A tale of butterflies, magical girls, samurais and falling in love.
A very simple and a very random act. A routine, normal act done without much thought. But sometimes, that simple act done in the same unassuming way on just another normal day changes everything around you. The Butterfly Effect. The flapping of a butterfly wings may cause the path of a tornado to alter. Of course the ‘butterfly effect’ event I’m talking about did not cause a tornado but was nevertheless quite spectacular.
What? A butterfly? Where?
I was about 15. It was a lazy weekend afternoon and I was watching TV. Or rather, I was aimlessly flipping through channels; never stopping at a single channel for more than three seconds. It was then that I heard a high-pitched ‘HHHOOOOOOOOOEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE’ coming from one of the channels. A very cute voice it was too. Right. Flip back through the channels. Ah, there it is again! I had stumbled onto the anime channel ‘Animax’ and the show ‘Cardcaptor Sakura’. And for a while, I watched enthralled by the colours, the voices and the story. By everything.
I found out that what I was watching was a re-run and the actual show was being telecasted in the evening. At a perfect time for me to watch when I got back from school. For a while I watched only this show on the channel. Also, the anime was in English and not in the original Japanese. Actually, at this point I didn’t know that this was anime or that it is from Japan. This was just a show that intrigued me.
The very epitome of cool
On a weekend, I decided I wanted to watch the re-run of Cardcaptor Sakura in the afternoon; but I was early and found myself watching the re-run of Samurai X (Rurouni Kenshin). While CCS had been all fun and colourful, Samurai X was a more real, more serious story. Though what I watched that day was an episode in the middle of the series, it was intriguing. And thus, I added one more anime to watch.
You see, Kenshin is the very epitome of cool. He is an honourable samurai. He is brave, strong (nearly invincible), kind and charming. Rurouni Kenshin as a whole is a stunning series with a superbly complex and complete story. Meeting and being charmed by Kenshin gave rise to the thought that there must be other anime that are as good. And so, I started watching different shows. I found some spectacular shows and some crazy ones too. Some of the shows I watched at that time was Wolf’s Rain, Journey to the West (Saiyuki), Galaxy Angel and some others that I can’t seem to recall now.
Around this time, I found out that the origin of these shows was Japan.
Falling in love with a voice
Having found that I was watching dubbed versions, I wanted to check out the original Japanese versions. At this time (and till this day), I was in love with the cranky, atheistic priest Genjo Sanzo from Saiyuki (Journey to the West). So, I downloaded the first episode. And when I started watching it; when I heard the Japanese voice of Sanzo, I was stunned. Absolutely floored. It was such a strong and powerful voice, with deep intonations. For the first time, I really felt the character’s strength. And that was when I fell in love with the voice of Toshihiko Seki and fell in love with the peerless seiyuus in general.
I re-watched all the anime that I had watched so far again in Japanese. The seiyuus and the glorious language was the only things that were different. But, it made a whole lot of difference. I’ve never turned back since then.
The steady beat at the core
Today, anime forms one of the main, the steadiest and one of the strongest things in my life. The manga I discovered through anime has told me some of the most sweeping, heart-wrenching and inspiring stories I’ve ever read. The seiyuus that I met through anime are some of the most fun people/celebrities I’ve ever adored. Unfailingly polite and humble, unbearably hilarious and infinitely talented; they are a never-ending source of inspiration. My hobby as a figure collector began through anime and through it I’ve found amazing friends and also learnt practical things like budgeting. The intricate Japanese culture and history was another beautiful thing that I found through anime. And through anime and through the fandoms, I’ve met extremely supportive and as- insane-as-me friends.
But the most important thing anime gave me was something that I never expected. The beautiful language, Japanese. Hearing it in anime, I fell in love with the way it sounds. The poetry that exists even in a simple phrase of ‘good morning’. I wanted to learn. I wanted to understand. I wanted to speak, read and write. I joined classes. It was not easy. But then again it shouldn’t be. It was too beautiful to be easy. And here I have to fall back on anime again. In moments which were too difficult; in moments when I wanted to throw it all way; in moments when I hated Japanese, it was anime that reminded me again why I loved it.
Over the past few years, every decision I’ve taken has been influenced by Japan and Japanese. And I believe it will do so for the continuing years too. I have done things I never imagined I would do, gone to places I’ve only ever dreamed off and laughed and cried more than I ever thought it possible. I look forward to the coming days with an almost unbearable excitement – so many anime to watch; manga to read; figures to buy; friends to meet and Japanese to master.
And all this is thanks to the high-pitched ‘HOOEEEEEE’ of a little magical girl. So thank you, Sakura-chan!