Note: Quirktastic received an advanced screening for the documentary, He Was Anime in partnership with Crunchyroll, therefore, some of our talking points may be seen as spoilers.
Remember that feeling that you got as a young anime lover when you found out that someone else in your class also liked anime? That’s how I felt when I found out that NFL football player, Mike Daniels of the Green Bay Packers was an anime geek. (*slowly chants: one of us, ONE OF US!)
Crunchyroll just released a short documentary called He Was Anime about the nerdy life of the Green Bay Packers defensive end, Mike Daniels. The 11-minute long documentary shares the story of how the world of anime propelled Daniels from his childhood as a bullied, skinny kid to one of the most formidable players in the NFL.
Y’all. Yes, you all. Can we talk about how many of US can relate to this documentary?
The year 2018 has proven to be a phenomenal year for Black nerds simply because our stories are finally being heard AND told. When I tell you that I see a bit of Daniels story in almost every Black nerdy man that I’ve come across, I mean it.
Throughout the documentary, I couldn’t help but notice the fire and light in Daniels’ eyes any time that he detailed the plot of an anime that he had watched or a manga he had read.
You know, that slightly distant look that every anime boy has when he is no longer in the room with you but is now on the battlefield channeling up energy for his jutsu. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about.
Even Daniels’ family had stories to tell about Mike growing up on anime.
“He made us nerds,” Daniel’s parents say as his mom goes through his collection of Dragon Ball videos and merch. “What are them little balls? The fireballs? The Dragon balls?” Daniel’s dad helps her out “Yeah, the 7 Dragon balls.”
I love the fact that the documentary includes personal accounts from his childhood. His mother recalls when he came home wanting to be an anime character for Halloween as well as her reaction. I’m sure that every Black nerd who grew up watching Toonami/Shonen’s Jump can relate to this moment.
Mike Daniels also covers a subject that many of us can relate to as well: bullying. Looking at Daniels now, I’m sure you can’t imagine anyone trying to push him in the mud off of the field, though he wasn’t always a 6 ft 300 lbs NFL football player.
His father makes a pretty cool correlation to the discipline seen in anime when it comes to training and the discipline needed to be a professional athlete. As I recall season 2 of My Hero Academia and the first few seasons of Naruto, he is not wrong.
With anime currently being so trendy, I’m sure that some of you anime hipsters out there are thinking that Daniels might be a poser who only likes Dragon Ball (and if you really have that standpoint about anime watcher, shame on you). Though, his wife can attest that this is not the case. Heaven, who was not an anime fan (but has recently been converted), rattles off several shows that they have watched together with their kids on Crunchyroll, including Hunter x Hunter and Boku no Hero Academia.
One of my favorite scenes was when Daniels was talking about manga in a Black barbershop. Even as a woman, I know some of the conversations that typically go on in the barbershop and nerdy/geeky stuff is usually not one of them, at least where I am at in the south. This scene was important to me because it shows that Black nerds are just that…Black.
Depending on where you grew up (New Yorkers, I’m not talking to you), you may have heard that you were not “Black enough” based on what your hobbies were. “Black enough” or not, every Black man who isn’t savvy with a pair of clippers has been in a barber’s chair. It’s just a part of life.