My Anime History

My Anime History

[Image of Sailor Moon stretched out on the shaft of a crescent wand]
[Image of Lt. Dana Sterling]Without realizing it, my interest in anime began in the mid-1980s, when Voltron: Defender of the Universe and Robotech: The Macross Saga first aired on American television. While I was too young at the time to notice (or care) that these were Japanese series, I certainly did recognize that they were very different from what was available at the time in the States. While Voltron was on the surface similar to Transformers or GoBots, I found Voltron's use of Humans-piloting-mecha more interesting than living-mecha-with-Human-friends-who-occasionally-got-inside-the-mecha. Also, while I do not remember ever seeing the Rick Hunter (first) segment of Robotech back then, I certainly do remember watching the Southern Cross segment, and finding it both strange and interesting that a woman (Dana Sterling) was in such an important command position, although (even then) she seemed too childish in some ways to actually be a Lieutenant. Sometime in the 1980s, I also saw a few episodes of Speed Racer and liked them a lot; but, again, I did not then recognize Speed Racer as a Japanese series.

Unfortunately, I would not see anime again until Spring 1995, when I was living and studying in Paris. On a morning in which I did not have class and I was home alone, I turned on the TV to see what was on French television on weekday mornings. I happened upon Club Dorothée (no longer airing), a children's program which showed cartoons between (I believe) live segments of Dorothée and her group interacting with the children in the studio. I tuned in just in time to hear Dorothée introduce Sailor Moon, explicitly mentioning that it was a Japanese series. The episode I first saw was the "Nightmare in Dreamland" episode, and within minutes, I was unrecoverably hooked, yet I could not explain why Sailor Moon enthralled me so.

After another live segment came an episode of Dragon Ball Z, which I instantly hated >:-(

[Image of Gally]But as I went about exploring Paris during the semester, I often found myself in one of the several fnac stores. At the La Défense location, I was looking through the video offerings one afternoon and noticed a sign for "animation japonaise," so I went to look due to curiosity. The first title I picked up was Gunnm/Battle Angel, and I instantly recognized the style as being relatively similar to what I had seen in Sailor Moon. A connection was made, and my interest in anime truly began to sprout out of the ground.

About the same time, I was in one of the city's many magazine shops one day and saw Kaméha, a monthly magazine with manga series translated into French, plus news on anime and Asian popular culture. While the manga were certainly interesting, they did not hold my attention as much as had the anime, especially on the few other occasions in which I was able to watch Sailor Moon.

That summer, I returned to the States, and returned to my usual summer job working in New Mexico. There, I learned from a friend that the Sailor Moon series was to start in the States that fall :-) So when I returned to college in August, I began avidly watching the TV listings for Sailor Moon. Unfortunately, Sailor Moon aired in my area at 5:30AM, but I was diligent for several weeks in getting up at 5:15, getting dressed, and going downstairs to watch and tape the episodes on the dorm's public TV/VCR. Fortunately, I was able to acquire an old VCR from a friend, and took an unused TV from home, so I was soon sleeping while the VCR taped the episodes, and I watched them later.

Also upon my return to college, my soon-to-be girlfriend introduced me to other anime. A local TV station was running an anime night from 11PM-1AM on Monday nights. Unfortunately, all they were showing were the old titles in the Streamlines Pictures catalogue (such as Dirty Pair, Wicked City, Robot Carnival, etc.), so we were only seeing older anime (for example, Ghost in the Shell was released that fall, but not in our area). Plus, we rented Project A-ko (the original) and a few other anime titles from a gaming store downtown during the semester.

Spring 1996, we graduated from college, and by August, I was living in Pittsburgh to attend graduate school. The next level of my interest in anime began when I became a member at a video store with a large collection of anime titles. Over the next two years, I would rent virtually all the anime at least once, and had rented Project A-ko so many times that I finally just bought my own copy... and then had to buy another copy because my first copy was wearing out!!! With the explosion of the Internet, more and more online resources for anime information were becoming available, plus more and more anime fans were creating their own Web sites devoted to anime. I even loved the Ah! My Goddess and You're Under Arrest! series so much that I bought the soundtracks :-)

Fall 1998, I moved to Tucson for another graduate program. But it was Christmas Break 1999 when my interest in anime exploded into the ever-expanding mushroom cloud it is now. Thanks to eBay, my anime collection suddenly grew from two titles (just Project A-ko and the Sailor Moon episodes I had taped in 1995 and 1996) to well over 100 total videotapes in a few months. This combined with a course paper I wrote on race issues in anime and the availability of even more anime-related online resources to truly boost my interest in and knowledge of anime. I am certainly no Otaking, but soon others began to admire my interest and knowledge.

[Cover of The Sailor Moon Role-playing Game and Resource Book]Spring 2000, I decided to return to role-playing games after many years without gaming (the last RPG I had participated in was Vampire, in 1992-1993 at college). That summer, back in New Mexico, I ran a Sailor Moon campaign, one which everyone (all Moonies, and most otaku) really enjoyed. Thus, upon my return to Tucson in the fall, I created The Sailor Moon RPG Site, based upon the adventures of the Summer 2000 campaign and presenting a number of characters, rule modifications, attributes, defects, etc., which had made the Summer 2000 campaign so interesting. About a month later, my copy of Big Eyes, Small Mouth, second edition, finally arrived, and I soon created The Big Eyes, Small Mouth RPG Site. Between the creation of these sites, HibikiWeb came online, a site devoted to Amanda Parkinsly/Sailor Hibiki, the character I played in the Summer 2000 campaign, and What is Anime? was my attempt to educate others about anime. These sites were all originally on another server which is now defunct, so they have all been brought together here and branded as FeatherSites.

As for my future in anime, I plan to continue buying and selling anime-related items on eBay, and hope to eventually earn a Ph.D. focusing on race issues in anime. I also hope to acquire more anime DVDs; now that I have a PlayStation2, I can finally take advantage of DVDs to watch anime in Japanese without subtitles for the titles I know really well :-) I am also creating a critical studies course, temporarily titled "Critical Issues in Japanese Animation," which will focus on issues such as nationalism, audience reception (in Japan, the United States/North America, and probably South Korea), race, gender, and auteurism in anime.

As one might expect from the images both on this site and the other sites of FeatherSites, I have a preference for shojo and magical girl anime. To be honest, I am still unclear how this interest developed. Certainly, my interest in the Sailor Moon universe is due to that series being my first recognized introduction to Japanese animation, even though that introduction was in French dub. Perhaps my interest in other female-dominated anime, such as the Bubblegum Crisis/Hurricane Live series and the original Project A-ko, is similarly related. But my anime interests also expand to include Robotech/Macross, Outlaw Star, Lupin III, and Grave of the Fireflies. I also have an interest in the trailers included on anime videotapes and DVDs sold in the States, especially as they provide a great overview of the vast variety of anime available when assembled together on one videotape.

My anime collection has truly grown. For several years, I only owned a handful of videotapes. Then in early 2000, I suddenly started acquiring a lot of anime - from friends, a local store selling (among other things) used videotapes, eBay auctions, and online stores such as The Right Stuf International. By summer 2000, I had well over 100 videotapes in my personal collection. While the rate of acquisitions has severely decreased since then, I still continue to acquire more anime - on videotape and DVD - from an expanding array of sources.

In May 2002, I will be teaching a critical studies course on anime: Critical Issues of Japanese Animation. This intensive three-week course will focus on the history of anime, auteurism (focusing on Hayao Miyazaki), gender, and whiteness. During the three-week course, we will be screening twenty-eight anime titles, plus a collection of Anime Music Videos (AMVs) - including Akira, Ghost in the Shell, AstroBoy, Elf Princess Rane, Gunsmith Cats, Robotech, Mononoke-Hime, Sailor Moon, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Armitage III, Bubblegum Crisis, Don't Leave Me Alone Daisy, Perfect Blue, Phantom Quest Corp., Animated Classics of Japanese Literature, Vampire Princess Miyu OAV Series, Otaku no Video, Kite, Lupin III: Tokyo Crisis, D4 Princess, and many more.

In a way, it is amazing just how much of my life involves anime. The desktop image of my computer is Usagi in silhouette. My back is propped by a small Sailor Moon pillow. In my printer tray is a sheet of address labels featuring Sailor Mercury. To my left is a media rack containing most of the 100+ anime tapes and DVDs I currently own; the rest are on another media rack to my right. Propped up against the computer desk is my backpack, which sports a Sailor Mars keyring hanging from one of the zipper pulls. Also on the rack to my right, an entire shelf is full of nothing but anime soundtracks; on the bottom shelf are foreign music CDs, including some from J-POP idols such as Namie Amuro. On virtually every inch of wall and door are anime posters and image printouts: Vampire Princess Miyu, Sailor Moon, Perfect Blue (theatrical poster), a Kite shitajiki, Magic Knight Rayearth, Serial Experiments Lain, Gunnm/Battle Angel, ads for Silent M–bius and Shamanic Princess and Grave of the Fireflies... My bike, parked a few feet away from me, has a large Sailor Moon sticker on it, to help me to find the bike in a crowd on campus. Next to me are The Sailor Moon Role-playing Game and Resource Book,The Complete Book of Yoma, Volume 1, and several books related to anime, manga, and/or Japanese popular culture in general. Propped against my computer is a notecard detailing the updated pages I need to upload to The Sailor Moon RPG Site sometime soon. In a box nearby are the items I currently have up for auction on eBay, including several anime soundtrack CDs. Plus, I am listening to the soundtrack CD for Utena: The Revolutionary Girl, and wearing a Mononoke-Hime Kodama t-shirt. With any luck, some Bubblegum Crisis software I ordered should arrive in the afternoon. To top it all off, I even have two Japanese flags hanging in my apartment.

With so many big eyes and small mouths in my life, my home is an anime shrine.