Some of you may be wondering exactly why I do what I do sometimes. Why must I politicize everything? It’s “just an Anime”, it’s “just a video game”, it’s “this and that, so chill” are common responses that I have gotten in the past 4 years since I had truly started expressing my desire to do what I can to make a few communities that had identified who I was from the days of childhood. The answer is simple: I love my hobbies and I love connecting with people who love my hobbies. At some point in my life, I began recognizing the value of community. That’s what this article is going to be about and I hope that you can bear with my story and cause. For those who are new readers and new to barely hearing about Overly Critical Otakus (OCO), then I welcome you on the inside information of my journey.
I grew up and still live in a low-income mixed-race household with a loving mother, a father that I just cannot connect to for various reasons that I will not dive into, a brother whom I shared a few similar interests with — enough to enjoy day in and day out with, and am helping raise a younger sister whom I help in what ways that I can everyday. My earliest memory starts in 2nd grade in a private, Catholic grade school and was a transgender girl who had no idea what gender dysphoria was, what ADHD was nor could I comprehend what general anxiety disorder was either. Every kid wants to fit in, it’s a natural challenge to a kid’s developmental stage in life (both psychologically speaking as well as socially speaking for one’s own social status and finding one’s “tribe” so to say simply). Having all of these issues all of my life made it incredibly difficult to hold onto friends.
So imagine a weird, flamboyant kid with a package of mental illness, social awkwardness and social isolation (at school) trying their best to fit in since they feel inclined to do so but are deprived of that for being different to begin with. It didn’t help that I got along with girls a lot more than boys and when I did hang out with boys, I sat a little too close growing up. I did this with everyone and thought nothing of it.
Nobody told me what privacy was. How could they? They were all under 10 years old until the first utterance of: “Give them space, please.” from a teacher that I had. For 8 long years I was bullied for a laundry list of reasons. I was fat. So to not be bullied, I exercised harder than anybody else and joined sports to lose weight and fit in simultaneously. I was too girly. To prove everybody wrong and to fit in, I hung out exclusively with boys; copied their swagger, mannerisms, and toxicity just to fit in. I was shamed in 8th grade for being a virgin (biggest WTF in retrospect since I was being queer shamed without even realizing it). So, as the trend went: I got a girlfriend and failed miserably within the first few months.
Nobody knew about one aspect about me: my nerdiness. That was my secret, my getaway, my alter ego, and my escape. This was a special thing that I mostly had alone. Remember how I had mentioned that I shared a few similar interests with my [older] brother? Well, we played the same handful of video games on a refurbished N64, Gameboy Colors, and watched nothing but Dragon Ball and Dragonball Z together. Me, however, enjoyed both activities a lot more than my brother because I felt consolation in my escape a little more than he did. We both had our issues growing up, but I was the more selfless sibling and still am with my younger sister who is now facing her own battles in middle school.
Growing up, I had my parents use their VHS tapes to record me more live action coming to age movies like Breakfast Club, Stand by Me, and The Goonies for example. That’s where my taste had started to be so flexible: since childhood (alongside the few stuff like Star Trek that I would binge watch with my mother). I would also watch and re-watch, until the VHS tapes broke, recordings of Sailor Moon since the underlying themes spoke so clearly to me as well as Studio Ghibli films that did so as well with Miyazaki’s insistence with strong female protagonists. I had also consumed plenty of Toonami content (like Megas XLR) alongside some other stuff to feel a balance between my masculinity and femininity. I was doing this subconsciously and pointing this out to my mother gave her quite a shocking epiphany about my past. I started to grow bored of the same few dozen anime, films and cartoons that I had.
So I started reading manga by subscribing to Shonen Jump (getting into One Piece and Naruto for the first time was quite exciting) and absolutely consuming everything CLAMP was my bread and butter for years. To this day, there is no other influential company that even remotely comes close to defining who I am with their content than CLAMP manga did.
Continuing this trend of binge watching more and more anime and manga and broadening my gaming catalog had been a never ending escape from the harsh realities that I had to face. My grades suffered and it did not help that I was in a hostile home environment as well. This trend continued well into high school with the addition of adding on an incredible amount of relationships and high school sports that I dedicated my time to. I was still a bit awkward and attention needy in high school and was abandoned by the crew that I was hanging out with in grade school for years. Sophomore year, I had been accepted by a handful of girls who were more than open to let me express myself and hinted that I might at least be gay or bisexual and would often tease me that I would look good in make-up and a dress. These girls had my back in such a way that I could not fathom and supported me every time I was cheated on by a girl I had dated, supported me with helping me with my homework, the works! My life had begun to turn around for the better at this point despite being in a Catholic high school.
I specifically remember being with my friends when one of them came out as lesbian. I didn’t know how to react since I was repressing my own sexuality and identity to fit into a comfortable American Christian mold. It was at that time that I joined my friend at Pride parades and started doing activism for the first time against internet censorship and LGBT community issues like legalizing gay marriage. I started to question everything about me and recognized a decline in how I responded to people as well. The gender dysphoria intensified and that may have been the first time that I had serious panic attacks. It affected everything and I quit playing sports for my own sanity. I still felt a need to fit in as well and felt an obsessive need to impress people. So, while I had already began learning how to play a guitar and performed for my school as it was, I was encouraged to join choir or drama. I knew that I didn’t have time for drama since my grades were piss poor, so I joined choir since it filled an elective and was not extra-curricular (in which I did a crap ton of volunteer work not only for mandatory service hours, but also because I genuinely felt happiness serving homeless families).
Going into Junior year, things started to change drastically for me even more. I was not sure what was going on with me during that year, but I felt the need to have guy friends again and fell into accepting toxic “friendships”, which pissed off my girls and then cut the chord from me. To fill the void, I latched onto dating once again as a means of escapism since my nerdy hobbies weren’t enough. So I had started making anime reviews on teen magazines and MyAnimeList alongside paneling at conventions in 2010.
That trend finally ended, for a while at least, when I met a girl who convinced me to finally join drama. I had actually felt mutual love for the first time in my un life and it was wonderful! I turned my grades around, got my friends back since they finally saw me be genuinely happy for once and took their advice and fell into another trap: feeling the need to impress and provide as a “gentleman” since it was expected of me from pretty much every relationship that I had been in all throughout high school. Needless to say, I lived life to the fullest to close this chapter of my life and moved onto a college that I would attend with my girlfriend when she would graduate a year later: another Christian school. A private university that owns stocks (Jesus would love that, right?) and privatized just about every single aspect of that college experience. To afford my standard of living, I started working full time with my girlfriend at the time at Paradise Bakery after I had failed to show up to work on time enough times to get me fired at my university’s call center.
So there I was: a music student with sub-par music training trying to keep up with classes that had already expected me to know basic music theory. I had (and still have) a fantastic voice with expert control of my voice, airflow, and pitch. However, being demanded and pressured from my instructors to spend twice as much time studying and practicing required truly a full-time status as a student with 50–80 hours/week that was expected. Me doing 40 hour shifts to maintain my standard of living and a toxic relationship that made me question my self-worth and increasingly put every type of stress that you can imagine on me all at once. After being in dozens of relationships as it was and being cheated on from most of them, I had trust issues and a serious attachment issue that has been lingering and intensifying my entire life up until that point. I tried my hardest to keep that relationship going for naught (only to have a fling with her again half a year later after breaking up with a quick and messy relationship with a cosplayer). I also had family obligations to attend to while living in the dorms and all of these cool new friends to expand my horizons to maintain relations with. Sacrifices had to be made and I stopped watching anime and only played games and any tabletop games with friends (which ended up tanking my grades). With all of this burden, I had crashed and burned in such a way that nobody had expected. My girlfriend had enough of her own toxicity and broke up with me. I snapped in a fit of anger in levels that even scared her and myself. I was in a dark place that I did not ever truly recover from for another few years — this was my first experience with depression. It was never resolved since the private therapist only gave me a questionnaire and no advice and my use of escapism to pick anime and intense gaming back up had tanked my grades to a wretched 0.87 GPA. While my facade was zombie-like numbness, inside I was enduring crippling panic attacks that my depression took advantage over in hindsight. It was at that point where I truly believed that my life was over and considered ending it all.
I was lucky that the panic attacks were quick and easy to endure at the time, otherwise I might not be here today typing this up and continuing to embark on my greatest journey yet. I went through the motions and transferred out to my local community college to start fresh and raise my GPA. Little did I know that traumatic break down had not been properly addressed. I now had to deal with gender dysphoria, ADHD that had worsened after the fact, PTSD, GAD, and now depression on top of two toxic obsessions for attachment and acceptance. Neither my current therapist or I clarify this as OCD even though I almost classify as having it and have it in my genes to have it anyways because these two obsessions are products of environment rather than a product of genetic behavior. That nuance is important, so take note from that side-note. Even with all of my issues, I continued to work full time at a gas station to escape my issues and fulfill my false, obsessive needs. I made a shitload of money and was utterly exploited for my labor. My class schedule was not respected and in exchange for more hours, I tanked my grades yet again for that entire year. My GPA was a wretched 0.37. The trauma ensued once again and I came out alive.
The pattern was sure to continue unless I did something. My mother intervened and begged me to focus on school and abandon the idea of living on my own and saving up to do so and confront my domestic issues and personal demons head on by making new friends and joining a club like I had done in high school (go back to my roots). I obeyed her wishes for my own good for a year and surely did change my life by meeting a handful of some best friends that I believe will stick around with me for the rest of my life. However, even then I was back on my bullshit with acceptance and from 2014–2017 I had obsessively had countless of casual FWBs, one-night stands, and many other weird shit that I won’t speak of right now. My GPA being so dangerously low had risen up to a 2.5 by graduation day with all of the support that I had from friends, family and my community college. I did part time work in between to help ease off burden off of my mother’s shoulders and still try to do so even today, in which I have to thank all of my loyal patrons on Patreon for supporting me for so long despite me being so terribly inconsistent with reward delivery and content creation.
During what seemed like redemption arc for my life was only started off with opening up Overly Critical Otakus with a friend of mine who I had met on a Yu-Gi-Oh forum-community that I had helped organize with him years prior. My life had drastically changed from then on. My 4 years of paneling, networking, and writing reviews online had finally paid off with a small audience that helped make so many of OCO’s posts go viral for 2 years straight. Most of it was shitposting to gather attention and traffic, however the serious topics that we sprinkled in had planted the seeds for what we are today.
I was born in February 12th, 1995 and am in an odd cut-off year that virtually every scholar and average Joe can’t quite seem to agree is an identifiable year to split the Millennial generation with the “iGen” (or simply Gen Z). Having studied generation communications for a year in college, I know all too well that individuals superimpose their lives and search for connection through shared personal experiences, trends to look back on nostalgically, and forever etch into their minds and being any national or world event that has affected them most. So in March 2015, I was already a rather active Redditor and had browsed r/politics quite often where I found an intriguing idea: make a grassroots movement with a progressive champion to really make a much needed spark in our country. So in April 2015, Bernie Sanders had announced his candidacy for President of the United States for the 2016 election. I joined his campaign as a volunteer in a heartbeat and did various things from phone banking to canvassing neighborhoods to get the vote out in Arizona of all places. After working my ass off for the Sanders campaign, I knew something was off. Our internal polling data in the campaign showed an entirely optimistic outcome because of the momentum that was happening from the new r/Sanders4President subreddit that had been the driving force of his grassroots turnout. The Arizona primary that I was so confident in my efforts with my team had been rigged and proven soon after Bernie had lost Arizona to Hillary with the Podesta leaks. What should have disenfranchised me had radicalized and emboldened me for justice. Little did I know that my activist roots had returned and my obsessions for acceptance and attention had finally started to slowly dissolve as non-issues in lieu of me waking myself and others to the sheer amount of fuckery going on. The last time I had felt that strongly about something in society was when Black Lives Matter had started in 2014. Generations are best defined by unifying national and world events. Millennials are mostly defined as having distinct memories of 9/11 and the Great RecessionOccupy Wall Street. For me, I was too young and naive for both. BLM, the 2016 elections, smart phones and literally anime becoming increasingly mainstream in the West within the past decade had set the stage for my adulthood.
I had nearly slipped up again after a messy first semester at my current university: ASU because of my mental health and nearly messed up a full year again. At this point, I was quite frankly done with repeating the same mistake a 3rd time and went for the free therapy that’s offered to me since I had a crippling panic attack that had me pass out this past April. Ever since I was diagnosed by my therapists at ASU for the array of issues that I have and gave me high quality clinical therapy, granting me access to their Disability Resource Center, and having an assigned student advocate to help me communicate all of this drastic change had made every class since much more bearable. I now am proud to say that I have straight A’s in my classes for the first time in my life and will have a 2.35 GPA next week. I now have plans to finish off my current degree by Fall 2019 and am planning to get an MEd with a teacher’s license in Social Studies (PoliSci, Economics and Geography) hopefully by Spring 2022 to teach and empower high schoolers.
Why did I summarize my life story? Don’t worry. I’ll explain in a bit with a short manifesto. I have been paneling at conventions for 8 years, been a nobody/unemployed media critic for 8 years as well, have been running Overly Critical Otakus for 4 years and have had it as an official business for 1 year, been a podcaster and streamer for 2 years, and and infrequent Let’s Player for some time as well. I am proud to say that I have finally improved my management skills to the point where I have expanded OCO staff to 17 volunteers (and myself who is not a volunteer, but the owner)! We are finally getting a set schedule going once again to push out more content from podcasts once again, Let’s Plays, soon Newscasting once again and much more!
I ultimately do feel like there are certain types of individuals that we should choose our battles with (like the typical anime/gaming “elitist” type). I do also make it a point to bridge common understanding with people who do want to see change happen and do what we can to work together to change the communities that we hold dearly and open it up to others. We need to care about our communities not only because our interests help define who we are, but also because there are deep experiences that we share together even if we are isolated watching our favorite anime or playing our favorite video games on our own time alone.
Why do I do this? I want to switch things up from standard routine to spice it up for myself and to now focus on newly refined and re-defined goals. For the most passionate and loyal regulars and patrons, you may have seen me mention here and there that I am staunchly anti-elitist and that I vaguely state that I want to “make geeky communities awesome”. At some point to empower anime fans, gamers, and non-nerdy people with information to build a movement and community that has a dedicated focus on protecting and expanding the following in our community and for communities at large:
Basic liberties such as:
1. Freedom of speech on social media and IRL
A) No censorship of any kind (unless it is libel, slander, defamation and directly threatening somebody’s life-endangering the public)
B) A free and open platform for us to use as a public square (aka turn social media platforms into regulated public utilities)
2. Freedom of expression
A) LGBTQ+ inclusivity and empowerment
B) Body-positivity cosplay
C) Youth Empowerment (give guidance to them even if it may seem like cringe to us)
3. Right to Privacy
A) No unwarranted data collection from any company or non-profit (I.e. Flying Colors Foundation and Cambridge Analytica)
4. Freedom to Socialize (we are social creatures; this is a basic right, not a luxury)
A) Doing whatever is necessary to provide assistance and advocacy to those with mental health issues (especially those with social anxiety and depression due to those two being prominent issues in the anime community alone).
B) Build a community that works to create solidarity and a clear support network to fight against the need to use escapism as a means of coping with reality. Escapism is not healthy. Building and participating in community is healthy.
C) Do what we can to guide our community to pro-actively create opportunities for ourselves and others to participate in social activities and do our best to create a support network for one another that facilitates a healthy and respectable environment for long-term friendship and community.
5. Right to a good education
A) I whole-heartedly believe that education is a fundamental human right that ought to be guaranteed to all people due to the very nature of what it takes to survive in the world as well as engaging in our human nature to the best of our abilities from logical inquiry to creativity. Therefore, our goals for promoting this are as follows:
I) Work with schools to promote media literacy
II) Help communities and schools improve critical thinking skills
III) Combat fake news the correct way by empowering individuals and communities from determining what is fake/clickbait rather than having social media oligarchs and a Ministry of Truth (centralized fact checkers) determine and undermine our intelligence that we should be empowering students of all ages to engage in improving such media literacy skills
IV) Promote and teach communication skills to help students of all ages engage in civil discourse more effectively (flexible enough to be used for various purposes as well)
V) Promote and empower students to pursue and thrive in their creativity.
I specifically wish to have schools prioritize the arts more for this purpose. The American education system operates as if Adam Smith is still alive and well writing a sequel to Wealth of Nations. We need to reflect current needs of the current economic realities of the world that require non-stop innovation and uniqueness. Funding the arts and having schools allocate more resources to the Arts and respecting with as much importance as STEM classes are an economic must.
My hope for how this will affect the OCO community, specifically anime & gaming community at large, is to give the next generation of artists and content creators the opportunity and head start in the Arts to pursue a career in Art and Video Production/Social Media.
VI) Bring back practical, hands-on classes such as Workbench classes to teach students how to sow, use tools, and much more practical skills.
My hope is that this could empower people of all ages to cosplay more! In which case, I would love to work with non-profits, celebrities and businesses to help promote this and perhaps be a leader in this area.
This is all still rather vague, but a lot more specific than: “make geek communities awesome”. Overly Critical Otakus is an ironic name with community-oriented goals. It always has been and always will be. I told you all my life story because I want you all to understand who I am and understand why I am the way I am. I am political because I wish to see people have their basic rights respected and I am an altruistic person to my core. Me recognizing the subtext of an anime (or game) and generating discussion on social media is the least that I can do to inch closer to these goals. I want people to be themselves and I want people to have their image respected. I want to combat my own mental health to the best of my ability and help everyone that I can while I am at it. Why should I hoard my knowledge or contemplate suicide (back then, NOT ANYMORE, I’M GOOD NOW) when there are so many people in need of our help? I’m no good to people depressed, anxious, distracted, confused or dead and neither are any of us. We must love ourselves before we can love others and help each other out in this rough ride called “life”. It’s hard for everybody, so let’s do our best to make it better for everybody.
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