It’s been 12 exciting years since I’ve officially proclaimed myself an otaku. Give me anything animated, with big eyes, from the land of the rising sun and I’d devour it. 5-10 hour marathon viewings were the norm. You name it, I’d seen it.
Now back in the early 90’s, anime wasn’t very well known. It was special. A niche hobby only few discovered and supported. Expensive as it was, I found a way to get those $30, 2 episode, VHS tapes. It was almost taboo to even talk about Japanese anime with someone who didn’t watch it. They’d think it was a term used only for animated porn. “It was far from animated smut”, I’d tell them. Sure there was the occasional hentai but that was only a category like how horror is only a genre of movie. Based on that if everyone thought horror was what a movie was in general, they’d be missing out on an entire medium. Non fans let that fly right over their heads and stayed narrow minded.
These were not cartoons! Not the ones made for kids that come on after school and Saturday morning. These were mature stories no different than movies we pay good money to see every weekend. They just happen to be animated. There was just something that pulled me in. The art, originality, quirky writing, offbeat humor, and to be honest, yes some of the unexpected nudity and fan service. It all clicked and it was like magic. That was all about to change though.
In 1995 the DVD format finally began it’s overtaking of the VHS. This seemed like an anime fans dream, a cheaper, clearer, more portable version of a laser disc. Not only that, it settled the everlasting argument, sub or dub, for the anime purist, since both were available on one disc. I couldn’t have been happier! I started to see more and more great anime get released, plus all the companies had a back catalogue of awesome classics to work with.
This would reveal itself to be a double edge sword. Pokemon and Dragonball Z were taking over the airwaves introducing millions and millions of new fans. Countless shows were being released, edited for the masses. My once secluded hobby was being over exposed. Companies began licensing everything in sight, good or bad. Now you’d have to do a lot more research to not get burned by a crappy show. This may be one of the reasons anime in general these days has lost its luster to me. The market has grown so big that most shows are being made from a worldwide, mass appeal approach, instead of being based culturally where they are from, Japan.
Don’t get me wrong, there are still diamonds in the rough, but with the ever expanding shelf space in the marketplace, it’s getting increasingly harder to find. A few of my new favorites are Marmalade Boy, Boys Over Flowers, and Kodacha. Notice something there? These shows are all from the early to mid 90’s. To be fair, there are current titles that got it right like, Kino’s Journey, Samurai Champloo, and Great Teacher Onizuka.
What titles are missing these days is characterization. There’s just that something that’s missing in a lot of the newer titles released. Most of the time I don’t even know the characters name by the end of the show. Things just seem one dimensional. I don’t know if it’s the digitization of the animation over the warmth of handrawn art, writing ability laid to flat, lack of originality or simply lack of breast. Ha ha, laugh if you must, but a characters reaction to seeing breast told a lot about them.
All in all, it boils downs to Hollywood influence, technology taking away some of the pureness, and phasing out the naughtiness that made anime fun and different to begin with. After having this hobby for as long as I have, what else could I expect? With that said, I’m still an anime fan. I’m just not addicted anymore.