Sep 9

By Jack McDonough, 2021 prospective JET

My family: John, Laurie, Gennie, myself, and Grace.

I remember sitting in the living room with my older sister, Gennie, excitedly waiting for our father to come home. He had mentioned that he would be stopping by blockbuster to get us a Disney movie: stories like Toy Story, Mulan, and The Lion King were among our favorites and we hoped he would bring us something similar. When he arrived, he presented a VHS tape of Kiki’s Delivery Service from Studio Ghibli. I recall being annoyed and questioned why he hadn’t brought us something Mickey Mouse. The cover of the VHS box depicted the titular Kiki on a broom and her feline companion, Jiji, by her side. “Just a girl and a cat?” I thought to myself. Even as I protested, my father assured me that I would like it and he played the tape. As my sister and I watched, my earlier frustration melted to elation as the story of Kiki becoming a witch and moving out on her own was filled with intensity and comedy. Our favorite was the snarky Jiji; we loved him so much that we even adopted a black cat and named it after the character. After finishing the film, I ran to my parents who were preparing dinner in the other room, and demanded that they rewind the tape and play it again. On our second viewing, my parents joined us and realized that Kiki’s story transcended age; they were surprised at the quality of the story and the emotion that they felt for its characters. We began to watch every Studio Ghibli movie we could get our hands on: Spirited Away, Castle in the Sky, and our favorite My Neighbor Totoro stick out in my mind as the most impactful.  As much as I loved Studio Ghibli, age slowly eroded my interest in the studio and I spent more time playing video games and eventually working when reaching high school.

When I was nearing graduation, my younger sister Grace, seven years my junior, expressed her passion for a show titled Attack on Titan. She explained how it was one of the best bits of media ever created and that it was what sparked her love for anime. She often emulated Gennie and I and watched the Studio Ghibli movies herself, albeit years after we had lostinterest. I remember brushing her off; “I don’t like anime. That stuff is weird. Only the weird kids at school like anime.” My past love for Studio Ghibli was buried too deep under my teenage angst to convince me that I should give anime a chance. I snubbed her and later left for university.

Three years into undergrad, I found an internship in D.C. and lived with three other college kids who found similar opportunities. After about a week in, everyone was getting comfortable and Ty, one of my roommates, turned to me and said, “have you ever seen the show Attack on Titan?”I was perplexed: a seemingly “normal guy” was asking me about anime. I responded saying that I’ve heard of it but I haven’t seen it. Ty insisted that we watch it and we finished all three seasons in a matter of days. I called Grace and told her how wrong I was about the show and anime; I felt foolish for writing off an entire genre, one that I had previous affection for, and being an all-around jerk. Watching Japanese animation has become a pastime in our household, and while anime is certainly cool, its real value is that it allows me a chance to become closer to my sisters and my parents. Grace is an artist and she regularly draws the characters we watch every week in her sketchpad; she just recently opened an Etsy shop to share her renditions of anime characters with other fans in the community. Gennie and I recently exposed our dad to Attack on Titan and even our animation-averse mother who teared-up watching Your Name. None of that would have happened without watching a movie about a young witch in a purple dress who moves to the big city with her snippety cat.

A drawing of Kiki and Jiji by my sister, Grace

one comment so far...

  • Maureen Novack Said on September 9th, 2020 at 5:00 pm:

    This is extremely well written and informative. I may have to give it a try myself.

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