-We begin in class. Kazuki’s running the numbers. Based on his income and remaining hours, then subtracting the previous expenses, and then looking at his budget for Comic Party…He can just about make it!
-But Taishi says NO! A budget is useful, but you’ve forgotten so many expenses for the actual creation of your doujinshi! And then cue Yuu, who’s feeling damn good today. She’s making great progress on her piece, with ten pages laid out last night alone. She’s well on her way! God damn.
-Meanwhile, Mizuki just stares at the nerd group…When her friend pulls her back to talking about what’s to come for their summer break. Just to put that in everyone’s head, that she’s gonna be drawn somewhere very different from Kazuki’s current path.
-Episode 05! That’s the Problem
-So between classes, Kazuki is sitting in the bathroom, contemplative. Because they got back their mock test results…And his are not good. The teacher gave a big broad warning to everyone that people were starting to slack off, and that could keep them from graduating at all, and it’s starting to sink in to Kazuki that he might be spreading things a bit thin…
-Contrast Taishi, in PE, who casually shows that he got the top score of the class. This is the sheer dedication he has to the world of doujinshi, by simply stating that he has to do school, and he cares about doujinshi, and he’s got to sleep, so he just cut out literally everything else. Easy for him to say, when he’s not the one with work…
-To lunch! Where Kazuki is out of the classroom, and Chisa finds him. They end up chatting, and…Are we going to acknowledge her lunch? It is literally just a giant rice ball the size of her head. Anyways, she tries to be encouraging, but she’s also operating in much more unity than he is…
-After school, Kazuki’s still in class, trying to figure out how to make the math line up. There has to be a way to make this work. If he dials back on his page count per night…But that cuts way too close to deadlines. But if he shifts his studying schedule around, then he doesn’t have enough space for the weightiest classes. And also there’s work to think about. Fuuuuuck!
-Okay. Okay, breathe. Go home, clear his head, just start chipping away.
-And when he gets up to go…Mizuki is at the door to the classroom, having forgotten her umbrella. They end up walking home together, with a fair bit of tension in the air…But even as there’s all of this stuff unsaid between them, we also get evidence that Kazuki still cares, as he casually drops his umbrella into a shield to block the splash from a passing car.
-And as they keep going, he ends up talking about his struggles. Trying to get it all to line up, and his problems with the grades, and…And she ends up offering to help him study. Except, it turns into an argument about comics.
-At least, until the argument gets cut off by Taishi showing up. But why? Because, he’s got another note for Kazuki! Someone you need to see! The ultimate advisor who will aid you! This sounds like a cult, Taishi. Is this a cult? NO! He would never send you to such a place! Follow this map and be there at 1700 hours tomorrow! He already arranged it, you can’t say no. Now, GOODBYE!
-And he leaps behind a structure…Just vanishing by the time they get around it. How the hell did he…
-That night, Mizuki ends up calling Kazuki, to see what he’s thinking. He’s thinking he’s probably gonna actually go. …Mizuki wants to go along. She insists she’s just curious, but I’m pretty sure she wants to make sure Kazuki doesn’t get roped up into something…
-So Kazuki ends up talking about it to Yuu while they’re stuck on cleaning duty the next day…And he learns just how important the woman he’s being sent to is. There’s rumors she’s the sole reason something like Comic Party even functions, and that she’s saved countless cons and events with skillful reworking of their back-ends. If you can get her on your side, you’re damn near guaranteed to succeed!
-And, and someone that important is willing to see him? Sure sounds like it. Just go honest and open, Kazuki. And hey, how’s your doujinshi going? …Slow. Yours? She’s already through with layout thumbnails, and is working on full pages! But, what about your finals?
-She’s accepted defeat on them! Tests come and go, but the first true Comic Party, that’s a once in a lifetime event! If she can only have one, she picks the con! You’re insane.
-But, after school, Kazuki heads out…And finds Mizuki waiting for him. And, indeed, she expects that Taishi’s putting Kazuki into a bad spot, as they make it to the shared office building…And it’s, surprisingly normal. Mizuki can’t help but get a bit nervous as they come into the lobby…When there’s a woman arriving right behind them. And Kazuki recognizes her, as she recognizes him! Yes, this is one Makimura Minami herself.
-To the office of the Comic Party planning committee, where Kazuki sees that an entire wall of boxes is all applications for Comic Party that have been sent in…And it’s not even all of them. And Mizuki just watches, stunned, at the clockwork nature of this whole place…As well as the fact that everyone here is, you know, normal. She expected a bunch of…Well, a bunch of Taishis.
-So our trio are off to a little tea shop to properly chat, away form the hustle and bustle of the business. Mizuki gets to geek out a bit over tea, and Minami gets a chance to fuckin’ breathe. Work is so very busy…Right now, they’ve got to go through all the applications, get all the ones that are valid, decide what groups are getting space when there’s inevitably more people than tables, send out notices, get the convention hall locked down, get all the participating back-end people lined up, and all within her budget…
-But, she also highly doubts Taishi sent you to her for work. So, what’s on your mind?
-And Kazuki…Well, his core question is simple. How does he balance this? What did you do when you were in school? He’s got finals coming up, he’s got a book to put together, he’s got a job to afford to print that very same book, and he needs to sleep, doesn’t he? How can he possibly…?
-Well, if she’s honest, she’s envious about his troubles. When she was back in school…Well, it was a small town. She had no money and no cons. She was stuck admiring from afar, occasionally scraping together enough cash to get on a train and go somewhere for a few days, and certainly never managed to actually be behind the tables, let alone behind the back-end desks like she is now.
-But, that’s not to say she doesn’t understand. In her professional life…Well, you saw just how much there is to balance. She can’t offer some perfect solution, but, the simplest thing she can stay is this: Tackle each thing one at a time. Don’t let the gravity of what’s still waiting overwhelm you. And look to your friends and colleagues for help. Even if she admits, she’s more saying out loud what she needs to do to manage all of her stuff.
-Still, it gives Kazuki…Not just advice, but encouragement. The idea that hell, it’s not just that it’s possible, but that there’s a future in all of this, it sits with him well. So they go their separate ways, Kazuki ready to head home and get started, and Minami back to the office…When Mizuki decides to split off. And she races back towards the office, to ask something she couldn’t ask in front of Kazuki.
-A simple thing. Do you…Do you really enjoy this life? Hasn’t it cost you things, not working at a normal company in a normal industry, and, it’s just, not that she means, but…
-Mizuki. Her job is, fundamentally, helping people come together and share something they love. She sees people all full of passion, and she gives them a place to meet, and to connect. She makes joy, one event at a time. She loves her work. It is the only reason she can go look at a literal wall of boxes, and go through the difficult, slow, painful process of whittling it down to what the hall can actually contain. And why she’s going to keep doing it for a long time to come.
-So Mizuki is off…But with heavy thoughts in her head, wondering if she’d been the fool…But she catches up to Kazuki, who was waiting for her, and it’s time to go home.
-Where she’s got her schoolbooks, her study guides, everything to help with the studying. Mizuki can’t say if she gets the world of doujinshi, yet. And she’s not sure if she wants to. But…She cares about Kazuki. And this, right here, is one part she can help with.
-While Taishi watches from outside…And quietly exposits to the camera that, this is the only path. He hasn’t sent in the registration card, not yet…And if Kazuki had chosen to abandon his schooling to focus on his art, Taishi would have torn up the card right then and there. No, the only path where they win at this, is to have scholastic and artistic success both under their belts, comrade Kazuki!
-Also, when Kazuki briefly hears Taishi’s laugh and tries to investigate, Mizuki ends up picking up one of his unsold copies from the last con…And this? This feels a lot more…Him. This isn’t the generic Otaku-Bait stuff he was drawing in class, this is something that feels like the kind of work Kazuki would make.
-Eventually, finals come and go…And Kazuki can say proudly that he survived it. Maybe not perfect, but enough, and he can keep pushing forward!
It’s an interesting question, isn’t it? School or art. Work, or art. Other hobbies. Other obligations. We all have to find the balance point for our own lives, and it’s never an easy question. At the end of the day, every artist wants to be creating more than they are, and yet, none of us can abandon all the other parts of our lives that give us the cash, the papers, and the simple raw energy that fuels that creation. If I sat here and just tried to write story after story, I’d run out of the core mental fuel behind them. But, such is as it is. All we can do is try to find that balance, and be as happy as we can with what time we can put towards each of the many parts of who we are.
And with that said, I’ve got to scan the second booklet. Look forward to that, plus next time we’ve got episode SIX of Comic Party! Wait for it!
-We begin at night. Kazuki’s place. He’s got finals behind him, and a thick stack of paper…With a total blank slate. So, okay, where to start with ideas. He flips through his last work to see if he can pull some ideas, and even looks to that copy of Pinwheel he got from Aya a few months back…Could he pull inspiration from that? No, no, that’s the wrong angle…It’s gotta be from the heart, right?
-But…On the other hand…He needs someone to actually pick up the manga and look at it if they’re going to enjoy it. The single biggest problem that his first piece had, was not getting a lot of people to even look at the damn thing…He’s got to do some more planning and thinking on this.
-Episode 06! Onward to Comic Party!
-To school, in the waning days of the semester. Where Mizuki’s friends are totally thinking of a beach episode. I mean, a trip to the beach. Joking around about picking up some hot beach hunks…Or there’s also the thought of picking somewhere with a nearby festival, doing alllll that summer fun stuff. When a casual remark has Mizuki really contemplating the fact that this is her last summer break as a high school student. Sure, there’ll be some stuff in college, but…
-And while Kazuki leaves at the end of the day, he’s all exhausted and heat-addled…When a very peppy Mizuki comes to get his attention! With freedom looming, she’s feeling good about her summer month off! And wants to take full credit for getting Kazuki a good enough grade that he doesn’t have to do summer classes.
-But he’s also still focused on his doujinshi, as she wants to know if he’s really having any fun with that crap, when they could do other stuff! Like, like going to see movies, or going out to eat, or…Kazuki is, of course, more worried about his submission deadline than really hearing the part where she wants to go on a date with him. Because he’s an anime protagonist in the early 2000s.
-And cue Taishi with his latest appearance. MY BROTHER, what is today? Uh, July 19th? CORRECT! And the deadline, is AUGUST SIXTH! You have eighteen days! 432 hours! 25,920 minutes! 1,555,200 seconds! PLENTY of time to finish your doujinshi!
-But what about food, and sleep? SLEEP IS FOR AFTER SUBMISSION, NOT BEFORE! A true artist lives on creativity alone! Taishi you’re going to kill him. You will literally kill him.
-If you have time to sleep, you have time to research! Get your ass downtown, and LEARN! And now, he is away! Taishi vanishes, as we finally get an angle showing that he was on some random older woman’s balcony the whole time.
-And Kazuki decides what he needs is that day to clear his head that Mizuki so wants. So, it’s indeed downtown, but instead of popping over to some comic shops or art supply stores, Kazuki’s hitting up a bowling alley with Mizuki, with lunch on the line for whoever wins! …And then Kazuki gutterballs. Mizuki is entirely okay with that.
-Though she does think it’s because he’s been putting too much time in at the desk. Regardless of her thoughts on doujinshi, the sheer amount of cram studying he was doing before for the finals wasn’t exactly good for him, either. Why, Mizuki, were you worried about him? I-It’s not like she cares about you or anything, b-baka.
-But, okay, next place. And they end up down at the arcade? Oh my, is Mizuki a secret gamer?
-No, she’s a crane-game addict. Also I’ll bet you a dollar some of these people here are references to other anime. TO THE BOOK! Well, we’ve got some Initial D boys on the racing games, but nothing on the girls by the crane games…Huh. Still, their designs seem awfully distinct to just be extras.
-Anyways, Mizuki finds a particular set of crane game mascots that have her eye…While Kazuki is busy seeing some of the things people are super intrigued by. What’s catching eyes easily…
-Eventually at lunch, Mizuki is very pleased with her panda toy. And they’re the latest trendy things! Huh, this little thing…? Hrm…That gives him ideas.
-After lunch, it’s down to the music shop, where Mizuki’s listening to the latest pop hits, and Kazuki’s starting to more actively research, seeing the way the up-and-coming musicians are getting pushed, some of the CD case designs drawing the eye…
-So by the time they go to an office and art supply store for Mizuki to get some cute stationary, Kazuki’s busy looking at the manga supplies, and starting to think about being able to pull up his efficiency with a little investment. Pre-laidout manuscript papers! Better quality pens! Basic backgrounds and screentones! He can take out a huge chunk of his workload just with these!
-By the time they leave, he’s got a whole bundle in a bag, and Mizuki’s kind of grumbly that their day out turned into a doujinshi thing. So she tries to pull him back into her world, treating him to some tea…
-When Chisa loses control of a cart, barreling downhill for the pair of them! You are not allowed near anything round ever the fuck again, Chisa. The wheel has failed you.
-Even Kazuki realizes this is ridiculous, as he ends up taking a cart square to the torso…And Chisa is pretty scrambled up, as he ends up having to help her re-load her cart. Which leads to Chisa getting to meet Mizuki for the first time, and they end up talking shop. Chisa’s super looking forward to his next manuscript, after all the passion he put into his first one…And when she sees his supplies, do you know about the doujinshi shop down the way?
-And it’s into the shop! Where they’ve got doujinshi back issues, they’ve got cosplay costumes, they’ve got all kinds of otaku shit and I, unlike Mizuki, say that with all possible respect and affection. She’s, by the way, super jealous of Chisa getting all chummy with Kazuki.
-Oh, and while they’re browsing…Yeah that’s obviously Eimi in disguise trying to secretly look at the competition. And Kazuki outs her, which causes a MOB to form on both sides of the aisle! Including the Bad Otaku pair! Eimi, surrounded…Easily gobbles up the attention, because she runs on this stuff, and she casually takes over the sales counter to deliver autographs and sell signed copies!
-The poor shopkeep tries to hold some sense of order, and it’s just not working. He tried, really. I sympathize. And when Kazuki ends up at the head of the line, she just whips up an autograph for him without even hearing him out…
-But, seeing the sheer intensity of attention she’s getting, and her whole angle of being here to research the competition, it puts thoughts into Kazuki’s head. Taishi’s focus on just doing To Heart parodies wasn’t the right specific angle, but the idea of seeing what other people are doing…Yeah, yeah! Mizuki, help him out!
-So by the time they leave, they’ve got bags of affordable back-issue doujinshi, and Mizuki is in despair over having to carry all this crap.
-So when they finally get to Kazuki’s place, she is ready to bail…And, you know, I don’t like Mizuki that much, but she just keeps giving such good reaction faces I end up with way more screen caps of her than anyone else.
-And before she leaves, Kazuki passes her a poster for the summer Comic Party. Look, he knows you’re not into this stuff, but…It’d mean a lot to him if you at least dropped by his table at this con. And thanks for all your help today. He got a lot of ideas from their time out.
-On her way home, Mizuki’s all grumpy, when she gets a call from her friends! They’ve decided on the beach trip, and pegged it for the 14th…The very same day as the con.
-Back to Kazuki, he’s doing his research and jotting down notes on the mascot character tends, the sex appeal angles, the heavy use of meta jokes, and the eternal popularity of giant robots…Huh…What about a cute girl piloting a giant robot? Shit, that’s BRILLIANT
-Off go a pair of party poppers. Taishi and Yuu have arrived to congratulate Kazuki on his new awareness of the medium, and his successful research outing! Now tell them the plan!
-So, first, what do they know? They know that the core appeal of doujinshi, its essence, is the short and direct path that connects the author and reader! To accomplish that, however, you need someone to pick up the book in the first place, and to be willing to buy it! So how do you accomplish that? Strong visual displays! The book needs an investment of a color cover! The table needs something splashy and eye-catching, like cute mascots! And he needs metallic ink use, to make it more attention grabbing! And even a bump in page count, from 24 to 48!
-All good, but time is short. How are you going to fill in those 48 pages? Standard layouts and pre-rendered backgrounds! If he can nail the character art and the story, nobody will care about their use, and it’ll cut his time way down! In addition, instead of all 48 pages being story, it will be a one-and-a-half 36 page manga, with the last twelve being color splash art and world building content! Also, it will be part one of a multi-parter, to crank interest in his next piece!
-And the content, the CONTENT, will be everything popular! And I quote, “Robots, maids, angels, uniforms, hamsters, drills, witches, cat ears, girls with glasses, teachers, aprons, and tentacles!” I want to tell him he’s wrong, but…
-But Yuu and Taishi are realizing the real problem with this plan, namely that he’s diluting all of his core into a shitty, muddy soup. Still, you can’t learn that any way but the hard way…
-He’s gonna DO IT! Just you wait, Comic Party! He’s going to FUCK SHIT UP!
Oh dear. Taishi, you’ve made a monster. A doujin monster. Will Kazuki be able to pull together quality content, with so many disparate directions at once? Or will he succumb to the dreaded sophomore slump, that takes so many creatives when they’re trying to prove that first piece isn’t just a fluke?
I guess we’ll find out next time, in episode SIX of Comic Party! Wait for it!
-And the content, the CONTENT, will be everything popular! And I quote, “Robots, maids, angels, uniforms, hamsters, drills, witches, cat ears, girls with glasses, teachers, aprons, and tentacles!” I want to tell him he’s wrong, but…
Okay, I got curious enough to watch this, so here I am! Just finished the first episode:
I was legitimately uncertain if the beginning was some kind of prank on the main character, or if there was actually some kind of supernatural backdrop to the setting. Somehow the idea that it was a dream didn't occur to me until he woke up.
I could not have told you her name or where she was from, but I did recognize her as someone I've seen before!
Between the visuals and the music and the character archetypes and comedic style and everything, this show is so late-90s/early-00s. So very much. Or perhaps it'd be more accurate to say that it's an almost hyperreal image of a certain subculture of that time - there's a certain image I have (probably a third-hand echo of To Heart itself) that this matches more than any other show I've seen, but it's not actually that much like the shows I was watching at the time, or other shows from that time period that I've since seen. (Rayearth, Princess Tutu... these faces do remind me a ton of Rayearth, though.)
I like this green-haired glasses dude. He took the best character spot as soon as he jumped out of those bushes, and as of the end of the first episode he's still there.
My god, do you remember a time before we knew anything about cosplay? When that was still a new thing?
Honestly, I can't even remember when I learned it was a thing. It seems like it's always been there. given that I once made a Boba Fett costume for Halloween, long before I could've heard of that term, it probably just always seemed normal to me
(this was before I knew I was trans, but in hindsight my predilection for costumes that hid my entire body was clearly rooted in that)
-Holy shit his cellphone, you guys. It’s not even a flip phone, it’s a candy bar with an extendable antenna! I haven’t seen one of those in soooo long. IT HAS A MONOCHROME SCREEN
The stuff about Comiket and such isn't new to me. The stuff about the appeal of doujinshi isn't either - but they did a great job of summarizing it (if not from quite the same angle that I'd use). There's heart in that scene.
I've always been drawn to independent art, obscure things created by a single person or a small group of people. Things that don't fit comfortably within popular culture, that are the sort of unique you can only get from looking deeply into another person's heart. Things that can be weird or confusing if you don't know the context well (and sometimes you can't). Things where the creator might fall short of common technical standards for their chosen medium, but they try their best to express themselves through it anyway. There's a lot of junk to sort through in that world, but the treasures I find are worth it.
I haven't had much luck trying to create my own things, though. And it's not like I haven't tried; I've just never been able to get anything to come together. But even so, reaching for what I see in that world has had a huge effect on me - I mean, the main thing that pushed me into seriously learning Japanese was wanting to read more Touhou doujin. I might be better at sorting through what's out there than adding much to it myself, but that has value too.
This first episode was mostly introduction and setup, so the show itself hasn't gotten deep into any of this stuff yet, but I'm certainly interested.
First, our cover. This one isn’t a super deep cut, but it’s interesting how hot in the heels it is. This is, of course, based on the Spirited Away poster...a movie that came out maybe a few months before this booklet was made. Which means there was a short turnaround.
And into the booklet proper! We cover a lot of interesting details here. The cosplay cafe has a fucking ton of references in its background, from a time when people were a lot more free and loose about this stuff in general. You’d have to be a lot more vague on this stuff these days. Also, they call out Chisa’s giant rice ball, a trope we’ve since seen a few times.
There’s some damn good shit noted in here, including some things even I didn’t know before going back to reread them, like the doujinshi shop being a mishmash of two real-world chains. There is a depth and density to the knowledge here that astounds me even to this day. (Also, I wonder if OLM took their name from George Lucas’s own Industrial Light & Magic special and visual effects company.
Oh, and while the back cover is the same as before, and the core content was a bit thin, what do they use to fill those extra two pages? How about sheet music for the OP and ED? Yeah, that’s right, you can go play the OP right now on a fancy legitimate instrument just following this, which is wild.
Alright, that’s booklet two in. Look forward to booklet three in a few days!
-We begin, with morning! Kazuki awakens bright and early, full of energy, because today, is, the, day! To COMIC PARTY. His duffel bag is loaded to the gills with everything he could possibly need, food, water, art supplies, all of the above, and it is time to face the bold future in front of him!!!
-Episode 07! The Festival of Hope!
-The lines are, unsurprisingly, massive to get into Comic Party…It’s even busy just getting into the table entrance, as Yuu’s there super early, running into an old colleague. We’ve got Aya making her way to her table, and Eimi setting up the absurdly well stocked table for hers. In the cosplay dressing rooms, the girls from the cafe are doing a whole group cosplay.
-And Kazuki gets to his own table, running into Minami, who’s done herself up in a special staff costume! Because administration or not, she’s a fuckin’ dork. So once he’s settled in, Kazuki gets down to the loading dock, looking for the telltale sign of a panicked Chisa…Where’s the panicked Chisa?
-Flashback to when he delivered her the manuscript. He was only able to give her a week to do the print run, but she was confident…
-And thus does she arrive, with Kazuki this time prepared and catching her cart with ease! She’s got his books ready…But there’s a look of worry on her face. She’s…Hesitant. Not like she was the last time. And she’s quick to run away with the rest of her orders. Because, because she couldn’t admit that there were problems, that the passion didn’t flow.
-They got the order done, and they gave him 100 copies of his work with no print errors, for the price quoted. But…When you get a work that truly speaks from a creator’s heart and you get to print their dreams, the machinery practically sings. This time…This time there was no singing. Just a lot of grumbling.
-Back at his table, Kazuki unwraps his hearty bundle of copies, and sees the shining full-color cover he put together, feeling so proud of this work. He’s selling it hard for a premium 1000 yen, and also shilling it as a this-event-only exclusive. But before we can dwell on that, the bells chime, and Minami gets on the PA to inform all the crowds, inside and out, that the doors are now opening!
-The many artists applaud this, the first Comic Party, as the crowds start to funnel in…
-While Taishi stands atop the entire center, gazing upon it all. Fight on, MY BROTHER, and see what this world has in store for you!
-And Mizuki, has put together a boxed lunch to go see Kazuki! At 10 AM, she is convinced she’ll get in the doors by noon or 1 PM if she leaves now. Oh you sweet summer child.
-At his table, Kazuki is trying to keep his confidence up. The first wave isn’t really stopping by his table, but, okay. That’s okay. That’s understandable. It’s the first wave. Everyone’s just desperate to get to the big names before they circle back around to see what catches their eye, right? …Right?
-And then someone finally comes by his table, curious about the maid on the cover…He flips through, and…And…Come on, come on…!
-And he puts it down. And walks away. The next guy is curious about the sci-fi elements…And on and on, but while they’ve got positive words about his art and seeing what he does next, they too walk away.
-By 11 AM, he hasn’t had any sales. While his neighbor is pretty much just selling to his friends…But that’s pretty normal. This early, everyone goes to all the big names. Nobody’s coming down here until folks like Cat or Fish are drained dry, you know? The real fight for the small-timers starts at noon! Kazuki is perked back up by this guy’s casual confidence, as they end up agreeing to shifts to break off and get some time to breathe.
-Meanwhile, Mizuki got to the train station and is seeing just how many people are here. She, she can’t even get her ticket to get in, let alone get in…I’m sorry, girl, but you brought this on yourself.
-Back to Kazuki, who finds Yuu’s table. She’s busting her ass and doing well…Oh, and Eimi’s not far away, down to her last ten issues. Her shameless shilling has worked. The many fans despair, but she’s just eating up how easily she sold through 3000 issues…While Kazuki decides to give Yuu some space, since she’s got a decent crowd brewing.
-Outside, the cosplay crowds are going wild…When Reika, in a full To Heart ensemble, finds Kazuki! It’s a hell of a cosplay, complete with doing her hair just right, and the others are all done up just as effectively. Turns out they were all doing different bits, not a single unified thing.
-Back to Mizuki. She’s managed to get on a train to the convention center, but it’s crammed so tight she can barely move. She’s fighting to keep the lunch she made safe…
-In the convention center, Kazuki runs into Aya, who’s a slower worker and thus doesn’t have a new issue this convention. But Kazuki has tons of praise for Pinwheel, and wants to come by her booth later, maybe buy some of her other available work. Then it’s back to his table, where he’s full of energy…
-And that’s when the Bad Otaku arrive. They’re as terrible as ever, but they’re also intrigued by all of the shameless fan service he’s crammed in…But nope. They put the book right back down when they’re done. Which leads to an argument, as even they can see that it has no soul, no passion. It doesn’t have that spark that makes a doujinshi worth buying.
-And with his confidence cracked, Kazuki picks up a copy, and starts flipping back through…But even he can see he’s fucked up. All he can do at this point, is convince himself the mistakes were okay, that a book doesn’t need that soul…
-Outside, Mizuki finally gets to the end of the line…And back inside, Kazuki is, uh, not doing great. He’s not doing great at all. He’s here with 100 copies of fucking garbage, and for all the hollow praise people give, not one sees it worth their money.
-Hidden away behind a shinobi’s camouflage banner, Taishi watches it…And he knows this unfortunate reality all too well. But he had to let Kazuki learn this lesson the hard way. To pour all that effort into something, and see it fail not because of circumstances outside of your control, but mistakes you yourself made…You have to be able to endure it and pick yourself back up. If you can’t…This field will destroy you.
-The beat cop walking the convention spots him up there in the rafters and tries to get him down, but Taishi casually disappears under his cloak, fading into invisibility, and the cop just rolls to disbelieve.
-Back to Kazuki. He’s getting desperate. He busts out his sketchbook and his marker, and starts making more banners, covering his table to the point that they’re starting to stick out to his neighbor’s table…And by 3 o clock, he’s…Accomplished…Nothing.
-The little girl who was his first customer comes up, finally getting here, and she picks up the book…And…
-The look on her face…My heart breaks. And she has to ask if his pricing is accurate. Because this, this is not worth 1000 yen. He tries to ignore what his brain is screaming at him, offering her a discount, but no, she’ll pay what it’s priced. It’s just…And then she’s gone, and Kazuki can’t deny it any longer. He can’t keep hiding from it.
-His excuses and reasons to himself make less and less sense, have less and less solidity. Through the long, brutal day, Yuu comes by and buys a copy, as does Aya…A few people at the end do come by. Erika shows up. He gets a few sales. And people praise the art. The cover. The splash art in the back.
-But, not, one person, not even his friends, can look him in the eye and say it’s interesting.
-And at the end of the day, when it’s all over far too soon…He’s sold maybe half a dozen copies. Not even as much as he did the last time.
-Mizuki finally gets in at the very end, when there’s not even anyone bothering to sell tickets anymore, and finds Kazuki. She’s all full of energy even in her despair, but Kazuki, he’s just hollow. And when she goes to look at the book, he snatches up her hand, not willing to let her see this trash he dared to put his name on…
It’s one of the hardest lessons a creator can learn. At the end of the day, it’s not the polish or subject matter that makes people into fans of you. You can satisfy a need, you can be a flash in the pan…But it’s only when you speak from the heart, that you can really speak to the hearts around you.
-We begin, at the beach. Children are playing, people are swimming, and Kazuki is laying under the umbrella in a depression fueled haze. Mizuki arrives with ice cream for them both, and, well, let me quote things exactly here. “They were out of chocolate, but vanilla’s okay, right?” “Yeah, whichever. It doesn’t matter.” With Kazuki’s line there said in the sort of low, unmotivated voice where even talking properly over the world around you takes too much motivation and energy.
-What I’m saying here is that Kazuki’s got it bad. And, this is actually kind of interesting, because I’d never considered that this was also probably my first exposure to a semi-realistic depiction of depression. Kazuki’s circumstance here is pretty classic. He put his fire and self-worth both into an external thing, his manuscript, and had it fail. If you can’t keep that layer of separation intact…Well, it’s bad.
-And Mizuki, I just feel fuckin’ bad for her here. She cares. She wants to help. But she has never seen Kazuki like this. Hell, she’s probably never seen any of her friends or loved ones like this. And she certainly has no experience pulling someone back together and out of something like this. Even though they’re together on a bright, sunny, reasonably busy beach, she’s never felt more isolated and on her own…
-Episode 08! At the Seashore…
-So Mizuki keeps trying to find an avenue, a thing to pull Kazuki’s brain out of it…But none of it’s working. And it’s obvious that it’s not just even a general funk…He is very specifically still broken by the last con.
-Flashback, to the end of the con day. Yuu dropped off her excess stock to be shipped back out…And a despondent Kazuki ever so reluctantly handed over the far-too-heavy box of his own. After the final cleanup, Taishi and Yuu were all fired up and ready to go nerd out with some anime karaoke, and even wanted to drag Mizuki and Kazuki into it. Because Yuu could see clear as day that Mizuki is into Kazuki, and wanted to give the two buffoons a chance to bond.
-Except, Kazuki tapped out entirely. Yuu tried to pick him up, telling him how she went through the exact same mess he did…And then got set upon by Eimi, until Yuu had to get serious and tell her to knock it the fuck off this wasn’t the time. Because Kazuki heard it all, all the judgment of unsold copies…And he fled, in utter shame…
-Back to the Now. Mizuki decides to go swimming, and reveal her cute swimsuit to try and entice Kazuki with…And can’t even get him to ogle her butt when she goes running for the water.
-Flashback to after he got home. When he stared at all those failed copies of work he was stuck with…His mother dropped off a letter for him…From the same fan as his first manuscript. She was frank, and honest in it, admitting it was a lesser work, lacking his core charm…But true as that was, it was the last thing he wanted to hear right then.
-The Now. Mizuki gets back from her swim, trying to entice Kazuki…And catches him desperately smoothing out the sand by his hand. Leaving hints of a drawing he’d been doing. He can’t abandon the urge, any more than he can overcome his broken spark…
-Eventually, it’s lunch time, in a little beach cafe with the ED playing over the radio. Kazuki’s barely touching his food, too lost in his own head…When there’s a hurricane warning over the radio. Kazuki wants to just call it quits now and head home, before he loses his chance to do so.
-Flashback, Mizuki was with her friends, and she needed their help with Kazuki. Which, since they’re so lost on the dream of a steady boyfriend, being horny teenagers and all, she had to frame it as a trouble her friend’s boyfriend is having, and how to pull this guy out of his depressive slump…
-Except, they thought this girl should dump him if he can’t push that aside and focus on his girl. …That’s…Yeah, even Mizuki could see how their advice just isn’t gonna work.
-So back in the Now, she’s still trying, but Kazuki is just totally lost in a haze on their way out of the cafe. When she has to break off to go get her purse back from where she left it…And she runs into a pair of tough beach boys, the kind who won’t take no for an answer easily. This is bad.
-So she tries to get loose, when Kazuki happens to wander by…And he didn’t even see it happening. He’s too lost to see the world, and too in despair to even consider the idea that she might prefer him to some muscled beach boys.
-Home scene. Kazuki was lost playing an old Pokemon game, when Yuu and Taishi arrived to perk him up, and for Taishi to show off his spoils of war and try to help use them to motivate Kazuki…But of course, he wasn’t biting. He was too lost. Yuu and Taishi both tried to pull him together…But when Taishi admitted that he expected things to go this way, it just made Kazuki fall down worse.
-Until, in the depths of it, he blamed it all on Taishi. Because it wasn’t just this failed book. It was everything. This all started from Taishi dragging him to that first con. From Taishi convincing him to draw that first book. From making him go research, instead of staying blissfully unaware. And then, letting him dig his own fucking grave. All with no concern about how he felt in a single part of it.
-So Yuu, seeing how bad it was, finally decided to drag Taishi out of there…And remind Kazuki that, he’d been having fun doing it, when he was just trying to do what he liked. Maybe focusing back on that part wouldn’t be so bad, huh?
-To the Now. The beach is getting stormier and stormier and Mizuki is trying to convince Kazuki to do something, anything, with the rest of their day. Hell, she’ll even go with him to an art supply store, or a doujinshi store, or anything. But…He, he can’t make himself care. None of that matters anymore. Nothing matters at all.
-And Mizuki…She finally just breaks, as she runs dry of anything left in her capacity to try and help him. As the rain starts to fall, she runs of, too angry and frustrated to keep trying…And in the locker room, she fumes, even as in her head she’s trying to figure out what to do…
-Flashback to when she tracked him down, and wanted to draw him out of his room and his slump…She offered to take him to the beach, and to pay for the entire thing, and she was able to extract the sort of vague agreement out of him that suggested that refusing her would’ve been more work…
-In the Now, Mizuki washes herself off, as she’s realizing just how bad things are, and how she managed to miss it this whole damn time…Eventually she’s clean, and clothed, and has her umbrella out to deal with the rain…While Kazuki stands in the rain, still in his beach clothes…
-She’s left alone at the bus stop, as Kazuki pulls himself together enough to get out of his wet clothes and to try and catch up, running there…But, he’s too late. She climbs onto the bus mere minutes before Kazuki arrives, only to see it pull away. He’s stuck behind, cut off from those who would care about him, because he wasn’t strong enough to reach out his hand for them. To reach out to her.
-And the depression just hits him like a tidal wave, as he stands there by an open bus stop, the bitter rain pouring down upon his frame…
Depression is ugly. It’s brutal. It’s deadly. And it lies. It finds any weakness, any opening, to seep into you and steal the joy from you. To turn things you loved into hollow husks. To push you away from the people who love you and want to help you.
It’s a dark and bitter place to be in. I still don’t know how to escape it, not entirely. But escape it you must, because it will do everything in its power to destroy you if you don’t.