I WANT TO EAT A NUT OF LAERMA!
Wednesday, August 25, 2004
Sunday, August 22, 2004
IT'S A MAJOR TENTH ANNIVERSARY FOR ME... HOLY SHIT! IT'S BEEN TEN YEARS?Tenth anniversary of what? Well, me liking anime, of course! Actually, not quite... it was a gradual process, starting with getting all nostalgic about watching Robotech (and, to a lesser degree, Battle of the Planets/G-Force, but I was very young when I watched that one) in the mid-80s back in 1992, then renting Akira and My Neighbout Totoro at some point between 1992 and 1994, reading about the anime-based Japanese Sega Megadrive CD Urusei Yatsura game in Electronic Gaming Monthly (which was an important event to me because that was how I came to learn the name of the anime girl, Lum, from the Matthew Sweet music video "I've Been Waiting"), watching Samurai Pizza Cats on YTV. 1994 was the real turning point; while I had started renting the four or five tapes of the the more purist-oriented stuff, like Project A-ko at a local video store (a year before Blockbuster came to Pincourt) at some point in spring 1994, and while I bought my first volume of black-and-white manga, Rumiko Takahashi's Urusei Yatsura, what happened on the second-to-last weekend of August in 1994 was that I attended my first anime marathon.
Some major touring comic book convention (which I thought was called "World Comic Convention", but I looked it up on Google and the only thing I found was the Wizard World Comic Convention, which started in 1996), decided to try having an convention, with major comic book industry guests like, if I remember correctly, Jae Lee, in Montreal, over at the flailing Place Bonaventure*. I think it was their only attempt at one here... the thing was sparsely attended. (The comic book conventions they have here in Montreal all seem to be organized by the local comic book dealers; meaning you have to pay admission to see a fraction of the merchandise you could see any other day for free at the store itself.)
Since the Web was still very new and I wasn't on it yet, I found out about this convention from my brother, Nick, who picked up a photocopied flyer at the Captaine Quebec comic book store on Saint John's Boulevard in Dollard des Ormeaux. It wasn't an ad for the convention itself, rather it was an ad from a group called Animé de Montréal (AdeM), who were having a two day anime marathon at the convention that weekend. The ad had four large panels; one of them had the Ranma ½ characters, who I was already somewhat familiar with because of the Super Nintendo game series that the people at Electronic Gaming Monthly magazine liked complaining weren't getting the treatment they deserved in North America, the other panels had: some sort of doctor or something being embraced by a girl, and there was at least a kid if not also an angry-looking woman (All-Purpose Cat Girl Nuku Nuku), a guy surrounded by a whole bunch of girls, some who seemed to have powers (Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki), and the mysterious digits "0083" (Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory).
I got to the convention at some point on Saturday morning or early Saturday afternoon (this was back when I had the easy ability to wake up early on Santurdays), paid admission (don't remember how much it was), wandered around the floor a little bit (but I don't recall seeing anything remarkable, just people selling stuff at tables and a few people signing autographs), and I found the anime room, which was in a semi-enclosed space, with, I think, a black curtain separating the anime fans and their odor from the normal people... no, I kid, I kid, I think the curtain was just to block out the light. There were about 40 seats or so, though only about half of them were being used, facing a state-of-the-art (for the time) Panasonic GAOO television set, which seemed large to me because I only had a 19-inch Sony Trinitron at the time, but which probably wasn't larget than 31 inches.
And... well, what else is there to say? I watched anime. I saw the first seven episodes of Tenchi Muyo, the first three episodes of All-Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku, all 13 episodes of Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory (which was boring for a while, because I didn't know anything about the "Universal Century" timeline or anything else about Gundam, but the high quality of the mecha animation and the great orchestral music eventually won me over), the second Ranma ½ movie, "Nihao My Concubine" (not a good thing to show to beginners, because it presupposed familiarity with the characters), the two Silent Mobius films and... eh, I get the nagging feeling I watched an episode or two of something else, but I don't remember what it was anymore. Well, it was ten years ago. I have Tenchi Muyo, Nuku Nuku, and Gundam 0083 on DVD (and a dubbed VHS tape of the second Ranma ½ movie), so I shall try and watch them all this coming week (I don't think I can watch marathon screenings of anime anymore, though). I wish the Silent Mobius films were available on DVD; the long defunct Streamline Pictures had the rights to it, but no one seems to have grabbed them since I don't think the series, produced years after the films, sold too well.
I'm not going to gush about anime, because they are just cartoons and the excessive amount of superfluatives and hyperbole in so many critics' reviews of Spirited Away bothered me to no end. I wasn't on my knees crying tears of joy before the GAOO screen. Suffice to say, I liked what I saw. otherwise I wouldn't bore so many people with my talking about Japanese cartoons in what used to be a primarily political blog. And my enthusiasm has cooled a bit over the years, to the point that I get very jaded by so many anime that get a lot of critical buzz (i.e. Witch Hunter Robin and Jin-Roh) but I think I followed the same path as a lot of other long-time anime fans; I was an overly enthusiastic fanboy for a couple of years before getting some perspective and realizing that anime isn't the be all and end all of entertainment, or even animated entertainment. Plus, there's no real need to proselytize anime anymore since, while anime is still very much a small niche thing with adults and I while think we're close to the peak of anime's popularity in North America if we're not there already, it's not "underground" anymore and we're long past the days where there were only about three stores in the entire metropolitan Montreal area selling anime at ridiculously high prices ($70 for a single Urusei Yatsura tape). I will admit that I do get a little nostalgic for the days when liking anime was a lot more special than it is today, but I think a lot of that specialness did have a lot more to do with the fact that anime was still new to me than it was that I liked something very few people knew about, because, yes, as the "95 Theses Against Fandumb" state, "Anime is not punk rock; if it pains you that so many people are getting interested in it, find another scene to go save, like Bollywood cinema." Short of building some sort of Quantum Leap "Accelerator Chamber" to allow me to time travel within my own lifetime like Sam Beckett wanted to do, I will never be able to recapture that feeling of anime being something special like it was to me in 1994, simply because anime isn't new to me anymore and hasn't been new to me for many, many years.
The other thing about that weekend was that Sylvio Martins was being a little naughty and was at the AdeM event hoping to find a few people who were interested in coming to his club, a rival to AdeM, which was then called, I think, Fanmation-Animania (later it became "Animate" and then "Animé Centrale" when Sylvio left), over at Université de Montréal. The following weekend, which I think was the final weekend of August 1994, I did go to his club and I kept on going most weeks up until the club folded in the spring of 2001, when the university asked for too much money for the continued use of the auditorium.
Hey, Sylvio, you still have the Lum envelope I drew! (Eh, I stopped writing to that penpal ages ago... you can keep it.)
*This was the era when most of the bottom floor of the Place Bonaventure complex was still a shopping centre; however, it was after they built the big escalator under the 1001 de la Gauchitiere complex that connected Bonaventure Metro station almost directly to Central Station (and Place Ville Marie after that), allowing people to bypass the long tunnel connecting Bonaventure Metro station to Place Bonaventure, so, as a direct result, the amount of customers at Place Bonaventure dwindled and stores started closing en masse, making the place so damn depressing that I think Hilton just reclaimed most of that space and gave it a huge facelift a couple of years back and decided to expand the convention facilities rather than attempting to re-invigorate it as a shopping complex, because Place Bonaventure is just too far south of the main shopping axis, centred around Sainte Catherine's and the Centre Eaton and Place Ville Marie, to possibly compete anymore.