Anime, Manga and Me – A 50 Year Love Story

Like a lot of us, I was watching anime before we even knew what anime was, or “Japanimation” or Japanese animation. I suspect that most of us barely even knew where Japan was, or even what animation was. They were cartoons that we loved back in the 60s and 70’s – Speed Racer, Gigantor, and two of my all time favorites, Prince Planet and Kimba the White Lion.

Oh, I was so obsessed with both shows! Prince Planet which first ran in the mid 1960s. It was about a boy from the planet Radion and the Universal Peace Corps, coming to Earth to see if we met the standards for membership in the Galactic Union Worlds. Taking the name Bobby he and his new friends, Diana (in English) and her father Pops Worthy, and wrestler Dan Dynamo. Their adversary was Warlock. It has most of the themes and tropes common to anime- fish out of water character, magical boy, found family and honor and morality. When I was a kid, and it was my turn to pick a game, it was always “let’s play Prince Planet! (I was always Diana)! I don’t remember much else, but I do remember one episode that took place in a department store with this creature who could morph into anything and wreak havoc in the store. At the end he turns into a train and gets shot (I think) and as he melts he says “all I wanted to do was play.” That may not be 100% accurate, but whatever it actually was, it was the first (but not the last) anime to make me cry.

It’s Priiiiince Planet!
A friend made a drinking game while watching the DVDs – take a shot every time someone moralized. I think they were shitfaced by the second episode!

I don’t have to say too much about Kimba the White Lion, by legendary artist/author Osamu Tezuka, because of the attention it got when Disney released The Lion King. Kimba is an orphan whose father was killed by a hunter named Ham Egg (hey, I don’t write this stuff). Panja, Kimba’s father is captured when the hunter kidnaps his pregnant wife Eliza and uses her for bait. As he is dying he tells Eliza to name their child Kimba. Ham Egg gets his hide and Eliza gets put into a zoo (good Lord, this was a children’s show ??). So one again we have an outsider (Kimba), who ends up with found family, a parrot and a baboon, and Bucky the deer and others that I don’t remember, and a human named Roger Ranger. It was called Jungle Emperor Leo in Japanese, and basically has nothing more to do with The Lion King, except the closeness of their names.

Flash forward to the 1980s, when I discovered conventions (my found family!) and met others who loved “Japanimation” – a term considered derogatory now – as much as I did. At the time there was very little anime in the states compared to Japan, so there was a black market of titles on VHS. We watched them without subtitles so I really don’t remember much – a boyfriend who loved Vampire Hunter D, and watching hentai for the first time. There were comics out (not caked manga in America yet and I collected of the Valley of the Winf – my first encounter with the legendary Miyazaki. I still have them somewhere.

In the late 90s I noticed manga on bookstores shelves like Sailor Moon and Pokémon. They were all flipped to accommodate American readers. Also in the late 90s my little girl discovered anime via Pokémon and Sailor Moon, so once again manga and anime was part of my life!

My boys Dee and Ryo and I’m not ashamed to say I love boys love manga

Jump ahead to the 2000s, when as a librarian I went to a workshop led by fellow librarians and friends Liz and George Pearson on anime and manga, and the floodgates just opened! I totally fell in love with this title: Fake by Sanami Matoh a tale about two NYPD cops, Ryo a newbie to the force, and Dee, a charismatic pain in the ass named Dee, who had the hots for Ryo. They spend more time flirting than solving crime and I was completely and irrevocably hooked. I have all 7 American volumes and all 7 Japanese volumes and a Sanami Matoh art book, which had an exclusive Dee and Ryo short. About two years ago I was scrolling through Amazon and what the heck, I looked up Sanami Matoh and almost fell dead on the floor! There was a Fake 2!!! Only available on Kindle, I bought them all! I understand there’s a Fake 3. It’s wonderful to know others love this as much as I do!

Moving along, I must have bought hundreds of manga during this period. Wednesday was release day at Waldenbooks and I was there every Wednesday afternoon to pick up our series.. Pet Shop of Horrors, Rebirth by Woo ( which never finished) about a vampire named Desh. Volumes 5 was his backstory. Desh was pretty despicable up til then, but wow, his backstory changed everything. (I read it in the store and was the only manga that made me cry in public. We also loved Saiyuki, Descendents of Darkness, Weiss Kruse, Card Captor Sakura, Rayearth, Sorcerer Hunters, Banana Fish and oh so many more.

I became the anime/ manga librarian at our Main Library, started a manga book club and eventually an anime club. It all culminated in this –

Librar-actions, an anime conversation.

I was terrified no one would show up after all my hard work and the hoops I had to go through to get administration to go along with this crazy idea.

I got onstage in our auditorium for opening ceremonies, I and I nearly crapped myself! looked out at a packed house, which was almost 300 people, and even more were standing and I almost crapped myself, if you can crap yourself with joy. We made the news and newspaper.

I became kinda famous, I got to speak at the Miami Book Fair and was one of the founding members of the Graphic Novels Committee, submitting new manga releases. I’ve been a guest at conventions and best of all was sent out to San Diego Comic-Con in 2007.

All good thing must come to an end, as they say. After doing a second convention in 2008, it was taken away from me. And so in 2099 I left Youth Services and Main Library and became a branch adult reference librarian. Eventually I wasn’t able to do the committee anymore.

I then met my second husband and anime/ manga took a very back seat in my life, even though I attended local conventions on occasion, it wasn’t the huge part of my life as it was in the aughts. Fortunately my daughter kept the flame alive with Yu-Gi- Oh, Naruto, Bleach and always Pokémon (she almost got kicked out of school over Naruto (that’s a story for another day).

Sadly my husband died in 2014 and I was pretty desolate. In 2015 I became an entertainment writer and started going to conventions again. Anime and manga were pretty much still my daughter’s domain until now.

I had a stroke in October 2021 (yikes, this article got depressing) and it effected my vision. I can still read, but it’s a really slow process. Someone in BookTube raved about Yona of the Dawn and I thought hey, manga is a good idea because if sometimes even if I can’t read all the words, the art still tells the story. I finished Yona and Fangs Volume 1, and just started “The Time I got Reincarnated as a Slime” and so far it’s just totally awesome!

This is the end of this long winded article (making up for all those days I didn’t blog) but definitely not my love affair with manga and anime. I’m so very grateful for all of the friends I made along the way, my “library kids” and all the epic experiences I’ve had as a result of anime and manga. My heart goes out to all of the anime and manga creators: If not for you, I wouldn’t be who I am today. I love you.

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