As MegaWoman and I perused the racks at Amoeba in Hollywood this sunny afternoon, we looked at titles that were vaguely familiar to us–“Wolf’s Rain“, “Rahxephon“, “Gunslinger Girl“… none of which we had actually ever finished watching, or even touched, but helped to define certain periods of time during high school. I remember that the few of us that did watch anime watched it in waves–one person would start watching “Serial Experiments LAIN“, proclaim its genius, then pass it along to everyone else, and so forth with each title. There wasn’t a large group of us watching anime all the time, and there was even a bit of elitism among us “otaku”. For example, if you hadn’t seen every episode of Cowboy Bebop or Trigun, certain otaku didn’t want associate with you. It was kind of lame now that I think back about it, but it was high school, right? We all just wanted to fit in….
I remember back in junior high and high school, watching anime wasn’t the cool thing to do. It wasn’t the popular thing to do, but my memories of then were watching Chinese-subtitled episodes of “Initial D” and “Detective Conan” (Case Closed) with my mom, palms sweating as I didn’t know if Takumi would make the turn with his hand duct-taped to the steering wheel (yeah I still remember that epic episode!). I remember sitting with my cousins in Taiwan, age 3, wishing I had a neighbor Totoro. Or a blue Doraemon pulling portals out of his kangaroo pocket so I could leave my boredom.
I didn’t understand the concept of being a “nerd” or “awkward and uncool”. These were shows I grew up with, and I was already accustomed to seeing elaborately developed story lines, intense action sequences, beautiful characters and the sometimes-post-apocalyptic environments overrun by robots. But during my transition into college, anime was something I had to constantly explain to people as “Japanese animation”. I couldn’t say “anime”. Nobody would know what I was talking about. I guess it didn’t help that I went to a fashion institute, where the trendy thing to do was to go shopping. I didn’t know anybody, and I was eager to make friends. Unfortunately none of those friends understood “anime”. So I had forsaken anime during that crucial period of my life, when I was molding myself into the ideal future me.
I had made new friends that I talked enthusiastically about fashion with, we’d look at our designer shoes that we spent too much money on, we’d swap stalks of Vogue Paris, NYLON, Vivi and tear out our favorite looks that we could probably never afford. But I just somehow still did not feel as though I fit in. I could sew my own clothes and all, but with all the new DIY blogs out there, anybody could distress their own t-shirt.
Then I went to a screening of the Sherlock Holmes movie with Robert Downey Jr. Whether you liked it or not, it sparked my interest in mystery novels and stories, from when I used to watch Detective Conan with my mom in junior high. I had played the 1st Professor Layton game when it was released, but this time, I felt more compelled to play Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box…. and beat it within the week. I started watching Detective Conan again, which is still good as ever, 500+ episodes, 14 movies later… but watching Detective Conan forced me to think, “Why did I ever stop watching anime?” I knew there was so much good material out there, but I didn’t really have anyone to share with anymore.
And how could I tie in my fashion interests with my anime interests? This is an obvious one for those of you familiar with cosplay. I cosplayed for 2 years in high school, then stopped as… too many people thought it was “weird”. I wish I hadn’t been so weak-minded in high school, I could probably have accomplished much more had I stuck to my guns.
Sticking to my guns NOW, about 6 years later, I debuted my 1st cosplay after my hiatus… at Anime Expo. And you know what? It was awesome meeting people as equally as passionate about the same things. I could oogle at merchandise someone else was also drooling over, and that was sometimes the conversation starter.
I suppose something else happened during my time after fashion school–I just didn’t care what people thought anymore. I put my cosplay photos, introduced some of my favorite manga to my friends–I just put it out there for everyone. Not many people care, still, but I realized I had more friends with common interests than I had thought… and for once in my life I didn’t feel like a loner.
So MegaWoman and I are here now, spending the Saturday at a comic book store, followed up by a Bryan Lee O’Malley-Scott Pilgrim signing… nerding out among others, wonder how we can continue to make friends. Ah, perhaps through this blog.