It’s gray and rainy here today, and I have a headache. I should be working on my book or doing laundry — or both! But I am grumbly and a bit grouchy. Did I mention I have a terrible headache? Yeah … one of those kinds of days: the kind that make you want to revert to your caveman roots and slump around saying “ugh” all day long.
So, instead of the post I had planned on writing, I have decided to ramble on about something that makes me happy. I like to think of it as my “collective madness”.
I collect anime production artwork. I must confess I feel a bit like someone at one of those twelve-step meetings: “Hi, I’m Pish. And I’m a cel collector.” Needless to say, this isn’t something I tell most people. I try hard not to let my anime / collecting life and my “real” life cross paths, mainly because most people don’t understand what might drive a nearly (sort of?) normal person to the depths of giddy insanity inspired by such a nerdy hobby. Also, this is not a cool hobby. I love it, but I freely admit I’m letting my inner nerd show here.
I am not sure what caused me to start collecting. I started watching anime a few years after graduating from law school. I was miserably unhappy in my career, and I was going through a creative dark patch. It took all my energy to get through each work day. I was too emotionally and mentally exhausted to write. In fact, at that point, I hadn’t written in about seven years. Writing had always been my escape from unhappiness — a way to make sense of a world I didn’t understand. Without it, I was lost for quite a long time. I think, somehow, anime stepped in to fill that gap for me. It offered me the escape my overtaxed mind and emotions badly needed.
Most people think anime is all girls with weird hair and big boobs who run around in skimpy clothing. While there is quite a lot of this in anime, these types of shows don’t appeal to me. And anime offers so much more. The artwork is vibrant and bright. The settings range from fantastic to urban grit and grime. And the character designs are often beautiful and fascinating.
Underneath the colorful flash, the shows I love most are about people overcoming odds in the most drastic of situations. They are about characters who search deep down inside themselves to find more than they ever thought existed. They are about the courage and resiliency of the human spirit, about never giving up, even in the face of the worst odds.
Although I enjoy watching new anime whenever possible, there are certain shows that I love, and that I watch again and again. I never get tired of them because they speak to me on some deeper, more emotional level. They fuel my creativity and imagination. They remind me that, no matter how terrible things may seem, there are good things inside all of us — a strength of emotion and character that, maybe, we didn’t know we had until we needed it most.
Eventually, watching anime awoke my creative spirit. After soaking in this incredible art form for a year or so, I sat down and started writing again. Yes … this means fan fiction. There is a part of me that feels I should probably be ashamed of this fact, but really, I am not. I hadn’t written anything in over seven years!! To be able to sit down again and have words come from my head and onto my computer screen … to be able to have those words flow together and, somehow, make sense with each other … to be able to see those words coming together into a story … It was like magic. I don’t think I can describe the feeling of elation and release I experienced. I remember sitting there, at my computer, and holding my breath. I was afraid to breathe, as if doing so would break the moment and cause the words to flee to the dark reaches of my brain once more. Tears were shed; I guess that says it all.
I suppose collecting anime production artwork was a natural and eventual progression, but it took quite a while before I decided to take the plunge into collecting as a hobby. Truthfully, it never occurred to me that I could own a little piece of the shows I loved. Once I realized cels were out there, and that they were attainable for “regular” people like me, there was no doubt I would end up surrendering my sanity and a good bit of my available cash to the siren song of this hobby. I started collecting around nine years ago. I haven’t looked back, and I haven’t regretted it for a moment.
Those first years of collecting were wild and nutty. I don’t know how many of you guys collect anything, but, if you do, you probably know what I mean. It’s an addiction, which, thankfully, is legal. There is an almost euphoric rush involved with stalking and acquiring those perfect, beautiful pieces that will add to or fill holes in your collection. Or, in the case of anime cels and my particular approach to collecting, the one, little frozen moment in time that represents a scene in a show when I felt connected to my favorite characters. The hunt can be exciting. There are pieces in my collection that I never thought I would acquire. I searched for years before finding them.
In recent years, I have slowed down quite a bit in the collecting world. The shows I love the most are older, which means not as much great artwork comes available for them. As I’ve become more experienced in collecting and as my collection has grown, I’ve become more selective regarding the pieces I want to acquire. And, the hard fact is that things are more expensive now. For a little while, I thought I was pretty much done with my nutty-obsessive hobby.
I felt a little sad about this. After all, cel collecting had been a huge part of my life. It had led me to interact with and meet other interesting folks who shared the passion I have for this beautiful and often under-appreciated art form. At the same time, it’s inevitable that we move on from things — even something that has brought us an incredible amount of joy. Writing has stepped up, once more, as a creative outlet for me, and I find myself focusing more and more on my own original work. This is a good thing, and makes me feel that my love for anime, somehow, brought me full-circle in my creative journey.
Yesterday, though, I managed to close a deal for a couple of new cels. One of these is something I’ve been seeking for two or three years now. And the giddy rush of happiness I felt as I sent off the payment told me: I may be slowing down, but I’m not done yet!