Saturday, 11 September 2010

My name is Phil and I'm addicted to Anime

The Early Years.

I've loved anime since around 1994-95. During my early teens Channel 4 went through a period of showing anime late at night. During one of my late-night channel surfing sessions I found myself transfixed by the super deformed styling of the characters animation and the swear words that came from their mouths. It was a WTF moment that changed everything. My attention was caught long enough to take in the preceding ultra-violence and nudity, and from there on I was hooked! I was 13, seeing a cartoon with guns, gore and titties was possibly the coolest thing imaginable at the time.

I was aware of Japanese animation prior to this, but it was these Channel 4 late-night sessions that really exposed me to the whole phenomenon. I'm glad I got into it when I did, before it become oversaturated. With that first wave of films and OVA distributed by Manga Entertainment it achieved a cult status in the West that made it cool. There was the obvious legendary titles such as Akira and Fist of the North Star, but the ones I remember most fondly from this time squander in near obscurity now...

Cyber City Oedo 808

This sealed the deal. A 3 part mini-series (it’s a massive crime only 3 episodes were ever made!), about 3 convicted criminals in the future who are employed as part of a 'Cyber Police' unit to reduce their life sentences. They have to follow orders and keep in check thanks to an explosive collar around their neck! I’ve only seen it once since watching it back then on TV (a borrowed VHS from a friend years ago), and I’ve only seen it in the English dub (bah!). But from what I can remember this was the most kick-ass awesome action anime I can recall.

If you’ve not seen it and like your old-skool action stuff like Guyver, Crying Freeman and Ninja Scroll I highly recommend this forgotten little gem. Although, I think it’s quite hard to get a none import DVD and even harder to get a version with both the original subs and the English Dub on one disc.

Legend of the Four Kings

Hardly anyone remembers this one, but the few that do always get excited when you mention it. It follows 4 brothers who are the descendants of the divine Dragon Kings, trying to live normal lives on Earth with their supernatural powers and ability to transform into dragons. Obviously this being Japanese animation evil forces come to ruin their precious little lives and all hell breaks loose. I would love to re-watch this series on DVD, but unfortunately it goes for ridiculous money on import.

3x3 Eyes

This series follows Pai, a 3 eyed Sanjiyan Ankara (powerful mystical being) who is the last remaining of her kind and her immortal companion and protector Yakumo. Another I haven’t seen since it was shown on TV that isn’t easily available or affordable on DVD. I remember it having viciously brutal action sequences, taking full advantage of Yakumo’s immortal power of resurrecting from any wound, no matter how severe. He even had the ability to grow his limbs back; so he would get cut up, mutilated and severely beaten and just keep coming back!

A Pop Culture Phenomenon

The first wave of anime to hit our shores during the late 80’s and early 90’s boom caused controversy in the press, newspapers protested at the ‘ultra-violence’, depraved nudity and sexual violence seen in films like ‘Urotsukidōji: Legend of the Overfiend’. This notoriety cemented its cult status in the West.

It became more and more readily available on VHS, the local video store even had some Manga videos and I was introduced to the awesome bio-mech action of Guyver and the zany madness of Dominion Tank Police. Kids at school thought I was weird and immature watching these ‘strange cartoons’.

When I started college a friend there was selling his entire collection and I bought them all. I couldn’t get enough. But I wasn't alone in my habit and with commercial shows like 'Naruto' anime was no longer as cult cool as it once was, but my addiction continues with some of the newer generation, revisiting old favourites for nostalgic reasons and catching up on the classics I should have watched.

Going To Tokyo

During my 2 week Tokyo honeymoon I don’t think I could have geeked-out better anywhere else. All the comic and toy shops and arcades were EVERYWHERE! You couldn’t escape the anime goodness in Tokyo. All that culture, my heart was finally home. 'Mandarake' was the place to be; ‘one of Tokyo's largest vendors of used anime and manga-related products. The store stocks collectibles, VHS tapes, DVDs, CDs and used manga, toys’...

(me at the entrance to Mandarake)

I might have come home with a few little mementos from Tokyo (possibly a suitcase full).

Studio Ghibli and the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo

Studio Ghibli continues to push the envelope on 2D animation, from classics 'Princess Mononoke' and 'My Neighbour Totoro' to the stunning 'Spirited Away'. Animated film really doesn’t get any better than Ghibli! I knew one place I needed to visit was the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka.

It’s charming and quaint, but unfortunately photography was forbidden inside this enchanting building. Although…

(the robot from Laputa! This statue is on the roof of the museum)

Of the new generation of anime?

One of my favourites is Elfen Lied

The animation is technically excellent, colourful and fluid. A fascinating story following a new strain of the human race knows as the Diclonius, held captive and experimented on in a facility. Lucy a dangerous Diclonius girl escapes the facility and kills all that get in her way. But she is injured in the process and develops a childlike split-personality in the outside world, only reverting back to her true self when in violent situations. The attempts to recapture Lucy by various characters is where the anime becomes really entertaining and often harshly brutal. The violence is exceptionally gory; limbs fly around the screen, body parts are cut into segments, heads are decapitated, blood paints the scenery and the violence is treated almost like an art form, which some find overly gratuitous. In my opinion it’s a fine example of modern anime.

There’s so many great films and OVA I could go on and on forever, but I wont…

so yeah, crack is cheaper and probably better for your social life than a nerdy anime obsession.

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