Welcome to the UK Experiences Finale! Please welcome our guests, Donwun and Damswedon. Interviewed by Takashichea, they will share their experiences and outlook on anime culture in the UK. Also, check out the first UK Experience article, The Closet Nerd Theorem.
Looking back in retrospect, it seems my association with anime as a Brit has surprisingly been rooted even in my early childhood days of the early 80’s with titles such as the French / Japanese collaborations: The Cities of Gold & Ulysses 31. Even though these shows were shown on local UK TV channels, I would not truly be old enough to recognize this type of animation as being different from the more dominant western Disney-esque offerings until the first local broadcast of Katsuhiro Otomo's feature animated movie Akira in the very early 90’s.
This single movie and the almost only British anime licensor at the time Manga Entertainment is what really nurtured the Otaku subculture here in the UK. To this very day, most people, here in the UK, use the term "manga" when they are actually talking about anime in general. On the other hand, Manga (comics) are usually just referred to as graphic novels over here. Occasionally, this confusion still exists to this very day.
As Tom & Sam touched upon in a recent Vice Pit episode Manga Entertainment releases were usually of the Seinen short ultra-violent OVA / Movie variety such as Cyber City and DevilMan. Ninja Scroll as a few of my personal favorites. It should be noted; however, due to ye ole English being of the more conservative bunch, you would almost never catch these titles on local TV. They always had to be rented from your local video store.
Until Toonami came over and really shook things up with DBZ, causing the well known explosion in anime awareness, leading to more shounen-ish releases. In turn, even leading to some short lived anime channel ventures like CNX and Jetix.
By the late 90’s to early 2000’s, anime had a lot more clout here in the UK but Manga Entertainment were not getting a lot of acquisitions at the time, and TV channels were repeating the few shows that were doing well to the point of over saturation. It was at this point the internet was becoming more commercially viable, and the whole downloading / fansubbing craze kicked in high gear as a suitable alternative to expand your anime horizons.
It was at this point, I actually started purchasing anime DVD’s and still to this day have a pretty sizable anime collection.
In summary, I can say over the years here in the UK the anime subculture has grown at a moderately respectable rate but it can sometimes feel like a somewhat isolated hobby if you’re not actively participating In live action events such as conventions and anime screenings which are now very frequent. In fact, last year, I did my own video coverage at the London Comic-Con 2012.
In the UK, like many other western countries, we have much bigger fanfare over other stereotypical things such as soccer, tennis, cricket, and generally getting plastered but geek culture is on the rise and Anime over here is pretty high on the list of current popularity…particularly with this new generation and honestly I would say this is mostly due to the internet more than anything else.
I guess you could say my love for anime even goes strong to this very day where I talk about it on my podcast humbly featured here on AV.
Ignoring the Pokemon/Digimon fad of the late 90's, I was team Digimon for the record. I guess I first got into Anime sometime in the early 00's. There is a Flash game called the Love Hina Date Sim RPG, which is a terrible game that for some reason caught on at the secondary school that I went to. I didn't know that it was based on the anime and manga until I accidentally bought a bootleg version of it on Ebay. I didn't get into manga until a few years later. I grabbed a volume of the Battle Royale manga around 04 and ended loving how ultra-violent it is. It came from this problem I have with a lot of comics in that they glorify violence by not making violence violent. You see when Superman punches a guy in the face I kinda expect that guy’s face to be messed up. But most comics won't show that and part of me thinks that is just wrong, by hiding the fact that there are consequences to actions you aren’t protecting children, or even adults, you are feeding the idea that there are no consequences. Anyway since then I’ve thrown myself at most genres of anime and manga, I love me some moe(say it like the name, it is more fun), and I’m particularly fond of dumb stuff so I put ended up Rio Rainbow Gate! on my best of 2011 right next to Wandering son.
Back in the 90’s, on terrestrial TV, only ITV could really play imported cartoons/kid shows. The BBC had a small amount of foreign stuff, but they mostly stayed to their own programming. Over on Cable, you had a Fox Kids station that had Shin Chan to act as bumpers for shows, and Dragon Ball Z on Cartoon Network. I remember waking up at around 6AM on Saturdays to watch Pokemon, although not far too long, even when I was a kid I would rather stay up late instead of getting up early. There was Anime Central, which ran in the mid 00's, but that seemed to air most of its shows past midnight.
I think the main reason why you don’t see much anime on UK TV is a simple market reason. The UK is a small country, and anime is a small niche in a small country. If we look at the anime market in Japan, which is probably the largest in the world, and take a look at how money is actually made there, you quickly realize it is through constant exploitation of the consumers. By having $80 Blu-rays that have only four episodes on them, multiple album releases of the anime's soundtrack, and a constant stream of tie in merchandise all to provide more avenues for revenue. Seriously take a look at the anime that is being made, the majority turn out to be adaptations of already popular brands, be they games, manga, light novels, or sexy pachinko characters. These are all more likely to have their own fan bases that will obsess over them and buy the merchandise. When it comes to a western licensor, you don’t have that much room to do that, to some extent you live or die by the DVD/Blu-ray sales, and when you are making a TV channel, you probably don’t have that option open to you.
Anime shows that I think should have of aired in the UK were Wandering Son, My Ordinary Life,Encouragement of Climb, and the Saki series, all of which (minus My Ordinary Life down under in Australia) haven’t been picked up for western distribution. Okay, I understand that sports anime doesn't sell, but some one really should license the manga, you would sell at least one copy. I really do wish the gap between the US and the UK were smaller, waiting another six to twelve months, from what can already be a six to twelve month wait sucks. It does seem absolutely perfect that now that I actually care about bluray as a format, it seems like distributors are starting to say "screw the bluray versions" because the market for them is too small.
I think the rise of legal streaming is fantastic. I want to say that last season (or the one before) was the first season where people in the US could watch any anime that aired legally for the first time. I'd like to see that carry forward to include more countries, because a world where I don’t have to go to the dirty side of the internet to watch my adorable/creepy/dumb Japanimation is great. I was actually surprised when people were campaigning for Toonami to come back, because for me, a guy that only uses his TV for games and bugger else, the idea of waiting for anime to air at midnight is dumb, especially when most people seem to DVR it anyway.
When it comes to Japanese culture, there are things I love. For example, I love wrestling, and Japanese Strong style is one of my favorite wrestling styles out there in the world. I will never tire of hearing a Japanese commentator scream SHINING WIZARD after the Great Muta rams his knee into someone's face, and Meiko Satomura is easily one of my favorite wrestlers in the world. There are also things about Japan the simply creeps me out. I'm not talking about the normal, anime T&A, and loli stuff. The big thing that creeps me out about Japan is the Yakuza. It is to do with how they are presented in Japanese fiction. If you watch Scarface, The Godfather, or The Sopranos, the Mafia are always scumbags, even when they are presented as the guys you are supposed to sympathize with. In western media, there is always some sense that the Mafia guys will get their comeuppance. In the end, they lose. With the Yakuza, Japan seems to have this idea about the noble Yakuza. A man whose action are seemingly always for good. When Japanese fiction has an evil Yakuza, that only a noble Yakuza will be able to defeat. That weirds me out completely. Although, I'm as mixed on my own country's culture.
I buy most of my anime online. Though, I don't have a huge collection. I have a complete Ghost in the Shell set on DVD, some Ghibli films, and I recently kickstarted the Time of Eve collection but not a whole lot really. Manga is a different story though I have about a yard of shelf space taken up by Manga, and a bunch more in a box in the attic. Nottingham has two main comic store that both stock Manga. Forbidden Planet has manga on one side and American comics (just the big two really) on the other. It is kind of funny because the middle section is taken up by the more mainstream models and nerdery, so it looks like some Moses figure decided to part the two comic types and swore that they shall never meet again. I want to say anime normally goes for about £20 for 6 episodes over here, but its been awhile since I've picked up anything because there nothing I like ever gets picked up.
About the Authors
Donwun is I.T Techie, Film & Audiobook lover who creates Podcast's and Video Blog's. Follow him:@Dontyro
|Damswedon is a duder and lover of that one time the Phantom Lady shot a guy with a gun. Follow him: @Damswedon|