When you grow up without siblings, the television becomes your constant companion. If you had parents who spoiled you more than the average person, it meant no restriction on tv. I grew up watching Big Brother, Sex and the City, Jerry Springer and many others. 

Movies with cheesy, predictable plots and over-dramatised action raised me. They helped me develop unrealistic expectations of love, romance and sex. It took growing up to realise not everything they say in movies is real, but that didn’t stop me from watching. They became my escape from reality and fulfilled my intense need for fairytales. 

My movie taste is simple. I like romantic comedies with happy endings, dramas with a sprinkle of humour and movies about young adults figuring out their way in life. I barely watch animation that isn’t targeted at age zero to five. 

During the lockdown of 2020, while the whole world and my grandma baked banana bread at home, I decided I wanted to leave my movie comfort zone. I was chronically online, and many people I followed kept talking about how they spent most of their days binging anime. Amine watchers felt like a community of people, and if there was anything I needed in 2020, it was community. 

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When I asked for recommendations, and I specified they had to be short — romantic comedies didn’t take me up to three hours to finish, and they’d built a precedent for how I consumed movies — Seven Deadly Sins was what almost everyone threw at me, so I decided to give it a try. One season later, the comments Meliodas made to Elizabeth made me too uncomfortable, and the fight scenes made me more anxious than I cared to admit. I wanted to give up on anime as a whole, but I felt I could muster the courage to try another one. 

A couple of weeks later, I tried Kakegurui, and after having an anxiety attack in episode 4, I hung my anime cap. It was okay that this wasn’t something I could get into. I could find my community elsewhere. 

My friends tried to help me find something I could enjoy, but either the themes were too sad or the episodes too many. There was nothing I considered perfect for me, so they stopped trying. When anyone asked me if I watched anime, I’d shake my head and tell them it triggered my anxiety. It got them to leave me alone and made it seem less like a “me” problem and more of a mental health problem. 

That was how it was for the next two years of my life. I didn’t understand the “big three” discourse, or how Goku is strong enough to fight God, and I didn’t care. Then in July 2022, I fell in love with an otaku. 

There’s this thing about love that makes you want to share parts of yourself with the people you care about. So we sat down and watched one of my favourite movies, Legally Blonde. I watched her face every time she laughed, smiled, got excited, or scrunched it up in disgust at a character’s actions. It gave me a new reason to love her, and now, she’s one of the many reasons why I love Legally Blonde.

l wanted her to have something like that with me. I wanted to share the excitement with her and have her associate an anime that means so much to her with me, just like I did with her. So when I saw her favourite anime had come to Netflix, I made up my mind to give it a try. 

I was anxious and scared because if I ended up not liking it, it was like I’d have one thing less to talk to her about, but wanting me was enough to prove she had great taste. I was prepared for all the worst possible scenarios, like hating her favourite characters or episode and even having an anxiety attack. What I didn’t anticipate was watching 40 episodes in about a week. 

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A part of me wants to believe even though I started watching it because of her, I enjoy it enough to continue. I text her whenever I’m watching a scene I don’t understand, and I make jokes about the characters. I feel alive in a way I can’t explain. Hearing the excitement in her voice, with every episode I explain, and how she has to force herself not to give me spoilers? It’s love. 

On a Sunday in September, I was sad, and she suggested we watch it together. Every time I screamed, shouted and paused to take a deep breath, she’d laugh like it was the funniest thing she’d ever witnessed. I felt connected to her in a way I didn’t think was possible, and now, I’m reading HisokaxMachi fanfiction. 

Two years ago, I never would’ve considered this a part of my life, talk less of a part I openly talk about. I ordered a Gon and Killua hoodie because those are my children, and I asked her to make me a list of all her favourite animes, so I can watch each one. 

Love makes you do stupid things, but it also allows you give certain things a chance. Maybe in a couple of months, I’d be joining people to shout that Naruto is overrated, but who knows? 

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Zikoko amplifies African youth culture by curating and creating smart and joyful content for young Africans and the world.