#20: James G

Age: 33

Location: Michigan

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. I was about eight and my dad was plowing a driveway for a family friend. When we went inside they turned on “cartoons” for the kids with one of those huge old school satellites. It was the end of Vampire Hunter D where the kids are waving good bye and I was hooked without actually seeing anything. I finally got to see the whole thing years later when Sci Fi used to show anime on Saturday mornings like Project A-Ko, Robot Carnival, and Demon City Shinjuku to name a few.

I also was huge into Robotech and Voltron which as a kid didn’t realize was anime and taken from Macross and Beast King GoLion respectively.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? City smashing robots and mecha designs mainly. I used to try and make MD Geist armor out of cardboard when we’d play outside.

Who is “we” and did they like anime, too? Do they still? Haha yes, one of the few times my younger brother and I have ever gotten along was over anime. While other kids were outside playing Ninja Turtles we’d make MD Geist armor out of dirt bike gear and cardboard. We don’t see each other a lot but yeah he still watches anime. He has a very bad habit of borrowing without asking… He still has my complete Trigun, Escaflowne, and Nadesico series and i’ll probably never see them again.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? If I had to guess i’d say Vampire Hunter D when I first “found” anime and Ninja Scroll when I first started buying anime.

What was it like when you started buying anime? It was kind of a pain. I live in Northern Lower Michigan which is pretty rural and about a year behind on whatever’s current. Back when Game Pro and other video game magazines were popular the backs of them would have ads for stores like The Game Cave or others heck even Paul & Judy’s coin collectibles sold DBZ for a bit. Suncoast video chain used to sell anime so getting it there was about it. VHS ran about $19.99-$24.99 and they didn’t check ID because I remember my friend buying La Blue Girl and his mom tearing the manager a new one once she caught wind of it, then they changed all anime to ‘Must be 21″ for about a week.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? You were a nerd that liked cartoons. It was horrible and, before social media, next to impossible finding someone who you could talk to about it. That is, until a shitty show from a property I love started called Gundam Wing

You said fandom before social media was “horrible.” Were you ever teased for liking cartoons? The fandom before social media was horrible due to the fact you had no one to connect to with similar tastes and if you did, others were too embarrassed to talk openly about anime as if it was childish or taboo.

I remember a “popular” girl who is still a friend ask me about anime all the time when we were alone or away from the clique kids. If you did meet someone near you it was the stereotypical fan who plays Vampire the Masquerade, had samurai swords, and was super awkward socially. Personally for me, I got along in school with people from all walks so I never was really teased about what I watched but I was teased about having/collecting toys but it was all in fun nothing serious. Most people dog on you, then when they come over and see a Transforming Veritech Fighter they shut up and beg to check it out.

Tell me about when Gundam Wing started. How did things change for you, and how did you start meeting other fans? Toonami broke the wall down. There’s no two ways about it. You had Voltron, DBZ, Thundercats, G-Force/BotP’s, and Gundam shows—beginning with Wing. If you talk to most Gunpla builders I’m willing to bet most will even tell you that Wing is what got them started. I loved that Gundam had made it over but I loathed Wing and that’s largely in part to I had the Mobile Suit Gundam movie trilogy on VHS and had seen it long before Wing had showed up. Instantly i was able to see five boys with little quirks of Amuro showing through, a Char clone, Zaku & Leo similarities. I, in fact, was a spoiled brat that was ruined by what had come before and became the uber asshole fan. I even gave it a chance numerous times but I couldn’t get past the turd of a character Heero Yuy was and Relena’s childishness. Give me Duo and Trowa-loaded episodes any day. But to give credit where credit is due: without Wing we wouldn’t have gotten the first Gunpla boom that Cartoon Network and Toys “R” Us started. (Those god awful commercials…)

As for meeting other fans, it was like Toonami hit and over night EVERYONE I went to school with was an anime expert. All my classmates would come to me with questions during sports bus rides, study hall, wherever. Slowly I would start to meet others on Yahoo groups, BBS’s or forums in which would turn me on to new shows, OVAs, or movies. On a side note, Toonami was so popular that our whole team before playing our rival school went Super Saiyan and bleached our hair before the game. Parents blamed it on Eminem.

What was online fandom like at the time? Online fandom was rough due to know-it-alls. “Oh you’ve never seen Ranma 1/2? You’re a poser,” or “You never read the manga? I don’t even want you in this group.” Being 16 on a school computer talking 8 Man After with some 30-year-old fan sounds creepy now that i think about it. Older fans felt kind of resentful the new anime boom brought all these young kids in to what was a tight knit exclusive group.

What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom when you got into it and now? Anime was hard to come by. Titles in the US were limited to just a handful. Dubbed wasn’t done a whole lot for anything else that wasn’t Akira or Vampire Hunter D so you can imagine reading subtitles was a turn-off for a preteen. Now it’s everywhere and there’s so much more to offer, from slice of life, mystic & medieval, giant robot, gotta catch ’em all—it’s crazy all the different anime types you can get at you fingertips with services like YouTube, Crunchyroll, Daisuki, you name it. Pop culture has even allowed anime in with clothing, toys, licensed properties like DC and Marvel. Now’s the best time to be a fan because there is so much out there to take in and enjoy.

James can be reached on Twitter and Instagram.

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