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So I was watching Bakuman earlier tonight and I got hit by a main character monologue. I’ve seen it used before. Introduction via monologue worked really well in ef and DeathNote and it worked for me here too… but I thought about it for a bit after I thought about what it meant to me, personally.

Bakuman begins with the main character’s monologue about life. He is 14 years old and is plodding his way down the common road of the normal man. When folk asked him what he wanted to do with his life, he would answer “I don’t know” or “I haven’t decided yet.” It is normal for people to want to get into a decent high school. It is normal to want to graduate and get into a decent company. He is exerting just enough energy to maintain his place in the middle of the pack. The winners of tomorrow are the winners of today. They are already distinguishing themselves at this level and they will continue to be superior in the future. Tomorrow is just an extended today.

The video and I paused to consider.

Here is a kid of 14, the age of an American high school freshman, and he has settled into a rut of humanity. He has looked out at the masses and realized that exactly half of them will lead below-average lives no matter what. Here he is, in the spring of his life, looking out at tomorrow with a sense of helplessness. He feels locked out of being exemplary because those positions are reserved for those people who are better than he. Naturally, the geniuses, prodigies and hard-workers would force their way to the top. There is no point in even forming a dream, he subconsciously recognizes, because there are surely others who want whatever it is more or are closer to it.

It didn’t bother me because he felt such despair so early in his life… it bothered me because I related. I graduated from high school ranked 51% of my class, not because I wasn’t smarter than the 49% above me, but because I never once challenged them for their place. Standing tall upon the bell curve, I looked out over the masses of man and I saw the valleys of despair and fulfillment. They felt so far away, down at the bottom of the chart.

Now, there was a difference between my high school experience and the main character’s. He gets, within the first episode, a free spirit who introduces him to a dream. He then begins work towards said dream. It is a pretty standard pattern. We get introduced to a character just before the event that separates us from them.

Heck, I remember the first time I watched ef, I swore to people that I had finally found an anime version of myself! I could have written his monologue. I will try my best to quote it without referencing the anime.

“I’ve always thought this way… that there would be an occurrence that would make me special. For the longest time, the only thing on my mind was becoming a knight and protecting a princess from misfortune… but… I guess it is too late to become one now. I wonder what I should do…”

I had to pause the video. I had to pause it for a moment because I was experiencing a sense of de ja vu… or perhaps feedback. It was the echo of my own heart I was hearing and, just in that instant, I had to STOP it. Now, I’ve played that clip many times for many people and I’ve said “Here! This!”… but it has never felt the same. Why? Because I know that he gets his chance encounter of 45 seconds. Because he had his moment of destiny. We joined him at the moment before his life gained meaning, only as a method of showing that meaning hadn’t always been there.

So, what about those of us living our lives in the monologue scene? Those of us whose DeathNotes haven’t fallen… those of us whose train station was empty as usual… those of us who remembered to take our math notebooks home?

We wait. Stronger men would just create their own destiny. Weaker men would just throw all their tomorrows away… but we were never those men to begin with. After all… we are the ones standing at the top of the world.

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2 Comments

  1. Tom, how do you manage to get so deep into my soul?

  2. Ugh… you bell curvers and your inability to distinguish yourselves. Always waiting for your moment of clarity when your “purpose” shall be revealed. When do you think that others suddenly understood what their lives would mean? No one ever comes to tell you, no one gives you a manual they just figured out what they could enjoy doing for sixty or so years and kept at it. If you aren’t deciding because you haven’t had your moment then I’m afraid, as you may be too, that you will be stuck on top of your bell curve, idling until the fue runs out while mixing metaphors and shit. You can’t count on things happening so you gotta do something yourself. If you find that unsatisfying try something else. The benefit of being at the top of the bell curve is that it’s easy to change direction. I still don’t like it when a character is given a dream to follow because his reasoning feels so hollow afterwards. Eventually it breaks down to someone else telling him to follow this path because it’s cool and I’m sexy so listen to me. If the character is introduced to a system and given time to immerse themselves and find that they have reasons they come up with in order to continue, then I’m happier with the decision because at least the person is being honest with themselves. Giving someone a dream to follow is nothing compared to letting someone dream. continue, then I’m happier with the decision because at least the person is being honest with themselves. Giving someone a dream to follow is nothing compared to letting someone dream.


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