This may come as a surprise to you, considering that I’m a skinny, middle class, white kid who grew up in the suburbs, but I went through a period of my life where I loved anime.
I was never one to compare anime to Western animation, as most of my friends did. “It’s not cartoons. It’s anime,” they would say, as they tried to justify being so engaged with something that many of my peers had written off as childish. I remember this first being an issue in Sixth Grade, the grade where you had to officially start liking girls, or you would be mocked.
The mindset of a Sixth Grade boy is extremely simple. If you’re not trying to actively make out with girls, you don’t like girls. Thus, you are so, so gay. How gay are you if you don’t start pursuing girls with a vicious, awkward fervor in Sixth Grade? You are Get Called A “Faggot” Repeatedly-level gay. You are Get Punched In The Back Of The Head On The Bus-level gay. You are so gay that people absolutely have to call you out for being gay. I have never seen a person that was so overbearingly gay that I felt the need to embarrass him in public, but maybe that’s just because I didn’t take offense to liking anime in the Sixth Grade.
My friend Dustin had just drawn a picture of Vegeta, a popular character from the Dragon Ball Z series that you might remember from a meme passed around until the United Nations officially banned it from the internet, and had passed it around to a few friends in class. You know, in JAWS, when Chief Brody is tossing chum out of the back of the Orca, and the shark bursts out of the water, leading him to say “We’re gonna need a bigger boat”? Drawing pictures of anime characters was that chum, and the shark was every kid who had made it their active duty to feel as if getting a date to the middle school fall dance made them a romantic Tyrannosaur.
Dustin’s defense? “It’s not cartoons. It’s anime.”
We’re gonna need a better interest.
Before I go any further, I am not going to compare anime to Western animation. Because, and I’m sorry about this, anime, but in a battle between you and Batman: The Animated Series, you will lose.
Fast forward eight years and I am in college, still kind of enjoying anime. I had a roommate, Zack, who really dug it too, and one of our bonding points was a mutual love of series that we’d liked in middle/high school, like Outlaw Star, One Piece, and Yu Yu Hakusho. We would occasionally catch up on episodes from time to time, but aside from an entire summer (I’m not kidding. It was a whole summer. Wasted? No. Misguided? Very possibly), spent watching the entirety of One Piece, we never quite matched the intensity that we’d had earlier in life.
Until we discovered, and subsequently twice rediscovered, Jump Ultimate Stars.
Jump Ultimate Stars was a game for the Nintendo DS that featured characters from manga found in the Shonen Jump anthology magazine. Like all great games, it was based around the concept of “What if we took things that people really liked and made them fight?”, and every time Zack and I saw this, we’d get really excited about it. We first found videos of it on YouTube, and after discussing all the possibilities of ordering a copy from Amazon, we’d never put forth the effort to actually do that. We were too lazy to click three buttons in order to purchase something we’d dreamed of since childhood.
This cycle repeated twice: us finding out about Jump Ultimate Stars and becoming enthralled with the idea of it, and then not doing anything about it. Jump Ultimate Stars was released in 2006. We found out about it in 2008. I tell you this because, usually, people reach our level of Jump-citement when the game is a new one. This game was a few years old when we first heard about it, and it would be seven-years-old when one of use finally bought a copy.
I found it in a used book store, overpriced (but really, can you put a price on…love…), and bearing a sticker that read “JAPANESE IMPORT.” I immediately took a picture of it and texted Zack about it. After a few suspenseful minutes, I got his response:
“Mother of God.”
My 3DS was sitting in the seat of my car and I ran out to get it, so that I could make sure that it was playable on a North American 3DS and not region-locked. The cashier of the store, wary as to why a tall, grey-haired adult was about to faint in the presence of a game with a bunch of You-gee Ohs on the cover, let me test it. The logo popped up on the 3DS menu. It worked! I played for thirty seconds, just to be sure, and then I bought it.
And now, a quick review, in two parts.
One) This game is very fun. It plays really smoothly, and there are a ton of options to choose from. Don’t let the next part fool you. I really like this game. Seven years well spent.
Two) I know no Japanese. Thus, the game is incomprehensible until you figure out patterns that help you recognize what it is that you are doing. This is cool, as it turns me into a detective, trying to figure out all the clues that will lead me to where the fun is at.
It’s only a problem when there are certain objectives that I have to accomplish. Sometimes, you don’t win a fight when you’ve beaten the other characters. Sometimes, you have to use a different move on each one, or sometimes, you have to break down all the walls of an arena. Since I don’t know Japanese, this leaves me frustrated, and playing a level over and over again, hoping that I get lucky enough to win by happenstance. Once again, this doesn’t hamper my enjoyment of it. It only makes me work for it.
I just hope no sixth graders see me playing it.
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