Chapter 3:

Prologue: 6:00 p.m.

The Kimochi Warui Diary

I was laying on the couch in the living room, scrolling through tweets on my phone.Bookmark here

“Did you even listen to what I said?”Bookmark here

That was the voice of this girl who, for the sake of protecting her identity, I’ll call Hitagi.Bookmark here

We started out as nothing more than classmates—we just happened to share a couple English classes together. But then one day, out of nowhere, she started making fun of how I dressed! The next day, it was how I talked. Nothing was off limits. All the while, I just kept deflecting her comments and allowed her to follow me. Somehow that turned us into friends, and we became inseparable for a time.Bookmark here

“Hey, I’m talkin’ to you!” Hitagi said. She yanked the phone right out of my hand.Bookmark here

“What the fuck, give it back!” I said.Bookmark here

Truth is, I was right in the middle of a conversation with a girl. Hitagi was scrolling up and down through the chain of tweets.Bookmark here

“Are you kidding me?” she said. “What the hell is this?”Bookmark here

Fortunately, the entire conversation was in Japanese.Bookmark here

“I shouldn’t be surprised.” She threw the phone back to me. “After all, you have an Asian fetish.” Bookmark here

This again?Bookmark here

“I don’t have a fetish,” I said. “And besides, that’s not even what it’s called.” Bookmark here

Otaku, Japanophile, wapanese, weaboo… Any of those terms were more applicable for what she was trying to say. I don’t like all of Asia, just Japan. No use trying to explain that, though.Bookmark here

“Whatever,” she said. “What do you even talk about with these Asian people, anyways?” Bookmark here

Despite the way she phrased things, I could tell she was genuinely interested. I’d come to understand that her intentions were always sincere, regardless of how she came off. The fact I understood this was probably why we could be friends.Bookmark here

“Honestly, nothing interesting,” I said. “I know less Japanese than an elementary schooler.”Bookmark here

My online friend’s name was Yuno, and we mostly only ever talked about her cat. Sometimes we shared music with each other, but that’s about it. She’d been something like my “online language pen pal” for a couple of months now.Bookmark here

“And speaking of the so-called Asian fetish,” I said. “I’m still thinking about teaching English in Japan. In fact, I’m going to visit sometime after graduation.”Bookmark here

Hitagi had walked into the kitchen and was pouring herself a glass of cheap wine.Bookmark here

“And how do you plan on doing that?”Bookmark here

“I’ve got about $3k left in student loan money,” I said.Bookmark here

“Seriously…?” Hitagi looked up at me with just her eyes. Bookmark here

“Yeah. Why not?”Bookmark here

She took a refined sip of her wine, smacked her lips to taste.Bookmark here

“What if someone tries to kidnap you and put you in one of those tentacle porns?” she said, followed by gulping a mouthful of the wine.Bookmark here

Yeah, this was entirely my fault. Hitagi had heard the term “tentacle rape” from somewhere on the internet. Frankly, she was appalled. Bookmark here

But “tentacle rape” is barely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to weird Japanese porn, ya know? I wanted to show her just how crazy it got. Thanks to some recommendations from internet friends, I was able to show her worse stuff than she could possibly imagine. Bookmark here

Ever since then, we could hardly have any serious conversation about Japan before she derailed it with “tentacle porns.”Bookmark here

“Listen,” I said. “Japan is one of the safest countries in the world. Plus, my older brother’s coming with me. Can you imagine someone trying to insert tentacles in me while he’s around?” Bookmark here

I pulled up a photo of him from his girlfriend’s Instagram account. He was the broad-shouldered, monolithic figure towering next to her. The bill of his hat casted a shadow over his face—the expression beneath that shadow was impossible to read.Bookmark here

“Wow, that’s your brother?” Hitagi said. “He looks just like you!” Bookmark here

Yeah, I’ve heard that a million times. Bookmark here

“Except, it’s like he got the better genetics. Taller… More muscular… Less pale… Wow, are those tattoos?”Bookmark here

“Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard that a million times.”Bookmark here

Hitagi threw my legs off the end of the couch and sat down. She twirled her wine glass.Bookmark here

“But seriously,” she said. “You should focus on graduating.”Bookmark here

“All the bad grades I had are going to be fixed. I already talked to the teacher’s assistant.”Bookmark here

“Maybe if you had just done the work instead of reading your Asian books until morning…”Bookmark here

She had me there.Bookmark here

Whenever I had to choose between anime and manga or doing homework… The choice wasn’t always obvious.Bookmark here

It all depended on which felt more important to my life at that moment. Sometimes, a more artistic anime or manga would hit me so deep that I just had to understand how the author was going to solve the character’s problems. It was the exact same as the author saying to me, “Hey, I’ve experienced what you’ve been through. Here’s how I got through it. Here’s how you can, too!”Bookmark here

And yeah, I’ll admit, not all the anime and manga I watched were “artistic.” Sometimes I just felt inspired and bad ass from watching something cool.Bookmark here

On the other hand, what was I going to learn from writing some essay that my professor was going to have his assistant read?Bookmark here

And by the way, it wasn’t not only anime or manga. It just so happened that what I felt was most similar to what the Japanese authors expressed.Bookmark here

After beginning my Japanese literature class, I began to see how the characters and tropes in these old stories were connected to the modern stories told through anime and manga. By tracing the threads of influence through all Japanese mediums, I was beginning to form a clearer picture not just about Japan, but about myself. If pursuing this latent truth had the power to uncover something about myself, then it would be way more important than some school assignment.Bookmark here

I’d tried to explain all of this to Hitagi in the past. When I started up again, she knew exactly where I was heading and cut me off.Bookmark here

“I know, I know! You don’t have to go on about your Asian fetish again.”
Bookmark here

This Novel Contains Mature Content

Show This Chapter?

Jio Kurenai
You can resume reading from this paragraph.