I have been rediscovering my love of anime. I was a big fan in the 90’s after college. I went to see Urotsukidoji and Akira at midnight showings at the Angelica in New York City. I bought my first series – Bubblegum Crisis – from a then fledgling anime distributor, Animego in North Carolina. My sister got me hooked on the ongoing love-hate hijinx of the innocent Lum and her lecherous fiancée, Ataru in Urusei Yatsura. I watched Ranma ½ on snowy videotapes dubbed in Cantonese.
My crowning achievement during this period was the discovery of Arcadia of My Youth on video, starring Captain Harlock from my own youth. My sister and I used to strain to watch adventures of Captain Harlock: Space Pirate on our tiny TV from the days of rabbit-ears. The show played on UHF. Anyone old enough to remember UHF understands my sister’s and my deep dedication to the show.
Then everything just seemed so stale.
Just like that it seemed that the anime writers were borrowing unabashedly from each other’s storylines. And the drawing… Let’s just say that it became increasingly difficult to tell one supporting character from another. Sometimes the only way to tell the male characters from the female characters was by how bouncy and robust their bosoms were.
Then Pokemon came and I wanted no part of it.
Last year or the year before, I was flipping channels and caught an episode of Samurai Champloo on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. It was different with its quirky sense of humor and engaging characters. I am not going to say that the underlying premise driving the story was original but will say the three main characters and the interaction between them was too rich to be ignored. They were very “human” characters to me, so they were very interesting to me. There was a level of sophistication to the characters that had been lacking from the shows that circulated in the late 90’s into 2000. Later on I learned that Samurai Champloo was created by the same person who created Cowboy Bebop (a favorite my sister introduced me to), Shinichiro Watanabe.
Because it was on right after, I also became a fan of Paranoia Agent. Though I can’t say that I like the way it ended, the getting there was really interesting. It reminded me of the old X Files with Mulder and Scully. There were was a subtly twisted sense of humor at play in some of the episodes that made the entire series appealing. My only wish is that its creator would have taken more care with its ending. The culmination of the series was the usual big all encompassing tidal wave of goo and destruction. It was sort of like the writer just got tired of writing and needed an “And then she died” ending.
I would have liked to have seen the series end via subtle circumstances. Where the characters concerned came to their dramatic conclusions ignored by the general populace. That seemed to be the theme of the series: daily personal dramas. Only in the story these dramas were enhanced by supernatural activity. In comparing Samurai Champloo and Paranoia Agent (I’m doing so because I watched them at the same time), the former had a better ending, while the latter had a more interesting story premise.
After both series concluded, there was nothing again, until Bleach and Trinity Blood. But, while I enjoy both, I can’t say that I feel the same anticipation I felt in the midst of a Samurai Champloo or Paranoia Agent episode.
And now there is Gunslinger Girl and Basilisk on IFC. The coolness and subtlety of Gunslinger Girl reminds me of Paranoia Agent. My sister has already warned me that it is a short series lasting only 13 episodes. I told her that it didn’t matter as long it ends well.