On Anime and My Mother


Warning: don’t be fooled by the Clannad picture – my mother is nothing like Nagisa!

The first tip-off being that my mother was in her mid-thirties when she had me, not twenty like Nagisa.

The other day, I wandered into the kitchen around dusk, where my father and mother were discussing inanities of life such as whether the carpet needed to be cleaned and where the missing saucer for one of the teacups had gone. I waited for a break in the conversation, and then asked my father if he and my brother were going to the gun club that evening, and, if so, could I possibly come with them so I could go to the crafts store which was down the block. My father looked surprised; he couldn’t picture me frequenting such a place since I have a fairly established reputation as someone who crawls through mud for four days without showering, not someone who creates sweaters out of yarn or wreathes out of fake flowers. My mother also looked upon me with some confusion. They asked why, but I attempted to duck the question.

I managed to establish the fact that I could come along for the car ride without having to fully explain myself, but then it became clear that it was something I couldn’t avoid answering. I stood there, desperately trying to think of a way to excuse my actions, since I’ll readily admit I didn’t want them to know that their twenty year old daughter was dressing up to go to the anime convention. Unfortunately, in my hesitance, my father somehow managed to ferret it out without my evening saying anything, “Oh, you’re dressing up for the convention.” My mother sighed and said with a token stab at incredulity, “Really?”

My mother is a wonderful woman, although I believe this is a sentiment many people (although certainly not all) have in regards to their mother. She is also much more open-minded than I have found many of her generation to be, which I suspect has a large part to do with the fact that she happens to be a college professor. In fact, despite being a baby boomer*, she recently used graphic novels in her literature courses, and I have been attempting to foist To Terra… on her given her recent receptiveness to that form of literature.

I was sitting in the car with her sometime last week and commented about being excited for the convention, and she asked about some of my friends with whom I am going. I responded with some pithy facts, such as whether they still have the majors they started out with and where they live now, and then fell silent briefly. I then laughed and said to her, “Gee, your twenty year old daughter is going to a convention on cartoons!” She smiled a bit, although I forget her exact response, the up-shot of which was that although it amused her when put like that, it didn’t bother her.

My mother occasionally used to watch Sailor Moon with me when I was much younger, although back then she was very dubious as to the nature of the short skirts of the sailor senshi. She also watched Pokemon on occasion with myself and my brother (my poor father was the one who got stuck going with us to the Pokemon movies, three of four of which I believe I saw in theater… the latter two having left me as the oldest person in the theater who wasn’t their with their kids), although I can’t say it every exactly captured her imagination. My interest in these shows was regarded as any parent regards any commercial franchise in which their child takes note; I’m sure the reaction would’ve been the same had it been Spongebob Squarepants or the Rugrats.

However, my interest in anime only grew from there. Still my parents saw it as a phase through which I would pass, although my mother did find it slightly disturbing that suddenly many of my literary purchases hailed from the realm of manga.

And then it happened – they realized that it wasn’t just a stage in my maturation, but something which was here to stay. My mother remarked, with some bemusement, that I should get a job in the industry as I rattled on about the economics of the market and why certain things I liked would never get licensed because of it. Sometimes I believe she may’ve been right, although the recent contraction of the domestic market seems to serve to remind me otherwise.

As my mother had warmed to the fact that I was a fan for life (as far as we can extrapolate from anything in the present or recent past), I began to quietly suggest some anime for her, things we could watch together, such as Victorian Romance Emma (in part because I felt the attention to period detail and accuracy contained therein would appeal to my mother’s literary professor side), or even the perhaps-forgotten Princess Nine (which I hoped would appeal to my mother’s intense interest in baseball). And I did intend to try to watch these with her, but I never actually did, in part because I myself still felt a little leery of my hobby around her; quite simply, I was afraid she’d think some of the aspects of these shows were stupid, and I didn’t want to embarrass myself… granted, my mother never exactly pursued the thing with any vigor herself.

Quite a number of years later, my mother began tentatively poking around the graphic novels market, beginning with Persepolis, something deemed dignified enough to have been reviewed in the New York Times Book Review and the New Yorker, amongst other publications. She read its sequel, too, and so began her trek into the graphic novel world. When a friend of mine snidely stated that he believed Mouse trivialized the Holocaust because it used the comic format to tell its tale, my mother disagreed firmly, stating that the literary form can convey things in a way that written word alone cannot. I grinned into the sandwich I was eating, my mind already racing with ideas of what of my manga I could possibly recommend.

Sadly, as it turned out, very little, since my collection is disturbingly weighted down with BL, and much of the rest of it I simply cannot see my mother enjoying, but my three volumes of To Terra… are currently sitting in her ‘to-read’ pile. I also am in the process of downloading the first seven episodes of Cross Game as I am about to cajole her into watching them with me, since she loves baseball, and since I keep meaning to watch it myself – I might even succeed in convincing her since our favorite baseball team isn’t playing tonight!

Although I still am hoping I can manage to slip out of the house in cosplay unnoticed later this week…

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5 Responses to On Anime and My Mother

  1. Baka-Raptor says:

    Your mom sounds like my mom. She was just subbing in a third grade class and saw a kid drawing manga. Naturally, she had to inform me that I had the same hobby as third graders.

    My father doesn’t really care if I watch anime, as long as it’s free.

  2. kakiharaa says:

    Well, despite the baseball connection, I don’t know if cross game is the best choice to introduce some anime to your mom. I found the first episode to be too juvenile-too much like a buddy coming of age movie from the 90’s. The traditional art style was not impressive either. If you really want her to see what you see; don’t go for a TV series. Go with a movie or Very short OAV. Since you are self conscious about your fandom, you’d want to select a title without typical otaku BS. Also, as she is a woman a ton of fanservice, violence and blood will not impress her. Bitches seem to like Nodame, but it does not pack a lot of punch. What about girl who lept through time? or Mushishi? Baccano? Grave of the Fireflies? Princess mononoke?
    I have to stand by one of my favorites from Studio 4oC: Kemonozume. Aside from being fucking fantastic and short, it’s unique enough to escape the childish connotations of traditional anime while still retaining all of the best elements that one may hope to find in Anime.

    My mom’s pretty ambivalent about the hobby in and of itself. I did watch Paprika and Tekkonkinreet with her through. She seems cool with them. They are favorites of mine and very valid films. You could try one of those.

    On a side note, my dad has taken well to Anime fandom. I sparked his interest when to Otakon 7 years ago. He’s taken by sister, friends and I to several cons over the years. He has put together some pretty solid costumes-something I haven’t done. He also has a certain pride in his extensive VHS collection. In fact, he was my anime supplier before I really took off with torrents. He would rent anime from this anime rental shop and copy it on to VHS.

  3. ojisan says:

    As I read the phrase “intense interest in baseball’ I bebgan to bounce in my seat, chanting “Get her Cross Game! Get her Cross Game!” And if she likes it, get her Ookiku Furikabutte, which is a baseball-lover’s dream (and a subtle segue to your BL interests).

  4. Kairu Ishimaru says:

    My mom is better than your mom. Hurr durrrrrrrrr.

  5. kaki says:

    I don’t get it.

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