It’s late at night, the verge of midnight, and the cold glow of my crt television fills the room, most likely turning my eyes square as I sit on the cold linoleum floor of my room. I flick through the channels hoping to find anything worth watching, constantly double checking that the volume is as low as possible so that I can still hear it but it won’t alert the attention of the footsteps outside my door. Late night news, infomercials, static, late 90’s sitcom, static, then something catches my wandering thoughts. It’s a cartoon of some sort but it looks amazing. There’s teenagers, like me but they’re piloting these great machines against these mind boggling monsters. The sexuality, the violence, I feel like I shouldn’t be watching but I shuffle closer and decrease the volume just a little more, I couldn’t look away.
I am a Fan
Besides Pokemon and Yugi-oh, etc. that I’d seen occasionally on tv but preferred the games, Neon Genesis Evangelion was my first ‘anime’. I remember uncovering this show with all these themes that I hadn’t been confronted with before and really enjoying how ‘genuine’ it felt, unlike the family friendly programming I was familiar with, I felt like I wasn’t being patronized. I was (and still am) a huge fan of robots, monsters, mystery, girls and cool visuals and Evangelion brought it all and tied it in with deeper philosophies and ideologies and the subversion of religion (Which really spoke to me at the time but that’s a different story). Since then few texts have really satisfied me like Evangelion, these few including Code Geass, the Bioshock games, the Muse album ‘Drones’ (Don’t judge me), and Ghost in the Shell.
Not a “Fan of Anime”, Just a Fan
In class a few weeks ago, we were presented with an option, watch Gojira or Ghost in the Shell, much to my surprise, the response was a resounding “Ghost in the Shell”. I don’t know why I seem to think anime is still such a niche thing, almost everyone I know has watched at least a Studio Ghibli film or Dragonball Z or something mainstream. Perhaps it’s because saying you’re a “fan of anime” has a negative stigma, perhaps it’s because the statement would be a gross exaggeration. Brenda Velasquez of Asian Avenue Magazine wrote,
“At first glance, anime, which features handdrawn or computer animation, appears to be simply Japanese-style cartoons for children, but anime in fact caters to a wide-ranging age demographic with a plethora of themes like love/friendship, coming-of-age, good vs. evil and so on. Similarly, anime spans a variety of subgenres from fantasy and sci-fi to horror, romance and comedy.” (Velasquez, 2013)
It’s hard to be a “fan of anime” when there’s so much of it to experience, it’s more likely that you’re a fan of a genre that is explored well in anime or quite prominent within anime as a trope. Being raised on western media and only encountering the very successful anime that transcend national boundaries or is fan subbed by a cult following and not being exposed to it in mainstream media, it’s easy to think that it’s a niche industry, and fans are often mistaken in the assumption that they are a fan of Japanese media and therefore Japan as a culture when in fact Japan has a $350 billion dollar media industry in which anime is only a small section of.