We have had several articles recently of people recounting their time with anime, or what got them into these weird Japanese cartoons. Most of them appear to have been fairly recent converts, so I thought it might be interesting to hear from a more long term fan, at least as far as this community is concerned.
My anime viewing has changed a lot over the years as I’ve grown up, and how my anime is consumed has changed.
I grew up as a fan of Godzilla, watching those movies all the time on VHS. For one of them I think it got so far that the VHS actually broke from overplaying. It’s perhaps not surprising that this would eventually grow into an appreciation of other Japanese media.
As a kid most of the anime I got was via TV, so the likes of Samurai Pizza Cats, Ulysses 31 and the plethora of kids shows made to sell merchandising (Pokemon, Digimon, Monster Rancher, Medabots etc). Pokemon was a big influence in this regards, because I’d managed to pick up an import copy of Red just before the anime made it over to the UK. I really got into the games.
At the time, satellite channels such as Cartoon Network and Fox Kids had plenty of shows on offer, apart from just the aforementioned ones. Shows like Dragonball Z, Cowboy Bebop, Outlaw Star (which even aired the Hot Spring episode that was completely cut from the US run) and Teknoman.
Most of it was pretty much just more cartoons that were not really all that different from Western kids animation, but shows like Bebop were more adult.
At some point during this period I watched the first batch of episodes of Evangelion with my Dad and brother, but we stopped somewhere around the episode with the dance mat. I think we just ran out of episodes that we had on DVD and never went back. I wouldn’t actually manage to finish the series until many years later.
Another defining series during this period was Yu-Gi-Oh! which I originally wrote off as just trying to steal Pokemon’s thunder, since I was a big fan of that at the time. After starting watching the show on Sky my brother and I picked up some of the very first starter decks which had been imported to the UK (the game still hadn’t arrived in Europe officially by then.) He would fairly quickly move on, but I would still be going for years to come.
This got a big kick in 2003 with the first World Championship, where I managed to make it to the finals at Madison Square Garden for the GBA version. I got stomped in the first round by the eventual Champion, but it got me started on the competitive scene.
The next big moment would come in 2006 when I made it back to the World Championship again, but this time in Tokyo. This would be my first very brief exposure to Japan itself, but wouldn’t be the last.
Shortly after returning I was off to Uni, where I got exposed to a completely different kind of anime from what I’d seen before, all thanks to the anime society there. This was of course before the days of legal streaming and such, so it was all about watching new shows via fansubs.
Several of the higher ups in the society had decided that it was better to try and expose new members to different kinds of anime that they might not have watched before. Why would people want to come watch the latest episodes of Bleach and Naruto when they could just do the same on their laptops on their own? I’m thankful for this decision, because it meant I dramatically widened my viewing habits, even if this was mostly from just attending the biweekly screenings.
In my first year we had shows like Welcome to the NHK (which was just airing that Winter), Haruhi (still in the height of Haruhi mania), Kino’s Journey and Gunslinger Girl. Lots of these dealt with subject matter that I’d just not seen in cartoons before, and many would become long time favourites. At this point, you might have realised the significance of the avatar I use around here.
There was also the tradition in the second term or so of watching Genshiken in the society, because by that point we’d all be able to identify with people in their club, or see those kinds of people in our own club.
I’d also make plenty of friends during this period, and get exposed to other series that would become favourites, like Mushi-shi, Natsume’s Book of Friends, Planetes, Baccano! and the films of Mamoru Hosoda, via The Girl Who Leapt Through Time.
Towards the end of my undergraduate it was around the time that legal streaming was starting to pick up, with Crunchyroll moving away from its dubious origins. I initially didn’t get on board with The Tower of Druaga and Linebarrels of Iron, and it would take some more unusual choices to get me to try out a subscription. These were the experimental short, The Diary of Tortov Roddle, and the ONA, Time of Eve.
Time of Eve would be the first show in a long time to reignite my passion about anime, as I quickly watched all the available episodes and then began the wait for new ones. This would sometimes be around 6 months in the case of Nameless, but you can probably see why if you watched it. It was so unlike other anime out there, both in terms of how it was made, and what went into the show. Details like camera work that most anime neglect, and production values that put most TV anime to shame, especially considering its origins. It also helped that I was a sci-fi fan, and that the subject matter doesn’t seem too far removed from a real future we might have to deal with.
I still remembering waiting up until the early hours of the morning, rewatching all the previous episodes in the run up to the new one going online.
I would stick with Crunchyroll after this, but my viewership would go up and down over time, sometimes skipping seasons or maybe only watching one or two per season. Nothing could quite live up to Time of Eve at that time.
Eventually there would be another series that got me excited from week to week, which was Chihayafuru. You can read more about that particular series here, but I’ll just say that the series managed to make me care more about who won a poetry card game than most series do when the fate of the world hangs in the balance.
From there I’ve usually managed a fairly steady stream of a few shows per season, with some gems here and there, like Nozaki-kun, or more recently Shirobako and Death Parade. Although the fracturing of options with Funimation expanding their streaming services has made some things a bit more difficult now.