Yumeka of Mainichi Anime Yume wrote an article where she harkened back to her childhood and examined the origins of when her love of anime first began and, of course, why it still persists in her heart today. She asked her readers if they could trace any instances of early “nerdom” within their childhoods that may have contributed to their love for anime today and if there were any obstacles in regards to the indulgence in these hobbies (home environment, parents, peers, etc.)
Instead of sharing my own story as a comment on her blog, I decided to reply to it as a post of my own.
During my childhood, like any other kid, I just adored getting immersed in the fictional worlds of cartoons and television, like the grim dark Batman: The Animated Series or the fantastical and kid-friendly picture book world of Blue’s Clues. This also applies to video games such as The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Bros., a bunch of PS1 RPGs and Sega goodies, and of course, more good ol’ classic Nintendo titles which gave my imagination a good exercise. This may have been the roots of my love for collecting merchandise, as I often pulled my parents into the toys stores and malls just to get dolls, games, and action figures corresponding to the programs I loved — all to continue those worlds with my own imagination: playing pretend, as all kids do at an early age.
It was around the time when I was in kindergarten that the Pokemon anime/games, Sailor Moon, and Dragon Ball Z anime kind of just appeared out of nowhere in the United States. Not only did their fictional universes and toys appealed to me, but they had an eastern aura about them that also appealed to me, a boy of eastern descent (of course, all three at that point had dubs that were heavily Americanized, but I found it easy to tell that they weren’t Western productions). Pokemon, especially, appealed to my imaginative brain during the days where the anime presented an adventurous, surreal world that any kid would wish to live in because Satoshi would experience different things on his journey each day. In regards to the video games, it may have been my first contact to any instances of a “fandom”, where all the wild rumors and glitches spread amongst my little friends who also enjoyed the Pokemon fad.
Around the same time, I caught the Japanese episodes of Dragon Ball Z on the now-defunct International Channel (which, of course, was waaaaay ahead of the dub) and was instantly hooked on this eastern form of animation. I discovered more Japanese anime on that channel and Toonami, and when Nelvana’s Cardcaptors dub rolled around (yes, I actually liked that piece of trash dub back then), it got me interested in the Cardcaptor Sakura manga that was translated by Tokyopop (RIP), which may have been the roots of my love for CLAMP and also the catalyst for my discovery of the original Japanese anime that started during middle school. In grade school, I was known as the “Dragon Ball kid” because I ALWAYS knew what was on “THE NEXT EPISODE OF… DRAGOOON BALLLLL ZZZZZEEEEEEE!” They attributed it to me being related to the creator of Dragon Ball or having psychic powers. Either way, that was my source of seven-year old lulz. Along with that nickname, I was also known as “that classmate who knows how to draw anime and other things very, very well”. Drawing anime/manga all of my life certainly had a part in my continued indulgence of using the art form as a tool for exercising my imagination in various ways.
Unlike some other people that like to misconstrue the meaning of “growing up” and lump together current interests and hobbies to gender and age, instead of deeming my love for animation (of all kinds, but especially Japanese anime) as “childish” and growing out of it on my own accord, I stuck with it and the medium grew up along with me. There are exceptions, but unlike western animation, Japanese animation never stereotypes cartoons as just being productions made for children. There are children’s anime, sure, but there are also a ton of productions made for adults and teenagers. Besides, who says children’s shows can’t be enjoyable to other age brackets? Justice League Unlimited, an American production, should be a testament to that! Even I were to, say, dislike anything that’s made with children in mind, why would I give up on anime as whole? I wouldn’t, I’d just be watching anime made for adults.
Giving up on a medium of entertainment just because terrible productions exist would make every movie critic stay the hell away from the movie theaters. There have been a fair share of anime series that I’ve deemed terrible, but I still stuck with the medium and still consistently find things that I enjoy, and every once in a while, find an absolute masterpiece. Sounds very similar to being a movie-goer, doesn’t it? Well, that’s because it’s the exact same thing. So in terms of my ignorant peers’ opinion of anime, I generally ignore it or give them one of my snarky replies, because I’m allowed to like whatever I want and don’t care whether they have a lower opinion of me because of what I like. It’s a nice way to stay happy and being able to enjoy the things you love. Luckily enough, I made a ton of friends in my life that are either neutral, casual, or hardcore about anime as I am and never look down on me because of it. My parents were also never an obstacle when it comes to my indulgence of anime, mainly because they really have no problems with it (or whatever else I do as long as it isn’t doing drugs or committing arson). They, or at least my mother, actually support my interest in anything as long as it makes me happy. However, if they were to have forbade it, I would have treated them the same way as any other ignorant person, as long as they didn’t already influence me into hating certain stuff and thinking in a certain way while growing up.
What I deem as a real obstacle to my passion as a fan of anime (and other things) was my family’s dive into perpetual poverty at an early stage of my life. Because of this, I never got the chance to really satisfy my enjoyment of collecting things that was sown into my soul when I was a toddler. While poverty never gets in the way of just watching anime, it does limit the enjoyment of the hobby in other ways. Not being able to buy official releases of DVDs and manga as they come out, not being able to attend conventions that aren’t local, not being able to buy as many video games as I did during my early days of life, not being able to afford wasting money on collectible merchandise, etc. I feel that I would be more satisfied as a fan of anything if I had more money in my pocket. It really puts a damper on your spirit when your “collection” (that grows slower than a sloth’s lunch hour) is really nothing to be proud about.
My first contact with a “real” anime fandom was way back when — the day where I first discovered internet forums and communities. This was during my obsession with the Pokemon franchise (the inner workings of which I had a creepily sufficent knowledge about), so naturally the first internet forum I joined was a Pokemon forum that also had an active discussion board about other anime and manga series.
Eventually, all my passion culminated in the blog you all are reading right now, born towards the end of middle school during 2007 (at that point, I never let anyone on the net know my real age due to the fear of age discrimination). Inspired by blogs like Memento (RIP), my main goal was to have a place where I can write my opinions about Japanese entertainment, mainly anime/manga, and incite discussion about topics stemming from the side of my head that society deems “geeky” — a place where my voice seems like the loudest, even if The Otaku Spot is actually just a small speck in the giant virtual universe we call the internet. There have been plenty of times where it’s been on “life support” due to real life issues (AKA HIATUS CENTRAL), resulting in loss of readership (you know it’s bad when you go from getting 40+ comments on a short post about CLANNAD’s ending theme and a juvenile rant about School Days to getting an average of 0–6 comments on regular posts). Nevertheless, my inspiration to write anime is as strong as ever, and this blog will never die as long as I still love Japanese entertainment. I’ve gotten to talk to fine people such as Orion of the now-defunct Epic Win blog and CCYoshi of the also-defunct Mega Megane Moe blog, so I would say that joining the anime blogosphere has been an enriching experience.
I’m sure my friend Daniel agrees, since he was absolutely estatic when his favorite visual novel blogger (who I also think is awesome), bluemist, actually commented on his first Da Capo III post. Becoming a guest writer on my otherwise personal blog was a good idea, wasn’t it, my Canadian friend? ;P You never know who is going to read your writing, so it inspires putting some quality and entertainment into it regardless!
Anyhow, regardless of what the anime and manga industries would have you believe, the internet actually helps these mediums and their fandoms, as well as others. I’d definitely say that the internet has contributed positively to a lot of my hobbies. Anime and manga, especially. It’s certainly a fact that looking for new titles wouldn’t be as easy without the virtual library known as the web, and communities dedicated to these hobbies wouldn’t be as big as they are without the help of the internet. It’s where word of mouth is the loudest, and thus the word gets out faster, contributing a lot to the growth and interest of the anime fandom. It certainly contributed to my identity as an anime fan — all the mp3s, video clips, discussion, digital fanart/scans, and constant surge of new information certainly helped keep my fondness of anime/manga and helped it grow. I probably wouldn’t have bought my The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya boxset, Fullmetal Alchemist DVDs, Cardcaptor Sakura DVDs, and various other products if it hadn’t.
Hope you enjoyed my text babble… because I certainly did. ;P To further my point, I don’t ramble this much in real life. If I did, it certainly wouldn’t be as concise. Also, kudos to Yumeka for once again inspiring me to exercise my brain with her well-thought out posts! xD