After having worked on this project for over a year and having received more words of encouragement than I can even count, I’ve decided it’s time to share the story of why Endless Night means so much to me and why this ongoing hiatus is tearing me apart.
Endless Night is by no means some big name but considering how recent it is in the world of webcomics (slash multimedia projects), I was – and still am – stunned by how well it’s been doing. It’s been featured on Tapastic, LINE Webtoons, MediBang and SmackJeeves and is generally very well received and praised for its characters, humor and overall atmosphere drawing people in.
There’s just one thing in particular that stood out early on and was without a doubt an important factor in the comic’s early success – the constant output of new full color pages, starting out with daily updates and sometimes even two pages a day for special occasions. I was often asked how I did it and it’s a valid question; even disregarding the average art quality, the number of updates was insane given it was a single person working on it while being a full-time student.
2015, December 25: colored six pages. December 26: lined nine pages. December 27: colored ten pages. December 28: sketched seven pages. December 29: sketched eleven pages.
My response was usually that Endless Night is my life. It’s the most accurate answer. The story is, ultimately, about the meaning of life and the irony of it all is that for me, that meaning is this quirky little project. But we’ll get to that.
Okay, let’s say I’m passionate about this project. Let’s say the story is insanely long and I want to get it out there so I’m sacrificing quality for quantity. Let’s say I’d rather work on it than dedicate more time to assignments and whatnot. That all sounds fairly plausible, probably.
But I hated it.
It was painful.
It messed me up.
I spent hours upon hours hunched over my tablet every day, messing up my spine and shoulders to the point where they have been hurting every single day for well over a year now. Sometimes the pain gets so bad I can’t sleep, can’t breathe properly, can’t get up because I feel too dizzy. Why did I apparently hate myself enough to ignore all the red flags of my body and mind taking damage?
Let’s back up a little bit.
I like joking about how I have a tragic anime tier backstory but it would be more accurate to say that I was a textbook “doomed to become a sociopath” child. I’m a child of divorce; when I was 8 years old, I went to live with my mother who suffered from cancer and my older sister went to live with my father. Back then I was too young to understand how serious the situation really was. After the initial shock, I didn’t think much of my mother’s illness (that’s what hospitals are for, right?) and I didn’t think much of how sickly I was becoming either.
There was no room for things such as love or compassion in my family. They were constantly caught up in wars over their image and pushing their sadistic urges onto others to deal with their own frustration in life. Things such as being subjected to verbal sexual abuse and being forcefully dragged out of bed and taken away by relatives (only to be abused again out of my parents’ sight) are quite honestly among the tamest memories I have of my childhood. When things got bad, my parents would try to keep me entertained by buying me things. Some game that just came out, the limited version of a new console, my own TV in elementary school, I could have it all.
I could have it all until, after five years, my mother lost the battle to the third type of cancer she had been cursed. When my father told me that “mom isn’t coming home anymore,” images of the last few years flashed up in my mind. Images of her coughing up blood while driving me to school, images of her struggling to breathe, images of an ambulance passing by me as I’m waiting for her to come pick me up after class.
But the images that hurt the most were the ones showing how much she cared. The vague memories I have in my mind of her introducing me to my first videogame, her borrowing manga I bought, her listening to game soundtracks with me, her saving me from drowning, her watching my favorite cartoon with me and sharing her comic collection with me, her getting a cheap tablet for me because she thought it was insanely cool that her second daughter draws for a hobby… One of my fondest memories is her getting angry at me for trying to throw out some of my old drawings from kindergarten. She wanted to keep them. She loved my art from the day I first picked up a pencil.
By the time I realized how important all those things were, it was already too late. For the first time in my life, there was something I couldn’t have. I wanted her to be alive. It sounds like a cliché but the truth is indeed that the most precious things can’t be acquired with money.
I spent one last night in the apartment I used to live in with my mother and with nowhere else to go, I was forced to live with my father and older sister with whom any kind of interaction was essentially impossible. My grades went to shit, my father’s business (and thus, money) went to shit, my health went to even more shit and the list goes on. It was a massive change for me but if there was one thing to take away from all that, it was that I would refuse to give up just like my mother did. I would fight until the very end if that’s what it took.
Following those events, on the outside nothing much seemed to have changed. I never had trouble making friends, in fact, I got better at it. There has always been something about me that seemed to draw people in but I couldn’t be bothered giving a crap because I didn’t see the value in getting close to people. I learned to say the things they want to hear, the things that will get me through everything with the least amount of effort possible, the things that will allow me to fuck up big time out of sheer laziness or greed and then get away with zero consequences. I would have killed for even the tiniest sense of guilt. I just wanted to feel something. Anything.
It took fiction to make me feel any sort of emotion at all – a game, an anime, a comic, a song, these were the only things that got through to me. Stories in which it felt like nothing was pointless, like feelings were real, like great things were achieved. I spent more time writing stories than experiencing new things and spent more time creating characters than being with real life friends. In fact, the friends that stayed with me the longest were other artists who had similar passions. They were the only people in the world I actually understood to some degree.
It comes as no surprise to me that out of all my concepts, the story that stuck with me the most was the one about the meaning of life and fighting destiny. The simplistic premise of passing trials and saving the world seemed a lot less generic to the younger me but by the time I started making something out of it, I had developed the characters too much to feel the need to make significant changes. I liked the idea – thinking of the obstacles in my life as trials to pass that help me realize important things until I finally arrive at the finishing line, the reason I want to live at all.
The images in my mind got clearer. I wanted to combine all the things that made me feel the most – particularly music and being really invested in a story and the characters’ struggles via gameplay. I knew I wanted to create something that I would describe as a “rhythm action RPG” and I didn’t want to waste the characters that I love so much on anything else. I wanted this to be a masterpiece that would get continuous updates (because I always hated it when a story that really touched me was over for good). I figured I would try to create other things first and eventually team up with other creators to turn my dream into a reality.
Naturally, those projects lacked any sort of passion and although I had some minor success here and there, it never really got anywhere. I got older but never quite caught up with “growing up” and screwed up my first major when I was hospitalized for two months. I moved away from home (I preferred the financial struggle over slowly going insane having to live in that area) and screwed up some more, always focusing more on creative projects that I wasn’t feeling 100% instead of taking care of responsibilities. Why would I? It was too easy for me to talk my way out of any trouble.
More time passed and I ended up in a situation where I would move in together with my older sister because we both needed a new apartment around the same time and figured it would be cheaper that way. We still did not have a good relationship but I was fine with the idea of living with her out of necessity for a while.
But when you wake up to find a dead body in your living room one week after moving into a new place, something inside of you changes.
With no prior warning, my sister had died from a brain aneurysm one night. I was already in financial trouble, I had just started re-taking high school classes for a better degree that will allow me to enter university and I was at a complete loss of what to do. Before I knew it, I was stuck living with my father again for almost an entire year. It tore me apart. I fell back into old patterns, looked for happiness in materialistic things, didn’t want to do jack shit because I was convinced I would just die like my sister did any day from then on and didn’t want to see the truth that was right in front of me.
The simple truth.
It is true that I’ve been struggling with health issues from a young age. It is true that a few years ago, those struggles were joined by financial issues that still aren’t resolved. It is true that life has not been working in my favor to let me work towards what I really want to do.
But none of that was the issue.
The issue was that I was wasting my life away.
So on the first anniversary of my sister’s death, I started drawing a comic.
I stopped making excuses. I stopped telling myself I couldn’t possibly use a different medium, I stopped telling myself I wasn’t good enough at drawing, I stopped telling myself I needed to learn to compose songs because only I could get the ideas in my head out there, I stopped telling myself to wait until my name is known enough to make a kickstarter or something similar.
I started telling myself to live my god damn life and work towards my goal, every day, so even if I were to die in the middle of working on something, I would at least die without regrets.
I erased as much of my online identity as I could for a fresh start, only stayed in contact with a few old friends and started telling the story I’ve been wanting to tell for so long. And after only a short while, it started getting through to people. I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my life. Making people feel things, seeing people enjoy the characters that have been keeping me alive for so many years – it was truly amazing. It still is absolutely incredible. I cannot describe what it feels like. It’s bliss. Absolute bliss.
Unfortunately it also meant I couldn’t get enough of that feeling. I had to get more of the story out there, I needed to see more of people’s reactions, I wanted to tell as much of the story in as little time as possible. Because I am plagued by anxiety so bad I truthfully feel like I’m about to die at least once a day. I’ve felt the constant need to catch up on the years I “wasted,” and worked so much as if there was a way to outsmart the flow of time. It was quite simply an addiction. I was making progress so fast I thought that if I kept at it, I would be able to do this for a living in record speed.
Cue the summer hiatus of 2016. It was after my finals (yay, I get to start university later this month!) and I was diagnosed with positional vertigo. Now, if you’re familiar with the condition or look it up, you’ll know that it’s among the most aggravating things that could possibly happen to you because it’s chronic, happens randomly and kind of makes you want to die but I’ll still take it over something that can kill me. I have a few issues like that, such as chronic migraines, and while they’re all a major pain in the ass to deal with, to say the least, they come and go and I know how to deal with them. Ever since I started drawing comics I’ve seen more doctors than ever before in my life because more and more health issues are piling up…that no one seems to be able to explain. There’s nothing quite like having multiple doctors tell you they have no idea what to do for you.
I’m sure there are things beyond my control but I’d be lying to myself and all of you if I said I didn’t know full well that my sudden workaholic lifestyle ruined me. I’m moving to a new place for university and bugging even more doctors and living a healthier lifestyle and find a balance of working on this project, taking care of real life responsibilities and watching my health. I owe this break to you. If I had to quit completely because of my own foolish behavior, I would never forgive myself.
“Paradoxic” is probably an accurate way to describe dedicating your life to creating a fictional story about finding something to dedicate your life to. In my case, the story (or stories) of Aurora, Viktor, Hitoe and Marian – stories of an unbreakable will to live, the impact death has on your life, the darkest parts of you that make you who you are and trying to find who you want to be.
I love Endless Night.
I can see the obvious flaws, I can see the parts where I should be using more effort, I can see how it’s not for everyone, but I love it from the bottom of my heart. And it’s incredible to me that I get to say this with confidence: there are people other than me who love it as well. There are people following everything related to it, there are people who will actually be reading this, there are people who are helping me shape it into something even better each and every day.
If this overly ambitious project of mine is giving you anything, I would be more than happy – honored – to share it with you. I’m done acting like I have to do everything alone. I’m done working until I pass out when it clearly only ends up hurting everyone involved. I want to create something beyond just my own dreams and visions; I want to create something for everyone to enjoy. EN has been more fun than ever before to me ever since I started the Discord server and actually talked to people who enjoy my work. It’s been a blast brainstorming ideas, turning jokes into something real, casting voice actors, and so on. I’m finally feeling that bliss again. It’s my responsibility to give my own characters life but it’s because of all of you that it’s actually happening.
If you have something you love, if your happiness is in sight in your mind but out of reach in real life, I have but one thing to ask of you: stop making excuses. Don’t wait for the right time. The right time is now. Don’t watch your own life slip away because of fears or insecurities.
If you’re still stuck trying to find what makes your life worth living, leave nothing undone. Search every corner for new experiences and know that being nervous about things just means they really mean something to you. Let the world inspire you. Find the thing that makes you the happiest and give it back in the best way you can.
After having found happiness in my own creation, I am also finally finding happiness in interacting with other people. Seeing the passion some of you have for something I created is – I can’t stress it enough – an incredible honor. You owe me nothing and yet you’re giving me so much.
There is only one thing to say.
To Leo, thank you for loving me despite my awful anxiety and the exorbitant amount of time I dedicate to my imaginary friends. I’m ridiculously happy you stumbled into my life because of a weird comic I draw and can’t wait to see what we’re gonna come up with when we combine our passion for telling and designing stories. I love you.
To Crash, thank you for your neverending support, whether it’s by listening to my venting or writing stories about my characters to explore their personalities or any of the other countless things you do. It’ll be wonderful finally seeing you again this week.
To Pooki, thank you for being my friend and a fan of my work for so long. I relate to you and the struggles in your life on a deep level and I hope you know I adore your characters as much as you adore mine. I’m really excited about working together with you.
To Kujira, thank you for bringing Hitoe to life with your wonderful voice. Your determination is truly inspiring and makes me want to work harder too so you’ll have more and more opportunities with this role. To Bindy, Kanono and Amree, I haven’t had the chance to talk to you as much yet but I adore you guys and your work all the same. I have no proper words to tell the four of you how happy I am just from listening to the auditions over and over again; I’m crazy excited to finish my scripts for the first batch of recordings.
To Noyemi, thank you for your insanely generous contributions to EN by composing one kickass tune after another even after the original project they were meant for was dropped. You have mad skills and I hope to be able to make your work more known from now on as well.
To Cat, thank you for being among the first regulars of the Discord server and a friend on top of that. You’re tons of fun to talk to, always there to listen despite not having known me for all that long and you have a truckload of potential – use it.
To Nihi, thank you for being a sweet cinnamon roll making my day every time I get to talk to you. The amount of times you’ve made me laugh and smile like an idiot because of your kind words and adorable drawings is incredible. I miss you heaps and hope you’re doing okay.
To Sombrely, thank you for your friendship and admiration. I’ve always thought you were more skilled than me and yet you have always shown so much support and dedication to the silly things I drew and wrote. I’m glad EN is bringing us together again after a long time of silence.
To Yukari (I’ll keep the mystery alive), thank you for your support, patience, fun conversations and becoming the greatest meme on the Discord server. Generations from now, you will still be remembered forever as the World’s Greatest Mother. (Seriously though, you are awesome, I admire you and wish you nothing but the best of luck for your projects as well.)
To zetina, Phen, 66, Mort, yaboku, Nue and all my other wonderful webcomic friends and inspirations, thank you for working so hard, being a massive motivation, supporting me despite your own busy schedules and making me feel like I fit in a world where I thought I didn’t belong. I’m sorry I’ve become a silent reader recently. I love your works to death.
To Fio, Roy and Shara, thank you for such long-lasting friendships and never having left my side despite some of the bullshit I’ve pulled in the past. Although I feel like I was closer to all of you before turning into a terrible workaholic, I still feel deeply connected to and super comfortable around you and I have mad respect for you guys. I’m always happy to read your tweets and hope we can talk more in the future.
To Patrick, thank you for being one of the very few people I have managed to really connect to irl. You’re always there when I need help no questions asked and you always have tons of stories to make me laugh (mostly at you for being a dork, but that’s your charm). I’ll miss you when I move away and I’ll be sure to come see you as much as I can.
To Riri, thank you for the spontaneous interest in my original work after having met you through fandoms because it turned this into a friendship I wouldn’t wanna miss out on. I want to high-five you every day for your superior taste in terrible 2D boys and hope we’ll stay friends for a long time.
To Prae and Wave, thank you for taking interest and really getting into something I do completely unrelated to the game that made us meet. To Ezee and Yoki, thank you for supporting me for being your friend even if you’re not active readers. I value our friendship deeply and am glad we’re bonding over so many more things than our “origin game” nowadays. You guys rock. To all my other friends at OTK, knowing you care about me enough to be reading this completely unrelated thing is crazy. Thank you.
To Mich, Inari, Liminori, Kalinith, Ponamis, NIKA, and all the other Discord regulars, dedicated Twitter followers & Tapastic/LINE/MediBang readers, people who have drawn fanart, people who have sent random e-mails to make my day, people I will want to add two seconds after hitting “Submit” because I’m dead tired and my brain is melting, people passing by reading this, thank you for being part of the reason this project still exists at all. If it weren’t for all these pieces of feedback and encouragement adding up to something incredible, I might have already given up. I owe you.
To my dear departed mother, thank you for taking care of me until the very last day. I promise to never give up. I promise to be who I am and not who other people might want me to be. I’m sorry I did not realize what was really happening. I’m sorry I never got the chance to say this when you were still alive: I love you.
March 1st is the day I turn 24. I want people to celebrate the fact they’re alive every day of the year but just this once, the opportunity felt appropriate.
Once more, to all of you,