Saturday, September 10, 2005

Self Realization Stinks

I was reading a typically frantic fanboy debate/collection of ad hominem attacks about comics vs. manga and whether manga are comics and whether the current manga explosion will “save” comics, and I was really enjoying the discussion/flame war, when I stumbled across the following, courtesy of Patrick O’Neill at the Mild Mannered Reporter:

In five years, the currently burgeoning manga sections in bookstores will dwindle to two or three shelves…and the titles on the specialized anime racks in places like Suncoast Video will merge back in with science-fiction or animated titles. The boomlet of interest in Japanese graphic culture will have died.

Now take a moment to imagine me uttering a Malcolm Reynolds-esque “Huh” of wonderment at this statement.

Initially my inner fanboy raged against this and I was all set to launch into an ad hominem attack on Mr. O’Neill and the, what I perceive as, ignorance of his statement, however as I was writing my piece (or is that peace?) I had a moment of clarity which I would like to share with you.

I have been on the fringes of anime fandom for more years than I care to admit (twenty is a nice round number that may only fall short by a couple of years.) By the time Robotech came around in 1985, I was already animexperienced, having been a fan of Battle of the Planets and Star Blazers, and I was hungry for more. The broadcasting of Robotech coincided with me becoming more aware of the wider world and then IT happened. I went to a comic convention with a friend, and, much like the sign in that Ace of Base classic, it opened up my eyes. There was so much out there, and so much of it was impossible to get. Then my friend moved to the San Francisco bay area and discovered a video store where you could rent anime. We watched Bubblegum Crisis, Appleseed, and Mobile Suit Gundam: Char’s Counterattack without subtitles or knowing more than five words of Japanese. It didn’t matter. It was glorious! Along with our interest, fandom was growing, and there were eventual commercial ventures like U.S. Renditions and AnimEigo that began releasing a trickle of subtitled anime titles each year. Of course you couldn’t really find these titles in video stores, so we would have to buy them. We got older, fandom matured, and while a couple more companies got in to the swing of things, fandom took up the subtitling flag. Soon we were getting fan-subbed copies of TV shows and movies from around the U.S. (One of my favorite groups was named the Greater Chicago MegaZone) We started to attend anime-specific conventions, rather than haunting the anime screening rooms at the non-specific cons. The market continued to grow and thus more and more companies were entering the fray. ADV and Central Park Media came around about this time. More manga titles were becoming available with Eclipse and Viz pushing that sector of the market. Studio Proteus was providing translations. Now you would occasionally find an anime title at the local video store. It was an infrequent occurrence, but it was slowly becoming more and more common. Things continued in this manner, with anime and manga slowly working their way in, and then the Sailor Moon explosion happened. Suddenly the market was a ravenous beast, devouring everything anime and manga that was thrown at it. This explosion continued with the Dragonball and Pokemon phenomena, and to be honest it really hasn’t let up. Basically I have seen anime go from be a very specialized corner of sci-fi fandom to being very widely accepted.

Now, I told you all of that to tell you this. When I was in high school several friends and I would frequent the local Star Trek conventions. We were WAY into Star Trek and due to the recent premier of Star Trek: The Next Generation, fandom was enjoying a renaissance. Inevitably at these conventions you would run into the old-time fan. The old-time fan would always tell you how rough fandom was in the old days. You heard stories of gathering in dorm rooms to watch Star Trek, or the cherished collections of BetaMax tapes, or watching 8mm reels of Star Trek bloopers. It was amazingly irritating after the first couple of times.

Now, I told you that to share this moment of clarity. Back when I was going to the Star Trek conventions and the old-time fan would get started on their trail of tears, I would be thinking to myself, “Sweet Jebus man, let it alone,” and, “I never, ever want to be THAT guy.” As I was writing my response to Mr. O’Neill’s opinion I realized I am THAT guy. Damn, I need a drink.

1 comment:

Jer said...

James,

I was first introduced to anime when I was 8 years old. I was at my local (privately owned) video store where the owner (good friend of mine) would readily recomend and rent porn to me. ... ..... Wait..... Is that concidered a type of molestation????? Oh well, it was cool anyway. ANYWAY, he suggested I rent a copy of Ninja Scroll. It had blood, guts, black stuff, and nudity, everything an 8 year old could hope for. After that, I never really got hooked on it until when I was 17. My disgruntled Supervisor (JK) (For those of you who don't know that supervisor was none other than Funkywoodjam himself) began talking about a recent anime he had watched. I brought up anime in general, and told him I was interested in becoming a junkie, and the rest is history.
So don't look at yourself as THAT guy. Look at yourself as a pioneer, Lewis and Clark (The New Adventures of Superman).

Later,

Jer

PS. Anime isn't going anywhere.