This Mother’s day I want to take a moment to reminisce on how blessed I am for having an open minded mother. For somehow ending up as the friend who had the ‘cool mom’. And on how I became who I am and why. You can essentially fault my Mother and my Aunts for my love of learning and all things nerdy. At any time I was surrounded by books of computer code, information systems scattered about with Dr. Who flashing on the old black and white rabbit eared TV my Grandma had in the kitchen. You could say I didn’t have a choice if I was going to be a geek or not. I grew up watching reruns of The Munsters, The Addams Family, Original Star Trek, Star Wars, Lost in Space, and the 1970’s Batman…this was like my normal.
While I grew up on Anime (albeit unknowingly, like most people in my generation) it wasn’t until I was in late Middle School that I really could identify what it was and what made it unique. I used to get up on Saturdays in the early days of Cartoon Network and climb into the bed with Mum to watch the American edited version of Robotech (Macross)…
It was a Space Opera with giant machines and aliens!! We loved it.
Except for Minmay.
She could’ve died in a fire for all we cared.
The evolution to watching anime seemed pretty natural…except we were not exactly sure what we were watching, initially. We knew it was cool and unique (even though it was a horribly mashed together version of the actual series) and all of our nerdgastic shows were falling out of rotation leaving us largely bereft. Mum started working more and I was often at home on my game console or at dance. The times we could find to spend together was often in the evening and on the weekend. It wasn’t until High School when I would bring home borrowed VHS’s from friends to watch that we started to *really* get into it. I was a ‘latch key’ kid during high school and I remember running home to watch Toonami and catch Ronin Warriors, Sailor Moon, and Dragonball Z. After which I pulled out my game console and played Virtual Fighter 2.
Though every Friday night we had a tradition of watching Iron Chef together…being a only child it was common for me to spend the evening with my mother watching a show or reading after homework.
I was fascinated by this culture on the other side of the globe. But I was often alone in that fascination.
For a while at least. At my first school I was. There was no one like me and they thought I was weird for reading so much and was confused why I wanted to go home to watch cartoons. It wasn’t until my second school that I found out that…I wasn’t alone. I was at an Arts High school where I discovered that there were other’s like me who loved Anime. Not just other students…other BLACK students who actually liked what I liked! I was loaned several tapes to take home and watch. Now that I look back on it was probably some form of initiation…so I pulled them out and popped them in the living room. I remember Mum coming out of the kitchen to ask me what I was doing and that she had water on for tea if I was interested.
Of course I was…it’s tea after all.
We both sat down and fell in love. It was Tenchi Muyo Ryho-ohki and we still love the OVA series. It has just seemed to grow from that day along with our repertoire: Record of Lodoss War, Magic Knight Rayearth, Bubble Gum Crisis (original), Clamp School Detectives, Kiki’s Delivery service, Here is Greenwood, Crest of the Stars… the list goes on. .Before we knew it we started to read the manga’s too. At the time I lived behind a store called: “Media Play” I would save up my allowance and would walk up there to choose more animes and mangas to bring home. We didn’t really understand the genre’s yet. It was just us exploring.
It became almost a… tradition. Some weekends we’d go to the local video rental stores and rent a random anime. Some were hits! (Ranma ½)
Some confused us (Tenchi Universe..?? How’s that different from the one we saw…? Who the heck is Kiyone!?).
Others…well…Devil Hunter Yoko (’nuff said).
But this joint exploration was fun. I remember I got my library card just so I could check out books on Japanese culture and sociology and their meager manga section (I couldn’t always afford them). I have a section of my bookshelf dedicated to anime and manga reference material till this day.
I even ate everything with chopsticks for a solid month (maybe more) because I wanted to be proficient. She joined in and we each had our own pair (which we still have). We’d have an anime night where we’d challenge ourselves to eat Bowls of Ramen with the chopsticks and read subtitles on our latest acquisition. Needless to say it was either not eat until your food was cold or get good.
This exploration of Anime and manga helped us connect during my teenage years when many mother’s and daughter’s often feel alienated from each other.
We would talk and picked apart episodes; theorizing and making commentary. It’s still one of our favorite things to do. Who we identify with, why do we do so? Who do we hate? And all of the years of doing this, of providing answers to each other for sometimes crazy scenarios we’ve come to understand each other that much better.
“You just got sucked through an inter-dimensional portal and you’re in this fantasy world like <blah>, what’s the first thing you do?”
“Find a clothes line to steal some clothes then see if I can cast a spell.”
“New world right? How do I not know I don’t have magic here?”
“Oooh. Good point. I was going to say find a bathroom.”
“How can I be sure they have the same equipment? Also I need to know what level of fantasy I’m working with. Fantasy where sanitation is a thing and wastes are appropriately disposed of or disgusting Fantasy where you get the plague just by going to the wrong pot.”
“Hmm hadn’t thought of that. Point.”
Anime actually helped open the door to us talking about painful things that would never come up in everyday life and deal with it. We went to my First Anime Convention together. She helped me buy my first bokken, we both bought embroidered bags of our favorite anime’s, and spent time digging through bins to find obscure anime soundtracks of various vendors. Due to this my friends called my Mum the “Cool Mom” because apparently many other parents wouldn’t even try to understand their child’s interest.
Anime and Manga helped shape our present relationship. Her acceptance of the inherent cultural differences found within the media showed me how to best approach new experiences: with kindness, intelligence, wisdom, and respect. It wasn’t always easy, I know. But most importantly she helped me realize that I was ok in all my quirkiness. She didn’t look at me like I was crazy or talk down to me because I liked these things.
But I am so thankful. I would not be who I am if it wasn’t for her and I don’t take that for granted. Though our anime’s have grown and changed and we find them in different ways now that tradition remains. Our time together over Anime is some of the most memorable and some of my happiest.
In fact…this Mother’s Day…I think we’ll go to the local Anime and Comic convention, lust over the boxed sets their selling and fight the urge to add yet another bag to our collection, before going to get some green tea lattes.
Might as well keep our tradition going after all.