Unlike a lot of people, I don’t think I ever really “grew out” of my love of animation. I grew up with the Disney classics like Robin Hood and The Fox and the Hound, and I spent many Saturday mornings with a bowl of cereal and a marathon of Scooby Doo and Bugs Bunny cartoons, and that might have ended my interest in animation if it hadn’t been for a trip to visit family in southern Georgia in the summer of 1989. Summers in Georgia are always very hot and humid, especially for a kid used to the far milder Michigan weather. To keep myself entertained, I read a lot and watched a lot of movies. It wouldn’t be hard to trace many of my current tastes to my time spent in Georgia; much of what I enjoy in entertainment was greatly influenced by what was available to me that summer. By chance, my uncle had recently purchased a copy of Akira on VHS, and one afternoon he put it on and we watched it together. It’s no overstatement to say that I was blown away. I had never seen anything like it before. Not only was the animation beautiful, but the story was far more involved and intense than the usual Saturday morning fare.
Did I mention the beautiful animation?
I didn’t know about anime at that time, but I knew that I wanted to see more of whatever Akira was. In 1989, there weren’t a lot of options if you wanted to watch anime. I couldn’t go online because there wasn’t an “online” to go to yet. I couldn’t pick anything up from the library, because my local library didn’t carry movies, let alone anime. I’d had a taste of something wonderful, but it would be years before I could discover more. It wasn’t until I could drive myself and go to the local video stores the flea markets that I was able to discover new shows and movies to watch.
Looking back, a lot of what I discovered was pretty bad, but pickings were slim. My friends and I watched almost anything we could get our hands on. Some things, like Ghost in the Shell, have aged fairly well (and spawned a series of shows, like Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, that are just as good). Others, which shall remain nameless, have not. Despite the misses, it was a pretty exciting time. As ’90s drew to a close, anime was becoming much more mainstream thanks to shows like Dragonball Z and Sailor Moon, and having a car meant that I had easier access to tracking down new shows. I probably spent as much time scouring the aisles at media stores looking for new things to watch as I did actually watching things.
My biggest exposure to animation, by far, came while I was in college; I ended up working at a store that specialized in Japanese animation (sadly, now defunct). Working there not only meant being surrounded by people with similar interests, but it also meant that I got a chance to discover new shows and movies before almost anyone else, since we worked director with vendors in Japan and often had access to shows that weren’t even officially released in the states. At the time, we were one of the only places you could find anime, especially to rent, so we became a popular meeting space for people to come talk about what they were watching.
Of course, times have changed, and it’s easier than ever to discover exciting new animated shows and movies. Instead of congregating at a store, people form communities online. New shows can easily be found through streaming services, and anywhere you can buy DVDs is almost certain to carry a variety of animated titles. Even better, all it takes is a quick trip to the library. We even have a dedicated animation collection at our Brookline Village location, to make it easier to browse. While we have plenty of animation aimed at our younger patrons, we also carry a wide selection of material aimed at teens and adults. Whether you’re in the mood for a sci-fi western, a steampunk period romance, or a sports drama, you can probably find something that fits your mood. You can find all these, and more, in the catalog.
Here are my current top ten animated titles in our collection right now (of course, if you ask me tomorrow, it could be a totally different list):
One Punch Man (coming soon, but you can reserve it today)