If it was possible to send a message to my younger self, I would tell him to stop watching anime about giant robots and to learn to drive sooner.
The Super Awesome exhibit at the OMCA just showed, and while the collection seems small in number, Giant Robot’s showing is significant to me. It’s not usual that I connect deeply with a history of art easily. What about the Asian American experience makes connecting with Giant Robots so easily?
I’ve just gotten my driver’s license, and civicly speaking I’m about 6 years over due for one. Imagine if there was a Giant Robot license. At 16, young adults could test for a chance at entering a flying machine with machine guns and laser swords. I think I would be all over that.
I know idealizing Japanese action heroes and impractical machinery is not specific to the Asian American community, but I don’t think its hard to see how this specific culture has a hold on a population I belong to: (sorta) nerdy, romanticized lonely guys.
I use the word lonely to accentuate how Asian Americans don’t usually get media catered to them and not to feel sorry for myself. So when we get dubbed English versions of power rangers and Gundam, we can see a shadow of familiar culture and we hold on tight. At least that is how I felt as a kid. It isn’t soley about race either, I think it has to do with a certain belonging to a culture that manifests out of a physical space.
For me, I did not know that physical space, and I let giant robots and anime be the bridge to Asia. It was easier than religion or even food. Language felt more like a barrier than anything. More than anything I think that is why the Super Awesome exhibit rang true to me. So shout out to Eric Nakumura for being a nerd and having enough influence to get an exhibit at the Oakland Museum.
Take flight giant robot enthusiasts and know you aren’t alone.