Anime Is Art Too, Guys
rating: +19+x



12/14/2018







"Mister…"

Silence hung in the room as the executive's glare shot through him.

"I'm sorry, what's your name, again?"

Thom shrugged his shoulders forward to get his coatsleeves up a little before adjusting his tie. "Nack. Thomas Nack, sir."

"Mister Nack."

It had only been twenty minutes since the meeting started, but Thom's throat had gone dry already. He stretched his hand across the table to grasp the pitcher of water, poured himself another glass, and brought the jittering cup to his lips.

"I don't think you'll ever find a market for this, uh, 'Japanese style cartoon' of yours. Least of all here. You are aware our main product is merchandising for kids' shows, right?"

"Yes, yes, I'm, uh, quite aware! Just, think about it, sir! I'm sure it's clear to a man so wise as you."

The executive coughed. "Uh-huh."

"It's, um, it's a scathing critique on how corporations and mass marketing shove us, as individuals, to hating ourselves, providing useless junk to make us feel better, bringing our society as a whole to nothing more than apathetic slaves to capitalism, it's ironic! Well, I guess what I'm trying-"

"Mister Nack, I believe I understand what you're trying to do."

"Y-you do? You do! Ah! I'm so glad!"

"Yes. I finally see that you intend to waste my time with your, your…"

The man swiveled his chair to look out the window, and Thom took this chance to quickly dab his forehead of sweat with his tie.

"Your idiocy. Though, I'm not even sure you're that much of an idiot. An idiot couldn't have wasted my time as, shall I say, elaborately as you've done."

Thom brought up his hand to his chin, rubbing it as his mouth went to first a frown, then a hesitant smirk, eyebrow raised at the executive.

"That wasn't meant to be a compliment. But, that said, this conversation is over. Have a pleasant day, one that hopefully is involved with… more productive activities for the both of us."

With that, the executive swiveled back, a small smile hanging on his furrowed face. He extended a hand, and Thom shook, got up, and left the room.

A smile, Thom thought. What a face. What a face.

He walked into the elevator, head down, staring into the tile as he tried waxing poetic about the spectacle. Anything to find some inspiration, anything to get anything.

In the rawest of arts, in the barest of makers, nothing found such a pure synthesis. Perhaps one day a form will arise which can properly capture it. Perhaps such a form would even be based on it… Such a form's foundation would be one that anim-

"Sir?"

He jolted out of his thoughts and looked out the doors, an elderly woman peeking from the left edge back at him with a mix of concern and confusion. He coughed and stepped out of the elevator, stopping to face her.

And so he faced her.



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 him 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-

"Jesus fucking Christ Thom! What the fuck are you doing back here? I'm, uh, I didn't expect you to come back so soon, did the meeting go that well?"

Isaac sat in their apartment, shirtless, pantsless, and covered in newly toppled popcorn on the couch, TV playing Hitch on a well worn VHS casette.

"God, you kidding me? Hell no. I even kept track, it was twenty one minutes. I mean, it wouldn't have been SO bad if he hadn't been a condescending asshat, but… Ugh. Anyway. I got us some more clothes."

Thom threw a t-shirt onto Isaac's lap and fell onto the couch next to him before looking at the television and frowning. "Don't tell me you're watching this shit again."

"Shut up. Hitch is good."

"Good enough to watch, like, what, is it 30 times now? The tape's probably weeping in the VHS, begging to be put out of its misery."

"Whateverrrr, at least its not Japanese cartoons, like a NERD would watch." He looked over to Thom with a smirk as he unfurled the shirt, holding it up to get a good look at it. "Um… Hm. How much, how much did this cost you?"

"Absolutely nothing. The receptionist gave one to me, no charge."

"One?"

"Yeah, but they gave me another when I asked. Probably got a warehouse filled with 'em. But hey, a shirt's a shirt." Thom felt an impact and a lingering sting on his arm, courtesy of Isaac's fist. "God. Glad you enjoy it that much."

"Heh, no problem. Just know that if I didn't love you, I'd probably throw you out a window right now." That said, Isaac wore a genuine smile, even if he was still a little confused about the odd colors and robots and explosions on the shirt.

He put on the shirt, rested his head on Thom's shoulder, and the two sat watching the movie for a while.





"Hey, Isaac?"

"Yeah?"

"… What am I going to do now?"

"… You could snuggle with me."

"No, I. Well. No. I meant with my idea. This was my big chance at really making it, really earning us some money. And… nobody wants anything to do with it."

Isaac looked into his lap, and Thom sighed and curled up into him.



"Is it… is it that bad?"

"No."

"Then…"

"Then we'll find someone who will do something with it. It's like, it's like in The Muppets Take Manhattan, with all those directors refusing Kermit, but then one finally takes a chance."

"Kermit gets hit by a car in that, Isaac."

"Well, okay, you know what I meant."

"Yeah, yeah. I know. God. You and your dumb movie fascination." He rested his head on Isaac's, and the two sat in the glow of the television, letting the movie wash over them.

Well, over one of them.

"I still don't get why you like this so much. Thirty times, man."

"C'mon! It's a cinematic masterpiece, that's all the reason I need. Now shush, I can't hear Will."

"You are aware of what thirty times two is, right? It's sixty. You've spent sixty hours of your life watching Hitch. You've watched this movie for so long the audio's fucked up and the video's all funky."

"I like the effect!"

"If this is your way of getting back into art, you could've just told me, you know. I'm gonna support you in it no matter what."

"Aww."

"Plus, you know what we could've done instead with that sixty hours?"

"Shush!"

The two sat, bathing in the cathode lights, picking out bits and pieces of recognizable english or visuals whenever they showed up. Through the miracle of cuddling, Thom managed to endure the garbled utterances of Wlil Stmih for… an hour, he reckoned. He watched the colors and shapes and listened to the strange sounds one moment and fell onto the couch the next, and as he looked up, he saw Isaac picking up the phone.

"Huh? What's up, you hungry?"

"No, no. I think I know someone who might be able to help you."

"Really?"

"How do you feel about going to Japan?"

Thom blinked and stared at Isaac for a good, long time.

Japan?

What?

"Uh, like a vacation? Sure, why?"

"No, I mean for your, um. Your… animation. Or, should I say… … Japanimation?"

The two looked at each other blankly, soft static coming from the TV set the only thing filling the air.

"What? I, what?"

"Do you remember that time I told you about Sugako?"

Silence.

"… Sugar."

"Oh, her! You were in a, uh, punk band together? Yeah, I vaguely remember that."

Isaac sighed. "Glad to see you care. Anyway. I've kept in touch, and I think she'll be able to help."

Thom closed his eyes and hitched his head on the back of the couch. Japan was far, far from Fuckall, Massachusetts. He'd know absolutely nobody. And he'd have not a single clue where he was.

But on the other hand… this could be exactly what he needed. Blank slate, fresh audience. People who would understand his vision.

"God. Why not. Fuck it. I'll give it a shot." Thom turned back to the television, and Isaac dialed up his friend, now and then calling Thom's attention for a question.

"How long you wanna stay?"

"Three months, tops." He snapped back to reality. "Can we afford that?"

"We… have savings. It'll put us in the red for a bit. If you really feel bad about that, you can pick up an odd job here or there, yeah?"

Thom nodded.

"How much Japanese do you know?"

"Um. Other than, like, 'kamimashita,' or 'omae wa mou shindeiru,' and other random quotes, not anything."

Back and forth the pair went went for a while longer until Isaac finally slapped the phone back onto the receiver. "Get packed, your flight leaves in three days!"

"Th… Three? Three days? But, but you just,"

"She works VERY fast. There's, uh, some catches though. First, we've gotta find you tickets to Tokyo. Second, you gotta pay for her tickets there and back, both of you's food, as well as any miscellaneous costs you two end up with."

Christ, this is already a lot more expensive than I expected.

"Third, you're gonna have to find the place you two are staying, and you gotta pay for that as well. She said she'll help you find somewhere, so at least that'll be… okay."

"You shitting me? I gotta live for three months in a place I don't know with a girl I don't know, and we're footing the bill for all that shit? What about you? Christ, can you even make rent after this?"

"Thom. Don't worry about it. You know me. I can work two jobs, no problem. Plus, other costs should be easier if I'm only pulling for one. This is for you. This is for us."

Thom couldn't help but pull out a teary eyed grin and hug Isaac as close as he could.

"Thank you, thank you so much. Thank you so much! I knew I loved you for a reason!"

"God. Love you too, Thom." Isaac frowned a little, but hugged back and had it fade into a smile. He knew the dummy meant well. Words were just hard sometimes.




12/17/2018




He watched the buildings, and the sights, and the people, all blur together in his gaze outside the train, forehead placed against the glass, feeling the slight bounces and wiggles of the car.

His backpack felt heavy, and his legs felt weak, and his arm was straining from holding his bag for so long.

He brought up the back of his other hand against his mouth, reconsidering his position. He expected that he wouldn't throw up again, he'd done more than his share on the plane ride over, but… he underestimated his body's hatred for him before.

His eyes burned.

He looked down at his phone again. Time: 2 A.M., JST. Last call: twenty minutes. Connection: none. He slipped it back into his pocket and stared into the blur.

As it went…

And it went.

And it finally slowed, the doors sliding awake, and he pushed back, walked out, and stared into the streets with its buildings rising stories and stories. He took a square out of his pocket, unfurled and consulted it, began to walk, and after several minutes, turned to face his building.

Aching, he entered, and quickly confirmed his reservation with the hotel. Room 447. He took the keycard, slipped it into his pocket, and stepped into the elevator, head down, staring into the tile as he tried waxing poetic about the experience. Anything to find some inspiration, anything to get anything.

I





cant


He brought his gaze up, looked at the doors, and listened for the beep telling him he'd arrived.

Beep.

Step out. Find door. Open door, enter room.

The room barely fit a bed, only a desk and a chair complementing it, and a narrow strip for walking. He slipped to the foot, peeking into the bathroom. Box shower, toilet, sink, no free soap.

He slipped off his backpack, placing it on the side of the bed, and let his knees buckle to body fall onto the bed.

He laid on the bedtop, listening to the buzz of fluorescents above, and slowly, uncomfortably fell asleep.








He awoke to knocks at the door.

Many, many knocks.

After the fifth rap, he began groaning and pushing himself into the bathroom before standing up. The knocking continued, and he finally maneuvered to open the door.

"Mister… Nack, right?"

He looked up to meet the gaze of the six foot tall woman in front of him.

"I, yes. Um. Hi. You Sugar?"

She closed her eyes and reached her right hand to rest against her forehead. "I know Isaac told you my name, dude. Sugako. But… Yeah. Yeah, I'm her."

"Sugako. Got it."

"… I see you've rented a… choice room."

"… You could say that. At least it's only 8k per night."

She looked down at him, hesitant to step in, before finally relenting and closing the door behind her.

She took off her denim coat and looked towards him. "Place it just… Anywhere. Just throw it anywhere." She complied, placing it on the back of a chair before sitting on it backwards.

"…"

"…"

The two sat.

Time passed.

Thom wiped the sweat off his forehead, slicked back his hair a bit, and sighed heavily. "So, um… Why Sugako?"

She looked up at him with a look that can only be described as 'I expected nothing, and yet I'm still a bit disappointed'. He gulped, and tried again. "Why go by Sugako? You used to go by Sugar, right? Why not go by that?"

"… Are… are you really asking why I use my name?"

"Um."

He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.

"I, y'know, thought it might've been a nickna-"

"Nickname?"

"Y-yeah."

"You thought Sugako was a nickname?"

He dropped his gaze down to his lap and placed his hands in it. But even still, he could feel Sugako's chilling gaze, beating down on him.

"…"

She sighed.

"It's… It's whatever. You're here because you want to get your anime produced, right?"

"Yeah."

"Then give me your best pitch."

He blinked, looking back up at her. "Right here? Right now? Uh, okay? I thought Isaac told you over the phone what the deal was."

"He did. But I want to hear it from you."

"I-"

"Go ahead. Just do it."

"I… okay." He shrugged his shoulders forward, puffed out his chest, and instinctively reached for a tie to straighten that wasn't there.

"It's about a NEET who works from home so he can buy anime merchandise. The usual stuff: posters, dakis, figmas, whatever. Total hikikomori otaku. The person who always delivers his stuff is this girl, a hot tomboy, and they become pretty fast friends. Together they resolve to destroy capitalism and go on an over-the-top adventure with high-energy fights to destroy merchandising companies who keep society under their thumb. But, and here's the kicker, when people watch it they only get more apathetic and lethargic towards capitalism, and so they buy merchandise for the show! It's a critique on h-"

"Stop."

Thom felt hands on his shoulders and stopped dead in his tracks, now finding himself staring eye level at Sugako.

"Take a look at yourself."

He found himself standing on the bed, arms bent and resting on his sides in a power pose. He looked around, and found no audience but the small, small walls and the popcorn ceiling. The hands pressured him down, and down he stepped, sheepishly taking back his seat on the bed while Sugako removed her hands, put them back in her ripped up jean's pockets, and took back her seat.





"I'm sorry," she said.

"S-sorry?"

"Yes. I'm sorry. But I can't work with you."

He slowly turned his gaze back to her, boring holes into her left cheek.

"You can't work with me?"

"From what I've seen, it would be best for the both of us."

"It's been ten fucking minutes."





"I know it's only been ten minutes."

"Wh- Why? Why are, what?"

"I… Listen. I only did this, I only met up with you, because I owed Isaac a favor. A favor to an old friend. But, you…"

"But I what?"

"…"

"I can't… I can't believe this."

"Are you confident in this?"

He furrowed his brow.

"You fucking kidding me? Are you fucking kidding? I fly the redeye halfway around the world, rent a shitty hotel room, meet up with a complete fuckin' stranger even though I'm unsure? Fuck yes I'm confident in this. I'm confident that this shit right here is gold."

"That's why I can't work with you."

"E-Excuse me?"

"I can't work with you because, well. Your ideas on art, on anime, are…"

Thom reached his hands up to his head, scratching his nails down his face before coming to a rest under his chin. "What? What are they?"

"They're childish. Amateur. Your ideas on what makes anime good, what makes art good. I was frankly surprised when Isaac told me you weren't an Aussie."

"Is this a joke? What the fuck? Australians? What are you talking about?"

"I… Oh wow, you are. Even less informed than I thought."

He gripped his skull in his hands and pressed as hard as he could before letting go. "You're not even going to give me a chance?"

"I did. And, I'm sorry, but you didn't make the grade."

Thom's head bumped against the wall behind him.

"What did I do wrong? What makes you say that, what's wrong with it?"

She blinked a few times before reaching her hand to rub the back of her neck. "You have the aura of a… A cunt. I got the feeling you thought you had some kind of clever critique on capitalism, and judging where you were going with it, you probably though you could tackle, what, femininity? Sexism? Maybe nationalism? And, the way you delivered that last bit, too, I bet you thought it was clever to have a dissonant effect, right?"

It bumped again, and again.

"It's so, so incredibly… well, it's dumb, too dumb to ever be clever. You know what a critique, a satire that propagates the aims of its subject is? It's propaganda. That's what you're trying to call art, here."

He held up a finger, pulled a pillow over his face, screamed into it for a solid minute, and dropped it back, meeting her gaze, still shaking a little.

"I'll, um. I'll buy your ticket back. It's the least I can do. But, I think it's about time I left."

Tears were beginning to well up in his eyes.

Because… this meant that his idea, that idea he thought could finally bust open the industry and make real money, was… awful. It was horrible. Genuinely, truly horrible.

He was in the middle of nowhere.

Alone.

Broke.

And his idea, the idea he went to this length for, was…

Awful.

And even Isaac had sugarcoated that for him.

"…"

"I'm sorry."

He opened his mouth for a moment, closing it after a while of nothing. "…"

She turned around and picked up her bag.

"Wait."

She stopped in her tracks.

"I believe in my vision.

I believe in my work.

I want this to work.

To be a work of art."

She turned around.

"I want this to be a genuine criticism. I, I don't even need three months. Make it two. But I need help with this. I need help to perfect this. I need someone who's as willing to push me like this as you. I need someone to help me with this."

She paused a minute.

She turned around and sighed.

"I… Isaac wouldn't have called me if you weren't worth it. If he didn't really believe in you. I'll… fine. I'll give you one day to convince me it's all worth it."

"You… you mean it?"

"I mean it."





"Thank you, Sugar. This means the world to me."

"Sure, Tommy."

"… Sugako."

"Thom. But save the thanks for tomorrow."


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