Emily and I first bonded over anime when we were in junior high. I had been watching it, unaware of what it was, exactly, since I was little — Voltron was the first show I recall. Of course, I wanted to be Princess Allura. And early in the morning, before I got on the bus to school, I discovered Sailor Moon: another anime featuring a blue-eyed blonde who turns out to be a princess. As a blue-eyed blonde who is also obviously a princess, I completely identified.
This was sometime in the early to mid nineties (how I hate to date myself!), and Emily and I became friends in fourth grade. By sixth grade, I had introduced her to my guilty pleasure. The addiction was catching.
“Sailor Moon is the best thing that ever happened to me!” she wrote to me in a letter. A letter that was, probably, covered in Sailor Moon sketches and stickers.
Yes, we were little freaks.
Years later, I’d like to think we’ve matured (somewhat). Even though we’re full-fledged adults, we still have our guilty pleasures, and many of these revolve around anime. For me, it’s all things Gundam. If you ever sit down with me, and have lots of time on your hands, I will gladly tell you how Gundam changed. My. Life. Seriously. And for Emily, it’s all about Miyazaki.
One summer, Emily and I decided to have a Hayao Miyazaki marathon; we both love Studio Ghibli films. A few years back, I was thrilled Howl’s Moving Castle in theaters; it’s the only anime I’ve ever seen in a mainstream movie theater (and it was amazing). I also have a soft spot for Ponyo, especially since it was based on Hans Christian Anderson’s Little Mermaid; the Disney film came out when I was little (that was the first film I saw in theaters—I was four), and I completely memorized it (and now, I’ve really dated myself!). But, for Emily, it’s always been My Neighbor Totoro.
We descended upon Harvard Square today, and in between our normal-girl outings to Peet’s Coffee, Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie, we belied stereotypes and headed into two not-so-typical girl stores: Kofuku and Tokyo Kid.
I lured Emily to the former store because I knew she’d flip over their stock of Miyazaki merch. But I hadn’t been in there in a while, and was shocked to discover that not only had the entire store been rearranged; but, now, there was tons of Totoro. Everywhere. It’s as if the powers that be knew Emily was coming there, and needed to see (and squish!) giant Totoro plushies. My Neighbor Totoro was even playing on a large flat screen in the store. My friends, it just doesn’t get much geekier than that.
We gushed over a giant Totoro chair that would be perfect in the apartment we want. And that got me thinking… if we had our very own Totoro for a pet, he would be extremely useful. On the ride back from Cambridge, we listed all of the things Totoro could be:
- A pillow/blanket/bed
- An umbrella
- A winter coat
- A picnic blanket
- A boat
- A raft
- A plane
- A bodyguard
…You get the idea. He could almost be as useful as a Gundam. Sure, a twin buster rifle or a beam cannon could get you pretty far in life. But an even a Gundam won’t keep you warm at night. A Totoro, however, will.
Speaking of Gundam (you asked, didn’t you? Oh, no? My mistake). After reluctantly leaving Kofuku (because we didn’t have an extra $300 for a giant Totoro plush, darn the luck), we skipped up to the Garage Mall and into Tokyo Kid.
We found the place a bit picked over (which made me sad); less manga and DVDs on the shelves than usual, and not a whole lot of new figurines or models (see the near-empty shelf behind me). This prompted me to buy something I always lusted over, but never took home with me, because I thought—Erin, is this really necessary? Really? This is the girl who spent more than she is comfortable admitting on Sailor Moon and K-On! loot at the last Anime Boston. So what was this coveted item, you ask?
A teeny tiny pin of Duo Maxwell from Gundam Wing. In his priest outfit. As a chibi. Can someone say bishonen fandom gone wild?
This just goes to show; like the residents of Never, Never Land, fangirls never truly grow up. However, I would like to report that my purchase of the bishie pin was rather uneventful, and no actual squealing occurred. Only in my head. And now, Duo is proudly affixed to my denim jacket.
The moral of the story? When you see a relatively sane-looking girl in public, you never know if there might be an anime geek lurking inside. You might not want to ask, though; she might squish you with her Gundam, or – worse – her Totoro.
Erin Dale is a reporter for GateHouse Media. When she isn’t covering tropical storms and school committees, she is building her mobile suit army and quietly plotting a worldwide coup d’état.