Newtype Flash Article Encore No. 1: Anime Sa Ating Panahon

(Author’s notes: The following is a reprint of a short article I wrote on Hero TV Forum Version 4’s Original Content Section, under the byline Newtype Flash, which Azrael Coladilla was kind enough to rescue and post on his site, before HTVF crashed this month. I’m posting it here for reference to everyone reading my site. I will be posting all my other OCS articles here on this blog as well in the next few days. Hopefully I can repost all of them on HTVF when the forum returns.)

Newtype Flash
By Ultimate Coordinator

Anime Sa Ating Panahon
Evolution and History of Anime and Otaku Culture in the Modern Philippines.

Yesterday, as I logged into the HERO TV Forum for the afternoon, I nibbled on a stick of Pocky I bought from the neighborhood convenience store. Browsing the sub-forums, I picked up interesting tidbits with the latest stuff about the anime I follow – that Mobile Suit Gundam 00 would have a second season next October, and that Eureka 7 was now showing on everyone’s favorite Tagalog anime cable channel.

But my reverie was broken by the ringing of “Anna ni Issho Datta no ni” from Mobile Suit Gundam SEED from my mobile phone, and I picked it up from where it was nestled on the shelves, right beside where the gunpla of the RX-93v Nu Gundam stood lazily like a drunk man due to the weight of its backpack.

As I spoke to the person on the other line, I took good notice of my room, which I cleaned and vacuumed early that Sunday morning, and found, contrary to my intent all those years to stick to being “minimalist” in interior design and content, that it was now brimming with stuff on my shelves over my room’s study table. And the unique thing is that besides my law and history books, novels, work documents and folders, more than half my shelves were brimming with Japanese modern novelty items and collectibles.

That made me stop – in both wonder and thought.

Early in the evening, I was setting up my bed for the night, and took a look around my room once more. Inspiration came upon me at that moment, and it spurred me to raid my collection of DVDs, and scrounge up my copy of Genshiken and pop it into my player. Running through the first episode, I watched intently how the fictional otaku club room of the anime’s characters looked like.

And lo and behold, it looked like my own room.

I whistled softly in awe, and the comprehension of what I was dawned upon me.

Like those characters in Genshiken, I was an otaku. And I loved anime.

I sat back on my chair with a grin plastered on my face, as I took in the different things that populated my room that were influenced by that magical make-believe world we all know and love as anime. I wondered how anime grew up here in our beloved country, and after some research and study, I realized anime matured in the same time I did. The intertwining of our histories greatly encouraged me to write down this column to share to you all. Even at my age, I still accepted the fact that the blood of otaku ran through my veins.

I was born in 1973, right smack in the height of the dark years of Martial Law – where civil liberties in our country was curtailed and the mass media and information in general was tightly controlled to favor the misguided philosophies of a charismatic but eventually corrupted strongman. It was a time for conservatism and being practical, as people were encouraged to tighten belts and be discipline, all in the name of a new social order based on strict old traditions.

But according to a study and research made by Azrael Coladilla, a local Otaku blogger, that he published on his blog Azrael’s Merryland, the 1970’s was also the time when anime first sprang here in the archipelago. Regardless of the political state we were in, the youth of then were beginning to stow away the perceived anti-Japanese sentiments the older generation grew up on Post-World War II, and a general atmosphere of openness was giving modern Japanese culture a chance to prove themselves in the eyes of the average Pinoy.

While it was slow going for them, Pinoys were now accepting that Japan was a country to look up to, with its scientific and technical achievements necessary for us to progress, as was the beauty of traditional Japanese culture and arts that were inspiring our own social lifestyles. Anime came through this medium, and slowly entered Philippine pop culture.

Coladilla said shows like Gigantor (Iron Man 28 ) were the first anime broadcast on public and private TV, all in its black-and-white splendor, sometime in early ‘70s. The show brought to the imagination of the public science fiction entertainment, specifically of the early mecha genre. I don’t really recall this particular show, but my cousins who are older than me remember it well and enjoyed it. I was maybe to young to remember watching this show, but I do remember the next part of the story of anime’s evolution here.

Enter Voltes V (Chōdenji Machine Voltes V) , which, together with classic super robot shows as Mekanda Robot (Gasshin Sentai Mechander Robo), Mazinger Z (Majingā Zetto), UFO Grandizer (UFO Robo Gurendaizā), and Daimos (Tosho Daimos), formed the Big Five Robots of GMA 7 during 1978-1979, and proved a boon for kids and adults alike, as kids from my age to the teens were buying up die-cast toys of these robots to play with. It was a like a breath of fresh air for children of that age – we had a chance to experience a show that not only entertained us, but spurred us to seek greater freedoms for the youth, and eventually, the whole country as well. Young Pinays also tasted their first bite on the anime scene during this time as well, with the release of classic bishojo shows like Candy Candy, Ron Ron The Flower Girl, and classic stories turned into anime like Heidi or The Sound Of Music.

Voltes V led the real first wave of the anime revolution here in the Islands in 1978.

While then President Ferdinand Marcos banned the broadcasting of Voltes V and other similar anime shows from the airwaves in 1979, on the pretense that these shows were a bad influence to the traditional values of our youth, I believe this act contributed to his downfall and the reemergence of democracy, because of the youth of the late ‘70s became the young adults of the mid ‘80s, and the spearhead of the People Power Revolution of 1986, which toppled the strongman and brought the light of freedom back to our lands. The release of restrictions to the airwaves announced the arrival of high quality TV programming not just from local networks, but from international companies as well, and from Japan came the return of anime genre, in stronger force.

The first two anime that attracted me in the Post-People Power days were the classic Astro Boy (Tetsuwan Atomu) and the legendary mecha epic Super Dimensional Fortress Macross (Chō Jikū Yōsai Makurosu), both started being shown on local TV late1986 to early 1987.

Astro Boy is the old-time favorite story of the robot boy seeking his own kind of humanity, as he protects the Earth and the humans he had come to love, even though prejudice still came from some sectors of his society.

Macross was the innovative show that reintroduced the love for robots and robot toys to the youth, as well as a great space opera and real robot genre in the same league as its equally legendary contemporary, Mobile Suit Gundam (Kidou Senshi Gundam) . I also read that Macross greatly influenced the use and acceptance of the term “otaku” in the international pop culture scene, removing the derogatory taint the term first endured from more traditional and conservative circles. Macross also started the trend of transformable robots, as well as singing pop idols as characters, complete with original songs, in Lynn Mimay.

A classic space opera, Macross introduced Pinoys to collectible toys, animated love triangles, and a cute songstress in Lyn Minmay who sang her way to our hearts.

Behind Astro Boy and Macross, the second wave of anime began showing in our shores. While not truly anime, the Transformers and G.I. Joe – Real American Hero cartoons of the late 80’s were of a scope similar to anime, and generally accepted by the otaku culture as such. Voltes V and its contemporaries made a well-received and anticipated return to Philippine TV as well. Shows from Japan like Voltron, Dragonball Z (Doragon Bōru Zetto), and Sailor Moon (Bishōjo Senshi Sērā Mūn) were catapulted into our screens, helped along by the availability of VHS and Betamax copies of these animes, even in a limited level of reach of the mass media. Sailor Moon also helped introduce anime to a Pinay youth fanbase, since before its broadcast here, anime was considered the exclusive domain of the male TV viewer.

Sailor Moon introduced the magical princess genre to Philippine TV, and opened the way for young girls here to fall in love with anime.

The 1990s gave rise to the modern generation of anime, with the release of such classics as Neon Genesis Evangelion, Tenchi Muyo, Yu Yu Hakusho, After War Gundam Wing, Pokemon, Slam Dunk, You’re Under Arrest and Samurai X (Ruruoni Kenshin) , but while shows were seen here, anime was still slight limited in scope in our pop culture. But the movement for fully embracing the anime wave with the local youth was now starting to move with a force unknown like before, and it was catapulted to the mainstream with explosion of two new outlets of media and entertainment – cable television and the Internet.

The arrival of cable television brought anime out of the sub-culture that was secretly flourishing and slowly introduced it to the Filipino homes of the ‘90s. Several international channels began showing cartoons and anime shows on a regular basis, and the youth (and young adults like me) were being more exposed to the media and coming to accept them. The free nature of the Internet opened anime more to us, giving us an outlet not only to watch the shows from Japan on a quick and cheaper basis, but also the means to comment and critique these shows as well. Truly no other two media has helped bring anime to the acceptance of local pop culture.

Samurai X (Ruruoni Kenshin) was a staple anime of Philippine cable television in the mid- to late-90’s.

The new millennium heralded the arrival of anime to the mainstream, beginning with the introduction of newer anime, anime merchandising, anime conventions, and all-anime channels on cable TV. Year 2000 also signaled the beginning of the Wireless Generation, where tech gadgets, first thought of as the exclusive domain of geeks and nerds, became mainstream, and being a techie was a badge of pride among the youth’s peers. The Otaku was now an accepted part of pop culture here in the Philippines.

There was also a boom in anime toys entering the market – toys connected with a specific show and their characters. Merchandise from shows such as Pokemon, Digimon, Let’s Go, Zoids, Beyblade and super sentai shows filled stores and put smiles on the face of Pinoy kids during their birthdays or holidays. And not only the kids enjoy these toys – even grown-ups got hooked with these wondrous little figures and curious items the young were playing with.

The Pokemon revolution started a new anime toy revolution during the start of the new millennium.

The arrival of HERO TV, the first Tagalog-dubbed anime cable channel in the Philippines, marked the current high point of anime and otaku culture in our land, as well as a easy alternative programming for locals from the other established anime and cartoon channels. Back by an established institution filled with experience and integrity in the realm of mass media, HERO TV was firmly positioned to win the hearts of Pinoy otakus young and old alike, with the use of the language we all know and love to bring the stories alive in front of our eyes.

The interest in media of anime encouraged other otaku interests, such as toy collecting, manga, cosplay and the like to flourish in our free media. Excellent animes like Naruto, Mirumo De Pon (Wagamama Fearī Mirumo de Pon!) and Yakitate Japan were now available to the general public to view, and more and more animes of high quality, like Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, Code Geass, School Rumble, Lucky Star and The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya are easily watched on other mediums.

Kids now openly shout out with pride that they are in a love affair with anime and are true otakus, whether, according to sci-fi author William Gibson, in his article about the modern otaku in The Observer Magazine from the United Kingdom, the Modern Boy who takes pride in being an otaku or imitate the cool traits of bishounen characters in the anime shows, or the Mobile Girl whose interest in all things techie gives her access and entertainment to things normally reserved for the most reserved of men.

The showing of anime such as Naruto heralded the start of the Golden Age of Anime here in the Philippines.

I consider myself a Modern Boy Otaku – even if I come from a career path that’s steep with tradition and conservative values, I accept my reality that the Otaku inside me is someone I am proud to be. While it might seem strange for some of you that a thirty-something like me is an otaku and love anime like you, don’t judge me as the only one and a rarity. There are a lot of grown men like me that have come to accept anime and the otaku lifestyle in general, and still be responsible fathers, brothers and friends to young kids like you. We all like to enjoy our anime as well.

Once, being considered as an otaku was degrading for someone, including the youth of a generation ago in Japan. An otaku was considered someone without the drive to succeed in the accepted world, yet obsessed with things considered shadowy and perverse in some societies. Indeed, being an otaku was once considered criminal, but thanks to the open minded free thinking of the past few generations, the revolution in information technology and its progressive impact to our daily lives and the critical acclaim recent anime productions and their acceptance in mainstream media, the life of the otaku has changed for the better. Clearly, we who embrace this lifestyle, even here in the Philippines, carry this social existence with pride and a smile.

We are currently living in arguably the Golden Age of Anime and otakus here in the Philippines, and I envy all of you young ones – you have all the time and chances in the world to enjoy your youth to the fullest in this day and age. But I am thankful that in my thirty-something years of my life, I grew up in the same time that anime grew up here in the Philippines. And I see anime likes a pretty and intelligent lady going thru the rigors of her young life – from its humble beginnings and troubled youth, to its grand debut and full maturity into Pinoy mainstream society.

Author’s Notes

Azrael Coladilla is a self-proclaimed artist/techie from Pasig City. You can read his research on the history of anime shows here in the Philippines at his blog.

William Gibson is a science fiction author, who contributed an article about the modern otaku youth in Japan and the whole world in The Observer Magazine.

All the research materials I used from their sites are their own work and I take no credit for them.

For questions, topic suggestions and rants, please feel free to comment after this post.


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