The second half of 2015 brought on many positive changes. But I didn’t make it out of the darkness unscathed. Years of jumping financial hurdles, clinical depression, and more than one existential crisis left a blackness under my eyes that persists to this day. Things weren’t perfect, but they were the best they had ever been.
After returning home from working my first big paying gig, I was filled with a sense of pride and confidence for my work. This is something I had never felt before in a professional setting. And with good reason. Up to this point I was working jobs I didn’t care about. I was a pretty good pizza delivery driver, but that doesn’t mean anything after you clock out.
Now I was making art for a living. And while it would still be a few years before I contributed to any major piece of entertainment, the work I was doing was making a difference in people’s lives. There’s something different about the energy on lower budget projects. At that level of filmmaking, it’s not about money. The cast and crew are genuinely happy to be there.
The director spent over a decade saving the money to produce this film. He called in every favor anyone had ever owed him to make it happen. Much of the crew was right out of college. And some were still in college using it as the required internship to complete their degree. For the actors, this was their chance to fulfill their dream of being in a movie.
That doesn’t mean the movie was any good. It’s highly unlikely to hit a home run in this situation. None of us had a clue what we were doing. Most departments — including my own — were understaffed. And for some people it was the first time they’d ever been on a film set. But we were having the time of our lives figuring things out.
After completing this film, I joined the crew of another for the second half of their shooting schedule before finally taking a job as a sound engineer at an animation studio in the city. It wasn’t my dream job of being an ADR technician recording anime dubs, but for living in Minnesota it was pretty fucking close.
Oh, that’s right. This is anime blog. Not only was 2016 a big year for my career, it was big year for anime. And I even watched some of it this time.
January comes in hot with ERASED, a show where a guy travels through time to prevent a series of murders. Why can he do this? It’s anyones fucking guess. His powers also conveniently go away when the story concludes. But don’t let that nonsense prevent you from watching it. ERASED was one of the best shows of the year. And that’s saying a lot in 2016.
Winter also gave us Dimension W. I’ve been meaning to watch this since it came out. My friend Ryan tells me it’s terrible, but I’d like to figure that out for myself. The reason I’m so fixated on this show is because Funimation put out a series of behind-the-scenes videos while it was being produced, giving us a rare glimpse into the sound production side of the anime making process.
The Lost Village is about a group of people that hate their lives so much that they move to an imaginary ghost town to start over. A lot of people didn’t like this show, which is why I watched it. This was a very sensible thing to do as a person who doesn’t even watch what they’re interested in.
It was also written by Mari Okada, who I’m now realizing worked on lot of the anime that I’ve mentioned in this series of articles. Like, a lot of them. Along with Gen Urobuchi, Okada is part of a short list of anime writers that fans know the names of. And for good reason.
The Spring season didn’t fuck around. Both My Hero Academia and Re:Zero premiered.
With the conclusion of Bleach in 2012, anime fans were asking the question, “What will take its place in The Big Three?” Why does it have to be three? Don’t worry about it. What matters is that My Hero Academia brought the pain.
The mangaka, Kohei Horikoshi, even had a similar career progression as Taito Kubo. Bleach was written shortly after the early cancellation of Zombiepowder. My Hero Academia was written shortly after the even earlier cancellation of Barrage. I really enjoyed Barrage when it was running in Shonen Jump, but considering My Hero went on to outsell the American superhero comics it was influenced by, I think it worked out.
On the other side of the spectrum is Re:Zero, something I have difficulty describing what I like about it. It’s a fairly common isekai story full of cute characters and speech affectations. At one point the diverge from the main storyline to do a side-quest where they fight a mysterious time whale. Normally, I wound’t be into this type of thing.
I think the reason that Re:Zero works so well is that it combines everything good about 3×3 Eyes — except Keith David — and The Butterfly Effect — which could only have been improved if Ashton Kutcher’s girlfriend was a blue-haired maid.
A lot happened in the Spring, so we’re going to go through these quickly.
Berserk had a great opening theme song, but I couldn’t get passed the choice to animate everything like a Dreamcast game. Also, I wish I could erase the horse scene from my memory.
The Morose Mononokean is an alright yokai-of-week show that is most notable for being the last job Vic Mignonga will ever voice for Funimation.
The only thing I remember about Rewrite is that the first episode is nearly an hour long and it features the main character getting beat up by Yu-Gi-Oh while he’s trying to pee. That almost definitely didn’t really happen, but its something I’ve inexplicably associated with the show.
New Game! is about someone getting a job after high school working as artist for a popular video game series despite having no experience. Even in the world of anime where we have talking cats and people who change sex based on water temperature, this is a farfetched story idea. They also didn’t focus enough time on the loud drunk woman that didn’t wear pants for my taste.
Orange is if Future Diary was about telling your past self to bang that hot guy in class before he dies prematurely.
Sweetness & Lightning, a lighthearted show about cooking for your daughter, puts more care into the sound design than some mainstream movies.
Hybrid x Heart Magias Academy Ataraxia has too long of a title for a show about large breasted anime ladies that battle in power armor that can only be recharged by fucking the main character.
91 Days is the mobster revenge story that I needed after Baccano left a hole in my heart in 2007.
Things slowed down for me at the end of the year with me only watching DRIFTERS, a historical fanfic from Kouta Hirano, the lunatic behind Hellsing. It can be hard to follow at times if you’re like me and slept through history class, but it’s still worth watching.
2016 is when I rediscovered my love of podcasting. And my output was higher than it’s ever been. I was doing an anime morning show everyday before work. On Thursdays, I did a three hour general topic show. And if that wasn’t enough, I also did a diary style show every other Wednesday for a few months.
But everything changed when I got a call to do a movie in New York that August.
The pay was bad. So bad that I actually lost money by accepting it. Normally, I would tell someone to turn an offer like this down, but the decision was Vindicated when it turned out to be one of the most important jobs of my career. And what eventually led to me moving there the following year
That job is also how I was able to attend my first Otakon because the shooting schedule overlapped with the con weekend. So after driving 20 hours from Minnesota to New York and spending five days lost in a new city, I found myself on a 5-hour Greyhound to Baltimore.
This may sound exciting; however, I was laughably broke and my phone didn’t work. Fortunately, my friend Tony offered to pay for my badge and drinks while I was in town. But that didn’t solve the phone issue.
For whatever reason, I couldn’t get service. This wasn’t a problem when I was near a WiFi hotspot, but there’s a lot of places in New York that don’t have them. Or they just don’t work. This forced me to learn the subway system through brute force and a series of screenshots.
It also meant that I was unable to call my friends when I arrived at the convention center. So I walked around holding my phone up like an idiot until I found WiFi and was able to tweet them. I’m still not sure how I pulled the trip off.
My bank account went negative purchasing my bus ticket home, and I got off at the wrong subway stop more than once when I was back in New York.
I’m still paying the price for accepting that job. Things worked out in the end, but my bank account took a hit that would take me years to recover from.
Over the next few months, I would regularly travel back and forth from Minnesota to New York. Sometimes for fun. But most of the time it was for a job. One time it started out as fun and turned into a job.
I learned about myself and how to work on a real film set in New York. I also learned that even though I thought I wanted to work in a studio, I don’t. But something I learned that I think everybody should apply to their life is that you should always let people know when you’re going to be in town.
Because you never know what kind of opportunities might be waiting for you.