You know what? I almost skipped this month. That’s so unlike me. Not only would skipping a month have ruined the symmetry of my monthly Natsume/Owls posts but you’d figure with a theme like “Happiness” I would have been all over it! It’s the perfect theme for Natsume’s Book of Friends and, let’s face it: it’s so me.
Yet somehow, I just couldn’t figure out the right angle for this post. I got spontaneous explosive writer’s block. Just for context, here is the actual prompt:
5th Monthly Topic: “Happiness”
Happiness is subjective. We all have different definitions of what happiness means to us and we also feel happiness in varying degrees. This month we will be exploring several questions describing our happiness in our fandoms, communities, and hobbies. Why do we find enjoyment watching anime or reading manga? Why did we decide to join the anime or pop culture communities? Why do we blog about our hobbies or cosplay as our favorite characters? This topic is all about the passions we have for our interests and why they are important to us.
- Anime blogging community
- Massive otaku collections
- Fanfiction junkies
As you can see, it’s not meant to be interpreted through the lens of any particular show or movie, rather as a more personal take on the experience of having anime in our lives. Of course, I’m still going to relate it back to Natsume! I’m not sure I’ve ever properly stuck to one of these prompts, I’m amazed I haven’t been thrown out of OWLS yet. Please don’t tell on me, guys!
I have posted at lengths about the personal rewards and joy I get out of anime and everything around it, in general, and Natsume as a franchise in particular. You could probably pull out dozens of posts from this blog that would fit with this month’s topic. This may be part of the reason for my initial difficulties with it.
But then I went back to that first line. Happiness does indeed come in many different forms. Mine is generally exorbitant and unbridled but I am most touched by the gentler, softer depictions of joyousness. And if Natsume does one thing well, it’s to quietly point out the beauty and bliss of everything around us, both small and grand. It is a series that respects happiness as the skill and responsibility it is. And celebrates it for the wonderful gift it can be.
It’s a show where the main protagonist can interact with a marvellous world of magic and Yokai, yet finds awe and merriment in having friends he can joke around with at school, coming home to people who care if he’s late, having one person around who actually knows him well.
And just because the series has a healthy admiration for the mundane pleasures of life, doesn’t mean it turns a blind eye to the fantastic. Slowly Natsume is realizing the upside of having unique opportunities and incredible experiences inaccessible to most of us. He has double the pool to make friends from and his life will be one to be remembered. All these events, whether completely plain or extraordinary, are treated and presented with both respect and glee. Like I said, it is a series that understands happiness. And that means it knows pain.
So, what does it all mean to me? Well, I see happiness as a gamble. Or a beautiful, gorgeous, sunny lane that leads to sadness. The elation of having someone you love in your life will be followed by the hollow angst of seeing them gone. The excitement of learning new things at your great new job, turns into a humdrum predictable day to day, once you’ve mastered it or uncomfortable anxiety when you get promoted beyond your capacities. Even little things like finding joy in a good meal need to be tempered by frustrating moderation lest you suffer the consequences.
On a regular basis, we all face the question of whether the happiness we stand to gain is worth the eventual pain once it’s gone or whether a neutral safer basic contentment would be better. It’s not always conscious but most of us do this little calculation in the backs of our minds. And as loss and disappointments pile up, the answer becomes less and less clear.
Wow, this post of happiness is turning out very depressing. That makes sense, I’m still pretty sad. And that’s o.k. Because to me, it is worth it. Every inch of pain, every tear, every uncomfortable pang in my heart was earned through precious moments of beautiful joy and in time, I will be left with wonderful memories I get to keep and carry with me everywhere. To me, happiness is always worth it.
But even I forget sometimes. Or my conviction falters. Surely there’s nothing wrong with just being fine. Protecting your heart a little. And because I happen to be extremely lucky, I’ve found a little something to guide me through those moments of doubt. I found a story about a hurt and lonely boy who had decided happiness was not worth it but slowly changed his mind. When the lows hit, this story not only reminds me of the highs, but reminds me to cherish the sadness as well. They are two sides of the same coin. Each beautiful in their own way and both deserving of respect.
That is why Natsume’s Book of Friends makes me happy. And has taught me that happiness is even better when you get to share it with others.
It may not seem like it, but this is one of the most personal posts I’ve written. Thank you for reading it. I really appreciate it.
I both love and hate following Takuto. Well not hate but am very intimidated by… If you wonder why you should read his post on his enviable collection. I’m not jealous…not a all… You’ll understand when you see it! Tomorrow we have Matt Doyle Media sharing his own take on happiness, so make sure you go read it!