Greetings, members of the White Lotus! How ya doin'?
This lengthy tale is one of magic, friendship, isolation, romance, and death.
Okay, maybe not death. But it's pretty long. So grab your cup of tea, get comfy, and let me tell you how this all came to be. The Story of Kanade...
First, a mini origin story of the name:
Back in 9th or 10th grade, I began my descent into the anime genre. My "starter deck", if you will, consisted of Yu-Gi-Oh and Pokémon back when Saturday morning cartoons were a lifeline and I didn't know what anime actually was. My true gateway show ended up being Dragonball Z Kai.
With that craving for action, I continued my search into what was available on-demand via Time Warner Cable.
Enter Angel Beats. This show was humorous, action-packed, drama-filled, and had a character whose name has stuck with me to this day: Kanade. No, she wasn't really my favorite character (it was probably TK or Otanashi at the time), but there was something about that name.
About a year later, the name popped up again in a Facebook post that explained the meaning of the name. That's when I fell in love with it. I kept in my metaphorical back pocket and didn't pay much thought to it after that.
Picture it: Sicily–I mean Atlanta, 2015. It had been more than stressful for numerous reasons along with having to move to a brand new school in a new city for my senior year of high school. As the feeling of loneliness started to set in, I did what any high schooler would do in my position: turn to social media.
I had recently found an app called "saiko+". To put it simply, it was anime Facebook. I enjoyed going through the app, looking at pictures, and getting likes on my own. There I was introduced to the world of online role-playing (RP). People would pose as their favorite characters and act out scenarios in groups or one on one. Sometimes they would even create their own characters, their own worlds, plotlines, everything. RP-ing was pure escapism that plenty indulged in. It wasn't long before I did as well. Sitting on the couch at my aunt's place, my mind wandered around from group to group. After a while, summer was over and I was back home and off to school. Enter the roughest August of my entire life. No friends, hella lonely, and dying for some form of sufficient escapism to get me through the school year. A private message on Saiko+ was my saving grace.
He went by Jon, which surprisingly was his actual name. Wasn't too much older than me and was rather friendly. He was in the same group I was in and wanted to start one of his own on kik, a messaging app I used with my old high school buddies. Being a novice writer and in need of a distraction from my tragic isolationism, I jumped at the offer. However, couldn't start without creating a character. It was a group full of anime fans, right? So I wanted to use a Japanese name. And the first one I thought of? You guessed it. Such humble beginnings.
Now here's where it gets interesting:
The group was absolutely terrible in its early stages. Had to be scrapped. In the midst of it, I did actually make a couple of friends in choir class, Kaitlyn and Mya (hurray, not lonely!). I invited Kaitlyn to the group first to help even the numbers (and kick out this creeper but that's beside the point). After that, Mya. With some tweaking, adding of character backstory, and many out character (OOC) conversations, we had what would be the first four of our main group:
Vincent (played by Jon)
Kanade (played by yours truly)
Mina (played by Kaitlyn)
Mao (played by Mya)
~Fun fact: Kanade and Mao are cousins. Mao was an animal shapeshifter~
Simple school girl Kanade from this basic slice of life RP developed into Kanade Yamazaki, a phoenix mage of my own design with a sassy disposition, graceful dance skills, and a fiery passion to protect her friends and the secrets held within the hidden lower level sanctum of the school. I poured a lot of myself into Kanade, including my passion for tea. In every quiet scene, you could find my girl drinking and serving tea to her friends.
(Kanade's original concept art created by @pillow_senpai on IG)
Within reality, I made another friend through theatre (yes, I did a show in high school. It was a try everything once kind of time). This friend, Xeleighta, brought in every filler character you could think of plus two mains (that I can remember), Gaish and Cyndar.
~Fun facts: Cyndar was Kanade's love interest. He was also a werewolf and allergic to cinnamon. Any time the word was said in chat, his character would sneeze~
With this influx of characters, I decided to add a new one of my own. On the wind, the scent of roses. Fallen petals, his calling card. Icarus D'Ambrosio enters the chat. This Italian playboy was also a mage, his powers a mix of roses and flames, and Kanade's best friend.
~Fun fact: the D'Ambrosio tea featured in the shop was inspired by an inside joke between Kanade and Icarus~
Xeleighta, with her cornucopia of characters, brought in another player to balance us out and lighten the load. Jaylynn whom we all called Jay from New York. Which worked perfectly with her being in the same time zone as the majority of us (Jon was in Arizona at the time). She brought forth her main Gumi, later renamed Shiloh in-game. Shiloh was a powerhouse fighter and became Icarus' love interest. Jay was also my go-to partner when it came to coming up with ideas outside of Jon. This ragtag group of teenagers was unstoppable and it the stories and memories we created within the RP we still reminisce on to this day.
But what does that have to do with this tea shop?
Well in the real world, as I was creating flavors of different teas Kanade would be drinking in the RP, I started wondering what these blends would taste like and how I would create them. Multiple times I brought this up to my mother, eventually coming to the realization that I wanted my own tea shop. I kept revisiting and bringing up this idea well into my college career. I told her about potential interior designs, themes (would have been a maid café at one point), and names. For a hot second, we bounced around the name "Anteiku" (shout out to the Tokyo Ghoul stans) but it just wouldn't stick for me. And when the group came together again for a revamp/revival of sorts, the older version of Kanade ended up opening her own tea shop. In-game, the shop didn't have an actual name. To this day there still isn't one. Not even in my head. But as this idea stayed with me for so long, so did the name and the character that gave it more life than I could have imagined.
Hope you enjoyed this story! If you have any questions or comments, leave them down below.
Sip Savory and Spill Responsibly! See you next time!