My very first foray into anime was Robotech, and it hooked me so badly during spring finals week of my freshman year of college that I spent virtually all of my time between final exams in the TV room at the dorm with my stash of VHS tapes. Apart from watching Akira and Ghost in the Shell sometime afterwards (neither of which I remember particularly well), my next exposure to anime was Grave of the Fireflies, which left a bad impression, to say the least. It wasn’t until just two years ago that Steven got me addicted to Haibane Renmei, which as you may have noticed left something of an impression on me. Since then, my anime strategy has been a predilection for series that are, in Nick’s words, “emotionally tiring” (like Dennou Coil), or epic in scope (like Twelve Kingdoms or Escaflowne). I also enjoy series which have a unique take on technology (Last Exile), or adopt a philosophic and surreal bent (Kino’s Journey, Mushishi) . I also am drawn to certain styles of anime, where the story is of course important but also the manner in which the story is told (Samurai Jack, The Place Promised). Above all, I like a series that has interesting characters, who are human, flawed, and honorable, who charm me and make me care what happens next, even if I sort of already know the answer (Ranma, Shingu, The Cat Returns, The Girl Who Leapt). Of course, I am also heavily into the kawaii scene (Sugar Snow Fairy, Totoro), primarily because of my daughters. This list barely scratches the surface of what I have seen, and the list of what I want to see next is even longer still.
I am partly responding here to Steven’s “end of anime” post in which he laments the lack of interesting material to be excited about – I think that the point where any one of us runs out of anime is when we exhaust the pool of what we like. There are very few truly original series out there, so everything in some sense is an echo of what comes before. Limit ourselves to our safe pond, and over time it is certain to dry up. And yet, inspiration to try something new often strikes from unlikely places. Take Ranma as an example – I’d tried it once, and recoiled due to excessive ecchi. It was solely due to Steven’s enthusiasm for it that got me to give it another shot, and now I am hooked, while ironically Steven’s interest has sagged (season 5, btw, has been superb, easily equal to the high points of seasons 2 and 3). Ranma is new ground for me in anime, with plenty of casual ecchi and fan service, a focus on martial arts, and a love dodecahedron as the primary plot driver. And yet, I have fallen for it in a sense, because over time you get to know the characters, even if they don’t grow that much, who they are is plenty enough. I am sure there are plenty of frontiers (relatively) for me to explore yet, not just on my watch list but also things like Evangelion, Haruhi, Ah My Goddess, Mahoromatic, etc. which all represent a significant departure from my usual fare, even more so than Ranma.
All I am really trying to say is that anime is vast. Even if the industry were to die tomorrow from evil fansubbers or a withering of imaginative energy or displacement by Korean animation studios, there’s already a corpus of work that spans decades for me to work through, and I am limited only by my taste (stop snickering). I fully understand why Steven is at the end of anime, but for me, it’s just the beginning. And I owe that to him.
As an aside, if anyone has discs of series that I’ve mentioned above that they’d like to sell, let me know. I am especially interested in buying Ranma or Kino.