EXPeriencing Anime

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~Dusts off blog. Cringes at last post date. Begins.~

I love that nerd/geek culture is a mainstream identity nowadays. I have previously been guilty of the “you’re not really a nerd” thought. Seeing people lean into fringe cultures of nerdism irritated me. But then I realized that there’s room for everyone to love the weird pop culture things that speak to them, and I stopped judging quite so much. (With the exception of the Star Wars “fans” who drove Daisy Ridley and Kelly Marie Tran off of Instagram. Get out of my fandom.)

The internet makes it easier for everyone to access the things they like, and that was true for me, even during the dawn of social media and online publication spaces, circa 2005.

Before streaming was a thing and Netflix just mailed DVDs to your house, I was known to stay up late watching TV in my room. One of these late nights flipping channels and avoiding infomercials, I landed on some animated show on Adult Swim, or Cartoon Network for the late-night crowd. It looked interesting, so I stuck around. What I gleaned from a couple episodes was that the show was about wolves who turned into people? And the world was ending? I had to know more.

At the time, YouTube was a little baby startup. People could upload just about anything because studios hadn’t known to crack down on rights yet. That’s how I was able to find and watch the full series of the wolf/human/end-of-the-world anime called Wolf’s Rain in three-part chunks. YouTube was my push toward anime.

I wasn’t completely new to anime in 2005, however. Dragon Ball Z had been a thing as long as I can remember. I’d watched a little Pokemon here and there, but my heart was with Nickelodeon, so I didn’t have much exposure to Japanese animation – with two big exceptions. My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki’s Delivery Service were dubbed in English in the ’90s, and I have distinct memories of watching Kiki’s Delivery Service on repeat in my parents’ bedroom. But those were all for kids, right? The only cartoon adults could watch was The Simpsons.

It wasn’t until I saw Wolf’s Rain and the other anime airing on Adult Swim in the middle of the night that it clicked: animation isn’t just for kids, and there’s more out there than Fox and Nickelodeon. I’d seen enough shows about suburban families. I was ready for wolves who turned into people, and ninjas, and alchemists, and space cowboys.

It took me 16 years to discover anime, but I have spent the last 13 years leaning into that fandom. Watching Naruto in high school got a couple people to laugh at me. But I had a boyfriend (now my husband – imagine that) who introduced me to Fullmetal Alchemist and Bleach. And then those shows had merchandise at Hot Topic that I and other people could buy. It was still a little on the fringe, but they were making t-shirts and accessories that I could buy at the mall. What was there to be shamed by? Nothing.

Yes, Naruto is one of the most annoying characters in the history of anime. Yes, some of the long-winded anime have bad raps because of filler episode after filler episode. But the ones that have excellent narrative arcs and tons of character development – whether the main cast has five characters or 50 – are the ones to be on the lookout for. And with the prevalence of streaming today, you can watch all kinds of anime on Netflix and Hulu, new and old.

A friend recently recommended a couple anime for me to watch on Hulu (Tokyo Ghoul which is dark and violent but I’m into it, and My Hero Academia which is amazing), Terry and I started a Bleach rewatch, and I turned on the classic Yu Yu Hakusho as background noise that’s in heavy rotation. There are so many shows I know I should/could be watching across Netflix and Hulu and Amazon like The CrownOITNB, The Handmaid’s Tale… but honestly, most of the time I would just rather watch anime.

The internet can be a pretty grim place these days, but it can also be a haven for people to dive into the things they like, like Japanese animated TV shows.

My Favorite Anime

  1. Wolf’s Rain
  2. Fullmetal Alchemist (the original from 2003, not Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood)
  3. Bleach
  4. Naruto
  5. Cowboy Bebop

Steadily moving up the list: My Hero Academia

My Favorite Miyazaki Movies

  1. Howl’s Moving Castle
  2. Kiki’s Delivery Service
  3. Spirited Away
  4. Princess Mononoke
  5. Ponyo
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