Chip, as usual, has eloquently stated the heart
of the matter. I hadn't thought about cel
collecting in quite those terms before--as a
continuum of shared experience--but he is exactly
right. My own explanation will sound slightly
different, and is highly personal, but when
boiled down to its essence is the same as his.
I've spent a lifetime marvelling over our
species' ability to tell stories. We tell
stories through music, art, sculpture,
literature, religion, science -- so many ways!
Beginning with Grimm's Fairy Tales when I was old
enough to read them, plunked in front of a TV
tuned to old PBS broadcasts of Wagner operas, I
have randomly soaked up mythology, folklore,
religion and cultural tidbits from different
times and places. As I went through my formal
schooling I tended toward the same types of
material -- participation in choral music groups,
studying bits and pieces of Greek and Roman
classics, mythology, the history of the English
language, comparative religion, and
Fast forward 20 years to my first experience with
anime. It felt like stepping into a perfect
mixture of everything I've ever found important.
Accessible, wonderful music, both vocal and
instrumental. Brilliant colors in a
highly "readable" visual shorthand that
nevertheless has the ability to convey tremendous
depths of experience and emotion. And the
inclusion, either musically, visually, or
verbally, of the touch of a very long and complex
history of beliefs and meanings. If you've never
had a chance to see Crispin Freeman's film on the
Mythology of Anime, try to. He's another person
who has put words to the heart of the matter.
And now for the other explanation, which my
studies into how people learn have made necessary
("you're a doctoral student who watches CARTOONS?
Our brains are wired to learn by touch, sound,
words, and visual and emotional experience.
Watching anime reaches almost all of those
channels of learning at the same time -- and it
doesn't matter whether you're watching an
Evangelion or a complete piece of fluff. It
triggers memories and creates new connections
among bits of shared knowledge and experience
from many lifetimes, in a way that single-medium
storytelling just can't.
The thing about cels, figures, pins, posters and
plushies, however, is that they add the tactile
to the entirety of the anime learning experience.
As Chip said, there is something about holding in
your hand a physical part of the experience that
can't be matched in any other way. Likewise
figures. To hold and look at the magnificent
detail in these miniatures of what was originally
a two-dimensional rendering is to experience the
completeness of the human experience. We have
the ability to use symbols to recreate for each
other an entire universe of experience.
Whee! and of course, collecting cels is plain
Do I have a favorite cel? not really. But this
one is one of those that doesn't even need to be
placed in context to carry an amazing depth of