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.

私はアニメが好きではありません。

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.

The B-word

I’ve noticed over the last few months the sudden explosion of a word that feels like it should have fallen out of use forty years ago.

The word itself was most likely first used in England and first seen there in print in 1945 in the Daily Mirror. It landed in the U.S. in 1965, in a review of the film Paranoia in the New York Times.

Along the way, it changed meaning. Originally, it referred to something very specific, but over time took on a more general meaning. It’s actually had two comebacks. The first was around 2009, most likely due to a song by that name put out by British Rapper Dizzee Rascal,  but it quickly faded.

It current ubiquity seems to have gotten its start around 2017, and in the nearly four years since, it only seems to have grown in usage.

So what is this once rare B-word now appearing in headlines everywhere?

Bonkers.

When it originated in England during or before WW II, it was most likely slang among the Navy and probably meant “drunk.” By the time it made it to the civilian press and then to the U.S., it came to be a polite euphemism for “crazy” — one that did not stigmatize mental illness because it had a safe distance to it — as well as meaning something that was utterly ridiculous or ludicrous.

It also just sounds like a kid’s word to begin with, something that would be completely inoffensive. Except, now, it’s becoming incredibly offensive via overuse.

If you go to your favorite newsfeed right now and search for “bonkers,” you’ll wind up with a mind-boggling bunch of current headlines. Here are just a few, all from the 24 hour period ending about 9 p.m. on Wednesday, May 19:

CultureMap (Dallas, U.S.): Getting onto the Tollway from downtown Dallas is about to be bonkers

Mirror (UK): Harry branded ‘Prince of woke’ over ‘bonkers’ free speech comments, says TV presenter

MediaIte: Qanon Shaman Lawyer Defends ‘Short Bus’ Comment in Bonkers CNN Interview: Getting ‘Vulgar’ Brought Issue to the Fore

MSN (UK): QPR’s Premier League spending spree between 2011 and 2013 was truly bonkers

Second Nexus (U.S.): Pro-Trump Rep. Claims House Dems ‘Aided and Abetted’ Insurrectionists in Bonkers Interview

That’s just a sample of five out of the more than a dozen stories in just the last 24 hours, and if you extend the search to a week or month, the number just keeps going up.

By the way, note the source for the last article listed, Second Nexus, because it’s one of the two big offenders in this regard that made me first take note of the phenomenon.

The place I first noticed it was at the website Cracked, which for a long time billed itself as “America’s Only Humor Site.” Unfortunately, it has suffered a sharp decline in quality over the last year or two — but that’s what happens when you fire all of your good, paid writers, and try to replace them with… not as good writers, and then apparently apply no editorial oversight.

Ironically, even as all of the good writers vanished en masse, the quantity of content posted daily went way up, so the quality fell way down, and it quickly became a game of “Let’s see if they actually posted one good article today.”

Oh… along the way, most of their content also became either listicles, listicles generated by reader questions to the Facebook page, or a couple of lazy writers basically stealing Twitter threads, throwing a few sentences between screengrabs here or there, and calling it a day.

But, in recent months, there has been a sudden and definite uptick in the use of the word “bonkers” in article headlines for no discernable reason, describing everything from Marvel movies to strange collections owned by famous people to Elon Musk tweets.

This brings me to Second Nexus, which is one of the myriad of websites run by everyone’s favorite gay grandpa, George Takei. The word “bonkers” has started to seep into the headlines of the articles he shares on Facebook, typically in the case of “Firefighters tell us the most bonkers rescue they’ve ever made,” or “People share their bonkers roommate stories.”

It seems like bonkers should always come in close company with “wacky” and “mad-cap,” but it never does.

And now the word has escaped a couple of online humor feeds and is leaking into the legitimate press with no sign of stopping.

Why? I have no idea, although you do have to admit that for about the last five or so years, the Earth has been a pretty bonkers place, with no signs of slowing down.

Images: The edible kind of Bonkers!

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