I do not like anime

I’ve never liked anime, and I’m not sure why. It just struck me as “not interesting” from the beginning.


I was reminded of this tonight while listening to Matt Baume’s The Sewers of Paris podcast, featuring Andy Casadonte. In each episode, Matt interviews a different member of the LGBTQ+ family, specifically delving (at first) in the entertainment or media that most influenced who they are.

For this particular guest, it was anime, particularly queer anime, but for a reason. He had gone to college in New York to study illustration and came way out, but then his first job was in Tennessee, working on the decidedly conservative kids’ show Veggie Tales, so he went right back in.

Queer anime was his private lifeline to maintaining his identity.

Now I can relate to that. I just never got into any of it — anime, manga, whatever. And the thing that people may not realize is that anime, etc., has been a part of American culture a lot longer than most people think.

It did not all start in the 1980s with Pokémon. (Surprise: Pokémon didn’t even come around until the mid-90s.) Anime started to come over to the U.S. in the early 1960s, at the same time as early Japanese electronics.

“Anime” at the time consisted of a few Japanese cartoons, badly dubbed into English and animated in a very stilted manner. And this was also a time when “Japanese electronics” was equated with “cheap crap.”

My how times change, huh? But a lot of it was part of the post-War effort by the U.S. to turn Japan’s economy around and make sure that it didn’t fall under the influence of China or Russia. (Reminder: For most of the 20th century, Japan was at war with, and later conqueror of, China.)

You may have heard of at least one of these proto anime — a little thing called Speed Racer, which arrived in the U.S. in 1967. Fun trivia: In the original, Speed Racer’s real name was Go Mifune, with the last name being a tribute to the Japanese film star Toshiro Mifune.

I think that growing up I always kind of had a back-of-mind awareness of anime on TV, but it was more in the sense of instantly changing the channel if I happened to hit any — the big advantage to being an only child.

This included running across anything Gundam, which created the concept of robot mecha suit anime that was later co-opted in the U.S. with the Transformers. All I knew was that any time I watched more than a few minutes here or there of any anime series, they all became completely repetitive, overwrought, overacted, and generally pretty silly.

Of course, I eventually ran across otaku, who are the fans of the graphic novel versions of the anime, known as manga — but if you criticize one of their favorite shows in front of them, run — lest you fall victim to a long, long lecture about what the story really means, the symbolism you don’t get because you’re not Japanese, etc.

Hey — I shouldn’t need a doctoral course in order to watch a kid’s cartoon, okay?

And yet, I know plenty of adults who live and breathe this shit, and I just don’t understand it. Sure, it does give ample opportunity for cosplay, and I know of an underground (literally, not in the political sense) group of shops in Little Tokyo in Downtown L.A. that covers everything, but is also very compartmentalized.

On one side, there are three shops that must all be run by the same people or company, but each one appeals to a slightly different aspect of the culture — one is anime, one is manga, and the third focuses on models, action and scale figures, and Funko Pops for days. I know that all of the Pokémon stuff is in one of the three stores, but I can’t remember which one.

On the other side are the cosplay shops. I’ve never been into either of those, but I think that one specializes in the more casual, cheaper side of it — like Halloween dress-up — while the other caters to professional cosplayers who go to all the conventions, or cons.

(*Note: Go to them when they happen. I haven’t been down near those shops since 2019, so I don’t even know whether they survived, but I do know that the cons have been few and far between since March 2020.)

But all art is matter of taste, and of course there are people who just do not understand the genres, programs, or directors that I can’t get enough of. So, as long as someone isn’t trying to push anime on me as the greatest thing ever created, I’m fine.

Then again, I’ve never even had the slightest inclination to dress up as a character from a Kubrick film — not even Alex or one of his Droogs — and the closest I come to any sign of ridiculous fanboy-ism in my place is the three-foot tall Kylo Ren figure standing in my corner.

And yet, I haven’t even been able to make it through all of season one of The Mandalorian, and haven’t even looked at any of the others. Although, to me, any 3D animated Star Wars property is not canon. Sorry, but I find it really hard to watch badly digitized and designed versions of characters I’ve already seen in photo-realistic films, especially when they were originally played by actors and not VFX.

But maybe that’s just me.

Friday Free-for-All #61: Back, fashion, obsession

The next in an ongoing series in which I answer random questions generated by a website. Here are this week’s questions. Feel free to give your own answers or ask your own questions in the comments.
What’s your “back in my day, we…”?

This one is funny because it’s also the name of an improv game we play, usually as a final round “jump-out” game, which is one in which we all get a suggestion, then players take turns jumping out of the line up to step downstage and tell a joke or a pun based on the suggestion and in the format of the game.

For “Back in my day…”, the request for suggestion will be “something that didn’t exist X years ago,” and the joke revolves around some ancient version or weird alternative to that thing.

For example, it the suggestion is “smart phone,” then the joke might go, “Back in my day, we didn’t have smart phones. If you wanted to send a friend a text, you had to tie the note around a rock and throw it through their bedroom window.”

I have so many potential real-life versions mainly since I’ve been on the internet since it was born, but here’s one: Back in my day, when we wanted porn online, we had to wait five minutes for the grayscale JPEG to download one scan-line at a time, and couldn’t even tell if it was any good or not until it was almost finished.

And it wouldn’t matter if someone else in the house picked up the phone, because then you’d get kicked offline with no way of continuing the download later. You’d have to start over.

Now get off my lawn!

What is the silliest recent fashion trend?

Not that I really follow fashion, but two on the radar for women’s wear later this year strike me as particularly ridiculous. One is the puff-shoulder or puffer sleeve look, and the general effect is that somebody just walked off of the set of a goth musical version of some Disney Princess tale and forgot to change their costume.

There’s a certain retro feel to it, and not in a good way. It looks more like a severe Edwardian nanny and must be hell trying to coordinate and stuff into any kind of jacket.

The other women’s fashion: boiler suits, which just don’t look good on anybody. The aesthetic looks like something between “couldn’t be arsed to change out of my pajamas” and “who threw me into this bag?”

Luckily, men don’t usually suffer such extremes in fashion by the time it hits the street. Unless they’re out clubbing or walking a fashion week runway, the heights of ridiculous are generally kept out of sight of the general public.

But there are rumors that styles from the 70s and 80s are coming back this year, especially for men, and this is a bad idea that must be stopped before it begins. Have you taken a good look at how people dressed in the 1970s? It’s utterly ridiculous. Plus it would make our present suddenly look like a bad version of the future from a 1970s science fiction movie.

What is something that a ton of people are obsessed with but you just don’t get the point of?

For me, it’s comic books in general, but particularly people who obsess over all of the minutiae of all the various issues and eras and crossovers and so on of either or both of the major universes (Marvel and DC), or with Manga and Anime, or even with much more niche works that are not necessarily of the superhero genre.

It’s always been pretty clear to me that the books are cranked out to maximize sales and profits, with a new issue due on schedule, so that story and continuity aren’t always the top priority. In addition to that, there are constant efforts to double-sell, so one superhero will appear in another superhero’s comic in hopes that fans of both will buy it.

This is also why they’ve created things like alternate universes, metaverses, and so on — to cover up and/or fix the ridiculous continuity errors they’ve introduced into things over the years.

And remember: Comics have been around a long time, now. They’re pretty much an artform that’s moving into its 90s, and a couple of the top stars go back to almost the beginning. With that much material, it all just becomes a mountain of mush — and yet there are people who go out of their way to memorize every detail of a particular hero or series or even an entire universe.

All I can do is shake my head and wonder, “Why?” They must get something out of it, but I just can’t imagine what. And the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has grown to ridiculous proportions so that I haven’t even tried to keep up. I’ve seen a couple of the early films, watched all of Wandavision, and made it a point to see both Guardians of the Galaxy and both Antman films.

On the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) side, they just haven’t been as lucky at turning out something that wasn’t pretty bad, so over there I’ve only seen the two Deadpool movies — but, of course, those are much different than anything else in the series.

Or, in a famous internet comic, after Iron Man (oops, wrong franchise) and Spider-Man explain why they’re like Batman but only better, Batman points at Deadpool and says, “Who’s he?”

Deadpool replies, “I can say ‘fuck.’”

The Saturday Morning Post #14, Part 7

Here is the penultimate installment of the L.A. social event of 2029. You can catch up to last week’s installment here or start at the top here.


Fumiko had wanted to leave after the reception, but her nephew Haru had convinced her to stay and come down to the concert, and they’d been there ever since Maná and Natalia Jiménez had taken the stage at 6:30. Haru was a little pissed that they’d missed OK Go’s full show. On the other hand he did get to see their private number after the wedding, and he had made his aunt hang back so that he even got to high-five the quartet, especially his favorite, Andy, who also signed his program and took the time to have a short, friendly conversation.

Even though she didn’t understand Spanish much when it didn’t have to do with sizes and colors of cloth, Fumiko still seemed to enjoy the first act, and she seemed absolutely beside herself when Bette, Cher, and Barbra took the stage.

When A-Pop came on, she seemed a bit… confused.

Meanwhile, Alice and Edna had stayed, and Edna commented to Alice when the kids came on, “Damn. They’re hot. Probably all gay, too, but so what?”

“I… don’t know about this,” Alice muttered.

“What? They’re pretty good dancers and singers. Enjoy the show.”

“The one on the right, okay. He’s fine. And the one on the left. But…”

“But? Oh, damn. Is this one of those cultural things that my privileged white ass is missing?”

Alice just nodded, and then she noticed Fumiko, standing just to the other side of Haru. Of course, she didn’t know their names. All she knew was that Fumiko was giving her the same hateful look that she was shooting back, while the boy looked completely neutral, if not a little startled by Alice.

“Care to explain?” Edna asked. “Sincere question.”

“Thai boy on the right, everybody likes them. Chinese boy on the left, my home team. In between? Japan, Korea.”

“Sigh. So, in Western terms?”

“Think… World War Two, and you’re American. The Thai boy on the right? Canada. Everybody likes them. Chinese boy on the right? G.I. Joe. Your home team hero. In between? Germany, then Italy, in that order.”

“Okay,” Edna replied, “Except that nowadays, Americans don’t hold any particular grudges against Germans or Italians, although we still like Canadians. And the Thai. And now I know what you’re talking about, and it has to do with Nanking, doesn’t it?”

Alice just sighed and nodded. “It has everything to do with it.”

Edna took a deep breath, then threw up her hands. “I understand. I mean, I don’t agree with it, but I have absolutely no place to try to explain. Obviously. All I can say is just try to enjoy the concert, and how those four boys are working together so well.”

“I know,” Alice said, “But… it can be so hard with a reminder.” She nodded toward Fumiko.

“Or so easy if you just say ‘Hello?’” Edna asked. “No, sorry… sorry. I’m just going to shut up and maybe move over there to watch the show. You enjoy the rest of the evening.”

Edna moved off to the side, and she felt really conflicted. Honestly, she had no place saying anything about whatever deep-seated ethnic tensions existed between Chinese, Japanese, and Korean people, even several generations removed. That would be like the Sultan of Brunei telling her how to feel about that whole British/Irish thing, given her ancestry.

On the other hand, it had really taken her aback to see clear racism in a person who wasn’t white. She didn’t think that such a thing was possible. She still didn’t. This had to be something other than that. Or maybe not. Maybe it was just another example of her actually being racist. Either way, it made her preconceptions spin, so she had to step away and just enjoy the music.

This didn’t keep her from watching as Alice and Fumiko gave each other the side-eye. Of course, Edna had no idea who Fumiko was, nor did she know who the young man with her was. She assumed that he was her son.

Toward the end of the concert, the young man finally walked right up to Alice, despite Fumiko trying to stop him, but he was insistent, and they exchanged a few brief words, Alice finally suddenly looking at him, incredulous, then at Fumiko, who glanced away proudly. Alice nodded to the young man, touched his shoulder, then walked over to Fumiko and got her attention, at which point she bowed deeply. Fumiko seemed legitimately shocked, throwing her hand over her face and leaning back but, after a moment, she stepped away from Alice backwards, and bowed even more deeply.

Edna had no idea what was going on, but it seemed to be progress, and the young man was beaming. In that moment, A-Pop were singing their finale, a song in English with the lyrics:

We know no borders and no countries

Religions don’t exist at all

Age and race and lies like these

Should never build a wall

All our genders are social fiction

All our sex is just some friction

Out with the old, and hey there newbies…

Let’s go have a ball!

The two women looked at each other, seeming to acknowledge the lyrics, then stood upright, paused for a moment, and walked away, leaving the young man to stand there looking very confused and sad. Edna wanted to run over and hug him, but didn’t, not knowing what was appropriate to do.

What she hadn’t heard was what had been said. Haru went to Alice and said, “My aunt knows of you, because she met that white woman you helped, and after she heard that story, she told me, ‘Haru, I don’t care if she’s Chinese. She has a charitable heart. I truly admire her.”

Alice said nothing, but just looked at Haru, incredulous, then past him at Fumiko, who glanced away and Alice knew that it was in embarrassment and shame. She nodded to Haru, touched his shoulder in a gesture of thanks, then went to Fumiko and did the only thing she knew to mitigate the woman’s shame because, truth to tell, Alice was suddenly feeling a lot of shame herself for having hated someone on sight who, clearly, admired her actions. Once Fumiko glanced her way, Alice bowed deeply, as she knew that this was a sign of respect among the Japanese.

Unfortunately, Fumiko seemed taken aback by this gesture, covering her mouth, eyes wide, gasping audibly and stepping back. She bowed even more deeply, and Alice understood that they really weren’t communicating as equals, because now they were in a struggle over who could say “sorry” the hardest, even though Alice knew that she was clearly in the wrong.

They stepped apart, regarded each other sadly, and then walked away. Haru couldn’t help but take the last lyrics of the song to heart…

Out with the old, and hey there newbies…

Let’s go have a ball!

As the line repeated, Haru looked up toward the stage, and realized that Li-Wei seemed to be singing it right to him, then noticed that the boys were marching down the steps, repeating the last lines alternately in unison in each of their own languages in turn — and Li-Wei was practically eye-fucking Haru. The only thing Haru knew to do was make strong eye contact, smile, and then do his best demure school-girl by tossing his hands in front of his face, giggling, and looking away.

Of course, there was no way that Li-Wei heard the giggle, and Haru wasn’t even sure that he’d understand that the move was a gigantic come-on. He didn’t even know whether Anime, or its successor Simume, had even made it to China. Or was Li-Wei just a Chinese boy from the west?

And then the Thai boy on the end announced, “Who wants to have a ball with us?” and Haru felt someone grab his hand. It was Li-Wei, and the other three were grabbing people from the crowd as well. Hiroji and Seojun grabbed two very pretty girls their own age. Hiroji’s was black and Sojun’s was most likely Eurasian. Haru wasn’t sure, but he suspected Vietnamese with at least one if not two American grandfathers courtesy of the tail end of that failed war. As for Kiet, he found a man who was probably old enough to be his grandfather, or at least his father, and one that Haru could not find subjectively attractive in any way, shape, or form. Then again, who was he to judge? And he tried as hard as he could to block his grandmother’s words about Thai men from his mind. She hadn’t been kind.

Well, hell. She hadn’t been kind about any kind of Asian other than Japanese, or anyone who wasn’t Asian at all. Haru had always found this odd, since his grandmother was sansei. Her parents were the first generation born in America. She was the third. She was as American as George Washington.

Of course, her big criticism of Thai men was, “Oh, they’re all just fags,” which had really hurt Haru, although he was afraid to say anything about it. That changed when he told it to his favorite auntie, Fumiko and, upon hearing the news, she went off on a tirade against Gran Shizuka, who was her mother, in front of the rest of the family.

That made for one tense and awkward birthday party for Fumiko’s sister Fukumi, who was Haru’s mother. But once Fumiko began berating Shizuka for basically tossing hatred on her own uncle, Masakatsu, now deceased, but who had always been openly gay, she won the argument, and Shizuka fled the party. It was only the intervention of Fukumi that kept the woman from going full-on drama gramma by pretending to perform an ancient suicide ritual.

“Really, mom?” everyone heard Fukumi say from the hall. “We’re in America. We’ve been in America for damn near 75 years now. Nobody does this shit anymore. Not this homophobia, and not this gutting yourself because you got embarrassed. Now grow the fuck up and come back to the goddamn party.”

From that day forward, Haru seemed to be Gran Shizuka’s favorite, so he had high hopes that people could change. And if that was whom Kiet loved, more power to him. Haru was absolutely loving the fact that he was being dragged by the hand back up to the top of the steps — one of the chosen few — by this hot Chinese-American boy who was probably at least half a dozen years older than him, but that was okay. At nineteen, Haru was tired of being a virgin, and he had a feeling that tonight he was going to lose his V-Card to an international superstar.

After a few choruses of wild dancing at the top, the song suddenly turned slow and the lights became muted and colorful, and Li-Wei pulled Haru in close, leading as they did a slow and sensual fox trot.

Haru really hoped that Li-Wei wouldn’t feel the raging boner in his pants, but then Li-Wei pulled Haru in by the small of his back, which was when they pretty much realized that they were both hard as hell.

“What are you doing after our show?” Li-Wei asked him, staring deeply into his eyes.

“You…?” Haru muttered, a breathless question.

Li-Wei pulled him closer. “Oh. I’m Li-Wei. And you?”

“I know,” Haru replied, feeling immediately stupid, then adding “Haru” after an awkward pause during which he couldn’t remember his own name.

“Well then… when this song ends, the exit is right across to City Hall doors, and then we get our own private elevators down to the limo, and to our hotel suites. But once we get there, I think I know where the entrance is.”

Li-Wei moved his hand and grabbed Haru’s ass, hard, one finger slipping as far up his crack as Haru’s trousers would allow. Haru just moaned a little and looked up at Li-Wei with hungry eyes.

“Oh… Senpai,” he sighed, not knowing what else to say.

“I’m getting to like you more and more by the second.” Li-Wei smiled back down before adding, “Kōhai.” Haru’s knees went weak and he almost turned into a manga character right there. He was equally bowled over by a Chinese boy knowing something that he thought only Japanese people and white American weeabos knew. Then the song ended, and the band and their insta-dates marched off towards the doors to city hall, but the evening and rest of the next day were only just beginning

* * *

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