Thank You Robert Rainey

While the roots of my enjoyment of anime and manga can trace its roots back to my childhood watching my dad create the Sunday comics for the local newspaper, I’d never heard of the term “anime” until I went to Japan. Likely, I wouldn’t have paid more than scant attention to anime and manga during my time in Japan had it not been for my friend Robert Rainey. As such, since I lost contact with him many, many years ago, I thought I’d take the time to thank him here and though it is an extremely long shot, maybe he’ll see.

I met Robert while I was stationed at Keesler AFB in 1989 for Tech School. We had a few classes together and during breaks, we’d sometimes talk since we both liked fantasy, sci-fi, comic books, and certain cartoons. By the end of my time at Keesler, I no longer saw Robert (I want to say that maybe he’d finished a week or two before me) and that would have been the end of it. However, shortly after I got to Yokota AB, Japan, I was walking back to the dorm from the Shoppette to grab some snacks and ran into Robert on the sidewalk, where we talked a bit. From that meeting, we became friends and when his roommate PCS’d (Permanent Change of Station) out of Japan, I moved in.

As I said, Robert and I had a lot in common but some differences (he was from San Diego, California loved underground heavy metal music and I was from Tallahassee, Florida and liked what’s now called “old school hip-hop and electro-funk”). One of the difference was his love of anime (and to a lesser degree, manga). Now back in 1989, the number of licensed anime titles was pretty low. So Robert would rent anime stuff or would record it off of TV to watch it later, all of it in Japanese and without subtitles. Because of this, I was introduced to titles such as Ranma 1/2 (which was on its first TV run when I lived in Japan), Dirty Pair, Project A-Ko, and many more. It was through Robert that I learned that cartoons from Japan weren’t “cartoons” but “anime.”

I remember coming home from work one night (or morning) and had been planning to watch some Star Trek: The Next Generation only to find Robert watching anime. Well, since our dorm room is a single room with one TV, that meant that we were watching anime. I was annoyed, less at Robert and more at the system that forced us to share a small room together were we couldn’t have a little privacy to be able to watch what we want. So as Robert is watching this anime, my irritation got the better of me and I had to say something. (Conversation is a guestimation and not an actual total recall of the original conversation.)

ANB: Dude. How can you watch a cartoon like that when you don’t even speak Japanese?

Robert: Its not just about the story. Its about the art, music, and everything. Plus there are some things that come through the language barrier. I like it.

ANB: Don’t you want to know the story at all?

Robert: I would, but for now, I’m enjoying the other aspects.

ANB: Ugh. That would drive me nuts not knowing the story. At least some subtitles or something because if I don’t know the story, I really can’t enjoy it.

Robert: Have you seen Lupin III: Castle of Cagliostro?


Robert stopped whatever he was watching and grabbed a video tape he’d purchased from some video store off base. He then popped in the movie and so I thought I’d humor him and watch it. I was annoyed because of the gibberish being spoken because I either wanted to hear this in English or at least have some subtitles. However, I did like the beauty of the movie and despite myself, I found Miyazaki-sensei’s work reaching across the language barrier and capturing my attention. I liked the humor situations. I liked Lupin and his gang. I thought the villains were a tad cheesy but in the end, I liked the movie and desperately wanted to see thing thing in English.

So, Robert and I made tracks to the Audio Visual Store on base and but we could find no copy of the movie on tape. But, he did find another movie by Miyazaki-sensei on VHS called Warriors of the Wind. I did find the movie most interesting though there were some problems that I couldn’t place my finger on (later, I would learn that this version of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind had 30-minutes whacked from it, which explained some of the roughness) and I couldn’t understand why the VHS cover had characters on it that weren’t in the movie. However, I told Robert that if anime were in English or at least had English subtitles (back then, I preferred things in English dub) I’d be more into it.

Robert and I briefly considered doing the fansub thing where we’d send a new tape (or so) to a fansubber (or someone making an X-generation copy) along with return postage and get some tapes. For whatever reason, we didn’t do that.

Still, there was no denying Robert’s enthusiasm and so I accompanied him several times as he went to pick up anime-related items such as cells or whatever. He used to tell me that in 10-years, anime would be huge in the U.S. I wasn’t so sure about that, but I figured I’d check back in 10-years to see.

I left Japan in 1991 and lost touch with Robert by roughly 1993. Occasionally I would think fondly of Japan and even of anime and I even picked up the Streamline Pictures dub of Castle of Cagliostro in 1994 (or thereabouts) and a couple of episodes from the 2nd TV series that were directed by Miyazaki (and had been licensed in the U.S.).

It wasn’t until 2002 when I found myself suddenly unemployed thanks to an imploding telco that I remembered Robert’s prediction about anime being big in the States. So I looked on and was amazed to see the sheer number of anime titles for sale. Robert had been right and I suddenly wished I could talk to him again about this. I borrowed the Oh My Goddess OVA series as well as the Hand Maid May series (because they were short) just to see if anime was any good or not and it was then that the seeds which had been planted in Japan sprouted and I became an anime fan.

So to Robert, wherever you are, thanks for putting up with me for nearly two years as a roommate and for planting the seeds of anime fandom. I hope that maybe one day I can tell you that in person. ^_^

Originally posted at

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