Welcome to “My First Time,” a recurring section on the blog where we query fellow X-Philes about how they came to the show, and then later on how their fandom developed and evolved over the years.
Case File: KF102913
Subject: Kenji Fujishima
We start in earnest our interview series of fellow X-Philes with my good friend Kenji, whom I’ve known since high school, and while rooming with him in college, rekindled my love and obsession with the show by rewatching the whole thing from the beginning.
Max: Hey Kenji, how’s it going?
Kenji: A little under the weather, actually, but otherwise, going okay.
Max: Let’s get down to brass tacks, and ask you point blank, what was your first episode?
Kenji: Short answer: “The Host.” Longer answer: I randomly walked into my parents’ bedroom one night and basically watched a guy puke up a fluke in the shower, then later discovered both the name of the show and the name of that episode.
Max: Elaborate on that if you can. Watching that must’ve been quite the experience back then.
Kenji: It was pretty freaky. In fact, I think all The X-Files episodes I subsequently watched that season, at least, creeped me out to varying degrees… to the point that, when I went to bed afterward, I always had to make sure the closet across from my bed in my bedroom was closed. That’s how much of an effect those episodes had on me — and yes, that included “Humbug,” the second season’s one “comedy” episode. And yet, somehow, despite that, I couldn’t get enough, and kept returning week after week.
Max: Were your parents fans of the show? Or were they just channel surfing?
Kenji: Well, I did end up watching a fair amount of episodes that season with my dad, but I don’t recall geeking out about the show’s finer points or anything—though that may speak more to our general father-son dynamic than to whether he had an intense interest in the show. But my sense was, it was just something for him to watch on… well, back then, if I recall correctly, it was on Friday nights.
Max: Yes, it was still Fridays back then. What in particular do you think kept you returning week after week? Was it the spooky stuff, the characters, what couldn’t you get enough of?
Kenji: Hmm. Honestly, I think my appreciation of the dynamic between Mulder and Scully came later, as I grew older and more mature; if anything, that’s probably what kept me watching the show in later seasons, even as I became tougher to frighten. So it was probably the creepy stuff that kept me going back then—as if I kept secretly daring the show to top the previous week’s frights.
Max: When do you think you became, or at least self-identified as, an X-Phile? was it season two or a little later?
Kenji: Well… technically, I didn’t make The X-Files appointment viewing until later in the second season, really, with “Die Hand Die Verletzt;” before then, I would occasionally check in here and there. But after that, I was hooked. So I suppose you could point to that moment as the X-Phile moment. But if by X-Phile, you mean someone who was at least halfway obsessive with following the mythology, picking up on plot and/or character details and such… well, perhaps I’d have to say that came even later than that, with that stunning season two finale cliffhanger and those long months I had to wait until the third season began.
Max: “Anasazi” was quite the episode indeed. Going back a bit, I mentioned in my own recollections of things how I was a science fiction nerd, and thus I was predisposed to liking the show before ever even knowing of its existence. Did you have a similar pop culture background? What, if anything, do you think did it for you?
Kenji: Well… now that I think about it, I was something of a horror buff back when I discovered The X-Files, so that may have played a part in my gravitating toward the show. If anything, Chris Carter’s series was the springboard for whatever science fiction I explored later.
Max: In terms of experiencing the show as the years wore on, did you participate in any discussion forums? Write any fanfic? Conventions? Collect memorabilia?
Kenji: Eh, I’m not sure I ever went that far with my immersion in the show… but then, I don’t think I’ve ever really gone that far with most TV shows or films that I love. The closest I’d say I went was participating on IMDb discussions of the show… and, in the earlier years, I did read some of the young-adult novelizations of select episodes and recall reading one episode guide that covered the first two seasons, a book that explored some of the paranormal phenomena that each episode took on. I forget the name of the book, but I vaguely recall the name of the author… N.E. Genge or something like that.
Max: The release of Fight The Future was a pretty big milestone for fans, what are your memories of seeing it and the run-up to its release? Then later, how did it feel to finally have them return in I Want To Believe?
Kenji: Yeah, I definitely remember the hype leading up to Fight The Future; there may have been some TV special about it that I caught, but that’s only a vague memory at this point. I didn’t really go to movie theaters regularly until after I graduated from high school, though… and that was in 2003. So when Fight The Future came out, I actually didn’t see it in theaters, but caught up with it eventually on video… which, I suppose, meant that I may have actually started season six without having seen the movie. (I guess that makes me a weird X-Phile, as you may have already guessed.) Of course, when I Want To Believe came out, I was a regular moviegoer then, so of course I was definitely pumped for the opportunity to see Mulder and Scully on the big screen, especially after that bittersweet final scene between them in the series finale. I have no idea whether that influenced my response to that movie and all, though, judging by the disdain with which even many hardcore fans treat that film, I do seem to like it a lot more than most people.
Max: Did you stick with the show until the end of the series? Or did your enthusiasm wane during the latter seasons?
Kenji: Heh, I guess my response to this will further the impression of how weird an X-Phile I am. Admittedly, my enthusiasm did wane in the later seasons; I stopped watching it regularly during its initial run sometime in season seven and only caught stray episodes afterwards (including the series finale; I wasn’t that bad an X-Phile!). But then I rediscovered the show during college, and I suppose the nostalgia I felt for the show — well, nostalgia for its earlier seasons, to be precise—finally spurred me to catch up with all the season 7-9 episodes I had initially missed out on. Now that I’ve caught up with them all, I do feel a bit sorry about not keeping up, because I did warm to Doggett and Reyes, and, if nothing else, the show still produced some really great standalone episodes in those last two seasons. In fact, I was talking to a friend of mine last week about The X-Files, and he cited the season eight episode “Via Negativa” as one that really stood out for him; he was astonished that something that crazy somehow made it on the air.
Max: Yeah, I vividly recall the two of us plowing through the series when we lived together off campus, and that was a similar moment of rediscovery for me, including the latter seasons that I didn’t watch regularly or at all. Going forward, what do you think are the major takeaways from your experiences being a fan of the show? Or more simply, what does The X-Files mean to you today?
Kenji: Well, now that I’m older, have watched a lot more film and TV and have lived life more, I do find myself appreciating The X-Files more these days on a thematic and even possibly a spiritual level than I did back during its initial run, when I was perhaps too busy trying to keep that darn mythology straight. As all that confusion has died down, though, you’re still left with Mulder and Scully, with their two different perspectives: the logical vs. the emotional, and how they can sometimes conflict with each other and how they can sometimes harmoniously coexist in this weird but ultimately very human way. These days, that’s a dichotomy I find myself thinking a lot about, finding that dynamic play out in a lot of the films and TV shows I gravitate toward and treasure. Perhaps that’s the one big thing I’ve taken away from The X-Files, beyond the show’s immediate pleasures.
Max: Sounds good to me! Thanks for taking the time to reminisce, and remember… the truth is still out there!
Kenji: Oh yes, it always is, and we are all still probably looking for it and maybe finding it in our own ways!