First things first, the title of this page is a reference to Joy's Japanimation, a local anime merchandise store that used to play commercials on TV here way back in the early 2000s. I really vividly remember seeing these commercials and desperately wanting to go, even when my only experience with anime at the time was Sailor Moon and the occasional DBZ episode on Toonami. I was so young that I was barely literate and I had no concept of direction, I thought that I could figure out where the store was located purely by the shape of the trees in the background- causing me to eagerly eyeball the trees along the road while sitting in the back of my dad's car any time we drove somewhere.
Altho this isn't an experience unique to myself, anime "was" Japanimation for me, at first, but that term petered out within a few years and soon enough, like many others, I never called it Japanimation again. For Joy's sake this page's title is dedicated to her and her steadfast ability to maintain a store with both a name and website that reflect a time when cartoons about big-eyed schoolgirls, alien warriors, and ronin samurai were all still new to us.
One of the most beautiful things I think I was ever witness to was Toonami on Cartoon Network. I can never stress enough how grateful I am still for Toonami (and the unbridled creativity of Cartoon Network in the late 90s and early 2000s) for managing to bring anime not only to the American mainstream through television but for packaging it in a way that emphasized and highlighted the hidden wisdom and inspirational heroism buried inside it- the stuff we saw as kids that adults saw as buff guys with spikey hair screaming at each other. Even if the average Sailor Moon episode ran the same basic plot structure with little deviation none of that mattered- the moment a transformation sequence started and the iridescent colors and sparkling effects filled the screen it was like experiencing an emotion you didn't know you had inside of you.
For an American kid the sharp artwork, bold details, and overall plot depth stood out far beyond everything else on TV- sure, I'd watch Ren & Stimpy or Animaniacs whenever, but it felt more like a mindless way to relax and pass the time compared to anime. Anime was something else, a whole different beast altogether. A supershock of artwork unlike anything else we had seen at the time with action, drama, and emotion. It was incredible, captivating, and above all else inspiring. Toonami gave an invaluable gift to American children, whether realized or not, and opened our eyes to a world beyond the average cartoon where the animated battle between good and evil was more complex than we had ever imagined, and came in many forms and levels of complexity far greater than just punching bad guys.
This was definitely no mistake, considering the programming block later included late-night series like Cowboy Bebop and FLCL- shows that had a tremendous impact on the culture of anime fans that Toonami had created in America. And sure, Toonami didn't invent anime or even bring it here first- dedicated American anime fans had existed for long beforehand. But it succeeded in bringing it to those of us who had no other means of accessing it at a time when we needed it most, a formative period when we were afraid and unsure of ourselves in an afraid and unsure America.
Believe in yourself and create your own destiny. Don't fear failure.
Say what you want about Studio Ghibli, whether their work is amazing or overrated- Toonami's Month of Miyazaki block in 2006 was a life-changing experience. For me this was my first exposure to anything Ghibli and it cranked everything I had thought about anime up to 11. It became clear to me more than ever that there was an entire world out there of animation and artwork with a depth far beyond anything I would watch during the day (not to talk down on any of Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon's catalog- I loved those shows then and I love those shows now, but they served a different purpose), and there was this indescribable magic to the fact that the anime played on Toonami was a programming block limited to a specific time of the day. It gave this emphasis to everything that I can't really put into words. It felt special. The Month of Miyazaki was my first experience with Spirited Away, a movie that I know needs no introduction, as well as Princess Mononoke and Howl's Moving Castle- and I watched them all through a tiny, blurry CRT TV with RF-only video quality, but at the time none of that mattered. I couldn't even see video quality, I was too young to understand any of that- all I could see was the color, the movement, the fluidity of the animation and the rich, storybook-like atmosphere. It was genuinely incredible, and again proves how Toonami curated content like this to those who couldn't access it otherwise.
Parallel to my experiences with Toonami, my older cousins were always on the cutting edge of everything, including anime. One of my cousins was like a wizard in my eyes, always deep into cool things I never knew even existed. Visits to my aunt's house frequently meant watching my cousin play Maplestory on one of the family PCs, or DDR in the basement, or the latest Smash Bros. game (that I would later play again myself that year once Christmas rolled around) and it always blew me away. I'd stare at the manga on their shelves, the Persona game cases on their floor- all I could do was wrack my brain wondering what was beyond just the cover artwork and book spines I stared at while hiding away from whatever family function I was there for. A point had been made in my head that whatever my cousin liked was cool, and I wanted to be cool like them- which meant making a conscious decision to dive deep into this hidden world for myself.
Part of that involved one of the dumbest decisions of my childhood that I still regret to this day- an ingenious plan to """borrow""" the GBA version of Kingdom Hearts from my cousin during one family visit and then return it silently in the following weeks, when I expected to visit again with my great-grandma. Unfortunately my inability to keep my mouth shut and the looming cloud of guilt and anxiety that followed caused me to crack and confess really quickly. Altho I still feel bad about it years later, looking back on it now it was an attempt at finding an "in"- finding a way to relate to my cousin, to find the hidden door to this other world of things I found extremely captivating but so hard to find for myself as a little kid. I wanted to be more like them, I wanted to be as cool as them, and I'll always feel bad about mishandling it that way.
I'll admit- my interest in anime wasn't all cut and dry. Around 2006/2007 I found myself generally disinterested in Toonami- I missed the shows I watched when I was younger, and although I still found myself sitting down to Zatch Bell on occasion I had missed the train on Naruto and was out of the loop any time an episode was on. Unable to follow the story I didn't bother getting invested, and time went on.
A revolution occured when the internet I had grown up with, the internet I had used primarily to play Flash games and search for cheat codes on AskJeeves, was starting to evolve- to mutate, to change, to morph into something that was sort of an "intermediary stage" between the internet of before and the internet of now. It was the dawn of a new era, and I finally found my door to this world I was after for so long in the form of a brand new up-and-coming website- called YouTube.
I can't really begin to stress the sense of freedom I felt the first time I went on YouTube. It was like I finally had the key to this gate I'd been trying to climb over for years- irrefutable proof that yes, there was a world out there beyond the limits of the one I knew, and it was amazing. I found myself gobbling down video after video at a time when YouTube was a completely different landscape, but most importantly, a haven for anime uploads. Even if they were split into parts, I finally had access- I was finally in, and I could watch as much anime as I wanted. At the time I was just entering middle school and friends of mine introduced me to a series they called "SOS Brigade", which I learned within the same day was actually called The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. I pounded down episode after episode, excitedly retelling the plotline to my mom every night as she did the dishes. I was absolutely enthralled. Soon after manga entered my life as it took my school by storm. Kids were passing around and borrowing comics from each other like crazy- Fruits Basket, Death Note, Bleach, Loveless, so on and so forth. Eventually a half-friend of mine brought in an omnibus for a series called Sgt. Frog that I ended up buying a copy of myself from Borders. The characters were cartoonish and zany, the jokes were funny, and importantly (to my pubescent mind), although not a critical factor, the chicks were hot. But I didn't sit there salivating over these girls like a caveman (at least not always)- I felt compelled with this intense desire to draw better, to draw more, and to draw better women. And to this day I'm still disproportionately better at drawing girls compared to guys, and Sgt. Frog is the reason why (along with the weird self-ship art I drew of Lady Moa). But I digress.
YouTube granted me this accessibility that allowed me to find myself and form a unique personality distinct from the world I grew up in (at times to the chagrin of my mom). I spent most of my time back then watching anime or Super Mario Bros. Z (a DBZ-inspired Mario fan animation made in Flash) or making my own Mario fan sprites in Microsoft Paint while listening to internet memes like Llevan Polka or What is Love in the background (or Mario Paint renditions of either), along with Nico Nico Douga medleys, which would return to my life later any time I'd run into one of those tracks outside of the medley I heard it in (because, for some reason, I didn't check the track listing or hunt the songs down myself to figure out what they were or where they came from, except for the ones I already knew beforehand). This was the era of Caramelldansen, the era of Super Smash Bros. Brawl videos (and Super Smash Bros. Brawl versions of Caramelldansen), and importantly, the time period when I got into Lucky Star, a series sorta "parallel" to Haruhi in that it even referenced it, not to mention starring the same lead VA. My friends at the time were big on Vocaloid but personally I wasn't sure where to start with getting into that and although they were my friends the reality was that our relationship was more of a "talk about the things we both like while I get made fun of the entire time" situation. A few years later, after I left my old high school, they actually found me again on Skype just to intentionally troll me, so there wasn't much to our dynamic beyond that.
I'm gonna take a brief pause for a moment and just say that Motteke! Sailor Fuku is a fucking banger and always has been.
This is the part where I go too far into personal detail and say that my discovery of anime being more than just the stuff on TV meant I inadvertedly discovered ecchi (not like Haruhi groping Mikuru ever helped), and as a 13-year-old boy raised in a very controlling "sex is bad and evil" atmosphere I found myself naturally gravitating towards whatever shows had anime girls with the biggest boobs for a while, but you'll be proud to know I've graduated past that as a 24-year-old (at the time of this writing). Unless you're not proud. Maybe you're disappointed in me instead, in which case I'm sorry for letting you down. I think after a while tho I just got desensitized to animated jiggle physics, which is kinda sad, really.
Everything sorta hit this culmination or peak for me in 2010- I was kind of ecstatic the entire year. Everything was going great, it was the 25th anniversary of Mario, the Scott Pilgrim movie was coming out, I discovered chiptune (one of my all-time favorite music genres) through Anamanaguchi's 2010 Summer Singles releases (they would later even do the music for the Scott Pilgrim game), and my life generally consisted of going to school, coming home, and hopping straight onto my computer to check out my favorite message board- Mario Fan Games Galaxy (later Minus World, after an event known as "The Split" occurred in order to refocus the site). The weather was great that year and I spent most of my time at the mall (back at a time when it still saw business), inside of Borders (a now-defunct bookstore chain), crouched down in the manga section, silently picking at the plastic on the spines of the mature-rated manga like a little bastard.
The start of 2011 was the point in my life when everything hit the fan basically. Things had been bad beforehand but 2010 was this oddly calm reprise (at times), altho it had its moments. 2011 however, right out the gate, was not so kind. Within a month of the new year a situation that had been bubbling up for years within my household finally burst and long story short I was subject to some really traumatic child abuse at the hands of my stepdad, who would intentionally psychologically torment me by lying about me to my mother, emptying my room of all my belongings (except for my bed), and, above all else, beating and strangling me while she was away at work while my other (younger) siblings watched. So needless to say anime wasn't really part of my life for a while, but when it was, I found a distraction in the form of Gainax's Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt (a comedy action series about fallen angels who have to earn their way back into Heaven by killing demons hiding on Earth), with its brightly-colored angular art style, it's dynamic action and incredible animation, and super stylish soundtrack. Members on Minus World had been buzzing about it for a while so I had known about it prior, but it kept me sane during a point in my life when I needed it most, and my otherwise empty room started to fill with drawings of Panty and Stocking. If you're reading this and wondering where that story ends, I got out of that situation years ago, but I've had to see a therapist for PTSD.
I'm gonna be completely fucking honest with you (whoever you are, I mean)- I never had any intention of making this page some sorta giant autobiography and I'm so sorry. I think I just didn't realize how ingrained anime is in my life and how I kinda just grew up with it in general- it's a recurring staple of my past that's been present since the beginning, basically. Nowadays, altho I still like anime, I've sorta fallen off from whatever latest and greatest thing is popular, and altho it's not as common of a pastime as it used to be for me, there will always be a place in my heart for anime.
(You can tell I'm sorta breaking my "professional family-friendly tone" here for two reasons- A) I'm starting to crack and swear like a sailor like I always do in casual conversation, and B) I'm spelling "though" and "although" without the "ugh" part at the end.)
This section is still under construction, sorry.
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