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Friday, March 16, 2012

TV Memories 07 | Zach Ricks

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I'll admit up front this may be a bit of a cheat, but I'm going to defend it because it is about TV. Just… Foreign TV. That I may have watched over the internet. Which brings up an interesting question. What is TV anymore? Does netflix count? How about Hulu? iTunes downloads? DVR? Huh. Anyway...

I grew up watching Saturday Morning Cartoons, which meant that on any given Saturday I would wake up before 6:00 AM to catch Super Friends or Alvin and the Chipmunks. It was a perfect time of day - the sun wasn't up yet, no one else in the family was up, it was just me, maybe a bowl of cereal, and our giant old Zenith console television that I'd cracked my head on doing flips into a bean bag chair. We lived in a very small farming community in rural Idaho, USA, and we didn't have cable. We didn't even have FOX. (But I did have an uncle who lived in Alaska who would tape the Simpsons and mail us the tapes a season at a time because he felt bad that we couldn't get it where we were at. That's how I grew up.) And Saturday morning cartoons were fine… but I kept getting hints - little hints - that there was something really interesting out there.

I saw a little bit one time when my Dad got a satellite dish on a trial basis. (It came on a trailer and sat in our driveway for a few days. I saw First Blood SO MANY TIMES that week…). But I caught this crazy thing on some network that was a cartoon, that was… rescue… and had crazy vehicles… Thunderbirds 2086. So I watched as much as I could, and eventually the dish went away.

And then this one time we were on vacation in California - went to Disneyland. I'd tripped the night before getting into the RV. I had a straw in my mouth, and it cut the roof of my mouth - just peeled a layer of skin off it. Hurt like heck. So I was laying in the back of the RV, trying to tune this tiny little television into something we could watch while we were driving around.. and I found something about people living underground because the Earth had been destroyed by radiation, and they were worried about whether they could survive or not, and this crazy scene where they were trying to launch a starship but there was a meteor that was going to hit them, so they had to fire their main cannon, which killed their engines and they fell back down to Earth… It was crazy! It was wonderful! I had never seen anything like it. And I had no way of seeing what happened next because we went home to Idaho and I just couldn't get my hands on it. I just knew the name: Star Blazers.

But it wasn't until I went to college that I really started to find stuff. Because that's when I was able to get things like the SciFi channel's Saturday Anime, and Cartoon Network started running anime on Toonami. And that was pretty good. I saw all kinds of interesting shows. Cowboy Bebop.

Eventually I got married - and my wife Did Not Get It. She saw me watching my crazy shows, and thought "It's all kid stuff."

Then, one night, she sat down with me and watched a very early episode of Gundam Wing. And suddenly she was hooked. This was different! It was interesting! And it definitely was not kid stuff. It was moral choices about war, and who you can trust, and what you do in hard times, and though we still joke about some of the crazy lines to this day, it's something we shared and loved together.

But the best memory I have of "TV" isn't really TV. At least it wasn't for us at the time.

We had just moved to Portland, OR, where I was attending law school. It was me, my wife, and our (at the time) three-year-old daughter, the Queso Kid. I worked part-time for the law school and I had a little office in one of the buildings - a dark little bunker. One day, I had a little time on my hands and I found a site where you could read fan-translated manga. (At the time, fan subs were something of a gray area, because the instant something became licensed in the States, the translation stopped, the files came down, and everyone waited for the official release.) The site isn't there anymore, but I remember sitting there and reading the first chapter of Naruto. Something about the story was really interesting to me. Here was a kid who was a bit of a screwup, but had big dreams. People didn't treat him very well. But there was one guy who believed in him, and because of that belief, this kid stood up and did something incredible. Loved it. So I immediately started looking to see if there was an anime.

And there was. Barely. Maybe three or four episodes out at the time. So we got into a routine. We would download the latest fan-translated episode every week, and drag the couch over in front of the computer. We'd pop some popcorn, and my wife and my daughter and I would sit down and watch this silly little show about kid ninjas. Queso couldn't read, of course, so we'd take turns reading the subtitles for her. I look back on that now as some of my favorite times ever, sitting on the couch watching and reading this show to my little girl. And while I still claim that Trigun episode 5 - Hard Puncher - is the single greatest episode of anime ever, there are a couple of Naruto episodes that are very close. In particular, there's a pretty insane three-episode run from about episode 60-62 that's a single fight, but it becomes this riff on destiny and fate vs. free-will and the ability to succeed no matter the obstacle. The end of that fight is something that occasionally just pops up in my head again and again - it had a big impact on me.

We still watch quite a bit of anime in the house. I fell away from watching Naruto when they started in with all the filler episodes, though the wife and kiddo have been keeping up with it. Queso and I have started watching Bleach, Ouran Host Club, and some others, but nothing beats those Sunday nights, pulling the couch over to watch a silly Japanese show about ninja kids.

I'm Zach Ricks. I'm an attorney, a writer, and an editor - currently the managing editor of FlagShip at You can find my own writing at, and some other things I'm working on with Scott Roche at


  1. Thanks Skinner! I don't know if you listened or read, but Zach did a bang up job reading his post. Thanks for stopping by and thanks for the comment.

    1. It was a covert work operation, so I had to read it. I'll have to stop by once the day is done, just to absorb the audio.