So I’ve always enjoyed cartoons (for lack of a better word). I’m not talking about those shows we used to watch on Saturday mornings (though those, too). I’m talking about movies like the Hobbit (talking the animated one from long, long ago), the Last Unicorn (squee!), and even Fire and Ice. I get not everyone has heard of these movies. For a very long time (and even still), animation was considered for kids. (We’ll just ignore the Heavy Metal movie when talking about this, shall we?)
It just never really caught on really big in the US until more recently.
Once upon a time, when I went off to college (the first time), I fell in with a geeky crowd. Not really such a shock, all things considered. Got officially into gaming (please reference here my previous blog Gaming and Me (RPG)) back in college the first time (thought, in a way, I was raised with it). But among gaming side, my friends back then started getting me into anime as well.
Woah. That was a thing?? Like… other people watched it, too?? DUDE!!!
I watched tons of anime back then – couldn’t even tell you all of it that I watched. There were times my gaming group would get together to watch. I remember when my group (after college the first time…) were playing Robotech. On non-game nights, we got together and blew through the anime series (plural, that).
So, yeah. I’ve always enjoyed anime.
After my son was born, I continued to watch. A dear friend of mine from Malaysia would send me care packages, including cheesey Hong Kong flicks as well as quite a bit of anime.
One of my favorite series was Fullmetal Alchemist. My friend, Chris, had sent it to me (she always had the best taste!), and I had blown through it. Dev was very young, and after watching the first episode, I knew I had best not share this with my little one. So. Much. Blood. And violence. And… dude. I loved it.
But then I was talking to my friends about it locally, and we were talking about the same scenes… but details were different. It left me very confused. This was when I realized, oh… editing. Because cartoons were still considered to be for kids here, and you couldn’t have that degree of blood and violence in a kid show. So it was tweaked and changed to be made appropriate. My friends who I was talking to had seen the American version, thus they had missed out on some of what I was watching.
I actually felt rather special because of it. Like I had been let in on a grand secret. Thanks, Chris. Still love you for all of that!!
So fast forward just a couple of years.
My son was in school – first grade – when the teacher reached out to me that we had a problem. (this is relevant to the topic at hand – promise) He wasn’t reading. I was flabbergasted – how was this possible? I would read to him, and we would look at books. He would be able to tell me what the story was, and what words were. His kindergarten teacher had never mentioned any word of concern.
That’s when his first grade teacher explained what was going on – Devlin was taking the hard way of figuring out words. Books for that age had lots of pictures – they were designed to help tell the story, afterall. So my runt was looking at the pictures, looking at the words, and figuring out what they meant without actually reading. So, for example, there would be a picture of a rabbit on the page, and a word that started with the word ‘b.’ He wouldn’t try to sound the word out, but look at the picture and know the word in question was ‘bunny.’
Well, what the hell was I supposed to do with THIS??
I tried a few different things. Tried reading more with him. Nada. Tried getting him comic books (age appropriate, thank you). And while he loved the pictures, it didn’t really GRAB his attention.
I had already gotten my son into Pokemon (it was a bit of a private joke… because I’m a horrible person. I’ll share this story in more detail later!), so I knew he liked the style and all.
And I already had a ton of anime from my friend…
So we started watching it together with the English subs. The first anime was Saiyuki. A bit cheesey, but still a lot of fun. He loved the flashing action scenes of which there were plenty. We were a couple of episodes in when he finally leaned over to me and whispered “So why are they doing all of this?”
I sighed, keeping my eyes on the TV. “I guess you better learn to read in order to find out…”
And guess what… it worked.
His reading scores started going out. Dramatically. Even when we weren’t watching anime, we had the subtitles on. It was how he practiced. It worked so well that, by the time he was in fifth grade, the teachers rated him at reading at a high school level. GO, DEV!!
And watching animes together kinda became our thing.
Honestly, over the years, we’ve watched so many animes together, it’s hard for me to remember all the titles. He’s gone on and watched more than I have, but it still makes me happy that it was something we can look back and say this was ours.
I think Bleach has to be one of the biggest ones that we watched together. We made a point of watching all of it – even the very last season when it had already started going down hill. I have some things to say about that, but later. Toshiro Hitsugaya had to be one of Dev’s favorite characters in the series. We had switched to English dubs probably halfway through the series because we no longer had access to the original Japanese – we’d watch it in Japanese every chance we got, but often, didn’t have that opportunity.
A little over a year ago, I had the opportunity to be a guest at a convention – Arkansas Anime Festival – along with Steve Staley, the man who did the American voice over for Hitsugaya. The man was wonderful, and he not only took a picture with Dev, but signed Dev’s replica of Hitsugaya’s weapon.
And while I adore Hitsugaya, I’m more a Baiyakuya Kuchiki kinda gal.
… And Aizen…
Hands down, Fullmetal Alchemist has to still be one of my favorites. I enjoyed Brotherhood, too, when it came out. I swear, Edward Elrich is my spirit animal. I channel a bit of him into Jo – I can’t really help it. Just little things. If you’ve read the books and watched the show, I’m sure you can see it…
If you haven’t watched the show, I strongly encourage you to do so. I’d say watching the first series to start, this way you can get a full feel of what you’re seeing. But be sure to watch Brotherhood, too!! Halfway through the first series, they passed the manga so they did their own thing… Brotherhood, they went back to fix the second half.
I’ve got a few guilty pleasures… I got to admit, I adore Ouran High School Host Club. Shush you… I said it was a guilty pleasure. It always has a way of making me smile and cheering me even when I’m down. Hell, even Devlin enjoys watching this with me! Like, not all the time, but sometimes… sometimes you need a bit of cheese in your life!
I am very grateful that I’ve been able to be part of the Arkansas Anime Festival because of all of the above. Not only have I been attending as a fangirl for many years, but for the past few years, I’ve been going as a guest. I’ve been able to meet some spectacular voice actors because of this. Considering what anime has meant to me and my son as a bonding experience, this has meant a great deal to both of us.
There’s plenty more animes I can squeal and fangirl over – it’s a gift of mine to do so!
So what are some of your favorite animes? Let me know! If I haven’t watched them already, I’ll be sure to check ’em out.