When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. That’s sort of complicated. I’ve been watching anime all my life. In the early ’70s, the Austrian children’s TV programming included lots of World Masterpiece Theatre shows. There were co-productions (Maya) and some classics (Sinbad, Kimba the White Lion). I was always aware that these cartoons came from Japan. Japan and America dominated on TV; I enjoyed both, and had no clear preference. (There were some British shows, and some from all over Europe.)
In the early ’80s, TV broadcast Captain Future. I don’t remember which stations broadcast the show, but I know it ran in the afternoon. I didn’t know back then, but it was censored for violence, and had a completely new soundtrack written by a German. What fascinated me the most about this show as a teen was a recurring villain team. I was used to incompetent henchmen, and little teamwork. The villains here cared for each other every bit as much the protagonists, and they were equally competent.
I don’t remember exactly when I first heard the term “anime.” My gut tells me it must have been the late ’80s or the early ’90s. Early ’90s would make most sense, since that’s when music stations such as MTV or the German Viva started airing anime, and late night TV started broadcasting subbed anime.
The first subtitled anime show I ever saw was Silent Möbius, which has a special place in my heart for this reason alone. Other shows that aired were better or worse. One notable show is The Irresponsible Captain Tylor. They also occasionally had marathon weekends (an entire season in two nights) and best of nights (lots of recent first episodes in one night—this was my first encounter with Evangelion). There’s an anime magazine in Germany that debuted in late 1994, which sort of supports my gut feeling and dates the term “anime” to the early ’90s.
A milestone in children TV programming was the first anime set in Japan I can remember: a ’60s sports show, Attack No. 1, about a female volleyball team. I remember being fascinated with publicised exam results. Similarly, also in the early ’90s, came the first fanservice culture shock: Agent Aika. They push you into the deep waters first, don’t they! This show is a weapon of mass panty exposure. I understood nudity, but that fascination with underwear was mystifying. It felt perverted and innocent at the same time. I watched pretty much any anime I could find, so I watched that, too. It wasn’t all bad, either, and the follow up—Najika Blitz Tactics—was a little better, and I got used to the odd fanservice, too.
I didn’t have a VCR for a long time, so the only anime I own in VHS is Princess Mononoke. Not many new shows came out later, and VHS died, and once again, I was a late adopter to the next technology, and I didn’t really have a DVD player for a long time. The next thing I bought was Haruhi Suzumiya in, I think, 2008. I’d buy a lot of DVDs from then on.
A writing friend recommended Elfen Lied based on my writing. She said she was fascinated with the combination of innocence and violence. I hadn’t ever heard of that show, but I replied that I was used to that sort of thing, although I couldn’t remember specific examples. I looked for the show online and found it on youtube, which in turn led me to fansubs. I started watching anime as they aired near the end of 2009. I never really participated much in the community. I’m a registered member at animesuki (for the forums), and I follow a couple of blogs, and I talk about anime on a writing site, and that’s about it. Nobody around me in real life shares my hobby, although I got my mum to watch Usagi Drop (and also the Heidi reference scene in episode one of Kuragehime [Princess Jellyfish]).
So, now maybe you can answer the question: when did I discover anime? As a child? In the ’80s with Captain Future (an adult show censored for children)? In the ’90s boom, when the term “anime” started being used? In 2009 when I was discovering fansubs? I don’t feel like I discovered anime. It’s always been sort of there, though for half the time not under that name.
What did your mom think of the anime you showed her? I think she thought Usagi Drop was cute and was looking forward to the weekly episodes, though I’m sure to some degree she was humouring me. Still, I tried other shows (such as Shirokuma Café, and I could tell they didn’t work). I do show my mum certain scenes I think she would enjoy, most recently the opening scene of episode one of Classicaloid (which I overheard her telling Dad about later).
What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? In a sense, anime was a huge influence on forming my taste in the first place. It’s not that I discovered anime as an alternative to anything. I simply grew into it.
As an example: When I started watching Ghibli movies (starting with Princess Mononoke), I soon learned I preferred Takahata to Miyazaki. Later I learned Takahata is responsible for the WMT shows I remember most fondly: Heidi and 3000 Leagues. Coincidence? I doubt it. I saw them early in life and that’s just what stuck with me. Takahata may be part of the reason I like slice of life so much.
Do you remember your first convention? What was it, and what was it like?
I’ve never been to such a thing, and I’m not sure any exist. I don’t know if I wanted to go, since I dislike crowds. I am curious, though. I did spend three days in Vienna once, because an independent cinema had an anime theme day (around the time Spirited Away was new). It was an old cinema, with an old and noisy projector and uncomfortable seats. The most memorable show I saw was Perfect Blue. They also showed Roujin Z—an OVA dubbed English with German subtitles. (Even the cinemas seemed to show whatever they could get their hands on.)
What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? I wasn’t part of the anime fandom, and I’m still really only a marginal figure. I enjoy talking about anime now and then, so I occasionally reply to blog post or forum threads, but not very often. The reason I reply here is because the project interests me. (As an aside: I hold a degree in sociology.)
Have you used your degree to studied subculture before, or participate in other projects like this one? I’ve never actually done any research. I got my degree, but never did anything with it after finishing. Still, the interest is still there. For what it’s worth, I was writing my thesis about the letter section in an American comic book (Sam Keith’s The Maxx). My interest was theoretical: I was mostly interested in how interaction across space-time could be viewed theoretically (the relationship between real space/time and social space/time was surprisingly understudied, considering the rise of the internet). I was only secondarily interested in fan culture.