My first “real” anime

Rewatching Hellsing was a special moment for me. One that I had been putting off for a while because the thought of watching it made me genuinely nervous. Nostalgia is to blame for that—certainly—but not the usual flavor of it. Hellsing holds a special place in my heart because it was the first “real” anime that I ever watched. It’s the show that convinced me to delve deeper into this medium.

PHOTO: Seras aims a sniper rifle.

Back in the early-2000s, something terrible happened to me: I became a teenager. A tumultuous time for many and I was no exception. As a teenager, I was an angry, cynical little shit. I had opinions on just about anything and I dearly wanted those opinions to be taken seriously. And to achieve that, I needed other people to regard me as an adult.

I was eager to shed anything that I perceived as being too childish. Growing up anime and cartoons were interchangeable for me, so I effectively quit both. The last “cartoon” that I stuck around for was Shinzo. All the others including Pokémon, Digimon, and even Yu-Gi-Oh! I stopped watching way earlier than my peers. I wouldn’t finish some of these series until well into adulthood. In fact, I still haven’t seen Digimon.

PHOTO: Red and his rival holding their starting Pokémon.

As for gaming, I would only play “mature” games. I was addicted to the Medal of Honor games and later XIII, Freedom Fighters, Timesplitters. There was actually a time where I wanted to sell all my old Nintendo games because they were “too childish.” God bless my parents for not letting me do that.

This was all dumb teenager shenanigans, I think you’ll agree. I was still playing video games non-stop, but had convinced myself that was fine because I only played mature games. Almost dropping out of school over World of Warcraft isn’t childish… it’s alternate life experience. There were cracks in my logic all over; I wasn’t fooling anyone but myself. This came to a boiling point around 2006, I believe. Avatar started airing in The Netherlands and I got swept up in the hype.

PHOTO: Katara and Sokka on Appa's saddle.

This rekindled my interest in animation, but not in any way that I was open about. Friends had tried to get me into Naruto and later Bleach, both without success. I was drawn to the violence and cool aesthetics of these shows, but couldn’t stand their comedy and fanservice. I recall feeling uncomfortable because of this. These anime were clearly something I was enjoying, something that I could rationalize into accepting as entertainment for adults. Up until you get an entire episode of Naruto fleeing from a bunch of cows. Or you have to put up with the comedy teddy bear from Bleach whose name now eludes me.

This is where Hellsing entered the picture. The friend who convinced me to give Naruto a try listened to my apprehensions and said he might know a series I’d enjoy. I told him I doubted that, but listened to his recommendation all the same. I fired up Hellsing when I got home and… holy shit. This was it. Gorgeous animation, cool characters, violence aplenty, mature themes, and no silly cartoon bs anywhere. You didn’t get exaggerated faces or chibi versions of the characters, no comic relief filler episodes. I was so astounded by it that for about 2 weeks, Hellsing was all I watched. I would get through the whole 13 episodes and then just start over again.

PHOTO: Alucard with his demonic dog.

Helpfully, this was around the time when Death Note would start airing. That same friend easily convinced me to try that as well and from there I steadily expanded. I picked up new shows like Claymore and Afro Samurai and Spice & Wolf, but then also went back and watched older shows that I had never paid attention to. As I did, I became more open-minded about anime and its eccentricities. Azumanga Daioh and Chobits quickly became favorites of mine and have remained so for most of my life now.

This developing interest in anime helped break me out of my obsession with appearing mature. I realized it was fine to hold unto aspects of my childhood that were dear to me. In fact, this still was my childhood. And even when I’d become an adult, that didn’t mean I had to be some joyless git. Maybe I could grow up to be an ordinary office worker, who happens to enjoy anime and video games. Perhaps I could even grow up to start a website about those passions.

All of this silly teenager drama is why I was anxious about rewatching Hellsing now. This was a life-changing anime for me and I regarded it exceptionally highly. It was THE anime that the Casper of 2006 needed to see. I feared that rewatching it now, I might find the anime lacking. It’d be pretty embarrassing to find out that an anime I was so personally invested in had aged like rubbish. Fortunately, I took the chance and was not disappointed in the slightest.

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