Anime fans come from all walks of life and in all shapes and sizes. Some are students, some are scientists, some are doctors, some are artists, and some are even nationally-recognized professional sports figures! Crunchyroll All-Stars is a series of interviews highlighting elite professional athletes who harbor a passion both for their sport and for anime.
Today’s profile is on Deatrich Wise Jr., a Defensive End for the New England Patriots. Wise Jr. comes from a long line of NFL stars: his father Deatrich Sr. and his brother Daniel both played in the NFL. While on the Patriots, Wise Jr. has been an active part of the team's well-known anime club and even goes out to local conventions like Anime Boston! We spoke with Wise Jr. about how he brings his anime passion onto the field (via handshakes), the connections he's made all over by being an anime fan, and more!
When did you become an anime fan? Was there a specific moment that affected you or changed the way you felt about something?
My first anime was Dragon Ball Z. I got into it because I always watched cartoons when I was young with my brothers, cartoons like Samurai Jack. We loved action movies and came across an anime with characters who have powers and we loved the characters in it — their powers and catchphrases they’d say when they used their powers. We basically started reenacting it in the backyard yelling “KAMEHAMEHA!” and then we were officially into the anime world.
Are there any ways you engage with your favorite anime series or characters aside from watching them?
I’ve definitely bought some shirts, and me and some teammates on the Patriots went to an anime convention in Boston — me and a couple guys have our own anime club on the team. I bought some pictures and an Afro Samurai headband while I was there. I also did a celebration with my teammate Adam Butler (he’s a huge anime fan and wears cosplay in the locker room sometimes), and we have a handshake that we end with a KAMEHAMEHA at the end.
Have you ever bonded with someone else over anime?
Yes, me and my teammate Adam Butler always talk about our favorite anime, "Have you seen this anime? You watched this one yet?" I put him onto what I’ve seen and he does the same with me. When I was younger, I didn’t always talk about anime with people but I formed multiple friendships around anime.
What’s your favorite anime series of all time?
One Piece. I love Monkey D. Luffy and everything he stands for. He’s such a cool dude, and he loves his friends. He’ll do anything for them and I love how they all travel the world together.
Who’s your favorite anime character of all time?
I love Monkey D. Luffy, but I’m going to say Piccolo. I found out he’s 7’5” and was like a man! He’s just a cool dude.
Who would you rank as the top anime hero ever?
I gotta say Luffy: he protects his village, he stands for justice, and even if he doesn’t know you he’ll risk his life for you.
Who would you rank as the top anime villain ever?
Hands down it’s Freiza. He’s just an evil guy and he’s as strong a villain as Goku ever faced. He was always blowing up cities, he’s just malicious.
Have you ever taken any elements or learnings from anime and implemented them into your daily life?
There are definitely some lessons I’ve learned from watching anime and they’re usually from a few common themes: from the hero side it’s about self-sacrifice, never giving up, and working as a team. One Piece and Naruto come to mind. Naruto, Luffy, and Afro Samurai as well — they all had to battle, they put things on the line to get their goal accomplished. They always knew exactly what their goals were: to be the king of the pirates, the #1 samurai.
Even Goku trained in the hyperbolic chamber because he wanted to be the best. I take all these lessons of self-sacrifice, never giving up, working hard, wanting to be the best. It’s about taking these lessons into football but also everyday life.
It feels like more and more athletes are showcasing their love for anime — what’s anime fandom like in the NFL? And what do you think it is about anime that attracts athletes?
Both in the NFL and in college, you find out people watch anime and some of the same series you’re watching, and you build relationships and connections through anime. From conventions to the classroom in college to the locker room now, what stands out is the fandom and the connections you make are genuine.
Anime hits a nostalgic side for people — it takes all of us back to being a kid, reenacting scenes we saw on TV being ninjas and things like that. For myself, I love all the action that comes with anime and the lessons I learn from them.
What would your message be to someone who recently discovered anime and was thinking about getting into it?
There’s a lot of different kinds of anime that cover a wide range of genres that everyone likes. My wife recently asked me about my love for anime, and we ended up watching one together. And it’s just about volleyball, but we really enjoy it. To those interested in getting into it, identify the genre you’re into in general and there will be an anime in that genre that will get you going. Once you start watching a good series you’ll fall in love with it. If you find one that speaks to you, you’ll be hooked.