I started watching Anime long before I knew what it was. My earliest memories are of me waking up, sliding to the edge of my modest bed, and flipping on my small black and white T.V.. For reasons I absolutely do not know, the local channels not only played the usual gambit of Loony Tunes and the like, but also Japanese cartoons. At the time I had no clue that they were Japanese as they were all English dubs.
While I found the same joy as every one else in a bully rabbit picking on a hunter with down-syndrome, they just were fulfilling. Shows like, Grandizer, and Force Five satisfied my need for action and adventure. What did I get from those shows? Heroes putting it all on the line for a cause far bigger than themselves. It was exciting and dangerous combined with giant robots and kick-ass space ships. For this, I woke up early everyday to get my next fix.
When I was approximately twelve, I found a feature length Anime show that changed my perception of cartoons. Up until that point I was a happy passenger on the, “cartoons are for kids,” bandwagon. I was a kid after all. This movie, Space Station Dallos(that’s pronounced with a hard O sound), as it was titled, was a sci-fi movie in space with some very adult themes. By which I mean politics and commentary on the human condition. I know some people tend to think tentacles and boobs when anyone mentions the words adult and Anime, but most of the time that is not the case. For the first time I saw a cartoon character die and it had a real emotional impact on me. I was in a position where I could not only empathize with the heroes, but also with the bad guys. Both sides had people fighting for what they believed in, and made good arguments for their cause. I was enthralled, it was like watching the world’s worst car wreck, and there was no way in hell I was going to look away.
The small mom and pop video rental place a block from my house is where I found Space Station Dallos. They had a small collection of Anime films and shows, probably just ordered randomly from a catalog. I found my self in that section often. For the first time I began to read the copy on the back of the VHS box to see what the movie or show was about. I wanted more intrigue, and meaningful violence. Sure I still enjoyed the action adventure shows with little to no philosophical value, and even the American toons that were just kinda stupid. I was still a kid after all.
Not till I was in Jr. High that I came to learn the cartoons I really loved were not made in the U.S. In fact, cartoons were looked down upon by adults and I would probably never see cartoons of that caliber that were home grown. Some of that bias still holds true today. While he U.S. has come a long way in taking cartoons seriously as a multi-generational genre we still come no where close to Japan. This saddens me. Cartoons are a tool for story telling that is underutilized, and I would like to see that change.