How it all started. Part II.

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!

How it all started. Part I.

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.