Tuesday, July 11, 2006

On My Conversion from Anti-Anime to Anime Addict

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No, I haven`t dyed my hair a las Hilton heiresses. This is much more serious.

I`ve become addicted....to Anime. Well, one anime in particular.


"So what? No big deal! Anime is anime-zing! " You might say, but to be honest, I was about as Anti-Anime as anyone could be. I vaguely remember watching the classic Akira with my older brother as a junior high schooler, and promptly forgetting it ever existed. I also recall trying to pass the 4 hours of complete and utter bordem afforded by my Saturday detention (part of my punishment for 'inciting a riot and being obligerent to an officer` in my cheerleading uniform) by sketching a wide-eyed, anime-style girl, although I don't know what posessed me to do so. Other than Akira, my Asian exposure was almost nonexistant, and I made little effort to rectify my ignorance on the subject. For one thing I was too busy concentrating on other cultures and forms of art, speaking Spanish, escaping to Mexico, playing softball and any other sport the boys would let me get in on, cheerleading, or partying. Japan was an exotic land of sushi eating samurai and geisha on ketais (cell phones), lost in a neon colored concrete jungle...And it was the last place I ever thought I`d end up.

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I'm not sure why or how, but by the time events had conspired to send me to Japan as a study abroad student (my senior year of university), I had somehow formed a rather unfavorable opinion of anime (despite of my lack of information on the subject) . I was shocked to find that at least half of the gaijin students at Kansai Gaidai had come to Japan with the expressed intent of watching anime they couldn`t see in their home countries. While the other half of us explored the adventure-filled streets of Kyoto and Osaka with our new Japanese tomodachi, they stayed in the dorms watching anime, or dressed up in their Cosplay-best and headed to the nearest gathering of anime otaku (dorks, nerds, freaks).

Japan's culture and customs were basically brand spankin' new to me. I had been transported from a land where cartoons and comics were mostly for small children, to a hardcore manga metropolis where everyone from the ojiisan's (old men) waiting for the next bus, to my university-aged boyfriend, stood in cornerstore conbini's for what seemed like forever, viewing the newest, phonebook-sized releases of their favorite comics. Buisnessmen in gloomy black suits shamelessly scanned page after page of manga on crowded trains, even when they were blatantly pornographic. Sexy depictions of young girls in school uniforms and the shady, smiling, salarymen staring at them seemed to me to be the source of the problematic tsukebe and chikan (perverts) obsessed with anonymously violating women on crowded trains, not to mention the endless score of old men that paid young girls to 'play' with them (enjou kosai).

The original opening for Bleach to one of my favorite Japanese songs: *ASTERIK* by Orange Range.

The connection stuck. Needless to say, I made it through an entire 3 and a half months of study in Japan without ever reading manga or watching anime, not to mention the 3 years since then. In fact I was irritated when, during my breif visit back home for a friends wedding, I found an entire section devoted to Anime at a Borders book store. Shelf after shelf of big-eyed, big-breasted, long-legged school girls, in sailor uniforms, with super-short skirts and clothes molded to every curvey contour of their illustrated bodies.

The seemingly huge success of anime in America shocked me, especially since it seemed to have created and conquered such a huge market in such a short period of time. For the first time, I wondered..."What is it that makes Manga and Anime so special? How are they able to transcend the boundaries of age, nationality, ethnicity, and sex?" Let's face it. People all around the world are obsessed!

Depite the fact that I had always admired the art form, I never considered investigating the substance behind the style.

That is, until now.


...to be continued


Will said...

I'm totally with you. My best friend back home told me about it, and I thought, "Yeah, whatever," and then I watched a few. The time it's on TV conflicts with my Japanese classes now so I have to get it off of BitTorrent on Wednesdays, but yeah, it's amazing. I can't wait for Ichigo to go nuts with bankai in the living world.

Joel Alfaro said...

to all of the above I reply:

cheerleading?!?! detention!?!? what the heck?? you bad girl, i would have never guessed! haha.

Anyways. I think someone who enjoys just one... or maaaaaaybe two is still allowed to claim he/she isnt a fan or the genre. I particularly don't follow any of them, but can respect certain shows. So in a way my anti-anime stance holds, because like any other genre, there is also a lot of garbage. However, if I were forced to choose between anime or north-american reality tv, and suicide wasn't an option, I'd choose anime.

You raise some good questions.

Inge said...

I'm pretty much an anime-'virgin' but this post is making me curious (I love your writing by the way)... Thanks for the tanjobi greetings!

Jenny said...

I'm pretty much hooked on Bleach as well.
A few years ago I was not interested in mnaga or anime and now......

Abbey said...

You're a bad influence because you let me be the fan I secretly want to be!!!

Lindizzy said...

I can't believe you're turning to the dark side...traitor!! lol just kidding but seriously Mel, it was bound to happen sooner or later. I mean, you've become an expert on every other form of Japanese culture, it's like the only thing left, right?

Well, you always fear what you don't understand. Artisticly, aesthetically, almost everything that comes out of Japan seems beautiful, but it's that obsession thing...Well just don't become like that girl in my sumi-e class who talked about Final Fantasy on and on about the characters as if it were real. On second thought it can be a great way to become better at Japanese & learn some new vocab.

pAnDaR~ said...

lol... erm, that seems like a very over-generalised view of the anime world. yes, since comics are mostly drawn and written by men, it stands to reasons most of the female characters have big boobs and everything.

but the more popular animes do have substances, storylines and what not. some of them are equivalent to dramas that are typical of the asian silver screen.

even the not so popular animes have got some substance. there's nothing wrong with the otakus, and those aren't necessarily pervy.

of course, the other side to it is also that, some of the more geeky people i know tend to love anime just simply for the well drawn graphics, the voice acting is marvelous as well.

i can go on, but i am glad you managed to at least give bleach a benefit of a doubt :) they are undergoing a between season arc at the moment :)

Anonymous said...

I think that good as cartoons. I mean cute little characters (Fluffy animals or even Pokemon)And I agree of SOME of the sayings of joel alfaro... But I don't understand why do they need to make the characters so 'sexy'& not suitable 4 'underaged children'. Some of the animes are even NAKED!!(What I say as Garbage)
What if a children saw that...Like ur younger sis or bro or even ur children? I am totally at the Anti-anme side!

Anonymous said...

Few spelling mistakes- I think that animes are good as cartoons

I am totally at the anti-anime side!