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My love affair with Japanese animation began in the late nineties, around the time I entered high school. I owe my entrance into the world of anime to my older brother, who introduced me to Dragon Ball Z. I was reluctant to join in the fandom at first, as I was somewhat averse to the idea of watching "cartoons" at that age, but I couldn't resist the excitement the show evidently evoked in my brothers. The series hooked me immediately. When we exhausted what was airing on television, my brother started ordering the tapes of later episodes, and when each one arrived, we would dim the lights and satisfy our uncontrollable anticipation.
This was not some lame cartoon, it was *awesome*. But my hunger had merely been awakened, and I looked for more of these strangely good Japanese shows. There wasn't a whole lot available on TV, but what there was, I made the most of. I started watching Sailor Moon - which I was at first embarrassed by, it supposedly being a "girly" show (though the promise of schoolgirls in high heels and short skirts assured my daily position in front of that TV). I sought out the mysterious Saturday late night anime slot on the Sci-Fi channel -
which exposed me to a smorgasbord of various random and little known titles - including giving me my very first introduction to Record of Lodoss War (in which I found my first major anime crush, in the form of prototypical elfgirl Deedlit <3). And a little bit later on, I watched with great interest as Gundam Wing aired uncut on Toonami's Midnight Run.
My first anime convention was actually a local comics convention, that featured a little anime on the side - but it was still very exciting. Cosplay wasn't as huge back then, and there was a lot more "unofficial" merchandise, something that I miss at today's larger and more organized cons. I picked up a ton of mini-posters and a few choice wall scrolls to decorate my room, so as to have a proper shrine for my activities. The con wasn't much, but for inexperienced me, it was fun going each year. But I had to stop going when I left for college, at which point I entered into the second stage of my fandom.
1st Phase (High School Years):
Expanding my horizons
Moving on to college, I could have turned away from anime, but the on-campus anime club (which was, to be honest, one of the more exciting prospects of the college I chose) turned out to be a very fruitful avenue of discovery, what with the weekly anime viewings - free of charge, involving titles both from the university-funded club collection as well as the club members' individual collections. Not to mention the huge projection screen and stadium seating we used for those viewings!
I was happily exposed to many titles during those four years, including a number of classics I hadn't previously had a chance to see. Among the more and less memorable series I viewed, I especially enjoyed the Banner of the Stars/Crest of the Stars series (Lafiel is <3). But the one series that had, by far, the biggest impact on me was the juggernaut known as Berserk - with its dark themes, complex character dynamics, and unforgiving plot turns. It replaced Eva as my new favorite series, and to this day still holds that spot.
As you can see, it was a verdant period. In place of the local con back home, I made it out to Otakon twice, to experience the true con-going experience. My figure collection, which started with posable gundams and a Love Hina mini-harem, continued to grow. My interest in anime expanded to a more general interest in Japan, as I studied the language and culture in my classes and pursued a Japanese minor. I also practiced Aikido on campus for awhile, and held a position (of minimal responsibility :p) in the college's Japan Society. And in the summer of 2005, I flew across the sea and spent a week and a half in Japan, touring Tokyo and the surrounding areas of Kyoto. My fandom was at a peak.
2nd Phase (College Years):
Deeper into fandom
And so onto the third stage of my fandom. From the peak of the college years, my fan level dropped a bit, but graduation unexpectedly left me with a lot of free time. So despite not having as many resources, and not being surrounded by quite as encouraging an atmosphere, I still found time to continue watching anime. Gradually I found myself slipping deeper and deeper into the trap of the stereotypically unhealthy otaku lifestyle.
Some of the more enjoyable titles I've watched over the past few years include School Rumble, Code Geass, Claymore, Hayate no Gotoku, and one of my newest favorites, Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, whose psychologically deficient, exceedingly pessimistic, and terminally depressed characters I find comfort in relating to. Fate/Stay Night led me to my first real "visual novel" (and eroge) playing experience, and I even delved into the realm of hentai via Urotsukidoji (Legend of the Overfiend) - which, quite frankly, impressed me with its quality (something you might not expect from an erotic title known for its depraved sensibilities). And ultimately, watching Welcome to the N.H.K. opened my eyes to the nature of my hikikomori lifestyle (though it hasn't done much to help it).
For the first time, I've become relatively up-to-date with the anime industry in Japan, keeping up with popular trends and following some titles in "real time" as they air in Japan (with minimal delay). I have regular contact with a friend actually living in Japan, and I check a popular otaku-related blog based in Japan regularly. Though most of my activities are contained within my home, I still make it out to the local anime convention, which has grown steadily since my high school years - though is still no match for the Otakon experience.
3rd Phase (Post-College):
There's no telling what tomorrow may bring...
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