Sunday, May 5, 2019

The Making of an Otaku, Part Three

High school (and events during those four years) would be where I fell down the anime rabbit hole.

It began on the first day of freshman orientation with Patrick.


We met that morning at a bus stop in San Bruno, CA. While we'd been waiting for the schoolbus to arrive, he had pulled out a book from his backpack anbd started reading. Slightly smaller than a paperback. Filled with...animation cels? 

A comic book or some sort?

"What are you reading?" I asked.

He showed me the cover.

I did a double take.

The cover had a familiar looking red and white helmet and its visor reflected the face of Rick Hunter.

"Is that Robotech?" I asked.

"The original version," Pat said and pointed to the title across the top: The Super Dimension Fortress Macross.

Macross, huh?

He grinned at my expression. "Do you watch the show?"

"Hell yes, I do," I said.

And we were off to the races.

*   *   *

The schoolbus, a big yellow number with "CYO Transportation" emblazoned in large black block letters on the side, hit two more stops that morning and Pat and I met Robert and Chris. Both perked up when they heard us talking about Robotech and joined in the conversation. 

Over the next forty minutes before the bus pulled in at Saint Ignatius College Preparatory in San Francisco's Sunset District, we learned that we all read comic books, we all liked sci-fi/fantasy, we played D&D, and we all watched Robotech.

I had found my people.

I would find more at the Sci-Fi/Fantasy Club. 

*   *   *

The club, a rag-tag assortment of comic book fans, sci-fi/fantasy readers, and RPG gamers (Battletech was the popular one), met every Thursday afternoon after school. Roughly two dozen of us, six of them juniors and seniors. The rest were freshmen, wide-eyed and eager and happy to have found like-minded folks.

In addition to gaming out in the hallways and the general sitting around and BS-ing about sci-fi stuff, we had Movie Days.

It was on one of these fateful Movie Days that I encountered the Daicon IV opening animation. My world changed in that one moment.

The video, slightly fuzzy and all, had been brought in by Dennis, another freshman, and he would become our anime pusher.

By then, I'd finally learned the term. 


What I'd been calling Japanimation was, according to Dennis, actually called anime.

*   *   *

Sometime in late '86 or early '87, I attended my first Robotech convention. It wasn't my first overall convention; I'd been to two previous ones, both Doctor Who-themed. But this was the first that catered to Robotech

Even better: Tony Oliver was the guest of honor.

Rick Hunter, for crying out loud.

But aside from Tony Oliver/Rick Hunter, this first convention figured prominently to me for two reasons. 

Those two reasons were both books. Actually one book and a booklet.

The book was Robotech Art 1 and besides being filled with summaries of all 85 episodes plus gobs of line art of the characters and mecha, the book also had a 20-plus page essay detailing the origins of Robotech and a general history of anime itself. That essay became my foundation in anime history (short as it was). 

That essay also marked the beginning of the fall into the rabbit hole because now I knew there was more and The More was out there and I could give names to The More.

Afte picking up Robotech Art 1, a film comic of Macross the TV series covering three episodes including "Bye Bye Mars," I picked up a booklet purporting to be a guide to anime.

Here marks the fall down the hole.

The booklet, maybe 50 to 80 pages long, gave summaries of a number of different anime shows and movies and featured line art from a goodly number of them.

I read the booklet after reading the history of anime in Art 1 and could now give even more names to The More That Was Out There. Names like Crusher Joe, Armored Trooper Votoms, Orguss, Cyborg 009, Sherlock Hound, Kamui, Cobra, and others.

That booklet was also instrumental in something else: solidifying a earlier connection and altering my life.

One of the summaries in the booklet was for a film called Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro and the accompanying line-art featured a lanky gent with sideburns and a sportcoat--

--and holy shit!

That video game from long ago.

Cliff Hanger.

Cliff Hanger turned out to be Cagliostro. At the very least, the gameplay was an adaptation of the movie.

Connection solidified.

The next summary, the life-altering one, would be one that would carry the furthest. 

To this day.

The summary was for a movie called Nausicaa and the Valley of the Wind and the line-art featured--

Wait. Was that--?


And a Giant Gorgon?

And...Lord Yuppa?

Warriors of the Wind--?

What in the hell--?

I remember reading the summary and--

Oh. My. God.

If ever an expression fit the bill, it was that.

Oh. My. God.

Better still: Holy. Fucking. Shit.

I discovered Warriors was a truncated version of NausicaƤ.

Explosion inside. Like before, as if a blindfold had been ripped away and the heavens opened once more to engulf me in divine light and I could finally see. 

And this time, I saw Ultimate Truth.

The "Hallelujah Chorus" from Handel's Messiah burst forth in my head.

In that moment, it was as if the gigantic gears of the Universe gave a turn and all the pieces of the worlds clicked into their proper places.


I needed more.

More beyond The More.

More of her.

Specifically, I had to find the uncut Japanese version and own it.

I tumbled further down the hole.

And oh, the things I saw down there...

Next time: The Making of an Otaku, Part Four, or The Things I Found Down the Anime Rabbit Hole and What I Did With Them

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