As I got older the time I had for this dwindled, but on a recent trip home I had the chance to reflect back on when my interest started.
Having recently bought my first house (I was waiting for someone to take it off me, realising I shouldn’t be trusted with it, but so far, nothing), me and Sally have been going through our things. The first stage was going through belongings I had amassed over the last few years, and throwing a lot of stuff out I didn’t need (5 London A to Z’s for a start. Thanks Google Maps).
But just when I feel like all our belongings have been sorted through, everything either unpacked and found a place in our home, or sent to the landfill or charity shops, our parents throw a spanner in the works. You see, they have our belongings going back to childhood. Normally they would stay in our birth houses indefinitely, but now we actually have our own house for all this crap…
For Sally that has meant more plant pots than could fit in to Kew Gardens. As we live in a terraced house in Salford with a small back yard, that has meant some scaling back. For me it meant an opportunity to go through some of my old magazines.
In one box I found old copies of ‘Manga Mania’, including the very first one I bought:
This is from March 1995. There are three Manga’s serialised in the magazine: Akira, Silent Mobius and Dominion Tank Police. Also, reviews of the latest Anime releases and several articles, including an interview with director Hiyao Miyazaki. Not only that it came with an extra guide to all the best Anime released at that point. This was the perfect introduction.
Previous to buying this I remember being in the shop ‘Game’ and they had an unusual cartoon on the TV. The sound was down so I couldn’t follow what was happening, but there was a fight between a figure in some kind of robot armour and several men that had changed in to these monsters. The hero in the armour could fire a laser out of his head and had blades that came out of his elbows (standard).
Whilst not extremely graphic, this was certainly more viscerally violent than the cartoons I was used to on the TV. Not only that, the colouring and tone, use of shadows, etc, just had something so much more appealing than the Saturday morning TV super heroes I was used to. I stood and stared at the screen for at least 10 minutes. I didn’t know what it was, but I was hooked!
I was 12 at the time, and being in my early teens this kind of action packed Science Fiction was very appealing. Over the next couple of years I kept buying ‘Manga Mania’ and slowly building up a catalogue of videos.
In Japan the love of comics really took off following the end of World War 2, with comics coming in along with the occupying American forces. As is standard with Japan, they took something foreign, turned it in to their own, and improved on it.
The Japanese enjoy serialised collections of Manga targeting all age groups, genders and interests. As much as there will be collections for teenage boys and young adults, as we are used to with comics in the West, there are also collections for teenage girls, salaried businessmen, and middle aged housewives.
As we are used to comics being mostly targeted at a young male audience, and mostly around science fiction and the action hero genre, this was the focus for which Anime got selected and released in the UK and America. What we got was not the whole picture, but it was what would be expected to sell here.
As my knowledge grew, so did my frustration with the limitations of the Anime I could access. This was long before I had access to the internet, so the videos released in the UK was all I had to choose from. There was a lot more released in America.
I learnt more about the films of the aforementioned Hiyao Miyazaki. If anyone has a belief that Anime is merely full of sex and violence, you need to check out his work – it is expansive, beautiful, and perfectly suitable for children.
My favourite Anime is a film by Miyazaki and his Studio, Ghibli: ‘Laputa’ (also titled as ‘Castle in the Sky’).
Looking back I remembered that I had seen it as a kid on TV years earlier. I think it was on ITV (I could be wrong in the channel, as I’m struggling to find info online about this now), and I found out that they had bought the rights to show the film, and even did their own dub.
I remembered the film, and I remembered I adored it. Again, Anime blowing their western equivalents out the water. Whilst suitable for children, it doesn’t talk down to them. It has great story telling, and is full of adventure.
ITV showed it twice, and that was it. It was never released on video.
This was sooooooo frustrating. After reading about the film I could remember that I had seen it many years earlier, but had no way of watching it again. This is what it was like being an Anime fan in the 90s.
As I got older other things took over, and in my early adult years of working I certainly couldn’t afford to be buying videos and then DVDs of Anime – I needed to eat! I lost contact with that world, and what was being released.
But now we have the internet and subscription services with HUGE amounts of content available. There is now that entire world of Anime going back many, many years that I had little contact with as a teenager, but I can now access immediately.
Not only that, but Disney have bought the rights to distribute Miyazaki’s films in English. That means I finally got the chance to watch Laputa again as an adult. A genuine, proper adult. In my new house I pay a mortgage on, curled up on the sofa watching it with my Fiancée. I’m glad to report, she loved it too. I’ve also shown her ‘My Neighbour Totoro’. Once her tears have dried up, Ill see what else I can tempt her with.
I’ve got a lot to catch up on…