Time for the Curtain Call

Shannon Drake | 8 Nov 2005 07:04
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I grew up in a small town in south Louisiana. South Louisiana is not the place you go to be on the cutting edge of the revolution - any revolution. In fact, it is the best place to go when revolutions scare you and you want to hide from Scary Change. For example, my mom, who still resides in this southern Louisiana town, still can't get broadband.

I knew Japanese culture was officially taking over when I walked into Waldenbooks in this same town in south Louisiana. Keep in mind this Waldenbooks is a mall bookstore, and not exactly a haven for obscure titles and books nobody reads. We're not talking about the dusty racks of the local public library. But, there it was, perched right next to the bestseller racks: a case of manga. Beside it was another case of manga. Another case of manga was beside that one. Walking around to the other side of the cases revealed four more cases of manga and two full bookcases of anime DVDs. The depth of their selection was astonishing, reaching beyond the Pokemon and Dragonball Z I had expected, into obscure titles my otaku friends would drool over.

I can quote you the statistics that show increasing anime and manga sales in the U.S. I can suggest you go to any games retailer online and look under RPG. Admire the list I just pulled from EBGames.com: .hack parts 1-4, Xenosaga II, Arc The Lad: End of Darkness, Dark Cloud 2, Musashi: Samurai Legend, Fullmetal Alchemist, Fullmetal Alchemist 2, Radiata Stories, Wild Arms 3, Phantom Brave and Aetlier Iris. I can suggest you go look for an MMOG, but you'll find ROSE Online, Ragnarok Online and Ragnarok Online 2, Parfait Station, and a dozen others. I can suggest you turn on cable TV and turn to one of the channels showing anime and anime-influenced programs.

Or I can bring you along with me to a Waldenbooks in a now-ruined mall outside New Orleans, where seven cases of manga sat waiting for consumption. From a long stint working in a bookstore circa 2000, I can tell you we weren't in the business of keeping things on the shelves that didn't sell. If your precious volume wasn't making us money, we chucked it out as soon as Corporate gave us the okay. For us to stock seven cases of anything would mean it's either something Oprah recommended or it's huge. Manga is huge.

For my generation, anime was weird. Those wide eyes that seemed to stare soullessly out of the late-night showing of Akira on SciFi were new and strange. The questionable hygiene of that scary guy who drew way too many pictures of Sailor Moon was creepy. Anime was a distant thing from a foreign land, with terrible dubbing on bootleg VHS tapes. It was gritty and bizarre, like one of those scary imported toys you found in the cheap flea market when you went scroungingfor old Led Zeppelin albums, cool used books and props for your next high-concept class presentation. Maybe that was just me.

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