In the past week or so, my cousin/roommate Funeral has gone on a massive Yuu Yuu Hakusho binge. Out of the blue, he decided that he wanted to finally complete the series and manga, and then proceeded to buy all four ‘seasons’ of the show and almost all of the books at once.
Now see, Yuu Yuu Hakusho was one of the first shows that Funeral and I became fans of when we got into anime back in 2001. We used to watch it on Cartoon Network all the time, and Funeral owned the two movies, however neither of us have seen any of it since, at the latest, 2004. Since then, both of us have developed tastes that are far different from those we had back then. Both of us have wondered how the hell we were able to enjoy some of the shows that we got into (Samurai Deeper Kyo, wtf?!), but there have still been a few things from back then that we’ve always loved (Cowboy Bebop, s-CRY-ed etc.) Still, Yuu Yuu Hakusho was hardly a choice I saw coming. Funeral is a film buff who has a deep love for anime, but his tastes tend to be more towards the mature shows, or at least the darker ones – he has a spot for light shows as well, but his true love is with anything either artsy or hilariously brutal. Of course, this meant I had to ask him, ‘really?!’ to which he replied “I’ve realized that I have an undying love for Yuu Yuu Hakusho.” And that got me thinking.
An ‘undying love’, huh? It got me thinking about things from my past. Things that I hadn’t watched in all these years, but had never actually come to dislike. Things that just sort of got left behind and were waiting to play catch-up. There are a lot of series from my early days as a fan that I knew I would still love, and have rewatched (or finished) in the past few years since I became a hardcore otaku. These include the aforementioned Cowboy Bebop and s-CRY-ed, as well as FLCL, Trigun (which I still haven’t finished rewatching, though I plan to this week), Hellsing, One Piece, and, of course, Neon Genesis Evangelion. But what about the shows that don’t seem so obviously up my alley? Is it really true that besides some particularly exceptional shows, my taste had completely changed since then?
I started thinking ‘what show do I have an ‘undying love’ for?’ What show have I always felt a lingering affection for over all these years? The first thing that seemed obvious was Rurouni Kenshin.
Kenshin was my favorite series for a good chunk of my early fandom, and there had never been a time that I came to dislike it as I did other old favorites such as Inuyasha and Naruto. Besides, the Tsuiokuhen OVA, while I don’t like to consider it quite the same thing, is still one of my favorites. However, my attempts to get back into Kenshin have failed several times. For one thing, the early episodes are really boring and uninteresting (I could skip to the Kyoto arc I guess, but that seems so cheap). For another, I cannot get used to Kenshin’s Japanese voice actress (I actually like his voice in the dub, but everyone else in the show sounds like shit, so that’s a bust too.) A while ago, I turned to the manga in hopes of getting into it that way, but after four volumes I found myself greatly disappointed. The manga felt like there was no heart in it. Watsuki’s notes in the back of chapters always suggested that he was making shit up on the spot and using whatever ideas his editor handed him, and this seemed to reflect on the pages. The characters were lifeless, like their stories and powers only existed for the story, and not to actually create an interesting character.
Disheartened by the manga to a point where I couldn’t continue, I thought again. There are a few shows from back then that I certainly think that I would still like. Yuu Yuu Hakusho is actually one of them, but along with the others, it’s not a series that I feel truly attached to. It’s not something I could say I had an ‘undying love’ for. I gave the phenomenon serious consideration, as this was not the first time I’d seen it. Inuyasha is a big one – I’ve met many people that have become aware of it’s flaws over the years and gotten angry at it for many things, but just can’t bring themselves to stop loving it because it has been such a big part of their lives. Maybe I’m even envious of them – it kind of hurts that series like Inuyasha and Naruto which were so very important to me at one time in my life are now shunned by me. But after a little soul-searching, I came up with what I think is the answer. I wasn’t sure about it at first, just because it was such an unlikely choice, and I wondered if my sheer desire to have a show like that may have swayed me, but I was ready to give it a shot. My ‘undying love’ is Yu-Gi-Oh!
The reason that I never continued to consider Yu-Gi-Oh in the way that I did other shows from my past is simply that, even back then, I didn’t quite think of it as I did other anime. To quote the post on my history of favorites:
“My Yu-Gi-Oh obsession, though, was more like my Pokemon one, in that it wasn’t so much associated with being my ‘favorite anime’ as just being a really awesome franchise.”
I still don’t think of my love for Pokemon (which is also undying) as a love for an ‘anime’ because there is so much more to the franchise than that. However, in these years as I’ve gotten over the Yugioh card game, I have always had an affection for the anime itself. I don’t think it’s just nostalgia – I am not much one for nostalgia. I am not the type who will get jizzed to play a video game from my childhood if that video game honestly sucked. (Maybe it’s just because I’m young.) Either way, there is something about Yugioh that resonates with me. It has an important place in my heart. I think that my love for strategy games was probably largely born from watching those intense duels. And Seto Kaiba has never stopped being one of my favorite anime characters. As a funny aside, the first website that I ever joined was a Yugioh forum, and the cheesy Yugioh-related password that I used on that site is still my master password for most sites. And I still smile if I think of what it means.
But I would not be able to make the commitment to sitting through 224 episodes of Yugioh if I wasn’t sure that I could do it. Even if Yuu Yuu Hakusho seemed like a weird choice for Funeral, it made sense when I broke it down. Funeral has always had an immense love for demons (which is why he made it through all of Devilman with babblefish subs) as well as a love for super powers (he’s always loved super hero comics and the like). Given these factors and the fact that Yuu Yuu Hakusho was one of his starter anime which he never came to hate, it’s not so surprising that he could still enjoy it (though it is surprising that he’s watched 35 episodes in like 5 days, which is a total speed record for him.) Just because I have a lot of fond memories of Yugioh and never came to dislike it doesn’t mean that I could actually handle watching it again – I needed proof that it was possible.
And I got it in the form of Yu-Gi-Oh 5D’s, the latest incarnation of the franchise which airs every morning on Cartoon Network while my little brother is getting up. I have no idea what the hell is going on in this show at any given time that I’ve seen it. The dub voices are godawful to an incredible degree, and the character designs are ridiculous. Plus, the card game hasn’t gotten much less deus-ex-machina driven than it ever was. And yet… somehow, when it’s on, I watch it. I sit down for the whole episode, giggling at the obnoxious voices and enjoying the fights. When I see it, there is still some function in my brain that goes ‘fuck yeah, Yugioh!’ and roots me in place. Considering this, I thought… if I can sit through this crap, surely I could easily have fun watching the original series in Japanese, right? And so, ready to take a chance and see how it goes, I somehow ended up with 42 gigs of Yugioh Duel Monsters.
So far, I’m ten episodes in, and it’s every bit as fun as it ever was to me. Kaiba is still a fucking badass, card games still rule, kickass monsters are still awesome (and now they have cooler names like ‘Black Magician’ and ‘Demon’), and Yugi makes a hell of a lot more sense when both of his ‘forms’ actually sound like the same guy lol. The best way to describe the experience is actually with the phrase Funeral used to describe his watching of Yuu Yuu Hakusho to me today: “It’s like… I don’t really know how to describe what I like about it… it’s not that there’s anything bad, but I couldn’t tell you why I like it so much – I just do.” Indeed I do.
So, how about you? Do you have any series that you unexpectedly have an undying love for? Tell me all about it!
By the way! I’m up for my third round in the Aniblog Tourney today! I promised Josh’s Anime Blog that I would beat him this round, so I’d be much obliged if you could give me a hand in doing so by heading over there and shooting me a vote! And while you’re at it, if you like my good friends at 2-D Teleidoscope and Ogiue Maniax, it would be really cool if you voted for them in each of their matches as well. The matches are close, so be sure to show your support before it’s too late!