It was an average morning on a Wednesday, I believe, as I went through my usual routine consisting of, first, breakfast - cereal, milk, a banana, as if you wanted to know, then off to Morrill and into the far-too-small, not to mention too-slow, elevator up to the fourth floor where my 8am Japanese 102 section awaited - ahh, Toyoshima-sensei today, ohayo gozaimasu, next off to Uris library where I would have to spend some time doing homework I should have done yesterday, but first a quick browse through the magazine rack in order to avoid the inevitable, and there I was faced with The Hudson Review, international politics, Cornell, Clinton, how to decorate your living room for almost nothing, Playboy - current issue at circulation desk, Anthropology, Sociology, are you feeling low on energy?, National Lampoon's, Road and Track - current issue at circulation desk, Japanese animation, 10 easy ways to cut your heating costs, Is the universe bigger than we thought?... wait... What was that? Did I just read Japanese animation?
I picked up the current issue of Film Quarterly, and to my surprise, the first article in fact was on Japanese animation, and, sure enough, as I flipped through the pages of the feature, familiar faces stared back - Madoka Ayukawa, Belldandy and Keichi, Priss, Ranma and Akane. It was an article written by a graduate student at UC Berkeley (whose name eludes me at the moment) discussing the growing popularity of anime in the United States in the context of the possible social, political, and psycho-sexual significance implicit in this rising trend, and I was fascinated, curious as to what such an article was doing here at the place I usually do my English homework, pleased to read about one of my favorite subjects in a "legitimate" magazine, but slightly bothered.
I don't think I want to share anime with the "mainstream." I don't think I want people writing articles about it in magazines I find in my university library. I attend the exec-board meetings, and we discuss issues that affect the club, some more important than others, and the club is dedicated to increasing awareness of Japanese animation, exposing more and more people out there to the beauty, the intricacies, the stories, the sights, the sounds, the feelings, all orchestrated with precision, careful attention to detail, and dedication to create a wonderful piece of culture, Art. But can we?
"You watch silly cartoons in a language you don't understand?" I cringe. There is thought and hard work and preparation and culture and... oh, never mind. "Here's your Video Girl Ai tapes back, I didn't like it, it's too much of some little junior high girl's story." But what about the subtle feelings, the irony of a girl who isn't supposed to love but is supposed to help her love pursue another, the very human feelings and hurts that come with longing in life and... oh, never mind. I hear bits of English dialogue for Bubblegum Crisis, Tenchi Muyo, and my goodness, why does that sound so WRONG to me?! Anime is mine. You can't turn it into some Hollywood Thursday night sitcom trash. It's a piece of culture and YOU can't have it because I'M the dedicated fan and only I and others like me will understand that it needs to remain pure! Pure?
This is a question that I still struggle with. I want everyone to watch Maison Ikkoku and see Godai change from a pathetic, incompetent boy into a sensitive, stronger, but of course still far from perfect, thus very human, man. But am I willing to see anime become commodified into the American "mainstream" in order to spread it to more and more of the "mainstream" public? Perhaps there is a way to increase the public's awareness without turning it into a completely "Americanized" product. Perhaps there is a way that fans, like the ones who run clubs like ours, ones who actually do care about it as an art form, as a means of telling a human story, as a means of providing so much fascinating entertainment, can preserve the culture that permeates anime and balance the inevitable adjustments that will have to be made as it is opened up to the American public with the original pieces of the "foreign," yet so familiar, that make anime so great. I don't know if it's possible or not, but, as sappy and corny as it may sound, I think I would like to try.