As a young woman, I fell victim to the most common anime-fan (otaku, if I may) cliche’s: Hello Kitty, Kerropi, and other Sanrio characters now adorned my school supplies and and I spent time searching for places to buy them. Indeed, I found a small store very close by that sold a variety of character goods and to my delight, they sold CD’s as well. A few anime soundtracks (it’s where I picked up my Cowboy Bebop complete collection CD set!) were always available, but also a section of cd’s with cute Asian boys and girls all smiling and dancing across the brightly colored covers. I experimented and bought a few that simply LOOKED good. I ended up buying Lee Jung-Hyun‘s Magic to Go To My Star, BoA‘s ID; Peace B, and Baby V.O.X.‘s Why. Thus, my true introduction to Asian pop music was launched. From there, I began to expand my fan base and buy other albums to experiment with and see if I liked the music and it’s grown to gigantic proportions today. I have so many artists that I listen on a regular basis it takes several hard drives to contain them. I remember buying the Lee Jung-Hyun album most, probably because of the distinct packaging। I was a little creeped out by the doll, and a bit taken aback by the sound of the album too. Her voice was so high, and I really don’t think I was expecting such a techno-heavy album after the bubblegum pop of BoA and Baby V.O.X. For the longest time I didn’t really know what she looked like, because none of her early albums didn’t have pictures, and I guess I didn’t think to look up Lee Jung-Hyun on the internet. There was no Google image search at that time, and it was just something I didn’t know how to do. I quietly enjoyed my Korean and Japanese pop. I also started to find some common Japanese artists too, Koda Kumi, Utada Hikaru, Maaya Sakamoto and others who were somehow related to the anime industry.
In order to get to where I am now, there was a step that I had to take and it came about the time I was leaving my first college to move to Florida. I was still quite obsessed with anime, but I was beginning to get my toes wet in the waters of Asian cinema. It was a good thing that ADV and other anime distributors were putting out a few Japanese and Korean movies here and there, because with out easy access I might not have discovered the whole new world I did. Princess Blade was one of the first live-action Japanese movies I remember actually sitting down and watching. Then came the miracle of Netflix. If you live far away from any really good Asian communities it is hard to find places to get or watch Asian movies. I joined Netflix in order to save money, up until that point I had been buying everything that I wanted to watch out of necessity. No one else I knew was really that into the same things as me, so it wasn’t possilbe to borrow anything. Netflix opened up a giant door for me and allowed me to easily expand my repertoire of movies. I started out renting The Returner, starring Takeshi Kaneshiro. It was a great action movie starring Anne Suzuki. I liked her too, so I added the only other movie she was in to my queue: Moon Child. And to my Gackt-obsessed delight it was the only movie HE was in too. I won’t describe the process of each movie, it would be obnoxiously long and boring. But, this is how I tend to find new artists (musicians & actors.) I like someone, watch a lot of their work, and then find someone else in one of their movies that interests me and watch their work and the process repeats over and over again. The lucky thing for me is that I love music as much as I love movies. So, when I find a double or triple threat it’s very exciting and usually leads to a larger discovery. (Double threats are singers/actors and triple threats are singers/actors/dancers – not everyone can dance. ::cough::Gackt::cough::) I find it interesting however, that I will still be drawn to the same actor or actress without knowing it. I am currently watching a series called Room of King, starring a new favorite of mine; Mizushima Hiro. All I really knew about it while downloading the fan-sub was that he was in it. I watched the first episode and lo and behold, Anne Suzuki shows up. It’s not uncommon, but it still seems odd that I should gravitate towards the same people without knowing it.
A couple of years ago, I discovered IRC and that there were scanlators; people who scan Japanese, Korean and Chinese manga raws and then work tirelessly and for free to translate and create English language versions for fans. I have since left the IRC world, but it lead me in a new direction through a friend I met there. He suggested that I watch a movie called Bride and Prejudice. Bride and Prejudice is a culturally different take on Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice, created by a Desi director from London. While not an actual Bollywood movie, it was my first introduction to Indian related cinema and my first time seeing the beautiful Aishwarya Rai. I immediately loved the colorful traditional outfits, the catchy and fun bangara music. Immediately following this I rented Monsoon Wedding and decidedly loved that movie too. ((It is odd that at this time my mp3 player picked the Punjabi Wedding Song from the B&P soundtrack to play out of over 7500 songs on it…))Sadly, at the time I was very caught up in a Chinese movie kick and left Bollywood hanging. I think that my introduction to Indian culture through Gurinder Chadha’s films Bride & Prejudice and Bend It Like Beckham was essential. If, perhaps I had chosen another path into Bollywood and just watched something random, I might not have liked it or understood anything. As it stands today, I’m sure that I don’t quite understand a lot of what is going on in the films, but that will take time. I have surely addapted to and learned about Korean, Japanese and Chinese culture by watching more and more of their movies and television shows, it is easy to assume that I will learn just as much about India and all it has to offer if I watch more of their entertainment too.
Looking back, it’s been a very kinetic experience, one thing leads to another and then to another snowballing into a giant ball of actors, singers, movies, and music that I adore and wouldn’t trade for anything. I am fortunate enough to have the drive and passion to follow all that I do and I just hope to share that passion with anyone who will listen (or read as the case may be here.) Today I am an international person, no longer simply “white,” as my friend says – I’m just as much Asian as she is. I think that if other people in the world could be half as open-minded as I am, then we would be a lot better of. If you got this far – thanks for reading! Feel free to leave comments or questions here or on any other posts!