(Contributed by Verity)
When American Otaku talk about anime, one question they’ll ask is, “What was your gateway drug?” This is a phrase that usually is used to talk about addicting drugs – and the first, safer drug that leads to more addicting, heavier, more dangerous drugs. It’s meant to be a joke – a self aware one. We know once we started watching anime we were hooked, that we needed to learn more. And we knew that anime was an expensive hobby to have.
So we ask, “What was your gateway drug?” What was the first anime that you ever watched that you KNEW was anime? See, we have had a lot of anime in the United States – Pokemon is huge. Voltron was always Voltron. It was years into watching anime when I realized Voltron was GoLion! and that Power Rangers were inspired by Japanese television.
The gateway drug, or starter anime, changes depending on generation. The generation before me was the darker stuff like Akira. Then my generation watched Sailor Moon and DBZ on fansubbed VHS tapes. And then came Adult Swim, a weekly, night time slot dedicated to anime like Gundam Wing and Trigun on the Cartoon Network. I think now it’s nightly. After that, it was Naruto and Bleach. Now it’s Attack on Titan and Sword Art Online.
This is how it happened for me. I was in my first year of high school when my older brother came home with some tapes he’d borrowed from a girl in orchestra. He was in 10th grade at the time. We started watching Sailor Moon. It was silly and hypnotizing. As simple as it was, American cartoons at that time were much worse. They were ‘episodic’ – meaning every problem started and was solved in one episode. There was no real story, there was no real conflict. Nothing ever changed. And the animation was… just not pretty. So watching this girl work towards something bigger in each episode was surprising.
It helped that both my brother and I, giggling high schoolers, would stand up and do the transformation sequence along with Sailor Moon. Because that was SO MUCH FUN 🙂
After that, I went searching for anime, I found great music, a wide variety of stories, and a view point into a culture that I have come to love. That’s a story for another time.