The making of an otaku: the ten shows that (de)cultured this specimen

From when anime was just another cartoon (only more awesome)

From when anime was just another cartoon (only more awesome)

The vanity press that publishes this blog gives me the freedom to post lists that are relevant only to myself. That said, in the spirit of transparency of biases that inform my reading methodology I present this list of anime that has proved influential in shaping my consumption and perhaps my discursive habits. I’ve adopted the format used by Riex in his own post, with the same reminders that this list is not a top 10 best list – or even my list of favorite shows. For a more comprehensive view, see my obsession here.

I also deem this post timely because I’m partnering with the very energetic Digital Boy in an ambitious project to map out strategies for turning someone into an otaku. I understand that there are levels to otaku-hood, but I consider myself pretty up there given the amount of material I consume and amount of effort I put in participating in discourse about my obsession hobby. Without any further ado, let’s remember love:

Old friend is OLD

My old friend is OLD

Choudenji Voltes V – Super Robot Gattai wonder. My first anime is this super robot story – quite romantic in that the bad aliens weren’t all bad, and that the leads were just trying to bring their father back. Introduced the folly of bigotry and the value of friendship and loyalty. Very, very violent. High kill count on both sides. Awesome weapons (LOL by today’s standards). I’ve seen a lot of super robot anime around the same time (Mazinger Z, UFO Grendaizer, Mechander Robo, Tossho Daimos) but Choudenji Voltes V was really what got me hot blooded and excited as a toddler. It had 5 separate Volt Machines that were piloted vehicles that fought somewhat differently from each other, and the gattai sequence is still one of the best.

President Marcos banned all violent cartoons (which hit nearly all anime), which robbed me of the ending for the next 20 years. The show was re-released in 1986, and again around 1990, 1999 and in 2006 with Tagalog dubs.

Minmei and Variable Fighters... I remember Love

Minmei and Variable Fighters... I remember Love

SDF Macross – Transformable Mecha yes! This series arrived in the Philippines around the same time as Transformers. Transformers were more accessible and popular, but Macross was different. It was more attractive to me because of the character and mecha designs, and the fact the machines were piloted so the humans were the leads. Furthermore the action was far more violent, depicting gruesome deaths, even among male characters. I was all of 7 years old at this time but I was already much hooked. The series itself was popular enough locally for some merchendise to be sold. I remember owning a VF-1A “Max” that held a pencil for a sword (!) and had a pencil sharpener on its back. Thank goodness for cheap toys! I certainly couldn’t afford the die-cast VFs, or any of the Transformers toys, but Max’s pencil set VF – that was awesome.

Macross was my introduction to real robots. It certainly had its charm being quite different from Voltes V and the other super robot series. I didn’t think about this much then, but certainly I wanted to be Hikaru and wanted Misa for him, even as I cheered for Minmei the whole time. A decade later Robotech arrived, and confused me quite a bit – since at that point I’ve forgotten much about Macross and took Robotech as canon. It wasn’t until I had regular access to the internet that I was able to distinguish. So, Robotech in a way was more influential than Macross for a time – because I certainly couldn’t get enough of it then and I’ve watched it so many times (including Southern Cross and Mospaeda which I never saw in their original form). Furthermore I’ve read and re-read the Jack McKinney books all the way to The End of the Circle too many times (I actually won’t mind reading them again). My love for mecha and anime was in bloom.

Ranma showed me the promised land of absurdity (and I was reading Beckett at the time too)

Ranma 1/2 showed me the wonderland of absurdity (and I was reading Beckett at the time too).

Ranma 1/2 – This show opened the world for me. Anime could be THIS crazy? Ranma prepared me to appreciate shows ranging from Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu to Toradora! I was already in college when I discovered this, and it took me over a decade to watch the whole thing (never consecutively though). But the end theme of the final season is still one of my most beloved anime tunes ever. It never fails to bring me the wistful innocence of love that is perfect for the young.

Super Saiyans >>> Super Heroes (in the Western tradition)

Super Saiyans >>> Super Heroes (in the Western tradition)

Dragon Ball Z – Totally ruined by local tv who for years only showed the Raditz arc up until the Snake Road arc. I would dutifully watch the re-runs every week only to find after a few months that Goku was at the start of the Snake Road. I never saw the whole series to this day, but my goodness – the dutiful following I gave this series was considerable. Dragonball Z is influential because in Goku and the rest, I began preferring them to Western superheroes, who by then I found to be really lame and just got retconned and re-set every few years.

I was really thrilled by the gratuitous sex and violence

I was really thrilled by the gratuitous sex and violence

Ninja Scroll – Samurai and ninja violence for the win! This was so awesome for me – the gratuitous sex and violence really left an impression: how free anime was to take things further and further to the realm of awesome. This actually spoiled my experience of Rurouni Kenshin which was really lame compared to the action of Ninja Scroll. Mind you I wasn’t interested in Kenshin’s redemption then, I wanted action. The origin story OAV made up for what I loathed about Rurouni Kenshin, but I was still comparing it to Ninja Scroll. Thank goodness for Basilisk.

This was so badass. I recommended this to anyone.

This was so badass. I recommended this to everyone.

Ghost in the Shell (movie) – Akira’s great, but Mamoru Oshii’s movie solidified the awesomeness levels of anime for me over their US counterparts (what counterparts?). This was the anime I would tell non-anime fans about. It was pretty ok science fiction, but it was the Major’s feats and the cool action in general what made this a favorite. I started expecting action scenes at this level from subsequent shows, anime or otherwise.

Basketball is my favorite sport to watch, and this is one of my favorite teams.

Basketball is my favorite sport to watch, and this is one of my favorite teams.

Slam Dunk – Hanamichi Sakuragi is still one of my favorite characters ever. He’s dumb as bricks, talented in ridiculous ways, loud and obnoxious, and GAR. This is the best of sports anime, about the basketball that I love. Amazingly, the whole thing is played straight even if in a very comical way. No ridiculous power moves a-la-Prince of Tennis here. It’s great and intelligent basketball. Mai waifu is solidly behind Rukawa though. Bishie-loving fangir! Did i just say that?

I can't really put a finger on why exactly I love these sad-sack characters so much, but I really do.

I can't really explain why I care so much for these sad-sack bunch of characters, only that I really really do care.

Neon Genesis Evangelion – I had loved all of the above, but I wasn’t OTAKU until I watched this show. I started cross-referencing everything about it. I treated it as serious literature. And, it was violent with giant robots! I started taking anime really seriously, seriously enough to blog about it years later. I didn’t see this series until 2004, but that late period gave me access to the internet where my obsessiveness for information was given a wide ocean to traverse.

It's cooler than it looks, or perhaps it's cool because it looks like this.

It's cooler than it looks, or perhaps because it looks exactly like this...

Cowboy Bebop – Showed me how cool anime can be, and endeared Kanno Yoko to me for good. I had heard her work in Macross Plus, and I was watching The Vision of Escaflowne at around the same time as Bebop, but it was the Jazz, the Blues, and the dripping with cool vibe that powered this dark and dreary comic bouncing around the solar system anime that really got me. I played the tracks from the OSTs every day for the next 4 years. I can’t believe it took months of convincing to get me started on watching this. It’s prepared me for shows as diverse as Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad, and of course Samurai Champloo. Now I pay attention to all OSTs, and has thoroughly gotten me into J-Rock/Pop.

Umi ga Kikoeru – Favorite Ghibli movie hands down. This prepared me to appreciate shows like Honey and Clover, movies like 5cm per second, manga like Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou. If you pick only one anime from this list to watch, this is what I recommend. Utterly beautiful in its quiet, restrained way.

The "gateway" Gundam in my case

The'gateway' Gundam in my case

Gundam 00 – This show paved the way for my appreciation of the Universal Century shows. Gundam is important, especially to a mecha fan like myself. It’s this show that is my gateway Gundam. Obviously it’s not the best of the franchise, but it merits mention here because it allowed me and prepared me to appreciate the Gundam universe. I’ve seen other Gundam shows prior to this (or at least attempted to view them) but I never really got into them. It took Exia’s sexy design and the Celestial Being gang to hook me. Now I’m in for good.

Honorable mention:

Tenggen Toppa Gurren Lagann: Validated my attraction to GAR, and my faith in GAINAX.
Mononoke Hime: I really can’t go wrong here. It’s nearly impossible to dislike.
Millenium Actress: Fantastic without being a genre-fantasy anime. It involved me hard and made me love it.
Junni Kokki: I can’t help but think of it as gems on a rocky beach. It moved me and made me think better of anime.
Lucky Star: Charmed me like nothing else. Maybe it isn’t even a ‘good’ story. There’s hardly any. But I’m glad to feel let into the lives of these girls.

Ranking:

  1. Neon Genesis Evangelion
  2. SDF Macross
  3. Voltes V
  4. Cowboy Bebop
  5. Umi ga Kikoeru
  6. Slam Dunk
  7. Ninja Scroll
  8. Ranma 1/2
  9. Gundam 00
  10. Dragon Ball Z

There it is, how I ranked them in order of influence. Eva wins because I really am a mecha anime fan and Eva really stood out. I watch Gundam 00 and still cross-reference it with Eva in some way. I don’t see it stopping any time soon. Any time I come across with a character with problems, I remember Asuka… she definitely had problems. Also, I really do think that Misato is one of the finer female leads. She’s vulnerable yet strong. She’s madly in love but never really an idiot about it. She’s funny and full of fanservice. She’s badass, and really cared about what she did.

As for SDF Macross, well… I remember love. I’m sure there are better love stories out there – as unexposed as I am to shows like Kimagure Orange Road as well as Key game adaptations. However the love triangle as a narrative trope will somehow be always exemplified by Misa, Minmei, and Hikaru. The fact that the Macross franchise has these awesome transformable mecha as well as my favorite music in anime is just amazing.

It’s not really that diverse a list, as there are no fantasy, horror, or even mystery/suspense titles. It’s not that I can’t appreciate those kind of shows, just that they won’t be the first things I look for when I need an anime fix. Another thing, I don’t think this is a ‘dead’ list. This can change, even though I may be older than most otaku these days. I feel very young and very much a n00b about many things about anime. There are many shows that people rave about that I haven’t completed or truly gotten into (Mushishi, FLCL, ARIA), though I feel that they would be more like effects and not influences at this point. What are the shows that influenced your anime lifestyle?

About ghostlightning

I entered the anime blogging sphere as a lurker around Spring 2008. We Remember Love is my first anime blog. Click here if this is your first time to visit WRL.
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36 Responses to The making of an otaku: the ten shows that (de)cultured this specimen

  1. otou-san says:

    we share quite a few things, as expected. Macross, especially, although in my case the seeds were sown in my formative years as Robotech.

    The difference between that and a super robot show is indeed profound, but at the time I just thought the valkyries were cool as hell because they transformed, while Mazinger Z (Tranzor Z to us yanks) just shot his hand off.

    Ninja Scroll and Ghost in the Shell I think were huge to almost every western fan like me, and of course there’s the series that launched a million fanboys, NGE. I too can trace my Becoming Harcore to that exact moment.

    Sorry to be tasteless and link something in your comments, but I stole Riex’s post idea a while back too:

    http://www.shamefulotakusecret.com/2008/08/07/where-did-i-come-from/

  2. Nice, we share some, and I’m definitely going to do this post myself now as well. Also I’m surprised you’d recommend Ocean Waves to people unless you are sure your audience is all older gentleman. I could never see someone under college age appreciating it (besides, of course, myself.)

  3. ghostlightning says:

    @ Otou-san

    Went over your list and found UROTSUKIDOJI… I can’t believe I forgot all about this title. It messed with you because it filled you with horror and despair and genuine shock…

    and still gave you a boner. I can’t say it influenced me but it was quite a viewing experience.

    @ Digital Boy

    The first time I thought of doing this was when I saw your About Page, only that I was intimidated by your list and the confidence you had in what you liked and what you didn’t… it took Riex’s more accessible example to show me I could do the same. I agree we share quite a few titles.

    I sometimes forget that most fans aren’t like me, but some people watch good movies at a very young age – movies that aren’t the usual source of awesome (like action flicks with depth) – that leave a solid impression. Spielberg’s ‘Empire of the Sun’ was such a movie for me.

    Umi ga kikoeru hit me like storm, how truthful it seemed to portray how it is to feel something like love when you’re that young.

  4. From what I’ve heard, Voltes V is to the Phillipines as Mazinger Z is to Spain, a cultural icon of legendary proportions. As for other anime, if you like Gundam and you like Yoko Kanno then you should probably try Turn A Gundam. It’s one of the best Gundam series and arguably a tie with Vision of Escaflowne as Yoko Kanno’s best soundtrack.

    In Canada we also had the same problem with Dragon Ball Z. YTV would order it in batches to last a season, about 50 at a time, but air them daily throught the week so that invariably after a certain episode it would be back to Raditz ship crashing down again, which I would later learn was not in fact the first scene in the series at all and just how cut up anime on North American broadcast TV could be in the 90’s. It’s so simple now to just turn on the TV and see anime relatively uncut or to download a torrent now, but back that it wasn’t uncommon at all to see stories ripped to pieces during the so-called adapation process. The music was changed, the dialogue significantly altered to the dub directors whim and scenes of content that was even remotely questionable cut to get the shows down to a Y7 rating. Today only one company still engages in this practice, 4Kids Entertainment, but back then I would have killed to be where I am now. Hold on, there’s more, love telling this story. :D

    And then in 2000 “it” came. What was “it”. One of the single most important moments in my life as an anime fan and one that would make me a life long fan of a certain franchise. Gundam Wing aired on YTV. It was an absolute breakthrough in anime for broadcast TV in Canada. Never before had I seen such accuracy in an adaptation. The original music was there, including the Japanese opening and it was amazing. I still love the soundtrack to this day. It was also uncensored other then some cursing in the dialogue meaning that all of the action was there for me to see and the dubbing was done with respect. The voices were accurate to the original, normal sounding and the story light years beyond anything else that was airing at the time in terms of maturity.

    I was hooked like I had never been on any TV program in my life. I was like Setsuna when he saw the 0 Gundam for the first time. By the end of the first episode Gundam was like a god to me. That was also my first experience with mecha anime by the way. When I forced watched Gundam Wing 8 years ago I didn’t even know what a Gundam was supposed to be. I actually just watche in on a whim one day to when Dragon Ball Z was pre-empted.

    It seems unbelievable now, being the so-called mecha expert that Skyfall thinks I am, but back then when I learned that Gundam was this enormous franchise, because of the impression that Gundam Wing left on me I devoted an entire summer to learning everything there was to know about the franchise. Now, barring some of the side stories and Gundam Seed Destiny’s stock I can recognize pretty much any Mobile Suit from any of the franchises at a glance, tell you what weapons and features they have, who the pilot is, what series and episode they appeared in and what they did.

    Yes, Gundam became my anime bible, almost a religion to me and I swore that I would one day watch all of the series in the long spanning franchise (already done by the way). I would say it was the single most important anime I ever saw in terms of really getting me into the whole craze that was just developing at the time in Canada.

    Anyway, that’s my story.

  5. ghostlightning says:

    @ Kaioshin

    LOL at our woes with following DBZ.

    You’re right about Voltes V. Here in the Philippines there’s no stigma attached to liking Voltes V. To this day you’ll hear it’s OP as some guy’s ring tone on his mobile when you take public transport. The OP theme actually topped the FM radio charts earlier in the decade when it was pimped as PRIME TIME TV PROGRAMMING. There are also these apocryphal stories about our Communist rebels rallying behind Voltes V as a symbol of rebellion back in the 80s.

    I’m re-watching Turn A Gundam with my good friend Mechafetish. I failed at 9 episodes, but I’m determined to complete it because I’m academic in my approach to viewing and I can’t let something as important as Turn A elude me.

    Thanks for sharing your story. These things always, always get to me.

  6. @ghostlightning: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1LGg21p4qh8&feature=related Is this the version you are referring to? Still sounds like a Polka. :p

    Have you ever played any of the Super Robot Wars games by any chance? Pretty much all the mecha series you’ve mentioned have been in it besides Gundam 00 and Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann.

  7. ghostlightning says:

    @ Kaio

    YEAH! THE POLKA! The translation was a total rape too and was nothing like the original lyrics but we all ate it up. I had a single ON VINYL. It’s a shame I lost it, oh god now I feel bad.

    I tried playing SRW, but couldn’t get past the fact that I don’t read Japanese and didn’t know how to play it. The copy I had was Alpha 3 on PS2. Much later my youngest brother had this half-Japanese kid worshiping (my little bro plays at a high level at Magic: the Gathering tournaments) him translate the game as he played in real time (I totally missed out on that, much to my terrible dismay). Lucky bastard.

    My good friend Mechafetish got his mecha anime cherry popped thanks to SRW. His college buddy would let him play, and then force him to watch the source anime of every story arc in the game. A Gundam fan was spawned.

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  9. haha, those favorites may sound confident but the fact that that list is reorganized every month or so chops the legs out from under that theory.

  10. Voltes V, icon of communist insurrection. Even if that’s apocryphal, it’s still unbelievably awesome.

  11. usagijen says:

    Voltes V is legendary, I’m sure my mom could attest to that (I still can’t help but be in awe whenever she mentions about how great it is, the drama really got to her)

  12. picchar says:

    In no particular order and off the top of my head:
    GWing, Voltes V/Daimos, Sailor Moon, Rurouni Kenshin, Evangelion, Record of Lodoss War and Akazukin ChaCha

    GWing would be number 1 if I ranked them though ^^’
    Haha, I still remember the Tagalog dubbed back in grade 6 XD

  13. ghostlightning says:

    @ usagijen

    Your mom? How… how young is your mother? And how young are you exactly young lady? I suddenly have visions of Kanata and Sou…

    In any case it’s the first time I’ve known of a mother-daughter discussion about anime. That, to me, is mind-blowing.

    @ picchar

    Tosho Daimos will get more than its fair share of attention here at We Remember Love. It’s another anime that I love fiercely, as Erika was probably my first anime crush (Megumi Oka aka Jamie Robinson was great and she was a ninja, but Erika was a princess with angel wings).

    I don’t know if I will ever watch W Gundam, given the amount of anime I’ve lined up for myself to consume. But given my relationship with 00, and how W figures in your and Kaioshin’s anime discovery I just might watch it.

    I feel like I’m playing Final Fantasy or Grand Theft Auto where I’m trying to complete 100% of the game. There’s just too many secrets and too many bonuses and easter eggs. Here’s to trying anyway.

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  15. usagijen says:

    My mom and I are a few generations apart, she’s in her fifties btw, old but young at heart! =P

    That said, I have to go check if my anime open-mindedness/taste has leveled-up enough to appreciate the likes of Ninja Scroll, GITS, and Eva. I caught a glimpse of them a decade ago but I was far too focused on my fluffy shoujo stuff to appreciate them XD

    I fail for not knowing the existence of Umi ga Kikoeru… time to add that to my never-ending plan-to-watch list!

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  17. I practically saw 9 of the 11 anime with pic features.

    Dragon Ball, Ranma 1/2 and Slam Dunk shaped my interest in anime/manga plot/character development and design. I honed my sketching with the first two and the third opened the door of Inoue Takehiko for me, one of my absolute favorite artist and storyteller.

    I watched Cowboy Bebop because of the hype. I thought it was so-so, sans the few eps that tracked Spike’s life. Still, I think there’s something about CB because despite my opinion that it can be summed in a few eps, I fail to completely disregard it. I’m itching to sketch the image of Spike and Vicious about to kill each other with a stained glass backdrop, my first all-pencil sketch feat was Julia and Spike and I bloody want a Welsh Corgi. See, there’s something about Bebop that I talked about it this long.

    Take 2 for Evangelion. Since my thesis is finished, I no longer have the excuse not to watch it again (as a colleague once expressed) as an adult, with broader schemas that there’s more to mechas than “metal-made-robots-with-a-Shinji-Asuka-Rei-love-triangle” (boy, was I waaay off in this). NGE’s contribution was the music. My adoration for classical music went up exponentially for I never thought (nor was aware enough) that [anime+classical music] equation exists. Air by Bach has become an all time favorite.

    My brother brainwashed me into liking Voltes V. Then Daimos. Then sentai.

    Ninja Scroll and GITS (<- not in your top 10 ranked list?) were okay, I guess. I’m willing to give NS a take 3 and GITS a take nth, just to see if I still get a headache.

    You already know my stand on Gundam. =3

  18. ghostlightning says:

    Ash I don’t think NS is that good, only this particularly influential to my particular tastes (also it is one of the 3 gateway anime for Westerners of my generation along with Akira andGITS due to the availability of dubs).

    Yes, Evangelion is more than meets the eye but never really as much as the internet mouths say it is. It’s as much as Misato’s as it is Shinji’s story.

    CB is not about Spike. Spike’s story was the excuse for people not to get the whole. He’s what Darth Vader is to Star Wars; it’s okay to like him while you hate everything else about Star Wars.Cowboy Bebop isn’t even ‘Tank’ or ‘The Real Folk Blues’. It’s ‘Fantasie Sign’ more than anything else. But not getting this is okay. Jet’s used to it, Faye pretends not to care. Ed and Ein love us all anyway.

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  20. taleweaver says:

    wow this got me thinking.

    can i post my own list here when i get to writing it???

    hhrheheehe

  21. ghostlightning says:

    @ Taleweaver

    You betcha. And make sure all your otacore friends read it. >:-3

  22. schneider says:

    ghostlightning, have you watched GITS:SAC? I was just wondering.

  23. ghostlightning says:

    @ Schneider

    I’ve read the original manga and have seen maybe 3-4 episodes of SAC. Even though I really like the manga I can’t get myself into SAC, even though it’s supposed to be the faithful adaptation. I may look into it again, as I listen to its soundtracks quite a lot.

    Tell me, if you’ve seen it, is it as good as I hope it is?

  24. schneider says:

    My problem is that I haven’t read the manga myself, so I’m not entitled to give my opinion on that.

    SAC is very much political and action-oriented, much more than the movie. It’s gun and hacker porn too. I enjoyed it much more than the movies because it was more straightforward but still cerebral.

    Tachikomas are also the most adorable mechs in the history of anime, which the movies just lacked. Hell, they’re even more human than most of the cast!

  25. taleweaver says:

    ah but it was the humanization of the tachikomas that became one of the endearing points of GITS:SAC

  26. ghostlightning says:

    @ schneider, taleweaver

    I remember the tachikomas were the primary sources of comic relief in the manga. Their absence in the movie contributed to the more dystopian and grimdark feel – which somehow worked. Comic relief would’ve been out of place I think in the movie, and would be necessary as a change of pace device in a longer medium.

  27. Rakuen says:

    I never really got to watch most of Ninja Scroll, and I don’t think I will ever have time to watch, ’cause I’m a slacker and I’m an animation whore now.

    But kudos to Ghost in the Shell. That gave me a definite hard-on when I was about 10. Forget I wrote that.

    And yes! Voltes V! Let’s! Volt! IN!!!

    I like what Kagami said better though: “Let’s join our bodies—“

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  34. math4origami says:

    In the sci fi department, I’d suggest Dennou Coil, Planetes, and most of all Seikai/Monsou no Senki (Banner/Crest of the Stars) if you haven’t seen any of them. Each of them expands the sci fi genre in their own way, quite unparalleled by any other production of any media. Of course, GITS:SAC 1/2 is seconded/thirded/fourthed by me since it’s just so awesome, you REALLY need to finish it.

    Really nice list you have here, I’ll be sure to watch the ones I haven’t yet.

    • ghostlightning says:

      I’ve started Planetes but I’ve lost a bit of steam and will pick it up again soon. My love of the * of the Stars franchise is immense, and it is evident here [->].

      I’m not averse to watching GitS: SAC at some point, so we’ll see. Thanks a lot! ^_^

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