Anime no Daibouken (The Great Anime Adventure)

The previous chapters recount my love affair with the artform somewhat, but I’ll go into more detail here. Though I’ve always been more of a game fan dating all the way back from my childhood, I won’t say that anime has had no impact on my life. Far from it – I have a whole chapter devoted to Neon Genesis Evangelion for goodness sake.

If I was cynical and jaded I might simply say that I needed something to hang onto emotionally at that time and games and anime were exactly that. But that wouldn’t be true at all. (and that would most definitely be my Mum speaking) Anime is a lot more important to my life than that, and there’s more to anime than EVA too.

Like with all the games I talk about through this book, there isn’t the time nor space to recount every work that touched my heart and gladdened my soul. From Robotech of my childhood to EVA and then the classics of the 90s that I grew up on, almost every series I’ve ever watched has been important to me in some way.

I don’t think I will ever be the rabid fan (I don’t really like the word otaku, what with all its linguistic connotations) that I was when I was younger, but neither do I think I will ever be able to stop watching anime entirely. I have always preferred animation (and not just of the Japanese variety either) to real life movies, and after many years that still hasn’t changed. I have this must-watch list that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to finish (it’s 2016 and I still haven’t watched Slayers or Bubblegum Crisis!)

It’s not possible to me to be anything less than nostalgic while writing this section and I’m not going to be.

I can remember watching SO MANY series with my sister – Fushigi Yuugi, Escaflowne, You’re Under Arrest and whatever else was available during that time. All those anime marathons when I was younger. (I think they call it “binge watching” nowadays?) Mecha series after mecha series (courtesy of my interest in Super Robot Wars) Watching bootleg Hong Kong DVDs with crappy subtitles. I think at one point I tried to watch everything? That’s a phase every fan goes through until you realize it’s just plain impossible.

There have definitely been many anime series that have touched my life greatly besides Evangelion. There’s Gundam, for instance. I’m not a huge Gundam fan (that’s my sister’s department) by any means (too goddamn many series!) but there are some that are very good indeed. War in the Pocket comes to mind, and so does the original First Gundam. I’ve always felt that a lot of Gundam is Japan’s way of trying to understand their part in WW2 as well as sell tons of merchandise. The anti-war sentiment of the series has always resonated strongly with me as well.

Like so many things in life it’s the little things that you don’t see that really count. Despite my love of shoujo anime/manga I’ve never actually watched Sailor Moon. But yet I was deeply influenced by it during my teenage years. My beliefs on romance, relationships, sexuality and love (especially in the absence of parents) were most definitely shaped and molded by that quintessential magical girl series. I don’t know…maybe it’s just all the fanfiction I read? And yes there was a time in which I had to fight against that whole “omg you’re a guy and like Sailor Moon?” thing a lot.

I never was a big Macross fan either but Macross Plus is fantastic. (and Seven is nice if you sing and play the guitar, which I do.)
Reading as much Ranma fanfiction as I used to do, it was perhaps inevitable that I became a Rumiko Takahashi fan and yes, I’ve read almost every one of her series. She’s good, there is no doubt about it!

Though games have always been closer to my heart and more therapeutic there has been anime (besides Evangelion) that has helped me greatly. Way back on the EVA ML Anthony recommended I watch Kodomo no Omocha because it was similar to my family situation and he was right. The hero’s journey of G Gundam gave me many things to think (and feel) about as well as teaching me my very first meditation techniques.

Like with games I had always considered a career that had at least something to do with the anime industry, whether it was from a research or business perspective. I had a lot of myself bound up in those dreams, from wanting to study sequential art to being a journalist or translator. Things didn’t go the way I wanted them to and I think back on it now with more than a little sadness. Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be.

It seems strange to talk about it now when there are rows and rows of translated manga in bookshelves and everything has English subtitles, but there was a time when all this stuff was really really rare, and to meet someone who was interested in it was quite a big deal. The fan subculture of the early days was definitely a very different beast indeed.

When I look at things now it’s like I have seen the rise and fall of Empire, and in many ways I think I have. The OVAs and the VHS tapes of the 1990s, which is where I started. The Internet and the advent of fansubbed anime. The era of the early 2000s (which I still think was the doldrums of anime production) which gave way to Crunchyroll and the anime boom – which was connected to the cosplay boom. Along with the next wave of localized material (a lot more manga, Newtype and Shounen Jump actually being translated) which really opened the floodgates to everything else.

I took a break from things in the early 2000s. I got so upset with things (low animation quality, horrible CG, rehashed stories) that for a while I didn’t watch anime at all (even now I don’t watch as much as I used to) so much so that a friend of mine remarked “but you’re not an anime fan.” Nothing could have been further from the truth. As the industry made a semi-revival from 2007 or so onwards I actually started watching more again. And of course, the new Evangelion movies more than sparked my interest.

Anime is probably also responsible for my lifelong love of catgirls, which if I was to be honest and completely accurate probably stems from Nei in Phantasy Star 2 and Cham in the Valis series. They aren’t technically catgirls but they have the beast-like features and pointed ears. It doesn’t matter that much to me. Catgirls are cute and sexy whatever form they take. I even have a shirt to prove it!

There are so many images that stream into my head as I write this. Deedlit’s hair flowing in the wind – when I first saw it I thought I could watch it forever. The Robotech Valkyrie swinging its right arm down and over in that iconic pose. Ayukawa Madoka’s face as she turns to the camera, moonlight glimmering on the water behind her. EVA Unit-01 running at top speed through Tokyo-3. The shining lines and glittering stars that fan outwards as the Sailor Senshi transform.

You’ll note a complete absence of the more popular anime series in this chapter – Naruto, One Piece, Attack on Titan, Bleach and Full Metal Alchemist. I’ve watched at least some of all of them, but none of them really resonated with me for various reasons. I’m no longer a hipster otaku, so I no longer say things like “I was watching stuff on VHS before you were even born!” (even when it’s true…)

To each his (and her) own. It has probably more to do with when everyone got into the hobby – you tend to remember and love what you saw when you were younger, and by the time the boom had hit I had already seen all the classics, so most of the newer stuff felt rehashed to me at best and just plain boring at worst. Times change and fans change with them, and that also meant that a new generation of young people would know series intimately that I now would just pass by without a glance.

For what it’s worth I think it’s a great time to be an anime fan nowadays. You can watch anything you want wherever and whenever you want! You don’t even need to learn Japanese anymore! We’ve progressed from VHS to CD to DVD to Blu-Ray to high-definition streaming, with subtitles in basically any language, not just English.

I still have a lot of nostalgia for the past in which people wrote twenty page essays about EVA (raises hand) and when people actually still congregated in stores to share stories and talk about their favorite series. It was a smaller, more intimate world then. But the Internet and technology have changed anime as they have changed everything.

I’m going to end things here before I end up rhapsodizing endlessly about the days of OVAs and how we all huddled about a TV screen with only one copy of English subtitles. After all, my life is much larger than just Japanese cartoons. (a fact that still continues to honestly astound me.)

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