Friday, May 23, 2008

See you in a few days, Blog Pals... Anime calls!

Greetings Blog Pals,
I'll be signing off for a few days, until Monday, May 26. I'm going with my kids to a convention in Toronto called Anime North. It's also known as "Canada's premier fan-run anime convention." Ooh boy, I can hardly wait! My son and daughter and all of their pals are way into the Japanese animation known as anime. In fact, they can't get enough anime. On our cable TV, we have two -- count 'em, two -- anime on demand television channels. Frankly, I don't quite get the appeal of anime. I watch these shows with my kids and most of the time I can't figure out what in the hell is going on (which, I suppose, is the story of my life -- but we won't go there). I've been told that anime fans are really hardcore. They love the art form: the giant, watery eyes; the V-shaped faces, the tiny slits for mouths; the insane hair. The tens of thousands of fans who will converge on Toronto for Anime North dress up as their favorite anime characters. It should prove to be quite a surreal experience.

Back when I was a kid, growing up in suburban Southern California and Utah, the only anime we had was Speed Racer (above). (Later, Speed Racer was joined by another early anime show, Battle of the Planets, an outer space epic that depicted the adventures of G-Force) Speed Racer, of course, has been made into a live-action film and it's currently packing 'em in at multiplexes around the world. But I have such warm memories of the show -- of Speed racing around in his powerful Mach 5; Pops Racer (Speed's dad and mechanic) shouting all his lines; the irrepressible Spritle and Chim Chim offering the comic relief; Trixie, hovering around in her helicopter; the mysterious Racer X, who always saved Speed's rear end when the going got tough -- that I can't bring myself to see the movie.

But anime has changed over the years. It has gotten to be more complex -- bordering on incomprehensible. I can't follow the plots. The dialogue is strange. The storylines are convoluted. I have to admit, it just doesn't do it for me. Give me Tex Avery (1908-1980) -- the genius behind Droopy, Bugs Bunny and Screwy the Squirrel (right). Now there was a cartoon god!

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