Well, I don’t know about you, but reading otousan’s post on this topic, the similar top-10 post he linked to (you know, the one that wasn’t me), and realizing that this is August, which makes this the six-year anniversary of my friend finally magically convincing me to watch Cowboy Bebop which opened up a floodgate that led directly to where I am today, made me ponder the infamous question posed by Paul Gauguin. So, I figured, why not jump in on the “exploring your roots in anime fandom” deal?
It, uh, didn’t work the way it was supposed to.
I started checking my list for series that could serve as series that left a deep and impressionable impact on me, and discovered two things: one, there weren’t really a lot of them, and, two, the ones that seemed to leave an impact that resonates to this very day aren’t the ones everyone else attributes the same to. Cowboy Bebop is, of course, my first (and you never forget your first) and it indeed was pretty amazing (or else I had nothing better to do since I watched it all in one day, God help me) because I sobbed like a baby when Ed and Ein left, but revisiting the series later (in, admittedly, a terrible setting to do so) I was struck by the realization that I didn’t really understand why this was the work that got me into anime. I don’t know if it’s just that my tastes shifted, the fault of the setting in which I rewatched it (although I did grab Mushroom Samba that night and watched it, and was also much less amused by it), or the fact that I’m just delusional as hell and like to fabricate elaborate ways to not like things, but something felt missing. The same went for a lot of “classic” series that I jumped into at that point in time: I watched Slayers all the way through and forgot that I did so a year later, I suffered through a library-owned VHS dub copy of Ghost in the Shell and sat there and said “why do people like this movie?”, I watched (possibly only the vast majority of) Neon Genesis Evangelion in an entire day (I went to class that day too!) and wasn’t really moved to massive fanboyism or anti-fanboyism, and I found Princess Mononoke boring (that was another “I watched it dubbed” thing, though, so who knows). The fact that none of these really grabbed me in the way they grabbed everyone else baffles me as much as it does you, and is probably indicative of a taste deficit in my part, although, for the most part, I wouldn’t say I actally, physically hated any of above mentioned series–it’s more a lack of true, amazing, heartfelt devotion to one or all of those series. Not really apathy, but just “it’s there, and it’s good, and that’s it.”
[Short aside for the purposes of providing visual relief from text: The first time I was ever labeled a “pedo” (that infamous universally applicable and frequently totally inaccurate pejorative for anime fans) was when I declared to a friend that I thought Edward Wong Hau Pepelu Tivrusky IV was constructed of pure awesome and win. The second time was when I told a different friend that Margie from Xenogears was cute.
She still is, damn you all]
What did seem to grab me? Totally random and bizarre things, apparently. I picked up Figure 17 fairly early on and loved it to pieces (even if I did suffer the Figure 17 Effect), and I do count it among the main series that I think showed me what I liked about anime and why I kept coming back for more. Kokoro Library is another one, although that attachment is more sentimental (and occupation-related) due to a massive catharsis while watching it. Beyond that, I really have no clue which series (especially series viewed early on) I can attribute to helping me solidify myself as an anime fan. I can rattle off a list of series I assigned 10s to and say it’s their fault, but I don’t really know if that’d work right. I don’t even know if I can really assign the reason as to why I’ve stuck around so long (when other friends of mine fell away, or have other interests that don’t involve animation but still involve Japan, or involve animation but not Japan, or involve neither) to any one specific group of series.
I almost want to say that what happened was that, simply because of my habit of getting interested in something and basically diving headfirst into it and starting to root for stuff evolved into a kind of holistic passion for anime. In 2002, when I started out, I downloaded anything and everything someone, somewhere, said was good. This is why I have Star Ocean EX CD-Rs and about 50 zillion others that sit collecting dust because I can’t throw them away because I might need them someday. It didn’t always work out with me in the right way, but, generally speaking, I enjoyed a lot fo what I did end up watching–and some of it stuck, and some of it I remembered existed only when I browsed through ANN when compiling my first collected list of series I’d seen a couple years ago. It’s always a weird feeling to go “wow, I forgot I watched this series and that it even existed” and remembering that you had fun watching it.
What came out of this insane, almost suicidal exploration (it could easily have backfired on lesser and greater men than me, resulting in early burnout) was, perhaps, not a passion for anime as a genre of media (or whatever you want to call it these days; I remember people arguing that it was a medium and not a genre years ago) but what I think is best described as a passion for anime as anime. It’s weird–instead of subconsciously comparing anime to other media/genres of media, as many people seem to do, I think I do the opposite, at times. It might not be a better position (I’m tempted to argue that it’s a worse position, honestly), but it certainly is a different viewpoint from the ones I’m used to seeing from a Western audience.
Also I am certifiably crazy. Which I think we’ve established.
Also, because I didn’t quite think it needed its own post, but I wanted to mention it anyway, because, well, I mustn’t run away: I bought the thinpack of Neon Genesis Evangelion today, for no other reason than I hadn’t bought it in six years, and I figured that if I didn’t buy it while I was thinking about it, I wouldn’t remember to buy it for another six.
I think I need to join the Human Instrumentality Project now. Also I have listened to Cruel Angel’s Thesis (残酷な天使のテーゼ if you’re a stickler for kanji you can’t read like me) far, far too much today. I don’t know why. It is, however, an awesome song.
(P.S.: Who the heck is Paul Gauguin anyway?)