D.J. Lewis: Chronicles of an Anime Fan

Sometime between last Summer and now I talked about what shows I watched back in the 90’s that drew me to the current anime that I watch now. Long before A. Goldman and I created this blog I was a bit of a loner as a child, as during the time that I was growing up in the early 90’s I was never really exposed to any anime, nor did I have any friends that liked a lot of the same shows that I did. Back in 1993 at the tender age of four I was a huge Super Mario Bros. fan; I owned a Nintendo Entertainment System (that my mother bought for me), and logged in at least 30+ hours a week beating each level – especially the ‘most-hated’ water levels! At the time I was seven years old my mother bought cable (comcast to be exact), and every day after school I would come home and watch Cartoon Network. Back then there were shows like Scooby-Doo (the early 70’s version), Swat Katz, Tom & Jerry, and many others.

In 1997 I came home and turned on the TV to get ready to watch my favorite shows, and that’s when it happened. What happened on my screen would change my life forever. What happened on my screen is the reason why I am who I am today. That was the day that Toonami came to play! What I was watching didn’t look anything like the shows that I watched when I was four or five (which was Barney and Sesame Street at the time). The style looked different, as there were so many vivid colors and unusual hair styles on the characters. No one ever told me that what I was watching was anime, as the first show I found myself watching was in fact Tenchi Muyo. Up until my 10th birthday I found myself watching more and more shows on this action-packed cartoon block called Toonami, but by Fall of 2000 my mother found a brand new job located in the northwest district of Baltimore, Maryland.

We moved out of the Heldrey Square neighborhood right after the Baltimore Ravens won Super Bowl XXXV in 2001, as I found my new home in Reisterstown, Maryland. From there I went to school at Franklin Middle from 2001-2004, and during this time I was still in Dragon Ball Z mode before this new show came around called Naruto. Honestly I wasn’t a huge fan from the get-go because, well, I was still heavily into DBZ. It wasn’t easy making friends in middle school due to the fact that I had now found this thing called ‘anime’ and have fallen in love with it.

When it comes to middle and high school you’re automatically ‘placed’ in a social circle that fits everything that you like, dislike, and otherwise. I’ve seen all the movies and TV shows where the social status of both middle and high school students was stereotypically portrayed through four different groups; Jocks, Cheerleaders, Outcasts, and the Nerds. You can guess what clique I fell in.

During my 7th grade year I was still into anime, but I was also into shows like Dexter’s Lab, Ed, Edd, n’ Eddy (which is basically ‘The Three Stooges‘ for Millennials), and Samurai Jack! Due to my girth as a heavy-set Afro-American with High-Functioning Autism (HFA), I was picked on a lot to the point where I would have nervous breakdowns and threatened to hurt people because they wouldn’t leave me alone. Trying to fit in was a nightmare, as making/finding friends who liked anime as much as I did was very hard, and I feared that they would make fun of me if I was that one kid who like something that everyone else was unfamiliar with. That is…until my met my friend of 16 years who is my partner on this blog today!

Middle school was indeed tough, but watching anime and Toonami got me through some tough times – even throughout high school. Naruto taught me to never give up on my dreams, and DBZ showed me that with enough hard work, even the ones they consider ‘weak’ can surpass the ones they call ‘strong’. I never though that I would learn so much from anime, as many of the characters have gone through similar trials that I’ve gone through while growing up; such as being bullied in school, finding it hard to make friends who like the same things you do, and being excepted for who you are.

Anime was something different. It wasn’t like anything that I’ve seen before I found it, and they way that it told a story was far deeper than anything I could’ve ever imagined at the time of watching it. Now staring at the beginning of my 30’s I’m proud to call myself an anime fan, and because of that, I find myself seeing life from a whole different lens than I did when I was younger. (I’m not THAT old, guys! XP)

The best advice I could give you if you’re a younger fan going through the trials of middle and high school is to never give up! There may be people who will make fun of you for liking anime, but they can go suck rocks for all I care! Believe me when I say that it may be hard now, but it’s gonna get better! Anime to me was more than just a medium, it helped me find out where I belong, and that’s with awesome people like you!

This one is dedicated to all the awesome fans out there! Stay nerdy! 😉