the case in some of my own writing.

So I made a reboot of my story from a couple years back, where a 6-dimensional being from outside the universe makes a pact with an ordinary teenage boy and becomes his amazing invisible friend. This time, the seemingly ordinary boy actually is an ordinary boy (except for being very much alone). And the only reason why he is chosen is “because I love you”.

Apart from that, I did not really do much of lasting value today. Eating, sleeping, playing City of Heroes, watching anime. Coughing up hairballs. Not much to write home about.

Aoki Densetsu Shoot!

The moment of transition. From man to legend. Spoilers ahoy!

I came by accident across the anime Aoki Densetsu Shoot (Blue Legend Shoot) and when I heard the beginning of the opening song, I knew that it would be good. It is very rare that the opening (and, slightly less important, the ending) song does not give off a “vibe” about the anime.  If it is spooky, angry or disharmonious, you can be sure that the anime is also aiming at people who treasure such feelings. The Japanese are quite good at matching such things, I have seen only a very few exceptions to this.

(One notable strangeness though: Indecent comedies, which are popular in Japan, often have very cheerful and upbeat songs without any lurid overtones. They are simply happy. I guess the Japanese don’t have the same guilt as most westerners about sexuality – it just takes on the color of its context. But this topic is non-existent in Aoki Densetsu Shoot. There is some low-key romance, as is common in sports anime, but it is very very chaste.)

I have watched 20 episodes over the last few days, and am glad I did. It is quite old, from 1993, and you can kind of see this. It must have been a fairly high-end production at the time, I guess, but because they did not have computer assistance in the production back then, they had to use certain shortcuts to make the desired effects, and the resolution is simply lower than today. It is quite well drawn though.

The anime is about a high school soccer team. Ironically, soccer is something I have had particularly little interest in.  I grew up in a village on the west coast of Norway, and as in all such villages, soccer was the most important thing in a boy’s life until he discovered sex. For some, probably afterwards too. While Norwegians have valued sports highly since the Viking age if not before, and have many excellent players in several sports considering the sparse population, soccer has the broadest appeal. There may for all I know be only one Norwegian who is not interested in it, though more realistically there may be a few hundred. I don’t know. I knew a couple elderly Christian mystics who professed no interest in soccer, but I think they are dead now. That leaves me, I guess. Until this anime, I did not know what the offside rule was. (But I did know the name, so there is some contamination…)

In any case, the anime is nominally about soccer, but really about people and their dedication to their highest aspiration. This is something that has begun to interest me more lately.

The first 20 episodes are about the team under the leadership of Kubo. Having spent three years in Germany, he returns to find that Japanese soccer is too rigid. He wants to play “fun soccer” where each player uses his strength and where cooperation is built on trust, not on hierarchy and planning. He finds little understanding for this in Japan, but eventually gathers a small team of high schoolers who follow his path. Most of them look up to him as a prodigy or genius. But the truth, as with so many a genius, is that his skill comes from deep love and relentless training.

Tragedy strikes in episode 19. Kubo has not told his teammates that he has leukemia, and during an important match he does something unreasonable if not impossible: Taking the ball from the home goal, past all 11 players of the opposing team, into their goal. Â At the moment of his greatest triumph, his body gives up, and he dies just as he is being declared a legend.

It is indeed few people who become a legend while alive, though it does happen. More become legends after their death. And for some, it happens at the same time. This is typically martyrs, and I guess Kubo is one of them, in a manner of speaking.

I have to agree with his best friends that dying for soccer is stupid. But because they all know and share his love for soccer, they could understand him. The main character of the anime, the freshman Toshi, saw this duality: Kubo was “a godlike person”, but at the same time he was just like them, a high schooler who just loved soccer more than everything.

Having an important character die during the series seems to be pretty common in sports anime, or perhaps I just happen across those for some obscure reason. The other two sports anime that I have found worth watching were about baseball, and both of them had a main character die during the anime. There is probably some very Japanese reason for this. Or, as I said, perhaps I somehow mysteriously am pulled toward these. Even if I have never seen them before or even read the reviews, perhaps the voice in my heart are picking them out for me. Although I kind of doubt that. Or at least not much more than it picks out my Pepsi. Who knows. If life is like a dream, who is the dreamer?

Re-watching “To Heart”

Screenshot from the original “To Heart” anime. The conservatively dressed redhead is our heroine, the young man is her childhood friend, and the robot-eared girl is one of the many who like him.

This anime is from 1999, and you can see that. Technology really is progressing, styles changing subtly as well. And I think it was intentionally a little “retro” even back then.

For me, it was one of the first – if not the first – romantic anime I saw that was not meant to be hysterically funny or dramatic. Even today this is fairly rare, it seems. And the anime is also very decent (but the PC game not at all so, from what I have been told). So, it is not funny, dramatic or indecent, what is it then? It is a calm slice of life story about four friends and some of the people at their school. But most of all it is the story of a girl and the childhood friend she loves. A love that is quiet, confident and accepting. She does not get upset when she sees him with other girls, although you can see a shadow of worry in her eyes sometimes. And he makes many friends, because he is the type who does something when he sees a need, instead of waiting for others to fix it. But in the end, she is the one he can always rely on, and she on him.

I really loved this story, but I usually don’t watch movies twice unless they are of a spiritual nature. I don’t think you can quite call this one that. A big part of why I remember it so well (apart from the enjoyable calm) is the ending song, which stirs my heart still. I guess I am wired for that kind of music, but it is even better with Anime-Galaxy’s original (and rather inaccurate) translation. I know I have quoted it twice in the original Chaos Node.

The first time I quoted it, I think, was May 19, 2003. I mention the anime there, briefly, and also says that I wanted it to be the end of my novel. Did not mention which novel, but my guess would be “Lost in Magic”, the one about the boy who is accidentally summoned to a magic fantasy world and wants to save it, but there is nothing to save it from.

A few days later, I mention it again, in connection with my Dark Age of Camelot character, but both of them in context of my drifting apart from my best friends through many years, the amazing Supergirl (later Superwoman, by her own request, but the truth is that to me she was always a girl, and that was probably one of the big differences between us.) Actually, the complete calm and rare trust that I felt in that friendship reminded me a lot of this anime, or rather the anime reminded me of real life.

Then on December 20 the same year, when I made the irrevocable decision to stop visiting. I said I had reserved this song for that occasion, and that is true. It reads as if written for just such a day.

The last entry was September 1, 2006. That’s when I retired my Dark Age of Camelot account and my favorite character, Itlandsen the overly defensive paladin. Over the last couple years at least, I occasionally have glimpses of DAoC, just a fraction of a second usually, where I suddenly am in the game, at some random place (usually in Hibernia) and then the vision ends and I am back in real life. It is kind of disconcerting. But reading that entry again, I feel the sense of closure that radiates from it. I think the game still exists though. It was pretty good. Then again, I think my best friend still exists somewhere. She was pretty good too. (And I mean that in the most innocent way imaginable.)

Reality may be especially hard to face
after spending those innocent moments together.
I remember my heart was pounding
when we played carelessly,
but we can’t go back to that place now.
It may seem cruel to use the same song for memories of my best friend and a roleplaying game. But to me the world she and her family lived in was always a roleplaying game, in which I descended, temporarily becoming a normal human, to spend time with them in a shared fantasy world. It was a great and enjoyable time, pretending that their little world was real. But I live in a far greater world, which I fear is beyond their imagination. And surrounding my world are even greater worlds, in which the world where I live is like a bubble. This is the nature of the universe. It has not only quantities but also qualities, and we can hold only so much, each of us. The limit of the world is set by the limit of each mind. What you perceive to be the limit is not the limit of the universe, but of your mind. In the timeless words of Solar: “We fail to imagine and are punished with reality.” (Namely with a smaller, more meager reality that we think is it all.)

Let’s try a translation closer to the Japanese original, I think. May still be a bit off, by all means.

Having passed through innocent times,
real life has lately hurt a little bit.
For no reason there was enjoyment
and a rapidly beating heart
but there is no returning to that.
Let us start walking away,
holding on to a shining treasure,
for sure,
with the same warmth of heart
I’ll put everything away
and do my best.

You know, that sounds a bit “raw”. Even back in 2003, it did not hurt enough to make a black entry. And walking away from that place has led me to something wonderful. But I do not want to edit the past. I don’t need to make it better or worse than it was. I want to keep that same warmth in my heart, always.

Thank you.

Psychic Academy revisited

This girl, who is a minor character, may be the voice of the creator in this anime.

While copying my anime to the hard disks, I took the opportunity to view once more one of my old favorites, Psychic Academy Aura Banshou. Actually I took a peek at several of my old favorites, but most of them were not as good as I remembered them.  I guess I was not spoiled with high quality graphics in the past.

That said, although the screen resolution is less than awesome, the art in Psychic Academy is actually quite good, but slightly exaggerated. As it should be, because the Psychic Academy is basically a high school for superheroes.

Well, “heroes” may be slightly misleading.  While Japanese does have a concept of extraordinary powers (magical, psychic, mutant or even feats of martial arts are all described as “abilities” and treated much the same), there is less focus on combat between good and evil power users, although it is not unheard of. Mostly though people with abilities are supposed to learn to use them for the good of society in a more or less official setting.

Psychic Academy is tentatively classified as a romantic comedy. It is not extremely funny though, unless you think a running gag of unintentional breast grabbing is the heights of hilarity. There is also more bathing than one would expect, although I am sure that is a lot of time by western standards.  (Japanese are extremely sensitive to body odor.) Generally, your grandmother will probably not want to watch this movie with you. That said, this is merely their attempt at comedy. The real point of the story is the character development and the romantic feelings of the main characters, in particular the boy Ai.  (Conveniently, this is also the Japanese word for “love”. That should give a big clue right from the start.)

Ai is transferred to the Psychic Academy when a blood test reveals that he has powers, although it is not yet clear what they are.  Since his brother is one of the country’s most famous superheroes, everyone has great expectations from the start.  The exception is his childhood friend Orina, whom he has not seen for years.  They had a puppy love for each other back then, and both of them have conveniently nursed this feeling without getting distracted too much by anyone else, so that they click romantically pretty much on sight.  But it would be boring if it was that simple, right?

Enter Myuu (whose name basically means “mew”). A classmate of Ai, she has for some reason “100% aura compatibility” with him, even though her main aura power is fire and his is light.  (Well, it turns out to be light. It is unknown from the start.)  Also, he is born with his aura (although he cannot use it), but she has had her aura artificially awakened. Somehow two wrongs seem to have made one right, because they have this thing going on where they can sense each other’s presence through walls, and get glimpses of each other’s strong thoughts or emotions, and whenever they get close, there is a powerful resonance that makes their world jump in distortion. The resonance also makes it possible for Ai to use powers he has never used before, when Myuu is near.

The intensity of their experiences when they resonate make the both of them feel that the other is special, of course.  While Myuu does not want to get in the way of Orina’s love, the two of them automatically gravitate toward each other.

The center of the story is Ai’s love conflict:  On one hand the long, gradual building of natural love between him and Orina; on the other hand, the sudden resonance between him and Myuu.  I am pretty sure a lot of people, both men and women, can identify with this.

In fact, it reminds me of something I wrote in one of my early journal entries, about two girls:  One of them makes my heart beat faster, one of them makes it beat more slowly.  The one may be what I want, but the other may be what I need.  (Theoretically speaking, of course.  Romance is not a completable project for me, and I have known that for some time.) Still, it is interesting to see it drawn up as clearly as this.

From Jennicam to Happy Science

“You never thought angels wore business suits,” says Edison in the anime “The Laws of Eternity”. Well, I am starting to see lots of angels around, even if some of them may be angels only for me.

Stephen Jay Gould is famous for his claim that if we could rewind evolution and run it again, we would end up with a completely different biosphere, and certainly not with anything resembling humans. I have to admit that my life looks a lot like that too. But strangely, both evolution and I somehow moved in the right direction, as if subtly influenced by some Great Attractor far beyond our sight. Today I will regale you with the tale of how I ended up with half a bookshelf full of Ryuho Okawa’s books. It is almost as unlikely as life itself!

I know exactly where my reality branched off from what should normally have happened. It was the day I bought, on a whim, an issue of the Norwegian magazine Komputer. It was a magazine for owners of home computers, and this was back when the World Wide Web was fairly new here in Norway. One of the fascinating sights on this new medium was Jennicam. Jenni was a young American woman – a student back when she started this – who lived her life on webcam. She had cameras in both the living room and the bedroom, taking one picture a minute throughout the day and night. People watched her spend her days in front of the computer, and nights sleeping.

I was one of the curious people who checked out her web site after reading about it in Komputer. Naturally I would be curious about what women actually do, strange and unfamiliar beings that they are. Unlike some of her viewers for sure, my curiosity was not primarily sexual, although I did collect a few nice, small (by today’s standard) pictures of her butt, usually in jeans. Pretty tame, I guess. My “buttpic of the month” was a homage to her for getting me started down the path to my own journal.

It was another girl of the same sort, Debra of Soyaratcam (New Zealand) who actually showed me how to do it. She was also living a pretty tame life on the web in the same style, but then her software broke down. For many days, she could not show the automatic pictures of her life. So she wrote a few lines and had a typical picture from the day on top. I pretty much adopted her format, down to the size of the picture, in my original JPG diary. (I think I even took that phrase from her. I searched the Web but found no one else who had it, so for months I thought I was the only one in the world after she went back to her webcam and eventually disappeared.)

After some months, I happened upon another like me. I found that they did not call their diaries diary but “journal”. Searching on this revealed a small community of several hundred people. This was before the age of the blog, so that was pretty much the world population of online diaries at the time. We were pioneers. But more pioneer than I was Al Schroeder, author of the journal Nova Notes. You will find numerous references to this in my early archives. We were strikingly similar in temperament and outlook, despite living on different continent, and despite him being married to a fellow geek and having three sons, two of which were autists. OK, that may be a similarity rather than a difference: It seems now that autism, or at least the main form of it, comes from geeks having children with each others. The same genes that make people smart and able to concentrate, in double dose causes them to become hypersensitive and apt to disappear into their own world.

I counted Schroeder as a friend for several years, and I guess I still do, but he eventually stopped writing his journal to concentrate on his online comics. Before he got that far, however, he had already established contact with other web comic artists, and started to review some of them. One of the first was Sinfest, which despite its name is not about a lot of sin but a kind of philosophical comic with stereotypical people and frequent appearances by God, angels and the Devil. There is a surprising dignity to it, for a humorous comic. I never saw any malice in it, even as it relentlessly revealed human folly in its many forms. If it had not been that good, Schroeder would not have recommended it, and neither would I have continued looking at other online comics.

But I did. I started reading lots of them for a while. Over time, it became common to have forums where readers could write about their impressions, and this often turned into general discussions about life, the universe and everything. Many of the comic creators were college students, and so were many of their readers. Intelligent, curious and often lonely, they were interesting people to get to know. I made many of my online friends this way. And especially from the Acid Reflux forum. Despite its name, it was not about the illness (which I also have to some degree) but a comic that seemed to attract particularly interesting readers. It also saw two of those readers marry each other, and then two more. But unfortunately the writer and the artists did not. So it came to an end, but not before putting me on the next path.

One of my friends there was very enthusiastic about something called “anime”. It turned out to be Japanese cartoon movies. Both these and comic books are even more popular in Japan than here, perhaps because their books are written in an extremely hard to read script, with a mix of sound signs and concept signs. In any case, this girl was in love with these cartoons. She also fell in love with one of the guys on the forum – not me, luckily for them both – and they are still married. But I had found a new interest. While I read very few online comics anymore (mostly those by Al Schroeder, actually), I watch anime fairly regularly.

Japanese culture certainly is fascinating. It is different but still kind of understandable. It is also very varied. Here in Scandinavia at least, Japanese manga (comics) and anime (cartoon movies) are mostly famous for sexually explicit content. The line between pornography and art goes quite a bit further to the sexy side in Japan, it seems. It is perfectly normal for non-religious anime to have random sightings of girls’ panties, for instance. In all fairness, Japanese school uniform skirts really are that short, so in school buildings with stairs it may well happen much the same way in real life. I am not sure why they do this. Then again, it is a foreign country.

I don’t watch anime for that purpose. (That would be crossing the river for water, seeing how I live in Scandinavia, but I also try to live with some degree of self-control when it comes to such things, despite being single.) My favorite are humorous slice of life movies. Luckily there are many of those too.

I was expecting something like that when a fellow anime fan shared a copy of the anime The Laws of Eternity last year. It seemed to be an interesting adventure by a bunch of friends who more or less by accident end up in the spirit world. Well, it is that, but mainly it is a way to visualize the teachings of the religious organization Happy Science (Kofuku no Kagaku, literally “Science of Happiness”). This particular movie was about the spirit world, which can be seen as both the afterlife and our state of mind while we are alive. The attitudes of the various heavens or hells are actually found in people alive in this world, and I could recognize them easily.

This was how I bumped into Happy Science, and I was surprised by the effect of the movie. I watched it repeatedly, sometimes twice in the same day, something I almost never do. I felt that watching it made it easier to live the way I wanted to in my daily life. I have tried to buy this and other movies from the organization, but this seems to be hard to do for an individual. They probably have their reasons for that, though I don’t know what.

Google Books lets you read a few scattered pages of a book online if the publisher allows this. That is the case with the English translations of the Happy Science books. By reading those few pages, I realized that these books were even more inspiring than the movie. They were more practical and down to earth, an everyday wisdom that added to the understanding I had gained through my own Christianity. Seeing the same things from a different perspective gave me a sense of depth that I had lacked before, or at least had less of.

I am still not sure what to say about this, or what will happen with my life from here on out. But this came into my life just when I was finally ready to understand it. If not for idly buying that magazine that day, it is quite unlikely that I would have bumped into them in my lifetime.

There are many such “coincidences” in my life. But then again there are many such coincidences in the world. Suspiciously many, don’t you think?