Leah Fitzgerald Versus The World?

I was surrounded by people who succcumbed to that so-called Yellow Fever in university. Sometimes I felt like the minority, not being obsessed with getting to Japan, or with scoring bootleg Anime and Manga in the original Japanese. I didn’t take Japanese, despite having the opportunity. I didn’t even try sushi until third year, despite the trendiness of sushi bars in Halifax (when I left, there were at least 7 within walking distance of the university). It wasn’t until after I’d left university that I tried watching bootlegged VCDs of Asian movies, despite my friends all having seen Ringu before they’d even started talking about making The Ring.

It got to the point where they even established an Anime society. They weren’t allowed to watch the movies in the "public" meeting places (classrooms), so they would watch them wherever they could find a TV and VCR. They even watched them on someone’s Mac for a while, since it was the only DVD player they could get. The university pretended not to notice they were showing films that violated the copyright agreement all institutions hold with film distributors, so long as they didn’t advertise.

I always knew when and where the next movie was, but I never made it into any of the marathon nights of episode after episode in someone’s dark and crowded res room. The only anime I’d ever watched, besides the badly-"Americanized" versions of Sailor Moon and Pokemon, was the original Japanese Sailor Moon, with subtitles. A friend of mine managed to get most of the episodes in grainy VHS, and watched them until the tapes were thin. One friend even signed my yearbook "Henshun-Yo!" We all had stickers on our books, and I scored a fake Sailor Venus from the dollar store and a mini Tuxedo Mask from the local Toys R Us. It wasn’t the anime I liked, but rather the sitting on the living room carpet, eating junk food and laughing at the naked shots. Of course, this made me unspeakably lame to my university friends, all watching Akira, Ranma ½ and Cowboy Bebop in the original Japanese with subtitles (never dubbed if they could help it).

My friends tried. They told me stories of what Japan was "really like" – the restaurants, the temples, the markets – trying to sell me on the culture. The stories of the apartments were enough to turn me off, and sushi was already overplentiful for me in Halifax.

When I visited Montreal, I discovered I could get the mystical snacks, paper lanterns and Hello Kitty merchandise in ChinaTown. And Manga, too, though they were translated in French ("bandes dessinées" are very popular in Quebec). I actually I had requests for Manga since it was so plentiful at the bookstores. It was as bad as my friends who wanted Lucky Strikes if I got a chance to stop at the Duty Free. Addiction was strong. My addiction to Pocky became strong, but I survived. I figured everyone else would survive without French Manga. All I saw were big eyes and motion lines. I figured they could suck it up and buy comics in Halifax. Little did I know then – as I do now – that the French stuff was often way ahead of the trades at the comic shop.

My last year of university, a girl we knew moved to Japan through JET. She sent back tales of bad dental hygiene and racism. She also sent manga. I was handed the big magazines (they call them phonebooks, go figure) to look at. Trying to read a magazine in a foreign language is not much fun (I read French fluently, and yet don’t like the magazines. The French magazines follow a different sensibility, and not one I have a taste for). Despite hearing raves of manga, of the art, the stories, the characters, the mythology, I went back to reading Strangers in Paradise, piles of Alan Moore and Grant Morrison graphic novels, and Sluggy.

I think my friends were hoping that my love of sushi, lucky bamboo and Eastern religions (they saw the Lao Tzu on my bookshelf) would bring me to their side. Of course, I did eventually watch Princess Mononoke, and My Neighbor Totoro. I saw Spirited Away in the theatre, and then in the original Japanese. I discovered that if anything, I liked the stuff for kids. And the live action horror movies. Wild Zero! rocked.

I guess I figure that since I’m clearly not turning into one of those girls who starts acting like a character in some anime series, I can pick and choose. And I think liking some books and movies, and the occasional anime film, can be enough.


  1. It is “henshin” but I checked my yearbook and Suzanne wrote “henshun.” Like the column says, we were pretty ignorant about anime in general.

  2. I see your point, there’s a problem in fandom where if you’re not 100% immersed in something, other fans will start to view you as a project. That if *only* you knew more, you would be as obsessed with they.

    Nothing wrong with being a casual fan of anything, I know that personally my taste has gravitated towards the more mature stories, and I’m no longer as interested in Sailor Moon/DBZ/ flavor-of-the=month type stuff (meaning I don’t watch all that much anime anymore). However, that doesn’t seem to stop certain members of my Japanese class from continually trying to get me into whatever the latest “genki” series is :).

  3. I like to pick and choose. I just don’t choose that much manga or anime. Personal taste. And I’m not saying it’s bad. I don’t understand undying fans of Creed either.

  4. I sympathize. I don’t miss hearing endlessly about how someone scored a bootleg with subtitles that are “actually okay” to something.
    And hey – I saw Shaolin Soccer (which is not Japanese) with the worst subtitles ever – not just occasionally incomprehensible, they called it “Evil Team” instead of “Team Evil” giving it a much more maudlin value.

  5. The way I see it is that neither anime nor manga has to be a way of life. You can pick and choose the good stuff you want to read or watch, the same as you do with anything else- it’s just another film or comic. It’s not special because it’s anime. At the same time, I don’t think you should discount all of anime because of the awful stuff, like some people do.

Comments are closed.