SIA: Writing the articles I wish they did

ONE of the things I fondly remember growing up with was a publication whose full name was Questor: the Ultimate Anime Magazine. Back then, Japanese animation and comics have just made their biggest comeback to these shores since Voltes V first aired on Philippine television. Also, the internet had already established itself as a presence, but it was not yet in widespread use.

Even so, young and foolish me got acquainted with the World Wide Web rather quickly, and I first came to know about Questor from perusing some of the little Filipino-run anime blogs and shrines on free hosting sites like GeoCities. At the time however, the one magazine all the Manila-based anime bloggers were gushing about was nowhere to be found here in the City of Golden Friendship. Bummer.

It wasn't until I moved to Quezon City that I would walk into a bookstore in Fairview to purchase my very first copy of Questor...namely, the April Fools' special issue, which I prefer not to talk about.

Anyway, the edition I prefer to regard as my “true” first-ever Questor was the New Year's one that featured Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040 on its cover. It was a back issue to be sure, but the quality of the full-color images and the paper they were printed on were so good that old issues would still sell well at full price even in Booksale. Plus they came with collectibles like cards and posters.

But more than the giveaways, what I (and my friends who tend to borrow stuff while conveniently “forgetting” to return them) liked the most about Questor was that from time to time, they'd feature anime that weren't part of the greater mainstream – meaning, shows that weren't Dragon Ball, Sailor Moon, or Yu Yu Hakusho (Ghost Fighter) – but still deserved to be watched in their entirety and appreciated. There were plenty, but those that spring to mind right now are Cowboy Bebop, Oh My Goddess, Vision of Escaflowne, and Serial Experiments Lain.

In other words, more mature, and more profound shows that had a lot more to offer than episode after episode, after episode of puerile screaming, trading blows and balls of blazing energy with the enemy, and lots of long-winded and pointless dialogue in between.

The Japanese will always be famous for their indomitable martial spirit, which tends to bleed even into superficial mainstream anime, but they won't hesitate to reveal their philosophical, humanistic side if given the right opportunities. Most of the time, those opportunities come in higher forms such as spirituality, poetry, film, and literature. Sometimes, they come in the form of anime and manga.

Questor's writers could have seized on this quite Japanese trait and made their publication much greater than all the cute and colorful pictures and mind-blowing trivia put together. For instance, instead of rolling out yet another plot summary or survey of characters from sundry shows and their commonalities and differences, they could have gone deep instead of wide, and explored the main moral dilemmas confronting the characters in a particular series.

What all genuinely good stories have in common is a central conflict that makes the audience ask themselves what they would do in a similar situation. For instance, Steins;Gate, which I'll be writing about soon, presents such a conundrum: granted the ability to change the past, would you do so to your advantage? And if there were unintended unpleasant consequences in so doing (which there will always be), would you try to undo your original mistake, even if that would mean even more pain and suffering – not only for yourself, but for the people in your life you love the most?

Granted, the answers given for such questions would inevitably be from the writer's own perspective, but as the psychologist Carl Rogers once said, “What is most personal is most universal.” There would still be some kernels of objective truth in what the writer had to say so long as they were sincere in their effort to answer the difficult human questions presented by the plot. Sadly, Questor never really got around to doing that, and with the advent of Web 2.0, there was a nosedive in the demand for print magazines. Goodbye Questor, hello Wikipedia.

Questor wasn't perfect, but to fans here in the Philippines, it defined a delightful and colorful era. In truth, it may have been little more than a glorified anime catalog, but to me it was a life-saver during very confusing times, presenting more youthful and meaningful alternatives to the decadent West's shallow entertainment, which even back then was rife with drugs, delinquency, and all manner of deneneracy.

And so, I'd like to pay it forward, and do for the younger readers of SunStar what Questor did for me – and what I wished they had done too. Apart from this column, which I'll continue to write, I'll also be reviewing anime and manga series, especially the kinds that leave you thinking deeply afterwards. After all, I believe anime isn't a waste of time, but even if it is, it will always be time well wasted.

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