Anime and me: a brief history

Welcome, one and all, to what I’m hoping will be an interesting posting for you all. Today, we’re going to take a brief look at my love of anime over the years.

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I was born in 1984 and like many kids of my era, I had access to a lot of anime from an early age. The thing is, none of us knew what anime was, let alone that that was what we were watching. This was a time when you could stick the TV on in the morning while you had your breakfast, and enjoy two or three cartoons before school. Shows like Ulysses 31 and Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors were quirky shows that held our attention, nothing more. Not one person in my social group ever gave any indication that they knew that the shows were Japanese productions (in collaboration with other countries, of course), and the reason was simple: we didn’t care. What mattered was that we were enjoying the shows. There was no desire to be part of a fan community or anything like that. The same could be said of the Force Five project. If you aren’t familiar with it, this was a US dub of five different anime. In this series, I was personally a fan of Starvengers (originally Getter Robo G) and Spaceketeers (originally Starzinger). Again though, these were just fun shows that felt a little different to some of the other stuff out there.

It was in the late 90’s and early 2000’s that things began to change. By the time that I’d started high school, I’d noticed a small section appear in my local second-hand music and video store. This was small group of VHS tapes was labelled as ‘Manga’, drawing not on the actual style of animation, but on the company that was releasing it all: Manga Entertainment. I don’t think that I actually recognised the art style on anything more than a subconscious level. If I’m being honest, what drew me to it was that these were cartoons with 15 and 18 age ratings. Now, I wasn’t fifteen at the time. And my brother was younger than I was. Vendors being a little more lapse then though, the gent behind the counter had no problem selling me a bunch of VHS tapes that I legally should not have been given. And so, I waltzed in with my pocket money, and waltzed right back out again with a bag of tapes:

  • Akira
  • Fist of the North Star OVA
  • Ghost in the Shell
  • Ninja Scroll
  • Project A-Ko
  • Urotsukidoji: Legend of the Overfiend

gis2I really enjoyed most of these. The sheer brutality of some of it was beyond anything that I’d seen at that point. Project A-Ko made me laugh enough to grab the sequels when I spotted them at a car boot sale, and the series became a family favourite for a short while. Akira and Ghost in the Shell introduced me to the concept of storytelling among the more violent scenes. No, the only one that was a little problematic for me was Urotsukidoji. From the moment that we see the lead – ahem – enjoying himself while the girls get changed, I knew that it wasn’t going to be one that I stuck on in front of my parents. Even with the BBFC cuts, there was still enough explicit material left in for me to feel uncomfortable. Somehow, I made it through the entire film once. I kinda felt like I had to know how it ended. I haven’t watched it again since.

Still, one flop among the pile wasn’t enough to put me off and I soon started hunting down other Manga releases. They weren’t all as fun for me; Crying Freeman was good but I never got to finish it, while Guyver never really grabbed me enough to track down anything beyond the first two or three releases. Tenchi Muyo was fun though. Oh, and New Dominion Tank Police? That was an absolute blast!

As a bonus, when I hit high school, I discovered a small group of people who were into this stuff too. That was actually when I first heard the term ‘anime’. It was also the first time that I’d met anyone who was … elitist, I guess is the word. He touted himself as a huge fan of anime, a master collector in fact, and boy was he opinionated. For example, if you preferred the FotNS OVA to the series, you were scum. I escaped this wrath by simply not having experienced the series, though a friend of mine was less fortunate. Enjoying Ninja Scroll though? That made me ‘one of those fans’ apparently. I had no idea what he was talking about, so I ignored him.

char-sickIt was around this time that family friendly anime started making it to TV again too. Between the after school cartoon shows and the Saturday morning shows, we had Cardcaptor Sakura, Digimon Adventure, Pokémon and Samurai Pizza Cats. Pokémon was the by far the most popular, as the anime had come along around the time of the release of Red and Blue on the Gameboy, which was really good. So good in fact that it was one of the few games that, even as a not-going-to-buy-something-just-because-other-people-like-it sort, I pestered my parents relentlessly for the thing. For what it’s worth, I got Red and my brother got Blue. My sister eventually got Yellow too.

Anyway, this was when I started to become aware of changes made across countries too.

You see, everyone seemed to know about the banned Pokémon episode with Porygon. Of course, we all looked it up and watched the slowed down footage of the flashing screen, largely because we were stupid when it came to risk taking with potential medical issues. We knew why it had been banned, but we tried to watch anyway. Sigh. Still, nothing happened to any of us, thankfully. Later on, we found out about other banned episodes and scenes like James from Team Rocket in a bikini and the various appearances of Jynx.

By that time, I’d gotten into Digimon quite heavily too. Given my love for the franchise, it may surprise you to learn that it took a while for it to take with me. There was always something about it that made me want to keep watching, but early on certainly, it wasn’t really something that I was enjoying on any major level. Eventually though, everything picked up and, as the different series marched on, I grew to love how much it mixed things up compared to Pokémon. In these early days though, I was beginning to spend some time looking up changes across countries in terms of the context of episodes.

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Digimon actually acted as a gateway to fan creations for me too. I still remember stumbling across the idea of Goth TK one rainy day. Goth TK was the Zero Two TK, but recoloured in black and purple. He ate pins, wrote poetry, and had a site where he would paint a picture of your soul (it was always a plain black screen, which made me laugh more than it really should have). Before then, I was blissfully unaware of fan fiction and fan characters. I made them myself, as did a few others I knew – mostly in the Sonic the Hedgehog and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles universes –  but we never knew that there was a community for it.

So, time marched on, and I got to experience Mew Mew Power and Pretty Cure too. My interest was waning though. Outside my loyalty to the shows that I already loved, I just didn’t have the desire to hunt down anything new. And so, I stopped feeling like I was an anime fan around 2001.

It’s worth noting here that there was one exception to this loss of interest: Wolf’s Rain. After seeing it covered in a magazine, I knew that I had to watch it. I mean, it had wolves in it! Wolves are a great way to get me interested in pretty much anything. So, my parents bought me the series one Christmas. It remains a favourite for me now. Looking back on it though, that was it until 2007. So, what got me back into the medium? Well, my partner gave birth to my youngest.

Yup, you read that correctly. You see, when my youngest was born, I was determined to help out with the night feeds. So, we took it in turns. That was when my partner and I discovered Anime Central. Running from 21:00 to 06:00, Anime Central aired nothing but anime. When you’re up at 03:00 with a baby in your arms, there really is little on TV, so when we stumbled across this, it was a near miracle for us.

The channel only ran from February 2007 to August 2008, but it had a small, but decent line-up. We never got to see some of it – such as Gundam SEED and Visions of Escaflowne – but there were a few regulars on there that grabbed our attention. Witch Hunter Robin sits at the bottom of this list. We only saw a few episodes, but it was enough for us to find the series on DVD. It was okay. The others though … we started watching:

  • .Hack//SIGN
  • Bleach
  • Fullmetal Alchemist
  • Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 1st and 2nd Gig

Ichigo-Kurosaki-Bleach-Shonen-Jump-c.jpgThese were magical series for us. GitS had the advantage of being a part of my childhood, and returning to that universe with adult eyes was a real pleasure. I fell in love with the 2nd Gig OP ‘Rise’ by Origa, and the animation quality was really something in my eyes. Fullmetal Alchemist meanwhile had a really great storyline and some wonderful characters, which really drew us in and got us hooked. Dot Hack ruined SAO for us. To this day, I love that show. The characters were sympathetic, the pacing felt just right to me, and I really wanted to see it through to the end. Whenever I see a ‘trapped in an MMORPG’ series now, I end up comparing the two, and thus far, none have matched .Hack//SIGN for me. And then there was Bleach. Out of all the shows, it was the one that ignited our interest the most, I think. Between the general storyline, the character designs for the Hollows, and the early monster of the week style to introduce characters and concepts, it became a firm favourite very quickly. To the point that we started reading the manga too.

And so, my love of anime returned. I started looking up shows online and in magazines again, hunting for shows that sounded like they might be enjoyable. I threw myself at cosplay. And then, in 2015, I started blogging. Yup, since those late nights towards the end of 2007 and the start of 2008, anime has been an important part of my life again. There are still frustrations for me, of course. There are plenty of shows that either don’t take my fancy at all, or lose me very quickly due to quality or content. But when it gets it right, anime as a medium is something special.

Now, how to end this … okay, how about some random recommendations of shows that I found after being reintroduced to anime a little over ten years ago? Split by genre, these have been favourites for me:

  • Action: Black Lagoon
  • Comedy: KonoSuba
  • Cyberpunk: Psycho Pass
  • Dark Fantasy: Attack on Titan
  • Horror: Death Note
  • Mech: Evangelion Rebuild project
  • Slice of Life: Flying Witch
  • Suspense: Durarara!!

And that’s about it. So, how about all of you? How did you first find anime? Has it been a constant love, or did you drop in and out like I did? Let me know below.

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24 comments

    1. You see, is disagree with that. Even putting aside how often it turns up in horror anime lists already, the definition of horror as a genre is generally taken to be a take that is intended to, or has the capacity to, frighten or cause shock, fear or terror. While is certainly a supernatural thriller too, I do think that the premise and the appearance of shinigami give rise to enough horror elements to let it slip into the genre. Plus, when I first bought it, it was labelled as a horror, so it’s always sat in that box in my head to one degree or another.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I tend to mix it up depending on the series, but some of my favourites either were never adapted into anime or were never finished in anime. As a result, the are a few that I now exclusively follow in manga form. Did you have any current favourites?

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      2. JoJo I keep seeing mentioned. I really should check it out one of these days.
        Junji Ito … I render seeing a live action version Uzumaki years ago. An old with colleague used to really like his work too. What would you say is the best place to stay with him?

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      3. Yeah, JoJo’s has been going since the 80s and it’s a big thing in the meme and anime world. I got the physical copy of Uzumaki recently and I’m going to read it again. I started reading Tomie and that was really good

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Tomie I think had had a couple film versions too. It may be Tomie that my local bookstore had in stock, actually.
        Aye, I thought JoJo was a long running one, though I didn’t know it was that old. The number of volumes must be immense.

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  1. Oh man oh man oh man. This post was such a blast to read! It really gave me a trip down memorylane. Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors! 😍😍😍 I was such a fan of that series, I loved it. Like you I also got into anime by getting access to all those old movies/animes. Akira and Ghost in the Shell ofcourse, abd embarassingly enough Urotsukidoji too. But my first real exposure was Robotech…a series that I am still a fan of since first discovering it way back in 1985. And now that I am nearing the age 42 I still love anime…and don’t think that will ever change either 😊😊
    Absolutely loved this post!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. There are some great old ones, aren’t there? Urotsukidoji though … That was … an experience. There’s actually an urban legend that it was first released in the UK with a U (suitable for all ages) certificate because no one checked it on the ground that most series that had been imported from Japan had been kid friendly at that point. I have no idea is that’s true or not though.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I have heard that same urban legend. But I honestly would not even be very surprised if it was true. A lot of people still have this silly notion that animation is only for kids 😔
        Interestingly: I am currently watching the re-imagined Guyver series. That one is surprisingly good 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Haha: definitely: so true, it’s really changed into something else entirely 😅😂
        As for Guyver: it’s anime and has 26 episodes. I’m currently on episode 14, and so far having a blast with it. You can find it on Chrunchyroll 😊

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m with you in that Bleach just blew me away. I hadn’t watched anime in awhile and then in fairly quick succession (and I’m never sure of the order) I saw Evangelion, Death Note and the first season of Bleach. I was hooked on anime from then on.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Those are good ways to jump back in, I think! I’ve still not seen the original Evangelion though.
      Bleach was a really great surprise to find across. It’s one of the big reasons I miss the old channel. Whoo knows what else they Ellie have introduced me to.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I guess I am “one of those fans” because I rather liked Ninja Scroll. My love of anime started at a young age when my parents would rent giant robot shows on VHS. I liked stuff like Voltron and Robotech. When I got older I stopped watching anime, but the Sci-Fi Channel’s late screenings of Burn Up Excess and Dominion Tank Police got me back into the genre. Fortunately when anime DVDs started to appear in the UK coincided with me getting a job.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. To this day, I still don’t get the ‘those fans’ thing. Ninja Scroll was very different to other stuff I’d seen at the time, so it really stood out. I quite liked the series too.

      Dominion Tank Police was great fun. Oddly though, my cosplay of Al from the show was the only one to get me a bunch of verbal abuse. Go figure.

      It’s nice being able to get ahold of stuff a lot easier now. Back in the VHS era, you really had to have some luck to find them.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. That was quite satisfying to read! I always love walking down memory lane with someone’s journey through something. And of course things such as anime, that I’m particularly fond of, I am more so inclined to be invested in. I’ve been thinking of doing a post like this at some point too, maybe I will, who knows really? Irregardless of that though, I rather enjoyed this post, and would say it is one of those type of posts that is easily accessible for anyone who comes to this place.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ohhhh it’s so sweet that it was your first kid who got you back into anime. Dominic and I have all those wee small hours awake to look forward to in the next couple of weeks or so. But mostly we’ve been so excited, getting ahead of ourselves thinking of when we can first start introducing her to anime. She already has some Totoro wall stickers in her room 😊

    It’s cool to hear how you first got into the medium too. For me it was NANA, first knowing what anime was. Years before that it was Dragon Ball Z and Beyblade, though it was mostly my younger sister who was glued to them. I warmed up to Dragon Ball because Vegeta was such a badass.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. She’s my yougest, but not my first. I actually have three daughters. She was certainly insturmental in me embraicng the medium again though!
      Beyblade I saw a little of, but to this day, I still haven’t seen any Dragonball. There’s just so much of it that it almost seems daunting at this point. NANA I actually onyl saw mentioned for the first time today. It sounds like a cool drama.

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