While my anime and manga appreciation did not truly sublimate until 2003, my life has been enriched by japanese media ever since birth. I’ve been told by my mom that she watched super sentai in the Philippines when she was still carrying me. I’ve been playing Nintendo ever since I learned to grasp a controller. My favourite shows as a child all had origins in Japan.
First Anime Watched (dub): Samurai Pizza Cats, 1991.
I was 5 years old, and everything revolved around watching TV. My first cartoon that I had ever watched by this point was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which was arguably the biggest North American children’s franchise at the time. I loved it, but the show only aired so many times a day. I wanted my fix, and I stumbled upon another show on YTV called Samurai Pizza Cats. It was another cartoon, but I distinctly remembered it poking fun at Ninja Turtles in the theme song, despite being an apparent rip-off.
However, the animation style captivated me, particularly with the first instances of flashy attacks and transformation sequences. Even now, not a lot can compare to transforming while sliding down a tube and then being shot out of a cannon. It was edgy, it had style, and even though I didn’t understand a lot of what was going on (I wouldn’t even understand some of the stupid puns until I was older, which made me love the show more in retrospect), I knew I liked what I saw. I didn’t see enough of it to make sense out of the plot, though I think nobody really did, considering the random nature of the dub, which made it far better than it probably would have.
First Anime Crush: Sailor Mars, 1993
Yes. at seven years old, I already had a waifu. I didn’t know that she was my waifu at the time, but all the feelings that I had back then are similar to the feelings that otaku tend to have now with their own waifus. I didn’t even have the concept of 3D or 2D back then. It was a pure love that knew no dimension. She was Rei. She was stylish. She was fiery. She ignited my world. She had legs out of this world straight into Mars. She had the raven hair that sparked my love for asian girls for years to come.
She was mine, and nobody else could have her. A waifu, even if my childish love for her was a puppy-love version. She may have changed my life forever, but she definitely changed it for the better.
First Anime Movie (dubbed): Pokemon, the First Movie, 1999
Despite my natural affinity for anything Japanese, I didn’t actually get into pokemon (the video game) until shortly before the movie came out. By then I was already watching pokemon (the anime) religiously. For a good while, I didn’t even realise that there was a game that was associated with the show. I just started middle school (grade 7), and it was part of a classmate’s birthday party.
I distinctly remember one of my classmates refusing to watch the movie because he had already watched it in japanese, and would rather play his imported version of Pokemon Gold. He was above localization. He was the first otaku that I had ever met, and even while my other classmates bullied him for his otaku-ness, I really didn’t have any problems with him. Go figure.
First “Mature” Anime: Cowboy Bebop, 2002
The toonami and adult swim eras were already in full swing in the United States, but Canada was lagging far behind, and wouldn’t get their anime timeslot equivalent in Bionix until 2004. Luckily, I had my first taste of adult-oriented anime during my annual summer visit to my aunt’s house in Boston. While relatives were all asleep in their various makeshift guestrooms, I huddled in the living room by my lonesome and watched whatever was on. I distinctly remember my first ever episode of Cowboy Bebop, Mushroom Samba.
And what a first impression that was! Of all the episodes from Bebop to show someone for their first exposure to “definitive” anime, it was the one that involved hallucinogenic mushrooms, bounty hunters swimming in restrooms, blaxploitation, and the most out of-this-planet locomotive chase set to jazz music that I’ve ever heard in my life (at least, until Baccano!).
It was only one episode, and I didn’t even get a chance to catch the name of the show. It wasn’t until after I watched dubbed Samurai Champloo in its entirety that I learned of Cowboy Bebop’s existence, which I ended up watching subbed. I am proud to say that I was one of few who watched Cowboy Bebop in its entirety subbed before watching it dubbed. It was surreal, but it wasn’t as surreal as the subbed anime that I watched before it.
First “Subbed” Anime: FLCL, 2003
Back in the day, before VLC, there was realplayer. Before Megaupload and bittorrent, there was Napster/IRC. Before .mkv, there was .xvid. I had caught what I believe to be the first waves of Internet-distributed fansubbing, and among the likes of Love Hina, Cowboy Bebop and others, which took weeks on end to download in their entirety, there was an accessible series (download-wise) that only spanned six episodes. And boy what a six episodes those were.
FLCL was an experience in itself, watching it on my 1024×768 CRT monitor. The files themselves were probably less than 200kb in size, and I can only imagine that the file resolution at the time was in the theoretical 240p range. The sensations that rushed through me as I switched between my CDRs for individual episodes (somehow I wanted individual cds for each episode) were some that I had never experienced before. It was a definitive moment in my life, and probably warrants its own post. It still remains as my favourite anime ever watched to date, and for good reason too.
First “Subbed” Anime Movie: Millennium Actress, 2004
My love for Satoshi Kon can stretch for several posts, but consider this little story as the origin of it. I wandered into a “Chinese” video store, and inquired about the store’s “collection.” The proprietor showed me to a rack of anime dvds that were clearly not of Japanese printed origin. They were all in photoshopped Chinese characters, and I couldn’t tell one movie from the other, besides from the actual art on the cover.
I was still a relative newbie to anime, and without the likes of MAL or even wikipedia, I only knew of anime through word-of-mouth with friends who also liked anime (unsurprisingly, few and far in between). I through all of at least thirty to forty DVD covers, and picked out of instinct. I saw one with an unassuming girl in a Kimono, possibly the same girl replicated in the various characters depicted in the background. I took a once-in-a-lifetime chance on this girl, and she would go on to move me in ways I couldn’t possibly imagine at the time. If I ever admit to believing in fate, it would be solely because of this lucky selection.
Anybody who says that you can’t judge a book by its cover is absolutely crazy.
First Anime Song Performed: God Knows (2006)
Forget listening to music. Playing music itself is where the excitement is at!
A jack of all trades with musical instruments, I’ve been in several bands, ranging from concert band to jazz to garage rock. Jamming was a big part of my life from high school all the way up to university, of which at the time, I was already a sophomore. I joined my campus anime club and eventually became the president for one year. My first decree at the first anime club screening, which included a fantastic, diverse lineup of Eureka Seven, Haruhi Suzumiya, Ouran Host Club, and Welcome to the NHK, was to enlist any and all musicians to what would be the anime club band.
Nobody could play an instrument, and there were too many girls who sang. It couldn’t be helped. I dragged my best friend all the way from his University, several hours away, and housed him for one weekend, teaching him how to play drums even though his main instrument was the piano. I recruited my second-in-command from the anime club, as well as another friend from high school who had suddenly learned how to play bass. We played nothing but God Knows that weekend, and I was the lead guitarist.
It musically fulfilling, practicing that song. I improvised the solo at the end of the song, but that lead riff will forever be ingrained in my mind. That band only lasted one weekend, but is still the best group that I have ever played for.
First Light Novel: Another Note, 2007
Like Spice and Wolf, Another Note was one of those cases where I had read the spinoff/source material before being acquainted with the popularized series itself. I picked this book up randomly based on the fact that it was based on Death Note, which was ridiculously popular at the time. I had some idea of the general storyline, which I explained to a relative who asked what I was reading.
Cousin: What are you reading?
Me: Another Note, it’s based on an anime called Death Note.
Cousin: Oh, sounds cool. What’s it about?
Me: Death Note? It’s about a guy who finds a notebook that makes people die if you write their name in it. It’s a mystery-suspense series.
Cousin: That’s freaking awesome. So that’s what you’re reading then?
Me: Yeah. But in this one, there’s no notebook.
That conversation pretty much killed his interest in the book, and I’ll still remember how deadpan his “oh” was. Regardless, he was interested in the Death Note series itself. We ended up watching the live action movie sometime later.
It also exposed me to Nisio Isin, who I ended up regarding as one of my favourite authors in any form of fiction.
First Anime-Centric Relationship: J-Chan (2010)
You can read the story here. All I can say is that even though my relationship with J-chan didn’t last as long as my previous two long-term ones, it was still meaningful because it was the first time I’ve ever dated someone with the same interest in anime, and I learned a lot about myself and my relationship with anime through my relationship with someone else. I don’t regret how it happened, nor how it ended.
There’s a First Time For Everything
There were several other firsts for me, but they didn’t have any particularly interesting story associated with them. My first purchased non-dvd/manga anime merchandise was a FLCL wallscroll, which still hangs in my room alongside 2 other FLCL wallscrolls. My first Live Action series watched was Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, which is a lot more awesome than it sounds. My first physical manga read was Fruits Basket, which I spent an entire afternoon at Chapters reading. My first purchased figurine was a Yuki Nendoroid from The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, which now has a small scratch on its head because it fell when I was trying to make a pose in which a larger-sized Squirtle plushie grabbing her in his arm while climbing a 3D-puzzle replica of the Empire State Building.
Okay, maybe those are somewhat interesting stories, but this post is 1900 words already, and I need to grab some lunch. Laters.