When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. I discovered it by watching Naruto on Toonami in 2005. From there, I started watching Zatch Bell, One Piece, Bleach, and other shows on Toonami. I didn’t branch out beyond that or get involved in the larger fandom until 2013, when I watched Angel Beats, Sword Art Online, Fullmetal Alchemist, Attack on Titan, and several other popular shows.
What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? I always liked the particular style of fantasy action you see in long-running shonen that just wasn’t done in other mediums. It had a certain type of cool that I had never seen anywhere else. I had also never seen a TV show with that much of an overarching story or that much complexity. I had only seen American cartoons (and Pokemon) before that, and those rarely had any overarching plot and were largely directed at a younger audience.
What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? Naruto, no question.
What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? I wasn’t really a part of the fandom at the time. I didn’t use the internet as much back then and didn’t know a lot of other fans. What I remember most is watching and discussing the latest Naruto episodes with my younger brother, who began watching it even before I did.
Tell me more about your younger brother. How did he get into anime? Did he stay into it up until today? My younger brother got into anime pretty much the same way I did. We would both watch Pokémon as kids, and he started watching Naruto on Toonami shortly before I did. He isn’t as into it today but he still occasionally watches action shows like Attack on Titan.
Can you tell me about the first time you met another anime fan? Was it in person or online? Aside from my brother, the first anime fan I met was a kid I knew at elementary school who also liked Naruto. I don’t remember a lot of details but I remember talking about it with him during recess. The first time I got involved with an anime related community was through editing on the One Piece Wiki back in 2012, which I still do today.
How did you get into that? I originally started because I was (and still am) a huge One Piece fan and I browsed there fairly regularly. I started editing by correcting small spelling and grammar errors and kept going from there. I’ve stuck with it because I’ve gotten more involved with the community there and I like making sure the wiki is good quality. I’m also a content mod there, which is a step above ordinary users but below admins. I’m not as active as I used to be, but I still edit there fairly frequently.
I also started blogging about a year ago, and I’ve gotten even more involved with the community through that.
How did you express your interest in Naruto? Did you create art or write stories or anything like that? Aside from watching the weekly episodes on Toonami, I began buying Naruto video games whenever I found out about a new one and could talk my parents into getting it for me. They were usually fighting games that I played by myself against the AI, but I also sometimes did matches against my brother. I still have all of the games today, and I think I ended up getting about nine or ten different games, some of which I still play occasionally. I also started reading the manga weekly after my brother picked it up. I had always watched the dub, so the manga was far ahead of what I was familiar with, but I was so eager for new content that I read it anyway. I even bought some Naruto trading cards once, although I never did much with them.
Do you remember your first anime convention? What was it like? My first anime convention was Anime Expo 2014 (I had dropped into a smaller convention for a few hours once, but I didn’t really do anything). It was a lot of fun, but the lines are what I remember most. That was the year the computers they used for badge pickups broke, and I ended up waiting in line to get mine for three hours in July heat and some of the events had such long lines that they filled up before I got to go in. I’m still glad I went to the con, though. I got to go to a lot of cool panels, even with the lines, and it was the first time I had seen so many fans in one place. I had so much fun that I’ve gone every year since, except now I always buy premier badges so I can skip the lines.
What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom then and anime fandom today? I wasn’t that involved with the community until around 2014, but what I remember most from the early days was how huge Naruto was. Toonami would always promote it heavily, every fan I met knew about it or watched it, and it was one of the first shows I thought of when I thought “anime.” Back then, especially among people my age, the main source of anime was Toonami, so all of the biggest hits were shows from there. Bleach and One Piece were also pretty popular around that time, but Bleach didn’t come around until a little later, and One Piece never quite caught on in like the other two.