Originally published at xenoglyph: the alien writings of designer joshua a.c. newman. Please leave any comments there.
See if this sounds familiar:
When I was a teenager, I spent a lot of time hanging out with the guys (not all actual scrotum-toters) from the comic shop. We had a great time, on the whole, though we got into the stuff you get into when you spend a lot of time with the same people, but, unlike with actual family, there’s sexual tension.
The lot of us got together to play roleplaying games more or less weekly from when I was 15 until I was 19 and the store was starting to falter. When we got together for parties, though, for birthdays or whatever, we did other stuff. Sometimes we fought with boffers (I scoff at what you think a boffer is — ours were made of rattan, weighed a good pound or two, and we fought to submission), or, on rare and exciting occasions, got to watch smuggled anime brought by our transitory Navy friends who would bring bootlegs. Mostly they were untranslated, multigenerational messes that really seemed to threaten the health and safety of the VCR. I remember The Samurai in particular was full of baffling features, like geyserish nosebleeds.
But it was fun! It was worth it! We were seeing amazing imagery that far exceeded even that of Heavy Metal, until then the Platonic ideal of a cartoon where you could see nipples. We signed petitions to bring Akira to a nearby theater (Boston being the closest we could get to a Rhode Island showing). We gobbled up Appleseed (BAD MOVE STICK TO MANGA), Black Magic M66, and Bubblegum Crisis.
For some reason, probably the fashion dictates of the day, we never got into giant robot stuff. For me, that was still the stuff of legend that I had to travel to New York, making a pilgrimage to the big, old Forbidden Planet full of imported Japanese goodies. There, I first saw the triple eye and domed head of the Scopedog and first experienced the mysteries of a robot bear that turns into an egg. While I purchased the bear/robot/egg for further study, there were no Scopedogs for sale in any price range I could approach, so it remained a mystery until a few years ago when I was rummaging around MAHQ and came across it looking for ideas to make Lego robots. Then, thanks to the rest of the Internet, I was able to finally watch the series. It’s very grim and very good. Like a lot of series, I feel like the ending is a partial violation of the spirit of the series, but I now have the context to really appreciate it.
And, as my work with Mobile Frame Zero: Rapid Attack (née Mechaton) has progressed, I’ve looked more and more at this stuff. I’ve watched a lot of Patlabor, Dougram and Gundam as well as the complete series of VOTOMS. And I’ve been reading Colony Drop. What’s neat about it to me is that they have the same relationship to it that I do: this is stuff they love because it has a particular place in their hearts, and they, as fans of that age, helped it to become a thing here. But in becoming the thing it now is, it’s lost some of the stuff they (and I) loved about it then. To be sure, I think there a) was a lot of irredeemable crap then, and, b) there’s very good stuff now (see Gundam 00), and history tends to edit. But I don’t see anyone doing now what Masamune Shirow was doing then (least of all Masamune Shirow). I suspect the money’s too big for the fanzine scale at which he started; or perhaps the fanzine scale is so vast now, thanks to Teh Intarents, that I just don’t know where to look.
But Colony Drop lets me know that, irrespective of Damn Kidsism, other people love what I love, too. They’re independently publishing a zine right now, and you can guess how I feel about that. It talks about the evolution of Anime not as a piece of marketing material, but as a scene and an artform, as fans. And, unlike a lot of zines, the drawings are quite good. It’s ten bucks. They’re good graphic designers, too. You should get yourself a copy if you enjoy this stuff as much as I do.