A Short History of Anime in the Philippines
Anime may seem to have been flourishing in this country for years now but there was a time when people never even thought of any distinction between anime and Western cartoons other than the recent being imports from the Land of the Rising Sun.
The word anime hadn’t probably even injected itself into the conciousness of local otakus. And the word “otaku” may have even been a term belonging to only a select class of individuals.
Before, anime was not anime simply because there weren’t as much of them on local TV and we couldn’t tell the difference between other cartoons. But we sure learned how different they were soon enough. They introduced us to more complex storylines, cooler robots, cuter characters and pretty much a whole new world of fantasy.
But mind you, it wasn’t a smooth ride at all. Compared to today, there weren’t so much anime back in the days (by that I mean, not so much shown on local TV) even if they were popular in their country of origin and Japan is pretty much a sailboat away from our country (of course I’m kidding, but you get what I mean). Japan hasn’t rubbed off on us perhaps because we just got through WWII.
But when we finally forgave them, we were given the chance to experience their culture through anime. And from these anime a lot of good things came. They stretched our imaginations and entertained us maybe even better than Western cartoons.
And from these Asian cartoon imports came some of the most unforgettable ones that helped define our love for anime. We name those few but special anime and look back at how it felt when they came and how we quickly got attached to them.
It was the ‘70s. We had a president that started out okay but suddenly got greedy of the power and took control of everything in the country. Martial Law did not let anime slip its way and into this country’s young minds. Robot anime had blasted its way here but was pulled out for fear of infusing unwanted violence in the mind of the audience. Hey, the government wouldn’t be able to stop kids if they started bombarding the Palace.
So unfortunately, robot anime which included Mazinger Z, Daimos and (perhaps it’s safe to say) the most popular robot anime in this country—Voltes V met its untimely end. But it was just for the meantime.
In the ‘80s, a number of Western cartoons came here with a noticeable likeness to the Japanese-made ones. Thundercats, Transformers and G.I.Joe among others proliferated television but who knew they were created by Japanese artists hired by American companies? (trivia: the robots of the Transformers cartoon were tweaked by Filipino artist Floro Dery)*
Then a decade after, anime came back. Hey, we achieved freedom through People Power, remember? Anime came back with shows like Astroboy, Candy Candy, and the much awaited comeback of Voltes V and Daimos.
Voltes V and Daimos were enjoyed by both young and old audiences especially after seeing Transformers. People sang to their theme songs not minding what the words even meant; enjoyed seeing the five robots of Voltes V combine into one big awesome robot and take out the laser sword to finish off its enemies. Daimos may not have been as popular but it was also very much appreciated. Who could ever forget the couple’s names, right? And how they call to each other “Richard… Erica…”
Unfortunately, Mazinger Z didn’t make it back even after another full decade—like a hero who didn’t win the battle yet everybody remembers with pride.
It wasn’t difficult to notice how a lot of the shows airing early on were in English (dubbed or not), even anime and other shows from Japan such as those of the Sentai and Tokusatsu genre. So it was quite a surprise that sometime in the early ‘90s, anime was given a completely different feel with characters speaking in the native language that is Tagalog. One of the first few to have done this was a funny anime entitled Time Quest.
Time Quest followed the adventures of two friends traveling through worlds by the power of a time-traveling kettle aptly named “Takore” (“kettle” in Tagalog language). Local youngsters were introduced to Japanese humor in this wacky show, which became a preparation for more entertainingly crazy anime.
But let’s see…when Time Quest was airing, there were actually some of these cartoons on morning and afternoon weekday TV that didn’t seem Western at all. Yet, their stories mostly were taken from Western Literature.
Now, who would have thought then that they were also from Japan (especially that the local channel it used to air at the time edited the opening and ending credits to take out the Japanese texts). Anime creators took notice of the rich Western Literature that the world had loved for centuries and made anime versions of them. Some of the most remembered ones were Trapp Family Singers, Cedie, Peter Pan and Remi. And then there was Princess Sara…
Princess Sara, the story of a young girl who went from rich to rags and back became such a hit in this country that a local movie version of it was made. Remember how Princess Sara used to be aired every weekday afternoon? Remember how Ms. Minchin reacted when Sara was finally revealed to be a princess of diamonds? Remember how Sara and Becky were treated to a feast every night inside Sara’s room in the attic?
Princess Sara evoked so much emotion not only among the young. It was mentioned that it had a local movie version, right? So that means even adults got hooked on it. Hey, we just love rags to riches stories.
For a time, anime was shown in the local language. But then English-dubbed anime came back with the arrival of one of the longest, most popular anime in the world: Dragonball. In this country, Dragonball Z was first shown and introduced the saiyan Son Goku who died early on in the show. Whatta rip off, right? But then of course Goku comes back to kick enemy butt. Though not in the later years.
If anime back then sounds exciting, think again. Back in the days, there was a sort of disease among local channels that made them cut their anime unannounced and even before the season has finished. Almost all of the anime shown on local channels RPN 9 and IBC 13 were cut a few episodes short of the entire series. Voltes V, Daimos and Time Quest never reached its end, so did Superboink and Dragonball Z at the time. And then there were other anime that was shown with only a few episode that they were completely forgotten. Dragonquest was one of them.
In the mid-90’s, ABC 5 joined the fray and showed one of its biggest anime offering—Sailormoon. Sailormoon, sure enough was a hit, especially since it was a first to feature young ladies battle out monsters and do it in skimpy sailor suits. The series would then run until the beginning of the new century that was peering closely by.
Around the same time, one of the soon-to-be most beloved anime to hit this country was shown. Yu Yu Hakusho or Ghost Fighter introduced four spirit detectives and cool fight sequences that was sorely missed when Dragonball Z was canceled (or only aired reruns). But alas! The disease over local TV stations made Ghost Fighter one of its biggest victims.
And the disease seemed to have crossed over to other stations when ABC 5 canceled Slam Dunk around the same time when RPN 9 pulled out Ranma ½.
And then there was ABS-CBN 2. This station has introduced the Literature anime line-up and to fans’ relief did not falter in their airing of anime. One by one their titles came and went with complete episodes shown. Akazukin Cha-Cha, Magic Knight Rayearth and Slayers were just some of the biggest anime to come into this station. But ABS-CBN also had its flaw and that was the way it showed the anime opening and ending themes edited (even butchered) for unclear reasons. For years, the station did this and its most populr victim was Neon Genesis Evangelion.
But was much later. Before that we we had Anime Revolution!
For years, GMA 7 did not jump into the hype that was anime. Yet it did air some good shows including Perrine and Mojacko. But it was a little closer to the millennium when this station finally embraced the power of anime and started an entire revolution.
Local otakus would probably clearly remember GMA 7 as the one to bring back old favorites and finally do what other stations failed miserably—finish the airing of the entire series.
On top of its list was Ghost Fighter which rose to the top of anime Pinoy favorites. Remember how the ending was shown on a stormy night and how it was re-aired since a lot of fans didn’ get to see it because of brownouts all over? That was just how fans loved Ghost Fighter and how excited they were that it was finally aired in its entirety.
Then the last few episodes of Voltes V was shown as a movie on a Sunday evening while Daimos’s ending was finally shown. Slam Dunk also had a ressurection in GMA 7 and was finally appreciated. They even showed the OVAs. And not just that, the station showed a few anime movies. No other station was able to do that. For years, the station became the premiere TV channel for anime, airing anime on primetime in exchange for telenovelas and soap operas.
A lot of other things had happened after this so-called Anime Revolution in this country. Now, they may be good or bad, but one thing is for sure—they all started somewhere.
These are our national heroes in anime (well, sort of). If not for them, anime may have taken a different path.
*info from Anime Insider and Rob Bricken