I remember watching Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums – a film about a man who, in order to reconnect with his dysfunctional family, lies to them about having a heart attack. My relationship with anime over the years has played out a bit similarly.
I loved anime as a child. There were many shows that kids my age liked, but Beyblade stood out for me. I remember constantly asking my parents to buy Beyblades to play with. I’d challenge my siblings and cousins to a match, and we’d go, “3, 2, 1, ho jaaye shuru” – something the characters would say in the dubbed version.
But good things don’t last. I received a hard blow when my father passed away. Reality came crashing down, and many things that signified my childhood melted away into the shadows.
If losing my father wasn’t bad enough, I also had to deal with bullying and declining grades. My school failed to help in either department. Due to the said ongoing problems, I had to sever ties with my hobbies and interests. This included watching anime, among other things.
For the next three-four years, I kept my head down and tried to get my act together. Eventually, it took a toll on me and I began to question my raison d’être. As I fumbled my way through this existential crisis, I looked around for some relief in the form of new hobbies. That’s when I found Star Wars and video games. At that time, I also became a little less tolerant towards criticism. If anyone judged me for my interests, I’d hit back with “kindness”.
My reunion with anime only happened in 2015. And that too, for the wrong reasons.
In 2014, YouTuber Filthy Frank, who was at the height of his popularity, uploaded a video called ‘Weeaboos’, and chastised people who feigned to be Japanese just because they watched anime and had little proficiency in the language. His video reeled me in and this was the start of my ‘edgy phase’. This was when Google Plus was active, and I expressed myself through memes that provoked a lot of people, including many who loved anime.
Somewhere along the way, I started watching Harumi Suzumiya, Lucky Star and some other shows. But I was so invested in my newfound attitude that I couldn’t properly connect with it all. Finally, in 2017, I decided to put my edgy persona behind me. It had started to weigh down on me. My behaviour had gotten worse and I knew I was hurting people’s feelings. My memes became regressive, and I became hostile to opinions.
Ironically, I had become a bully myself.
Around the time I was graduating from school, I had begun to realise that my behaviour could become a potential obstacle in the long run. But it was the only identity that I had created for myself during those last few years of school. After a tussle, I realised it would be best to try and reform myself before I found myself emotionally and professionally destroyed.
The first anime show I ever watched in college was Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. A friend gave it me on a USB drive. About a teenager named Edward Elrich who goes on a journey to save his brother after an experiment goes wrong, I watched all 64 episodes and loved it.
The show inspired me to draw and sketch anime characters. I can recount sketching Roy Mustang numerous times. Concurrently, I watched other shows like Cowboy Bebop, Devilman: Crybaby, Afro Samurai, Kill la Kill, Drifters, Hellsing: Ultimate, Black Lagoon, Violet Evergarden, Konusuba, and so on while I was in college.
Immediately upon getting my Netflix subscription, I saw a collection of anime shows. That collection soon came in handy when the pandemic began. I now spend my time watching anime shows and drawing anime characters. I even wrote an article to pay homage to anime.
Amidst the lockdown, I watched shows like My Hero Academia, Attack on Titan, Spirited Away, Jujutsu Kaisen, One Punch Man, Tanya the Evil, etc. Anime, video games, Star Wars and more have all gone a long way in making life in a COVID-19 world more palatable.
Anish Bala is a law student currently studying in Amity Law School, Noida and he loves drawing, writing articles and playing video games. You can find him on Instagram @bargad97.
Featured image: sketch by Anish Bala