July 19th, 2012

The Story of My Anime Life

I've been thinking about writing something like this for quite a while, since everybody I know seems to love sharing their stories of how I got into anime (or not). Be warned, though, as you're going to see me ramble on and on about very small and insignificant details about how I got into anime (I'm quite observant and very memory selective, as you can see), and...some weird stuff that I'd much rather bury six feet under dirt if I could. Being an anime fan sure isn't easy, nor is it rewarding. But I don't care! I'm proud to be an anime fan, as it's basically saved me from despair more times than I can count! So, without further ado, I present to you all, the story of my anime-filled origins!

...Well, bits and pieces of my early years, of course. Like a lot of you peeps out there, I was basically a Pokemon, Digimon, Hamtaro, and Yu-Gi-Oh fan freak. Those four anime were basically the very crystallized pinnacle of my childhood anime fandom, even though I didn't know that they were anime. My parents tell me my first anime was Totoro or something, but I honestly have no memories of watching it as a child. But I definitely remember being six years old and going to a special kindergarten for autistic kids and watching Pokemon on a regular basis. I don't remember what my first episodes were (but I definitely remember one of my favorites being Pikachu's Goodbye), but I definitely remember watching Pokemon in my early years. In fact, on my seventh birthday, my parents got me my very first game console, a green GameBoy color, and my very first ever hand-held video game, Pokemon Yellow, both of which I still own to this day! I'll NEVER let them go no matter what! And I definitely remember an interest being piqued when I went to my sister's dance school once and saw a boy playing a GameBoy and Pokemon. That kind of started my Pokemon gaming fandom, though at my age back then, I didn't understand that games could be finished. My introduction to Digimon was when I saw a commercial of it on...Fox or something? I don't remember. But it showed footage from the 4th episode (Y'know, the Yokomon village episode?) and I could tell it wasn't Pokemon. But seeing these two anime showed me that they most certainly weren't like any of the American cartoons.

Then Yu-Gi-Oh came along. At first, I didn't like how it looked and didn't want to watch it. Then I saw an episode by accident and started watching it religiously...at that point, I had started the fourth grade, and...Oh God. I really hate going into this, but I'm going to do it anyway. Back then, I didn't understand that cartoons were just drawings on paper made to move and come to life with voice acting and technology. I couldn't properly tell fantasy from reality, being autistic as I am. But...I have to confess, when I was little, I fell IN LOVE with little Yugi. No, I'm dead serious. I WAS IN LOVE with little Yugi! I fell in love with him so much, I think I convinced myself that he was real! I would squeal about him both at school and at home on a completely regular basis and talk about cuddling with him and marrying him and having kids with him! Of course, I was pretty stupid back then, which I think set in motion the very beginning of bullying I had to endure. I think my childish die hard obsession back then convinced some kids that I was this weird drooling idiot who they could easily take advantage of, and I think it worked. But I honestly don't remember the rest of those days. But I definitely remember being so naive as to lend this one kid my Pokemon Sapphire game...only to find that my three best Pokemon were gone forever. He took them away. It wasn't until around the sixth grade that I FINALLY got over that dumb Yu-Gi-Oh obsession and FINALLY realized that anime was nothing more than drawings on paper. But I don't think my eventual growing up stopped kids from picking on me. But I stopped watching Yu-Gi-Oh after the Orichalchos (is that how it's spelled?) arc.

Now to talk about how I came across the term "anime"! My sister got me into this site called Neopets, though back then I didn't quite understand the concepts of logging in, passwords, e-mail addresses (I had quite a hard time learning how to get the @ on the screen!), and account activation. I looked at guilds, and I found one for Hamtaro. This set in motion my eventual discovery of the word "anime," and I swear I somehow managed to pronounce it correctly even in 4th grade!! But I still didn't understand certain things, so I had a lot to uncover in my head both in fantasy and reality. But I did start browsing through many anime related websites thanks to this Neopet guild. One of the sites I frequently went to was Lelola, which has now been archived. Now, I definitely remember the very first time I heard Japanese music. My dad and sister helped me set up a Winamp program so I could listen to my music. My sister saw a Japanese song on there and played it, and somehow I wound up loving it. She tried to delete it, but I managed to convince her not to do so. It was none other than...the very first opening theme to Hamtaro.

I know, right? A bit of a strange introduction to anime music, but once I heard it, hook, line, and sinker!! But that was just the start! By the way, speaking of Hamtaro, I'd love to say that I saw all the English episodes, but...I didn't! Why? Because when I was young, my mom signed me up for an after school program in the fourth grade that required me to miss a good majority of Hamtaro episodes! After that, Hamtaro in general got cancelled! I was SOOOOOO mad!! I wonder if someone posted all the episodes on a video site or something? I would LOVE to watch all the English episodes of Hamtaro in their entirety!! And by the way, I did not watch Cardcaptors or Escaflowne (I didn't know the latter existed) back then. But I do remember watching various episodes of Monster Rancher. I'm gonna have to re-watch that in its entirety someday. As I ran into more Neopets guilds in search of more websites related to anime, in April of 2005, I discovered Midi files...and I definitely found one that got me dancing! But when I saved it, all it said was GWTheme as the title. After some random internet surfing, I found the real version of the song! It turned out to be none other than Just Communication by Two-Mix, aka the opening theme to Mobile Suit Gundam Wing!

Of course, I knew absolutely nothing about Gundam at all, and I had no idea who Two-Mix was until now (I found out even more later that the singer was none other than Minami Takayama, the voice of Shinichi Kudou from Detective Conan!). I guess you can say that Minami Takayama is one of the first anime singers I was exposed to! But just so you all know, I do remember watching a little bit of Sailor Moon, but my memories are vague. BUT I definitely remember watching one of the Sailor Moon movies. I think it was the Sailor Moon SuperS movie. There's a scene where some witch takes ChibiUsa's power and nearly kills her, and she's in Usagi's arms as Usagi chants some spell or something. That's all I remember to be honest. I was too young when it was in it's real heyday.

I guess I started acknowledging that anime was truly made in Japanese around 2005. That's when my path to the anime fandom really started to come into view. I first began to notice things were different in the anime world when I started watching Mew Mew Power, or Tokyo Mew Mew in Japan, on TV when it premiered. I quite liked the show, and I went on to talk about it on the net. But...what I read in response really surprised me. People actually said, without hesitation, that they HATED Mew Mew Power for reasons I didn't quite understand: Mew Mew Power was edited to shreds, scenes were cut out or aligned out of order, names were changed, writing and items were airbrushed out and replaced with other unnecessary things, and voices were badly miscast. To be honest, I had knowledge that the show's original title was Tokyo Mew Mew and knew the Japanese names before Mew Mew Power was even broadcast on TV. They mostly hated the company, 4Kids Entertainment, for their poor handling of anime. Becoming curious, I decided to look on the internet. Then, on one fateful day, when I decided to skip out on a field trip, I found the original Japanese language, English subbed first episode of Tokyo Mew Mew on the net. I knew downloading and watching a video on my dad's computer would be risky, but I managed to plunge right in and watch the entire first episode. Wow! I was certainly surprised, as the Japanese version is REALLY different from the English dub! Yep! My very first, Japanese dubbed, English subbed anime episode was that of Tokyo Mew Mew! But I didn't get into the habit of watching Japanese dubbed shows all the way through back then, so I never finished it. In fact, I still haven't finished it. I have no idea why. But TMM turned out to be the catalyst of my fandom, as I became more and more interested in anime that came out. I kind of started getting into manga around this time, too, and my very first left-to-right manga was Tokyo Mew Mew volume 3. At first, the format kind of frightened me a little, but I got used to it quickly. To be honest, my first manga was Pokemon.

It wasn't until 2006 that my anime fandom truly flourished. One day, as I was surfing the net, I came across news that a new Digimon series was going to be made in Japan! It was none other than Digimon Savers (or Digimon Data Squad in America). Being the Digimon fan that I was, I waited until the first episode appeared on the net, though being impatient, I watched the RAW. I didn't understand exactly what went on, but I loved it! I also started watching Ouran High School Host Club then too, before it got licensed. Yep! 2006 is the year I started watching anime seasonally! Unfortunately, due to a power outage caused by a certain tropical storm back in the fall of 2006, I was never able to finish them. Heck, I wasn't able to finish watching all of Savers until Christmas of 2008 due to other stuff happening! But Savers and Ouran opened the door to seasonal anime for me, as I began taking more risks and downloading and watching subbed anime episodes (while trying to hide this from my parents in every way possible). Then, October of 2006 came, and I would soon discover my all-time favorite anime: Shounen Onmyouji.

I remember coming across a picture of it on a random Google search, before it became an anime. I thought the characters looked great and wondered if there was an anime for it. So I searched online and found one of my favorite pics on DeviantArt, announcing that an anime is GOING to be made! I must admit I got excited, and when it finally came out, I decided to watch it. By God, was I in for a whirlwind of a surprise! To this day, it remains the very first anime that I ever watched all the way through both RAW and in general (this anime helped me begin a habit of completing anime). Not only that, it is also the very first anime in which I hunted down every single DVD in existence, even AFTER Geneon kicked the bucket in 2007! This is the anime I watched religiously like a crazed nut, and the anime that defined my very tastes in anime! No other anime, before or since, has ever made such a profound effect on me like Shounen Onmyouji has, and I don't think any anime will ever live up to it. It also helped me develop the genre of anime that I love: historical fiction. Speaking of which, 2007 was the year in which I literally began hunting down anime and literally implementing it into my daily life very seriously. I searched for anime that seemed interesting online, checked if shows were licensed (this was the year I learned that downloading licensed anime is a big no-no), hunted down DVDs, and kept track of releases. But 2007 was also the year in which I realized that even though all anime are anime, not everybody likes a certain genre. Les Miserables Shoujo Cosette was coming out in 2007, and I was surprised by the fact that nobody liked it, which is why it took so long for it to get subbed (a whole four years!!), and preferred more mainstream titles. I really liked the Les Mis anime, but other people were under the misconception that the Les Mis anime was going to be a dumbed-down, moefied, kiddie-fied, cannibalized anime production. I began following the Star Crossed Anime Blog around this time, too, and learned that this was not the case. People not only jump to conclusions about American-made shows, but about anime, too. They can be so judgmental at times. Over the years this is starting to fade, but slowly. 2007 also taught me not to judge anime too quickly and easily...albeit on a relatively small scale.

Of course, going down the path of anime also means learning about both the good anime, the bad anime, and the anime that make you want to scalp yourself just because you happen to know that these shows exist. Yep. In 2008, I became painfully aware of the fact that the anime industry was taking a spiral down the drain in the form of an abundance of shows about...guys being surrounded by girls who like to get naked and grab their boobs and show off their underwear every three seconds and dialogue that makes absolutely no logical, technological, psychological, or physiological sense whatsoever. Yes, I used those words on purpose. No, I didn't watch those particular anime, but I read about them on popular blogs like Random Curiosity and Star Crossed, which were the only two I religiously followed back then, while being gradually exposed to others. But what seriously boggled me is how much people actually LIKE those stupid anime! I mean, come on! What purpose do shows like that serve?! Not only that, I began discovering the utter epitome of anime trash that is the beginning of what I like to call the Line of Pointless and Stupid Incest Anime, beginning with the undeniably sacrilegious abomination that is Kiss x Sis.

Oh God. Don't get me started. No, I didn't DARE go anywhere NEAR that piece of misery and garbage!! I only read about it on the blogs. What weed were those people who not only made this but the people who actually LIKE it smoking?! Why would any decent person even greenlight pieces of garbage like this, let alone even try to make it get a license in the US (Well, Kiss x Sis didn't get licensed, THANK GOD, but stuff like Queen's Blade and Ikki Tousen have been, and...yeah. No comment)?! I think this was when I decided to become a mangaka when I grow up, because I was becoming very disappointed with the amount of ecchi fan-service anime coming out and how badly people were treating the good and under appreciated anime as a result. 2008 was the year of what I like to call Appreciation of Good Anime, and by good anime, I mean anime with a lot of thought, effort, depth, decency, and creativity put into them, whether they're just simple productions or epic animes that make your brain explode from the awesomeness!

Then came 2009. I must admit, 2009 was just NOT the best year ever for me. Heck, a lot of bad things happened to me in 2009 in terms of real life (The only year topping it is 2012). But amidst all the despair that had been surrounding me and slapping me in the face like I didn't matter, I began to turn more and more into anime, which in turn saved me from all the hatred and the tragedy that had been befalling me. More times than I expected to be exact. 2009 was the year in which I decided to open myself up to more and more anime, which made me realize that I couldn't LIVE without anime! Yes! Anime was, and still is, my personal gateway drug in times of despair and sadness! Much like books, video games, comics, and cartoons, anime have the power to deliver people from their tortured lives to magical or realistic places where rules were fair and everyone was equal (in some cases). Heck, to others like myself, the make believe characters and settings in anime can feel more real than someone's parents and siblings! That's how I've been feeling about anime since 2007. Anime can both stimulate the imagination and speak to you on a personal level and make you identify so completely with certain characters and their problems, making you think, "Oh my God! That is ME, right there!" You can share the same fears, encounter similar hardships, and fight identical battles, even if they're a bit out of context, and best of all, it can show you that life isn't as bad as you think. Anime and manga in themselves can convey both obvious and hidden meanings in numerous levels of the human psyche and define who you are and what you want to be in more ways than one. In my personal opinion, anime isn't just a nerdy otaku thing. It's basically my savior.

Now, in the summer of 2010, upon the birth of the new streaming revolution and the reformation of Crunchyroll, I began a habit of watching at least one 52 episode anime, one 26 episode anime, and one 13 episode anime, along with episodes shown on a weekly basis as they came out, every summer. I'd watch one episode of each anime a day and, depending on how much I like it, continue on with it and see it through. This helped in cultivating my habit of completing anime. I've been going on with this new plan for two years now, and I've been relatively successful, as it helped me get exposed to more and more anime on a much larger scale. I think this made me realize even more that anime does more with animation than American cartoons. Here in America, animation is only used for children's shows and adult comedy, but Japanese animation does everything, from horror to questioning humanity. They do more with it and take more risks than American animation. I think that's why I prefer anime over most American shows nowadays, though that doesn't mean I hate ALL American animation. No way! I loved Avatar: The Last Airbender (and Legend of Korra) when it came out, and some other favorite American cartoons of mine are Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go, Ed Edd n Eddy, and My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. I also love some live-action shows, like Drake & Josh, iCarly (before it started to descend into mediocrity), Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide, House of Anubis, Caitlin's Way, and some of Degrassi. Oh, but don't think I'm some shut-in with no social life who lives in a fantasy. I'm nineteen years old and still try to have some grip on reality, even though as of 2012, reality hasn't been kind to me at all. I try to go out with my parents, learn more about independent living (I'm going to take a financial accounting class in the spring of 2013. Maybe I can learn about how to manage money that way), try to keep an open mind about certain things, and I've made quite a lot of friends since I came to college, and this really makes me happy because now I don't have to hide my interests and be myself in front of people who are understanding and kind and mature, who won't think of you as a weirdo because you like something they don't know about.

Now 2012 has come, and, I have to admit, 2012 has NOT been kind to me. It's even worse than 2009 in terms of bad things happening to me. My parents moved to another state, my old house got sold, my sister thinks I'm some manipulative crook who coerces people into doing things for me and is constantly breathing down my neck about anything and every little thing possible without even attempting to try and understand how I feel and my point of view and, worst of all, last Christmas my cat was given away against my will. That officially broke me, and I'll never get over her and stop worrying about her well-being, yet I'm still here now thanks to anime. I'm currently living in a hotel as part of college and to be honest, I'm scared about the future. Will I have a steady job? Will I even be able to make it on my own? Will I be able to handle the crazy and complicated adult world, even so much as understand and comprehend it? Will I still be able to be myself and not be bogged down by the opinions of others? Will I fulfill my dream of becoming a mangaka and changing the anime/manga industry for the better? Will I be able to contribute to society in a meaningful way? And without being a constant burden to anyone and everyone around me? Will I fail at it all? Will I adjust to my new surroundings and changes in my life now that everything's crumbled in the worst way possible? I don't know, and I honestly don't want to think about all of that right now. I only wish to make the best of my days now and relish the free time I have left. But one thing's for sure: don't you dare think that I'll ever lose my love for anime and manga! No way! I'll continue loving anime and manga until the day I die! Heck, I might even write a will and if I ever have kids, I'll give all of my anime/manga products to them and start them up on a new generation of anime/manga lovers! But now, I'm only a sophomore in college with loving parents, awesome friends who support me, understand me, and embrace me for who I am, an awesome roommate who, despite not knowing much about anime, is nice and accepting enough (and, surprisingly, is a lot like me despite us being so different), a love for drawing despite my amateurish art skills, and a love for anime and manga that will stay with me until the very end!

So what anime am I obsessing over right now? Well...it's The Vision of Escaflowne.

I don't know why, but even though in my review I said I liked it even with it's glaringly obvious flaws and slightly bland characters I couldn't connect to (except for Dilandau), I can't seem to get it out of my head! Maybe it's because of the fact that I saw the English dub first and was bombarded by Dilandau's...baby voice, which I am STILL trying to get out of my head! Well, Thanksgiving Break is coming up and I'm going to binge on anime, and the Japanese and German dubs of Escaflowne are on my list. I mean, seriously, discovering the show's German dub is the best thing I ever did this year, because Dilandau's voice is UNGODLY AWESOME, REALISTIC, NATURAL, SINISTER, AND SEXY AS ALL HECK!!! So much better than his English voice, and even his Japanese voice! And I NEVER call ANYTHING sexy, so I guess you can say for me, sexy is a pretty high standard to live up to. I cannot get that crazy psycho pyromaniac out of my head! And as of now, he's skyrocketing up to the highest points of my personal top 100 favorite anime characters of all time! And I have so much anime I need to catch up on over winter break! Whaddo I doooooo?!?

Well, that's the entire story of my anime life! Hopefully I'll still be alive and watching/reading/obsessing!