Sunday, March 28, 2010

Anime Industry Then and Now Section 1: The VHS Era Part 4:I Want to be a Pioneer and How Evangelion Changed the Face of Anime

During my later high school years I continued to watch anime with my cousin (who at the time was my anime watching buddy). My investment in Ranma, Sailor Moon, and Dragonball Z saw my manga and anime collection steadily grow as I began to collect various Japanese-only items like Sailor Moon and DBZ anime guides, obscure fan subs of later Ranma ½, Sailor Moon, and DBZ episodes, later Japanese manga of said series and various other nick nacks. Manna Anime cultivated my interests in a certain man named, Hayao Miyazaki. I believe Laputa (Castle in the Sky) was my earliest exposure to his films and there was a running joke about what the original Japanese title meant in Spanish. I was also exposed to the likes of Slayers, Fushigi Yugi and the Gundam franchise but I wouldn’t get around to liking these shows until my college years. During this period of time the club got me into the Tenchi franchise, Ah My Goddess, and You’re Under Arrest. All three series I was exposed to in Japanese through the club, but when it was my time to get my own copies of the series I went for the dub (to be more specific I got the Tenchi OAV dub starting with Pretty Sammy OAV, then OAV series, then the movies, then the TV series. My cousin bought Ah My Goddess OAVs dubbed. I did buy one tape of YUA subtitled but didn’t return to the show until the DVD era, but I did get the manga for both.). My cousin then started another Pioneer series, El-Hazard which I also got into. ADV’s Golden Boy (dub) and Blue Seed (sub) also figured into there somewhere as well.

Right around my senior year of high school Manna Anime had split off into Kodocha Anime. Basically all the technical people who were the backbone of Manna Anime left the group over some dispute. Kodocha Anime wasn’t as big as Manna Anime but their group got me into Kodomo no Omacha, piqued my interest in Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, and even had me dabble a little in City Hunter. One of the key people in Kodocha Anime ended up going on to be an important figure in the anime industry, Justin Sevakis (who originally founded the website Anime News Network). Justin played a huge role in personally encouraging me to continue watching Neon Genesis Evangelion. Going back a bit, when he was a part of Manna Anime they showed the first 4 episodes heralding this show as the new “it” show. I recall being pretty bored by it outside of the first Eva battle. By the time Justin had moved on to Kodocha ADV has licensed the show (a move that would escalate their status during the anime boom days) and my cousin started investing in the subbed tapes. Justin told me that the show would change direction after the mid-point of the series and turn into one big psychological mind freel session and various episodes had controversial content. Where my cousin and I was I couldn’t see that happening but I took Justin’s recommendation and decided to get the later half of the series (Volume 7 and up) and I was glad I did.

There were two funny things that came about my love of Evangelion. The first was how I compared the show to Vision of Escaflowne. At first my cousin and I both thought that Escaflowne was some girly shojo bore fest…until the CGI dragon appeared and we were hooked. While time hasn’t been kind to the show, during 1996 the show was ahead of its time. Escaflowne also set the foundation for my appreciation of Yoko Kanno whose music was above and beyond anything I’ve heard scored in an anime previous to this series. By being into both Eva and Esca we kept switching back and forth on which show was the best one and while eventually there was a clear winner (in this case Evangelion but this was because it held up better over the years and was far more original) both shows acted as another gateway into understanding how the genre pushed animation, storytelling, and music.

Evangelion, played a major role in actually assisting me in my first year of college. Keeping it short, high school wasn’t kind to me in the later years and several events caused me to question my self-worth. This made my first year of college rather difficult to work through many social changes and dynamics which made me identify with the characters in Eva very much. The original ending to the TV series left on a positive message about how one sees themselves and it did inspire me to revise my own attitude and behavior resulting in me being far more adjusted after that first difficult year. Once again, I’m not stating this to make this blog my personal “Emo Rant” board but I thought it was important to mention how a simple show could have a major influence on me.

With this we conclude the VHS Era putting me at the beginning of my second year of college where this little show name Pokemon premiered on US TV acting as a precursor to the Anime Boom days and starting what I call “The Pokemon Era”.

Up Next: To bring things to a closure on the VHS Era I'm going to give an expansive commentary of the whole dub vs. sub debate and my position on the whole matter (it's not as black and white as it seems).


  1. I still haven't seen "Laputa" (at least, that I'm aware of). Of course, there are tons of anime I've yet to see. ^_^;

    Sadly, I remember two main things about "Escaflowne." The first is that everyone had strange noses. The second was the idea of mecha being used in a fantasy setting.

    "El Hazard" is a series that started good with the initial OVA series, but then subsequent titles fell short of the mark.

  2. ...the TV ending of Eva wasn't "positive" was ambiguous, simply due to budget problems, the show was unfinished.

    If anything, it ended on a cliffhanger, with Shinji accepting Instrumentality...which is consistently presented as a bad thing (Instrumentality is Eva's version of accepting the Blue Pill in the Matrix; its giving up)

    And of course the problem was that the dub of the finale movie (the aptly named "End of Evangelion") didn't come out until 5 years after the series, so everyone had to make up rationalizations for how the abrupt TV clip show ending was somehow "how it was supposed to end" or "bold". Its no better or worse than the many dream sequences in the show, but on the whole, *the series actually makes a lot of sense, its just asking your brain to work on a slightly more active level than Dragonball-esque "wow lets fight" anime, and it kind of only makes sense if you see the finale movie.