I’ve been an anime fan for a short while now, but immersed myself quickly into the anime sphere. Juggling multiple anime per season, making sure to watch older anime when time allows, moderating an anime forum, blogging, and participating in a few anime forums all help me keep up-to-date on the constantly changing medium that is anime. Despite the many new shows and characters that pop up, I still go back now and then and think fondly of the firsts that made me the fan I am today. If not for them, I would not appreciate anime to the extent that I do now, so here is a tribute to my anime firsts.
Note: Thanks to Yumeka for being the inspiration for this post with her entry on anime firsts.
I was never big into television as a kid, but I remember watching a half hour or so after coming home. I distinctly remember feeling unsure about the strange graphics and creatures that presented themselves in Pokemon and Digimon, and it wasn’t until several views that I started to realize that the two were completely different series with independent plots, characters, and settings. There was a girl in my high school who was a HUGE fan of Pokemon, and would wear a t-shirt with a large group of them. She wasn’t exactly popular in the school, and was often ridiculed for liking something nerdy like anime. Since I had no knowledge of the medium, but was a childhood friend of hers, I shrugged off her hobby as “just some cartoon” that she loved, considering all anime cartoons for kids. Boy, was I wrong.
Movie: Spirited Away
It wasn’t until college that I was once again exposed to anime, this time in the form of a movie. One of my male friends forced me to watch Spirited Away after he found out that I had no idea what it was and that I thought all anime was for kids. Although Spirited Away is considered a family/children film to many, I was still surprised at the universal themes of friendship and love that pertain to adults as well. Not only that, but I fell in love with Studio Ghibli and the whole story of Spirited Away. To this day, this film is a favorite. I also have an attachment to it because the friend who introduced me to the movie, and also gave me his extra copy, died in 2008. Every time I see the DVD case on my shelf, watch the film, or listen to the beautiful orchestral soundtrack, I think of him and miss the fun times we shared watching anime and goofing off. Thank you, Nick, for revitalizing my interest in anime, and for being my friend.
TV Series: Fruits Basket
Another friend from college turned out to be a HUGE anime fan, and once he found out that I was interested, but uncertain of where to start, he dumped a bunch of discs on me and demanded I try them all out. The first one on the list was Fruits Basket, and it was unlike anything I had ever watched before. Although my love for this show had faded over time, I still remember my obsession with the world and characters. I immersed myself in the learning of the Chinese Zodiac, and proudly called myself a Kyon-supporter. I was delighted at the cuteness of my Tiger representative, went about taking a whole bunch of screenshots of both her and of my favorite scenes with Kyon, and made amateur wallpaper for my desktop.
Online Community: AnimeSuki Forum
I came to the AnimeSuki Forum through its torrent listing, AnimeSuki, and was impressed with the number of threads and members. Here, finally, was a place where I could share my thoughts on anime, as well as learn more about the hobby I was just starting to realize was more vast than I had ever imagined. I also received a moderator warning shortly after joining for asking about a torrent for a licensed anime in complete ignorance of licensing. AnimeSuki was a lot like an anime crash course. I am still an active member, though my participation level has lowered due to my increased involvement in the ISML forums as a forum moderator and staff member.
GFX: AS Signatures
A popular aspect of AnimeSuki Forums is its Fan Creations subforum, which boasts several active members who love nothing more than to make forum signatures and avatars for public and private use. Seeing all the fun GFX used by members throughout the forum, I decided that I wanted to learn how to make my own. After obtaining my own copy of Photoshop, I proceeded to undertake the very confusing task of reading and watching several tutorials. As you can see above, my first signature is…well…not pretty! But, I feel pretty comfortable now with my own style, and make anything from signatures and avatars, to banners and MAL list styles.
Music: Fruits Basket OP and ED
While watching Fruits Basket, I found myself singing along to the OP and ED themes, and decided that I wanted to have my own copies for listening at any time. I’m not too into listening to them now since my music preferences have changed and adapted over the years, but every time one of the themes pops up on a shuffle list, I smile and sing quietly under my breath.
Purchase: Fruits Basket Wall Scroll
As you can see, Fruits Basket really had a huge impact on me. One day, while perusing in a local bookstore, I noticed a familiar image on a wall behind me. Lo and behold, it was a wall scroll of the main cast of Fruits Basket. Since I was really into posters in my early undergrad years, I of course had to purchase it. But, I was too shy to ask if the wall scroll was for sale. Weeks went by, and I kept going in and looking at it, wishing I could hang it on my own wall. I finally mustered up the courage to ask about it when the bookstore put up a “Going out of sale!” sign. To my chagrin, I bought it only to discover that I couldn’t hang it the way I wanted since my dorm didn’t allow punctures in the walls.
Gift: ARIA gashapon set
Last summer, a good friend of mine went to the Chicago Comicon and thoughtfully picked up a gift for his sad friend who couldn’t go. He saw the set and thought them familiar, remembering that I had a box set of the first season on my shelf. I was delighted to receive them and proudly placed them on my bookshelf in front of my small manga collection. His guess was spot-on, since ARIA is also my currently favorite anime of all time, and has been for a good while now.
Figurine: Mizunashi Akari
For my 25th birthday this summer, my boyfriend gifted me this wonderful figurine of Mizunashi Akari. While her face is way, way off, and the oar bends slightly due to its softer material, this is the best present he could have gotten for an ARIA fanatic like me. I absolutely adore this figurine and can’t wait to display it in a nice, clear case some day. Right now, it sits on my humble, little book shelf amidst the much smaller gashapon figures. I fancy that they have conversations whenever I head out into town!
DVD Boxset: Haibane Renmei
I actually only have the first two DVDs for this boxset, but it was the first one I ever owned. I found it on the used movie shelf at GameStop (when they still had movies). I had seen the whole series already, but wanted to own it since I liked it so much. Sadly, I have not yet been able to find the next DVDs, and the ones online all seem to be priced at a ridiculously high rate. If any of you see a great deal for these…LET ME KNOW! :p
Japanese Video Game: Super Mario Bros.
I was a late bloomer for video games, as my parents viewed any television activity as unhealthy for a growing child. I was able to get a used Nintendo console from a garage sale, along with a copy of Super Mario Bros., and I would play this game over and over again. It’s strange because I can’t actually remember if I ever “finished” this game, and when I played it again after its Wii release, I couldn’t remember many of the levels. Sadly, I no longer own my old Nintendo, since my parents later re-sold it in one of their own garage sales sometime in my later grade school years.
Favorite character: “Osaka” of Azumanga Daioh
Azumanga Daioh was probably my 2nd viewed TV anime series, and it shocked me with its gag humor. Anime could actually be this funny? I distinctly remember laughing harder than I ever had for an American cartoon. This was also the start of my multiple re-watches, as I just couldn’t get enough of the anime and its unique characters. Of all the characters, Kasuga “Osaka” Ayumu put me into stitches the most. Every time she opened up her mouth, I was giggling and quoting her lines. And while my character favorites have changed and the list has lengthened over the years, I still view Osaka as one of the strangest characters to grace the anime screen.
Manga: Azumanga Daioh
My obsession with Azumanga was pretty severe at the time, and besides re-watching skits OVER AND OVER, I also went and purchased the manga once I discovered that our local comic store sold it. As this was the first manga I ever read or owned, I was a bit put off by how different the actual manga was from my imagination of what it would be like. I had expected something more along the lines of an American comic, but found myself presented with skits…just like in the anime. However, the manga skits feel more disconnected from one another than in the anime. I had to do a couple read-throughs before I was comfortable with the style, but once I was, I fell in “like” with manga. I say “like” because my appreciation for anime is much, much higher. And while I can justify my expensive DVD purchases of anime, I have a hard time justifying what I consider the high prices of manga sold in America. I’m used to thick chapter books pricing at around $8.00, and buying a manga that I read in under an hour for $10.00 feels pretty terrible on my wallet.
Japanese Language Course: College-level (2 years)
Like many anime fans, I went through a Japan-craze phase. Maybe some are still in this phase, have fallen out of it, or have realized that the phase is actually a life-long love for the culture. I’m a bit of all of these. After watching several school-themed anime, I decided that I just had to learn the language and visit the country at the soonest possible moment. I had had the privilege of hosting two Japanese exchange students back when I was in high school, and am still close with one of them. She has an open invitation to my family for a stay at her home in Kyoto at any time. Although I was a starting English graduate student, as well as a teaching assistant with my own full class of college freshmen, I undertook the crazy task of learning the Japanese language. Here’s a lesson from me to you: do not attempt to take a foreign language when enrolled as a graduate student in a different field. Graduate students have too much on their plates, what with their own courses, department obligations, theses, dissertations, and defenses. All of this must be completed within a short length of time; in my case, the expectation is two years. I did not have the luxury to take a course outside of my field, but I did. I’ve always been quick to learn with languages–something I found out after taking Spanish in high school and several grammar and linguistics courses in college–but Japanese has one thing I underestimated: kanji. After two successful years of studying, I could no longer handle juggling my kanji study with my own English graduate studies and ended up dropping the foreign language study. I deeply regret not taking the language back in high school and my undergrad years. Some day…some day. I have also come to a more realistic understanding of Japan’s culture, but still love learning about it. While my fervor for “everything Japan!” has faded, an enduring appreciation for the country and its history and customs continues. Wait for me, Megumi; I’ll visit you soon!
- Anime Convention
I hope to make the 2011 Anime Expo my very first anime convention, but won’t know for sure until I have a bit more assurance in my career and future home. I expect to graduate this year and move out-of-state sometime in the next, but everything is still unsure. You can expect me to definitely post about my plans on here when I am sure. If the 2011 AX is a go, I hope to meet many of my online anime pals and acquaintances there 🙂
- Japan Visit
Like I already mentioned, I hope to visit Japan some day, though I doubt that it will be anytime soon. Since I’m looking forward to soon starting a career, I obviously won’t be financially stable enough for an extended vacation anytime soon. When I am, I’ll have plenty of places to visit on my list, including the homes of my past exchange students who have families in Tokyo and Kyoto. Maybe a honeymoon trip? :p
How About You?
What are your own anime firsts? I’m really curious about where you guys started, and what anime influenced your own current loves and hates. If you have any “firsts” that I don’t and that you think I should experience, let me know!