Why I will never see the Dragonball Movie: Or, how a Japanese cartoon made me who I am today.

Yes, there is a film of the Japanese manga/anime Dragonball out right now. Yes, it stars in part Chow Yun Fat who is one of my favorite actors. No, I will not be seeing the film.

The 13 year old Jesse would be freaking out on me right now.

The movie looks, and by all reports is incredibly awful, and I will not not be seeing it to protect this memory. When I was 13 my little brother and I would wake up at 6am on Saturdays to watch a kid’s game show called something like G Force 2000. Don’t ask me why we did this. One day we woke up and the show wasn’t on (oh late 90s children’s programming…). Not about to go back to sleep I flipped the channels and found a cartoon. It was odd, with outlandish character design and a strange action/fighting/aliens/comedy plot line. It was the first episode of the American broadcast of the anime Dragonball Z. It was 1997, so I hit the primitive Internet to find out more about this show. What I discovered was the world of Japanese animation, which I devoured. I became obsessed with new movies, new series that fans would translate and circulate amongst themselves, this insular little world of like minded nerds.

One day I discovered that a couple of my favorite series had been made into live action films in Hong Kong. I found those in bootlegged and hilariously/poorly subtitled VHS copies. Now I was hooked on Hong Kong cinema, discovering early John Woo, Tsui Hark, Ringo Lam and then… Wong Kar Wai.

Chungking Express was my entrance to the art film. My family loved movies, we went to see them at the cinema every week and rented movies from the video store constantly. My parents would watch good/art films on their Saturday date nights too, and sometimes recommend them to the little me on Sundays. But this was something new. Wong’s film was authored in the European art cinema style. Heavily influenced by Godard, it opened up a new world to me. I wanted to watch more movies like this. I wanted to watch the great films.

I watched Citizen Kane, and from there came everything else.

So my life, my passions, my art, all stem from a 6am viewing of a foreign cartoon about fighting aliens with weird hair.

So it goes.


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