So I feel like I should get something out in the open right now, before things move any further and unwarranted assumptions enter the picture. I like sci-fi and I like Japan, but I am utterly clueless about Japan’s most famous sci-fi export: anime. I encounter the anime problem quite a bit, since pretty much everyone assumes that Japanophile = anime nut and inquires accordingly. If I had a dollar for every time I had to respond, “No, actually I haven’t seen One Piece/Dragonball/Pokemon/La Blue Girl/etc.” I would have a lot of dollars. Not enough to replace my crappy ’97 Ranger, but certainly enough for a delicious steak dinner.
Instead, I’ve been involved with Japan for 15 years and lived there for 9, without ever becoming familiar with manga and anime that weren’t created by Miyazaki Hayao (Spirited Away, Ponyo, Princess Mononoke, etc.). In some ways this is like someone living in America for an extended period of time, but knowing nothing about Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, or whatever is popular now, but seeing everything Pixar ever made. Not inconceivable, but somewhat weird. In my defense, would it not seem strange if someone came over here and said, “I’ve studied English because Ren & Stimpy is brilliant and I want to understand their witty interplay in the vernacular.” (25 years ago, people were studying Japanese so they could own successful companies that executed hostile corporate takeovers. Life is give and take.)
At long last, however, I am giving in to peer pressure. (All the cool kids are doing it!) For reasons both work related and due to my own curiosity, I will be watching more of the standard sci-fi anime canon. Jose is understandably ambivalent towards anime posts (“leery approval,” in his words). I will defend my decision thusly. First, anime is to Japanese sci-fi as Star Wars and Star Trek are to American sci-fi. Any attempt to understand Japanese sci-fi needs to take a few major franchises into account. Second, because I am adamantly NOT an anime fan, each review originates from a literary space. I am interested in plots, characters, themes, and influences across time and space. I am fairly naïve about anime conventions (and TV conventions, for that matter), so some of my comments may be blindingly obvious or uninformed. So be it; this is a learning experience for me. Someday I may be an anime scholar. Until then, I am ignorant and not answering any questions about alien tentacles.