I never wanted to get into anime.
Anime was for weirdos. Perverts. One of the guys on my dorm floor had La Blue Girl and a bunch of people watched it, late at night. It was…pretty gross to watch. And then there was all the comic books he had. I remember taking one off the shelf and flipping through it. It had a little fairy. How cute, I thought, and flipped the page. The fairy had been caught in a spider web, and the spider was coming towards her with appendages that definitely wasn’t what you saw on a normal spider, uh-uh. Then to make it up, the guy showed us Akira. Which didn’t have sex. Oh no. Just an overinflated guy oozing pus and blood floating over Tokyo.
I decided not to watch anymore.
Being a good little Christian girl, I avoided anime as much as I could. Anime was nothing but porn, and if it wasn’t porn, it was violent. And if it wasn’t violent, it was weird. If you’re especially lucky, it was all three. So how did I get sucked into it?
Blame my youngest sister.
Sometime between 1993 and 1995, don’t ask me when because that’s all one huge blur (and no, it wasn’t due to partying–I was working full-time as a secretary and going to classes at night and then crashing to sleep, then work, class, study, sleep, work, class, study, sleep), my mother asked me to stay overnight at her house while she left to go to some seminar. She didn’t really trust my younger sisters (teenager and just-out-of-teenage-years) to behave themselves while she was gone, so I was to be "adult supervision". I didn’t really want to, since it meant me getting up at a god-awful hour to take the train into work, but somehow, she convinced me to do it.
So on Friday, I got up, groggy, and stumbled into my youngest sister’s room to let her know I was heading off to work. To my surprise, she was already up: and watching cartoons. On screen, a group of girls appeared to be stuck in a wall while a monster roared at them. Okay, weird superhero show, I thought. I was about to leave when one of the girls, a blonde pigtailed girl, raised something up and yelled "Moon…Prism…POWER!!!"
And there were sparkles. And lights. And twinkles. And make up. And as I stood there, slack-jawed, the girl twirled around as ribbons appeared on her arms and legs and she struck a pose. And then she proclaimed:
"I AM SAILOR MOON!" (arm criss-cross) "DEFENDER OF JUSTICE." (arm swoop) "I FIGHT WRONGS AND TRIUMPH OVER EVIL!" (turn, pose) IN THE NAME OF THE MOON…" (pause, weird point of fingers) "I WILL PUNISH YOU!"
And then she proceeded to fight. Not like a superhero though. No. Sailor Moon was a horrible fighter. She ran, she screamed, she wailed, she ducked. And when she finally did dust the bad monster (in a musical flourish that lasted at least a minute), it was more out of coincidence than skill. It went against every single superhero stereotype I knew.
"What a stupid show," I said.
The following Monday, I had to get up at another god-awful early hour because I had to go into work early. So because I wanted something to keep me occupied, I flipped on the TV, flipped through the channels and hey look, there’s Sailor Moon again…and they found the fifth member of the team, Sailor Venus. But was she the princess they were looking for? "Probably not," I thought, and went to work.
On Tuesday, I didn’t have to get up early, but at 6:30 I rolled over and turned on the TV just to see if my hunch was right. Of course it Sailor Moon was, which wasn’t all that surprising….I mean…I could’ve seen it a while away…
On Wednesday, I got up *before* 6:30 so by the time Sailor Moon came on, I would be eating breakfast and hey, look at that, Darien *was* Tuxedo Mask all the time, but now he’s being brainwashed by Beryl and…duuuuude….how could he be so mean to her? He and Sailor Moon were destined to be together…
By Thursday, I was hooked.
The following week, the Sailor Scouts stormed Beryl’s stronghold and one by one got "captured" by the Negaverse, which didn’t make sense because you never saw them actually captured. In fact there were some scenes that indicated something happened, but it got edited or cut. I became suspicious. So I went online…and discovered a whole slew of Sailor Moon information, including the fact that the Sailor Scouts weren’t captured. They died. And there were video clips.
…and I got hooked.
This was during the early days of the internet when webpages were still new and strange and wondrous. The fact that I could *go* online and find out things about Sailor Moon was relatively new. It was like looking at a mirror that you see every day, then one day, getting the urge to take a coin and scratch off the surface, like those scratch and win cards, and uncovering a deeper universe. From my searching, I was able to see that the actual Japanese ending was more intense than the DIC English ending. I learned there were more seasons. I learned there were movies. And I learned there were fanfics.
Before forums, before Facebook, there was the Fanfic Mailing List. It was a community of people who loved to make up stories based on their favorite anime. And they didn’t put up with junk stories either. There were whole threads dedicated to grammar, punctuation, developing characters, making sure they remained in character, even how not to descend into Japanese stereotypes. It was our own writers group, and it was there I leaned the basics of writing story. You could even say that being on that list changed my life, because it was there that I got the courage to start writing stories. But that’s another blog post, which you can read some other time.
The FFML was where I learned about Ranma 1/2, another anime series. They had had several episodes at my local video store, but I had avoided it because on the back it had the blurb: "A romping sex comedy!" From reading the fanfics though, it didn’t seem to be the pornographic show I thought it would be. I finally gathered up the courage to rent it, and was delighted to learn it had nothing to do with sex at all (it did have nudity in it–granted, but more of the comedic kind.), but it had to do more with martial arts and engagements and two kids who liked each other but couldn’t admit it. Pretty soon, I was wolfing down every episode I could find.
It never bothered me that I was watching essentially cartoons. Having grown up with Saturday morning cartoons, I found that I liked the medium. It could be artsy without being overly cute, and you can do so much in animation that you can’t do in real life. Samurai Jack came out around that time and let me tell you, the animation, the storyline, the music, killed. In fact, in the 90s and early 2000s, that could be considered the golden age of animation, both in Japan and America. I didn’t care I had no life in my college years, because Cartoon Network and Adult Swim was showing awesome anime and cartoons, and it was the bomb.
But for me, anime was what I geeked over. You see, yes, anime could be zany. It could make no sense. But there are other times when the story just sucks you in. I love shows that wrestle with ideas and philosophies and made me care about its characters. And it’s not just me, either. My hubby loves anime as well. We watched every single episode of Full Metal Alchemist on Adult Swim, probably the last great show they’ve done, and I still get choked up by the last couple of episodes. Every few months we host Anime Night at our house–although I’ve been instructed not to show Revolutionary Girl Utena anymore–there are still some weird anime out there.
They say the golden age of anime is over. It’s overgrown with tired schoolgirl harem tropes. And yeah, I’ve grown more selective of the type of anime I watch. It’s so easily accessible, I wonder if all the fun has gone out of tracking it down. I can go on Netflix streaming, or Crunchyroll. I can go to my library. What am I watching now? Ehhh…Deadland Wonderland is interesting, if not a little creepy. I’m watching Ganketsuou: the Count of Monte Cristo because I never saw it in English, and it gives me a chance to focus more on the dizzying graphics. I’ve been heavy into reading Nana.
But other than that–not much. I don’t cosplay, nor do I go to anime cons. I just really want to appreciate a well-drawn story. And with that, I’m happy. Well, that and the fact that I own the entire 18-volume manga series of Sailor Moon. In Japanese. I know more people have much more collections out there, but hey, I like to think of myself as a connoisseur of fine manga. And in my memory, there’s only been one series that’s been the best.
Tsuki ni kiwatte, oshiokyo!