This isn’t really a question I get asked (read: actually never), but I thought it was something I should share regardless. No one showed me anime. No one said “Hey check this out, you might like it” to me. I began watching anime completely on my own. The way I got started was actually through a series of YouTube videos and searches on Google. I started watching anime when Caramelldansen was the meme on YouTube. I also started watching when the release of Super Smash Bros Brawl was still a big deal. This puts my beginnings with anime roughly three years ago.
As previously mentioned, I was spending a lot of time on YouTube watching the various Caramelldansen videos posted as I loved the song and some of the personalizations thrown into a couple of videos were hilarious. After watching one with characters from Brawl, YouTube suggested watching a video called (to the best of my memory) “What Brawl would be like as an anime”. Having nothing better to do, I decided to watch it. It was good. Really good. So, I started watching more videos with ideas of what Brawl would look like as an anime. Eventually I found one titled something like “Brawl + Lucky Star Opening”, which had characters from Brawl doing a pretty well choreographed dance to catchy music. When that video finished, YouTube had a slew of other videos with Lucky Star in the title. Naturally, I watched a few more. As they all had characters from various games and what not doing the same dance to the same music, I began to wonder “What the heck is this Lucky Star thing?” Google quickly informed me it was an anime and that there were clips on YouTube.
Since I was curious to see what crazy creation was leading to all these fan-made spin-offs, I started watching the anime in wonderful ten minute long parts. After three episodes, I was hooked. Really hooked. I started searching more on Google to get more information on the series. Pretty soon I found out that there was an English version DVD (with the original Japanese of course) and that my local Borders carried it. Shortly after, I called Borders up and asked them to hold the DVD for me. Ten minutes later, I owned my very first anime DVD.
Eager to pick you where I left off from YouTube (and watch a correct translation; some of the fansubs were very clearly wrong), I popped the DVD into my Mac and started watching. While it probably would’ve been better to pace myself, I finished it in one sitting. While watching it, I heard a lot of references to this “Haruhi” thing. Luckily that “Haruhi” thing was popular enough that Google figured out what I was looking for just based on one word. Granted, it did take me a couple tries to spell it right. Nonetheless, I soon found out it was another anime. And another one on YouTube. However, after watching the first episode on YouTube (which I later found out was really episode zero) I thought “Holy shit. This is terrible.” When I give it another try roughly a year later, I finally understood why.
So, since for the time being, Haruhi was out, I continued watching Lucky Star. One thing I quickly picked up on was that it had a ton of references to other animes, manga, and the Japanese culture in general. I loved – and still do – that it did. I honestly and strongly believe that had I not started watching anime with Lucky Star and if it did not contain so many references to other things, I may very well have never discovered how many amazing animes and mangas exist out there. One of the references I remembered from it was Sgt. Frog, which ended up becoming the first manga I ever owned and second anime I began to watch. However, I’ll go more in to detail about that experience in another post.
At this point I’d like to fast forward roughly a year. In my high school, my had a small stretch of hallway where all of the art rooms were located. In that hallway was a glass case. A lot of times I would just give it a quick glance to see what was in it and continue on, unimpressed. However, one afternoon as I was getting ready to leave, I glanced over and noticed the art had gotten rotated, rotated to some very familiar looking characters. Interested, for once, I walked over. On display were the works of a single student, a student who was very good and drawing, and a student who was clearly into anime.
Every single picture on display was an anime character. I couldn’t believe it. I must have spent ten minutes or so looking at the display because I remember getting interrupted by a teacher, who informed me they were getting ready to close the gate to the hallway and I needed to leave as a result. As the case was very small, I had already finished looking and noticing a lot of the drawing were from one anime in particular. Four of them were captioned as being from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. Yep, that same one I originally said Meh to. Now re-interested, in part because I finished Lucky Star completely about a week earlier (and yes, on YouTube as I ran out of money and they weren’t all on DVD yet). So, I went home, opened up YouTube, and gave it another go. Five episodes later, I was hooked that time. However, this time I found out Borders didn’t carry it, but that Best Buy carried a large box set with every episode. After saving up, I bought it.
Today, my anime collection has grown to the point that it requires a dedicated shelf, stacked double high. Following what I call “The Lucky Star Era”, which contains Lucy Star, Sgt. Frog, and Haruhi, I began watching Hayao Miyazaki’s films, starting with Spirited Away, which I had rented from the library. Since the library, thankfully, had just about the entire collection at the time, I continued renting them until I had seen every last one they owned. I now constantly keep tabs on the latest Ghibli news and often see new releases opening weekend. Now, most of my anime discovery comes from Crunchyroll, where I have an Anime Membership. I now watch animes from a much broader genre than I perviously did. Before, I knew what kinds I liked and stuck with them as I didn’t have the budget to take a risk and buy an anime on disk that I have no idea if I’ll like or not. I still don’t. It’s thanks to YouTube and Lucky Star that I got started with anime and manga (I’ll detail the latter in a post at a later time) and it’s thanks to Crunchyroll that I continue watching anime on a regular basis (and I’ll admit almost religiously ^_^;). It’s thanks to anime that I’ve really grown interested in learning a foreign language and taking a trip outside of the US and the neighboring Caribbean for the first time. I firmly believe that anime has really opened up my view on the world and has gotten me interested in doing things I’ve never done before, like going to a convention. So, for the people who don’t know what to make of anime, give it a try. I recommend starting with Lucky Star 😉