Chapter 9:

A showcase to remember

An American Otaku

The New Garden Mall was the central hangout for the elderly in the morning, parents shopping in the day and students after school in the evening. There were very few who didn’t make a trip or two to it throughout the week. It was a pretty standard looking mall on the outside, with the exception of holiday lights adorning the entrances and the spectacular display of floral. Bushes and flower gardens were on display on every side of the building with the occasional red sunset maple tree.

On the inside there are herds of people which can be seen coming and going from numerous different types of stores. Electronic stores which contained music, DVDs and were one of the popular destinations, although they could not compare in quantity and volume to the amount of clothing stores, or the appeal of the food court that sold pizza, cinnamon treats, shakes, ethnic foods and all sorts of things you would ask for.

Despite all the attention that each part of the mall brings, today the focus was on a special event. At the center of the mall set up around the glistening fountain was the art showcase. A special collaboration between schools in multiple districts, which showed off works from various students, from different grades each displaying something personal and special to them. As parents with kids, teens with pizza and children wildly running around passed by they each stopped and gazed at the works.

One section contained several works grouped together with a banner on top that contained the words: Anime Club. This is where Erin stood, mouth agape.

“W..what is this?” She quietly says to herself.

First looking at the works with an upset expression, mad that they exist as if they were an affront to her existence, she became more curious due to the unique display and format that was used. Erin slowly walks closer and studies each one.

“This one seems interesting.” She said after one of them caught her attention due to the serious nature of the image. “This is the 1960 Diet building Anpo protest.”

This artwork acted as a collage with the center image being a photograph of hundreds of people outside of Japan’s National Diet building. Erin stared at it and then her eyes made her way to the other images on the collage some more photos and others pictures of work from manga and anime.

“A bunch of kids on motorcycles? Was that story related to this image? That sign they are holding, was it actually about these protests? Was the manga about strife in Japan?”

She walks away from that image while still maintaining eye contact with it, allowing her mind to continue to ponder on it until she makes her way to another image.

“This collage is a lot different.” At first she dismisses it as more silly anime work as it showed off a cyborg woman smashing heads and other violent acts of martial arts but then she sees a sentence written at the bottom right.

“You can be what you want, you are free to grow, learn and try no matter the mistakes or losses.” She stops and then reads it again. Then she turns and reexamines the images. “Oh. She was a girl. A young innocent girl huh.” She traces the character's growth over the images that showed her crying, angry, happy, sad and laughing joyfully in the rain. “I kind of want to read it.”

Erin now enamored with this section of the art showcase couldn’t help find herself walking back and forth among them and wanting to know more. Out of the corner of her eye she catches one display that had a father with his crying child, it wasn’t even the focal part of the image but she couldn’t help but to look at it and focus on that part and that part only. The image makes her come to a stop and look away from the paintings.

“So what if it’s nice! So what if there’s meaning! It’s not a reason to be so obsessed… Pretending you’re something you’re not. Making others fit into your world and being downright humiliating. Why? I get it, it’s nice, it’s compelling, it’s emotional but why…why like it so much?”

“This makes me happy.” A voice interrupts her.

Erin immediately jumps and turns to see three other teens walking her way. In response she walks out of the section pretending she was never there and moves behind it in another section.

Anthony, “This makes me soooooooooo happy!! I…I…” He breathes in deeply to prevent his nose from running and rubs his eyes with his hands to wipe away little tears. “I can’t believe we did it!”

Isabel and Trey laugh and smile, not just at Anthony antics but as a celebration at their accomplishments as well.

Erin watches them closely through the panel behind theres, “Who are these weirdos?!”

“Um, excuse me miss?” A short brown haired woman, working as a mall attendant and overseeing the art showcase said, “Please don’t get too close to the works, we don’t want them to get damaged.”

“Yeah, yeah! I get it, I’m just enjoying these…” Erin stops to see what she is actually supposed to be looking at. “ of…naked mole rats!! Eww! What the heck.”

“Umm…” A sweat drop starts to come down the side of her head, completely confused by the behavior of this young girl.

“I mean yeah, I’m enjoying it, I’m fine. ‘K, thanks bye.” Erin says in an attempt to try to shoo her away.

With an awkward and insincere smile, the mall attendant says, “W..well let me know if you need any assistance.” And walks away from Erin who continues to listen in.

Isabel, “We all are happy. This took a lot of effort.”

“Yeah thanks to you biting off more than you can chew.” Trey shakes his head with a smile, “I thought we were just submitting one thing for your art class not putting up a display to be shown off in public.”

“Yeah…ha ha ha.. things kind of just snowballed out of control.”

As they all laughed, Erin looked at them more fiercely. “ way! They created this? These people…these people, they are my enemies!”

Erin, not bent over and clearly staring at them through the edges of the artwork of the naked mole rats catches the attention of other people walking by, including a child with her mother. “Mommy, what’s that girl doing?” The mother continues to quickly walk, pulling the kid along and telling him not to stare at strange kids.

Erin catches the end of the comment and with disgust, says to herself, “Who’re you calling a kid lady, I’m twice the size…almost twice the size of your brat.” With that said, she turns back and continues to observe them.

“So you think they’ll like it?” Anthony says

“It doesn’t matter if they do or not, not anymore.” Trey says with his new solemn tone.

“True but it would be nice if they did.” Isabel says with a smile, “Art, your passion is a way to communicate with others. Music, drawing, and writing are all ways to convey how you feel, or your take on things. So if they enjoyed it, it would mean that we were able to properly communicate to them and be heard.”

Trey and Anthony reflect on that as Isabel pauses briefly before continuing.

“I don’t expect them to like it themselves or think they should believe that it’s not without its flaws but for them to acknowledge that this is something that brings me joy and understand this is how I am conveying my emotions would be great.”

Erin clenching her fist and absolutely furious starts to say to herself, “You’re wrong…you’re wrong…”

Then she steps out in front of Isabel, Trey and Anthony and yells, “You’re wrong!!”

They all jump after being caught off guard by this sudden intruder.

Erin, “What do you know huh? You think things really are that simple? That people are that naive. People can talk, you know. You…you…”

Erin becomes distracted by water that suddenly starts to drip on her hands. “You…you… What is this?” She says as she starts to wipe the warm drops of water off her hands. “This is…” She brings her hands up to her eyes and feels the tears in her eyes.

“Um, hey are you okay?” Trey says, noticing the tears in her eyes.

Erin turns away from them so her face can't be seen, “I’m leaving!” she says and begins to walk away. Then she comes to a sudden stop and says, “You, the girl with the glasses, what’s your name?”

“...uh, me?” Isabel, surprised, points to herself and says, “My name is Isabel.”

“Isabel huh? From that Glen High School. I’ll remember that.” With those words said, she continues to walk away from the stupefied group and exits.

“What was that about?” Trey says.


Isabel and Trey jump at the sudden outburst already on edge from the appearance of the blonde haired girl, only to realize it was Anthony who shouted. They turn and look at him with a crazy look.

“Did you guys see that? Our works of art brought her to tears.”

“ you really think that was the case?” Isabel questions him

“I honestly don’t know what that was.” Trey replies.

“Didn’t you see it, it was the power of anime that made her moved and we helped!”

“I hope that is the case.” Isabel says with a smile, “Anyway, for now my art teacher wanted to meet us here to discuss something.”

Trey takes a seat by the fountain, “Did he say what he wanted, this whole thing seems too mysterious.”

“Think it’s a strange anime plot?” Anthony says

“Why not?” Trey says, “We are already being assaulted by short blonde girls.”

“Aw cut it out, Sayavong-sensei isn’t like that?”

Trey looks at her, “‘Sayavong-sensei’? Dude, he’s not Japanese.”

“Yeah Isabel, totally not cool.” Anthony adds.

“Wh..whaat? I wasn’t saying that because of his race…”

“Ah, you guys made it.” Just as they were mentioning him, Sayavong approaches them.

They stand up to greet him.

Isabel, “Thanks for letting us enter our artwork, the whole setup of the art gallery looks great. Thanks for the opportunity, our club appreciates it.”

Sayavong, “That’s actually what I wanted to talk about.”

Isabel tilts her head and creates a curious expression.

Sayavong, “I really like how your club represented our school and enjoyed your art showcase. Would you all be interested in giving a presentation at the school? Completely optional but I think it would be good for your club.”

Trey immediately responds, “Pass!”

Anthony, “Um, yeah…that might be a bit much.”

Isabel hesitates and then says, “Yeah.” She turns and looks at Trey and Anthony. “Come on, let's do it. Remember our goal right? Not only were we trying to get people to see our work but understand it and possibly recruit people. This could really work out for us.”

Isabel watches Anthony who still seems to hesitate.

“Anthony, remember how we kept on trying to recruit people with our skits during lunch? Now this is our chance to convince people to like anime on a bigger scale.”

Then she looks at Trey.

“Trey, is that the old you who doesn’t want to show off his passion? Or the new one who decided not to give in to peer pressure by letting go of what he loved?”

Trey, “uughh, fine! Alright, let's do it!”

Isabel smiles, “You in Anthony?”

Anthony sticks his right hand out, “Well?”

Isabel and Trey see what he’s doing and they too put their hands on top of his while forming a circle.

Isabel, Anthony and Trey, “Let's do it!”