I had to crack up watching the latest Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife educational video about not feeding wildlife.
The spokeswoman for the WDFW? A cute little anime girl in a ranger uniform. When I watched it, all I could think of, “Oh, my gosh, anime has now taken over Washington state government. When will it stop?”
It’s a very cute little video with kawaii animals and it showed to be just how deeply Japanese culture is becoming a part of Western culture.
I became a fan of anime for a while about 30 years ago. It began when I stumbled into a movie theater in downtown Seattle in about 1990 that was showing a movie called “Akira.” I knew nothing whatsoever about this film, I just thought the poster looked interesting. It turns out Akira is an absolute 2 1/2-hour-long assault upon the senses that manages to be as intense and terrifying and ultra-violent as any Hollywood film I’ve ever seen.
And it’s a cartoon.
I was hooked. Back in those days, every new anime seemed to be even more ultra-violent than the last, trying to outdo Akira and each other for gross-out factor. I won’t even try to describe in words the kinds of things I’ve seen. 1980s and 1990s anime are notorious to this day for being insanely violent.
Fortunately, anime stepped back from that abyss a bit (though Hellsing Ultimate and Afro Samurai are both fairly recent and both pretty blood-soaked), I think partly due to a guy named Hayao Miyazaki, who made a bunch of hugely successful kids’ movies such as “My Neighbor Totoro” and “Spirited Away”. Spirited Away, if you’ve never seen it, is one of the most amazing hand-drawn animated films ever made. I highly recommend it. Though it’s meant for kids, this movie would have terrified me when I was 6 years old. Maybe kids are tougher today.
I don’t watch anime as much today as I did for about 10 years, but will still enjoy a new one now and again. A new one called Dorohedoro on Netflix was exceptionally weird and interesting.
But, like the WDFW video, I see how anime has influenced animation you see both on television and at the theatre. American cartoons now look more and more like anime-style cartoons. “The Matrix” and “Avatar” were heavily influenced by anime. “Inception” seemed loosely based on a Japanese anime called “Paprika.”
This week, we’re all going to enjoy watching Shohei Ohtani take the baseball world by storm at the Major League Baseball All-Star game. This guy has already hit 33 home runs this season and this weekend, I saw him hit a jaw-dropping home run into the upper deck at T-Mobile Park. I believe it was measured at something like 460 feet. Oh, and he’s also 4-1 as a pitcher with an ERA of 3.49, the best two-way player in baseball since Babe Ruth. Seriously, no one has done anything remotely close to what Ohtani is doing since 1919.
Last week, I was pretty angry over Stephen A. Smith saying something the effect that it was bad for baseball to have Ohtani as the face of the sport because he doesn’t speak English (Actually, he does, he just prefers using an interpreter.). It’s not the first time Smith has said something idiotic — this is the same guy who once said sometimes women provoke their partners into beating them up while he was defending a football player accused of domestic assault.
Where Smith is so wrong is, like many of you, I remember how much Ichiro-mania gripped the Pacific Northwest 20 years ago. Ichiro was great for the Mariners, he was great for the Pacific Northwest, he was great for baseball overall.
Locally, there have been several Japanese and Korean players for the men’s and women’s soccer teams at Peninsula College. Especially among the men, the Asian players are fun to watch. They bring a lot of flair and joy into their game.
I embrace the influx of other cultures into the West, into our local soccer scene and, yes, even into the little WDFW videos.
Sports Editor Pierre LaBossiere can be contacted at [email protected]