If I had to pick one moment when my life irrevocably changed, just one, it would have to be that perfect afternoon when I was around ten or eleven. I can’t remember the exact date, but it was definitely a Saturday. The day didn’t have the dread of a Sunday. You know, when you start thinking about the homework you haven’t finished and need to rush through because you’ll get an earful from your parents if you leave it too late.
It was probably just around lunchtime, around 1 or so perhaps. I was watching TV, which of course, as an Indian kid growing up in the late 90s-early 00s, it was only allowed on the weekends. The fact that my sister and I would sneakily break this rule on weekdays when my parents left us home alone to go to the temple nearby is another story. So yes, Saturday afternoon, 1 PM, sometime during the school year.
Cartoon Network didn’t have anything good on. So, I was lounging on the bed, flicking through the different channels—the news, some sort of angsty drama, reruns of old movies. Amidst them, suddenly, there was a bright splash of colour and animated faces talking excitedly. Actually animated, not just expression-wise. I sat up straight.
I still recall that heart-thumping moment of surprise, exhilaration, and then excitement. I had joined an episode of Clamp School Detectives halfway through. The sounds and sights arrested me, hand still clutching the remote, until the show cut to an ad break and flashed the Animax ident. This one.
Ah, the soundtrack to my childhood.
That afternoon was when anime took root and became a metaphorical bedrock in my life. That I discovered anime is still something incredibly lucky I cannot believe actually happened. It is quite surprising that the local provider in our small town actually offered Animax. Every moment I could grab for the next few weeks, I’m sure, was spent in just watching all the different shows in awe and, of course, figuring out the rerun schedule.
In no time at all, Animax took over my life (and my sister’s). I wrote down every single anime I discovered and watched (those two were quite synonymous back in the day) in a little notebook that’s now lost to one my several house moves. My sister and I would play games of ‘Guess Who’ with anime characters. I scoured the internet for mp3 files of various opening/ending soundtracks, often finding myself on random forum threads which I desperately wanted to join yet was scared to. It was also on Animax that I was first introduced to Japanese and Korean music. A few years later, I discovered fanfiction, which felt like a whole new universe. I’ve probably spent more hours reading Beyblade fanfiction than actually watching the anime.
It was in college that I finally found friends I could properly fangirl with. I’d started reading manga online by then, and it was a glorious five years. Agonizingly waiting for the next chapter of Bleach to drop, running to each other’s dorm rooms the instant we read it, and wailing in angst and complaining about fight scenes that took up more than ten pages. I still remember the 13th Squad logo I had printed and stuck on my door for a year because I loved Captain Ukitake (white-haired anime characters just hit different). Those were good times, despite the cringe.
Anime became my go-to for everything. Sad? Watch anime to feel better. Overwhelmed? Watch anime to calm down. Happy? Watch anime to celebrate. It was heartening, over the years, to see anime become more widely accepted and get more love. It was also heartbreaking in a way; it felt like this secret treasure that used to belong solely to me (and maybe a few friends in real life) was now known to everyone. Regardless, this popularity has made anime more accessible than I ever thought possible. It’s easy to forget that there was a time when my current life would have felt like a dream. Owning physical manga? Buying anime merch? Impossible. And yet, here I sit, surrounded by so many little things that bring me so much joy. A One Piece throw pillow on my couch. A Gintoki charm hanging on my bag. A Koro Sensei keychain. Every single volume of Jujutsu Kaisen on my bookshelf.
Do I have a point to this ramble? Not really. And even if I did, it would be awfully preachy and almost like a fifth-standard school essay. Something to the effect of: Anime is such an important part of my life. It helped me survive several tough times. It brings me joy even to this day.
So, I’m not going to say that. Instead, I’m going to go rewatch Gintama for the tenth time.
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