Your Mom Knows Pikachu

Zach Fornelli, Staff Member

 Pictured: Boden Reardon; Photo by: Zach Fornelli

        As the years have gone by, anime has become much more mainstream. It’s gone from something that only the “geeky” kids watch, to a genre that you’ve been exposed to time and time again. But just how has it evolved into the pop culture phenomenon that we know today?  

        The first anime to have been dubbed in English was “The Gignator” in 1964, but nothing really took off until over 20 years later. The 1990s saw many huge successes in America among the likes of “Dragon Ball Z”, “Sailor Moon”, and of course “Pokemon”. Around this time Cartoon Network began broadcasting anime on its channel Toonami, and this was many kids’ first experience with the genre. The early 2000s shot anime even further into the American public eye with the likes of “One Piece”, “Naruto”, and “Bleach”. 

        Around this time there was an ongoing epidemic of “Americanization” of popular anime. This is where English dubbing studios, such as 4Kids, would make major changes to an anime to “better fit its American audience”. One of the most notorious examples would be in the 1998 version of “Pokemon”, where Brock, one of the main cast members, holds up a rice ball and describes it as “a jelly-filled donut”. This led many anime enthusiasts around this time to detest the Americanized version of these shows, but since they were targeted toward children, it didn’t make too much of a difference. In the 2010s Nicktoons began broadcasting “Dragon Ball Z Kai”, “Yu-Gi-Oh!”, and “Digimon”, all of which found massive success on the channel. 

        But around that time if you showed interest in anime, you would mainly be met with weird looks and sighs. In this era, it was something that only nerds were into and was deemed  uncool. However, as the kids that were exposed to anime at a younger age, whether that be on Cartoon Network, Nicktoons, or other platforms, started to grow up it was more acceptable to be open about it. 

        That leads us to where we are today, where any mom across the nation can name Pikachu, and even some parents have watched one or two anime. But just how many high schoolers have seen one, maybe two, well how about over 200? Senior Boden Reardon who, like many others, grew up watching “Pokemon” and “Dragonball” on Cartoon Network, and now has seen 211 different anime.

        “Pretty much all my friends watch anime,” Reardon said, “I’ve even made new friends here over a mutual interest in anime.”

        It’s not surprising considering the sheer number of genres and subgenres associated with anime, that you can find a connection with someone over your favorites.

        On the flip side, there are many who have never been interested in the genre, senior Sam Safly and junior Nick VanDeventer, are among those.

        “You know,” Safly said, “I’ve tried getting into anime, but I never could get into it.”

        Both Safly and VanDeventer agree that they prefer shows with real actors as they can feel more connected to the show.

        “It’s more relatable when it’s real life,” VanDeventer said, “sometimes in anime, their facial expressions just annoy me.”

        Reardon was then asked if there were any anime that everyone, regardless of opinion on the genre, could enjoy.

        “Any Studio Ghibli film,” he said, “if I had to pick one, I would say Spirited Away, anyone can enjoy Spirited Away.”

        This is reflected as Spirited Away was the first anime to win an Oscar for best-animated film in 2003. Reardon also mentioned Avatar the Last Airbender as a good jumping-off point. Avatar is an American animated TV show but done in the style of anime at the time, it’s also Safly’s favorite show of all time.

        “Watch Avatar the Last Airbender,” Safly said, “it’s an amazing journey and you won’t regret it.”

        While VanDeventer has some experience with anime in the form of 1998’s “Cowboy Bebop” and 2002’s “Naruto”, he’s never been super invested.

        “I mainly watched Naruto with my brother,” VanDeventer said, “he was super into it, but I just thought it was alright.”

        Both Safly and VanDeventer were then asked to recommend any show or movie that they think can be enjoyed by anyone. Safly recommended Avatar the Last Airbender, while VanDeventer recommended the film “When the Levees Broke”.

        Since Reardon has seen over 200 different anime, he can accurately differentiate good qualities from bad ones.

        “It has to very carefully choose a concept,” he said, “it can’t just be the same few plots over and over again”

        Asking Safly and VanDeventer the same question, but about TV shows and movies, they agreed with the lack of a unique plot but also added some of their own ideas.

        “There’s a lot of cringe,” Safly said, “they’re trying to be funny, but it just falls flat”

        While VanDeventer shared a similar sentiment.

        “Marvel movies,” VanDeventer said, “or really just any kind of superhero stuff nowadays.”

        Since shows and movies are releasing at a rapid rate as of late, it’s important to make your film engaging in order to stand out.

        “Boring camera work too,” Safly goes on to say, “even if it’s beautiful quality if it’s not interesting, I don’t care.”

        All three students agreed that over 70% of the school population has seen at least 3 different anime.

        What does this say about the current landscape of anime in high school? It shows that although Reardon, Safly, and VanDeventer don’t necessarily share the same common interests, they were able to find a group of friends that are interested in what they’re into.


That’s what makes our current high school environment so accessible today, there’s a click for every interest, you just need to find your people.