Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Moonlight of Yesterday

Let me ask you a question: have you ever woken up from a dream? One whose reality was almost utopian? An instance in time that allowed you to fulfill some hidden desire or great purpose? To experience something that only you could? Something so special you didn't want it to end?

Yes, those dreams. The unexpected visitors of the night that whisk you away into Neverland, leaving you breathless with a cold sweat in the morning.

"Wow, I wish I could go back there."

It's possible.

I'm going to share a story from my life that touches on both, life's long-term goals and those eerie visions. Mine is to become a successful author. Authors are one of many classes of artists. I call them "dream makers." Since I was a child I have always been fascinated and enthralled by good stories. As long as it provides an escape and ends happily, I'll give it a look. My journey into the world of the dream makers began a long time ago, sometime in late middle school/early high school. Some people who know me are aware that I used to be very infatuated with Japanese animation. In the 90s, Dragonball Z, Gundam Wing, Outlaw Star and other hit series were taking American audiences by storm. These shows had something different than the Marvel/DC crowd was offering. It's not that they were inferior, just different. Little did anyone realize, but it would start another cultural invasion. And you thought the British took no prisoners in the 60s?

Anyway...back then, I wanted to become a comic book artist. I also had decided to expand my horizons into the world of graphic novels to get my inspirational juices flowing. However, there was a slight problem...I had no idea what I was looking for. I ended up at a local Books-a-Million one night with my mother. I was amazed, they had entire shelves full of the stuff! As I squatted down to skim the selection, one title in particular caught my eye. It was a single book whose title was written in soft blue letters.

It was volume one of Minene Sakurano's "Guardian Angel Getten."

"Ok...I like mythology, so angels are cool. The cover art is nice. What the heck is a Getten??"

The moment changed my life. (yes I know this is getting corny, bear with me...)

Out of pure curiosity I began to read. Halfway through I had to buy it. I had struck pay dirt. My first manga experience would be a night to remember.

The story tells of a young man, Sichiri Tasuke (See-cheer-ee; Tah-ss-kay), who receives the Shiteinrin, a mirror-like object, from his father traveling in China. The mirror is said to possess magical powers that only a person with a pure heart can unlock. It turns out that these powers take the form of a beautiful maiden who’s named Shao-lin. Shao is a spirit of the moon, a guardian angel who is fated to protect the one of pure heart that possesses the Shiteinrin. Having slept for thousands of years, she has no idea what era she's living in. Tasuke immediately realizes that he's got his work cut out for him. How can you hide an angel?

I was hooked.

Shao is the only fictional character I have ever been in love with. Her sparkling eyes, cute smile, funny mannerisms, aura of child-like innocence and nativity, everything she did whispered one word: heaven. Just like her master, she too is of pure heart. The story is a romantic comedy that takes place in modern Japan, so Shao spends most of her time learning how to blend in, which leads to numerous, hilarious scenes. Over time, Tasuke begins devoting his time to protecting Shao from the advances of his male schoolmates...apparently forgetting that she can summon other spirits to do battle.

I anxiously awaited the release of every single volume. The story was getting tense: another artifact releases a spirit named Lu-anne, spirit of the sun, whose purpose is to bring good fortune and happiness to her master. Tasuke resists her romantic advances, and begins struggling with deepening feelings towards Shao. Little does he realize, Shao is, inadvertently, becoming attached to him as well, though she is unable to correctly interpret common signals (blushing, rapid heartbeat, etc). To further complicate things, a female classmate is determined to get Tasuke for herself.

I made it all the way up to volume six or seven...can't remember. A few months passed. The next one still hadn't been published. I was confused, but didn't have time to worry about it. School was getting more and more intense. I had to focus on grades. I can't even remember the day I decided to Google the series. To my horror, I read that the series had been "mysteriously discontinued" for unknown reasons. I was heartbroken. I would never know the end of the story? Would Shao and Tasuke seal their relationship? Was there a deeper plot beneath the surface?

I was sad, but had to forget about it. High school was ending and I had to get ready for college.

Years passed. Literally. Years

I didn't watch much anime during that time, and read zero manga. I was busy writing Lunar Dawn and taking notes for other stories I wanted to tell. Eventually I discovered that people on YouTube were posting episodes of some other childhood favorites of mine: Power Rangers, Ninja Turtles, and yes, the anime.

It was just last week that I finally asked the question: what ever happened to Getten?

I looked again, this time, on YouTube. The search brought up something called "Mamotte Shugogetten."

Uh...ok, I see the word "getten" in there...maybe it's worth a shot...

I clicked the link and there she was!

In an explosion of jazzed orchestra that was the opening theme, Shao appeared with Tasuke, dancing across the title as the credits began to roll.

Turns out that not only had the manga been completed, but an animated series was produced as well!

It all came rushing back in a giant wave of memories: the routine checks at the mailbox, the hours gazing at the artwork and hoping that I would become as talented, the boring math classes wondering if I might be lucky enough to experience a fabulous adventure. I remembered the art supplies, all of the sore fingers and wrists as I battled my arthritis to get the image from my brain to paper.

I felt...something come to life that I was sure had been laid to rest.

As in the song "Like A Rock," I saw myself again.

The series itself? Amazing. The actors' voices fit their characters perfectly. Shao sounded and innocent and pure as I had always imagined. Everything was drenched in the sense of familiarity. Reunited and it felt so good.

No, no spoilers for you. *wink*

But I will say that it had the happy ending I was longing for. I've never corresponded with Ms. Sakurano, but if I could, I would summarize with two words: thank you.

Yes, discovering the series in the first place was mainly luck and good timing. Nevertheless, the impact was undeniable and its effects permanent. I had experienced something so powerful that I was determined to give it to others, in my own way.

A few people have asked what inspires me to write stories. I hope this answer that question a little more in depth. While Getten wasn't the entire source of my creative drive, it played a huge role. I think the best way to describe it was a powder keg. Before then, I had enjoyed stories, but had no desire to write my own. Getten was a spark that helped set the thing off. It helped solidify my fascination with the moon, which turned out to be a huge influence in writing Lunar Dawn.

Looking back on those years and seeing how far I've come in life since then, it all seems like a dream. I don't have many followers on this blog, so this may never be read. The feelings I've tried to convey here are so deeply internalized that I may be the only one who truly appreciates them. Getten may not have been the most popular series either. It probably was beaten by other series such as "Love Hina" and "Ah! My Goddess" (which I never read but apparently were quite the craze). I highly recommend the series to anyone who enjoys Japanese artwork or comic books.

Shao and Tasuke will always have a special place in my heart, along with the Power Rangers, Ninja Turtles, Spiderman and my stuffed animals.

The animated series had a theme song called "Saa" (don't even ask, I don't speak Japanese).

I hold to the final lyrics: Goodbye is impossible for me.

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