Saturday, July 23, 2011

Turn Off That Loud Anime!

Wow, this has only been my second article for Augmented Reality?

It’s amazing how you go through all the trouble of tearing down a YouTube channel, so you can found a blog with your friends, and in the frenzy of helping it come together, you forget to get exactly what YOU wanted out if it. I wanted the opportunity to write editorials, but since we’ve started I have been just so amazed at the great work all my friends have been doing that I’ve become something of a fan myself, and I’m maintaining the blog in a way that I can simply allow them to upload new work that I can enjoy.

It isn’t as though I haven’t had ideas. In fact I’ve been mulling over writing this one article about anime that’s been bouncing around my head for some time. I haven’t been doing so because I don’t know how to approach it. In recent years, anime has become a touchy subject for me. I still enjoy anime, but all of the unrelated inter-politics surrounding my relationship with anime conventions in the city have given me a tendency to make me feel…inadequate. I’ve heard that I don’t know as much about the art form so many times, I’ve actually come to believe it.

Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration. Poor relationships with the anime community at large aren’t actually the reason I don’t feel like I fully understand anime.

It’s my age.

Anime has been a part of my life since I was roughly 10 years old. Back then I had the peculiar habit of gluing my eyeballs to the Spanish television stations, despite the fact that I spoke absolutely no Spanish and I had no idea what anyone was saying. I was originally there to peek in on old Saturday morning cartoon shows that had already been canceled on American TV, which Spanish TV had in spades.

I wound up discovering a variety of shows that never aired on American TV. I used to think they were originally Mexican, but I changed my mind when I saw rows of Japanese writing the dub artists were kind enough to leave in the production. Among the anime I sampled this way was Dragon Ball, Ranma ½, Los Super Campiones, (Or “Captain Tsubasa” to you anime purists) and Los Caballeros de Zodiaco. (Saint Seiya) These shows were interesting, but I didn’t become a fan of anime at a young age because of them. Not being able to understand what the characters were saying tends to have that effect on you.

Fast forward to 1998, and with that year the opening of the very first Hollywood Video stores in El Paso. Very few people I’ve talked to in recent years seem to remember that Hollywood Video was pretty much the first store in the city to have an anime/animation section. At the nearest location to my home, nestled in between copies of Heavy Metal: The Motion picture, and Fritz the Cat on VHS cassette were 3 Ranma OVAs and a motion picture, theatrical motion picture length animes of Street Fighter and Fatal Fury, and the first dozen episodes of Dragon Ball. I remember standing there in disbelief, thinking that there was still an outside chance that those tapes were still all in Spanish. But I took the plunge, rented a Ranma OVA and….Well, you can guess the rest.

So, my first experiences with Anime truly began in the year 1998, which was a whole 13 years ago. In the time since I got my first taste of the genre off the shelves of Hollywood video, I became a fan of a great variety of series: Tenchi Muyo, Cowboy Bebop, Evangelion, Outlaw Star, and Excel Saga, just to name a few. I became aware of the different genres of anime: Comedy, Drama, Sci-Fi, Giant robot, and Magical Girl. I was around for some of animes’ biggest breakthroughs, especially the explosion of anime on American television. I, like lots of other people, thought we had it made and the great big ball of American anime prosperity would just keep rolling along like a wayward Katamari, destined for the stars.

What happened after that? It’s hard to say.

Most people blame Japan itself for the lack of proliferation of anime on the airwaves. The popularity of series like The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and Lucky Star has brought along with it an enormous surge in the popularity of moe-styled teenage girls-in-school animes. Gone from the public eye are heroic tales of giant robots and martial artists. Here to stay are the tales of girls debating the nature of cream filled snack-breads and praying “Kami-Sama don’t let my skirt get blown in the air!”

Most of the people I know are huge fans of these series. They managed to gauge every single moment of the transition from 90s era anime, to the anime of the next millennium without skipping a step. When it comes to me, though, I feel like somewhere I’ve been lost in the shuffle. I feel like I came into anime because of series like Ranma and Dragon Ball, and Los Caballeros, and that since those genres are all but dead now, anime isn’t even speaking the same language as me.

I used to think I was alone in that I was the only one to felt this way, but later, I found out I can’t rule out the possibility that there is a whole older generation of anime fans who like me, fail to grasp the significance of the new generation of shows. Why? Well, there are two major reasons.

The first reason is that because of the over-abundance of school girl anime on Japanese airwaves has led to a loss of mainstream interest in anime on American television. Lots of people don’t understand why these kinds of series are so popular and as a result of that, we’re seeing a lot less of anime on television these days.

The second reason is that the most popular, bestselling manga/anime series in Japan is, and has been for several years, Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece. One Piece is as close to an old school anime as you can possibly get, from its character designs to the nature of its plot. So, even in its native Japan, the attention of the populous at large still looks to anime in its most original form for entertainment.

I admit, running in anime circles these days has me feeling like a fish out of water. I haven’t kept up with the latest and greatest series and my punishment for that is that my knowledge of anime and manga only comes from a certain era. I’ve become a Grandpa Simpson in that the new ways of anime fail to reach my understanding, and in the ways that they do, scare me. Still, despite my lack of modern, streamlined experience, I am still a fan of the genre and I still wish for it very much for the fandom of anime to become a success in my hometown.

It has to be…because anime is an El Paso tradition.

More on that later...

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