Anime is Silent James
I'm a live illustrator, one of my major influences is anime. I was a fan of Japanese anime even before I saw my first official anime film or series. All of the "American" cartoons I loved had Japanese animators for their intros and usually the first few episodes. Thundercats, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, C.O.P.S., Silverhawks etc. Also the Rankin/Bass animated Hobbit. I responded to the quality, excitement, and weirdness. Everything else seemed so boring in comparison.
Access to Anime in early 90's Long Island
Anime was not popular where I grew up in the early 90's. The only access was Speed Racer and Gatchaman, which I loved but I wanted more. Luckily when I was 8 years old, my Japanese friend Joun showed me a manga called Dragon Ball. The cover featured Son Gokou as a Super Saiyan, I really responded to the art style. I became obsessed with Dragon Ball and hounded Joun for more info about the series, as it hadn't been released in America yet.
Then one day, I saw a vhs copy of Akira in Blockbuster. What I remember most was this really weird "NOT FOR KIDS" sticker on it. It amused me so much. I also remember the ominous phrase "NEO-TOKYO is about to E•X•P•L•O•D•E!" along the top. Mum was initially concerned about the "not for kids" sticker, but thankfully trusted me and rented it. From the minute I put the tape on, I was fascinated. It was scary too, but I thought it was the coolest thing I'd ever seen.
I Love the early American Voice Dubs of Anime
I prefer all the original American voice dubs of anime. They had a poetry to them, unique to a time and place that cannot be outdone or replicated. In my illustrated memoir Secrets of Silent James, I talk about my vision of the early days of anime...
Saturday Anime on the Sci-Fi Channel
Most anime I love I first saw on "Saturday Anime". These films blew my mind, they were so deep and complex - they made me think. A lot of the themes went over my child brain and confused me, but I always wanted to understand more. Like in an RPG: when you'd see an item you can't reach yet in the game, but you promise yourself you'll find a way. What a far cry from Saturday morning cartoons!
The experience I remember the most was watching Dominion: Tank Police. What I loved most was that there wasn't clearly "good" or "bad" characters. Batou seemed like a bozo at first (even to his boss), but you find out he's really a tragic hero. And Brenton is actually a psychopath, even though he's leader of the Tank Police. The American music tracks bring me to tears when I hear them, I'm transported back to childhood! I'll put a link towards the end of this post :)
Ghost in the Shell
I rented the vhs of Ghost in the Shell (1995) one Friday afternoon. I remember I was eating pizza in my room, the window was open, and the sun was going down on a very nice day. I couldn't believe my eyes! It is still my favorite anime film of all time. Why? I'll put my thoughts at the end of this post.
Anime Every Day's analysis of "Motoko's Dilemma" expresses a lot of good sentiments that I agree with as well, I did an illustration live as I watched it...
My friend Will called me up one night to tell me about this new anime series called "Cowboy Bebop". He bought the first few vhs tapes and after watching the first episode, he told me "this anime is too good to enjoy alone, we have to watch this together!". I was hooked right away, this was something very special. The animation is great, it's funny, there's really good martial arts fight scenes etc but it also had the best soundtrack and voice acting. The quality was so far ahead of everything else out there. The story arc is also very emotional, it comes out of nowhere and mirrors life very much. Will remarked how all the characters reminded him of our crew of friends...
There are some really great analysis videos about Cowboy Bebop, I'll put links at the end of this post. I live illustrated Super Eyepatch Wolf's fantastic "Why You Should Watch Cowboy Bebop"...
Stories That Make You Think
I love things that are weird. I don't mean weird in a "sick" way, I mean unique, mysterious, and intriguing. It's OK if I don't understand something the first time I see it, as long as I'm engaged to try to figure it out. I remember watching Neon Genesis Evangelion all through the night (binge watching before it was a thing :)). I loved it so much, it was exciting and emotional. I still don't understand large parts of it, that's fine! Same thing with Serial Experiments Lain, Digibro did an extraordinary video on "The Writer Who Kept Anime Weird" and I did this illustration live...
Yes for Kids!
Anime has had such a positive influence on my life and my artwork. I'm so glad Mum let me rent titles when I was little, and thankful for all the US pioneers that brought these masterpieces to my country.
As I've gotten older, it's been harder and harder to find stuff I like. That's where you come in! Do you have a favorite anime film or series that you'd like to share? Mention @SilentJamesLive on social and let me know. If I like your recommendation, I'll send you a drawing! Below is a list of my favorites, so something outside those please!
Silent James' Favorite Anime List
Favorites are always in flux, but here's a solid list of my favorite anime. It's mostly films, some series, all recommended...
Ghost in the Shell (1995)
Dominion Tank Police
Popee the Performer
Neon Genesis Evangelion (Series)
Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb (not an anime but released by Manga Ent)
Vampire Hunter D Bloodlust (masterpiece except the last 20 minutes)
Dragon Ball Z: The Dead Zone (even if you don't like DBZ, this film is awesome)
Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood (first season only)
Whisper of the Heart
Castle of Cagliostro
Street Fighter 2 the Animated Movie (1994) (especially Chun-Li vs Vega)
Record of Lodoss War (not a lot of animation, but great art)
Night Warriors: Darkstalkers Revenge
Fatal Fury (it's silly but fun)
Casshan Robot Hunter OVA
Serial Experiments Lain
Genius Party, and Beyond
Space Adventure Cobra
What I LOVE about Ghost in the Shell
It's a film about survival. Whether that of artificial intelligence, human life, or the survival of a Government agency.
Nothing is rushed in this movie. The montages and fade outs let the viewer's mind wander. It's important to take breaks and if you can't physically go for a walk during the film, you can at least mentally stroll :)
Major Motoko Kusanagi is one of the great characters in all of history. She is driven by something inside of her that even she doesn’t understand and, unlike most characters we meet, she never becomes complacent. She never deviates. She never lets it go, she always pushes to go further. She also changes by the end of the film, thanks to the Puppet Master.
When the government agents are driving away in the car, the robotic one suggests “Maybe the puppet master has a girlfriend he wants to see” and his boss scolds this saying “ridiculous” and there’s a shot of the cyborg looking so sad out the window. It’s a tragedy for someone to tell him a cybernetic organism is incapable of something like love. Maybe he has had those feelings himself. It’s all very touching.
The shoot-out with the Spider Robot guard is outstanding. Again, no detail is spared, even the spider bot has a personality. It is like a child or a puppy, it’s kind of sad she has to try and kill something like this, like her. An innocent. The bullets going up the tree of species and life on the wall- so much can be said about that image. Eradication of the old, of memory, and the question of what is going to come next. What form will life take? Her flight to rip off the roof is some of the most beautiful animation coupled with a perfect soundtrack. She doesn’t succeed on her own. She learns to trust Batou and even thank him. The manly man has to take a back seat and just be a spectator in the finale, how often does that happen in a story? “I might as well stay and see what happens.” THAT’S RIGHT!
The confrontation with the puppet master is so well done. She thinks she has a grasp on what life is, who she is as a unique individual and he comes along and flips it all out of whack again. He proposes they merge and become a new being, their child in a way. She is horrified by this, having just discovered who she is and to risk losing it all scares her. “How will I know I will still be me?” He replies “Why would you want to?” Change is the only constant in life, repeatedly diving into the unknown. Like when we go to sleep, we have no idea what our dreams will be, or if we will ever even wake up again!
Links to YouTube Analysis Videos Discussed in this Post
Anime Every Day's "Motoko's Dilemma"
Super Eyepatch Wolf's "Why You Should Watch Cowboy Bebop"
Digibro's "the Writer Who Kept Anime Weird"