Laws of Anime, The
The History of the Laws of Anime
The history... how did it all start? I was going to write this up years ago, but now I think I've waited too long, and I can't remember all of the details. Now you're stuck with whatever I can pry out of the dark corners of my memory.
Except for Robotech, Voltron, and a very very dim recollection of the last half of the butchered Warriors of the Wind, I wasn't really introduced to Anime until I went to college (Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo). That's where I met Ryan Shellito, who had a small library that he'd pieced together from a video store in Hollister (earthquake capitol of the world and home of the "Wild Ones" incident... unfortunately, the actual town is nowhere near as exciting). One night after playing AD&D or some other game, we went up to the dorm room of a friend of ours, Mike Smith, and we watched Ryan's Fist of the North Star tape (very funny, if a little silly). Mike and I were fairly new to Anime, so Ryan gave us a lot of constructive commentary. When Shin started kicking the crap out of Ken and blood was spraying everywhere, Ryan said something about the human body containing 12 gallons of blood under high pressure (Law #18). Other memorable observations include, "This guy's going to walk through a falling building", and "Watch, this guy's gonna get punched through a mountain." Another source of great mirth was the "Hey, I'm not finished with you!"/"You're already dead" exchange (later the inspiration for Law #8). We even slowed the tape down and went through it frame by frame to see the fat guy's intestines in the explosion. At that point, however, nobody had struck on the idea of compiling a list of laws. But if you want a specific point where the idea got started, it was all that blood spraying around in Fist of the North Star.
From that point forward, Ryan sort of became our Anime guru, and we would pile into a dorm room to worship at the sacred VCR altar and view what we called "Head-Popping Action". Some other important titles included Venus Wars, Vampire Hunter D, Akira, and Mike's Record of Lodoss War collection. Discussion about actual laws most likely started in Venus Wars when Ryan mentioned that every Anime series has to have one flaming homosexual character (for some reason, this has never appeared in the Laws).
Ryan then landed a job at a local game store that (schwing!) carried some Anime titles. About this time, Mike had moved into a townhouse at Mustang Village and Ryan had taken up residence in an old creaky two-story monster of a house, pulled right out of some kind of horror movie, that we affectionately called Cthulhu Mansion. It was at these two locations that the Laws of Anime idea was born, most likely at Mustang Village as we watched Akira again for the nth time.
Physics became an issue when we got back into Robotech/Macross. I was trying to put together my own Anime collection at that point, and on a trip back home I found someone who had a copy of Macross: Do You Remember Love? which had been recommended by Ryan over the exceedingly lame butchered American version, Clash of the Bioroids. So we watched the Zentraedi get his head stepped on and we all yelled "Let her fall!" when Hiro rescues Minmei for the first time. While we watched the Veritechs, though, we started making observations about gravity and velocity... mostly how Veritechs are always shown at full thrust but at constant velocity, and when on the ground they can jump several stories into the air. It was during these discussions that the Laws actually began to take form, as Mike and Ryan joked about making a list so we could call out, "There, right there, that's Law #4!"
Inspired probably by either the Star Trek or Star Wars drinking game, one day when I should have been studying I sat down at a terminal and wrote up a rough list of laws we'd already discussed. I e-mailed it to Ryan, and we sat down and hammered out the first version of the Laws of Japanese Animation. Ryan must have done most of the initial writing, because I recognize most of the original phrasing as his own ("evil damages the Reality Lobe of the Brain", "wounds the size of Seattle", etc.). I fixed what I could of his atrocious spelling (not all his fault -- dyslexia). At this point there were only about 20-25 laws and no fancy names. There were no corollaries yet, just individual laws. I think version 2 was mostly just a resorted list of the original version. I remember adding Law #1 (which is pretty much a generic simplification of all the Laws) and moving a couple of Laws around so the gravity/velocity/acoustic Laws were grouped together towards the top, but I didn't save any copies or notes. I *may* have posted a copy of version 2 on rec.games.mecha and/or rec.arts.anime, but I don't recall exactly and I haven't found any copies floating around. It probably didn't have any e-mail addresses or requests for suggestions on it because I don't remember getting any.
Version 3.0 was the first to use the traditional format common to all the other versions. At some point I'd hit on the idea of giving each law a unique name. I was an English major, but surrounded by Engineering majors, and I figured I could come up with convoluted but scientific-sounding words for every law. It took me a while, but once I got the hang of it, I found it was a lot easier than I thought it'd be. This version was posted, probably a couple times, to rec.games.mecha and rec.arts.anime (this was before that newsgroup was split... I was only actively reading rec.games.mecha, which was still 99% BattleTech and had only a passing interest in Anime other than the usual eruptions over the Harmony Gold lawsuit). I can still find Version 3.0 stuck in various corners of the WWW, despite my attempts to have these sites updated to newer versions.
We got quite a few responses from Version 3.0, and enough good ones to start adding more Laws. I decided that, whenever possible, any suggestion we used would be credited to the discoverer. This became clear in Version 4.0, which added 6 more laws for a total of 31. I'm not sure if getting credit became a big incentive, but all the responses were very positive. Any law Ryan and I came across later on our own I left uncredited. In retrospect, I think I should have used real names instead of e-mail addresses, but in those days internet spam and privacy issues were in their infancy and I didn't consider it a big deal. I decided to go with real names later on.
I thought I never posted Version 4.1, as I only remember it being a work-in-progress for Version 4.2, which I did post. But I've found at least one page out there with only 35 laws, so this might be Version 4.1. I remember watching Wings of Honnemaise at the Palm Theatre and adding the law about any shape being aerodynamic, but I don't recall much about the changes between 4.0 and 4.2. Weighing in with a total of 38 laws, this new version included for the first time The Hammer Rule and finally an explanation for all those big eyes that nicely wrapped up several observations in Anime (mostly dealing with crying/sweating) that hadn't quite fit into any other laws. Of all the pages out there I haven't been able to update, 4.0 and 4.2 seem to be the most popular. I think 4.2 may have been the first one I converted to HTML and put up on my old school site.
I took my time getting around to the next version, but not for want of suggestions. I had been threatening Ryan about calling the next version 4.3 (he's got some hangup about the number 43... don't ask, its too hard to explain). When I finally got around to it, though, I called it 5.0 to be nice. Most of the changes had to do with formatting and the fact that I didn't bother with a text version or posting it to Usenet, though I did start to advertise my own site. I'd given permission to plenty of other people to put up their own copy of the Laws at that point, but I wanted an "official" site where people could keep track of any new additions. My policy on permission has always been pretty loose, so long as all the credits are kept intact.
Then I graduated from Cal Poly, got married, and moved to Ohio. The next version (5.1) was pretty much the same as 5.0, but I'd moved my pages to an AOL address. Yeah, I know, Army Of Losers, but when you move three times in three months its nice to keep the same ISP and at $20/month for up to 5 accounts it works out to be pretty cheap. No new laws, but other changes included an Anime Ring (which I get an amazingly low number of hits on -- must add hentai!), some other Anime humor pages, and fixed some spelling errors. Once I got set up on AOL, I started promoting the page a bit more, hunting down other Laws of Anime pages and encouraging the owners to update their pages/links. I even discovered a couple of other sites that had compiled new laws of their own. For a few months after the move, no new suggestions came in, but after the Anime Café updated their pages to the newer version more started to trickle in. Then I submitted my site to SJGames as a possibility for a mention in the Daily Illuminator (it was mentioned on May 4th), and THAT brought in a lot of feedback. Things tapered off, but for the past few months I've been getting a pretty steady stream of submissions..
Time passed. More suggestions piled up. The Anime Café asked me about the history behind the Laws of Anime, and I sat down to write up what you're reading here, and this prompted me to put together version 6.0. I combined Law #24 and #25 and added a new one about hair, so the numbering between #25 and #32 is a little different from what it used to be. I went through all of the old submissions, including what I'd saved from my school unix account, and made sure everything was credited as correctly as possible. I also decided not to use e-mail addresses, and went with real names whenever possible. Version 6.0 featured a law about nosebleeds (I've been getting suggestions about this since I first posted the Laws), a mention for the Gratuitous Shower Scene, and the fruits of my labor of hunting through a dictionary/thesauras, desperately trying to find a morpheme that meant "made out of wood".
Where does that leave us now? Well, Ryan's still finishing up school at Cal Poly, but has taken a more inactive role as one of the curators. Leaving his e-mail address in the mailto link is a convenient way for me to remind him that I still exist, however, so we still keep in touch. Mike Smith, who was instrumental in developing some of the early laws but not really mentioned much except in this text here, is living with Ryan and both of them are supposedly going to graduate sometime soon. I'm living out in Ohio with my wife, who isn't as much of a big fan of Anime, but we're both very fond of Ranma and Evangelion. There's not as much Anime out here, but I survive by occaisonally catching Sailor Moon on the Cartoon Network or Saturday Morning Anime on the Sci-Fi channel.
As for the future of the Laws of Anime, I finally sat down and hammered out Version 6.0 with some new laws. The Anime Café has arrived at independently and actually started one of my long-term projects, an illustrated version of the laws (maybe some day it'll even include streaming video/audio, but that'd be a LONG way off). Another project I toyed with a few years ago was an expanded version with commentary about where we got the inspiration for each law, a collection of similar suggestions, and other background info. But I don't think it'll happen now, it's been too long and I've lost notes and forgotten details. Maybe I'll add references to specific series that inspire certain laws. And one project that tickles the back of my mind every once in a while is a roleplaying game/supplement based on the Laws of Anime, probably done with Mekton Zeta or some other anime RPG, where exploiting the laws is important to the plot. Is there another version on the horizon? I have no idea, but I certainly hope so.
- Darrin Bright, 1998.11.20
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