The Analog Diaries Part 1: The Land Of Uncool

A product ripped from the blogs of recent days, The Analog Diaries is a series of recollections of a time before digital distribution. In the days when passion was gargantuan, and access was low. Created in memory of the days when all fans had on their sleeves were their desires amidst a media climate rivaling the Southern California Desert. It was a time of heroes, villains, fools & miles of tape. Welcome to the land of uncool.

Perhaps this post was inevitable. There seems to have been an array of toweringly large picket signs adorned with lights in place saying that I needed to share a little about the early days of one of my most cherished hobbies. So when this weekend finally came to pass, and I shared some of my concerns and hopes for the japanese animation industry, it only felt natural to share some memories of my own regarding the early days of the medium within the US. And very much like a brave few fans, my memories are borne out of what was available on television at the time. From catching the bug at a very early age with Star Blazers (Uchu Senkan Yamato) & Battle Of The Planets (Gatchaman), to of course the big guns of Robotech(Superdimension Fortress Macross, Superdimension Cavalry Southern Cross, Genesis Climber Mospeada), these along with a number of live-action tokutatsu shows aired on local affiliates helped solidify massive parts of my childhood. Even as the american mainstream embraced mere crumbs of these new & engrossing worlds, I was ready for an entire course by age 5!

And yet as cool as they were, it was quite tough to meet anyone my age or older that had any real interest in shows & art of this ilk. While the kids around me were asking in the awesome of Han Solo & Transformers, I was adrift in slightly less socially-acceptable waters. Shows like these while popular on tv, had little reciprocation from anyone other than me. About the closest relation any of my family had with these films was naturally connected to something containing a little more familiarity, King Kong. Yep. It was King Kong Vs. Godzilla that served as a sort of olive branch between family and myself, which brings to mind something else that may find focus in later installments; crossover appeal. The spectre of Sandy Frank was ever present. But it was in the animated world that seemed to speak with the most clarity, and with good reason. The old saw dictates that animation knows no nationality, however there was always something inherently exotic and inviting about these shows, transcending anything available stateside. They were alive in ways no traditional cartoon could encompass, and they could also elicit emotions that up until that point didn’t register with me while watching anything else with family. From finding myself enraptured by The Sea Prince & The Fire Child (Shirisu No Desetsu), or even doing my impressions of Johnny Soko’s Flying Robot(Giant Robo TV), Japanese myth & media had me completely owned from a very young age.

And then it all came to a grinding halt…

Upon the latter years I spent a lot of my childhood, not merely enjoying many impression-making films & shows, but also applying the obvious question (to me, anyway), “why do I enjoy them”? And in that time, I must admit to experiencing a sort of imagined state of “heightened awareness”, which ultimately caused more harm than good. And at times, this very young cynicism led to a point in time where I pretty much denied most animated films outside of the Disney/Bluth camps any credence. Pretentious times these were, and the harm I speak of reached even as far as alienating myself from my younger siblings in the types of material I’d absorb. Self-individuation at its most glaring.

This all happening as the VHS revolution was in full swing, and my first brother’s habit of bringing home at least four tapes a weekend from the local video store. Horror, being the largest pool from which we’d both dip allowed us to explore every type of genre-mutation known to tapedom at the time, and my brother’s open-mindedness was something for me to either treat with disdain, or admire for its sheer gall. In this several-year stretch of ravenous binging, came a time when we had exhausted nearly every video store within a 36 mile radius (which was impressive considering how stretched out the Coachella Valley is), and found ourselves in a mom & pop outfit that carried not only the single largest inventory of genre films, it also contained an amazing amount of japanese animated product.(or at least a great deal more than what Blockbuster was carrying)So, naturally, what was my response to this revelation? Sheer, adolescent scoff, of course!

The first two titles I vividly remember my brother bringing home seemed so out of place for him to pick out, a show involving a group of hard-suited vigilante beauties & a show featuring a young girl who would-be a robot pilot amidst the sprawl of a war with alien invaders. A part of me worried if it was merely the boy’s hormones, but as it stood it seemed a little more than that at the time. He played them both multiple times, with me occasionally peering in on them. And even if I did happen to dig some of the visuals, I was still way too cool to bother with this kids stuff. A tiny part of me remained fascinated by the presentation and music, but my life as a goth-rock, industrial music junkie with a self-image to refine had little time for tripe like this.

And yet the names of Kenichi Sonoda & Hideaki Anno would soon come back to haunt me in later days….

Despite all of this posturing, and pretending that David Lynch was some kind of last frontier of fringe, it all came to an end when upon catching a short from Neo-Tokyo(Meikyu Monogatari) on MTV’s Liquid Television. The film was titled, The Running Man, the director was Yoshiaki Kawajiri. Not only did it rekindle my love for animation as a tool to express ideas & emotions in an impactful manner, it also validated my thirst for more challenging material in a time where Hollywood bombast was beginning to take a toll on me spiritually. It was the airing of this piece that sparked a strange reaction. I needed to check out these tapes my brother was bringing into the house, secretly of course….

Resistance?

To Be Continued….

3 thoughts on “The Analog Diaries Part 1: The Land Of Uncool”

  1. Pre-Internet time in Coachella Valley. Very epic.

    It was unimaginable that Otaku physically looked around for anime. Otaku were pretty outdoor, active, and quite an explorer back then. And especially in America, SoCal desert, when anime was very limited. VHS…the rotary dial, LP. I can’t even imagine we lived that day. How did they get info without the net? It’s really interesting to know how Otaku collected anime at that time. And collecting cels too.

    Today’s Otaku are also navigators, but they can be a hikikomori, play MMORPG, watch anime all day long and become haijin, never go out under the sun, which is a waste in a sunshine place like SoCal.

  2. Oh, you bet! There wasn’t much of anything available within walking distance outside whatever TV or Nintendo was bringing to us at the time. And even though I knew of anime toy hobbyists through Star Trek conventions as a kid, the only other way I was collecting stuff like this was via Swap Meets that carried items both authentic, as well as the weird knockoffs. But it wasn’t until 1991, when things really started getting interesting. Again, it was all about who you knew, or the amount of interest you had. Especially in a time where it wasn’t as openly cool to be a super nerd.

    More memories are coming! :)

Leave a Reply