Anna Lindwasser is a writer and educator living in Brooklyn, New York. She is a lifelong anime fan who has written over 1000 articles about anime for outlets like Ranker and Comicon. Besides her freelance anime work, she also writes short fiction which has been published in literary magazines such as Bridge Eight, Flash Fiction Magazine, Selcouth Station, and more. Her work tends to blend surrealism and magic with specific, grounded details about everyday life. You can find out more about what she's up to at her website, annalindwasser.com, and on Twitter @annalindwasser.
What anime/manga/light novel inspired your short story?
It wasn't a specific series so much as the general aesthetics of slice-of-life school club anime. I guess it has a similar vibe to Ouran High School Host Club because both involve a club featuring one female character among many male ones, plus characters having to deal with things like class differences. I was also influenced by Death Parade. It uses a fantastical premise to come to the ultimate conclusion that we simply can't judge or understand humanity through simple means. Boy's Gardening Club is a lot more light-hearted, though.
What was your process like for writing this story? Did you have a specific idea for the ending or a theme you wanted to write around?
I'm easily distracted and often have to force myself to sit down and write. Since I write a lot for work too, this was challenging. But I set aside a few hours a couple of times a week to make it happen, often by leaving the house .
At first, I wanted to do what the slice of life and sports anime I like the most do, which is combining the energy of a club, competition or shared project with the specific difficulties of everyday life. So in between learning about magic, the characters are also dealing with things like homophobia, illness, class issues, and other problems. Also like most of these anime, I didn't dive too deeply into these subjects, but left it to the reader to extrapolate on.
But as the story continued, it eventually delved into philosophical questions about the value of human existence. What, if anything, does it mean to be human? Is it possible to ever fully understand it? Is it worth it despite the inevitable confusion and pain? I didn't want to answer that question, but I wanted to address it.
What was your favorite part about writing this story? Was there anything challenging about it?
It was such a fun story to write. My favorite part was probably the fact that it was a collaborative effort. I wrote the story by myself, but my sister and I came up with the concept and the characters together. Telling her about how I was bringing our characters to life and showing her the finish product was a lot of fun - and seeing her illustrate them afterward was equally awesome.
The most challenging thing was juggling so many characters and making them distinct from one another. I had a really clear idea of who some of the characters were from the beginning, but others eluded me. Giving each of them POV chapters helped me get into each of their heads, which helped me figure out how to write them in new scenes. For example, when I started I knew basically nothing about Yoshitaka besides his obsession with luxury items, but when I wrote his POV chapters I was able to go a little deeper into who he was.
Do you have a favorite sentence or quote or paragraph from the story?
“It’s nothing scary,” said Yukito. “I’d like you not to tell anybody about what you encounter in the garden. The plants here are strange, delicate creatures. Cultivating them properly requires discretion. So, if you can promise that much, you’re free to stay. Otherwise, I must ask you to leave, and to please forget about this place.”
Machi raised her hand.
“Yes?” said Yukito.
“Why didn’t you tell us this when we were standing at the shed? It would have saved everyone a lot of time, and nobody would know anything that you wanted to keep secret.”
Yukito blinked. There was a long silence. Then, a sigh.
“That would have made so much more sense,” he groaned, dragging a hand down his face. “I’m sorry, I’m new to all of this.” He waved his hand around, indicating something Machi could not parse. “Could you just swear the oath? Please? It will make things much easier.”
This is one of my favorite parts. Yukito seems to be this mysterious, in-control person at the start of the story, but really, he's figuring it out as he goes along. I felt like this line revealed his true self while also being a little bit silly.
Can you tell us about one character in the story? Any insights into who they are as a character that we didn’t get to see in the story?
My favorite character is Kai, so I'm going to talk about Kai. Kai spends most of the story in a bad mood because he's working in a garden despite having pretty severe plant allergies. It's pretty common for anime and other media to throw out one-off lines about characters being allergic to something for a joke or a plot point, and then never mention it again. As someone who has allergies, I certainly wish it worked like that! Since it's actually a chronic health issue, I wrote it that way for Kai.
The story also alluded to Kai working at a convenience store before school, as well as not being able to afford boba from the expensive place Yoshitaka picked out. That's because he has a single mother with a low income. He's a responsible and diligent kid who wants to take the burden off of his mom as much as possible - but he has a hard time handling stress. He's also gay, which means risking discrimination and bullying. That's part of why he's so loyal to Jack, even if he finds him a little irritating. Jack spent time living in America and is half-white, half-Japanese, so he's dealing with discrimination too.
If the story continues, I have two storylines planned for Kai. The first is a story about Kai's mother losing her job, pushing his financial issues to a crisis point and forcing Yoshitaka to confront his economic privilege. Yoshitaka might have trouble relating to Kai's money issues, but having lost his own mother he can relate to Kai's desire to help his mom. This storyline would deepen their friendship.
The other story is about Kai's romantic life. He's going to fall in love with a worm who transformed into a human in order to play the piano. Kai plays the piano too, but only gets to do it at school because he doesn't have one at home. He makes it his mission to help his musical creature, and they fall in love through their passion for music.
Can you briefly share about your other works? Where can people find you if they want to read more?
Sure! I've written over 1,000 anime articles for Ranker, covering everything from shonen battles to shipping trends. I also write a column for Comicon called One Piece Diaries that tracks my experience with watching the series for the first time. All my other anime writing is on Medium.
I don't just write about anime though - I also write short fiction. Some of it is experimental, some of it is literary, some of it is romance, sci-fi or fantasy - it just depends on what I'm feeling at the moment. You can find my work here. You can also find out what I'm up to in general on Twitter @annalindwasser.
Bubble tea features strongly in this story. Do you have a favorite tea shop you frequent?
I actually wrote the bulk of this story from a bubble tea shop, so I should shout them out. The Alley in Manhattan. They're famous for their Deerioca drinks, which are flavored milk with boba - I highly recommend the ube creme brulee drink. Other than that, probably Boba Guys. Their strawberry matcha boba is the stuff of dreams.
If you had one day to convince someone to become human, what would you show them, and what would you warn them about concerning the choice?
This is such a tough question! My characters really struggled with it. They're teenagers who are still learning what life as a human being is like. I'm in my 30s and I feel like I still don't have a handle on it. It has joyful moments, but it can also be quite stressful or even miserable. It's so complex that it can't possibly be summed up in just one day - and more importantly, there's no way to know what someone else will experience. Who am I to say that being human is the best life? Maybe being a plant is better.
So, I don't think I'd try to convince them to do it. I'd try to give them inspiring experiences like maybe overlooking a mountain or an ocean, or eating something delicious. And I'd try to explain a little bit about the challenges they'd be most likely to face right away. I'd be honest and answer any questions they had. Then I'd let them make their choice.