AV MOD MATERIAL: The Anime Fan's Experience in Africa

| Sunday, August 18, 2013

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AV MOD MATERIAL: The Anime Fan's Experience in Africa

  • How did you get into anime?
Samurai X - one of my first anime series
Samurai X - one of my first anime series

I have been into anime for a while now, even if I didn't know it. I used to watch the flying house cartoons on TV as a kid, aware that they looked a little different from Courage the Cowardly Dog and the like. I began noticing the existence of anime with Dragon Ball Z. The TV package only had a few hours ofCartoon Network available so I could only catch the trailers and previews of upcoming episodes, and we would discuss them for hours at school. That was before we knew that the Samurai X cartoon we had been watching on a local channel was an anime.

Everyone used to watch Samurai X, even those not into "cartoons." Not long after, I think I was about 11 or 12, we had a Japanese movie festival at the only cinema at that time. I remember watching Cyborg 009around that time, and I was blown away. I was determined to find anime somewhere in the country, but most video libraries didn't even have basic cartoons at that time.

The first anime that ever caught my attention after that was Naruto. That was after Dragon Ball Z had ended, and I had yet to see it or the other anime that I was intrigued by, Digimon. The 14-year-old fellow that introduced Naruto to me told me that it was anime. I would sneak peeks of trailers during computer lessons, and on Saturdays, I would download five minute clips of episodes at a cafe that my brother and I would watch when I got back, but it was tough because the internet was slow as heck, and it took all day.

My first anime, that I actually watched, minus trailers and putting the pieces together with Wikipedia, was Avatar: the Last Air Bender. That was when I knew I was watching anime. Before I could only guess that Samurai X and Astro Boy (the first two anime series I ever watched) were a little different from Static Shock and other cartoons I watched.

From Avatar, I never stopped watching anime. By then I was in university, so I had money to spend on anime, and I was surprised to find means of accessing anime available to me.

  • How did you view anime and fans who love anime?
VHS Tapes - relics of the ages
VHS Tapes - relics of the ages

Back then, we didn't know anime was anime. There was this Japanese kid at my school that had VHS tapes of old Digimon episodes. He wasn't so generous with them, so we would satiate our hunger with his stories. We always thought that whatever these strange looking cartoons were, they were more than cartoons and better. While everyone loved Samurai X, most people were not quick to advertise that they watched anime, or "cartoons" as they generalized them back then. I knew four or five other kids that loved cartoons. After each school holiday (the only time I had access to pay TV), we would discuss all the cool cartoons we had seen in those four weeks. There was always a mention of Astro Boy, Digimon, and Pokemon, but we didn't know it was anime. There was this one DBZ fanatic who would regale us with stories of his Budokai gaming. It was irritating to listen, but we would play along and pretend we knew what he was talking about. Basically among those who watched cartoons, it was cool if you knew something about anime and had watched some of it.

There is this famous radio presenter that loves anime. I remember he wrote an article on anime in the leading newspaper years when I was 16. Suddenly, there were more people curious about cartoons after this 'non geeky' individual spoke so passionately about cartoons. In that article, I found out about new titles such as Bleach and Ninja Scroll, and it confirmed that these cartoons are anime.

Right now, anime receives less scorn and, for young people anyway, it is looked upon as some niche hobby that some people get while others do not. I believe there is one TV channel in Africa, that I know of, that broadcasted anime; I say Africa because the pay TV company we used here in Uganda, East Africa, is available throughout the continent. It is widely used by most TV viewers. I believe the channel is called Sony, but I don't remember. It is only available in South Africa, which i used to find irritating back when I had no internet access.

  • Relating to an article (Why is Anime Invisible in Britain) I found, did you think anime made it back to mainstream? Feel free to talk about censorship.
Typically, fans here want more uncensored gore than ecchi
Typically, fans here want more uncensored gore than ecchi

It's funny that you are talking about anime making it back into the mainstream because it's getting popular here. The reason so many video libraries now have some anime is because they are picking up on the secret, that many youth out there are starting to watch this new thing called anime. Since we're just starting to get into anime, we are far off before worrying about anime losing its luster.

It is only picking up speed. We are introducing more people to anime each and every day. As far as censorship goes, most anime fans I have come across are infuriated when their favorite manga makes it to anime, and it gets censored. Older generations of anime viewers (quite a few of them to my surprise) will tend to advocate for more gore and the like in their anime and I have known a few to criticize mainstream anime for being too soft.

Though, it is the rare anime fans that will call for more nudity in anime. In fact, most find it unnecessary, though that doesn't stop them from watching anime. Most fans I have met have no interest in hentai or any anime that strays too close to hentai. We basically learn anime from each other. Anyone that learns something new, a new manga or anime, they post it for the rest of us to read and watch.

Personally I only care that an anime adaptation stays true to the manga material. So long as that happens, I am cool. Personally, I believe that anime is not even close to finishing in the rest of the world. Maybe there is a lull, probably due to the economy, but once Hollywood picks an interest in the material we will see a boom.

  • Have you been to an anime convention? How was it? (I don't think there's an anime convention in Africa. You can ignore this one if you like.)

We don't have conventions in Africa, but we have meetings. I am part of this anime/manga club on Facebook. Every month we meet in a restaurant and talk about anime, manga, movies, though the main focus is to exchange manga and anime that we have collected in the month. Truthfully, I attended for the first time two weeks ago, but from what I have heard the numbers vary, from a dozen or so the last time i was there, to a few hundred in some meetings. It is a fun meeting of similar minds. I actually didn't know that there was anyone who watched anime outside of the class I lost contact with after high school, in this country.

I discovered the Facebook group through a rumor my brother told me and from there, I found the anime group online. These meetings aren't conventions but, as per your question, my first time was fun. We discussed movies, specifically Pacific Rim and whether it was better than man of steel which turned out to be better than Star Trek for hours. We also considered the future of Naruto based on the current chapter while comic fans discussed the latest issues. David, one of the members, is usually up to date with all the comics on a weekly basis. There were arguments over who should get to his hard drive first while others discussed age of Ultron and Darkseid, a recent story line i think.

I went specifically to get anime that i hadn't yet been able to finish, especially Hunter X hunter and doctor who, but it was so fun i think i will attend this month. Another group that i am a part of, comic ambition as they call themselves, is also making plans to stage a conventions of sorts, inspired by what we do for manga, though they are more focused on comics. But, we are trying to convert them.

  • What is your buying experience like for anime and manga? Do you do it publicly or online?
Video Libraries are one of the main accesses to anime in Africa
Video Libraries are one of the main accesses to anime in Africa

Anime is more common in the country than manga these days. Most video libraries have a section for cartoons and there is a considerable number of anime scattered within. There are no actual official stores for anime and manga though, as most DVD libraries pirate their merchandise. We used to have a comic store once but it vanished 15 years ago or so. Now, i get all my anime online. Back in university i didn't have access to internet. So i relied on Pay TV and DVDs. Eventually i run into an old friend of mine that proved willing to download anime and burn it on DVD for me.

I have internet access now, but I cannot afford the few hundred dollars required for an unlimited package a month. So I depend on my friend. I meet him every 6 to 8 weeks, and he delivers to me a rack of 13-20 DVDs which I pay later. I do not contact him. I assumed he will keep downloading anime till he has a considerable amount because he eventually contacts me to say he has some new anime. The costs used to vary back then. I remember paying him the equivalent of $30 for 100 episodes of Bleach. However, he charges me a flat rate of about $6 for each DVD of usually 6 or 7 episodes, though that depends on the number of episodes he had downloaded. I do not pay him for any DVD with less than 3 episodes though, but that doesn't apply to movies. With prices for internet at the moment, i can afford to pay about $50 for about 20 GB a month so I will watch anime online if anything particular catches my eye, but I don't download.

I have seen a manga once. A month or so ago, a member of my anime group was gifted with two One Piece volumes by a couple of visiting Chinese friends of his. People rushed to ogle at them at the next anime meeting and many were putting up some serious bids to get their hands on them. But there is no manga what so ever in this country. We all read manga from the internet, mostly from pirated sites, as few of us have the necessary accounts to make payments online. Not that those means are not available. But I have been waiting for a month to get a Mastercard from my bank and I suppose I will be waiting for a while longer. No one is willing to go through the hassle of signing up with Paypal and the like to legally access manga.

Though, manga's popularity is climbing steadily. Most people know what comics are. The major book store in the country has a comic book rack, but most people have never heard of manga, so when they encounter it, they are immediately fascinated by how different it is. But Manhwa is more popular because it is colored. Comic fans have a problems converting to colorless media. From what i have heard from friends who are well traveled, manga and anime are available in stores in South Africa, but they do not go further out into the continent.

(referring to the convention question)

Actually, I think they have conventions in South Africa as well. But most members of the anime group, I have spoken to have shown willingness to buy manga and anime legally to support their favorite shows if there were easily accessible ways to do so. Or at least they said so the last time I wrote a blog about it. The response was positive.

  • What are your views on Japanese culture?
How anime portrays Japanese culture and how much is really real?
How anime portrays Japanese culture and how much is really real?

If you ask most anime fans in this country where they would love to go to if they could travel, they will say Japan. As anime fans, we are fascinated by Japanese culture. My brother and I recently took up watching Super Sentai after seeing the post in Anime Vice, and we were shocked to watch live action Japanese characters spouting off the same sort of lines we had only heard in anime. It was eye opening.

We are always discussing amongst ourselves what Japan is like in real life, exactly how much of what we see in anime is based on the real Japanese world and what Japanese people are really like. I have had discussions like that with some people from Comic Ambition. The group members are mostly interested in trying their luck at the comic industry (hence the name), so we have had discussions about what to take away from the Japanese culture: how much of anime is based on real Japanese life and how much of that style brings out the culture.

So far, you could say we are impressed. We are always talking about how quirky the Japanese seem in anime, their obsession with politeness, this thing they call the delinquent and so on. It is an interesting subject that keeps us occupied. It isn't rare to find the odd member throwing Japanese phrases around from watching anime.

  • Is anime popular in Africa?

People love Naruto and One piece here. If you meet anyone here that watches anime, it is Naruto and One Piece that they will speak of first, which is why the video libraries are chock full of Naruto, One Piece and Bleach. They were also quick to latch onto Last Airbender. My sister doesn't watch anime. I have been trying to get her to watch anime for a while now. But she absolutely loved Avatar: the Last Airbender, she watched it over and over.

So I will say that the people that love anime here really really love it. Links to the latest episode of Shingeki no Kyojin are disseminated the moment it is released. And more people seem to have time to post about anime on Facebook in the middle of the day when they should be working, and they are not all like me, with free time at work. Most people now are more fascinated by anime rather than scorning at it as they used to.

Sure they say that we anime fans are weird, but it isn't a bad sort of thing, though my sister does frown at the amount of money I spend on anime. There is a place for anime in Africa, there is no doubt about that, and programming these days on cartoon channels are laced with some anime. Even the local channel will show Yugioh once in a while.

But I wouldn't say we are in love in anime. It is more like Africa is waking up to anime. They know that there are those strange cartoons that look different from what they used to watch as kids. But they are still unsure as to what they are. Most of us will rush to the new cinemas whenever the Japanese film festival rolls, hoping to find some anime on the big screen. We are yet to be that lucky.

  • What anime should have aired in Africa, mainstream TV or online?

I do not think there is any specific preference we have with regards to anime. Actually, there are those fans who are old school and are always speaking of how much more mature anime used to be in the past. They pine for those old days and wish they could get anime in the mold of Fist of North Star and others.

Most of us just take what we see online. I for one do not make orders for anime from my contact. He knows I like Naruto so he ensures to deliver it once it piles up. But other than that, he gets what he wants and surprises me which it makes me anticipate each meeting I have with him. I never know what I will get, and it makes watching new anime that much more exciting.

I know a few fans of genres like Shojo and Josei which most fans I have spoken to simply do not get. For now though, we do not care what we get here in Africa so long as it is good anime. I don't think anyone has a specific preference.

About the Author

Katmic is a (hopeful) computer expert, loves his anime and manga, with an interest in writing and a mild abhorrence for sports

Follow him at his blog: katmic.blogspot.com


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