I don’t know if I’ve done a proper “about me”/”personal journey through anime” post yet. I guess that’s the thing to do this week, so I’ll take a shot at it now. I’ll probably be writing this in brief bursts while I have time at work today (in between rushes of customers), which will limit the amount of time I’d usually take to tackle such an ambitious post. So by necessity I’ll be keeping this as simple as possible.
My mom has told me that as a child, I used to watch Speed Racer on TV. I have no memory of this whatsoever and just assumed that my first exposure to that title was via the Alpha Team song in 1992. But I guess that series, along with your Voltrons and Transformers, were the first Japanese cartoons I ever watched. Not that I knew it or would have cared at the time.
I don’t remember where or when I first learned what “anime” was. I remember having a vague understanding of it when I first saw Akira on the shelf at Blockbuster, and when I was finally able to go rent it for myself when I was… 16? I can’t recall for sure. Around that same time I saw clips from Ghost in the Shell on TV, which I wasn’t able to view until the English-dubbed VHS edition appeared on the shelves at… you guessed it! It’s kind of embarrassing how much that evil chain shaped my early viewing habits, but not having any friends, older siblings, or any other “in” to the hobby, I had nowhere else to turn until the rise of the Internet gave us all a rallying point for our anime needs. The blurry, late-night transmissions from channel 66 of ultraviolent, Fist of the North Star/M.D. Geist-esque shows did little to nourish my appreciation or knowledge of the medium, and only served to traumatize my younger brother who’d stayed up with me to watch them. Needless to say, kids in the 90s didn’t have the choices that they take for granted today.
Heading out of high school, I knew what anime was and had sampled a few different feature-length films and OVAs, but hadn’t watched any episodic anime and knew next to nothing about the anime canon or “anime culture.” I was much more into film in general, studying the auteurs (Kubrick, Hitchcock, Scorsese, etc.) with hopes of one day following in their footsteps. Yeah, I wanted to be a director, which meant watching lots of serious films in hopes of one day going to film school. I put this goal off until after college, during which I slowly lost my motivation to do it at all. I lost motivation to do a lot of things during college, which sort of uninspired and sucked the life out of me. During this time, I started watching anime on TV. Kids anime, that is, especially Digimon, which I took special solace in as each semester in school grew more ennui-laden then the last. The simple and positive messages in each episode went down like comfort food, and though it was a guilty pleasure — one that I’m a little afraid to revisit for a lot of reasons — I looked forward to watching it each afternoon.
I got to know anime a little better throughout college, getting into Miyazaki and Ghibli films and renting whatever weird titles I could get my hands on (Slayers, Riding Bean, Zone of Enders, etc.). Soon I bought my first anime DVDs, Serial Experiments Lain, FLCL, and R.O.D.. In all three cases, I don’t recall having seen even of a minute of any before dropping the cash on them. Maybe I was just willing to take a gamble on something new? If I was picking titles blindly, I could have done a lot worse than those three. It was around this time that I first started to think of myself as a true “anime fan.”
After college I explored the hobby more deeply, attending my first convention (Anime Central in 2004), getting into AMVs, and exploring more series, whatever I could get my hands on or catch on television. I bought more DVDs (Noir, Haibane Renmei, Read or Die the TV) and made shows like Fullmetal Alchemist and Ghost In the Shell: Standalone Complex regular appointment TV when they aired on Adult Swim. This was all well and good, but something was missing.
Two things happened next that would change everything. First, I finally met my legendary girlfriend Mandy, who’s probably the only person I’ve ever known who actually likes this stuff as much as I do. So I not only met the most awesome girl in the world, but as a bonus I finally had someone who’d watch Cowboy Bebop with me. And secondly, I finally got around to watching an anime called Neon Genesis Evangelion, which hit me mentally and emotionally in ways I’d never experienced before, and moved me enough to call it my favorite series of all time, an honor it still holds today.
Since then, we’ve just been baking bread, making AMVs, and watching lots of Naruto. And life goes on. There’s no epilogue to this story. I’d rather not think about whether or not I’ll still be a fan in another ten or twenty years. Will you be? Who knows! Let’s just enjoy what we’ve got for now and see where it takes us next.