Within the Anime Amino app in a public group chat, I was taking part in. Someone asked a question about how I first got into anime and manga. I replied but also decided to use it as my first blog post in my series Diary Of An Anime Lived. So here it is in much greater detail.I’m sure most people remember the first anime and manga they ever read. For most that particular series is what got them into anime and manga.
For others, the series acted as a gateway and it wasn’t until they came across that one series whether it be a movie, tv show, or manga that they got hooked. It was that series the one that excited the imagination eliciting a powerful rush of emotions. It was the one that showed what the medium could do and the possibilities contained within it. Things which for most people they hadn’t experienced in an animated medium or a comic book.
Things, for the most part, you couldn’t get in other storytelling mediums like live action and books.
It’s anime and manga is uniqueness that draws in most and how the medium uses its uniqueness to tell stories visually that you can’t find anywhere else. My first experience of this and what a traumatic experience it was but nonetheless quite exciting was with Akira. It was the very first anime I ever watched though at the time I didn’t know what anime was. I was six years old and ignorant of the world.
I thought all animation was done in the U.S. my home country and that the supplier of my animated movies was Disney, and all cartoons came on Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon. With the occasional cartoons showing on local networks like Fox and WB Saturday morning.
The year was 1999 and I had snuck into my uncle’s bedroom spotting a weird VHS tape with the cover of Kaneda in the biker jacket walking to his red motorcycle. An image a majority of anime fans have seen if they have watched Akira and seen any fan art or promotional art for the movie. To me, the guy looked cool and the motorcycle was sick. My uncle wasn’t home so I grabbed the tape went into the living room and popped it into the VCR.
Man what an experience a very traumatic one indeed. As a plethora of images popped on the screen I was drawn in because I had never seen animation like this. The details put into the cityscapes and wide sweeping overarching shots as characters moved around. The fluidity of the action as violence erupted and characters interacted with the environment and each other physically. The language and some of the mindsets of the characters were something I had never seen before. This definitely wasn’t a cartoon for children.
Though what got me was the intense violence especially regarding Tetsuo and what he did to people with his telepathic powers. A new world had opened up despite my fear from the horrors I witnessed. Regardless I was hooked watching all the way to the end and man those last twenty minutes would remain personified in my nightmares. Something which occurred after I had watched the movie and went to sleep.
I wouldn’t watch Akira again until many years later when I was older and had gotten over my fear of it, but that was only due to what I experienced as a six-year-old. Akira now stands on my all time great anime list and there’s nothing but excitement and joy from watching it. I have grown and am much older understanding more of the story something which I didn’t get back when I was younger.
That was my first experience with anime but what would really hook me and make me become a fan was Dragon ball Z and Sailor Moon which I would discover on cartoon network a couple months later. Keep in mind I still didn’t know it was anime and from Japan. Though I would recognize that they had a special drawing style and animation like Akira but obviously not on the same level. Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z aired on Cartoon Network during the four o clock hour block. This was before Toonami in the early years when I was in first grade.
I had never watched anything like Dragon Ball Z or Sailor Moon and it was my first introduction to Shonen and Shoujo in particular Battle Shonen and the Magical Girl genre. Both of these series would become the blueprint for the modern day genre versions we have today. The way the stories were told and the fact that the good guys died blew my mind. I would watch both shows religiously for many years my obsession for Dragon Ball Z increasing after the introduction of the Frieza saga.
It would show me the potential anime and manga had for making great villains as well as put Frieza on my list of most hated anime villains, and who could forget witnessing Goku go Super Saiyan for the first time. An event those of you who are older surely remember if Dragon Ball Z on Cartoon Network was your first exposure to anime.
During this time about halfway through the Frieza saga and me entering third-grade Toonami started which brought more anime. By this time anime was beginning its climb starting to grow and spread around the world. It was still in its infancy and Toonami would become a major player in its growth and increased popularity in the U.S. At my new school in third grade I would hear the term anime for the first time.
There were some kids who knew what it was. How they knew still remains a mystery because this was the era of the early internet. The web wasn’t what it is today and people had just begun to explore it and have greater access. The early 2000’s during my elementary school years the only anime I could watch was on Toonami.
I remember shows like Rurouni Kenshin, Cyborg Zero Nine, Outlaw Star, and Tenchi Muyo. Then around fifth grade, I discovered Adult Swim. Which had shows like Ghost In The Shell Stand Alone Complex, Yu Yu Hakusho, and Cowboy Bebop. I really liked Yu Yu Hakusho because it had a battle element similar to Dragon Ball Z. It would be many years later before I appreciated its deeper themes and how complex the villains were. It took me a while to get into Ghost In The Shell and Cowboy Bebop.
The truth is I hated both shows at first and found them boring especially Ghost In The Shell with its political intrigue and societal tech themes. I was still young and they were more mature with heavy story lines and themes, but as I grew older I ended up loving them. Both would end up on my all-time great anime list.
By the end of my fifth-grade year, I was a fully invested fan that was into anime and it was my main cartoon of choice. The internet had grown and along with it online communities for anime. It was here online that I would get introduced to manga. This all ended up happening after checking out a forum on Roruni Kenshin. As I learned it was based off a Japanese comic. Something that had escaped my mind especially with shows like Dragon Ball Z and Yu Yu Hakusho which I didn’t realize were based off the manga.
Online I would read my first manga a scanlation of Roruni Kenshin. I dug the art style and how the pictures seemed to flow, unlike western comics which seemed to me like static pages and panels. Ones that just had pictures but didn’t create movement in my mind.
Having seen the manga I asked a family member to take me to visit my local Barnes and Noble. Here I would find manga most of them of series I had never heard of along with the likes of Dragon Ball Z. There wasn’t that much and manga wouldn’t boom until I was in seventh grade with the arrival of the new generation of Shonen. What would become to be known as the big three and behemoths in their own right. Bleach, Naruto, and One Piece.
It would start with the anime and it wasn’t until the introduction of Bleach that I felt compelled to go read manga. I wanted more of the Bleach story and the only way to get it was through the manga which was ahead of the anime. The anime came out a few years later in the U.S. after the manga.
I would begin collecting bleach volumes and with my continued escapades online branch out into other manga as the popularity and increase of scanlation sites would grow. This is how I got into anime and manga the rest is history. How did you get into anime and manga? What are your fondest memories of that time? Until the next post, this is goodbye for now.