It’s wild, it’s silly, it’s artistic, it tells stories, it conveys emotion, it’s not kids stuff!
Astro Boy in the ’80s and Sailor Moon in the ’90s formed pretty much all I knew about anime when I learned that some of my friends regularly got together for anime nights in the late ’90s. They’d invited me along a few times, but I always declined as I cringed at the idea. Watching bad cartoons from Japan? How lame can you get? I’ll stick to practicing drop D metal licks on guitar, in my bedroom, in the dark, alone, thank you.
In the ’90s, anime was hardly the cultural phenomenon it is now. It was niche and often hard to find. And it was enjoyed pretty exclusively by, well, nerds.
Then it happened. I was over to hang out when someone put on – ew – anime! They were continuing a series they’d rented on VHS from a specialty shop in town. It had giant robots. Of course it had giant robots. It also had a really peculiar art style. It was kind of neat. The story seemed intriguing, too. There was a love story, an otherworldly aspect, cool fight scenes. They gave me the Coles notes on the episodes I’d missed and there I was, just as enthralled as the rest of them. This is anime? It’s not just dumb trash? Huh! Who would have guessed?
I found myself at that specialty store maybe a week later with one of those friends, renting tape 1 from that series, containing the four episodes I’d missed. Before I knew it, I was back at that store once a week. I’d become a super fan!
What I was renting was something called “fan subs”. These were fan-made copies of series that had been released in Japanese and that someone had translated and subtitled in English. It was all technically illegal, but it paved the way for legitimate North American releases, down the line.
The majority of available titles were pretty mainstream and not always very good (just like any movie rentals or TV shows), but there were some titles that varied from pretty cool to some of the best visual media I’d ever seen.
Over the years, I’ve rented countless titles, downloaded countless more, and, as they became available, started building a library of legitimate VHS, then DVD releases, also getting into soundtracks (of course), posters and wall scrolls, figures and other collectables. You name it. That group of pals and I even travelled to a few anime cons, back in the day and I still make a point to pop into any of the smaller cons that happen locally.
As anime has exploded in popularity here in Canada over the last 10-15 years, I’m still here, watching, looking for interesting new things, collecting figures, and having my mind blown by new and old anime!
Feel like dipping your toes into the anime ocean, but not sure where to start? I’d recommend any of the following:
- Sprited Away
- Howl’s Moving Castle
- Voices of a Distant Star
Ready for more? Try:
- Cowboy Bebop
- Great Teacher Onizuka
- Kill la Kill
In it for life? You’ll need to see:
- Rouroni Kenshin
- Neon Genesis Evangelion
- Now and Then, Here and There