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I rode 宇宙戦艦ヤマト to get to this place

「宇宙戦艦ヤマト」isn't just some anime title. It is a phenomenon with a myriad of mantles. Transliterated, it is Uchuu Senkan Yamato. Roughly translated into English, it is Space Warship Yamato. Re-dubbed and retitled for broadcast in Hawaii in the early 1980's, it was Starblazers. It is the very reason why a 4-year-old me was even made aware of the existence of Japan.

Pick any teenager off the street at random, and the chances are fairly high that their proverbial gateway drug to Japan was some anime title. It is, however, advisable not to ask them which title precisely, as that has the potential to emphasize a sobering generational gap. But rueful-elder-references notwithstanding, I would even risk claiming that the path to the land of the rising otaku is generally the same for all would-be practitioners of game-fu.

In essence, this should be an encouraging, if not at least comforting fact for someone such as myself who, by some conspiracy of luck or trick of fate, ended up living here. I do feel, however, that there is some function inherent to being social humans that opposes the popularization of that which you hold dear. Like a tendency to want to keep your favorite anything from becoming mainstream, as if in becoming so, it would somehow cheapen both its own essential value and the value of it in your own life. Like when Metallica became too big for everyone's pocket to be that "metal band that you've never hear of," or when in the Fall of 1997, myself and Darnell Gamiao and Dan Paredes discovered some obscure, vulgar cartoon called "South Park."

It has always ever been, "You have to see this," followed inevitably by, "it's too mainstream."

My question is simply, "Why does it have to be that way?"

I really don't know. If the text above is any indication, I too am admittedly prone, on occasion, to feel some degree of proprietary ownership of some media that I never made in the first place. "It's mine because I like it more than you and found it first before everyone else," is perhaps a simple way of verbalizing that notion.

In an attempt to alter my geezer-esque thought pattern on the matter, I declare the following:

It is my sincerest of hopes that all the young, misplaced, self-proclaimed and would-be pseudo-gwailo otaku have their own 宇宙戦艦ヤマト, whether it be ポケモン or 幽☆遊☆白書 or even デスノート (something in me winces to say it--I surmise that is the old man gestating inside my psyche) by which they can traverse the wide sea to come to Japan and experience both its hardships and delights. Any such cultural impetus is worthy if it allows one to plant a foot in foreign soil, partake of that land's food and suckle of that land's drink until they are fat and can suckle no more.

For those about to suckle, I salute you.

About the Author

PhD Candidate in Japan, researching Narrative in Games. Responds favorably to Thrash Metal, Karaoke, and Dungeons & Dragons.

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