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“Love Live” continues to throw me for a loop.

But at least I think I’m starting to understand why, now.

It comes down to one word:  “Shine”.

When I was a child, I was driven.  Very driven.  I was the smartest child I knew, and probably the smartest child of my social circles, which were somewhat extensive.  I was reading at a very early age.  I was doing math at a very early age.  I was running intellectual rings around my parents, and everyone I knew, before even reaching my tenth birthday.

I had all the tools I needed, inside me, to shine.  I could have been anything I wanted, done anything I wanted, learned anything I wanted.  I could have been great.  I mean, really great.

But it was all inside me.  My environment was completely opposed to that and fought me every change it got.

My parents recognized how smart I was, but didn’t really care.  We were in poverty, so I had none of the resources I needed.  We could not do anything on Saturday for religious reasons, so all of the good events that would have helped me succeed were out of my reach.  I was smart.  And I did nothing.  Absolutely nothing.

When I became a teenager, I was hit by a strong depression that has never really left, and that made things difficult as well.  From then, probably my defining characteristic – even above my intelligence – was my ability to make the exact wrong decisions.  This was partly because I was emotionally stunted, and partly because I had no role models to show me how to actually make good decisions.  To show how bad my decision making was, I went to college as a piano performance major.  Probably one of the worst majors I could have possibly chosen for my particular “issues”.  It was a colossally bad decision that I regret to this very day, thirty or so years later.  And the bad decisions didn’t cease.  I can list decision after decision after decision that were not just subjectively, but objectively bad.

And the hits just kept on coming.

“Love Live”, all three (or maybe four) iterations of it, have basically one plot.  A bunch of ordinary girls find out how to shine.

And to “shine”, in whatever form that might take, is all I ever wanted in life.

It’s not that I particularly want to be an idol.  It’s one of the class of things that would be forever denied of me, for many, many different reasons.  And the fact that I cannot become an idol, or a teenage girl, or any of those things that I am either simply not (and will never be) or am singularly unsuited to, is not particularly troublesome to me.  But what is troublesome is the potentialities.  The sheer possibilities that these girls have, that I cannot, and can never experience.  My life is beginning to approach its twilight.  All the good years are behind me.  And I never shone.

I never once shone.

After thinking about it a lot, after really thinking about it, I think the thing about the high school in Nijigasaki was that it was full of possibilities, and the girls who attended that school had so many different resources and possibilities at their fingertips, just theirs for the taking.  Want to join a school idol club?  There it is! (well, oops, it’s gone now, but you know what I mean).  Want to join an underwater basket weaving club?  There’s a whole wing of a school as large as a convention center (mostly because it is one, but that’s breaking the fourth wall) solely dedicated to clubs.  Part of the whole concept of the “love live” franchise is… possibilities.  A bunch of ordinary girls who, through hard work, determination, and luck, can live out their dreams and shine.

Again, I never once shone.

What of dreams, when you were never allowed to have yours?

I am not jealous of people who succeed at their dreams.  Well, not really.  Their dreams are their dreams, and who am I to begrudge them that?  I mean, after all, if there are to be fallen angels like Yoshiko (Yohane!) or, well, me, there are to be true angels too.  The ones who don’t have bad luck, the ones who don’t have it rain whenever they go outside, the ones who don’t trip all the time.  The ones who life does not see as a punching bag, the ones that God does not see as a punching bag.  The ones that succeed.  The ones that go to Nationals and win – Love Live or the wind ensemble competitions or whatever else they set their mind to.  And then, there’s me.  The ones who never succeed, the ones who can never get ahead, the ones who live a life of, to be charitable, stunning, quiet mediocrity.  Even though inside me is someone screaming “I can shine!  I know I can shine!  I’m as good as anyone else!”

But, I’m not.

I never once shone.

And that, I think is why Love Live, and sometimes other forms of Japanese media, hurt so much.

Because all I am ever destined for, all I’ve ever been destined for, is a life of being a “normal monster”.  Stunningly mediocre, less than average, nothing but a loser with all the potential in the world, and none of the capacity to realize it.

And there are some things, such as “Love Live”, that hit me over the head with that fact like an anime chop.

Even today, all I ever do is make bad decisions.

I cannot win.

I cannot shine.

I have never shone, and it is looking increasingly likely that I never will.

And that’s the biggest tragedy I can possibly think of, personally, right now.

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