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.
How else could it have played out? A young life, within limited means.
There were only two real roads into the anime medium during those days. It was either what was provided for us on the tube, or at stores/swap meets where we could find an assortment of both authentic toy replicas as well as knockoffs emblazoned, “Made In Macau”. It was perhaps this one array of simple elements that led me down this strange road. And on that road contained a dozen or do bizarre detours, and speedbumps that only a few of us noticed. When you’re a kid, if it was cool to you, that’s all that mattered. And cable showings of edited & dubbed versions of Unico, or The Legend Of Sirius were rare. But when they came on, it was not unlike treasure landing at my feet. There was little keeping me from the tube when works like this were on. I even vividly remember catching the original Uchu Senkan Yamato feature on KTLA Channel five on a dreary Sunday morning at Grandma’s. Or how about the time’s I caught Gatchaman on mexican TV with much of the violence well intact? Better yet when Nausicaa came to cable in the form of Warriors Of The Wind? There was a quality to all of it that left me not merely surprised & inspired, but racked with longing for more.
Access…the ultimate dilemma.
And yet this very lack of access possibly even contributed to my later denial of admiration, and even disdain for it in just a few brief years later. Made all the more dramatic when my younger brother started on his weekly trips to the local video huts.
It was yet another weekend of pizza & movies at the household. And this time, my brother insisted we stop by that mom & pop video joint one town up from home. It was here that he went hog wild, and showed me covers for several titles he seemed very jazzed about. One of which involved what looked to be a group of lovely young vigilante-types donning supercool looking hardsuits kicking robo-butt in a Blade Runner-esque future. Aside from the art, I was nonplussed. All the more put off by a simple quirk of mine. At this age, I often paid attention to running time. Often judging the value of these rentals by just about any excuse the packaging could provide. 2.99 for 50 minutes? Come now.
I had never before heard of the term Original Animation Video before, and was quite curious as to what made this any different than any of the crap I saw as a tyke. (What did I tell you about denial?) Long and short, I was too busy looking for something fresh off of Film Threat’s recommended than anything like this. But alas, my brother won out and brought both this Bubblegum Crisis thing, and something called Gunbuster, a show that looked suspiciously familiar to me which naturally I shrugged off.
How proud I was that I also found a copy of Richard Stanley’s HARDWARE, so the trip wasn’t a complete loss.
But upon getting home, and watching my rental (which I liked fine, I guess), it came time to endure my brother’s pics only to be nodding my head and surprisingly tapping my feet to the stylings of BGC. Of course the story is virtually nonexistent, and oozing with 80’s cheese, but it had a pop sensibility that also evoked the best and worst of the decade we had just survived. It was simply tough to take my eyes off of it, despite the damn subtitles. So when Konya Wa Hurricane by Kinuko Oomori & SiLK came on as an extra at the end of the tape, my thumb was alert, fixed upon the rewind-search key on the remote.
“Oh, you liked it?” He gleamed with hopeful pride.
“Nah. Looked cool though” As I rummaged though my tapes in hopes of putting something, anything else other than that Gunhumper-thing as his face sank. I dunno. Something just rubbed me the wrong way about the packaging despite some pretty neato design work. It felt as if my brother had in some way, sneaked it past my unsuspecting mother, who at the time was just grateful to have my twelve-year old ball of hyperactivity sitting down in one place for a while. And there were other worries. I guess I had just recently heard about japanese animation’s predilections toward adult material, and was a little troub.ed that my brother was about to get a rude awakening to an entirely new dimension in cartoon-watching. And a part of me, being the dad of the house, was concerned. Sure I was at “that age”, but seriously…being raised heavy catholic, and the idea of naked cartoon chicks with helium-voices bouncing off the screen in the homestead with family present was not the most stellar surprise that could come my way.
And then the phone rang…
Oh my brother’s getting something from the other room, I’d better get that.
It was an old friend of mine, wanting to chat. And sure enough, my brother sped back into the room, grabbing the cassette, and popping the sucker into our virgin VCR.
Needless to say that despite my fears, what we saw was an interesting & amusing spin on The Hero’s Journey through the eyes of a teenage girl. And even if there was a little bit of bounce & skin (particularly during Episode Two’s open bath scene-…..Jung Freud……..Probably not the most responsible moment in my guardianship. D’oh!), the show turned out to be more charming & story-based than I had expected. Oh yeah, it was mercilessly dopey, and filled with what seemed to be a lot of humor I was clearly missing out on, but it was passable for a night’s viewing. I especially enjoyed the quirky, humorous approach it seemed to offer the Standard Anime Plotline #4 (Humans Vs.Alien Invasion). Music was a little too candy for my taste also, but I also giggled at the musical nods to other shows & films ala Vangelis’ Chariots Of Fire theme. And those science lessons in between episodes were bizarre. Ok, so it has my attention. How do I say that director guy’s name on the case? Hideaki Anno? Never heard of him. Could have been worse, it could have been Hobgoblins. (you think I’m joking?)
And thus it all begins. This was an interesting new hobby the boy picked up. And then an idea hit me. Pre-viewing some of these things before he gets to watch it might make for a good plan, making sure his fresh mind is free from too much corruption. The world is a weird place after all, and the boy deserves a decent guide. This wasn’t all too foreign territory after all, and makes for a good little time killer after homework. Sifting through this silly stuff might not be such a bad gig.
Needless it to say that I was well distracted by these two videos, and yet my brother eventually used my raised eyebrows against me in some kind of campaign to prove that I was down with the OAV. We’re a pretty stubborn lot in my house, and this was something not easily remedied. At least not until the tale of a boy & his legendary psychokinetic powers manifesting within a megalopolis primed ever closer to E-X-P-L-O-D-E.