Cartoons and I

In my younger years, a majority of my time was spent running around outside so that my parents and grandparents could have a moment of peace from me climbing all over the place until I discovered cartoons.

5:30AM on a Saturday would find me glued to the screen and un-moving for almost a decade. I can still remember the titles of most things I watched and their opening credits. Adventures, conquering the bad guys, magical portals to fantasy worlds, genies, talking animals, and spaceships.

I took to each of these new worlds and the stories therein. Most were pretty similar until I happened to catch wind of an oddly drawn cartoon called Speed Racer. Others of its kin, like Dragonball would soon follow. They were different and amusing, but still in line with what I had seen. Good guys doing things and beating the bad guys or adventuring. I wouldn’t know what I had found in these two types of cartoons until I was around 17.



I was in my junior year of high school and my friend at that time, Graham, was heading to college soon. We met in music class and he invited me to a party where we watched a Ghost in the Shell movie and ate Pocky.

I don’t remember most of the movie, but it felt different as a cartoon. More serious and dark in tone. I didn’t quite know what to make of it then and I should probably rewatch it at some point. Ultimately, having seen this, I wondered if there was more out there. Then came Toonami and with it, my baptism into the world of anime proper.

The lineup consisted of many changes, but in its first iteration, there were two cartoons that were foundational to me: Dragonball Z and Sailor Moon. My siblings and I watched every single afternoon at 4:30PM and did not move for that entire hour. The boys were more tuned in to Dragonball Z for certain as the action was enjoyable, but Sailor Moon was always the main event. Everyone – boys and girls alike – sat down to watch these 30 minutes of drama.



We watched with rapt interest during each transformation. It had the same bad guy beatdowns of the previous cartoons we had all seen, but there was also another dimension; the good guys had flaws. They were bad in school or lazy or just hung out at the arcade doing normal things. They got sad and jealous and cried and wanted to have boyfriends. Impactful and interesting, but also not super different…

…until the moment were it was. I’m not sure if it was the death of this bad guy or this one, but Sailor Moon in these scenes introduced me to the concept only really heard of in Marvel for American comics: bad guys with dimensions.

The bad guys in Sailor Moon were bad for certain, but they aren’t bad guys in the same way American bad guys were. They had their own reasons for doing things, they made decisions that weren’t evil, they fell in love with the humans they were to enslave.

That scene I mentioned earlier had everyone in the living room teary-eyed and trying to understand what happened. We wanted the “bad guy” to be OK. The good guys wanted the “bad guy” to be OK. I realized that the good guys weren’t trying to conquer the bad guys. Some of the bad guys were conquered by simply befriending them. Imagine watching G.I. Joe for years or similar, then coming into a show where the good guy says, “Hey, you don’t have to do this. Let me help you be better.” and the bad guy is like, “You’re right. I’ve just been angry. I want to be better.”

From there, I looked for more and anime was more than happen to give me all of that and then some. Complex bad guys. Complex good guys. Philosophy on the nature of evil and war and society. Good old slapstick comedy. The best take on ninjas in modern times…

There’s still so much more to go and see in terms of anime and I continue to be amazed as how enjoyable and thoughtful they are and continue to be. It’s gonna be a long journey, though. I have a lot to watch.

2 thoughts on “Cartoons and I

  1. My first memory of Anime was at a very young age. It was Galaxy Express 999. My folks just let me watch it while they chatted with the other relations in my grandmothers kitchen. They never questioned what kind of cartoon would be on at nearly 9pm in the evening.

    I was pretty hooked. But growing up in a small town in the years before the internet we relied on getting the occasional bootlegged vhs tape – which we would then gather together in large groups and watch over and over and over again.

    I love cartoons – and anime specifically – part of my daily routine is to watch about 2 hours worth each day with Fox the Rabbit.

    1. I try to make time to binge one series per month, but maybe a little daily time would be a good change of pace. It’s getting harder to keep up with Sailor Moon Crystal lately and we can’t have that.

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