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This will be another of those posts where I intend to take full advantage of the fact that no one reads this.

As you might have gathered from the last few posts, “Love Live” hit me hard.  The thing about that is, there’s no obvious reason why that should be the case.  I’m a middle-aged guy from Texas who has about as little to do with the lives of even an ordinary Japanese schoolgirl, much less a group of them that are involved in a “school idol project”, as a shellfish has to do with nuclear physics.  So the very fact that it impacted me at all is of great interest to me.

But I think emotions all have a purpose.  Even if they’re a little wonky or unpredictable sometimes, there’s always a reason for emotions, and understanding that reason is always a good step towards understanding yourself and the world around you.

So…  I’ll try to do that now, that I think I have a better grasp on it.

I think it comes down to happiness.

The thing about “slice of life” anime, and more specifically, “cute girls doing cute things” anime (of which “Love Live” is both) is that there is really no such thing as a depressed character.  Well, not a chronically depressed character.  The characters in these kinds of anime are almost always insufferably happy.  Sure, they have their difficult times – in anime such as “K-On” and “Love Live”, there are scenes where the characters are sad, where they even cry, and sometimes even cry a lot.  But at the end of the day, they come out of it stronger and never really lose that “happy” quality that pretty much defines the genre.

Even Yoshiko, who I would class as the darkest character of the “Love Live” franchise, isn’t really all that dark.

Every time I watch an anime like that (and those are but two examples) I am hit, hard, by the fact that this kind of happiness is utterly and completely foreign to me.

I’m not saying I don’t understand it, though I don’t.  I’m not saying I don’t experience it, though I don’t.  I’m saying that even the idea of people like this living on the same planet as me is utterly beyond my comprehension.  (Yes, they’re animated characters and they don’t live on the same planet as me.  I said the idea.  Stick with me here.)

I think I have a vague recollection of being happy a long time in the past – a very long time in the past.  The last time I can really remember experiencing that, was probably before I was twelve years old (this was over thirty-five years ago).  Those memories are also foreign to me.  It’s as if a whole section of my life experience has been completely closed off to me, and I have absolutely no idea how to get it back.

Maybe it makes more sense now as to why these anime are a gut-punch.  Because there’s something innately desirable about being happy.  I mean, very few people say they don’t want to be happy, right?  Even the founding fathers of the US enshrined “the pursuit of happiness” into one of the three things that they created the US in order to facilitate, along with life and liberty.  They saw it as important.  And maybe it is.  But it’s also, sometimes, unattainable.

We follow along with Honoka, with Chika, with Kanon, and at the end of the day, they’re these insufferably happy characters that are cheerful, persistent…  basically not only everything I’m not, but everything I forgot how to be.  And the fact that they exist – even in fiction – is a reminder, and frankly an unpleasant one, of things that I lost very early in my life, and don’t think I will ever get back.

And yet I watch.  I watch, because whether or not I’ll ever get it back, I once had it, and it helps me, even if for a fleeting moment, connect to those things which may be forever gone.

How does one be happy, at the end of the day?

I may never know.

But I have an idea.  Because there’s something my memories have in common with these anime.

But I’ll explore that another time.

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