Hey friends, it’s been far too long since I updated. I’m still alive and I’m happy to say I’m back in South Korea ^_^ Actually, I’vee been here for two months now. You can expect some Seoul-centric posting to drop in the coming weeks (and I’m also planning and plotting to finally make some vlogs). But in the meantime, I wanted to share the last cosplay photo set I put together in US, featuring a male and female version of Rei Ryugazaki from Free Iwatobi Swim Club.
There are countless reasons people choose a certain character to cosplay–maybe it’s their favorite from a series, the one the identify with most, or the one they almost perfectly resemble. I usually choose characters that I in some way (or in the case of Nana Osaki, entirely) relate to. This recent cosplay, however, was a character I couldn’t have less in common with. Painfully logical and more studious than I could ever be, Rei is basically the anti-Riss. That said, he’s a character that became incredibly dear to me. Silly as it sounds, spending a chunk of my summer watching this character’s development in an anime about competitive swimming helped me through a rough time.
My summer started on a high note–a grand home coming followed by a trip to Disney–but there was a sort of downhill domino effect after a devastating breakup followed by all of my concrete life plans quickly flying out the window. Without an apartment, I ended up stationed in my family’s home in the Pennsylvania country, far from the life I’d known for the last 10 years. With no steady job and no car or form of transportation in a town where there’s virtually nothing within less than a 20 minute drive, I was stuck with a permanent deer-in-headlights expression from how helpless I felt.
Moments after my relationship ended and every morning after, I found myself on my living room couch queuing up Free! Iwatobi Swim Club. It’s a show I’d been meaning to see for over a year but could never find the time. You see, I’m no passive anime viewer–when I commit to a series it involves a lot of tears and feels–something I don’t have time for when there’s work in the morning. But at that time, I had nowhere to go, nothing to do, and a seemingly endless amount of feels.
At its surface, the show is an enormously melodramatic drama/comedy about high school competitive swimming. Mind you, I don’t give two shits about any sport (except for maybe basketball and MMA…), never mind swimming. But beyond the surface is a show about a group of incredibly fragile boys who cling to swimming as a means of coping with adolescence.
In the show, Rei was originally a skilled track athlete. To him, track made sense, and even though he could never really reach his true potential in the sport, he liked that he had a firm handle on it. When the other characters badgered him to join the swim club, it made no sense to him. Why would he step away from something he knew so well in order to pursue something he knew nothing about? But in time, after witnessing the beauty of swimming, he abandoned track for the butterfly stroke.
Out of the five lead characters, 4 of them are incredibly skilled swimmers, while at the beginning Rei can barely even float. Even at the show’s end, Rei is a mediocre swimmer at best. And while the other characters pursue swimming with concrete purposes that influence their future–to swim professionally, to become a swimming instructor, etc–Rei, originally the most logical character in the series, simply devotes his time to swimming because it’s beautiful. He has no future plans linked to the sport–he just focused on the now, and the fact that swimming brought him joy.
The reason I loved Rei’s character was because it was something for me to aspire to. I was being miserably stubborn about letting go of my relationship, because it wass what I knew so well. Also, I was desperately trying to hold on to the future plan I had carefully carved out because I’ve been constantly lead to believe that any decision I make needs to be linked to a clearly defined future life path. But what I really needed to do, was let go and turn to something that brought me simple joy. I needed to realize that it’s okay to devote time and effort to something just because it’s fun, or it’s beautiful, or it brings you joy.
So with my Rei Ryugazaki-inspired revelations in the back of my mind, I slowly made peace with my situation. I took time out of my daily job searching (gasp!) to make time to cosplay, my true joy. And then I moved back to Korea to teach kids again. The Korea move angered a lot of people in my life because it didn’t seem to make sense, seeing as teaching children is not something I plan to continue pursuing in my life in the long term. So why did I go? Just because Korea makes me happy. Also, once I got here I plastered my walls with sports anime posters, to remind myself that there are simpler things to get psyched about in life, beyond the heavy things like jobs, relationships, and life plans.And frankly, I’m not exactly sure what my next step is beyond this year, but I’m just going to hope that life mirrors art and anime, and everything will be okay and my life will conclude with an awesome ending sequence.