Recently, Nopy proposed a project in which we anibloggers post about our history with anime. Being the reflective sort, I tend to like doing reflective posts like these ones, but where do I begin?
Long story. I have no idea how I got into watching anime either. I have vague recollections of Chinese-dubbed Digimon series playing on Singaporean channels,and recording the theme song on my Nokia phone by blasting the TV at full volume, only to get a crappy recording as well as numerous complaints from neighbours. This was before set-up boxes could record anything, so this was amazingly difficult as well.
So fast forward to when anime started showing on channels from China, and thus began my first non-child-oriented anime: Burst Angel. With its focus on action, robots, and well, touchy areas, it would be the first show I watched consistently with my aunt. Having endured an entire season of Cardcaptor Sakura, I just sat quietly and watched. I never developed much of an interest though. It just seemed like ordinary cartoons to me. In fact, I thought they were from China at first. Then my brother starts buying Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh DVDs and I’d watch along with him to accompany him. Still no interest. I was much more engrossed with Korea when I was below 12. And by engrossed with Korea, I mean I played Maplestory and other crappy RPGs when I had any sort of free time. Anime never seemed any bit interesting at all. I had simply preferred cartoons from Nickelodeon and Disney, and occasionally Cartoon Network.
Fast forward to when I got 14 years old. Laptop arrives, used for study purposes, holidays arrive, nothing to do AT ALL. The games felt boring , there was simply nothing to do on the internet. I have no idea how I managed to come to this, but for some reason, I downloaded every single episode of Lucky Star from YouTube. Was it interest? Was it lunacy? It was probably peer pressure. My friends were into anime. Let’s call the two of them A and B. A was this fat guy who’d go about talking about some anime that I’ve frankly never heard of and B was the guy who’d go about doing the same thing, but probably with less melodrama (tch.) and I’d be sitting there , listening but never understanding anything. I suppose me starting anime – and eventually consuming it at rapid paces – was a result of peer pressure. I wanted to understand what ‘Haruhi’ was.
It also made sense since my mother’s side of the family seemed very interested in such things. My mother’s bookshelf was half shoujo manga from the 90’s, and half Sidney Sheldon. My aunts were similarly involved , mostly in the realm of manga, save for one of my aunts who’d let and encourage her children to watch shows like Inuyasha and Shakugan no Shana. My father’s side has similar interests too, but in the shonen world. It’s like east meets west: the best of both worlds.
And thus began my new hobby. I started downloading anime at such a rapid pace I would download about one 12-episode series per day. Taste? Anything that was popular. Or at least, seemed to be popular. Downloaded K-On, Lucky Star, Haruhi, and lots of other related anime and felt like anime was nothing but Cardcaptor Sakura – full of this cuteness that I could simply not stand for extended periods of time. I must admit that even though I liked Lucky Star, I was simply unable to watch more than 2 episodes per day.
Then came Spice and Wolf.
Spice and Wolf ( Or Wolf and Spice, if you want to be a bugger about it) convinced me that there was more to anime than bubbles, flowers, and slice-of-life. S&W combined my lurking interest in economics, with fantasy and romance. It entranced me. It brought me into the fandom, and never did I manage to back out. My blog at blogspot’s theme – I eventually changed the HTML to feature Horo (or Holo, if you insist on being a bugger) and Lawrence leaning against a tree as the main image, with everything else black to fit in. I really enjoyed the series. In fact it’s probably one of the only series I ever bothered to rewatch.
Finishing the anime I downloaded, my friends invited me to go to Anime Festival Asia ’09. I went partially due to peer pressure (and ‘cos these guys are fun) but then my eyes were opened. Okay, perhaps not ‘opened’ per se, pried open by a crowbar. The richness of this anime culture, this sense of popular culture, mixed with this feeling of community and hobby, of the wideness of it all – astounded me. On that day I must have been insane too, seeing as how I spent all my money there , a large amount of which came to buying my first figurine (Konata) and a LS cushion. I still kind of feel embarrassed when I think of it.
And then, there was also my interest as a blogger. Anime gave me content to blog. So I blogged over at Blogspot, combining anime reviews and my own posts for about 4-5 months before once again succumbing to peer pressure and switching over to WordPress. Since then I’ve never looked back since. Aside from the whole bunch of embarrassing posts I wrote of course.
Of course, I changed my ways of downloading anime too. (Once again, due to peer pressure. I need more balls) While I used to download shows in LQ format, now I torrent them from all the friendly fansub groups. Faster, and more efficient if I must say so myself. I changed my methods of blogging too. But I’m sure you’re tired of all that jazz already.
Of course, the more I blogged the more experience I got, and the more I learnt. I started applying concepts I learnt from books and in class to blogging, such as occasionally dabbling in philosophical concepts in some little link with anime, and I started reading academic papers on anime, as well as books on anime. For one, these books are very detailed, detailing everything from the doujinshi culture to Comiket, from Toei Animation to KyoAni, from the first anime ever made to the latest one at time of publication. Which was exactly why I never finished them. I started trying to apply philosophical concepts to anime. I tried exploring the idea of catharsis when it came to relating to characters, and the philosophy behind certain characters existing.
Anime, as a whole, must have tried to apply new concepts as well. As I started watching shows that aired season by season, I started to realize that plenty of them were rather clever as well. Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei was hilarious and a great satire series if I must say so myself, and what about shows which started airing? Some shows seemed to reinforce notions that anime= perversion, japanese= pervert , such as Sora no Otoshimono and Seikon no Qwaser. I used to hate these shows with a burning passion. To me they were like the black sheep of the anime world, made to appeal to watcher’s lower members. Unfortunately, I had already dabbled several times into the realm of the above-16s, so eventually I decided to lighten up and just go with it.
Anime however, has also gone through what had happened to the music industry : what I term as culture fading. None of it seemed any bit memorable. I can’t think of one song that was released recently that would be remembered by the generations of tomorrow as a ‘classic’. Similarly, I couldn’t think of any anime that would be remembered as a classic. Aside from shows that had already completed and attained a large amount of fans, there simply wasn’t anything new. Anything that broke ground. Then came along the infamous Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt, as well as the airing Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica. For P&SwG, for all its gratuitous mockery of the US, Japan and itself, it seemed like a step GAINAX would never take, but they did. Good , because it showed me that the anime industry could still come up with some pieces of quality work.
Speaking of new concepts, I think that anime itself, has led me to learn new things as well. As a result of being an aniblogger, I read up more on philosophy and related books. As a result of attempting to have become a figure blogger, I got interested in Photography, and as we speak, my brand-new, less-than-a-week old Holga 135BC sits on my sidetable. I think anime led me to new hobbies : blogging, photography, and it deepened my love for reading as well as my interest in philosophy.
Speaking of hobbies, what about figure collecting?
I used to have them sprawled about all over my room , or at least, the part I had control over. The air-conditioning pipes ran along the ground, giving me this handy little ground-level shelf to place my little figurines. My sidetable was practically a shrine. Tonnes of posters adorned the walls above my bed. Then came age, and a new display cabinet. I removed most of those posters, leaving a singular one, of Kanade playing the piano, which I had bought at AFA X. All the figurines were then moved into the cabinet, with each shelf having some sort of theme. Shelf 2 had models of the Lockheed C-130 Hercules and a tank, the name of which I can’t recall, as well as a nice looking set of Singapore Air Force pins. In the same shelf was Otonashi holding a gun, Kanade reaching out her hand, MMS Vitulus pointing her guns, and a random figure of Amami sitting on the tank. I guess the theme was something to do with the impact of war and conflict in the world today, but then I’d just be bullshitting you.
Come to think about it, why do I continue to collect figurines after all? It wasn’t due to my little urge to take photos of them posing with random scenery and food. It had become a hobby, one unaffected by peer pressure. In fact, I dare to say that I had left peer pressure behind in my hobby. What I watch , I consider their suggestions, but not watch them simply because they pressure me, but based on my own interest. I think I even know more about anime than them now. I continued watching long after B had stopped, and now can hold a decent conversation with the two of them when it came to these matters. I was able to give opinions and facts on anime too, making certain people label me as an ‘otaku’.
God I hate that term. It implies this sense of eternal virginity, of fat, sweaty , nerds who live in their basement and have delusions that little sisters in a game who just want their sex actually exist. It implies this idea of never leaving your home, of complete dependence on someone else and the inability to stand up for yourself. It’s an insult. But only in its original meaning. Now, it’s come to become a label for a great fan of anime, someone who knows his stuff, and means a sort of learnedness and wisdom that can only be obtained by spending large amounts of time on something. So I suppose it isn’t that bad.
To quote Nopy, times have changed since I started watching anime. In this ever-changing world , I found solace , joy and entertainment from blogging, whether anime-related or not, and anime itself started to become a weekly break for me. True, I hardly ever have the motivation nowadays to marathon a series, seeing as how school and life left me tired and gasping for air, but anime continues to have that profound feeling, this little feeling that makes me feel a little bit warm inside.It’s comforting to be part of this culture, to belong to this little community of anime watchers and anibloggers. I suppose succumbing to peer pressure wasn’t really such a bad thing after all.