One anime that floored me when I first watched it a year ago was Blood Blockade Battlefront- both seasons were some of the most fun I had with a dub and an anime in quite some time. For the longest time, I mulled over writing about the dub or just the show in general, and I finally decided after a re-watch this past week that I wanted to do both. I was originally going to write about the dub first, but I found myself incredibly drawn to writing about the show itself due to recent events and realizations in my personal life. I want to talk about just how much this show has resonated with me, and namely how much I find myself drawn to the character of Leonardo Watch.
While very unorthodox from me, I think it might be easiest if I share some quotes from the series and the meaning they link to my life. Compared to my usual stance that it can be a slippery slope to connect real life to anime, this show really spoke to me at certain points. I promise this is the last deeply personal post about my trauma because...well, quite frankly, I finally overcame it. Cheers.
A year ago, before I left you behind, I saw myself as worthless. Someone who was insignificant to the grand scheme of the world. Just another powerless, idealistic little man you can find on any street in any city. My feelings haven’t changed much since then, but every once and a while, I get a faint glimmer that those feelings aren’t true. And today? I want to tell you all of the reasons why I have begun to think differently. I want to tell you about what I’ve seen, what I’ve felt. And above all else, about the people I’ve met in this city. This might turn out to be a long letter, but I hope you’ll bare with me and read it to the end. This is my story, and the story of the people in my life...and how they’ve given me hope.
The introduction to this adventure surprisingly fits the tone for the one I have gone on for the last few years. When I arrived back in Ohio, I would spend entire days sitting around just feeling like I was worthless and had no place or purpose in the world. As much as I love you guys, I didn’t trust anyone after everything I went through. To make matters worse, I didn’t feel like there was all that much good left in the world.
In the same way Leonardo talks about the people he met in the city, I have met people I wanted to share my story with. It’s about a group of seasoned NCOs who had seen the same hell I had. It’s about a retired counselor who helped me find my path. It’s about a spunky short woman who never gives up in the face of adversity. In other words, I found people of my own who have helped me find glimmers of hope.
Leonardo, these abilities that you’ve obtained, I understand them and everything that you can do with them. And knowing what I know about them, I would like to make a deal with you, if you’re interested. I believe that this ability of yours could be the key to resolving this entire situation. Therefore, I would like you to work with us. And if you’re willing to help us, we’ll do what we can to help you find out what you want to know.
By the way, there is one thing I would like you to reconsider, Leonardo. In no way are you a coward. You want proof? Despite the last ten minutes,you’re still standing right there. If a man can acknowledge the adversity in the path before him, and yet he still struggles towards the light, then his spirit cannot be broken.
There are two interactions I want to share here. More importantly, there are two people in my life that, over the last few years, served as a combined “Klaus” mentor in my life. This scene is Leonardo’s first meeting with Klaus, where he is given the proposition to help and that he could find his answers. More importantly, Klaus expresses that what Leonardo is saying about himself is not true at all.
I won’t use their names, but we can call the one C and the other one H. Starting with C, my first few months at my new unit were as predicted- I kept incredibly quiet, stood up very quickly when someone was speaking to me, and I did not do anything to stand out. One day, a very high ranking person in my office called me in. She asked me to shut the door, and proceeded to ask me a very disarming question. She asked me something loaded.
“Tell me about what happened to you when you were active duty.”
I paused and considered getting up.
“You’re already thinking about going on the move again, right? You don’t want to work the same job that you had before. I’m asking you to stay with us here for a bit. Come here and tell me your story. I think I can help.”
I felt very defensive. I looked up and said “How could...”
She bluntly cut me off. “How could I know what you went through? Because I did too. I lost my deployment status and I live with the damage that such mental stress put on me physically...” She went on in more deep details I won’t share more of.
It was on this day some light began to crack through my dark clouds. It was, undoubtedly, the day my career was rekindled.
Meanwhile, H had given me direction for a different part of my career and life. My undergrad university had a lounge for veterans to show up and feel welcomed in a small part of the community. When I showed up for the first time, no one was there. I nodded considering the fittingness of my hopes of making friends being squashed. I kept working, and, for whatever reason, found myself coming back there several more times. After a few days in that empty lounge, I saw an older man arrive. I said hello and returned to my work like ordinary. It wasn’t until I felt a tap on my shoulder that I realized someone was waiting on me. I looked up again and noticed the man for the first time. He was a tall, thin guy with glasses and clearly had a full career behind him.
“Greetings to you, young fella.”
I’ll never forget the first time I met H, because at the time I had no idea why I had gone to that school besides to find my answers. As fate allowed it, I would find one those very answers through his guidance. In the coming months, H would share with me his experiences with helping people and the roadmap it would take. He helped me with my research and even recommended what would be my current masters program.
You’re up early.
Or perhaps you were never down to begin with?
Yeah, sorry. Let me clean up all of this mess.
Long-hand, huh? Are you writing a letter to your sister?
Yeah, but I keep coming up blank. I want to write, but that is as far as I am getting. So I keep staring at the paper. Oh thanks.
Hey, Leonardo. It wasn’t just your eyes we welcomed here. Not in the least. You know that, now don’t you?
My mentorship from C and H might sound so similar that it might be embellished, but I assure you they aren’t.
One morning, C showed up to work what was much earlier than when she would usually. She made a note that reminded me of this scene because she told me she was surprised I was up early, and inferred that I had not been sleeping. She asked me how it felt to be recently promoted, and I said it felt good to be another NCO in the office. Seriously, she looked at me and said “You know it isn’t just your rank we care about and welcome here...right?” It was moments like these when it would just be me in the office that C and the other NCOs at my new office would connect with me and tell me these sort of things that subconsciously gave me little seedlings of what would bloom into confidence.
One memory I have with H came from a morning not unlike this one. It was 6am, and I couldn’t sleep, so I was helping clean up that quiet little veterans lounge. H came in and saw me restocking supplies for the coffee setup we had (K-Cups, mainly). If there was one thing the man was good at, it was seeing through when I was bullshitting him.
“What brings you in so early this morning?”
“Just felt like cleaning up some (H).”
He nodded and took his hat off.
“You’re not stressed out about anything?”
I lost in that moment because I paused, but then I kept going after saying a quick “Nope, thanks though.”
“You look like you haven’t slept in a few days, you know.”
“Oh yeah? I guess I must have been a little restless then.”
“Does this have to do with your grad school education decision?”
“I guess, maybe yeah.”
There was a long pause. H kept looking at me, even if I avoided eye contact by keeping busy tidying up.
“You know, Dillon, I think there was a reason you ended up here.”
H was very philosophical. He always got deep with the meanings behind everyday things that help shape us into the people we are.
“What do you mean?” I was genuinely confused this time.
“I don’t know, really. I just get this feeling you were put here to meet everyone here and we would help you find that answer.”
He was right.
I’m glad I got to meet all of you. Thanks to the time I’ve spent with you guys, I can finally move forward.
Don’t change the subject! That’s got nothing to do with the matter at hand. You’re acting like a reckless fool right now, and I don’t want to see you get yourself killed. You do what you want, but you need to hear something first. You’ve always just seen yourself as a normal kid, and you’re right: that’s exactly what you are. You’re normally caring, normally cheerful, and normally nosy. You have a strong moral compass, concern for your friends, and honor. I know you don’t see this, but what is normal to you? Well it is far from it. Everyone else would call it courageous and noble. It is because of the person you are that you don’t think twice about your own safety when it comes to helping your friends...because that’s just “normal” to you.
The beautiful part of these lines is that Leo is ready to just plow forward, but he is still missing the point. It takes someone telling him something to get it through his thick skull. I’ve experienced this firsthand on multiple occasions. I think of the people who have been trying to tell me this while I’ve been blinded on my journey, and how right they were. My empathy was always a weakness to me, just something that made me more unstable than most. One day, a person very near and dear to my heart told me something. You all know who she is, and whenever she tells me something (no matter how rare the moments are she gets deep), she means them. One day Umi texted me “You’re a really great friend, you know that right?” and I just laughed it off by saying something like “I’m just doing what friends should.” and she wouldn’t accept this answer. She told me “It isn’t common. You’re a great person, and you need to give yourself more credit for how much you care about people.”
“No way, even what you say is true...I can’t accept that.”
“So what are you going to do now, are you going to kill me?”
“I don’t know. I probably should, but I’m not sure that’s the right thing to do...so I’m going to keep thinking about it for as long as I am alive. So when I see you next time, I can have a better answer for you.”
Something happened to me when I was gone this past month. I came face to face with what might be considered the absolute worst nightmare I could imagine. I was face to face with the person who traumatized me. I wanted to yell at her, tell her how I really felt. Tell her what she put me through and how much it destroyed my life. Instead, I found myself letting go by answering my internalized question of what to say to her with “I don’t know.”...it was like magic words, and I was freed of that cloud. Instead of doing what I probably should have done by yelling, I took a high ground and shook her hand. I congratulated her on her promotion, and left.
As long as you’re trying to take even one single step towards the light, no matter the struggle, your spirit can never be broken! Do you hear me?!
Things got rough for me when I was gone, too. I had to go back to where all of that trauma happened and it wasn’t until towards the end I found my answer. I felt so close to just relapsing back to my depression and finally cracking. This line resonated with me one day (yes, I don’t actively think about anime 24/7 like I might seem like I do) and it got stuck in there for a good part of a week (along with the Kamina from Gurren Lagann classic “just who in the hell do you think I am?!”) and I would repeat it to myself. It gave me the strength to keep going and succeed.
I’m so proud of you. So Proud.
Oh, right. So- I- uh, I’m so sorry about all of the trouble I caused.
This scene at the end never crossed my mind until I was just writing this because...well I didn’t have something similar happen to me until recently. I was working with some boxes for the new house when I had a phone call. It was a rare call from H. We hadn’t spoken in months, but he remembered I had to go back to where my trauma was. He wanted to know how it went. I shared with him everything. There was a momentary pause, and I swore my call dropped for a second before he started talking.
“Dillon. I speak on behalf of a lot of people I am sure when I say I am so very proud of the man you have become and the man you will continue to be, too.”
I felt like I had a gut punch. I went to thank him but didn’t have the air for it. I cough and said “thanks, (H)....and...thanks for putting up with me while I took time to figure it out.”
“I was overjoyed to be a contributor for your growth, and I know those you care about feel the same way, too.”
I just started to say “yeah” over and over again until I broke down. I was on my knees and wailing into the carpet.
“You did great, Dillon. And you will keep doing great, too.”
It wasn’t until that phone call that I finally felt it carry away. Everything that burdened me...and it was thanks to the loving support of my family, friends, and co-workers. I have no idea how this change in my life will impact my creativity or my drive for school work, but I want to keep doing my best for both myself and you all.
I leave it here with the same line I brought us in with that is repeated at the end of the show
“Hello Michella, How are You? I’m Finally Doing Well”