The other day I received a particularly special package in the mail and it wrecked me straight through to my soft-bodied, nerd-kid core. I set the items aside because I couldn’t handle the flood waves of nostalgia. In fact, I set them aside for four days because I couldn’t (still can’t) deal with it properly. Today I picked them back up and yeah, I’m in tears again.
While creating my bangin GymLyfe playlists (because I’ve resolved to be about that life now), I tripped down music memory lane and got lost for… several hours. I revisited all my old J-Rock faves, catching up on the bands I haven’t wiki’d in over ten years while jamming to the new K-Pop stuff so I can feel relevant.
In the wee hours on the morning, I purchased* three An Cafe albums and Stray Kid’s first CD. Who tf does that!? No job to speak of, but emotions made me do a thing? Oh, hi there. It’s me, Ms. Impulse-Buy.
This is 100% related to why TikTok has absolutely ruined me; it’ll connect here in a bit.
In my massive catch-up on the world of An Cafe for the past twelve years, I discovered they disbanded a few years ago. I was completely accepting of this change, and actually thankful I’d not “been around” at the time to feel the crushing reality as it happened. So why was I crying? Hell, why am I crying now while I’m ripping all these albums to my computer?
Antic Cafe was my first glimpse outside of the narrow world I lived in. As a fifteen-year-old floating around in the world with crippling depression, zero direction, and no real friends, Chelsea and Tara were my golden spotlights that exposed me to a brighter world. Tara was more Visual Kei (pretty sure The Gazette was her favorite) while Chelsea was more J-Pop (Ayumi Hamasaki was her QUEEN). Between the two of them, I got to see the crazy wide variety of Japanese culture in the early 2000s.
I remember sitting on the floor of Mr. Crenshaw’s class, sharing Chels’s headphones as we put our heads together to watch some music videos on her ipod touch. I just took it all in, I didn’t process a single thing (I now know it takes me about three or four times of hearing a song to determine whether I like it or not, otherwise it’s just noise to me).
I got home, jumped on the dial-up internet, and began scouring for what I only remembered: café, red white blue hat, clouds, JRock. Believe me, it was infuriating, but I fuckin found it.
An Cafe was the reason I accepted my love of manga, love of anime, love of drawing and alternative fashion tastes. They were the reason I went to MTAC for so many years – hell, my first cosplay was Miku from their Magnya Carta album (the first J-Rock album I ever owned). Comic books later became a thing for me as well as creating my own comics, Japanese street fashion, all things Lolita, even Japanese-US relations became a topic of interest. Am I hinging a lot on a single band? Yes, I am. But they were, in fact, the gateway that opened me up to a lot of who I am today.
Oshare Kei, Visual Kei, Lolita fashions, and any manga I could get my hands on floated me through high school. Entering my depression, I had no idea what was going on and had no resources to help me work through my shit. But I had this happy little secret world that sustained me.
I don’t remember why or when things dropped off, but I believe it was around Senior year, maybe entering college. I just … stopped. All my interests vanished as I tried to become someone else, someone more palatable, more grown up and stable (what an absolute joke – college was the height of depression for me. How unawares I was!).
Long story short, we’re here now, in 2021 catching up on the J-Rock and K-pop scene because it’s amazing and I finally have the time and energy to focus on me and what I want. I’ve also learned that I can’t lose myself in others and cant’ give up the things I love to suit others. And honestly, with Gen-Z being an overwhelming thing… I fit right tf in. I’m absolutely obsessed with Gen-Z now…
Needless to say, the past two weeks I’ve been out of work have been eye opening in a way I don’t think anyone expected and it’s hilarious. I’m happier today than I’ve been in a long, long time.
My An Cafe album collection is now complete. I haven’t decided if I’ll go after the EPs and singles just yet (shipping from Japan is HELLA expensive!!). What I do know is An Café has once again reinvigorated my zest in non-American pop culture, so I’m going to ride this train. First stop seems to be K-pop and catching up on the BTS phenomenon.