Why’s there a picture of a frog? Surely a frog didn’t make me love anime. Well, for the unfortunate ones amongst you who don’t recognise who that is, I’ll give you an introduction: that little frog is The Gamma Planetary System, the 58th Planet, Space Invasion Army Special Tactics Platoon Leader, Sergeant Keroro (oh yeah, it’s one of those anime). And he is the reason I fell in love with anime.
You hear other people’s stories about anime start pretty similar with how they just accidentally started watching Yuu Yuu Hakusho, Dragon Ball, One Piece or any other of the big shounens. I think I must be the only person in the world who got introduced to the wonders of anime through a wacky green alien who would rather build his next Gundam toy than take over the world. The show wonderfully parodies the sci-fi genre and is honestly a breathe of fresh air when I watch it after experiencing a lot of these dark super serious creaturetakesovertheworld-type shows. Despite the show near the end of it’s run having 20-odd characters that appear in each episode the cast never feels overly bloated. The show really takes it’s time introducing each member of Keroro’s crew and the aliens and humans they befriend and each member of the cast shines whenever they are on screen. Even if all the episode focuses on is the supporting cast being shrunken so they can found out why Keroro has a toothache, it gives each character something to do that furthers their individual arc, show off their unique abilities and makes full use of the world it has built. Ever aspect of the show is fleshed out to it’s fullest and you never feel like you’re struggling to remember who a certain character is or what their relationship is with the other members of the cast.
Sometimes it seems like I’m the only person in the world to even have watched the show. It breaks my heart every time I see the number of people on MAL to have watched the anime or read the manga.
The first experience I had with Keroro and the cast were in the manga, strangely. That seems like a bit of a cop-out to say that I got into anime through manga, doesn’t it? I’ll probably write another post about how I got into manga in that case. It’s more of an interesting story/love-hate relationship. Sgt Frog (the English name of Keroro Gunso) was one of the first manga I actually bought a hard copy of and kept on buying the volumes until Tokyopop’s shutdown in 2011 meant I couldn’t find it anywhere. My thirst for more Keroro was satisfied once I found out that there was a long running TV show adaptation which had been airing episodes since 2004. After I binge-watched the whole series (all 350+ episodes) I knew I had found a medium that was special: Japanese cartoons. It wasn’t for another year until I found out they’re actually called anime and that anyone in the community will skin you alive if they hear you calling them cartoons. My journey into anime continued as I watched Polar Bear Cafe (twice), Chi’s Sweet Home and Shugo Chara. Looking back these three were less than stellar series but I absolutely adored them and I still feel a bit of nostalgia just typing their names, even if I no longer watch magical girl shows like Shugo Chara.
I think it must have been a short while after watching shows like those that I realised what shounens, shojos, etc. were and the differences between them. I started to think back to what I liked the most about Keroro Gunso; comedy and action. Thus started my love affair with shounen series. I vividly remember going through the action category on Crunchyroll and randomly clicking series that looked cool from the poster art. Shows like Reborn!, Eyeshield 21, Kuroko no Basuke and regrettably (*sigh* don’t judge I was young and everything was cool back then) Uta no Prince-sama. I’m embarrassed to say that I still watch that last one whenever a new series airs (which is almost every year at this poin- wait, what was that? They’re doing a season FIVE? Oh for fucks sake. Yes, of course I’ll be watching it).
But it was Kuroko no Basuke that truly became my second love in anime and almost shaped my real life in a way I would never have expected. It inspired me to play basketball and there was a brief time where I considered trying to make basketball into a future career. Alas times changed, however the magic of the show is still present whenever I turn on a sports anime and wish to be inspired like I was with Kuroko. Unfortunately Kuroko and friends never reached the same heights as Keroro and friends did upon further inspection. Perhaps if, like Keroro, the show labelled itself as a parody of the sports genre, what it did near the end with it’s characters would be considered clever. Instead near the end of the show Kuroko no Basuke turned into a mess of flashy lights and superpowers.
Now, this isn’t to say that when I look back on those first few anime I don’t feel overwhelming happiness and nostalgia, just that I’ve matured as a viewer. I don’t try and look at everything through only a critical lens but I know what a show has to do by now to make me ignore its flaws. It has to make me immersed. If I am so attached to the characters and the world that I’ll even watch a shitty adobe flash remake of the anime (I’m looking at you Keroro 2014) then you know you’ve done something right.