“Hey, you guys going to the hentai [Japanese animated porno] room?”
How many of my nights have ended with that question? Well, okay, one.
All right, so you know I have a past in comic fandom, but up to now I’ve managed to conceal one of my darker secrets, currently buried in nondescript boxes in both mine and my parents’ basements. Unless you saw my entry commemorating Nujabes a couple of months ago, you wouldn’t have the slightest idea.
Anime. Oh lord help me, anime.
As a prefeace, ten series or programs that are exempt from the judging and criticisms I will be lobbing in this entry.
- Cowboy Bebop
- Revoluti0nary Girl Utena
- The collected output of Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki
- Neon Genesis Evangelion
- Perfect Blue
- Giant Robo
- Ghost in the Shell
- Martian Successor Nadesico/Vision of Escaflowne [tie, sue me].
My fandom is the usual story: always drawn to the big-eyed style and complex mechanical designs of things I saw growing up but didn’t know were anime [Robotech, Voltron etc]. Sailor Moon started getting airings in Canada and I got hooked. Even though it was a show for girls, it told a continuing narrative, and it ended[!]. So different from what I was used to in N.American shows, where there was no continuing development. The closest you could consider is GI Joe the Movie, but then I have to admit that Cobra Commander is a member of a society of techno-organic lizard people and there are some things that I just will not do, friends.
But Sailor Moon told a complete if featherweight narrative, and then not only did it end, but everyone flipping died! Unbelievable.
Sailor Moon was a gateway drug for a lot of people who would then go on to devour all the Japanese animation they could find. My world opened in the heady days of the Internet when I discovered The Right Stuf International and sent away for their mail order catalogue. I read every word of that thing, read the description of every title, circled the ones I wanted to see, learned about the things only available in Japan I should have been trying to see…I put that book through hell.
See the thing is, and I know this will be a difficult thing for some of you kids to understand, but back in ’97-’98, anime was still hard to get, though not as difficult as it had been a few years before, and manga barely existed. Nowadays every electronics and music store has an anime section. I tidy our entirely oversized manga section on a daily basis at work. TRSI was a mail order company! In the days before online commerce! You sent them a money order, they sent you your box of VHS tapes, subbed or dubbed.
Between TRSI and a small and tight-knit community on their message boards, I had soon amassed a respectable collection of titles both available domestically and….not. Also ended up with more porno than I would have liked, but I was willing to watch anything if people were getting rid of it.
And then one day I searched the term ‘anime’ + ‘convention’ + ‘Canada’ in Yahoo. And I learned of Anime North. Oh em gee.
A collection of like-minded individuals who loved the artform I did? Meh. Dealers room hundreds of feet in square footage? Yeah, I’m there. I called up my man Glenn and we were on our way.
If I recall, we trained or bused up that first year, staying at a Ryerson University dorm/hostel Glenn had stayed at for a conference once. The good news was it was about 19 dollars a night. The bad news was it was at Gerrard and Jarvis in downtown Toronto, while the convention was somewhere North of the 401. Safe to say Glenn’s map had not been to scale. We probably spent as much time on the TTC as we did at the show. We spent the night before the first day getting drunk on malt liquor, cooking stew still in the can on the burner of the electric stovetop in the common kitchen on our floor. I never said we were smart.
We made two trips to Anime North, staying at the hotel the second year, which totally makes the experience that much better, and I heartily recommend that route for any potential congoers. It’s the only way we would’ve heard the above quote, since we were still in the building once the proceedings had shut down for the night. And we learned a lot, most importantly the 6-2-1 Rule for Maximum Con Enjoyment. The numbers refer to hours of sleep per night, meals per day and showers per day. It is heartbreaking that there is actually a rule for this.
While we always a good enough time, and spent obscene loads of money [oh when you first come into regular money from a shitty job that ends up burning a hole in your pocket. Still holding out hope VHS becomes the new vinyl. Don’t you miss adjusting tracking?!] but the shine started to come off the diamond that second year as Glenn and I waited in line to see the masquerade [we learned our lesson last year when we got there late and ended up watching it via closed circuit in another conference room]. So we were waiting in the main hall of the hotel watching the people, eavesdropping on the various fanboy debates and Monty Python routines being imitated around us when I turned to Glenn and said:
“We are the coolest people here, my friend.”
“Yes, yes we are.”
“You know what’s scary about that?”
“Everyone else is thinking the same thing!”
Couple that with just a continued disillusionment with most anime and manga being produced, seeing the same tired stories getting retreaded again and again, and growing increasingly uncomfortable with the infantile behaviour it seems to encourage among its fan communities [I know I’m painting in the broadest of strokes here, but you also know I’m not totally wrong]…I started feeling ashamed of liking the stuff. I probably wasn’t much of a fan in the first place then, and that’s fine.
Anyhoo, one of the most bizarre and amazing things that happens at anime cons are the dances on Saturday night. And way back when Glenn and I were discussing the finer points of Macross Plus, this was the jam.
I really don’t need to expose you to the full six-minute version, do we?
Hounourable mention: In those heady Web 1.0 days mentioned above, when Napster came along and blew the music business apart, my first order of business was to hunt down songs I only knew from videos taped off of Muchmusic, back when the ‘Music’ in the name stood for…y’know, music. This was my first big score, and the guy I…’acquired’ it from even messaged to compliment my discerning taste for New Jack Swing-era hip-hop. I feel those terms don’t belong together.
I am telling you, I could so dance like that when I was thirteen.