How Manga and Anime Ruined My Life

When I was in first or second grade, my sister and I would go down to the Eagle Video and pick out a new VHS tape to watch every week. Usually, it was Barney or Winnie the Pooh. But at one point, it was a movie called Kiki’s Delivery Service. I’d seen it on previews of other movies; from what I could tell, it was about a witch girl who somehow accidentally crashed a blimp. And to a kid, that was exciting. It took some convincing, but my sister agreed that we’d watch that one that week.

To me, it was just an animated movie, much like everything else I watched. It was a cartoon. I remember my dad calling it “Japanimation” at the time, but I didn’t know what that meant.

The second time I was exposed to “Japanimation” was, ironically, another Hayao Miazaki movie. Around fourth or fifth grade, I was introduced to some friends of the family – racing buddies of my dad’s – who had twins one month younger than me. They came over from Maryland at one point, and asked if we could watch the movie they brought, Spirited Away.

I didn’t want to watch it. I was at an age where my entire life was consumed by Roller Coaster Tycoon and Zoo Tycoon. I had to make the best zoos and theme parks in the entire world. Walt Disney would come to me begging for advice on how to build roller coasters. So while they popped the DVD into our brand-spanking-new DVD player, I was up in my room, creating exhibits for animals.

There was only one problem. I’d run out of juice.

Juice was essential for me at this age. Any drink was, really. I carried spill-proof cups and sippy-cups around the house nonstop. I was a well-oiled machine that depended on something to drink. Trains had coal, cars had gas, planes had… whatever planes ran on, and I had juice. So I had to wander all the way downstairs and bug my parents to refill my cup. And in the process, I caught a few minutes of the movie.

I walked in  on a girl trying to get her parents to stop eating at a food stand, only to realized that they were pigs. Actual, literal, “oink oink” pigs. To be honest, I was frightened. So I got my juice and hurried back upstairs. I had to make a second trip down later to refill again, and one of the twins asked me to stay. I got a look from my parents that said “if you don’t stay you’ll hear about it later,” so I plopped down on the floor and tried to not pay attention. That was difficult, though; the storyline, though scary, drew me in. By the end of the movie, I had a huge crush on the male lead.

Thus began my decent.

I began checking out Japanese comics from my local library and feeling superior that I knew you had to read them backwards. I devoured any manga that looked interesting, especially if it had pretty girls on the front. (And, consequently, learned more about both male and female anatomy than I probably should have at that age.) I even read the Kingdom Hearts mangas, even though I’d played the game and found the mangas left out more than they needed to. My sister and I bought “how to draw manga” books, and learned how to draw disproportionate, disfigured people that could maybe pass as anime-style. As the years progressed, I continued reading and drawing. I even had a favorite mangaka – Arina Tanemura. I couldn’t pronounce her name (or any Japanese, really) properly, but I loved her art style and her stories. I posted my art on devinantArt and expected people to love it.

I was a weeaboo.

WEEABOO n
1. A person so obsessed with Japanese culture that they ignore their own.
2. Someone obsessed beyond healthy levels with anime.
3. People who ruin activities for other people with overzealous references to said anime.
4. People so oblivious to reality they only care about anime.

Of course, I was never a yaoi shipper, and I didn’t really watch anime (other than Yu-Gi-Oh!, but that’s an entirely different story.) But I stuck (poorly-pronounced) Japanese words into most of my online conversations, I wished I were Japanese, and I expected everyone else to feel the same. I was obsessed with Japanese singing robots called Vocaliods to an unhealthy degree.

In 9th grade, my friends introduced me to anime.

I was trying to grow out of my weeb stage, as I realized it was annoying to just about everyone, but just as I’d gotten out, I was sucked back in with an anime called Shugo Chara!!. It was my first real “magical girl” anime, and I could not stop watching it. Next came Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood, followed by Ouran High School Host Club (which I had read a lot of,) Fruit’s Basket (which I had read all of,) Hetalia, and a slew of other animes.

I was trapped. Just as soon as I would rid myself of one anime, another would come tiptoeing into my life and ruin me.

And it has continued. I’ve become less of a weeb through the years; I keep my obsession for girly-looking men with impossible hair, magical girls with sassy attitudes, impossible plots, and big eyes to myself unless someone else brings up the subject. I don’t put Japanese into my every-day sentences anymore, and I’ve learned how to pronounce things properly.

But I am still a weeaboo. Deep down, the weeaboo gremlin still sleeps inside my soul.

God save you if it sleeps in yours, too.

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