“I remember, it was fourth of fifth grade, it was elementary school. It was Halloween, and could go dressed as whoever he wanted. He had to be Piccolo,” recounts an exasperated Carlean Daniels, referring to Dragon Ball’s iconic green hero. “Had to be Piccolo,” agrees an amused Mike Daniels, Sr. “And I’m like, ‘where are we going to get a Piccolo costume from?! You can’t buy that!”
From there, the two discuss the finer points of putting together their son’s first-ever cosplay, from repurposing old padding to capturing the details on the Namekian’s signature cape perfectly. “He wore that to school,” exclaims Carlean with a laugh. “And from then on,” the two agree, “he was anime.”
These are the first lines of Crunchyroll’s new documentary, He Was Anime, which tells the tale of Mike Daniels, Green Bay Packers Defensive End and self-professed “dork with muscles.” In the feature, Daniels’s world is brought to life through several interviews and talking head sequences, which are overlaid with footage of Daniels in his day-to-day life.
I love to go out there and pretend I’m a Super Saiyan, because they can’t stop me!Mike Daniels
The documentary opens with a playful melody playing in the background, as friends and family alike explain how Daniels made anime as much of their world as it was theirs. “We watch anime together,” comments Heaven Daniels, Mike’s wife, “I’m not into everything, but I’ll get upset with him if we start a series together, and you watch an episode without me, I’ll have a problem!” From there, she rattles off the shows they’ve enjoyed together, from Hunter x Hunter to JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, noting that the entire family gets together to enjoy My Hero Academia.
“It’s to the point that my oldest says ‘Can we watch Crunchyroll, pop,” recounts Daniels with a warm smile and a laugh, before saying, “[And I’ll say] yeah we can, son! You can do your homework later!”
Even Daniels’ parents state that they couldn’t escape their son’s raison d’etre, poring through old Dragon Ball Z VHS tapes and single-issues as they rattle off the facts of the series that that recall.
When I was little, I was different.Mike Daniels
From here, the feature shifts, over to a discussion of Daniels’ childhood, tracing his journey from the suburbs of New Jersey, to the NFL’s starting lineup. He tells tales of being bullied by his peers, and how he found pride in his anime fandom.
He bubbles over memories about his rise in the ranks of high school sports, which were punctuated by chance meetings, and an ever-expanding circle of anime fans that would become as close as his own family.
So you mean to tell me that it’s okay to be myself, and like what I like, and not try to conform to what’s popular?Mike Daniels
Through it all, Daniels’ deep adoration of anime as a medium, an inspiration, and a means of bringing people together, really shines. His infectious laugh and warm smile shine in every shot, as he bubbles over his favorite shows, or just chats up the latest chapters of Dragon Ball Super in the barber shop. At the same time, his indomitable spirit can be seen in every training shot, from the yoga studio to the turf.
Anime is something special. It brings people together, no matter their walk of life, and brings a truly universal joy to fans across the globe. It’s a daring assertion to say somebody is anime, but somehow, Mike Daniels embodies the ideal in every regard.
He Was Anime is available for free streaming on Crunchyroll. You can check it out below.