#100: A.P.

Age: 24

Location: New York

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember.
My childhood best friend introduced it to me during a sleepover! I had watched Pokémon and stuff before but this was the first time I watched something knowing it was from Japan.

Tell me about your childhood best friend! How did THEY discover anime? Are you still in touch? She’s great! She still watches anime occasionally. She is East Asian, so she was casually exposed to anime and manga pretty early on. We’re still in touch and we’re still close.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it?
I think the cool superpowers, the pretty boys, the potential to make self-insert characters…

Tell me about self-insert characters! Did you write fanfic? Role-play? Cosplay? I briefly wrote fanfic and tried roleplaying, but I was a snob and hating roleplaying with people who were bad writers, haha. I made lots of original characters though, and some of them are still alive in the writing I do today.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time?
I think Naruto was just starting then! Fruits Basket was really popular in my school too.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? I was only heavily into fandom in middle school and it was wild, honestly. My friend group fought and split up over some anime related thing… We would bring manga to school for each other or watch stuff at birthday parties. We wrote fanfiction… it was pretty similar to modern day fandom except I think we wrote in notebooks and read physical comics.

I need to hear about what this anime-related thing was that was so wild it caused a split. Oh my god, I don’t really even remember what the issue was… I think one friend was into anime in kind of a cringe-y way (using broken Japanese, acting cute, eating rice balls and stuff…) and another understandably couldn’t deal with this, so they stopped being friends, and then people picked sides.

Was the Internet a part of fandom at the time?  A little! The other fans were my friends so most of my memories are from school. I also wasn’t really an internet kid ’til college. I was in an RP group on a forum briefly but strangers freaked me out so I didn’t stay in touch with them.

You talk about anime in middle school and then again in college. Did you take a break from anime in high school? If so, what brought you back into the fandom? Yeah, I took a break! I was still reading manga and watching shows occasionally, but my friend’s interests changed and it was considered childish to be openly into anime. In college I started catching up on some series I used to like and some popular ones that were coming out at the time, and then I met folks who liked anime and were super cool about it.

How have you grown as an anime fan? For you, what’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom then and anime fandom today? I think I appreciate it in a totally different way now! As a kid, I got super into anything I was exposed to because I simply had less access to a variety of shows and comics. Now I can pick and choose what to watch (and I have less time to get invested in a show that’s kind of bad). I also think that’s helped anime fandom become more discerning! 

100 Day Check-In

For the last 99 days, I have been posting a daily interview with a member of the international anime community about what first interested them in anime.

We have heard from:

  • 65 men, 32 women, and two people who identify as neither.
  • Seven teenagers, 46 twenty-somethings, 38 thirty-somethings, six people in their 40s, and two people age 50 or older.
  • 78 North Americans, two South Americans, 13 people from Europe, four people from Australia, and one person from Asia.

It has been extremely enlightening to read so many diverse stories, to see early cosplay and anime merchandise photos, and to realize that no matter our differences, we all have this one, amazing hobby in common.

And it’s not over yet.

The Anime Origin Stories submission form has received 191 entries. Out of those, I have reviewed and sent follow-up questions to 120 people. Out of those 120, only 99 have responded so far. If you have a follow-up email from me sitting in your inbox, now would be a great time to write back!

In the meantime, I will be reviewing and responding to the remaining 71 entrants, though I will not be posting their stories on a daily schedule, which has proved quite grueling but (I hope) fun to check out each day.

What’s next? Due to personal reasons, I am moving more slowly than I planned on a potential book that would add context to the project. I am also considering an in-person Anime Origin Storytelling meet-up at Otakon. If you want to stay updated on the project, join my list:

Thank you for reading, submitting, or both and helping to make this project a success. Our fandom history is a rich one, and it’s certainly worth making an effort to preserve it for future generations.

#99: Trystan

Age: 22

Location: Indiana

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. This has always been a hard question for me to answer. When I was young (talking five-ish here) I had the habit of staying up until 3 AM, and although I shared my room with at least one sibling during this point, we had the luxury of having a TV. What we watched as we went to sleep was a big debate. We had to pick something we agreed upon and for me and my brother it was always Cartoon Network. This meant I was exposed to anime for really as long as I can remember and I have vivid memories of watching Sailor Moon while my mother prepared dinner. Toonami was a great source of entertainment but I was also present when Adult Swim came on. Sure I was way too young to be watching those shows but things like Big O, Blue Gender, Trigun, Cowboy Bebop, and Inuyasha had a huge impact on my life.

However, there is a single moment in time when I went from watching cartoons as a child to knowing it was something called anime and I owe this moment all to Inuyasha. While in elementary school I got along with those around me but I wasn’t close to many people and I often didn’t really have friends. Early fifth grade was especially hard for a variety of reasons and I wasn’t super friendly with those in my home room class. This meant I often had to find something to do at recess be it asking a group if I could join them (which gave me anxiety) or swinging for an entire recess period. Soon I became fed up having to do this and my laziness lead me to actions I will never be sorry for. There was a girl in my grade who used forearm crutches. Since I had never shared a class with her I didn’t understand what made her different (though I later learned she has cerebral palsy) but I did know that her disability allowed her and her friends to do something no one else could do: sit beside the door which was shaded and had concrete. At this point in my life all I wanted was to sit alone at recess and not be bothered. I should mention that the girl (who will be referred to as A) was allowed to bring a chair outside since her legs don’t really work and sitting on concrete can be hard on her.

Somehow in my 11-year-old mind I figured out the best plan: sit close enough to the group allowed by the door to look like I belong so I don’t get in trouble. And it worked. I set beside A’s chair on the outskirts of the group for months. At a certain point I became comfortable enough with my position to actually follow the group when they would move out into other parts of the playground. Of course it turns out the ringleader (Lets say, S) was doing it to get rid of me and one day started berating me. This is when A, someone I had never even spoken to and who wasn’t assertive in the least, yelled, “She’s my friend,” essentially giving me privilege enough to stay there. It is important to note that my town is small (about 5,000) people and our class was tiny. I knew all of these people and had even been friendly with S prior to this moment. But nonetheless from that moment on I felt easier about my position and free enough to talk to the other members of the group, be it infrequently. Then one day A and another girl were talking about Inuyasha and mentioned a kiss scene. I quickly butted in that I didn’t want spoilers. This interaction along with rotating classrooms finally brought A and I into the same circle and through her, and a very lovely public library, I came to know what anime and manga was and I fell in love with several manga that year. I started reading Fruits Basket, Tokyo Babylon, Chobits, Kare Kano, and other great series. This is a personal journey that means so much more to me than just anime or manga because by meeting A I gained what I believe to be my first real friend in my life and through our connection to anime we’ve managed to stay friends for the last 12 years. Learning what anime was really opened the world to me and helped me forge a lasting friendship I could never (and would never) replace.

Trystan (as Anthy) and A.

What an amazing story! Do you and A go to cons together? Cosplay together? How did your relationship evolve over the years? Like many relationships we’ve drifted but somehow we always manage to get back together before completely drifting apart. Being able to watch anime and discuss it is a huge reason why our friendship has lasted. Until 2015 I had never been to a convention but A had been to many so when I was invited to go to Anime Midwest with them I jumped at the opportunity. We spent most of that convention together and it’s still my favorite con we’ve gone to. Cosplay is something else I hadn’t done until recently while A had been doing for years. For Anime Central 2016 we cosplayed together, something we had each really wanted to do and come to the conclusion separately. With each other there the idea finally came to fruition and was cosplayed Anthy and Utena from Revolutionary Girl Utena. I was Anthy. I’ve always loved dresses like these but I stopped wearing them when I was a kid because I often got made in of. Anthy’s Rose Bride outfit is something I’ve loved since I first came into contact with RGU in middle school and while cosplay isn’t something I’ll do a lot the experience was a special one, especially since I had an important friend there by my side.

What did your family think of your interest in anime? (Especially since it sometimes gave you nightmares!) My mom is probably my biggest supporter. Sure she may not always get why I put so much money into it but she used to watch shows on Toonami and is in general a very accepting person. Her favorite anime are Trigun and Cowboy Bebop and we each them together every few years. She’s also a fan of Lupin III and we just started the newest series. As for my father, well, he doesn’t get it at all. It used to bother me, how one parent could be so nice and supportive while the other is completely dismissive but I’ve grown and my father, in his defense, stopped discussing my hobby in general and since then we’ve had a better relationship. As for my extended family, my dad’s parents were even worse than he was. They’re mostly sports people and my interests didn’t align. Their tendency to pick on me for liking anime and manga is actually what led to me asking for money rather than gifts. I couldn’t stand the way they responded when I wrote down manga titles. They would ask about it but the second you tried to explain it you could watch them zone out. My mom’s mom on the other hand is also supportive. She’s always tried to give us presents we like and so she would take me shopping and let me pick it out or in recent times I’ve emailed her things I want from Right Stuf. She also used to let me use her on demand to watch anime which was one of the few ways I got exposed to new anime in my early years as a fan.

Also, does your brother still watch anime? Actually yes, my brother does still watch anime. Not that much because he’s pretty busy but he still does from time to time. In fact rather recently he borrowed my Naruto omnibus and was enjoying reading that. It made me happy because we used to spend a lot of time watching Naruto.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? As a kid when I watched Toonami and Adult Swim I was often captured by the worlds and story’s that were so different from most cartoons. I’ve also always been drawn to things that scared me which is why I watched a lot of Blue Gender and Big O both of which gave me nightmares. When I learned what anime was in fifth grade my fascination with the worlds and craziness hat often ensued was still in my heart but finding out some of my favorite shows all originated from one place was really interesting. Suddenly having a name for these things made me want to find more, expand the shows I’ve seen, the books I’ve read, and learn more and more about Japan, the place that started it all. I guess by the time I knew what anime was I had already been exposed to so much of it I never had any of the hesitation that many of my classmates had when they saw me with manga or talking about anime. They thought it was weird in one way or another and couldn’t get past their own prejudices, while for me this form of animation already held an important spot in my heart and it meant a lot to finally give it a name. Learning the word anime was kind of like those “it all clicked” moments for me except I didn’t have the luxury we do today of googling things and had to learn by exploration of the manga at the library, these old ADV magazines the library had, and anime we found in the on-demand section.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? In fifth grade when I really entered the world of anime I would have to say Naruto. It was late 2005 (the beginning of fifth grade for me) and its popularity exploded. It’s always interesting to me how popular it got because at the time lots of people knew Naruto but didn’t really know, or care about One Piece which had already been coming out for awhile. I would also have to say that Yu-Gi-Oh! still had quite a standing. People in my grade remembered the original series so we often tuned in when they brought out GX.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? Well in fifth grade I wasn’t part of the larger world. The anime fandom consisted of me, A, and a couple other people in our grade. In fact liking anime and manga got us bullied and picked on all throughout our school career and when I was in middle school plenty of kids thought all manga was porn and so clearly we were a group of perverts. As for me it was a time of exploration and I remember when I finally got my own computer and could go on the internet I delved into a lot of shows. I finally got to see the last season of sailor moon, I watched Mew Mew Power and Magical Doremi (yes the 4kids dubs) and I actually remember when Haruhi [Suzumiya] had just come out in America plus I watched both Ouran High School Host Club and Soul Eater while they were airing (before I really understood what I was doing was not only illegal but harmful). When I got my own computer in 6th grade I notably got into AMV [Anime Music Video] making on YouTube and this was a huge thing at the time. There weren’t a lot of people using fancy editors just people exploring Windows movie maker and having fun. I had a YouTube account that I won’t say is popular but I was always proud of the fact that it had existed since like 2005/06 and was one of the older accounts on the site. Sadly Sasuke10271994 was eventually banned for copyright reasons and I lost a lot of the videos I was really proud of. Still this is how I spent a lot of my formative years as an anime fan and it helped me learn a lot about both the anime out there and general editing skills (which have come in handy since then).

I’m guessing that was your username. Oh no! Do you have any of your AMVs left? Would love to link one. Haha, yes Sasuke10271994 was my username. I still have quite a few AMVs on my computer but none of those are online anymore.  The last AMV I made however is available:

Was the Internet a part of fandom at the time? If yes, how? The internet was definitely there but not for me until 2006. I could use computers but it wasn’t until I got my own, in my room, that I started looking at anime online. I spent a lot of time watching anime illegally uploaded to YouTube because I didn’t know any better (I mean, I was like 12 and it was a new platform) but I won’t say I really connected with other fans. I did make some friends but I’ve mostly fallen out of contact with them. I used the internet to learn about anime rather than connect with others. My connections were with my few friends who shared my hobby and we talked a lot about the anime we watched on Adult Swim an Toonami.

Do you remember your first convention? What was it, and what was it like? This is easy. While I’ve been into anime pretty much my entire life I didn’t go to my first convention until 2015. Anime Midwest 2015 was an amazing convention and I’ve never had an experience that has lived up to it. I’ve been to quite a few in the couple years since then but nothing has lived up to the pure joy of seeing so many people gathered in one place who all like anime. As a small town kid who got made fun of for liking anime this was a huge moment for me. Plus prior to this if I met someone else who liked anime chances are they were a guy (and I’m not trying to be mean or call guys rude or anything) and they tended to “mansplain” things to me. What hurt about it is that you could see them talking to another guy just fine but the second you, a girl, liked anime they tried to, I don’t know, impress you with their knowledge but it always made me feel like a kindergartener and I didn’t like it. This is probably why I stayed away from conventions for so long but I was very pleased with my first convention experience.

What was the first fandom you got really invested in? How did you express your fandom? I think the first fandom I got really invested in was Sailor Moon. I wouldn’t say I’ve spent a lot of time in fandoms but I was big on Sailor Moon when I first got my own computer and so I did a lot with it. The only other fandom I’ve really interacted with has been the Precure fandom. I spent a lot of time on MyAnimeList with fans of Precure shows. When I was younger the easiest way I connoted to others was in YouTube through my AMV making. This really helped me start talking to other people who enjoyed the same things as me. I was a huge fan of the old communities YouTube had and it made it easy to collaborate with other people and share what we liked. Since I stopped making AMVs I’ve gotten into figure collecting and blogging which has helped me learn how to express myself more.

Finally, for you, what’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom then and anime fandom today? Anime is a lot more widespread today than it was when I first got into it (or rather when I learned what it was and immersed myself in it). This means more and more people are watching and consuming the media and you can have more conversations than ever about anime. But I feel this has also led to more negativity. Maybe it’s because I was so young, around 12, but it didn’t feel like people were so heavily criticizing anime. I’m not saying that all criticism is bad, I myself review anime, but it’s less of a discussion nowadays. Finding a place to really express yourself has become a must to survive in the online world of anime. However conventions still seem to be a rather happy place where people are just glad to be around others that like the medium.

Trystan can be reached on Twitter

#98: Micchy

Age: 19

Location: Massachusetts

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. It was in seventh grade that my best friend showed me Bludgeoning Angel Dokuro-chan. Trashy as it was, I somehow found it entertaining enough to watch the entire thing. I didn’t start looking for more anime until a year later, though. When a particular Avatar: The Last Airbender YouTube guy mentioned Inuyasha in one of his videos, I started watching that show just for the hell of it (in three parts on Youtube, as the kiddos were wont to do in 2011). From there I started taking my friends’ recommendations of Death Note, Fullmetal Alchemist ’03, Ouran High School Host Club, and Soul Eater. It all went downhill from there.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? Around 2008, I discovered Avatar: The Last Airbender and got really into it. But if you’ll remember, that was the year it concluded. For several years I contented myself with watching ATLA reruns on Nicktoons, but eventually I started craving more animated serials. Anime was the closest thing to that, so I ran with it. And there was no shortage of anime fans in ATLA fandom to give me recommendations (some better than others, of course). That was how I wound up watching Cowboy Bebop and Baka and Test basically concurrently.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? Among my friends, Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood was all the rage. It might have just been my particular friend group, but that was the show most often recommended to me. (Also: there was one girl who was Extremely Into Death Note, and another who was Diehard Hetalia. Boy, middle school 2011 sure was something.) Poking around Avatar fan forums I’d catch bits of seasonal anime discussion. I think it was mostly Madoka Magica talk, since that show was nearing its conclusion (and hiatus?) just then.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? Most of my exposure to anime fandom was through my friends, all of whom were chuuni as heck. We were a bit behind in adopting weeb memes, so I’d imagine it was more akin to the con scene circa ’07 than anything else. “Cake is a lie,” Hare Hare Yukai, that sort of thing. Not a far cry from current anime fandom. Pretty sure there were more anime blogs around then, though.

Would love to hear a chuuni story from middle school. (For example, I only responded to “Ren-chan” in middle school. I’m sorry.) At some point I got a few friends to call me Micchan, but I think the most embarrassing thing I did was do the Hare Hare Yukai in public at a school dance. This was in 2011 or so, a while after Haruhi Suzumiya stopped being a huge deal iirc. I blame its extensive TVTropes documentation for making me believe otherwise.

I also waxed poetic a LOT about the three-act tragedy I was writing. (Inspired by FMA and Black Butler, naturally.) It was mostly an excuse for me to make strange dying-cow noises at lunch, being little more than a string of hopelessly tryhard “emo” cliches. For the record though, I never had a Linkin Park phase or anything similar.

Was the Internet a part of fandom at the time? I was part of the “three parts on YouTube” generation of anime fans, so yeah, absolutely. It was just a bit before legal streaming got really ubiquitous, so I got all my anime through sketchy pirate sites. There was no real shortage of people to talk to about anime, though. The trouble was finding a forum that didn’t hella suck.

Back in your middle school days, did you find out about anime mostly from YouTube or from anime blogs? You mentioned both and I am wondering if the landscape was transitioning more to vloggers by then. Vlogging wasn’t as much of a thing circa 2010 as it got to be a few years later. Instead, I found out about “must-see” anime by (lol) reading comments on the three-part YouTube videos. Most notably I remember getting into an argument with somebody over the merits of FMA ’03 vs. Brotherhood, during which somebody yelled at me to watch Cowboy Bebop, Evangelion, and Ghost in the Shell already. (I wound up watching and loving the first two, after which I went back to reevaluate my hardline pro-Brotherhood stance. To this day I still haven’t watched Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex, though. Sue me.)

After getting a little experience with said “essentials” I started looking to TVTropes (lol) and a bunch of anime blogs for “Top [x] Anime” lists, paying most attention to people who seemed to share my pretentious-ass taste.

Do you remember your first convention? What was it, and what was it like?
My first con was a tiny local con in the Detroit area. It was mostly a day of my friends and I wandering around the dealer’s hall and goofing off in really awkward FMA cosplay. I don’t remember much besides going home in the early afternoon because there was nothing to do there.

I wound up going to Youmacon 2012 the year after that. I remember going to a few panels, but mostly I wandered around like the clueless 14-year-old I was. Bought a few tchotchkes, that sort of thing. There was lots of Slenderman cosplay. Also, a pair of Mawaru Penguindrum HHH cosplayers whom I later wound up following on Tumblr. That’s about all that sticks out in my memory.

What was your first anime-related purchase and why did you get it? If it’s bizarre I’d love a photo. The first thing I ever got was a keychain with the Death Note inscription on it. Like, it was this steel rectangle with the logo stamped on one side and the Death Note instructions on the other. Completely cheap and useless, but I remember freaking the shit out over just finding merch of a thing I liked. Any way to show my enthusiasm, I guess? Of course, I strung it up on a chain and wore it around my neck like the nerd I was, showing it off to anyone who recognized it. Now that I think of it though, that thing was probably a bootleg; there were at least two typos on it.

The second thing I bought was a trading figure of Mari from the second Rebuild of Evangelion movie, in part to show off my snobbish nerd cred (“look, I like smart anime like EVA!”) but in truth, mostly to look at her underwear, not that I would’ve admitted it. It came in a little box with all of its parts individually wrapped in plastic: torso, skirt, legs, arm, and stand. I probably took a bit longer to put her together than I should have (goddang queer denial) despite being mildly disappointed that her underpants were plain white (“it’s ironic, I swear!”). I kept her anyway, and to this day Mari Shikinami remains on my desk judging the crimes of 14-year-old me.

Today your shitposts are such a big part of the anisphere. How did you first discover Twitter, especially Anitwitter, and decide to start using it? While some folks start out as normal Twitter users that slowly get sucked into the Anitwitter black hole, I was born smack dab in the middle of it. I first got on Twitter to follow @ANNJakeH‘s streams and started using it extensively when I realized some of the anibloggers I liked were far more active there than on their own sites. Surrounded by constantly shitposting anime-likers, I inevitably became one myself. Since then it’s been a gradual devolution of my typing skills. And inhibitions, frankly. In 2013, I had no idea that in four years I would become known primarily for watching bad children’s cartoons and bragging about licking exploding puppets, but here I am. I’m sorry, 2013-Micchy. You deserve a better future than me.

You have a column with Nick on Anime News Network. How did becoming an anime reviewer/writer change the way you interact in the fandom? Honestly, it didn’t! I’ve been shying away from hardcore property-specific fandom in favor of being an anime fan in general for years now, so that hasn’t changed at all. The column in question is really relaxed and casual for “anime journalism,” so to speak, so in practice it’s more an extension of what I do on Twitter (i.e. occasionally make observations between the terrible jokes) than anything else. I imagine that might change if I ever decide to do more formal(ish) long-form anime writing, but right now it’s pretty chill. The only thing that’s really changed is that I occasionally feel remorse for retweeting disgusting memes, because professionalism or something. (Then I decide I don’t really care and go back to retweeting unholy Minion/Heybot fanart crossovers.)

Since you’re one of the community’s prominent queer voices, I’d like to know if anime fandom had anything to do with you exploring your sexuality? Pretty early on, I started chatting with a friend of a friend about anime. One of our favorite activities was to share cute anime fanart with each other for each other’s approval. Over time said images got more and more risque (as a joke, of course!) until eventually I realized, shoot, this wasn’t actually ironic? Girls were… really cute? It took following several queer people on Anitwitter (@composerose in particular) and talking it through to get fully comfortable with the idea of being queer, but after I figured out I wasn’t weird for really liking Sayo Yamamoto’s version of Fujiko Mine it kinda started to make sense. Not that it all clicked instantly! It took a while for me to figure it out. But now that I think about it, I wish I could go back and tell teenage me to quit stressing about it and just enjoy whatever the hell I wanted. After all, who cares about labels when there are cute anime boys and girls to retweet? That’s my biggest takeaway from it all, to chill and be whomever I want with these heaps of fellow anime weirdos. Anime fandom can be great that way.

What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom back then and anime fandom today? It’s so much bigger! Thanks to Crunchyroll (and other services, but mostly Crunchyroll, shoutout to my boi Miles) it seems like everyone and their dog is at least vaguely familiar with anime now. Plus, now that I’ve found a nice pocket of people who share my artsy-fartsy taste, it feels a lot easier to connect with and hang out with people who like discussing the stuff. It’s so easy to share my favorite new shows with people and go, “Hey, you know you can watch all this stuff for free and then scream about it with me afterwards?” Whereas even five or six years ago it was a pain in the rear to get people to watch anime like Mononoke without going, “Okay, it’s hard to find on most sketchy pirate sites but keep looking!”

Micchy can be reached on Twitter

#97: Inksquid

Age: 23

Location: North America

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. It was the summer of 1st year undergrad and somehow I wanted to rewatch Danny Phantom and Avatar: the Last Airbender. I guess I had seen snippets of them as a kid and wanted to experience them properly. So I did that, and the (*cough cough*) torrents I used included a text file of cartoon recommendations, which praised Cowboy Bebop to high heaven. From Cowboy Bebop, I went on to explore other top anime lists, both on the internet and shared with me by a classmate who was into anime. This led me to Evangelion (which went over my head), Steins;Gate (which I really liked) and Madoka Magica—and from there I was hooked.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? I had a phase in high school where I read a lot of classic novels in an attempt to “be mature and enjoy refined literature.” I’ll have to admit I went into it with the mindset of “cartoons are not just for kids; they contain deep themes of literary significance.” And with the anime I watched, I think I was able to justify my decision. Nowadays, I’ve learnt to watch anime just for brainless fun, and I think I continue to watch because I’m too used to the art style, the visual language, the style of storytelling, and everything about it, that I’d feel weird if I watched non-anime shows.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? I did not (and still don’t really) closely follow pop culture trends… so.. .this was 2013? Was that the Attack on Titan year?

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? I was (and still am) a huge lurker. I do not like sharing stuff about myself. (It’s scary to be vulnerable!) This Inksquid character is like my anime-watching personality split from myself. So… I wasn’t really “part of the fandom.” I just lurked a lot and watched YouTube vids and read blogs.

Was the Internet a part of fandom at the time? Yes. However, I lurked for the longest time, watching YouTube videos and reading blog posts (sometimes commenting under random pseudonyms). They actually inspired me to write a few articles for my university’s geek-related blog. However, after I graduated, I felt less connected to the blog, so I started the Inksquid persona to share my thoughts and opinions to the public through blogging and Twitter.

Why did you decide to create a new persona for this? The blog I used to write for was essentially a club where members wrote posts for each other and for a wider audience. After I graduated from the university, I moved to a different city and eventually no longer knew the people running the blog. It felt weird for me to be publishing there when they didn’t even know me. Moreover, I wanted a fresh start, a personal creative outlet, or maybe an escape into the anonymity of the internet. To be able to write whatever random things I wanted to without people I knew recognizing me.

When did you start blogging about anime? How did writing about anime change the way you watched it and interacted with the fandom? When I first got into anime I lurked among the anime community. Later, I graduated from university and, for the above-mentioned reasons, felt like I a) needed a creative outlet of my own, and b) wanted to actually interact with the community. So in June of 2016 I created the Twitter account and wrote my first blog post. I’m glad I’ve been able to find like-minded people and eloquent writers on Twitter and WordPress, with whom I can goof off or gush about anime. The section of the fandom in which I’ve taken root is incredibly tolerant and supportive, and has made me reflect a lot on engaging with media. Some of the greatest insights this community has given me, which I always try to keep in mind, include:

  • There are a ton of streaming services where you can watch anime for free and legally
  • It’s OK to like problematic media; likewise, it’s OK that others enjoy problematic media. Don’t judge them for what they watch; judge them for how they treat others.
  • Not everyone has to engage with media looking for profound themes or literary merit (that was, admittedly, my sole criterion for watching anime when I started)
  • There’s no point forcing yourself to keep watching shows you don’t enjoy just because the rest of the community loves it.

I noticed your blog and Twitter are multilingual. Did anime dubs or subtitles help with any of those? For sure. Anime helped with Japanese and Spanish, the two non-native languages for which I never took formal classes.

I started learning Japanese before I got into anime, so it worked out that listening to Japanese dubs was a great opportunity to learn. If you pay attention to what the voice actors are saying, you can often pick out and refresh the vocabulary you’ve already learned from other places (manga, songs, etc). It helps too that the voice actors usually enunciate everything clearly. If you want to challenge yourself, you can right-click Crunchyroll’s web player and turn off the subs: keep an online dictionary open, be liberal with the pause and rewind button, and you may be surprised by how much you can understand from the dialogue, visuals, and context!

I started learning Spanish two years after I got into anime (it helps that I learned French in school). After learning a bit of the basics (bless Michel Thomas) I decided to watch anime with Spanish subs. That forced me to learn to read the subtitles really fast. Only recently did I discover through a Twitter mutual that there are Spanish dubs of anime on Netflix, so I’m glad I can now practice listening comprehension too.

However, there’s an extent to how much anime can help with learning a language, because you’re never forced to speak to anyone, and nobody is correcting your mistakes. At this point I’m only comfortable reading in Japanese and Spanish: I don’t think I can hold a decent conversation or write a good blog post. Nevertheless, I think anime played an important role in getting me this far. Since I enjoy watching anime, tying language learning to this hobby made it fun.

Do you remember your first convention? Never been to one. Still too shy for that. Orz

But you seem pretty active online. How does the internet free you up to be less shy as a fan and share your opinions? I think it’s the perceived anonymity of the internet that lets me open up about my tastes and views. More importantly, though, I think what the internet offers is an easy way to connect with people who share my tastes. Since anime and anime fandom are so incredibly vast, it’s not easy finding people offline who enjoy the same type of anime I do and appreciate the anime I do. Most anime fans I encounter grew up with long-running shonen series and/or enjoy the characters’ special powers or power levels, which, while those are perfectly valid reasons for enjoying media, give me nothing to relate to.

Inksquid can be reached through Twitter and their blog.

#96: Anthea

Age: 24

Location: Switzerland

When did you discover anime? When I was around seven or eight years old. I think it started with Sailor Moon reruns on a TV channel I watched often. I bought magazines and other Sailor Moon merchandise, created my OCs [original characters] etc. Later, I started reading manga when I found a volume of Dragon Ball lying around at my cousin’s place. I borrowed all of them from a classmate. Around the same time, there was an anime afternoon on a German channel that I watched quite often.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? For Sailor Moon, I liked that it was a team of heroes, not just one. In general, I would say that the first anime and manga I consumed were just different than anything I’d seen before. I cannot pinpoint exactly what it was, it was just… different, for lack of a better word.

Could you tell me about your Sailor Moon OCs? The Sailor Moon OCs I created were based on the original Sailor Scouts, especially Sailor Jupiter, who was my favourite.

I was very frustrated that at some point the focus of the show seemed to be solely on Usagi, so I invented characters that would interact more with the rest of the team.

Since I also wanted them to draw their powers from planets, I did not change that much. So maybe they don’t exactly qualify as OCs, but more as my versions of the characters or “evolutions” or something like that.

I believe I called them “Sailor Super Jupiter/Mars/etc…” (very creative). They mostly had the same colour-scheme, but their clothes were more ornamental and I distinctly remember drawing their sceptres/staffs. I don’t think I spent a lot of time thinking about their powers, I probably thought of them as more powerful versions of the Scouts’ attacks.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? Rather below the radar of most people, I think. I participated in online discussions on a German anime site, but did not know many people who were into anime IRL. There was a convention just starting out in the area where I live around that time. Back then, it was very small. Today, it has grown considerably and makes the news regularly. So I would say anime fandom was not obscure exactly, but certainly less visible than today.

Was the Internet a part of fandom at the time? If yes, how? If no, how did you connect with other fans? Yes. As I mentioned above, I joined a big German fanpage, where there were discussion boards about a lot of different anime and manga. The page also hosted fanart, fanfiction and cosplay pictures. I still visit it from time to time, but kind of drifted away from it. I do not put a high emphasis on the communal aspect of fandom anymore, but having the opportunity was (and is) great.

What was that “big German fanpage” called? What were the discussions about? Did you meet people that way? The site is called Animexx. I still have an account there, but I don’t log in that often. I mainly participated in discussions about Inuyasha, which was my favourite anime and manga at the time. Discussions were about favourite characters, OTPs and thoughts about how it would end. I think the anime (the original 160ish episodes anyway) were about to end, but the manga was still going and there were discussions about what would become of the characters (would Kagome return to her time etc.) I was also in a group of fellow Swiss anime fans where we talked about how to find shops that sold manga and anime-DVDs and if we had friends IRL who were into otaku-related things. I believe this group also organised meet-ups, but I never attended one, I think I was too shy.

I did have a pen pal back then who was a huge otaku, but I met her through the letter page of a Swiss youth-magazine and not over the internet. The girl I exchanged letters with was a big Inuyasha fan as well and we were in contact for about 4 years; I even met her once. The letters eventually stopped, I think it was because our interests started diverging (I started having an “anime-slump” around age 15 and she gravitated more towards J-Pop and J-Rock which I was not really into), but I have fond memories of our exchanges.

You said the page also hosted fanart, fanfiction and cosplay pictures. Did you participate, and if so, how? I read fanfiction and went through fanart galleries, though I did not actively participate. I did draw a lot of fanart back then (between ages 10 and 18), but I never uploaded anything. Frankly, my drawings were not very good and I did not really feel an incentive to share them with the online world. Same goes for fanfiction, although I did publish some on Animexx when I was around 17-19. They were about Harry Potter however (Animexx is mainly for anime, but there are other fandoms represented as well), since I was more into HP and similar books/movies then and less into anime. I did not cosplay, but I loved looking at the pictures other users uploaded. Apart from participating in discussions, I was more of a lurker.

Do you remember your first convention? What was it, and what was it like?
It was the one in my hometown (it’s hosted in a different city since 2015, I think), JapAniMangaNight. I attended for the first time in 2012. It was a very intense experience. So far, I had of course been aware that other anime fans exist (even in Switzerland), but seeing so many of them at the same time at the same place (a lot of them in costume!) was somewhat of a revelation. I went two more times and then to another convention last year and I still enjoyed it, but that first time was truly special.

What made your first con so special? This sounds like such a cliche, but I was so moved to see so many people who were also into anime (and other nerdy things) in one place. I of course knew that I was not the only otaku around, but seeing so many of them assembled (most of them in costume!) was sort of a revelation. The first time I attended a convention I was hardcore into Hetalia and there were some Hetalia cosplayers. This made me very happy and I asked every one I saw whether I could take their picture. After that first time and since I started spending more time around online fans, the novelty of seeing so many anime-fans has worn off a little, but I still enjoy going to cons.

What did your family think of your interest in anime? They were/are accepting. My mother especially has been on the receiving end of a lot of enthusiastic tirades about my current anime-obsessions, but since we often discussed different media (books, TV shows etc.), this was not out of the ordinary. My father always remained somewhat baffled I think, but he encouraged me, not least because my initial interest in anime and manga evolved into an interest in Japanese culture in general. He does not get the concept of fandom at all, but since I learned other things through that initial interest in anime and manga, he was never really bothered.

How have you grown and changed as an anime fan since you discovered anime? I have grown and changed a lot. For one, my genres of choice have changed and I have become more picky. When I first got into anime around age 11, I loved action/shonen shows. In my teens, I was a shojo enthusiast (especially high school romances, I adored those). Today, at age 24, I don’t have one genre, but I tend to watch shows aimed at older fans. I tried rewatching some of the shows I loved when I was younger (Case Closed, Inuyasha, DBZ) and despite the nostalgia, I couldn’t get back into it. I don’t mean that these shows are bad, I have just outgrown most of what I watched back when I was in middle school/early high school.

Right now, I also don’t feel very motivated to check out many new shows. Until last winter, I followed at least two shows each season, but I think right now I just want to take a break and maybe rewatch some older stuff or finally get around to seeing shows I’ve meant to watch for ages.

Overall, I would say that I have settled down somewhat. I still get very enthusiastic about certain shows (Yuri!!! on Ice being a prime example, I barely shut up about it!), but in general, I have a more measured approach and tend to enjoy anime more in solitude or discuss it with some people I know personally.

Anthea can be reached on Twitter

#95: Ian

Age: 32

Location: Seattle

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. Anime was first introduced to me in the early 1990s. My grandfather was a fan of black-and-white monster films, which led to us watching kaiju films. From Godzilla and Mothra came animated versions of monsters and robots fighting to save the universe/galaxy/planet/reincarnation of the peacock buddha. I was hooked immediately, but I had no idea what I was really watching.

Were you introduced to anime by the same grandpa who showed you kaiju films? If not, who? After my grandfather opened my eyes to transnational cinema, I was always looking for something different. When I was in middle school, a friend of mine from a few houses down the street (name omitted by request) acquired a VHS tape and some photocopied papers with a script printed on them. He invited me over, because I was better and faster at reading than he was. Between myself, and the few friends that gathered, we watched Ranma 1/2 each taking turns reading the script out loud as we watched the show in its original Japanese language. We got tapes mailed to us, and each box came with scripts for some, and they always contained a piece of paper with the name and address of the next person we were mailing them to. These were not even fansubs, and they had commercials from early 1990s Japanese television stations during the episodes.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? In the late 1990s and I was introduced to some titles that have great cultural significance. Most notable, Ranma 1/2 and Neon Genesis Evangelion. Another series that I was given to watch was titled Martian Successor Nadesico, and this is the show that forever changed my life.

Tenkawa Akito, the main character of Nadesico, is a chef and gun-shy pilot of the mecha within the sci-fi series. He is also a fan of a faux classic giant robot anime, Gekigangar III, which he enjoys with the mechanics and other pilots. One of his lines in the final episode hooked me, more on that in just a moment.

I watched to the final episode of Nadesico. I got to 25 out of 26, and I simply couldn’t bear the thought of watching the last episode. I was too attached, I felt empathy with the characters, and my form of escapism would be over if I watched it. My heart couldn’t take it, and I didn’t want to watch it for months.

Akito’s line from that episode? Well, it translates oddly. But the general premise is that he couldn’t bring himself to watch the final episode of Gekigangar III because he couldn’t bear to have his friends leave him. The Gekigangar that lived in his heart would not last if he finished the show, so he didn’t.

I resonated with a character in a way that I never had before. Not in live action, not in film or TV, not in any of the books I had read. That bond that I shared with him became the reason that I am a lifelong fan.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? We all knew each other back then. Everyone in the Seattle area knew our brick and mortar anime stores, and where to find shirts, wallscrolls, DVDs, and figures. It was a tight knit and massive community.

Can you tell me about this community? Who did it consist of? How did you associate with one another? Our Seattle community was largely comprised of those who knew about our brick-and-mortar anime shop called Anime Kingdom (now defunct). Since it was the only place to get wallscrolls, T-shirts, and general anime merchandise, it was usually occupied by several fans from the area. Over time, we all exchanged phone numbers, and some of the more affluent kids had email addresses.

Beyond the store, the anime club at the University of Washington was very large. At its peak, over 100 students would gather for weekly screenings of episodes acquired from some means or another. The club was known as Anime Discovery Project (ADP). ADP was the core of Seattle otaku for many years. They had the manga and VHS library, opportunities for viewing, gatherings outside of the college just to hang out with one another. Sadly, after a few years, the students graduated and their replacements could not keep up with the advancement of technology. ADP still exists, but in name only.

Was the Internet a part of fandom at the time? It was, in a way. Through IRC clients and malware infested file sharing software, we all upgraded from VHS tapes and photocopied scripts to digital copies of our shows. Most of the people we spoke to, we had met through anime themed events at local stores.

You mentioned downloading digital copies of shows online, but was there a social aspect to internet fandom for you? I did not engage the social side of the online anime community back then. Truthfully, my family was broke and I didn’t have access to the internet at home until I moved out. Being limited to computers at college was very difficult.

I’d love to hear more about these anime themed events! Anime Kingdom and ADP would hold events throughout Seattle for fans. A day that I recall was when we all travelled to Kicks Hobby Japan in the North part of the city. We visited with the owner, set up tables outside, someone was handing out posters with Gundam models featured prominently. The shop was known for models and figures, and so this day was spent painting, sharing techniques, displaying creations, and sharing favorite moments in Gundam. It is worth noting that this event was before Gundam Wing was airing in Japan, so these fans were very dedicated to their classic franchise. Passing people would stop in to ask why there were so many people gathered, then people saw the models. An older gentleman returned to his home, and brought some model planes he had built and wanted to share with us. We gave him lots of table space, asked about his painting methods, and in the end he went home with a few mobile suit models.

These type of events brought us together as fans of individual shows and franchises. But sometimes it was even more personal. A house in Seattle was known as the hachiroku house, home of the webmasters of hachi-roku.net. Their yard had several cars up on blocks, and parts were even available if you were willing to take them off the cars. They were always around to talk about Initial D, drifting, itasha, or anything car and anime related. When my friends and I were building a Tofu shop style ’86, we visited the house and took a few trim pieces to be repainted. We had our gatherings all over the state, but it was the local groups that overlapped that really kept us all connected.

Do you remember your first convention? Sakuracon 2003. It was like standing between a wardrobe and a looking glass, and seeing my dreams coming true. Cosplays, music videos, people I didn’t know being accepting and kind and having fun. I was there all weekend, and I have not missed a year since.

What was the first fandom you got really invested in? How did you express your fandom? My first fandom was Ranma 1/2. It is a show that holds the best memories for me, and gives me a desire to share anime with others. Like most fans, I showed my interest by cosplaying. As with many first cosplays, it was comprised of clothes I already owned and a hope that someone would recognize me. I dressed as Genma, Ranma’s father. I shaved my head, wore a white gi and blue bandana, and walked proudly into my first convention in 2003 wearing my first cosplay. Within SECONDS I heard a young woman yell “DADDY!!” and looked over just in time to see a female Ranma cosplayer charging towards me with her arms outstretched. I opened my arms, we hugged, and I shouted “My long lost son!” The hallway of people laughed, and I was in the hallway for several minutes doing poses of us fighting or arguing or her standing on my back as I laid facedown on the floor. First cosplay, first convention, first photoshoot, first ten minutes I was in the building. It was a great experience that I will always remember.

For you, what’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom then and anime fandom today? Anime fandom now lacks a quality that past fans had. Formerly, we connected at conventions or events, by word of mouth, or by mailing each other things we found. When one person owned a DVD set of a show, that person got invited everywhere, never paid for food, and was always welcome. Once everyone had seen the show, it would rotate to the next person who bought something, and the cycle repeated. We would call one another to ask for DVDs or VHS copies. Soundtrack purchases were worthy of a listening party at someone’s house.

Now…I texted a friend after seeing Kimi No Na Wa (Your Name) in theaters. She saw it twice the next day, the second time with her husband. He texted me the link to iTunes to buy the soundtrack shortly after the film got out. Within 24 hours, three people saw a film and bought a soundtrack and then… nothing. That was it, that’s the whole story. While Your Name spread like wildfire, it still did not touch us all in the way anime used to. It would connect dozens of people across social and economic spaces.

Our connections are simultaneously more abundant and nonexistent. My friends and I all watched Yuri!!! on Ice as it aired. Some people lasted a few episodes, some became obsessed. None of us communicated about the show until long after it was done airing. We watched it alone, and at the same time.

It is an extremely odd experience to watch My Hero Academia weekly with my roommate. He watches English language only, I watch the show in Japanese. He watches on Funimation, I watch on Crunchyroll. I use a PS4, he has a laptop. I live in Washington, he currently works in Alabama. We watch this show on the same day, at the same time, and yet everything about our experience with the episodes is completely different.

We’re connected, but we somehow manage to stay separated. 

I think that is the biggest contrast. The level of connected that we do and don’t have.

Ian can be reached on Twitter

#94: Dustin K

Age: 31

Location: South Carolina

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. My first memory of knowing what I thought this “anime stuff” was is seeing Sailor Moon on Saturday mornings before the regular Kids WB shows would air, so this would be roughly 1995 when I was in the 3rd grade. I just kinda knew that Sailor Moon wasn’t like traditional cartoons that I watched like Batman: The Animated Series or Animaniacs, so I only had this understanding that they were Japanese cartoons. I knew of a girl who lived in the same apartment building I did who had a Sailor Moon denim jacket she wore every day, but I never had a chance to talk to her or ask her about the show.

In the fall of 1998 the Pokemon craze first came to America. I would catch new episodes of Pokemon right before I got to the bus stop around 7 AM when I was in middle school. I knew it was a cartoon based off the Red and Blue Game Boy games that had been out for a few months, and eventually I got my copy of Red that Christmas. Even though I was watching Pokemon and playing the games, I didn’t consider myself an anime fan of any sort. It was just a cool craze the kids I knew were part of, kind of like how yo-yo’s were becoming a craze at that time.

I remember going to the video stores at the mall where the local Suncoast was located, but I never really looked at the anime section other than I knew where it was. It wasn’t before long before I realized that was about to change for me…

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? I guess I could be considered a “first generation” Toonami anime fan, because without Toonami presence being on TV around that time, It wouldn’t start the chain events that has lead me to writing about my story on this site almost 20 years later.

It was March of ’99 and I was at the lunch table with my nerdy Pokemon friends that I knew since we all lived in the same apartment community together. One of them started to talk about this new show called Dragon Ball Z that was on Cartoon Network in the afternoons. The more he talked about it, the more I had to know what this show was about. My first memory of watching DBZ was a few weeks before Toonami did their DBZ20XL week long marathon, which gave me a chance to catch up on the beginning. From then on, I liked what I saw and I was hooked. I even remember my mom and my brother in my room building Legos while they aired the first three DBZ movies on TV for the first time ever that summer of ’99. After that it was only a few more months before DBZ became the hit it is today. Even at that point, I wasn’t a big anime fan, but I was hooked on this DBZ stuff.

This was when I started to pay attention a bit more to the anime section at my local Suncoast, and I remember asking my aunt who I visited in Arkansas to see if any Blockbusters carried rental DBZ tapes past the episodes Toonami didn’t air past until months later (which was around episode 50, or the same amount that is in the Rock the Dragon DBZ boxset). Of course none of the stores had anything past those episodes, because they weren’t even released commercially yet. I remember that being a long waiting game until the end of the year when the Frieza Saga continued on TV.

What later catered to my gateway anime show was the March of 2000, when one show would change my very being into being the ultimate Gundam fan I am today: Gundam Wing. Gundam Wing did to me what Attack on Titan has done to anime fandom, being “that” gateway show to gradually lead them down the path of wanting more and more anime. Sure Toonami had Tenchi Muyo, Rurouni Kenshin and others that I kept up with, but the world of Gundam took a hold of me many years later.

It also didn’t help that Adult Swim started up when I was starting high school in 2001 with Cowboy Bebop being my other obsessed show along with Gundam. Adult Swim and Toonami aired Gundam 0080 and 0083 in late 2001/early 2002, which I have those first airings on tape to this day. Anime on TV is a powerful weapon, especially on how it can be marketed at retail stores for people wanting merchandise off their favorite show. But what I was obsessed with was just the beginning.

You said, “I guess I could be considered a “first generation” Toonami anime fan.” Can you tell me about this generation of anime fandom? Today can you spot one even if you don’t know their age? My definition of “first gen” would be anyone that watched Toonami pre-Tom 3 or 4 era I’d say. It’s nothing official, but Toonami to me up to the Tom 3 era and Tom 4 era are two different areas. If you talk to people who are Toonami fans, you can tell how old they were just on what shows they were obsessed with during Toonami for what they remember. I came in during the last half the Moltar era, but I didn’t check out anything pre-Moltar when I heard their schedule was old Hanna Barbera cartoons and some Voltron. I didn’t get into watching Robotech on TV at that time, and if it was on it probably didn’t interest me at the time (yet I’m a Gundam fan today, go figure).

It’s really true when people say that television rules a society, and in Toonami’s case, rules a generation of anime fans into the new millennium. I personally think without Toonami, anime fandom wouldn’t be like it is today, or this large. You can owe western anime fandom to the television, the evidence is clearly there that every person who has a story to tell on this site saw anime on television at one point in their lives. It’s kind of baffling to me that someone like Carl Macek would find a way to adapt anime to American television to cast a wide net of new fans and viewers to turn fandom into what it is today, and still be looked on in history by some as the antichrist of anime. His idea of getting anime out there to a wide audience works, and we see it years later with how far anime fandom has gone because of television networks hosting them.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? Since I’ve been talking about anime at the turn of the century, certain shows were still big online that had a lot of discussions at that time (and still to this day). One show that I finally saw after hearing so much about it was Neon Genesis Evangelion, which I didn’t see ’til the summer of 2002. How I saw Evangelion was rather interesting, because I saw it en espanol in a hotel in Guayaquil, Ecuador. There used to be a Spanish animation channel called Locomotion that aired anime, and since I was there for a week on a church mission trip, I happened to catch my first episode of Evangelion, which is episode 11: “The Day Tokyo 3 Stood Still.” Still today it’s one of my favorite episodes, along with “Lilliputian Hitcher,” which was the second episode I saw on that trip. I even remember seeing some Rurouni Kenshin in Spanish, which the episode I saw must have been from the latter arc of the anime series.

It wasn’t until I meet a friend in my sophomore year of high school who lent me his Eva VHS tapes (which were half dubbed/half subbed) which is how I finished the series. I also got to see other stuff in my high school days and things I rented from Blockbuster that expanded my knowledge and hunger for anime even more. One of my favorite OVA’s is Sol Bianca, and it was a rip from STARZ one of my other friend in high school lent me. I believe I saw it dubbed, which i’m still trying to track down, even though I own some cels and all of Sol Bianca between the original and the “Legacy” collections.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? The only world of fandom I was part of was my group of nerd friends in high school who I did airsofting with and watched whatever anime they were watching. Some would bring in taped G-Gundam in and show it to a friend during lunch break on one of the school TV’s, which the teachers didn’t care what we did with them as long as they weren’t broken when we got done with them.

The internet played a major part of my fandom, mostly from joining online forums. One forum in particular I first joined was ran by none other than Zach Nathanson, or the main host of The One Piece Podcast. This was looooooong before he ever got into One Piece. This of course lead me to joining sites like Toonzone where the people I started to talk to on there are still friends with me today online, which is where most of my connectivity with nerds are these days. It’s our own little nerd community, and I don’t see that changing soon.

I fully believe that having an online community has greatly helped me as an anime fan over the years. I’m still friends with many people today that I’ve meet through online forums and even though AOL Instant Messenger. Some I have met in person and others I have yet to meet.

It’s actually through anime podcasts that I’ve become friends with people to this day as well, which our only meet up would be Animazement since I’m originally from Raleigh NC before I moved to South Carolina. Even with me doing my own anime podcast I’ve been able to meet people at local conventions who know me through my podcast or through panels I’ve done over the years. The community might have its weirdos, but I seem to get along with them pretty well for the most part.

Dustin’s mecha collection, including Gunpla.

Tell me about Gundam Wing and how it became your “gateway” anime and obsession. How did you express your fandom for it? I wouldn’t be a Gundam fan if it wasn’t for Gundam Wing as that first stepping stone. As much as Gundam fans want to criticize Gundam Wing (and I was formally one of these people for many years), I realized that Wing was the perfect show to introduce the western world into Gundam. It’s not perfect by any means, but I really can’t think of any other Gundam series that would “hook” a western audience quite like Wing did. It was the right show for that right time, and Cartoon Network and Bandai of America I think picked the right content to bring Gundam to the west publicly.

I remember when it first came on Toonami in March of 2000, and I was heavily engrossed in the show. I remember looking online about Gundam Wing and someone mentioned how it’s a whole series of shows under the Gundam title going back to the late ’70s. To me, that blew my mind, but I wouldn’t know too much about it until other series of Gundam came to Toonami in coming years.

There was a point that I fell out of anime from early 2001 to that early September when I went to high school my freshmen year. It was 08th MS Team that was airing that got me really hooked into Gundam because it looked as if I was watching an animated version of a Vietnam war movie, but animated with giant robots. It also didn’t help that I met a friend that same year who helped me get into Gundam more, which is when I remember picking up one of my earliest Gunpla kits at Toys R Us and bought a number of them off him over the years to come. It was also from my same friend that I became a big Victory Gundam fan, and it all started from low-quality Real Media files subbed in Chinese to get me introduced to a Gundam series that wasn’t going to be released in the states ’til another 15 years later. I eventually found ways to watch it fansubbed in English online, but I’d never thought Victory Gundam would ever make it stateside, but I was glad RightStuf put it out on Blu-ray. I even have a “shrine” to Victory Gundam on my shelf above my anime DVD/BluRay collection. I think what drew me to Victory was that a lot of people weren’t talking about it or knew little of the show when I was seeing it in 2002. And for me, I have a tendency to obsess over things that no one cares about because it just makes it more unique for me to enjoy I guess.

I was so obsessive over Gundam that I made some fan films using my Gunpla kits that I had in high school, that after years of debating on doing this, I decided to upload them on youtube after being on a tape for over 15 years. They are quite bad, and my story was all of the top of my head, but I felt that I had to express my creativeness with what I had at my disposal at that time. If anything they might be for a good laugh, but I had fun making them regardless of how big of a piece of garbage they are hahaha.

I have kept a good tape collection of Gundam on TV over the years, since I have taped recordings of Gundam 0080 when it first appeared in 2001 on the Toonami Midnight Run, and Gundam 0083 early in 2002 on Adult Swim. If any Gundam is on TV I was there to record it, which I still have those recordings in a box to this day. I remember even getting the first printing of Mark Simmons “Gundam The Official Guide Book” when it was released that Spring of 2002, and that I had on my person throughout high school in my bag. The book is a little beat up, but I look at it as a great resource bible for Gundam knowledge pre Gundam Seed. Over the years I’ve collected and sold off my Gunpla collection, and my podcast gets Gundam material from RightStuf to review, so I’m very grateful to be given that opportunity by an anime company to review their products. I’m not sure if I’m the biggest Gundam fan out there, but to me I’m the biggest one I know.

You mentioned Initial D was your biggest anime obsession today. Tell me about how that happened. I actually came across Initial D first at an arcade in Massachusetts when I was visiting a friend that summer of 2003. I remember walking around a mall when the arcade there had the Initial D Ver. 2 cab out in the open, which just came out that year. I was able to sit down and play the first track and made my own custom card on a magnetic card that Sega used for people to save their data on. After my first race and getting some points, I was able to keep the card and thought the game was really cool but didn’t think much of it.

Fast forward a few months later and I was checking out my Victory Gundam data CDs I bought from my friend a year prior, and on the last disc was the first 4 episodes of Initial D. Two of them had a Japanese track with English fansubs, and the other two were dubbed in Chinese with English subs. After watching the first episode, something clicked in me to be completely hooked on the series. I think it had everything to do with the Eurobeat music, car racing on mountains that didn’t look as stupid as it trying to be full of stunts in those Fast and Furious movies that were coming out at the time. The show got ahold of me hard. It was around this time that Tokyopop was releasing the DVDs for Initial D for the first time.

So over the course of the next year, I was buying every Initial D DVD that was coming out from Tokyopop and was watching them in Japanese to keep the Eurobeat tracks since the dub rap lyric music was god-freaking-awful. It also helped that a local amusement place in Raleigh NC that had those same Ver. 2 arcade cabinets of Initial D, and I made every attempt my junior year in high school to head up there when I could. I remember a friend in high school was buying the manga, and I remember bulk reading a huge amount of issues over a weekend.

What kept me hooked on the arcades was the arcade scene for Initial D. Online there were several teams that would compete against one another in places like Canada, China, Northeast and on the West Coast that would do meet ups and post up time attack times to always get the one up over someone on a course by fractions of a second. The worst people attitudes ever got was the usual trash talk on forums but that was the extent that I saw. Some did videos trashing other teams because of a fraction of a second, it was essentially another way for guys to dick measure each other on an arcade, but it’s all in good fun in the end haha.

Another huge positive for me for being an avid Initial D player and a fan was how I met my best friend to this day. I was working Toys R Us Christmas in 2005 in the video game area, and one guy came in that we hit it off pretty great. He was a nerd like me that liked video games and we seemed to have the same interest. I wasn’t sure if I said it or him, but one of us blurted out about playing Initial D. All I remember was being really happy that I found another Initial D player. What was also awesome was that I got to hang out at his house that night and play the PlayStation 2 game, which I didn’t know existed for home console and he burned me a copy on the spot to play. Over the years we have had some fun discussions on Initial D regarding making fun of how the music was written, taking road trips to playing arcade games, and even playing against each other from time to time. Of course, it’s also us doing life together by staying in touch and selling video games the past few years at Animazement. I should note that to people who are video game collectors, my friend is Josh Fairhurst of Limited Run Games, which is his own company that has been featured in printed and online magazines about his business printing limited copies of games out there for collectors.

Dustin’s “Initial D” arcade cabinets.

My other big thing on Initial D is how I acquired my very own arcade cabinets over a year ago. There is a local arcade joint in my town that for a number of years had the original Ver. 1 of the game sitting in a corner of the old area before the owner switched places. I would always try and haggle for a better price since the machines are beaten up and need work, but the owner would always overcharge on what I thought they were worth. Once I heard that the owner moved, I heard he left his old arcades in the old building to try and auction off. Sometime later I noticed someone took over his old spot and found that his old machines were still there. I immediately went to the area where the Initial D cabs were, and behold they never left their area. So for 300 bucks I bought both cabinets from the owner at the time and took them home in my garage where over the past year I’ve been slowly trying to restore them to working order. I still need a few more parts but they are both running fine to where both people can play against each other. It’s funny how 14 years after I first played Initial D in the arcade, I’m now a proud owner of the arcade, and it’s a wonderful thing to have.

Dustin cosplaying as Det. Percy from “Riding Bean” for Animazement 2010.

Do you remember your first convention? My first convention was Animazement in 2007, when it was still meeting at the old Sheraton hotel before they moved to the Raleigh Convention Center where it’s going to be housed for I’m sure many years to come.

I remember actually going on a whim when I knew it was that weekend, and decided to take whatever cash I had on me and make a day event out of it. I really enjoyed getting cool stuff from the dealers room, the small game room that has expanded so much over the years, and meeting some cool people that over the years are now people I still meet up with all these years later. I have gone just about every year consistently since 2007, so Animazement is my home con that I go to.

What did your family think of your interest in anime? My family at first didn’t have an issue with it but then wanted to try to make it an issue. There was a past story on this site that is somewhat similar to mine, where I grew up in a Christian environment which dictated some decisions on what I was allowed to watch and not watch. I was able to relate to that person’s circumstance easily, but I had a better outcome. After a while, my family went from not wanting me to watch any Dragon Ball Z to not really caring what I watched.

My family has never said to me that they didn’t like my anime hobby, probably because they knew I grew up as someone that became a productive member of society and is doing something with my life than being a basement dweller nerd. I want to believe I’m as hardcore of a nerd as they come, but I’m still a functioning member of society, where I’m working towards finishing my Bachelors in Communication at Anderson University in South Carolina. I’m still a strong believer in the Christian faith, and to my family that’s more important than whatever hobby I’m interested in because it’s important to me. Everyone has a hobby and will have hobbies, but there is a way to use a hobby to help the kingdom of Christ. Being in anime fandom is no different than being part of an outdoor sporting group or a car club, it’s the fact that you’re with other people to share ideas and beliefs, it’s the hobby that brings people of the same interest together, which gives a person of the Christian faith a chance to serve others and share the gospel.

When and why did you decide to start your podcast? Well, the podcast I have isn’t my first podcast. I made a joke once that if “podcasting were like wives, I’d be paying a hell of a lot in alimony by now.” The current co-host I have Jonn is someone I’ve known for over 10 years from this animation forum Toonzone, and me and a handful of other users from that site communicate through online chat services to this day, coming from AIM to now Slack. For a number of years I wanted to do an anime podcast because I had this desire to talk about the anime I was watching, and that seemed to be the best outlet to do it. My friend Jonn was telling me that they started a podcast on a website called ToonRadio.net, and called it The Kool Kids Klub. The title was meant as a joke, but I didn’t care since I wanted to talk about whatever I wanted to talk about. We kept that name for about a year, then did another one that lasted six months and after some falling out between people, I wanted to be on hiatus.

My friend Jonn and I still wanted to do podcasting, but weren’t sure on a name. He pointed out that we could name it after the blog that I do, The Anime of Yesteryear, and I told him why not. So after 4 and half years later and past 100 episodes, were still doing what we’re doing. I’ve had guests on our show like Arron Clark from EvaGeeks, Geoff Tebbetts from Golden Ani-Versary blog, Gerald Rathkolb from Anime World Order and voice actress Lisle Wilkerson as guests since we started. If anything the podcast really keeps me rooted in my anime fandom since it makes me stick to watching anime and discover new things that we wouldn’t find on our own. The purpose is to stick to anime that is past 2000, but we do occasionally break that rule from time to time, and cover other stuff that interest us.

The big thing that keeps me and my co-host going is staying committed and diligent. I think people podfade when they realize that it’s more work than they want and just give up. But if you want to keep a podcast going, you have to stay diligent and commit to make it go as long as possible. I don’t want to quite podcasting, because I like to run my mouth and I got things to say, and its also pretty strong in my heart to keep it going.

How did podcasting changed the way you interacted with anime? With fandom? I’m able to give anime a more critical look than just saying I like/dislike something without any hard reasons as to why. It also helps that other podcasts out there that review things I enjoy but will slam hard on them. Podcasting is also just a nice way of someone giving an audio critique on a title compared to a written one. I’ve come to realize that everyone has an opinion on whatever show they like or dislike, and it shouldn’t get to me if they think and believe opposite of what I like and dislike.

I think it’s good to hear the opinions of other anime fans out there that don’t always share the same opinion you do. Instead of taking someone’s slam piece on an anime you enjoy to heart and being pouty and bitter at them because they don’t like what you don’t, look at it as an opportunity to see the weaknesses of the thing you enjoy, but also find ways to strengthen your love of that series. I certainly have been harsh on titles that other people enjoy, but I also love titles that other people don’t enjoy. But at the end of the day, it’s all about having fun right?

What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom then and anime fandom today? I’d say it’s definitely time and tastes changing. I’ve noticed that series that I still believe are hot items like Cowboy Bebop, Trigun, Gundam, and other series and OVAs I remember enjoying at 17 and knowing other people that enjoyed it, are now titles that other 17-year-olds don’t know anything about and consider them “old” at this point. I think that’s the nature of slowly becoming part of the “old guard” of anime fandom now in my early 30s, where my mind and fan spirit of how I’ve always seen anime are now relics of their time, and the new titles I don’t care to really be interested or I think are just “copies” of what I love to share that aura of excitement and love that today’s anime fandom is obsessed over. The feelings and love stay the same, it’s just another product to fit into that groove while the thing you still love is tossed into the wastelands, and only the older crowd will remember it.

I can’t make anyone be obsessed with the anime I love, but I sure can introduce them to it, and hopefully, they might see a series or OVA in the same light as I still believe it has many years later. I feel that it’s a natural obligation for those who have been in anime fandom for a long time to be mentors to newer fans in introducing them to series that they normally wouldn’t pick up on their own. It’s kind of biological for the old generation to naturally teach the young generation of anime fandom. This is why I love doing panels at conventions and podcasting because I have that drive to express that.

Dustin can be reached on Twitter

#93: Joe

Age: 26

Location: Just outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. I think it all started back in elementary school, when Pokemon was becoming popular. I never was the type of person to follow the trends and fads, but my cousins managed to get me into Pokemon, which has now become a lifelong obsession of mine.

I watched the Pokemon anime on TV, though at the time, I didn’t know it was anime, or what anime was. And this eventually led me to watch other shows.

I eventually started watching Yu-Gi-Oh!, which was the most addictive show I’d seen yet. It wasn’t until it was in its final seasons that I really discovered it was anime, and what anime was.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? At first, a lot of it was the art style, and the character designs, especially creatures. But what really stuck with me is the complexity of some of the characters and stories, and the fact that it’s just darn addictive to watch.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? Probably Dragon Ball Z, but I never had a chance to watch it myself until much later.

What was the first anime you got really into? How did you express your passion for it? Well, I am a lifelong Pokemon fan.  But I’d say the anime that really made me a fan was Yu-Gi-Oh! I collected the cards extensively (and still do to a degree), and maintained a massive database of them.  I used to try and put together some of the character’s decks and tell some of my own stories by arranging some mock duels with them (and of course, making some of my own cards too).  I remember when I found out it was the last season, and was disappointed.  Then I heard rumors of a spin-off/sequel series, Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, and for a time, was crazy obsessed with trying to find a way to watch it, despite the fact that it aired only on a cable channel I didn’t have at the time.  So I spent lots of time looking up episode summaries and trying to track down DVDs of GX that I could watch—I was so excited when I first found one.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? The thing is, I don’t feel like I was.

My father was cheap. He never invested in cable television or good internet. Because I didn’t have cable, for the longest time, I was only able to watch anime that aired on network television, usually alongside Saturday morning or after-school cartoons. Because of this, I felt like I was watching shows meant for younger kids.

While there were some otaku at my school, I didn’t feel I would fit in with them, because I hadn’t seen Inuyasha or Fullmetal Alchemist or Naruto or Dragon Ball Z, or any of the other well-known more mature anime at the time.

On top of that, I had an interest in costumery, and in secret, I put together makeshift costumes based on some of my favorite characters (a lot of Pokemon). I felt this was weird too, especially given that I wasn’t a fan of Halloween when I was younger. I didn’t know cosplay was a thing at the time either.

The other kids at my school were not very tolerant of people who were different. They found ways to twist more mundane things into something they could use against me. I had to keep this interest a secret—it was a matter of survival. Unfortunately, keeping secrets took a toll on me—in my case, it caused me to develop social anxiety.

Can you tell me more about the ways anime fandom caused (and later helped) your social anxiety? Well, the people at my school proved to me that they aren’t very tolerant of people who are the slightest bit different, taking something that’s just a simple difference of opinion, and escalating it, basically rubbing it in my face how their opinion is the only right one. If I gave these people the slightest bit of information, they would use it to make my life miserable. I felt that something like my anime fandom, which was a major part of who I am, would be used against me in a big way—especially as I’d heard some people talking negatively about some of the anime I loved. So I pretty much just kept to myself. For me, that was a matter of survival. And when you fall into that habit for long enough, it’s difficult to break—even when I got into college, which was a much more tolerant environment.

It was really my convention experiences and finding other fans on the internet that helped me start to recover from this. Just realizing that there were more people like me, being around them, and basically being accepted, though it did take some time for that feeling to truly sink in. I had the idea of doing a panel last year, and when I first presented, it was in many ways a liberating experience—just being able to talk in front of a large group of people about what I love and not feeling like I’ll be judged for it. I mean, I do still have a ways to go—I can still be a bit nervous when talking off the stage.

Was the internet a part of fandom at the time? Well, like I said before, I was stuck with cheap internet as a child, so I didn’t have a reliable way to connect to the internet until I was a senior in high school.

But this also meant I didn’t grow up with the internet the way most millennials did. I was distrustful of social media and afraid to post anything, and remained largely a lurker online for years. But despite that, the internet did reveal the existence of the anime community, the cosplay community, and conventions to me.

Do you remember your first convention? Sadly, there weren’t a lot of good conventions in the Philadelphia area, and being that I first learned about them when I was a college student with low income, I couldn’t afford a trip to someplace like Otakon until much more recently.

But eventually, I found a small local event at a college over in New Jersey, Kotoricon. It was an amazing experience, I felt like I could freely be myself, though I was also having difficulty processing it, so I remained very shy.

Joe in cosplay.

When I went back for the second year, I was actually able to cosplay. The first three hours I spent cosplaying was pure bliss. I remember seeing a picture somebody took of me online. My hood was up, I couldn’t see most of my face, but I could see my smile. I don’t think I’d smiled like that in years.

I’m still an avid convention-goer and cosplayer to this day, though now I also go as a panelist (I was a presenter at Otakon last year), which gives me the chance to share my passion with others, and has helped me with my social anxiety.

Tell me about making friends with other anime fans for the first time. The first time I remember was a convention panel I attended. One of the panelists approached me after the panel, having liked a comment I made during the panel. She handed me her card, asking me to contact her after the convention.  I tried to do this, but the email on the card she provided wasn’t working (and I didn’t have Facebook at the time). I eventually was able to get a message to her through her co-panelist, but didn’t hear anything more back from her. I thought that was the end of it, but I was at one of her other panels at the convention next year, and she remembered me. Some time after that, I did get a Facebook page, and finally reached out.

Aside from that, there were a few people I meet after they get my picture in cosplay, and sent me a copy, or I found and commented, or they found a picture I got. Though most of these are just one-off chats.

More recently, I made a lot more friends when I discovered a group that holds regular meetups for cosplayers and anime fans in the Philadelphia area. I quickly became a regular at their meetups, and a lot of the other regulars know me. And I’m currently in talks to become a staff member in this group, or at the very least help arrange a few activities for a future meetup.

What kinds of topics did you present panels on? My big panel right now is on papercraft, or more specifically, a somewhat lesser-known form of papercraft called Pepakura. With this artform, somebody can make a physical paper model out of a 3D model from the computer, so it can be a cheap and fun way to get a collection of your favorite characters.  I’ve done this panel at five different conventions so far, including both AnimeNEXT and Otakon. If you want to learn more, you can check out my website or my corresponding DeviantArt or Facebook galleries. I have a few other panel ideas in the works, but don’t think they’ll be ready for presenting anytime soon.

How do you think you’ve grown as an anime fan since first discovering the medium? Well, today, I feel like I have so much more opportunity to express my fandom. Like I said, back in the day, I felt like I had to be secretive about it, today, I feel like I can be quite a bit more open about it. Back then, I felt a bit weird because of it, but I don’t anymore. Today, I have access to online streaming services, that I’ve been using to catch up on some of the anime I missed out on when they first aired.  I have the money needed to commission better cosplays, and I’m making friends in the community. And I feel like having more opportunity to express my fandom has made me overall a bigger fan.

Joe can be reached on Twitter and DeviantArt

#92: Chris A

Age: 29

Location: Baltimore, Maryland

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. Mornings before school, probably in ’95 or ’96, I watched the Sailor Moon dub on TV. Sometimes only the last half of the episode depending when I woke up. The style and action grabbed me immediately when compared to US cartoons I saw.

Then came Toonami and an increased awareness of what I was watching. Sailor Moon was included in that lineup at some point in 5th grade and I remembered it from two or three years previously.

The tail end of 5th grade also saw me begin playing a little game called Pokemon. Everything was starting to really make sense, all these super cool things I liked came from Japan. And then the big wave hit me.

It was called Gundam Wing. I was just old enough where I could “get” the storyline. I set the VCR to tape every episode on Toonami in case I missed it. I was obsessed. A store in my local mall sold merchandise and I spent my allowance on as much of it as I could.

The summer after my obsession with Gundam Wing began, I got internet at my house. As a quick learner I found out how to find anime websites, you know the old Geocities ones. My resource was Anipike. I am so nostalgic about this site; it opened my eyes to everything. Before I knew it, I was obsessed with anime.

The ups and downs followed—this was an expensive hobby. For a number of years my fandom was obsessing over shows I wanted to watch. But soon enough Adult Swim happened and I was able to finally watch Trigun and Cowboy Bebop. That same spring, I sanded and then repainted the ceiling my parents’ front porch in exchange for the Evangelion box set. For those wondering, that job is as rough as it sounds. You try holding a power sander above your head for hours!

All told, I’m fast approaching my 20th year as an anime fan, and each year with this hobby is more fun than the last.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? It was the art style. It was like nothing else I had ever seen. And there were these series-spanning stories. If I missed an episode I would have no idea what was going on.

Chris’s pre-middle school Gundam Wing poster.

Tell me about your Gundam Wing obsession. What kind of stuff did you buy at the mall? I bought multiple t-shirts and I’m sure more than one poster. I couldn’t tell you how much they cost but I do know my allowance back then was about $10-15 every week roughly. I definitely paid market price, whatever that was in 2000 and 2001. It’s wild looking back at it from today’s perspective, where I’m buying merch from shows I got into years ago.

With Gundam Wing, this entire obsession lasted about a year at most. Your interests move a whole lot faster when you’re a kid. But as a result I didn’t wind up with as much stuff as I could have. I remember also getting a small Wing Zero model as a kid, already assembled. I have that in a box somewhere. My T-shirts, which numbered three or maybe four back in the day, are all gone I believe. I assume they got donated to charity or in the case of my beloved Deathscythe shirt destroyed by wearing it at Blizzard Beach and letting the chlorine in the water do a number on it. It’s probably for the best. I’m 5’4″ and 135 pounds now at age 29, so age 13 me definitely wouldn’t have looked good in those size large T-shirts if I don’t look good in them now.

Chris’s DBZ shirt.

However, I do still have the “silk” (these things were always 100% polyester) Dragon Ball Z shirt I bought around that time from Another Universe. I also still have one Gundam Wing poster that inexplicably has survived the pre-high school throwing everything away purge, pre-college purge, post-college purge, and moving out of my parents’ house. I’ve attached pictures of each.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? It was weird. My fandom was heavily rooted in shows I couldn’t afford and would never watch. The fandom was younger then though, a lot of us wound up growing up together in it and are still talking about anime 20 years on.

What was that like to be a fan of shows you couldn’t watch? (BTW I totally understand. I used to print out Fushigi Yugi screenshots for my school binder even though I couldnt watch it). It is so fascinating looking back on it. I was too young to participate in VHS trading and certainly too young to afford much of anything. So if it wasn’t on Toonami or one of the other anime blocks popping up on cable I couldn’t see it, except for maybe on the TV at my mall’s Suncoast or Another Universe.

However I had a huge interest in anything CLAMP did. I tried to read about their various works, look at websites covered in their art, and watch Cardcaptors on TV when I could. Fushigi Yugi was another show that interested me greatly, in part because of the massive fan community it had online. I remember finding a script for one of the manga chapters and printing it out, putting it in a binder, but never actually finding the corresponding untranslated manga chapter to read with it.

But the biggest one was Evangelion, in part because I caught most of an episode at the mall. Coming from Gundam, this just seemed like an incredible step. As it came to be, the first series I actually came to own was Evangelion. My 8th grade binder was decorated almost entirely with Evangelion pictures I printed off my computer.

Was the Internet a part of fandom at the time? Yes. There were fansites, role playing communities, message boards, and the conventions scene was exploding. Though I didn’t participate in cons at the time, I was heavily active on the internet in every way I could be.

Could you tell me about some of those early sites? I couldn’t tell you the name of any of those websites or shrines besides Anime News Network and Animenation. They were probably a little later on as well. I would say my first foray into and first year or so of fandom was basically devoted to whatever websites and shrines Anipike linked me to. Obviously a lot of Gundam sites first jumped out, but from there I branched out. It’s cool thinking about all the people I’ve crossed paths with in fandom since then and how many of them probably visited the same goofy little shrines and fan pages I did. Even cooler is to think about how many of them might have made one of those sites.

Can you tell me about role playing, message boards, and stuff like that at the time? How did you participate? Through Neopets, another bastion of early 2000s internet life, I found people who were also interested in anime and especially Gundam Wing. I found Yahoo! role playing groups for Gundam Wing and jumped right in. I think I wound up playing Treize—poorly. I did better when I branched out and just found fan groups. I spent a lot of time on one that had a focus on more shojo-targeted shows. None loomed larger there than Sailor Moon. But this group opened my eyes to the art of CLAMP, which needless to say is a good group of artists to be exposed to when you’re just starting out in anime fandom. I also spent a lot of time with a group of Final Fantasy fans a lot older than me who kind of took me under their wing. We had chat rooms and everything, it was a real formative experience since I got to talk about a ton of things with them that none of my friends in school knew anything about.

As Yahoo! Groups died down, or at least my interest did, I branched over into message boards. Merging my love of anime with longer-standing love of JRPGs I found GameFAQs boards a great outlet to talk about all the things I wanted to talk about. I was also relatively active on Animenation a few years later. Unfortunately I have lost contact with everyone from my pre-Animenation days.

Do you remember your first convention? Otakon 2004.

I was anxious, at the time I didn’t handle large crowds of strangers well. I barely did anything that weekend—my mom had to pick me up early as I hadn’t gotten my license yet. The presence of 18+ panels naturally made her uncomfortable as well. I remember more about my excitement of finally going and waiting in line for my badge than anything else.

Also I drank more Red Bull that weekend than I had in my entire life up until then. Yuck.

What did your parents think of your interest in anime? They would sometimes wind up watching whatever was on Toonami with my brother and I. They never said much since I’m sure they weren’t overly focused on what was on TV. However I remember one time I was sick and my parents were taking care of me, helping me eat, and my dad eye-rolled so hard at whatever was happening in Outlaw Star. I suspect there was a point they assumed it was cartoons, and it was just kids’ stuff.

We also are from Baltimore, the now-former home of Otakon. So they started to make the connection that a lot of people of all ages, but especially skewing older, came to town for this convention. Cosplay was a brand new concept. My mom was unfortunately a bit too on the controlling end to let me go when I was in middle school. I know she didn’t get what anime was at all in part because my generation were more or less prime adapters. So when she heard they played adult entertainment at conventions she made the connection the entire thing must have been adult entertainment. I don’t want to throw her under the bus but at one Otakon she drove down there to pick my younger brother up, still in middle school, when she found out they showed hentai and such after dark. This despite the obvious fact, to us at least, you need ID and wristband to get in.

After talking her off that ledge I got to attend my first Otakon the next year, but had to leave before it got too dark. She still tells that story about my brother’s first Otakon whenever the name of the convention comes up. I barely talk about anime, conventions, or anything similar with my parents. They, my mom especially, never truly made an effort to understand it. I am very close with them otherwise so things are good. It’s a bit unfortunate since it’s a huge part of who I am though.

Since discovering anime, how do you think you’ve grown as a fan? I’ve gone through a lot phases and even waves of fandom. A handful of times I drifted off the scene, usually for a few months and then I came back discovering a new slate of shows people were interested in. I had one big break right after college. This honestly lasted around two years where I barely watched any anime. In hindsight that was the best thing that happened to me because since I came back, barely a day has gone by where I haven’t watched anime or at least discussed anime.

I think most of my early fan years were built on discovering what anime meant to me, and then after not having it in my life for a few years I realized it’s a huge part of who I am. It’s certainly my favorite form of entertainment. I’ve become much more critical, but deliberately not negative, in the past few years. I notice things now I never noticed before. Beyond just bad animation or being bored by a show, I’m more perceptive of themes and messages. I was really forced to develop as an early anime fan completely on my own. And while I had a lot of great friends online I didn’t have any at first in school. So I was often prone to needing to be “in the discussion” and feel that sense of belonging.

But that’s changed too, and now I’m happy to watch shows in a vacuum without all the surrounding hype. Overall, I feel like I still have a long ways to go in my fandom, there’s so much out there to explore and I still am at the tip of the iceberg in understanding it all.

Chris can be reached on Twitter