☦An anartist wants to get an anime produced.☦
Thom felt the drills of the executive's glare pierce his corneas. The meeting hadn't been 20 minutes in when judgement on his idea had already come to pass. It was difficult, having something precious to his heart shot down in a calm, arrogant, and frightful way. But he suspected this would have happened.
"We're not sold on your idea for an animated show. Truthfully, I don't believe you'll ever find a market for this 'NEET' concept."
After all, he had no pretensions about his work.
"But sir, and might I say you look like your looks must match the wisdom you hold-" The glare plunged in him harder, and if he had even a glimmer left before, he certainly has none now, "-I'm not quite sure you understand. This is a biting remark on the way entertainment and mass-marketing degrades society into apathetic slaves to capitalism to feed their self-worth, and-"
"And you thought this idea was something you'd pitch to a studio whose main output is merchandising on kids' shows." Thom took a bit to consider his answer. At least if he was going down, he'd go down in his own style.
"Yeah, that would… that'd be exactly what I thought would be best. Doesn't the irony strike you?"
"I think you might have misunderstood what I said, so let me clarify. We don't deal in irony. Frankly, the fact that you came to this meeting with that in mind would lead me to think you're a fool." The glare disappeared as the executive (John Lukowitz, judging by the glittering nameplate Thomas only just happened to catch now) turned to look out the window, though it didn't lessen the tension any more.
"A fool, however, wouldn't have wasted my time as elaborately as you did."
Thom wasn't sure whether to take it as an insult (he did call him a fool, after all…) or a compliment (…but he did say he did it elaborately…) and decided to keep quiet. John caught the expression on his face and clarified.
"That wasn't meant to be a compliment. This conversation is over. Have a pleasant day, one that hopefully is involved with more productive activities for the both of us."
With that, a small yet fake smile hung upon the executive's face as he turned around to make eye contact with Thomas once more. It was almost fascinating in its own right, as it clearly did not match the rest of the guy's face. Smiles surely must have been lost in his wrinkled, dry complexion, and it was this image that burned into Thom's mind, even as he left the office and walked back down to the lobby. It was those details Thom always hung onto. He tried waxing poetic about it in his mind as he crossed to the exit, just to try and find inspiration from the experience.
One never found in the rawest expression of art, something animation can't capture. The rules of film could base themselves on the pureness of such a look. It's with this that the foundation for a-
He jolted out of his thoughts and looked to the left, an elderly woman looking back at him with a mix of concern and confusion. It was a beat too long that they had been looking at each other and waiting for the other to speak, before the lady handed over a t-shirt. He unfolded it to look at the front.
"Would you like a complimentary 'Poly Action Zorx Hybrid Rampage' shirt for being our guest today here at The Denville Programming?"
The door slammed open in the middle of The Godfather, and Isaac jumped. It was right during the baptism scene, and the juxtaposition of a holy speech with the loud swearing of a significant other was unnerving. Since the VHS player had no pause feature, he decided to just let it run. The distorted bullets later on would probably cover up the swearing for any neighbors.
"Welcome back, Nack. I thought you weren't supposed to be here so soon. Meeting didn't go well, then?"
"Hell no. I even kept track. Twenty-one minutes. Wouldn't have been so bad if I didn't get treated so condescendingly. Oh by the way, I got more clothes for us." Thom threw a t-shirt at Isaac and collapsed on the couch next to him, frowning as he watched the television.
"Don't tell me you're watching this shit again."
"Yeah. Godfather's the bomb."
"You've only seen it like, 20 times now? The tape's probably begging for a mercy killing."
"Whatever, this is your guilty pleasure." Isaac grinned and unfurled the shirt, staring at the logo with some kind of confusion. "What's a 'Poly Action Zorx Hybrid Rampage', and how much did this cost you?"
"Free. The receptionist in the lobby gave me one for free."
"I asked for another. They must have warehouses full of the things. Absolutely worthless. I bet they're happy to get rid of them." Thom felt a punch to his arm and grinned, though wincing a bit at how it hurt while rubbing it.
"Glad I could be of service."
"Yeah, yeah. If I didn't love you I'd probably throw you out the window." Still, even if the shirt was… perplexing, Isaac couldn't help but smile. The mood was lightened somewhat, coinciding with a series of assassinations on-screen.
Thom was put a bit on-edge by the gratuitous killings and needed to distract himself, though he didn't want to get up and leave Isaac alone.
"Still, what am I gonna do with the idea? It's my big chance at breaking through and maybe earning us some cash and no one wants this."
"I'm sure we'll find someone for your anart animation. You know Coppola was the 13th director asked to film The Godfather? Great ideas can take a while."
"You and your dumb fascination with movies." He leaned his head into Isaac's shoulder, thinking on what to do. Neither of them spoke for a while, letting the movie wash over them. Well, not really. "I still don't get why you like this so much. Twenty times, man."
"Hey, it's a masterpiece. I don't need many more reasons beyond that. Now shush."
"Do you know what three multiplied by twenty is? Sixty. That's how many hours of your life you spent watching this. The audio's distorted and the video's all weird now because of how much you've been watching it. If this is your way of wanting to get back into being an anartist, you could have just told me you know. I could use one more for my team. Besides, you know what we could have been doing with those 60 hours?"
They continued to watch the movie in silence, picking out whatever legible dialog and video could be found from the distortion and saturation. Somehow, they managed to stick it out, though Thom certainly wouldn't have if Isaac wasn't there to curl up against. The movie had gone on for a while when the scene with Michael traveling to Las Vegas to buy Moe Greene's stake in the Corleone's casinos had come. Only a couple minutes into the scene had passed when Thom felt his body collapse onto the couch. As he looked up, he saw Isaac suddenly make a beeline for the phone.
"What, you wanna return this now? I don't think Blockbuster's in business anymore."
"No, I figured out the solution. What do you think about going to Japan?" The suggestion was a bit stunning, and Thom had to think about it for a bit to react. He'd never even been out of New England, much less the country. In fact, the suggestion was so sudden and out-of-the-blue he wasn't even sure where Isaac got the idea.
"Uh, like a vacation? Sure, why?"
"No, I mean for your animation, or rather, your anime." There was an awkward pause. This time, there were no action sequences in the movie to puncture the silence. Just dialog to punctuate it.
"What? I mean, I dig anime, but…."
"You remember when I told you about my friend, Yukyu?"
Thom just stared at him in confusion.
"…Idle," Isaac clarified.
"Oh, right, that girl you were in that jazz-punk band with."
"Well, we're still friends and hang out, and she'll be able to help you. I can vouch for her 100%. Hell, any artist up and down the east coast can."
Now Thom had to consider this. Japan was far removed from their little slice of Fuckall, Massachusetts, but on the other hand, this would be his big break, and a potentially even wider audience for his work.
"Sure, why not. I don't have the money for it though, but I can give it a shot." With that, Isaac nodded and dialed up his friend. Thom's attention turned back to watching the movie. Now and then, Isaac would turn to ask him a question.
"How long are you planning on staying in Japan?" If everything went smoothly, three months at most.
"Can you afford to stay there that long?" There was enough spare money for it. Maybe an odd job or two would help.
"How much Japanese can you speak?" Does saying "konnichiwa", "sayonara", "hajimemashite", and "kawaii" count?
This went on for a bit until he could hear Isaac finish the conversation and make his way back to the couch, grinning.
"Get packed. Your flight leaves in three days!"
"What? But you just-"
"Yeah. She works fast, got the two of you tickets. Three things though. One, you need to take a flight to New York and meet her in the terminal there. Two, you have to pay her for her roundtrip ticket plus food and various expenses in the following month after you come back from Japan… $1200." This was already sounding too costly. "Three, you need to use your spare money for staying in whatever residence you can find for the both of you. She'll help you look, don't worry." Great. He had to live with some girl he didn't know, and spend his own money on all of this.
"But what about you? That money was for rent here!"
"Don't worry about it. I can work two jobs no problem. Costs should be easier if I'm living by myself." Thom couldn't help but smile like a maniac and hug Isaac closely.
"Thank you so much! I knew I loved you for a reason!"
"You still have a problem with words sometimes, don't you?" Isaac frowned, but hugged him back. He knew what that idiot meant anyhow.
Thom was looking around at the airport for his travel companion, not knowing who to look for. All he knew was that she was Japanese and taller than him by a good half-foot. Eh, it's not like it was SUPER urgent for him to look now. He still had another hour to go after all, he could afford to wait. Besides, this seating was really comfortable.
He got pulled out of his thoughts to see a girl staring down at him with a look of impatience. He must have jumped, because her eyes rolled a bit and she sat down next to him.
"You're awake now. Who knows what you'd do if I left you here sleeping and went over to Tokyo by myself." She didn't seem to be particularly friendly, though. Not quite the image he expected.
"Er, hello. You must be Idle, right?" At this, she scowled a bit and looked him directly in the eye. The way she looked at him, he felt like he committed a crime in front of her.
"I know Mr. Tanaka told you my name, because he mentioned it to me during our call. If you're spending three months with me, the least you can do is learn my name. And 'it's Japanese' is not an excuse for not learning it. You're going to be living in Japan for a few months. Yukyu. Long u sound. Yuu, kyuu. You try it." How did Isaac ever spend time with her?
"Yuu, kyuu… Yukyu. That's it, right?" Yukyu nodded, and eased up just a bit, not saying anything. A few minutes had passed, and it got more and more awkward as time went on. There had to be some way to ease up on the tension. Maybe asking about names? He could learn some Japanese right here after all.
"So… Yukyu. That means Idle, right?" She didn't respond, just staring ahead at the departure times. He decided to press on anyway. Maybe he'd get somewhere, anywhere. "Why do you go by that?"
"Nack. Why do they call you Nack?"
"I… that's my name?"
"Then there you go." Another minute had passed after, and the situation grew increasingly uncomfortable. He could only wonder why she took such a dislike to him right away.
"But surely there's some reason. Is it a nickname?" Yukyu had snapped around to glare at Thom, and he froze up. Some kind of feeling in his body told him he should bolt, forget about this whole thing, but her glare was too commanding. He could only sit and be in the direct line of fire for her words.
"Listen. I'm helping Mr. Tanaka because he's my friend, and I owe him a favor. When he described what you wanted to do, I took a dislike to you. Your ideas on what makes watchable anime, and what makes up good art is appalling to me. I was surprised when he said you weren't an Aussie. You'd fit in with them and their ridiculous vision of art."
Somehow, that last sentence was what stung Thom the most. At least he finally understood what made her dislike him so much. Now he'd try to at least find some kind of way to make things peaceful. Speaking with her made him had to think on his feet to think of what to say, unless he wanted to face another barrier.
"Well, I'm not one, if it helps. Can't you at least get to know people to form impressions?"
"For what I do with artists, I don't make it a point to know them. This is the longest I'd have to spend with someone on a piece of theirs. Maybe if you give me a reason to grow to like you, I'd look past your childish ideas for art and anime."
"Oh come on, how is it childish?"
"Tell me your idea for your piece, Mr. Nack." Yukyu's glare softened to one of disapproval now, and she looked back at the departure times, waiting for Thom to speak up again. He certainly didn't expect this, and now had to come up with the same kind of confidence he had in front of the executive he faced only a few days ago.
"Well, uh… it's about this NEET who works from home so he can buy anime merchandise, like posters and figures and that stuff. Total otaku. And the person who delivers all this merchandise to him is this girl, a tomboy, and he develops a bond with her and then they go on over-the-top adventures to destroy these merchandising companies who have all these other people under their control by manipulating them to keep buying. But when someone watches it, they feel apathetic and lethargic and want to buy stuff! It's this critique on how we're shackled to cap-"
Thom felt a slap right across his face, and suddenly found himself back to Earth and staring at Yukyu. He noticed that, in addition to the seething look of hate he got from her, he was also standing with one leg on top of the chairs as if he was posing. It wasn't the first time he felt the stares of everyone in a good amount of distance, but it was the first time that he felt self-conscious about it. Coming to his senses, he sat down, though Yukyu didn't. She was standing over him, and he couldn't help but feel insignificant and small.
"Did you even listen to yourself? You're the cancer plaguing Japan. I don't know what you were thinking, if you really thought you had some kind of clever critique on 'femininity' and 'capitalism', and judging from where you were going with it, you probably thought you were being clever about sexism too. I bet you thought you were clever coming up with that kind of effect for people watching too."
Though she sat down, her eyes never wandered anywhere but staring at him. In a panic, he looked up at the departure time. 50 more minutes. The longer he looked away to try and avert her gaze, the stronger he could feel her burning into him.
"It's dumb. It's real dumb. That's not an idea that would work. You're not only feeding the impression Westerners have of Japan and its culture, but you have the nerve to present it as art. I don't know why I bothered saying yes to Mr. Tanaka. Tell me why I should help you, or else I'll send you back home. I'll even buy you a ticket back."
Thom was stuck. It never occurred to him that his idea really was that bad. Even Isaac had sugarcoated it for him. Here he was, soon to board a flight to a country he hardly knew the language for, with someone who hated his guts, with an idea that wouldn't work. It took a good minute to think of a response, and by the point he figured out what to say and turned back to Yukyu, she had already gotten up to leave.
"Wait, hold on! Can't you help me with this? Make it workable, somehow?"
"All I can see is that it would be a waste of time and money."
"But I believe in the vision and the idea. I want this to work. I don't even need three months, just two, but I need someone to help. And since you've been so honest… can't you help work with me?"
As annoyed and angry as she was, she did find some sincerity to him that she hadn't before. Sure, it'd be two months, and it wouldn't be cheap, but he was worth a gamble. It was the kind of sincerity she never saw in the Aussies she had dealt with before. At the very least, it was refreshing.
"I guess Mr. Tanaka wouldn't have called me if he didn't fully believe in you. I'll help, but if it doesn't work out and you start thinking your childish ideas are okay again, you'll no longer have my support. We'll work something out when we arrive in Tokyo."
With this, her glare softened back to a neutral look and she went back to sitting next to Thom, waiting for the plane to arrive. He felt relieved, and nervous as well. At least he wasn't abandoned. Things could work out between the two of them after all.
"Thank you, Yokyo. This means a lot to me."
"Yukyu. Yuu, kyuu. And that's obvious. If it didn't mean a lot to you, you wouldn't have asked me to help you right now." Thom sighed. Even thanking her was hard to do without a reaction like that. There was no way he could imagine Isaac getting along with her.
"Yuu, kyuu. My bad. By the way, Yukyu, before we board, I should tell you something."
"Oh?" She looked at him curiously, and he couldn't help but scratch the back of his head nervously and look away. It felt like enough of a burden to tell her this, but he figured he might as well have gotten it out of the way.
"I get planesick easily. Probably a good idea not to sit next to me." She scowled and looked away, as if she thought Thom was joking. He couldn't think of a way to save face on that, so he sighed and went back to looking at the departure times anxiously.
An hour into the flight, and Yukyu had went to sit somewhere else after asking a flight attendant for an empty seat. Thom had spent the majority of the 20-hour flight in the bathroom, puking and curling up on the floor.
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