From a Muted World to a Vibrant Visual Subculture

Well, here’s another post that I’m rather nervous about, since it will be my first true personal post opening up to the Internet. What I’m going to talk about is something personal and vastly different that you guys most likely have not seen or even encountered around the anime-blogging community or the Internet: deafness. If you’ve visited my “About Me” page, then you’ll have learned by now that I have severe-to-profound loss of hearing (Think of a train whistle or an airplane engine. That’s the quietest possible sound that I can hear very softly without my hearing aids.) and that I attend Gallaudet University, the world’s first and only university for the deaf. But that’s irrelevant now; I want to talk to you of how my disability helped me to discover anime.

The quote above says it all about my history with deafness. Way before my true anime fandom began in around 2005, I barely watched much television shows. I couldn’t even relate to what was happening on TV with my new friends in my elementary school, having just been transferred from my previous school. My previous school had a class entirely for deaf students; there were only 6-7 of us out of 200 students in that school. In my new elementary school, I was the only one deaf student out of 500 students. Then, going into middle school, I was still the only deaf student in the school, this time out of 700 students. At that time, more and more people were starting to get into reality TV shows and pop or rap music. To try to connect with my friends, I decided to get onto the bandwagon. The result: I got extremely bored with the reality TV shows quickly enough, and I just couldn’t relate to the lyrics of the most popular songs, which merely sounded like thudding or muffled noise to me with my outdated hearing aids. So, disillusioned by the lack of connection to my friends and their lack of awareness for deafness, I took to the books. I read many kinds of books, non-fiction, fantasy, sci-fi, romance, adventure, etc.

Ranma 1/2

Then my cousin introduced me to the manga, Ranma 1/2, when I was visiting family in Taiwan. I got real hooked into this manga, since the art and graphic style appealed to me visually (deaf people, by nature, are much more receptive visually). I started searching for and reading more manga, but soon ran to a dead-end and there, I discovered anime. The local library and bookstores didn’t have much manga, but while searching through the library, I came across an anime VHS which was Ranma 1/2 subbed. I had been searching for the manga, but it was a surprise for me to see that it was animated. I rented it and watched it immediately. It got me thirsting for more of its kind. Going back to the library, I rented Tenchi Muyo!, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Cardcaptor Sakura, Macross Frontier, Gundam, and whatever subbed anime I could get my hands on (at least that’s what I barely remember). They were all subtitled old style (yellow simple text), so I voraciously viewed all these shows without fear of being unable to understand the dialogues.

Seto no Hanayome

Finally, in 2005, I experienced my true anime fandom. It was when I first saw an episode of Seto no Hanayome, subbed by Ayako, on Youtube while surfing the Internet. This mermaid comedy got me searching for more, and I then found more fansubs for a variety of anime series, one of which I watched next immediately, Nagasarete Airantou, also subbed by Ayako. The next show I viewed would spark a KyoAni fandom in me, Kanon (2006), subbed by the relatively famous fansubs, Static-Subs & Eclipse. From there on, it all started to gain momentum with more new subbed anime series appearing to me and many nights of marathoning many series, culminating into what you see before yourself today. Of course, along the way I picked up the latest hearing aids, which improved the quality of my hearing, thus allowing me to listen to music more clearly (songs have been hit or miss with me though) and actually start listening to the seiyuus of the anime series (I still don’t care if a series has bad voicing or music; I’ll still watch it provided that there’s subtitles). After getting into the pace of watching still only subbed anime and reading manga, I finally decided to begin my own anime blog, Ephemeral Dreams, to be able to connect to all other anime bloggers and fans alike.

So, that’s my history in a nutshell. Feel free to ask me any questions about my deafness. I don’t mind it at all and it would help to raise awareness for deaf people. You can also always ask me questions any time on my FormSpring account as well anonymously if you’re sensitive about this particular topic.

And as a parting thanks and gift for taking the time to read my entry, here’s another favorite quote of mine pertaining to this post somewhat and I hope you’ll take this to heart as I did:

Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.

- Mark Twain

This post is part of Nopy’s “My History with Anime” project, so check out this link for more ani-bloggers’ histories!

21 thoughts on “From a Muted World to a Vibrant Visual Subculture

  1. abscissa

    Thanks for the fun post, I truly enjoyed reading how you unleash your anime fandom. As for me, back when in high school I was a teenybopper, I know anime but didn’t really have an appetite for it. It was only when I was already in university that I start appreciating anime, and what led me into watching it was due to an accident. Because of that, I was always at home undergoing leg and shoulder rehab. One day I intruded my brother’s files; there I saw Clannad and Evangelion. I got really hooked up on those because they’re not like the usual e.g, Pokemon and Digimon—after that experience the rest is history. ^^

    Btw, I admire how open you are with your disability and how it doesn’t stop you from enjoying what you like. ^^

    Reply
    1. Ephemeral Dreamer Post author

      That was a nice accident you got, eh? My younger brother actually had the same thing happen to him recently going through my files, and he’s watching more anime series at my recommendation. Successful conversion! ^_^

      My deafness had hindered me several times plenty of time, and I actually almost deleted this post since I was nervous about how the ani-blogging community would see me as. Deaf people have been discriminated for a long time (even to this day), so it’s quite understandable, but I took a big chance anyway. Turned out to be cathartic and it feels nice!

      Reply
  2. tomphile

    Glad to see that disability doesn’t prevent people from enjoying what they love. Like a lot of people say, when there’s a will, there’s a way. And in this particular case, it certainly looks like there are many avenues towards enjoying anime and manga.

    Reply
    1. Ephemeral Dreamer Post author

      Yep, I’m real glad that my disability led me to anime and manga. I accept my disability as part of who I am, and it’s gotten me stronger and more determined to work harder as well. ^_^

      Reply
  3. bonehimer

    Well, as an AMV editor not sure what to say. Just like with anime/manga or any other hobby, we want to broaden our audience and bring in as many people as possible into the hobby we enjoy. But never thought about those who may not be possible to enjoy them.

    However, there are some visually heavy AMVs so I gotta ask what type of emotions(if any) they bring.

    http://youtu.be/mfOWz_RJBz8
    or better yet, AMVs that follow some sorta narrative.

    Reply
    1. Ephemeral Dreamer Post author

      I really enjoyed the AMVs that you’ve shown. From a completely deaf perspective (I turned off my hearing aids first), I think that the second video would be a huge hit with its great use of visuals (I think I’ll start showing this one to more deaf people now). The first video was really nice but felt a bit lacking with some redundant use of bright colors. The last one could easily be a success amongst some of my peers, but I think it would’ve be nice and extremely helpful if the subs were actually karaoke-styled allowing the deaf people to follow along with the subs and the scenes together in a nice flowing movement. I realize that asking for karaoke-styled subs might be extremely tough, and you’d have to be strongly dedicated to be able to do it.

      However, when I turned on my hearing aids and rewatched them, they all became much better and I could find very few faults.

      See the difference in my reactions with hearing aids off and on? In my opinion, it would take a lot of extra work to reach out to the deaf audience, so if you are going to make an AMV for them, I would put more effort on visuals and less on the music. If these videos are your or your friends’ videos, I apologize in advance if I offended you or them with my critique, but I am being honest and offering suggestions for a different kind of audience (I am not representing the entire deaf community, since there are many variations of loss of hearing, from mild to profound). Thanks for the consideration!

      Reply
      1. bonehimer

        Thanks for the input, quite a number of things to keep in mind when working on another video.

        And no needs to worry about offending as I know none of this people, not even a big fan of the vids actually, they just came to mind as they are some of the most visual heavy I know of.

        Reply
  4. Overlord-G

    1st of all, it’s always awesome to read about how people became animeniacs. Your story was a very cool one and I’m glad to have checked out your blog. I really don’t have much else to say other than take care, spike your hair and keep on rockin’, WOO WOO WOO! you know it, bro.

    Reply
  5. tsurugiarashix

    Seems like hearing lost did not slow you down one bit. If anything, made you more fervently interested. I am trying to enjoy as many series as I can as well do some travel in the future, since there is a real possibility I could lose my eyesight (I can see just fine, but may happen when I get much older). Best enjoy things while you can.

    Thanks for sharing your story, Ephemeral.

    Reply
    1. Ephemeral Dreamer Post author

      I do hope that you will be able to keep your eyesight and still enjoy anime. But, I do remember hearing from a deaf friend about his recently turned-blind friend who’s a huge lover of theater plays. If I remember correctly, he was very sad that he couldn’t see the plays anymore and enjoy the elaborate costumes and stages, but he decided to just keep on listening to the dialogues and start reading the plays in Braille. Just goes to show that anything is certainly possible, but regardless I hope you’ll still be able to enjoy anime!

      Reply
      1. tsurugiarashix

        Thank you for the kind words. I am not worried about it, since it will happen in my later years and worrying about it now won’t do me any good. Although, seems like the person you mentioned didn’t let this condition get in the way of what he liked, so I shouldn’t either.

        I have much to be grateful, so it’s not like the end of the world if it does happen sooner or later than the expected time. Thanks again, it means a lot me ^^

        Reply
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  7. Nopy

    I can’t imagine what it would be like to be deaf, but I guess the fact that almost every anime series has subtitles really helps. The visual style of anime was also one of the things that really got me into the medium, it was so much more detailed than any western cartoons I watched.

    I’ve added you to the list of participants in the My History with Anime project. If you could put a link somewhere in your post linking to the list, I’m sure everyone would appreciate it.

    Reply
    1. Ephemeral Dreamer Post author

      The details of anime hooked me in, compared to the solid, bland western cartoons that I watched at that time. For me, anime resonated with me more visually, and I’m really happy to have found manga and anime.

      I’ve updated the post to include a link to the My History with Anime project, by the way. ^_^

      Reply
  8. Yumeka

    Thanks for sharing your personal, and very unique, history with anime ^_^ I always enjoy reading these kinds of posts that reveal more about the person behind the blog =) I remember when Nopy started this project but I didn’t write an entry since I had already written a full 7-post series on the topic before. I’ll leave a link here if you’re interested and haven’t already seen it on my blog: http://animeyume.com/blog/2009/11/20/autobiography-of-how-i-became-an-anime-fan-2009-edition-chapter-1/

    Also loved seeing a Mark Twain quote on your post. He’s my favorite author =)

    Reply
    1. Ephemeral Dreamer Post author

      Thanks for reading my post, and I will certainly read your autobiography. Very impressive that you wrote 7 entire posts!

      I found this quote quite by accident a long time ago, and I have kept it very close to me since then. ^_^

      Reply

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