Things were Tougher in the Old Days
I went on holiday a few weeks ago, as a chance to get away from it all, a sort of stop-gap between my graduation and my real life as a part-time social loafer. Where can one go nowadays, on the remains of a student overdraft, that is remote enough to prevent people talking to you about employment prospects, yet still pleasant enough to actually want to stay there?
The Lake District.
For those of you who haven’t been, the Lake District is a marvellous place. There are mountains, trees, lakes and lots and lots of pubs. It is also the land of flat caps, farmers and intermittent-to-light phone reception.
My point is – it is remote.
When I was there, in between hiking up a mountain and trying not to upend a rowboat on Lake Windermere, I visited Keswick. Keswick, one of the largest towns in the area, is still not that large compared to large towns that aren’t within Cumbria. But is has lots of museums, and in a fit of nerdery even greater than my usual levels, I decided to visit the Pencil Museum.
So, to set the scene – remote county, town filled with largely independent shops and not touched by the corporate hand, and then a pencil museum, where I’m sure you can imagine, very few people would visit regularly.
And I saw the world’s longest pencil, and World War Two spy pencils and pencils that were extremely old, and pencils that were extremely new. And then I went into the shop and saw new pencils, pencils for sale, pastel pencils, watercolour pencils, fade-resistant colouring pencils… and lots of drawing books. More specifically, lots of Manga drawing books, and a couple of Manga drawing kits. I was a little surprised.
When I was first getting into Anime and Manga properly, at the tender age of 13, no-one had heard of Manga, and I lived in a pretty big town, next to some fairly large cities. I could only explain it by saying “It’s like, y’know, Pokemon” and everyone would go “Ooh”, and then edge away slowly because Pokemon was Not Cool. When I tried to learn how to draw Manga, I was forced to use online guides until I’d saved up enough to buy a couple of books from Amazon. I remember my first trip to Forbidden Planet and seeing the books lined up there, amazed that there could be that much Anime in one place. I used to get excited going into big HMV (RIP) outlets where I could find maybe one or two Anime dvds.
Slowly, over the last few years, things have changed. You go into almost any bookshop, there’s a Manga section. You go into any DVD store, there’s an anime section nestled near World Cinema. I had noticed, but I guess I hadn’t noticed because I’m not as desperate as I used to be to watch Anime – lack of availability perhaps led to waning interest by necessity. Also, lack of funds led to a cut off of the supply. But when I find myself in a town smaller than my own, in the rather niche locale of a Pencil Museum, it makes it very clear that the times, to quote Mr Dylan, they are a-changing.
So next time you go into a high street DVD store and mosey over to the Anime, or have a look in WH Smiths for the Manga, or even contemplate the sushi snackboxes in the supermarket, spare a thought for those of us who got into Anime and Manga ten, fifteen, twenty years ago. Not to sound like a Monty Python sketch, but things were tougher back then.