Tuesday, May 7, 2019

The Making of an Otaku, Part Five

Mike was overweight, socially awkward, shabbily dressed, and resembled Milton from Office Space.

He also had the biggest collection of anime I'd seen at that point in my life.

I met him my freshman year in the dorms at California Polytechnic State University in the fall of 1990. I'd been chatting with some newfound dorm friends in the dorm lobby a week into the Fall Quarter, talking about D&D, when a voice piped up nearby: "Did you know they turned a D&D adventure into an anime series?"

My ears perked up and my radar pinged.

I looked up at the owner of the voice. It was Mike and he had a cheesy grin on his face.

"Anime?" I said. "Really?"

Mike nodded, looking overjoyed. "It's called Record of the Lodoss War. I've got the OVA in my room. You can come watch it if you want."

I shrugged. "Could be fun. Sure."

"Cool!" He told me his room number and added: "I've got a bunch of other anime, too. I'm a bit of a fan."

"Nice," I said. "I'm a bit of a fan myself."

"You should totally come by."

"I will."

"I'm Mike."

"Abner. Nice to meet you."

"Okay. Later."

After he left, one of my newfound dorm friends, another Mike, said: "He's a little weird but you should see his anime collection. He's got a ton. A ton."

The other Mike wasn't kidding. When I went to visit Mike and check out Lodoss War, I got a look at his collection.

Imagine if you will: Take a twin size bunk bed. Now knock out the bottom bunk and install a small desk and a storage cabinet in that space. Let the cabinet have swing-out doors. And inside are shelves. And the shelves are packed with VHS tapes. 200 movies and series episodes. And according to Mike, that was only part of his collection. He had more back home.


I asked him how many more.

He claimed another 200.

Bootlegs all. Like Dennis from high school, Mike also had a connection who was able to get movies and series episodes from Japan. 

And the kicker: he had a goodly number that were unofficially subtitled. The term I'd later learn was "fansubbed."

Part of his set up included a pair of VCRs and he offered to make me a copy of Lodoss War.

At this point, Lodoss War was the furthest from my mind. When I saw his collection and heard his offer to make a copy of something, only one title burst from my mouth.

"Have you got a copy of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind?" I asked and waited with bated breath for his response, all the while a part of me crossed my fingers and whispered have it please oh please oh please oh please....

Without batting an eye, he said "Sure. Subbed or unsubbed?"

My brain exploded. I lost the facility for human speech for the briefest of moments. I think my mouth dropped open and I made a tiny squeak noise.

When speech returned, I said, "Can you do both?"

I don't think he noticed my glitch. "Sure," he said. "I just need a video tape."

I told him I'd get one as soon as I could.

And then he said: "I've also got Laputa. Do you want that one, too? I've only got the subbed one. I left my unsubbed copy at home."

I told him that was fine, all the while squeeing inside like a kid at Christmas at Santa's workshop.

From my anime booklet, I'd learned that Laputa was also by the same director as Nausicaä. The Master himself: Hayao Miyazaki.

Not only was I about to own a copy of Laputa, I was about to own a copy of Nausicaä.


Joy doesn't describe what I felt that moment. 




When I finally got a chance to watch the slightly fuzzy copy of Nausicaä (from a 3rd gen bootleg) over Christmas break, I was over the moon. Despite the slightly unreadable subtitles (thin white font that blended into the scenery at times), it was the full version. 'Nuff said.

Because of Mike, I got introduced to such titles as Devilman, Baoh, Guyver, Megazone 23: Part One, MD Geist, Mobile Suit SD Gundam, Angel Cop, and Riding Bean, snagged a copy of Appleseed, and finally got to see Urusei Yatsura (previously read about in the anime booklet) and Dirty Pair: Affair of Nolandia.

*   *   *

After freshman year and the small additions to my anime videotape collection (Riding Bean, Lodoss War, MD Geist, Megazone 23: Part One, Dirty Pair: Affair of Nolandia, Appleseed), I added in a brief manga phase for the next year. Just before graduating high school, Pat and I had discovered Appleseed and then Dominion Tank Police so I had picked those up and continued buying issues as they came out. In addition, Viz was still releasing issues of Nausicaä so I got those, too. Time was divided more or less between school, homework, anime watching, and manga reading.

1992 found me living in a house with five other folks from college choir. I brought my anime collection with me as well as the TV/VCR combo I'd gotten as a "housewarming" present from my folks when I moved out of the dorms into an off-campus apartment the previous year. When I wasn't socializing with the others or doing homework and studying, I was watching anime on my TV/VCR. It would usually be Nausicaä or Robotech or one of the other titles in my collection.

Usually Nausicaä.

I mean, I had the full version after all.

*   *   *

There was a small video rental place in a strip mall a block from the house. In addition to new releases and a decent library of older movies, they also had a section of anime videos. That year marked my first time as the holder of a video rental card. 

From that rental store I got to watch Ranma 1/2, Tenchi Muyo, additional episodes of Guyver, Oh My Goddess, Vampire Princess Miyu, and the first Dominion Tank Police OVA.

*   *   *

I still kept in touch with Pat from high school. When I'd come home to the San Francisco Bay Area to visit, he and I and his brother, Mikey, would hang out. Like Pat, Mikey had also gotten into anime so the three of us would share new findings when we'd get together.

When I came home for the summer in 1993, their anime of choice was a show called Kimagure Orange Road. They had gotten the entire set of 48 episodes on laserdisc imported from Japan through a shop in Japantown in San Francisco. I went over one Saturday, watched the first 6 episodes, and asked for a copy of the entire run.

Two Saturdays later, for the first time since Robotech, I binge-watched all 48 KOR episodes.

Next time: The Making of an Otaku, Part Six, or Anime in the Adulting Times

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