Can you say ah-nee-may? Francis recommends some of his faves

By Francis Ballesteros, 16, Daniel Murphy HS
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Francis is addicted to anime!!

Picture this: a giant robot faces a humongous monster almost equally its size. The robot’s pilot is a 14-year-old. It’s his first time inside the robot, and he fumbles with the controls. Headquarters communicates through a microphone in the cockpit. They ask the boy if he can make the robot walk. He can, but the robot trips on a car and falls.

The humongous monster known as an angel rushes at the robot, grabs it, punches it and breaks its arm. The boy screams and his life signs drop. Suddenly the robot gets back up and rushes the angel. The robot is going berserk and it appears to be winning. The angel is beaten and losing. It grabs onto the robot and then self-destructs. An explosion appears in the shape of a large cross that reaches to the sky. Among the flames and ashes walks away the victor—the 14-year-old.

That plot description comes straight from Japanese animation, otherwise known as anime (pronounced ah-nee-may). It’s different from the kiddy cartoons that we’re accustomed to. Anime has fantastic monsters, the bloodiest fight scenes, the most bizarre story lines and it’s just overall great entertainment.

I was an 8-year-old when I watched my first anime. It was the original Dragon Ball, not the popular Dragon Ball Z. I remember laying on the floor in the living room with my cousins and brother around watching cartoons when the anime came on TV. We immediately fell in love with the witty story line and action. It was the weirdest show that we ever saw. The main character was a young boy with incredible strength and a monkey tail growing out of his butt. Other people in the show had small capsules that they tossed like grenades. When the capsule hit the ground, a car or even a house formed from it.

When the Dragon Ball program ended that day, my older brother, Jan, said he wanted to start taping it from now on. For the rest of the year Jan taped it, but much to our disappointment the show was later canceled.

I rented the real uncensored anime from Japan

I began to really get into anime when I was about 10. Anime was growing in popularity and began to show up in some video rental stores. One summer day, I went to Blockbuster with Jan, and he found the anime section. We were amazed to find a section of our beloved Dragon Ball series and more.

That summer, Hollywood Video first opened its doors in our town. They had a $30 monthly special that allowed us to rent five tapes for the price of two. It was a great deal for me because I rented anime tapes at least three times a week over the summer. Eventually I had rented the whole section and was sad because there was nothing left to rent. I had to find another source.

So I began renting from other local video stores that actually supplied anime. But at that time anime was still new to America, and I could only find it at one other store. My interest got to the point that I began to buy anime at such stores as Tower Records but as it was still not so popular and there wasn’t a variety to choose from.

I am now 16 and people of all ages have caught onto it. Anime shows up in American television programs, toys, clothing and more. Once when I was flipping channels I found some anime shows on TV but was disgusted by how edited they were. They removed the good action because it was too violent and bloody. So it really sucked. Watching anime on TV was not at as exciting as video where nothing is edited out. You can see everything blood, guts and all.

Most of my friends and classmates know at least a little about anime and others know almost as much as I do. There’s even an anime club at school, which I am currently heading. The anime club was actually started by my brother, but passed down to me since he’s now in college. The anime club is still developing and is not big or well organized.

This year 90 people signed up to join the anime club. I was so happy that I had become the president of the biggest club at school. At the first meeting about 40 people packed the classroom. I told myself that if this many people showed up then it would be a good year for this club. But my friends who were in the club a year before told me not to get my hopes up. I kicked off the meeting by showing an anime movie. After the first ten minutes I looked back at the members to see their responses.

Only about nine people were left in the classroom.

The club does not really have guidelines or rules. It’s just a club where people with common interests can relax and have fun after a long day of school. We might have field trips and go to conventions or any other anime-related places.

For our last meeting of the school year, I’ve decided to use some of the funding earned from tournaments to buy sushi and green tea for the few loyal anime club members and our moderator so that we can all have that real Japanese feel watching anime.