I think it’s impossible to talk about the period of my life when I was into cable TV’s new love affair with anime without also addressing the other metaphorical elephant in the room about that, manga.
At the peak of me watching various stuff on TV, buying and renting DVD’s, I wasn’t as much into comic books as I’d been as a kid. In general, I’d never just been a “comics” kid, because since I could read, my parents had encouraged me to read, and I read everything and anything, including comics. But I didn’t actively pursue them and had dropped off from reading them by the time I was in college. Watching a lot of this stuff though and in the trade pubs I’d occasionally get, I got swayed to look to manga to get more of the stories that I was enjoying, so I dove in.
I’d already had an inkling through early Internet chatter and trade pubs/fansites that Ghost In The Shell offered so much more as a manga than the first original film (which eventually got much more accurately-represented in the excellent series Ghost In The Shell: Stand-Alone Complex), but then Dark Horse released an uncensored version of the original run of the manga with English translation, which tipped me over the edge into reading the manga collections of the stories and worlds from stuff I watched like Hellsing (from Kouta Hirano), Berserk (by Kentaro Miura, one of the best fantasy worlds/stories I’ve read in general, which is another story for another day) and Trigun (by Yasuhiro Nightow).
Despite the fact that I was reading more and more comics again eventually, still, the manga I was consuming felt like it was just more fulfilling in terms of the bonkers storytelling I craved at the time. Of course that sort of thing isn’t exactly the exclusive purview of manga, and there were a lot of great Western comics at the time doing really good things, but to me, it didn’t feel like that, either through my own narrow-mindedness, or just the outlets I had access to. Regardless, there was a chunk of time when I read a lot of manga, and probably would have read a lot more if not for two big things that slapped me in the face one day;
A) It was really expensive in the US. Translation costs and rights costs are obviously a thing on top of the labor of reprinting/relettering ON TOP of the original labor, but at the time I definitely struggled with “is this really worth how much I shell out every month or so?” It was a comic that I’d breeze through, despite the fact that I’d re-read it multiple times, which meant that after a while I struggled to justify it because it was B) turning out to be an expensive reading hobby compared to comics or prose. I mean, I had a job, but they cost more than I felt they might have been worth, despite the excellent digest size, which I still feel is a perfect size for a paperback, and were starting to take up A LOT of space in my limited shelf space at the time. It was, when I look back at it, the start of my annoyance with decompressed storytelling and serialized narratives, which aren’t inherently bad per se, they just happen to only work really well about half the time, and in a physical sense, can’t be sustained when you’re one of seven people in a house full of book hoarders.
I think about it sometimes nowadays, of digging up some manga, of grabbing older works in big phonebook collections or early American attempts at bringing manga to the US in a more westernized comic book form (I periodically look for the old Eclipse Comics “single issue floppies” of Appleseed that they did in the late 80’s/early 90’s before Dark Horse started to be the home of Masamune Shirow’s output in the English-speaking world), and I know my wife still has some of her old giant manga collections that we reclaim from her younger sister.
I mean, we’ve been diving back bit-by-bit at times into anime again, so why not, but at the same time, I think that my obsessive reading of this stuff was a moment in a larger growth in my interest in odd and out-there genre storytelling. I barely read comics anymore as it is, so wanting to read manga, especially anything new (another story, another thread of thought), just feels like an exercise in frustration and futility, a failed attempt at nostalgia.
Still, it was nice at the time.