Exactly for how long could you be called a boy?
Let’s take a moment to discuss this boundary line called puberty that differentiated a child from an adult.
Was it up until middle school? High school? Or perhaps, university?
Or could it be up until you turned twenty and started working? If so, that meant I’d be a boy for all of eternity…
In any case, I didn’t have a simple answer to that conundrum, but I at least feel that I should be classified as a boy since I was laying on the sofa watching anime.
But calling someone a child for watching anime wasn’t either since there were plenty of fine adults in the world who watched it or even had jobs related to it. That’s why unless people bought the DVDs, anime couldn’t be created. That of course applied to second seasons and the smaller the industry became, the more difficult it’d be to create new works. So by all means, everyone, please buy the Blu-rays and DVDs.
Basically, I felt that trying to distinguish between an adult male and a boy based on “hobbies” was impossible.
In that case, what did we need to be considered as a “boy”?
And here, I wanted to say I had a breakthrough to this mind-boggling problem.
The reason was just a mail with a single line.
[Hello. Are you free tomorrow??]
Never in my life had I been witness to a mail so heartwarming, in just one line to boot. It was a mail I wanted to read aloud. I was even willing to make a song out of it. I was well on my way towards winning an award for it.
Last night, Totsuka Saika had sent me this mail which brought me to this internal conundrum of “boys”.
To what extent were you a boy? It’s too difficult to solve this conundrum of distinction by things like titles, age, and hobbies, and now, I had arrived at the conclusion that using even gender was too complicated. The laws of the universe meant nothing.1
I was painfully lacking in samples that would allow me to uncover the truth.
And in order to secure material as reference, I exerted myself.
I sent back a reply with about five hundred characters long using emoticons I’d never, ever use in a normal situation. I made sure not to forget a question mark at the end as well, of course.
In the brief moment we exchanged mails, I was euphoric. With how utterly happy I was, it wouldn’t be weird to classify this as some kind of drug.
As such, I had made a promise to hang out with Totsuka.
The mind-boggling, conundrum, or whatever doesn’t even matter anymore, right!?
× × ×
It was just about time for our appointment.
My discomfort index was on the verge of rising.
But in despite of all of that, I spotted someone who was radiating, sparkling and glittering4. He jogged my way upon noticing me and as I watched him, his noble heart was snowing, falling, and gathering…5
With the twinkling, shining, light of the future, I found Totsuka and was ultra happy!6
“Hey Hachiman! Sorry for being late!” In a boyish attire, Totsuka rested his hands on his knees, making deep breaths having ran to me.
“Don’t worry about it. I actually got here pretty early.”
Yeah, I got here exactly three hours earlier, so you don’t have to worry. At all.
“You weren’t really late either, so you didn’t have to run over here in a hurry.”
“Oh, right. But I might as well since I saw you.” Totsuka laughed as if trying to hide his embarrassment.
It could’ve been the sunlight at fault or maybe not, but his excessive radiance caused me to frantically avert my eyes.
“Ahh. So, what should we do?”
Through our exchange of mails, Totsuka and I only promised to hang out somewhere.
At the very end, we decided we’d figure out what to do after we met today which meant our situation was overflowing with entertainment factors. But thanks to that, I spent the entire night thinking and was lacking sleep.
As high schools would so aptly state, “hang out” meant what exactly? I didn’t know the specifics behind that kind of conduct.
This made me unsure of what to suggest.
But if it’s around Kaihin Makuhari Station, the station we chose to rendezvous, then mostly everything was there.
Arcades, karaoke pubs, movie theaters, and RC race tracks. There were plenty of places to shop as well. Entertainment here was not lacking in the least.
“Hmm, I had a lot of things in mind…”
When I asked Totsuka, he took a moment to think, unable to give an immediate answer.
“But I wasn’t really sure what you like, Hachiman,” said Totsuka, still in the middle of thought he nodded his head. He was earnestly worrying over my interests. Because it’s so rare for someone to actually give me any consideration, I found myself staring at him.
To begin with, the people I knew were all selfish… Yukinoshita’s a no-brainer, but Yuigahama, Zaimokuza, and even Komachi were all pretty blunt when it came to what they wanted. Look at Hiratsuka-sensei, her desires were the only things occupying her head, right? She’s well on her way towards getting serialized into a series of frustrated female teachers.
But even so, as a person who had lacked interests and hobbies, any consideration towards me was moot since it’d be difficult to actually come up with something. Even I didn’t fully understand everything about myself.
My vacation was mostly just me sitting around doing nothing, too…I mean, all I did was laze around, seriously. I’d sleep in until noon and once I woke up, I’d either just go to a bookstore or a library.
Feeling sorry for making Totsuka work on my behalf, I hastily suggested a compromise. “Why don’t we just take a look around for now?”
“Oh okay, sure. I guess it’d be faster if we both decide on something.”
I felt something when he said that we’d “both decide on something”. To this day, most of the time, I had to choose things for myself, so this was a fresh experience for me. Totsuka’s just so nice of a person that we might just end up naming our child together.
We accompanied each other as we restlessly walked in front of the early afternoon station.
But with how blistering hot it was outside, we were probably better off entering a building and going from there. So we needed to decide on what to do first.
Shopping… I didn’t have anything in particular to buy, so I’ll pass on that. The arcade… Well, that could work. Totsuka having interest in games was questionable, but he didn’t seem like a serious gamer. I could see him being more interested in medal or crane games instead though…
So that leaves… that place, maybe…?
I decided to head towards Cineplex Makuhari, the building which housed the arcade I had in mind. The Cineplex name was similar to Aniplex, but it’s actually owned by the Kadokawa group. Aside from the Screen 10 movie theater, they had an arcade and all kinds of restaurants.
After we entered the building and went straight ahead, we arrived in an area that was lavish with decorative illuminations and filled with poppy sound effects.
They had game attractions meant for physical activity instead of video game cabinets and they had a focus on shoot ‘em ups, rhythm games, medal games, and crane games; there were photo booths and even darts. This arcade could be said to be targeting active youths. There were numerous high schools and universities in the area, so their target demographic had to be them. As for other things, restaurants and movie theaters were situated side by side giving the impression that they were expecting lots of family demand.
As we walked around inside, Totsuka made a sudden stop.
“What’s up?” I asked, my eyes directed in the same direction as Totsuka. Posted on the wall was a poster advertising a currently showing movie.
“They’re already showing this movie, huh…?” Totsuka stared at the poster in interest.
“Ah, I’m okay with doing whatever you’d like Hachiman!” Totsuka shook his hands in distraught.
“Nah, let’s watch the movie. Come to think of it, this will be my first time watching a movie with someone that’s not my family. It shouldn’t hurt every now and then.”
The time I actually watched a movie with someone else was when I was younger. It was at the Marinpia movie theater which was long gone now, but the only reason I went was because Komachi forced me to go with her while mom was out shopping.
After becoming a middle school student, I went to watch movies by myself. Since it was near my home, I could just stop by there whenever I felt like going out.
Totsuka went silent for a moment before giving me a modest look. “You sure?”
He asked me, but I had only one answer.
I decided; my very first partner was going to be Totsuka!
× × ×
Surprisingly, Totsuka chose a horror movie.
We selected our seats at the service counter and bought our tickets.
25E and 25F. Totsuka and I were fellow neighbors in the back.
After we bought some popcorn, cola, and had our ticket stubs ripped, we went straight into the auditorium.
Although it’s summer vacation, the only ones actually on break were students; normal working adults were still going about their week as always. So the auditorium wasn’t very packed.
But in light of that, the main customers were the students. As a matter of fact, scummy couples and garbage lovers were gleefully frolicking at empty areas in the room.
I thought I saw someone like Miura mixed in those groups of trash, but I apparently just imagined it. Why did people like them tend to sport similar faces and appearances, anyway? Because I couldn’t tell them apart at all. Were they all clones?
The more incessant they were about personality, the less they had of it. The more you know.
As for others, sometimes you’d get that oddball who’d misunderstand the meaning of personality and wear a coat during the peak of summer. An exemplary model of this kind of person was sitting in a seat at the very front breathing out like a grizzly bear.
My instincts fired off warning alarms telling me that I shouldn’t look at him, so I did as I was warned and decided to search for our seats.
I checked each row one by one for our numbers while walking in the auditorium that was submerged in a unique silence before the start of a movie and slight feeling of nervousness. Totsuka had entered the room before I did and when he found our seats, he waved to me. He must’ve been holding his voice back since we were inside the auditorium.
I leaned back into my seat and placed my hand on the armrest. It was a magnificent act on my part that resembled some imperturbable great demon kin.
But the armrest felt so soft and light.
Upon hearing that apology, I realized I had touched something. It was Totsuka’s arm. I just touched an angel!7
“O-Oh, nah! That was my fault there!” I said, and we both withdrew our hands in a hurry.
We both had looked away and there was an awkward silence.
I made a checking glance at Totsuka and he was facing downwards in embarrassment with his shoulders tucked in. *However, he was a man.
The auditorium was air-conditioned, so the miniscule warmth I could feel coming from him made me feel itchy. *However, he was a man.
We exchanged looks at each other trying to find the right timing to speak up and Totsuka whispered in a small voice, “H-Hachiman, you can use it if you want.”
“Uh, I’m right-handed, so I’ll just relax my body on my right hand. Don’t mind me! You know what they say about your left hand is used just to guide things or whatever!”8
For some reason, pointless excuses came out of my mouth.
Listening to that, Totsuka chuckled with a “you’re so weird”.
“Okay, let’s share half of it then,” said Totsuka, and he placed his elbow on a third of the armrest.
“R-Right…” I nervously and slowly rested my left hand on there as well.
Ahh! My left hand! My left hand was completely happy!
Hurray. For. World. Peace.9
If the world was a place with a hundred Totsukas, there’d never be any wars. Arm dealers would be out of business, for sure. All the things that caused stress would disappear. It’s like some kind of lavender effect or something.
Because of that, the movie robber that slimily danced on the big screen that usually irritated me didn’t today.
× × ×
The movie was reaching its climax.
I think… I wasn’t very sure. The story was one thing, but I didn’t even know how much time had passed either. An hour, two hours? Or maybe ten minutes?
This fun period of time had gone by too fast. The actual time I was able to experience it wasn’t any longer than an hour.
The notion of time changed depending on the observer.
A spirit clothed in a white one piece dress popped out at us in 3D causing Totsuka to lightly shake and grip my clothes.
Whoa, that was scary. Really, even I felt like my heart was going to shut down there. He was just so cute…
A surprised Totsuka was cute. Totsukacute.
After that, the white one piece clothed spirit would completely crawl out from the screen. Every time, Totsuka would swallow his breath and let out a small shriek.
But I had to say, this movie was pretty scary. At this rate, I had the feeling I’d be jumping straight into Totsuka’s route instead of just veering off the path and it’s frightening. If he ended up clinging onto me all of a sudden, my waist was definitely going to give in. I’d be leaning over even.
My heart ran amok while my blood violently acted up like the muddy streams in a tempest. In the worst case scenario, I had to prepare the ATM. Huh? Wasn’t it ETC? EVA? Well, whatever. The movie’s almost finished anyway.
To get my mind out of the gutter about Totsuka, I surveyed the interior of the auditorium. I honestly wanted to just count prime numbers to calm down, but since I was aiming for a private school for liberal arts, I wasn’t sure if zero was included, so I gave up.
The air-conditioned auditorium was chilly to the bone and also considerably dark. It’s the most optimal environment for watching a horror movie.
In the end, I was completely confused as to what the movie was by the time the ending credits played.
We watched the playing projector all the way until the very and Totsuka and I stood up.
With lingering thoughts of the movie, we leisurely walked out of the movie theater.
“That was pretty fun! I was screaming the entire time, so my threat’s really dry.”
“Yeah, same here.”
There was this weird tension that caused me to get a parched throat, but locked shoulders as well.
We walked with the crowd that flowed out of the building towards the stairs outside.
The sun that had finally came down was obstructed by the buildings and a refreshing wind blew by in the shade.
“Want to take a quick break?”
I pointed at the cafe we were descending down towards and Totsuka nodded.
Although plenty of the people who had exited the movie together with us also entered the cafe, there were still enough seats for the two of us. We went right to the counter and quickly made our orders.
“Um, ice coffee.”
“Oh, I’ll take one, too.”
“Indeed, I, too, shall take an ice coffee.”
The three of us didn’t have to wait for very long since we all ordered ice coffees and occupied the nearby seats after we received our drinks.
First, I kept my coffee black so I could enjoy its original aroma and taste. Its sharp bitterness made me wide awake. After that, I added a portion of milk and gum syrup. Combining these two created a Black RX. Yep, the sweeter the better!
Once we moistened our throats, the three of us breathed out.
The three of us?
“…Wait a second.”
Don’t “mm?” me. I’m talking about you.
An intruder resembling a bear gowned in a coat was present as if it’s a natural thing to do. Right. That’s what he felt like.
“Uh, who were you again? Shinkiba-kun?”
“It’s Zaimokuza-kun, Hachiman.”
Totsuka seriously responded to me…
“Okay, Zaimoku, Zaimokuya, whatever, where the heck did you come from? Are you like one of those bugs, you know, the bugs called maize weevil or something?”
How about carpet beetles, then?
Zaimokuza intently sucked at his straw and then lifted his face. “Fumu. I thought I would name myself after seeing the both of you at the theater, but upon following you two, I had arrived here.
Indeed, it seems my optical camouflage is in perfect shape today as well.”
“I’m pretty sure everyone’s just pretending not to see you.”
At the very least, I couldn’t see him because Totsuka was the only one I was focused on.
“Hey Zaimokuza-kun, long time no see.”
“I-Indeed. Mohahaha!” said Zaimokuza, laughing nervously when Totsuka spoke to him. Then again, Totsuka’s really something to just take everything so naturally… Well, if he could talk to someone like me, I suppose he could with Zaimokuza.
“Were you watching the movie?”
“Indeed. But it was quite the blunder, I would say. Not a single trace that makes Japanese horrors unique. It seemed oddly Americanized. It also lost its appeal and was just a pitiful and garbage movie, a result of dumbing it down for the masses. Ooph! But in my case, although I stated that I watch horror movies, I did not mean the movies that were given the Hollywood treatment for the enjoyment of the masses, but movies that adapted literary pieces as strange that may make me. I suppose it’s the influence of Lafcadio Hearn. Dooph! I went a bit far there with the deep knowledge. How pompous of me, fokanupo! It is as if I look like an otaku. But I certainly am not, kopo!!”10
And there he goes… The thing about these chunibyos was that they always seemed to be strangely knowledgeable about occult stuff, so it’s a real pain. Literary works from Koizumi Yakumo and Izumi Kyouoka or folklore pieces from Yanagida Kunio and Orikuchi were things they had barely understood, yet they had the sad habit of flaunting their limited knowledge of them.
I stopped listening to Zaimokuza halfway through his speech, but Totsuka was properly listening to him. It wouldn’t be weird if that kindness started charging people.
“You think so? I actually kinda liked it.”
“Indeed, as do I.”
He flipped sides within a moment’s notice. His change was so fast that he looked like he was glowing. “Wow, you’re amazing. You were like one of those self-important politicians just now…”
“Quiet you. Hachiman, what are you thoughts on the movie?”
“Pretty flash and easy to understand, I guess. It’s another story if we’re talking about how interesting it was though.”
Although I was looking only at Totsuka part way into the movie, I still had a general gist of what it was about.
“Uh huh. You know how like the ghost would just pop out of the scream like ‘BAM!’? That was really crazy and it totally scared me! I thought I was going to have a heart attack.”
Exactly my thoughts on how I was feeling right now. As I watched Totsuka flail his hands around and try his best to reenact the scenes of the movie, it felt like my heart was going to overwork itself and stop.
“Well, as one who can no longer feel fear, it was nothing. Compared to ‘that person who must not be named’11, that person is much more frightenfoy!” Zaimokuza trembled midway into his sentence. You’re acting like Malfoy when he remembered the fears of Voldemort, you know. For him to be frightened this much, I could only think of one person; Yukinoshita.
“Yeah, that’s true. Yukinoshita’s definitely scarier compared to the movie.”
“Hachiman, that’s not very nice. I mean, sure, at first, um, she’s a little scary, but…” Totsuka warned me with an initial indignant look, but his voice grew weaker. “Maybe because she’s always so serious and earnest that she seems scary.”
“Brutal honesty can be frightening, too. You won’t know kind of things they’ll say to you.”
Well, whether it was a movie or something else, seeing the same things didn’t mean having the same impressions.
At most, they’d be similar.
But to be similar meant there was something definitely different.
We always looked only at the things we wanted to see.
Interpretations was defined only by the numbers of people, whether if it was for the impressions of a movie or of a person.
That’s why it’s ridiculous to understand them, or even try to. It’s a sin and an evil to think you had understood.
But unless we acted as if we understood something, we wouldn’t be able to live.
Understanding and being understood by someone would cause the both of you two have a mutual, vague realization of each other; either that, you’d be unable to live on unless you redefined that person every time and talked about it.
Otherwise, your “self” would disappear like thin air.
That “self” was vague and uncertain. Just like the phenomenon of gestaltzerfall, the more you thought about something, the less you understood it.
Every time you stopped understanding, you’d gather all sorts of information again and construct an image of yourself and the other person. It resembled simulacrum; no matter what you constructed, the only images you’d have were child and primitive ones.
That’s what I’d call horror.
I felt sudden chills in the air-conditioned store. I buckled my shoulders in and held back my shivering.
I carried my glass to my mouth and it turned out I had emptied it out at some point. I placed it back down in resignation and Zaimokuza opened his mouth. “However, it was a good breather. Now I can concentrate on my manuscript. Ah, yes, Hachiman. D-Do you want to read it?”
He glanced at me while blushing slightly. That’s not cute.
“Only if it’s completed. You actually have it with you right now?”
“Fumu, of course. An author is one who can write wherever and whenever. At all times, I have my laptop loaded with Pomera, tablet, smartphone, and my writing utensils on my person.”
Oh yeah, you totally get people like that, by just having equipment on them, they get motivated.
Totsuka admirably looked at Zaimokuza who was acting needlessly conceited. “Oh, so that means Zaimokuza-kun’s always working hard, huh?”
“Who knows if he actually is.”
Zaimokuza could say he was, but he definitely wasn’t. He’s basically someone who’d act like an author and argue over literary pieces, but never actually write a manuscript himself. I had to warn Totsuka that he wasn’t a target of admiration. While we’re at it, it might be better to stab him with a kitchen knife, too.
Perceiving my disrespectful attitude, Zaimokuza turned upset. “Hapon. Pompous fool. I don’t need the likes of you to say that. Have a look at yourself Hachiman, I wager you are not doing anything yourself.”
“Mm, you got that right. The only thing I’m doing is taking summer courses. I’m also doing a research project, too.”
“Huh? Did we have an assignment like that?” said Totsuka with a flustered tone. Judging by his reaction, he must’ve been taking it easy after finishing all his assignments.
“No, it’s for my little sister.”
“For Komachi-chan? Oh, okay. You’re such a nice older brother, Hachiman.”
“Not really. Actual nice older brothers would leave their little sisters to fend for themselves.”
“So, what are you researching?”
“I’m just collecting stuff from the internet and compiling them together.”
“Huh? Is that all she needs?”
“Fumu. Since it is merely a research project, that should suffice for her needs. As a matter of fact, pouring all your tears and effort into it would only cause your surroundings to incriminate you.”
“Right, right. Komachi’s a girl, too. Supposedly you’re better off if you don’t take seriously.”
Komachi’s one and only request was that “it didn’t stand out from everyone else”. Hey, hey, what kind of cruel order were you giving me when I stood out more than Dhalsim who was floating? I could even float more than him to the point I’d be called a “Space Brother”…
But now that I think about it, when I got really into my own research project, I recall a bunch of snickering from my surroundings. I really wish they’d stop doing that near the lockers at the back of class.
“But doing stuff like that is pretty hard. I can’t think of things off the top of my head so easily,” said Totsuka, feeling a little nostalgic.
When you’re told that anything’s fine, it’s a tall order to actually think of something on the spot. Who do you think we are, Inventor Boy Kanipan?
“I suppose those are the times where they put your IQ to the test. They are not simply asking about your scholastic ability, but your ability to invent.”
“That sounds like something you’d be good at, Zaimokuza-kun. I mean, you’re aiming to be a writer, after all.”
“He doesn’t seem like he has a high IQ, though.”
“Homun, indeed, if anything, I am the type to have a higher EQ. I am rich in sensitivities.”
EQ, or as they called it, was your emotional intelligence quotient.
This was my personal opinion, but whenever someone brought up EQ in a conversation about IQ, without exception, they had a low IQ. If the person brought up ET, then he’s Spielberg. By the way, if it’s ED, then that person was Pele.
“Oh yeah, there were people with Mini 4WD’s, too. They were saying they were going to build them.”
The moment I mentioned that, Zaimokuza’s body jumped. For some reason, he was beginning to sweat. What the, is he some kind of Japanese toad?
“Eh. Ehh!? Um, H-H-H-Hachiman, did we go to the same elementary school?”
“Am I really hearing that from you…? Actually, don’t start acting normal from something that trivial.”
Though if I had to choose, I’d prefer he go back to his nest.
“I used to play with Mini 4WDs, too.”
“Ehh? Why’s that? I’m a boy too, you know.” Totsuka chuckled.
I tried to imagine what Totsuka had looked like when he was younger, but for some reason, only an image of him wearing a hat with a T-shirt and spats came to mind. I’m sure he was cute in the past. Whoa, let’s correct that. He’s also cute now. If he was cute in the past and cute now, we should enter him in the Tales of Times Now Past and teach that in the school curriculum.
“Hamon. But none can match my Broken G. After all, I had equipped him with an authentic iron hammer. Any opponent who faces it head on will be destroyed without fail.”
“That sounds like a completely idiotic thing to do… Tch, I-I guess I’m not one to talk since I attached a cutter on my Beak Spider…”
I also attached a marking pin from a sewing set on my Ray Stinger.
“That’s dangerous you two.” Totsuka rebuked us and Zaimokuza and I exchanged looks.
“It’s okay, I only fiddle and play with it by myself.”
“Indeed. Loners hurt no one, only themselves.”
“No hurting yourself either.”
With him staring at us so intently, we earnestly reflected on our actions.
“I-Indeed… B-But I can do maintenance as well! Against others, it can go as fast as the wind!”
I snorted at his declaration. “…Hah. You really think you can win against me? Against my Beak Spider? Outfitted with one-way wheels that are small in diameter, reston sponge tires, torque tuned super rapid gears, an opened body that combines air cooling and lightness, and for the times its cornered, its equipped with a stabilizer ball so it can react with high speed as well as a convertible aluminum down-thrust roller! Its speed goes beyond theory!”
I never actually tried it though. I mean, they wouldn’t let me buy a track… I tried making a track out of cardboard instead, but the car would get stuck on the packing tape and wouldn’t run right.
Zaimokuza made an unrivaled smile after listening to me. “Ku, ku, ku, an aluminum convertible is the height of ignorance… That extra mass will be fatal.”
“Talk more. My Beak Spider shows its strength by having a stable lower center of gravity.”
“Hoh… Shall we duel to see who comes out on top?”
Zaimokuza and I sent each other aggressive glares. I was on the verge of going, “Go get him! Magnuuuuum!” while thrusting out my fish. Wait, that’s the Galactia Magnum, wasn’t it?
We both glared at each other in silence, but an unthinkable voice destroyed the silence.
“Oh, that sounds fun! It’s been a while for me, but I want to try too. My Avante was pretty fast, you know?”
What’s with the difference in our generations!? His choice was really tasteful on top of that! He didn’t belong to the Boomerang or the Emperor factions!
…But I suppose having different generations was possible.
It’s been quite a few years since I had played with my mini 4WDs when I was younger, but I still had that fiery passion in me today. I even swung my umbrella like a sword whenever the rain stopped, the world of fiction having been saved numerous times.
And that’s why, even when I became an adult, I’d remember it all.
Even if our generations were different, deep down, there were things that wouldn’t change.
And so, my time as a boy would never end.
- Final Fantasy V – Neo-Exdeath’s quote. ↩
- Pretty Cure – Cure Sunny’s phrase ↩
- Pretty Cure – Cure March’s phrase ↩
- Pretty Cure – Cure Peace’s phrase ↩
- Pretty Cure – Cure Beauty’s phrase ↩
- Pretty Cure – Cure Happy’s phrase; ultra happy is the actual person’s pet phrase. ↩
- K-On! song ↩
- Slam Dunk – When Sakamich gets taught how to shoot by the Akagi. ↩
- Jinrui – Line by the fairies ↩
- Japanese copy pasta that has to deal with otaku speak that stemmed from The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi. ↩
- Harry Potter ↩