Chapter 2 of my newly revised anime autobiography…
While I was still just a naive and blissful kid who loved animation, a dinky little Japanese franchise called Pokemon came along and profoundly affected me. Pokemon is probably the closest thing I’ve come to an Anime Lived.
During my elementary/early middle school years, I was into all the popular fads. Some, like Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers and Beanie Babies, were major, while others, like pogs, virtual pets, and Furbys, were minor. However, the fad that burst into popularity during my second year of middle school not only showed me what anime is, but also led to personal development as well.
Autobiography of How I Became an Anime Fan
Chapter 2 – The Poke-Years
How it Started In the late 90s, Beanie Babies and Furbys were the last passing fads I was into. I used to collect Disney Adventures magazines (they’re small, cheap magazines you can find on supermarket checkout lines.) The back cover of the September 1998 issue had an ad for the Pokemon Game Boy games.
My very first look at the franchise that would greatly influence my future passion
It showed a bunch of pokemon with a big net over them and the words “got ya!” next to it. I had no idea what Pokemon was yet, but it was love at first sight with those characters. An animation fan like me had never seen anything quite like them.
However, I did not remain in the dark about the upcoming Pokemon craze for too long. A friend of mine was already very much into his Pokemon Blue game for Game Boy, and after I showed him the picture, he told me all kinds of interesting facts about the various pokemon. Next time we got together, he let me try out his game, and as you probably guessed, I was completely hooked.
The games that started the craze
Even before I finally got the game myself, I bought a Pokemon strategy guide just to see pictures of all the different pokemon. I made lots of Pokemon drawings and I frequently played my friend’s game whenever we got together. Finally, in April 1999, I dragged my mom over to Best Buy and she bought me a Game Boy Color and Pokemon Red. I spent the next month completely engrossed in that game. Eventually I heard about the Pokemon TV show and decided to check it out too, since it aired on two local channels, 13 and 5. And my Pokemon obsession continued to take off from there.
The End of Childhood? Unfortunately, unlike all the other previous fads I was into, where I was able to freely share my interests with my classmates at school, middle school presented me with something completely different. For some reason, perhaps because it was a small private school, just about all of my classmates were snobby jerks; the boys were crude, obnoxious, and immature, and the girls were a bunch of narrow-minded cliques who thought about nothing but boys, sex, and beautifying themselves. So of course, if you were over the age of 10 and liked something like Pokemon, you were pretty much excluded and thought to be a nerd. It wasn’t just Pokemon – all the childhood passions I continued to hang onto, such as loving cartoons and video games, held no value to my middle school classmates. I could never understand why they were all in such a hurry to grow up and condemn anything but teenager stuff. In my loneliness, I hung out with people who were supposedly my “friends” even though they never missed an opportunity to mock my Pokemon obsession. I had never experienced anything like this in my previous school years, so I was naturally bewildered. Thinking back on it, nowadays I wouldn’t have stood for their ignorance and teasing, but back then I was still an incurably shy kid who loved Pokemon and didn’t know any better when it came to dealing with being shunned.
Luckily, although I had nothing but a few “fair weather friends” in middle school, I had at least one friend outside of school with whom to share my Pokemon obsession. One day, when I was still a fledgling Pokemon fan after having just beaten my Pokemon Red and started watching the anime, my old friend Jessica called me. I had met her during my first year of middle school (6th grade) and we had both been into Beanie Babies together. She had left the school the following year and I hadn’t heard from her in a while. Remembering the conversation we had is quite nostalgic; we started talking a little, then she suddenly asked me something like “Do you know what Pikachu is?” Then I excitedly replied “Yeah, I love Pokemon!” And that hit it off. Although most fans my age had many friends to share the Pokemon craze with, I was happy to finally have at least one.
A Hapless Poke-Maniac During the height of Pokemon’s popularity in 1999 to 2001, I was one of the biggest Pokemon fanatics you could find. I played every single Pokemon game that came out, I never missed an episode of the anime and had them all on tape, I saw all the movies during their theatrical releases (the first movie four times and the second movie six times), and at one point I had practically every single Pokemon trading card. Not only that, but Jessica and I went to a Pokemon Trading Card Game League at our local mall every weekend and we attended lots of Pokemon tournaments held at various shopping centers.
The badges I earned during my years of going to Pokemon Leagues
Being the extremely shy kid I was in my childhood, going to the leagues and tournaments helped me become a little more outgoing. I met all kinds of interesting people of all ages, including a woman who must have been at least 50 years old but loved the Pokemon trading card game, and a 3 year old boy who played the Pokemon Game Boy games with his mom.
In addition to going to the Pokemon Leagues every weekend, Jessica and I got together a lot and did practically nothing but play, watch, and talk about Pokemon. She called me every night and for about an hour we would crack Pokemon jokes, do some Pokemon RPGing, and other related stuff. One thing we used to do was “watch” our Pokemon tapes together over the phone. By this, I mean we would both pick an episode that we wanted to watch, find it on each of our tapes, and play it at the same time as we talked on the phone. I know that sounds kind of silly, but we sure had fun doing it! We were also big time Rocketshippers (pairing the Team Rocket characters Jessie and James).
The first anime characters I really loved
In addition to playing the Pokemon video and trading card games, we spent a lot of time on Rocketshippy web sites, reading fanfics and looking at fan art.
Discovering Anime I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but after I found out that Pokemon was from Japan, I discovered the term “anime” and realized that Sailor Moon, Samurai Pizza Cats, and other cartoons with this unique style were made in Japan, dubbed into English, and referred to as anime. However, not until my high school years did my Pokemon obsession expand into the anime obsession that continues to influence me today.
Next time in chapter 3, I’ll discuss some of the first anime titles I got into after finally discovering what anime is. And after my less than perfect middle school years, we’ll see how things get better for me in high school.
Click here to return to chapter 1.
Click here to go on to chapter 3.