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    PCR #497  (Vol. 10, No. 40)  This edition is for the week of September 28--October 4, 2009.

MOVIE REVIEW
"Whip It" †by Mike Smith
RETRORAMA
Living Fanboy: The Great Star Wars Haul †by ED Tucker
THE ASIAN APERTURE
Memoirs of an Otaku †by Jason Fetters
STATE OF THE NATION
Peace Be With You....just Not In Iran .... The Olympic Tour? .... Healthcare Update: Moveon Strikes Back .... Die Quickly? Holocaust? .... Obama Worship .... Ayers Wrote It? .... .... by Brandon Jones
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Memoirs of an Otaku

Growing up in close proximity to MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, FL greatly contributed to me becoming an Otaku. The word Otaku in Japanese is an honored word referring to a personís house. Otaku in Japan means some strange person who sits at home all day reading manga and watching anime with little or no social interaction other than an online message board. Its viewed as a negative in Japan and I never referred to myself as an Otaku in Japan. In America, Otaku means Japanese pop culture fandom. Again, it's anime and manga related but its usually all dubbed in English and thereís conventions and clubs to join and it has a greater social aspect. Many different people came to live in or around the base so I was exposed to different cultures from an early age. One of my best friends in high school had a father stationed at MacDill and thatís how it really got started.

I remember being a child in the late 70ís, Star Wars was such an overwhelming influence to children in the 70ís. No one had seen anything like it. Thanks to Stars Wars, a Japanese cartoon called Battle of the Planets came over from Japan. I had no idea that it was a Japanese cartoon and didnít really care. I would watch it every afternoon coming home from elementary school. All the other kids were talking about it. The other show that influenced me was Ultraman,, in which an intergalactic superhero would battle a different monster each week. Part of the fun for me was seeing each new kaiju. Another part of the afternoon TV viewing was Starblazers. That was the first cartoon that had a storyline that you had to follow from episode to episode. An American cartoon usually is just one episode and then stops. Starblazers made you watch it each day and if you missed one or more shows you would get lost.

As I moved on to junior high, I met a friend who was into Robotech and he was one of the few people in the entire middle school class who knew the difference. Robotech is the American storyline and Macross is the Japanese storyline. He was born at a hospital in Tachikawa, Tokyo at the Tachikawa Air Force Base. He grew up on a steady diet of anime TV as it aired in the 70ís and 80ís on Japanese TV. We got together and talked about anime all the time. He had hundreds of VHS tapes of anime, comedy, and variety shows from Japan.

In high school, we found a Japanese market that was close by, that would rent out video tapes. They had entire anime series. So, my friend and I would rent tapes and dubbed them off. We started collecting the original Macross series, Ranma Ĺ, the old Gundam movies from the 70ís (again the Star Wars influence), and Sailor Moon. We would also put our money together to buy snacks at the market like chocolate flavored Pocky, Boss Coffee, and Ultraman candy. By our senior year in high school we had a huge collection of dubbed tapes. I loved the old days of hooking up dual VCRs for dubbing. It is much easier to find stuff on other media now but in the old days you had to work for it.

My senior year in high school was the best. One weekend, all my friends got together and we went to the Necronomican Sci Fi convention on Cypress St in the Westshore area. Thatís where I found and bought a $5 English dubbed version of Akira. Among my fellow anime friends, we decided to avoid all English dubbed version and just watch the shows as they were shown on Japanese TV. There was no Internet, it was hard to get connected with other fans, there were no high school or college clubs. On the bright side we had a comic/RPG store, Merlin's, that would sell imported items like Gundam model kits and Newtype magazine. I still have my old Newtype magazines from high school. You were lucky to find a copy before the Internet made it all easy.

Also in high school, I would get together with my friends to visit all the used bookstores in the Tampa Bay area to look for cheap sci-fi novels. I used to buy the old Star Trek the original series novels and stuff by Robert Heinlein, (who wrote Starship Troopers which influenced the mech type suits for Gundam and other mech shows.) The best selection was always at Haslamís bookstore in downtown St Pete. One day at Haslamís I found the used language section and found old Japanese manga. I would buy those up whenever I could find them. Now you can go into any Borders and Barnes and Nobles and find the English translated Manga but I always liked the originals better. Anime was not the only thing. It was also magazines like Famous Monsters of Filmland for the Godzilla, Gamera, Alien (1979 movie) coverage, Fangoria for splatter films (this was during the 80ís when Slasher films were still a big box office draw), Starlog for the upcoming Star Trek movies, and Mangajin which was a great magazine that taught Japanese language skills through manga. I still have several old issues that contained great vocabulary lists. Those lists help me to understand anime more than the Japanese I textbook that I used back in 1991 called Japanese for Busy People.

OK, the next step was college. We had all these anime tapes and no idea how to understand the Japanese language so in college we took Japanese I. The classes were easy but I did extra work on the side. The hard part was keeping up with all the youth slang and fast paced dialogue while watching anime. I studied all the vocabulary I could just to try to get some idea of what was being said. I hate to sound like the Old Geezer but it is so much easier today. All you have to do is pop in a DVD, find set up, and choose the Japanese language with English subtitles options. I didnít have that so I really had to find another way to do it.

Thatís how I got started.

Next week Iíll talk about being in Japan for 3 years and the slow shift from manga, anime, and otaku fandom to art, history, and literature.


"The Asian Aperture" is ©2009 by Jason Fetters. †Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova. †All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2009 by Nolan B. Canova.