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A Journey Through Nostalgia: My Anime-Inspired Artistic Evolution

The illustration features a young boy at the bottom, representing the artist as a child, surrounded by various iconic anime characters. From left to right behind the child, there are Guts from Berserk, Vash from Trigun, and Gon from Hunter x Hunter. Above them in the second row are Kenshin from Rurouni Kenshin, Spike from Cowboy Bebop, and Evangelion Test Type-01 from Neon Genesis Evangelion. Tetsuo from Akira is also present. The scene is unified by the magnetic tape of a VHS, which swirls around and transforms into ink from a pencil held by the adult artist, who is drawing all these characters.

So here we are, on the road again. This time, my girlfriend and I embarked on a trip to the Japanese Garden in Hasselt, unaware that this visit would inspire a walk down memory lane and a reflection on how anime has shaped my artistic journey. As we planned the trip, we stumbled upon a new Japanese festival being held right in front of the garden. Food, cosplay, karaoke, and stores—our excitement piqued, especially at the mention of food.

A Festival to Remember

Our expectations for the festival weren’t particularly high since it was the first edition, but the allure of the Japanese Garden made it a worthwhile trip regardless. We arrived early, explored the stalls, and were immediately captivated by the mouth-watering scent of takoyaki—the baked dough, vegetables, and octopus creating an irresistible aroma. Not long after, the scents of noodles, ramen, and okonomiyaki filled the air, leading us on a delicious culinary adventure.

After indulging in these culinary delights and battling our “food babies,” we strolled to the Japanese Garden. The serene beauty of the garden, combined with the festive atmosphere, evoked a sense of nostalgia, transporting me back to my first encounter with Japanese culture.

A Rainy Day Discovery

My fascination with Japan began during a summer holiday when I was twelve. Trapped indoors by relentless rain, a friend and I decided to rent some movies. His video store was much smaller than my usual haunt, but it had something that caught my eye: a rack labelled “Manga.” At that time, I didn’t know the difference between manga and anime; I was simply drawn to the striking covers.

The first movie I picked up was Wicked City. As I watched, my young brain exploded with the realization that animation could be so much more than Disney or Looney Tunes. The adult themes, vibrant colors, and fluid animation were unlike anything I had ever seen. This discovery was a secret trove of Japanese animation, and it forever altered my artistic perspective.

The Anime Influence

Subsequent rentals included Akira and Urotsukidoji. Akira, with its breath-taking animation and complex storytelling, left a profound impact on me. These experiences ignited a passion that eventually led me to pursue a degree in animation. Though I never adopted a manga style in my work, the influence of anime’s storytelling and thematic depth seeped into my art.

Today, anime is more popular than ever, and while it may have lost some of its 90s edge, the storytelling remains among the best in the world. My latest illustration is a homage to this influence, depicting me as a child surrounded by iconic anime characters: Guts from Berserk, Vash from Trigun, Gon from Hunter x Hunter, Kenshin from Rurouni Kenshin, Spike from Cowboy Bebop, Evangelion Test Type-01 from Neon Genesis Evangelion, and Tetsuo from Akira. The swirling magnetic tape of a VHS becomes the ink from a pencil I, now an adult, am holding, symbolizing the enduring impact of anime on my life and work.

A Tribute to the East

I still vividly remember that video store rack and the moment my world expanded to include the rich, vibrant world of Japanese animation. It changed me forever, and I am grateful to the multitude of artists in the East whose hard work has allowed their stories to thrive in the West.

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