I have been thinking about my interest in Asian culture a lot lately and thought I might take a few minutes to jot down the story of my growing and insatiable thirst for knowledge in all things Asian.
It all started in about 8th grade, when I discovered Pokemon. Ahhh…I remember scheduling my life around Pokemon. I would make sure that I made it home in time to catch the afternoon episodes and if I was going to miss it, I set the VCR to tape it. Some days I even paused the tapes and drew the characters while they were frozen on screen. I researched them on the Internet and eventually learned that my favorite show was called an “Anime.” I temporarily became obsessed. I still have drawings from those days tucked away in an old sketch book. This was my first taste of true Asian culture, even if it was watered down and Americanized.
Fast forward a few years and to my Junior year of high-school, while still struggling with teenage angst, establishing self-worth and figuring out what to do with my future I became mildly obsessed with anime and borrowed as much as possible from my friends and even friends of my older brother. The next thing I acutely remember about anime was going to visit my brother on his college campus and seeing posters and post-cards advertising the release of Princess Mononoke (Mononoke Hime as I now refer to most of the time.) He told me that it was an anime and that it was one of the first to really be promoted in the United States. He said his friend Bryan was more into it butt he thought it was pretty cool himself. My first few experiences with anime also included series such as Martian Successor Nadesico, Dual!, Photon: Idiot Adventures, Trigun, Neon Genesis Evangelion, and my favorite even to this day: Cowboy Bebop. I was so into my new world, that I bought chopsticks, and sat down to many a piping bowl of Ramen noodles while staring at my small bedroom television watching Nadesico and the like. I started an anime journal. Where I would write the lyrics to songs, small reviews and episode summaries to my favorites. I loved the karaoke subtitles of the opening and closing credit songs. I started to try and find the songs online and would spend hours on end, into the early morning looking for them.
I continued this way into my first year of college, where I was lucky enough to go to Minneapolis College of Art and Design. Not only did they have an anime club, once a year they had a workshop called Schoolgirls and Mobilesuts where you could EARN CREDITS FOR WATCHING ANIME!!!! Oh man, was I excited. I think it was the highest grade I got while at that school actually. MCAD was able to get in contact with Disney that year and talked them into giving us a subtitled copy of Spirited Away for our own private screening just before it’s official release in theaters around the United States. I remember sitting in the Minneapolis Institute for Art theater wondering how I had arrived there, and just being thrilled to be a part of something so wonderful. I was also blessed to have been able to listen to Susan Napier speak as well. As author of Anime from Akira to Princess Mononoke, Napier was able to give thought provoking insite into the literal and deeper side of anime that I hadn’t really opened up to before. (It is now a revised version taking the reader through the time in Hayao Miyazaki’s career up to How’s Moving Castle) I began to practically inhale manga at this time. I read everything I could get my hands on, from Sailor Moon to Battle Royale. I still have my old favorites and regularly read many new titles. I think the local book stores and comic shops ran out of manga because of me. I currently own over 1,000 graphic novels, although I’m liquidating my collection to less than half that (It’s hard to move them all!) On the outskirts of my vision there were starting to be other things other than just Japanese anime and manga. I realized that several of the titles I was reading had non-Japanese names and the style of art were slightly different as well. At the time, Demon Diary was one of my favorites and I was somewhat surprised to find out that it was actually a “mangwha;” Korean in origin, unlike the majority of my other books. So, another one of my great loves was finding it’s way into my life.