We may not be advertising it a much, but The Beautiful World is a Greek based blog. As a team, both Foxie Lady and Neko-kun are not crazy about their country but they cannot help it and live in its reality. It is a part of this reality, our experience and opinion of the local j-community that we wish to share with our readers.
The main reasons that led to the creation of this article are as follow:
– The need to share a positive side of Greece, rather than the -quite reasonable- negativity that goes around these days.
– The wish to keep a sort memo of what happened the past six years, so that we can evaluate the present and future of the community.
– The interest to see what some of our closest friends have experienced as Greek “Otaku.”
The article is separated in two parts: the first one will present my memories of the past and some interesting information on the Greek Otaku community. The second one is going to be an estimation of the present and the future, written by myself and others whose opinion I treasure.
Some events and periods will be briefly mentioned, to save space and time. The article focuses mostly on the experience I had as an “Otaku” living in Athens. Chapter One: The Early Years
From the late 1980s to the mid’ 1990s, little children of Greece became witnesses to a growing wave -that of illegally broadcasted anime. This movement was not an action of “Otakus” concerned with ways to promote j-animation, but of men who wished to use such material as a basis for the promotion of their products (painting sets, elementary theater shows and so on). Such efforts were characterized by extremely low budgets and quality, but that made no difference as to how excited we children were by what we saw.
Private channels soon got aware of the potential for profit, thus bought the rights to several series and started broadcasting them. As a result, anime like Sailor Moon, Card Captor Sakura and Dragonball became a morning mania, the reason why I, like most boys and girls of that time, used to wake up as early as 06:00 a.m. By the late 90s the list of anime well beloved had become wider than ever.
Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons that shall be explained on another article, the intensity of the wave “faded slowly” during the early 00s. At that time j-culture in Greece, so far solely based on anime, got into a mode of stillness and inaction, so that it became an underground phenomenon.
Because of the release of -illegal- hentai dvds as presents accompanying the purchase of youth-targeted magazines, many people came to recognize the characteristics of anime and manga as animation made especially for porn. At one point, it was as close to impossible as it could be to go to a video/dvd store and ask for anime, without the salesman not looking you in a naughty -or disapproving- way.
At some point there were efforts to alter this course. A magazine called Akatsuki, published in the year 2006, aimed at younger girls and presented some interesting shoujo stories of German and Korean origin. Yet, it lasted for six volumes (one years. Its successor, Manga No Sekai, only made it to volume one.
Were anime and manga left like this, they would soon be a distant memory for most Greeks -hentai excepted of course. Along with them, any influence modern j-culture could have on young men and women would fade too.
b. Going online
Then came the Internet. A small number of people began to use the web as a regular tool for their daily activities. The children that grew up watching Kabamaru, Sailor Moon and Card Captor Sakura, could now find it online and rewatch it. Many people decided to upload series or movies they had recorded on videotapes, thus preserving the childhood memories of a whole generation.
Thanks to the devotion of a great number of fans came the birth of several websites like dragonball.gr, animeplanet.gr and anime.gr. People began to exchange opinions and suggestions online. This is how not only anime, but a whole range of related activities like cosplay and j-music got into the lives of many youngsters. It was at that time that I made my own entrance in the community.
Chapter Two: Enter the Otaku
a. Friend to friend
Everything started with a visit to the bookstore Solaris, a shop located to downtown Athens, where I discovered a corner exclusively dedicated to manga. I was so thrilled by what I saw that I could not decide what to buy. A fellow customer – one that would soon turn into a good friend- was willing to advice me, so we started a long discussion on manga and anime. When we got out of the store my hands were full: on one side a bag full of volumes of Gravitation and Kare Kano, on the other one an invitation for an anime broadcast of the same night.
Following the advice of my new friend, I was present at the broadcast. Ai no Kusabi, the night’s main film, was for me, as well as for the majority of the viewers a… shocking experience. The male audience got in a state of decay, for reasons well understood for anyone who has watched the film. Being a shy person, I had not the courage to talk to anyone and I left the room before the presentation of the followup anime, Elfen Lied.
Many events followed, some of which I will briefly mention here: the beggining of regularly anime broadcasts at Club Nosostros, the meetings of various anime related forums in Athens and Thessaloniki, the initiation of j-music nights by Ordre De Ciel Collective, and monthly based meetings in the area of New Smyrni. Thanks to these events I was fortunate to meet many gentle and kind people who wished for nothing but the best; for open discussion, fun and friendship that is.
b. From Heaven to Hell
More and more people were getting interested in this exciting trend. They were as diverse a group as it gets, some in their 30s-40s, older otaku or members of other non-mainstream casts (i,e, comic fans, videogamers, RPG followers, etc.). Many came from my generation, young-lings regaining interest in anime, after a long absence.
In the beginning, the climate of discussion was open to the nature of the crowd. People were willing, perhaps eager, to listen to one another. I met many who disliked yaoi, yet yaoi were often a good topic for great discussion. So it was with shonen, or any other genre; even tentacle hentai could be the source of laughs and jokes.
This positive upheaval lasted longer than one would expect. New faces kept appearing for months. The music events organized by Ordre De Ciel Collective (a group dedicated to the promotion of j-culture in Greece) turned weekly, initially keeping the clubs they played full every time. Anubis editions started the publication of manga translated to Greek, providing high quality results. What could go wrong?
In one word, disunion was the main problem. From what I remember, people got to know each other “too well,” better than themselves would have wished for. Arguments on various political, ideological and personal issues set the ground we stood on ablaze, hurt the quality of discussion, both in real life and online.
In my opinion, this was bound to happen. I may be, as Foxy Lady put it in a previous post, “quite the introvert,” but I have had the good fortune of having participated in similar, formed via online communication, communities. On each and every case, what I noticed was that people only stayed together for a short while, before irrelevant problems started getting in the middle of things, sucking the blood out of the community’s veins.
Fortunately, as we will read in part two, the current situation has proven that this was not enough to take the wave completely down. Stay tuned to find out how things are today.