#31: Justine

Age: 25

Location: France

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. Back when I was 13. I had a habit of watching TV after coming back from school, and there was that TV program called La Kaz on Canal+ that broadcasted many good anime at the time. I usually avoided the whole thing (because I wasn’t too keen on the anime aesthetic) until one day I came upon an episode of Fullmetal Alchemist in 2003, the episode where Edward was starting to realize Wrath had his arm. That stuff really impressed my teenage self back then. Despite having no idea what was going on, I kept watching it religiously every day until it ended.

What didn’t you like about the “anime aesthetic” at first, and why did you change your mind? Back then I had this stereotype in my mind. “Anime is violent and stupid,” and “they’re ugly cartoons.” I did find it ugly, mostly because of the pointy eyes and the YuGiOh/DBZ hair. I must have been influenced by my parents who themselves must have been influenced by the few politicians  (family associations  and in particular the social democrat Segolene Royal) who were fighting to prevent anime from airing on national TV. Which is ironic because back when I was little I used to watch Lady Oscar (The Rose of Versailles) and Le Petit Lord (an anime adaptation of the Little Lord Fauntleroy, the name in Japanese is Shokkoshi Ceddie) on French TV. The later in particular was my favourite show (albeit tied with Tintin). And I loved the aesthetic.

Neither me nor my parents had any idea those were technically anime or even Japanese productions, I only realized they were anime much later, long after I was already neck deep in the medium. That’s why I don’t consider them my gateway anime. I suppose I always loved anime, I just didn’t know it.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? How unusual the plot was, mostly. How well handled the drama was, too. I didn’t even watch the previous episodes but I was instantly hooked on and invested in Edward’s character.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? I have no clue, either FMA itself or Naruto I guess? It could have been GTO [Great Teacher Onizuka] too though.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time?
My first experience of an anime fandom was with a Naruto scanlation team forum. You can sum it up by arguing on shit that happened in the chapters. They also taught me how to crack Photoshop and digital painting.

What were scanlations like at the time? Was this before you could get Naruto manga legally? The scanlation team had a private sub forum to themselves so they could work on the weekly chapters. That was around the time the French licensed manga was roughly 20 volumes behind on the Japanese weekly Shonen Jump release.

Did you assist with the scanlation? A few times when they lacked people. I wasn’t a permanent member though. Also a few times, the team gave me the raw cover early and I managed to speed colorize it so it’d make it into the release. I also participated in numerous color chapter projects and colorization contests.

You said they helped you learn digital painting and Photoshop. Did you use that to create any fan art? At first I only colorized [Naruto manga artist] Kishimoto’s pages and covers. But yeah, I went on to draw my own fan art. If you must know, actually I’m in art school. Haha. So yeah, you could say that was a turning point for me.

What was the first anime-related purchase you made, and how much did it cost? Probably a Fullmetal Alchemist manga volume. Five euros. It was so cheap back then.

Do you remember your first anime convention? Can you tell me about it?
I went to my first anime convention rather late compared to when I first got into anime. I only remember spending all my money (60 euros) on the real size replicas of Zoro’s three katanas. This is so typical for a weeaboo at her first convention it’s almost embarrassing, but eh, I still had a great time. And the swords compliment my cupboard nicely.

What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom when you got into it and now? It’s hard to tell because the places I hang out at changed a lot over the years. I don’t even hang around french speaking communities anymore. Now my favourite place to discuss anime is [4chan forum] /a/.

I get the distinct sense that anime is becoming more and more mainstream though. Ten years ago I couldn’t find anybody to discuss anime with, except on
the internet. Now a few of my friends have a favourite anime.

Justine can be reached on Twitter

#30: Josh D

Age: 25

Location: Atlanta, Georgia

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. I liked anime before I knew it was anime. Watching Dragon Ball Z Sunday mornings before it hit Toonami, then moving on to Adult Swim. My fandom really grew from raids to my local video store before I started podcasting in 2009.

Can you elaborate? What defined something as anime to you later? So my comment, “I liked anime before I knew it was anime,” is mostly referring to reruns of Speed Racer or Gaiking that I saw in Motel 8s I stayed at as a kid when my family and I were moving cross country. But then there were shows like Dragon Ball, Yu Yu Hakusho, and Rurouni Kenshin when I started to realize that these shows were from a different country. It wasn’t until I hit Inuyasha that I started to realize that all these shows were recognized as ‘anime’.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? The sense of atmosphere. A lot of the shows I was watching (Yu Yu Hakusho, Rurouni Kenshin, Inuyasha) had a distinctive Japanese air to them. That familiar sort of otherness has been a major pull for me.

“That familiar sort of otherness.” What characterizes that feeling? There seems to be a certain sort of melancholy in Japanese culture that permeates throughout anime and Japanese media in general, actually. When I was younger, I gravitated to this idea that what made things beautiful was the fact that they were finite and didn’t last forever. Growing up with this mentality, a lot of the imagery you see in anime really struck a chord with me. Now I understand that what I was so attracted to was the representation of the concept of mujo [the Japanese aesthetic of impermanence], and even though I didn’t logically understand it at the time, it resonated with me on an emotional level.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? Maybe YuGiOh or Dragon Ball Z. Hard telling, especially when you consider Pokemon was still in full swing.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? I didn’t even realize it was a fandom, it was just a friend and I.

How did you and this friend bond over anime? Who liked it first? I was definitely the anime fan first. It was kinda a moment in time for him, but it stuck with me. Our bond was getting away with watching shows that were way too adult for us.

Today, we’re friends on Facebook and such, but we don’t really talk to one another. His family ended up moving away. It’s been years since I’ve seen him. He probably still thinks of anime fondly, but I highly doubt he seeks it out.

“Too adult?” The first show that springs to mind was a goody by the name of Doomed Megalopolis. Some of the images I saw from that still haunt me, and I say that unironically. Part of me wonders if it’s really as bad as I recall… Another was the original Vampire Hunter D, might have been a few other older 80’s OVAs that kinda blend together at this point. It was more stuff our parent’s didn’t want us watching, but there were some gems in there so it wasn’t all naughty: The Escaflowne and Ah! My Goddess films, as well as Char’s Counterattack (not knowing what Gundam even was!), some Inuyasha movies as well.

How did you become aware of the presence of other fans aside from you two? I joined an internet video game forum which had a fairly prevalent anime sub-community. At the time I was passionate enough to start a gaming podcast, but I couldn’t keep up with all the new games financially. I didn’t want to quit podcasting, and anime was free with a fast enough internet connection. So thus I started my first anime podcast and got wrapped up in podcasting where I met a lot of folks through Twitter who listened to the show.

What forum was that? The forum that I went to has since died then come back in various forms, I would have to track it down to see if it I could even find it to be honest…

Is your first anime podcast still up? Do you have a link? My first podcast is still up… and it’s kind of an embarrassing secret to be honest! I mean, I was doing it in high school, so there’s a lot of face palming that goes on when I listening to it as an adult. I took everything I know from Mike Dent’s Friday ACE, one of the best anime podcasts to grace iTunes in my opinion. But I probably won’t link it unless pressured, I feel super embarrassed, but if you search hard enough… it is out there lol

How did you go from consumer of anime to creator of podcasts and other things? For me, it’s hard to simply enjoy something. If I enjoy a product, I seek out others who also enjoy it, and from there I feel a need to produce content as a form of homage and to deepen the bonds I’ve made. It feels good when you write and article or record a podcast and see other people enjoy it. It feels even better when your friends enjoy it!

That’s why I created Wave Motion Cannon. I really value the whole idea of giving back to the community, and that’s what I try to do with the content I create.

Can you tell me what interacting with Wave Motion Cannon readers has taught you about the newest generation of anime fans? The longer I participate in the blogger/podcaster circle, the more and more I realize that I am less of a casual fan than I realize. However, I feel WMC attracts fans who are more than casual, maybe part of what we do causes them to be a tad less casual (which I suppose is kinda the goal of all bloggers to some degree). The type of folks that look for analysis tend to be less casual than you standard fare by design, so perhaps that’s at work?

However, funnily enough, I have more interactions with the new generation of anime fans at work than anywhere else! And the best part is that they have no idea that I love anime as much as I do, let alone that I run a blog. I have had grown men over 35 puff out their chest and proclaim they were learning Japanese to watch anime without subtitles, and 20-somethings walk in with tattoos of Miyazaki characters. One guy tried to convince me to watch Berserk, even taking it as far as to do a Google image search on a work computer! One gal said she drew hentai and I had to pretend I didn’t know what it was (usually saying something like “you mean Chinese cartoons?” throws them off your trail). So to me, this is the exact fandom I saw 10+ years ago, just the faces change. hell, they’re still going on about the same shows: Berserk, Death Note, Fairy Tail, etc. It feels weird to interview the lead animator for Naruto on the weekend only to go into work saying I have not idea what any of it is while promoting WMC tweets on my phone simultaneously.

What do you do for a living and why do you hide your fandom at work? I work as a systems trainer in the corporate office of medical information company. The main reason I hide my fandom is due to the stigma that still surrounds anime fandom, a stigma that is fueled in part by the very same people I hide my fandom from. A lot of the fans in my own workplace are a tad on the socially awkward side to the point they are numb to the embarrassment, which is kinda harsh to say, but it’s true. That’s one thing that has not changed over the years, anime fandom is still in a ghetto in many ways.

What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom when you got into it and now? I feel like fandom now is better than it’s ever been. We have access to so much content (both official and fan created) that there’s something for every fan to enjoy. So many shows are available 24/7, and best of all there is a viable way to actually pay for what we consume. The convention scene has advanced a lot from years past as well, as we get better guests and panels.

Just overall, the fact that that we’re having this conversation, the fact that you’ve started this project means that the anime community has developed into something phenomenal. None of this was possible over 10 years ago, and we’re doing it now!

Josh can be reached on Twitter

#29: Mike L

Age: 34

Location: New Jersey

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. I had always been aware of the spiky-hair designs in the back of gaming magazines (envelope art and import shops in places like Electronic Gaming Monthly). I was into games, and games alone, but had been growing to notice how clearly some aesthetics were distinctly Japanese. It wasn’t until a friend (who was into American comics, namely Spawn) prodded me to check out a super cool cartoon the following weekend that I finally learned what “anime” was. What I saw was the second episode of the original 1996 syndication broadcast of Funimation’s Dragon Ball Z English dub.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? I always enjoyed, even as a kid, getting in at the ground level of any new product, movement, or “fandom”. I don’t think I recognized it at the time, but there was a thrill in knowing things before anyone else, and trying to project what might catch on. (Later in life, I’d find my calling in marketing. Go figure.)

Otherwise, it was just how “different” anime felt. It was clear this was something unique compared to the other shows on at the time; I think to things like the USA Action Extreme Team lineup (Street Fighter cartoon among all the other video game adaptations). For Dragon Ball in particular, it was a serialized story with an ever-growing cast of characters. It could be an investment (in all senses of the word: emotional, time, monetary). For someone who moved a lot as a kid, it was also a way to quickly find new friends that had a similar intense degree of enthusiasm; if you were into it, you were INTO it. Twenty years later, I’m still running a Dragon Ball website!

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? From my perspective it was Dragon Ball, but obviously Sailor Moon was the next thing we could grab onto. Anything in the “Japanimation” section at Blockbuster was second-tier by virtue of it simply being available (Vampire Hunter D, Akira, Ghost in the Shell, etc.), followed by whatever aired on Sci-Fi’s Saturday Anime block.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? My perspective has always been one of in-person but also unique in that it was not just online in terms of general discussion with other fans, but also from a management perspective. I got into Dragon Ball in 1996, and began my website in January 1998. Sure, it was garbage for a while, but it quickly grew into something significant. Dragon Ball web traffic was insane over the next few years, and having a second-generation Dragon Ball fan site ready to go for the upcoming boom meant learning a lot of lessons about design, presentation, moderation, content management, etc. Quite frankly, it was an amazing self-discovery process by proxy of anime.

For quite some time, “fandom” was defined by learning more and more about the show, and therefore learning more and more about what was changed in its dub. I’ve come to the conclusion that we as the new fans effectively ruined all legitimate discourse of the series for several years. There were no meaningful discussions about the series itself anymore; it was all about the changes. It took years and years for that to recover, and only did so once we finally received uncut/bilingual products and were able to let the franchise rest/die for an extended period of time to then refocus… and quite frankly, for us all to grow up a little bit.

What inspired you to start your own Dragon Ball website? Were other fan sites part of it? When I started my site in January 1998, there was already an established base of comprehensive, well-known, authoritative Dragon Ball fansites (namely Wuken’s Suushinchuu). I didn’t feel that I had anything to add at that level, but I was still desperate to get involved and produce SOMETHING. That started with VegettoEX’s Ultimate DBZ Links Page on my AOL web space. Even then, I still had nothing to really offer; everyone knew all five or six of the good sites already, so who needed a links page?! It was a way to get started, though. I quickly found myself recording audio files and writing (terrible) reviews, so that helped the site expand into VegettoEX’s Home Page. Even THAT began to take a turn with the kind of content and news coverage I wanted to focus on, and at some point in 1999 it became Daizenshuu EX, which I ran until 2012 with our merger with Kanzentai into Kanzenshuu.

All that time, I was continuously looking to other sites to see what they were doing, and more importantly, what we could do better. Something I had always been fascinated with was the series’ music, and while there were decent CD listings in things like Dr. Briefs’ DBZ FAQ, new products were coming out and I was beginning to pick up on mistranslations. I aimed to build the largest, most-comprehensive listing of Dragon Ball music out there, and we accomplished that! I then looked to our music database as the template for other guides we could create. I looked to clean website designs and great color choices like SREDBZ had; I can directly trace back my love of yellow and blue back to Scott’s site right there. I wanted it to be a welcoming site with just the right kind of fun personality, but also that authoritative tone. I don’t think we got there for quite some time, but we eventually did!

The “golden era” of Dragon Ball fansites feels like it ran from about 1997 to 2002. The first generation of raw Japanese and fansub-based fans left an incredible base for us to work from, and Funimation still actively producing the show for the first time gave us plenty of contemporary material to work with. We had a lot of fun, but a lot of us were also still pretty young (late teenage years). We drove the old guard out while we were coming to grips with early Internet culture. While most of it was in good fun (the title tag wars with Planet Namek, for example), there was also a ton of histrionics and grudges that we never truly understood the origins of. Kids being kids.

I looked to the types of dub-specific coverage we were all getting trapped into, and reflected on what we might be able to offer as a simultaneous contrast and complement to that. I brought Julian on board in 2003, which allowed our Japanese news coverage and translations to immediately set us apart. For a whole slew of reasons (web advertising crash, completion of Funimation’s first run of the dub, people just generally losing interest, etc.), most of the other sites of the era closed up shop. At some point, we were essentially all that was left! We had such an incredible base of our own at that point, so I made it a priority for us to stick around and provide the best Dragon Ball coverage we could for as long as we could.

What has been the most rewarding part of running a site like this? I learn something new every day. You might think that after running a series-specific website for nearly twenty years you’ve seen all there is to see, but that’s just not true. Whether it’s a little factoid about the series’ production, some funny new quote from an ancient interview, or even a recently-unearthed character design, there’s always something new out there for you.

Oh, and that whole “making new friends” thing, I guess…! It’s so funny looking back on the days of meeting some random person in a chat room or newsgroup and saying “hey um would you like to work on my website with me?” I can’t imagine handing a password over to a random person like that anymore! That’s how it was back then, though. Today Kanzenshuu is run by four people, all of whom I speak with on a daily basis… and not just about Dragon Ball! These are easily some of my best friends in the world.

Are there any opportunities you wouldn’t have had if you didn’t run Kanzenshuu? My website has served as the basis for everything I do now in my professional life. From content management to design to marketing, it all traces directly back to VegettoEX’s Ultimate DBZ Links Page. When I was in college, there were marketing degrees, sure, and there were IT degrees, sure… but the rest of the curriculum was still trying to catch up with how content on the Internet fit into all of that. While the educators struggled with that, I figured it all out on my own courtesy of Dragon Ball.

It’s clear you have a major connection with the Dragon Ball franchise over other anime series. What is it about Dragon Ball that resonates with you? Have any other series come close to making you feel the same way? I figure I’m the same as most people: what you see first is what leaves the biggest impression on you. Beyond that, though, I love the ensemble cast, I love the music, I love the character designs, I love the writing style… it’s just everything I love wrapped up into one, ever-expanding package.

The amount of head-space dedicated to Dragon Ball makes it difficult to really get absorbed into other franchises. That’s not to say I don’t read/watch other things, and that’s not to say I don’t enjoy some of them an incredible amount, but the bar has been set pretty high. Dragon Ball is just so approachable, so easy, so comfortable, and yet has enough layers to dive into if you really want to nerd out over any given aspect.

That all being said, Futurama is my other not-so-secret love. I’d probably be running the Futurama equivalent of Kanzenshuu today were it not for Dragon Ball. It’s possible and likely that I’ve heard Billy West’s voice more in my life than Masako Nozawa’s, which shocks a lot of people!

Would it be possible to build a site like Kanzenshuu today? Why or why not? It’s certainly possible, but I don’t know what level of crazy you’d have to be to attempt it. I wish people WOULD do it! What we have is the result of four people investing years and years of prior work into something, all brought together into one complete package. It’s something we do because we love the series, and have this irresistible urge to document and share. To start completely fresh? I can’t imagine that. It would have to be with a new series that you place your bets on and hope it becomes something huge; that way you have your foot in the door for everything as it comes out. Start small, but stay comprehensive. That’s not to say we were first in line with Dragon Ball – far from it. We took the downtime opportunities we had, though, and threw everything we had at it at times in our lives where we had the free time to do so. People often ask us what theme we used for the site, or where we downloaded all of our stuff, etc. We have to explain to them that we built it all ourselves, bought it all ourselves, fact-checked it all ourselves, and translated it all ourselves. It’s something that takes time and dedication.

Today? Isn’t it easier to just launch a Tumblr with some magazine scans you can’t read? Run a Twitter account collecting everything you find? Make some YouTube videos talking over game footage? Start up or take over an existing subreddit? Try to clean up someone else’s mess on Wikia?

You can probably sense the combination of jealousy and contempt in that description! It’s just so easy to launch a platform these days with zero costs (other than a lack of true content ownership). We never had those opportunities. Just like most people wouldn’t know how to launch something like Kanzenshuu, we wouldn’t know how to launch something modern and laser-focused in its delivery. We’re stuck in and a relic of the Internet past. We’re not a blog. We’re not a traditional news site. We’re not a video channel. We’re not an official resource. We don’t have quick-bites for people to digest. There’s no money to be made, and no fame to bask in.

But we also wouldn’t have it any other way! I don’t truly hold anything against anyone for wanting to go a different route; just like I made a dinky links page in 1998, people should do what makes them happy and what allows them to have fun with the series they love so much. It’s that personal engagement and sense of accomplishment that kept us going, and I wish that every fan could find something so fulfilling.

What makes my day is when people tell me they “wish there was a Kanzenshuu for ________.” I couldn’t ask for a better compliment.

What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom when you got into it and now? The obvious answer is probably piecemeal VHS fansubs vs. instant total availability on streaming services and home video. Whereas we would have been happy to get maybe six episodes of the Cell arc subtitled and two episodes of GT in raw Japanese and call it a day at that point, fans can sit back today and binge watch as much of the series (in chronological order) as they want!

That being said, the more things change, the more they stay the same. While in 1999 everyone created their own website with power level lists and Tenka’ichi Budokai brackets with a left-hand column navigation on a black background with website traffic/hit counters, in 2017 everyone has a YouTube channel with “What If?” theories and power level debates with subscription milestone celebration videos.

That’s not to say EVERYTHING truly is the same as it was back then. Something I’ve come to realize is that, when I was getting into the series and discovering its origins and changes for the American market, those changes dominated discussions… at the expense of all other topics. One of the recent projects on our site has been the “Press Archive” where we look back at Dragon Ball coverage from not just contemporary anime and gaming magazines of the day, but also things like newspaper articles and such. What’s clear is how well-versed in Dragon Ball the general anime fan was pre-Funimation, and how accurate the coverage and discourse could be. Sure, there were the occasional outlandish statements and clearly-fabricated tidbits in longer articles, but on the whole, things were pretty great. Once the English dub came to America, it feels like it completely sidelined all new initiatives. Magazine coverage went from enthusiastic to sick-of-hearing-about-it begrudging nods. Fans focused entirely on meticulously documenting all dub changes, yet never diving back to explore and document that original version that was supposedly being tarnished so much. All the meanwhile, an enormous group of new fans were coming in via the Toonami broadcast; being so young at the time, they wouldn’t come online for another five to ten years, shocked to find that the now-old-guard (ourselves still feeling like the “new” fans!) had no respect or nostalgia for the version they were growing up with. Meanwhile, we were simultaneously shocked to realize there WAS an enthusiastic audience for these new voices and replacement music! These people weren’t parroting our opinions back at us; what had gone so horribly, horribly wrong?!

At least for Dragon Ball these days, I’m noticing how fans are simultaneously more specialized and more generalized than ever before. We’re so fortunate to have attracted fans from all walks of life to chat with us on Kanzenshuu; we have the animation experts, the background music experts, the in-universe experts, the directorial experts, etc. On the flipside, we’re seeing more and more fans that aim to have as broad an understanding and expertise as Kanzenshuu tries to present. That’s great for everyone!

And that’s what makes me excited. As Funimation makes strides in accuracy with their Dragon Ball treatment, and as the Japanese industry realizes that Dragon Ball is a global phenomenon and should be treated as such and shared with everyone simultaneously, so too are we seeing that turnaround from the younger generation of fans. They want to know who said what when. They want to know how that ties in to the production. They want to know why certain characters act differently than they remember from watching it growing up. They just want to LEARN. I see myself in them, and that makes me excited to continue doing what I do. There’s still a lot of growing to do as today’s communication platforms and the presenters mature, but the potential for even better news coverage, higher-quality translations, and in-depth documentation is sitting right there! Hopefully people remember Kanzenshuu along the way…! 🙂

Mike can be reached on Twitter.

#28: Thanasis

Age: 33

Location: Reading, United Kingdom

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. It was back in 1989 in my local VHS rental shop. Of course, I had no idea that the term “anime” existed. I was almost six years old and in first grade, and for the whole of elementary school I would be amazed by the stories of Igano Kabamaru, Robotech, Captain Harlock, Bioman (yes! Super Sentai as well), Plawres Sanshiro, Video Senshi Lazerion, Getter Robo, UFO Grendizer, Voltus V, Windaria, Nausicaä, and so many more!

All the series were dubbed, but I am grateful that the localization department of whoever was in charge of these VHS tapes decided to keep the Japanese names and Japanese songs!

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? The robots. The stories. The morals. That feeling that these narratives were made for children but were “not” made for children. I am at a loss for words here, but I think that there was an aura of importance in these stories.

“I think that there was an aura of importance in these stories.” I would love to hear more on what you mean by this! That’s a good question that is very difficult to answer. Take the great American Saturday morning cartoons: I was knee-deep in He-Man, She-Ra, Bravestar, Silverhawks, Thundercats, Blackstar, Transformers, TMNT, even My Little Pony and Care Bears. All great shows and memorable and unique. But they lacked a certain maturity that my childish mind longed for. It might sound contradictory, but the characters in the shows I mentioned earlier felt stiff and one-dimensional. They were there to instruct and draw a clear line between good and evil. Not anime, though. Not Area 22. Not Captain Harlock. These were imbued with emotion and themes that were larger than life. I liked that.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? I’m not sure. Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball were very popular Saturday morning cartoons.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? We didn’t even know the term “anime” at the time, so there was really not a fandom to be a part of. We just really liked the “cartoons.” We talked about them. Had fun watching them. Who cared what the tag was.

Who was “we?” I was fortunate enough to have a group of friends who had the same interest in Japanese RPGs and anime as I did. We played Secret of Mana on the SNES together and Zelda on the Game Boy. We watched Saber Rider and Voltron without knowing about Bismark and GoLion, and Macross was an unknown word even if Robotech was a part of our lives. Even in titles where the original Japanese songs and names were retained, we knew that the cartoons were foreign (and possibly from Japan, I don’t remember that particular detail) but we had no idea about the term “anime.”

Do you remember the first time you became aware of what anime was? The first time I became aware of the term was with the rising popularity of Dragon Ball Z and Sailor Moon. I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but I do remember that it was one or two years before 2000. For me, it was just a term. Knowing about anime didn’t change my perspective on the medium, it just opened a new world of titles and stories I could get my eyes on. It didn’t matter if they were from Zambia or Argentina. Anime was great.

Did you stick with anime up until today, or did you ever take a break from it? I am very much the same child as I was back then. I still watch anime and play JRPG. I am also an assistant editor for an anime news online site based in Japan called MANGA.TOKYO. Otaku culture is part of my life. ^^

What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom when you got into it and now? I was never fully integrated into the fandom for various reasons. My introversion, distrust for large groups, and aversion for conflict kept me away from forums, events, conventions, and public discussions. But I was always an avid observer, and I think that what changed was the rise of the internet. This answer could become an article of its own, though. A worryingly increasing percentage of members of any fandom are not driven by a genuine love for the medium, but instead, they seek an opportunity to employment, a chance to get the ‘money’ doing what they ‘love’, a way to give weight to their opinion. Fame, fortune, attention, etc. We are all slaves of our DNA and in the end, it is the creators who are always paying the price.

But haven’t you also mixed business with doing what you love with your editing job for an anime magazine? Guilty as charged, but the quotation marks around love were intentional. There are people who genuinely care about the medium, from writers and in-between animators to anisong musicians and ‘Random Streaming Platform’ executives (probably). I am not condemning or judging anyone. I just feel that more and more people are taking advantage of the medium to make money without really caring about the medium itself. It’s natural and it’s just an observation that is actually more prevalent in gaming than it is in anime. After all, anime is still a niche community that is slowly showing signs of going just a bit mainstream. I have issues with idolization, sexualization, exploitation, social media stardom, the hype-building marketing machine, the drop in quality and the rise in quantity, and so much more. There is a dark side to every industry; this is not news. I just feel that the majority is on its way to a red lightsaber.

Thanassis can be reached on Twitter and his website

#27: Katy C

Age: 30

Location: Fort Worth, Texas

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. The first anime I saw and knew it was anime was Sailor Moon. When I was in elementary school, I watched anime without knowing what it was. Then I got into middle school and could access the internet from the library. I remember my sister and I would pretend to be Sailor Moon and Sailor Mars all the time and ran around our backyard screaming about defeating Queen Beryl.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? I love the diverse storylines. For typical American cartoons, there wasn’t an actual storyline to each episode you watched, so you can watch them completely out of order—they were mostly one-offs. In anime, they are telling a continuous story. It was vastly different from other shows I saw growing up.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? I think the most recognizable anime is Pokemon.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? It was a bit hard to find other people interested in anime where I’m from, which is a small city in South Texas. Oddly enough, it wasn’t until I got into high school that I was able to find kindred spirits who were into anime as well. One of my friends introduced me to both manhwa [Korean comics] and manga during my sophomore year. It was a bit hard to participate in anime themed events since they were hours away from where I lived and no one around locally were passionate enough to start one. I am thankful that my siblings shared the same passion as I did so I could always rely on them for discussions and such. Considering where I lived growing up, my parents were completely okay with their children being into anime because we were busy buying YuGiOh! cards instead of becoming hoodlums. Several times, my mom has watched shows with us and it was always nice being able to discuss the latest episode with her over coffee each morning.

Are your siblings still into anime? What about your mom? Two of my four siblings share the same passion for anime and Japanese culture as I do. I believe us three were introduced to anime around the same time. We are super close so while growing up, we all watched the same things together, meaning my brother, Joe, also watched Sailor Moon with my sister and I, and my sister and I would join him for Dragon Ball Z. When my brother was in elementary school, he had a monstrous love for Godzilla so my siblings and I spent a lot of our afternoons watching old Godzilla films that had horrible (oooorrrr some dare say fantastic) voiceovers.

I’m very thankful that my mom grew up being a nerd who traded gum and other trinkets for comic books so when we started getting into anime, she also was introduced to it. I remember when we finally got cable and DVR, she would watching Inuyasha and Gundam Seed with us every Sunday morning and we would have discussions with her about it around the kitchen table while drinking coffee. Even though we have all moved out, she had managed to watch Attack on Titan with my brother when he visits my parents.

Would also love to know what kinds of things your mom would say about anime over coffee (and which anime)! A lot of the time my mom had trouble distinguishing who was male or female in the shows. For the longest time, she believed that Kenshin from Rurouni Kenshin was a girl which we had to always correct her on. She also had problems pronouncing Inuyasha and would instead say, “EE-no-washa”, but she had no problems saying Sesshoumaru, which to her was “best boy” in her eyes. I know it’s a little sappy, but it’s rather fantastic having a parent who shares the same interests as you and encourages you to keep at it. She is one of the driving forces behind creating Yatta-Tachi. She told me that it would be completely natural for me to do something like that and knew I would be successful and so here we are!

What was it like meeting other fans in high school for the first time? Meeting people who shared a similar interest in anime was rather …odd? I didn’t have cable when Trigun, Outlaw Star, and Cowboy Bebop were airing on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim, so most of the time that’s what they were interested in. There were some were more into hentai, but there were a couple that I was able to exchange VHS tapes or manga with. Actually, during that time, I was also getting into playing YuGiOh! so we would host our own mini-tournaments at school.

Can you tell me about your first convention? The first convention I went was RealmsCon, which was back in 2008. Back then, I didn’t know too much about conventions, but my friend, Sam, went to RealmsCon every year and had me tag along with her. The convention took place in Corpus Christi, Texas, which was 2 hours away from my hometown, Harlingen. There were a lot of firsts during that trip: first time going on a trip without my family, the first time being able to finally immerse myself into the fandom, and the first time getting severe food poisoning, which knocked me out the first & second day of the convention. Compared to conventions I go to now, this convention was ridiculously tiny and took place in a Holiday Inn with artist alley was part of the main hallway of the hotel. I don’t remember doing too much during the convention other than raving every night until 4 am, food poisoning and getting my Haruhi Suzumiya shoulder bag which I still have today!

What was the first fandom you REALLY got into? Like creating fan works, buying stuff, etc. SAILOR. MOON. I was disgustingly obsessed with Sailor Moon growing up. In middle school, I usually to spend all my free time printing out images and translated lyrics of the songs so I could teach myself Japanese (yes, I was such a weeb back then). I use to draw Sailor Moon on EVERYTHING such as book covers, school chalkboards, on my hand and use to have a spiral notebook filled with drawings. At one point, I TRIED to make my own scouts but that never worked. Back when floppy disks were a thing, I had the song, “Power of Love” saved onto it so I could listen to it while I was browsing the internet at school.

Tell me about creating Yatta-Tachi. Is it your first anime site? How did your fandom change when you became a creator of fan works as well as a consumer of them? Yatta-Tachi wasn’t the first site I created that had to do with anime and Japanese culture. Back in college, I had an MP3 rotation site where every month I would post anime songs that I was into at the moment. Yes, stupid and very illegal. I also use to do forum signature banners for friends as well. During high school, I use to create mock website designs using Netscape and fill it with animated sprites of Sailor Moon and DBZ characters but I was cool like that. My maturity has evolved rapidly once I started learning more about the industry. Before I knew better, I was an ex-pirate who didn’t give a crap about watching shows legally because honestly, it didn’t even cross my mind what I was doing was damaging to the anime industry. Boy, if I could go back in time, I would have some rather strong words to say to myself.

What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom when you got into it and now? The main contrast between fandom then and fandom now is how it’s stupidly easy to watch anime now. If young fans now knew of the struggles it was for us to get anime, I think there would be less whiny about paying a few bucks to watch shows legally on sites like Crunchyroll and Funimation.

Anime is starting to become mainstream which means it will only become easier and easier to watch the shows. Honestly, the college version of me would have had a heyday and probably waste my life away binge watching so many shows, going to conventions, meet-ups and MOVIE SCREENINGS (which didn’t exist for me living in Smalltown, USA)!

Katy can be reached on Twitter

#26: Chelsea B

Age: 28

Location: Tennessee

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. What started it all was the clearance aisle at a K-Mart in 1995. I was six years old and my grandmother agreed to buy me one toy for not being completely annoying. I originally was going to get my go-to toy, Polly Pocket, but after my grandmother corralled me into the clearance section I was immediately taken with a Sailor Moon doll. I had no idea who she was but she had to be mine. For the next year I would play with “Sailor Moon” unaware of her origin until one day, during summer vacation in 1996, I happened across the USA channel early in the morning and found that my doll fought evil by moonlight and won love by daylight. I was obsessed with the Sailor Moon anime, in part, because it was my first exposure to “cartoons” with continuity (plus female superhero!).

From Sailor Moon I eventually gravitated toward the afternoon Toonami block (Dragon Ball, Tenchi Muyo, Gundam Wing). Unfortunately when I turned 13, my super-religious parents found my Love Hina manga and banned all anime from our home. I sometimes would sneak and watch late night anime on Adult Swim (Cowboy Bebop or Samurai Champloo) or TechTV (Silent Mobius or Akira) but anime had to take a backseat until I was able to escape the house after graduation. It’s been fun rediscovering anime in my mid to late twenties though I have a lot to catch up on.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it?
As I mentioned previously, what initially appealed to me was the concept of continuity. At the time, the concept of seasons, especially with animated shows, seemed novel. I was also drawn to anime because it featured girls with agency who had emotional arcs, character development, and—let’s face it—cute talking animals. While there were cartoons from the ’80s and ’90s that featured women (Rainbow Brite, Jem and the Holograms, etc.) I couldn’t relate to those characters like I could with the school-aged girls in anime.

In retrospect, I think what kept me hooked on anime were the values that it instilled and exposed to me. I was raised in a strict, Southern Baptist household that did not value education or thinking outside the box. Anime taught me empathy—not the Bible. Anime taught me that even a “Meatball Head” could be a leader. Anime’s emphasis on hope, the power of friendship, and other usual shonen/shojo tropes saved me from an oppressive environment and showed me that I didn’t have to be limited because of my gender. (I still remember one 4th of July standing on the back porch and watching the fireworks explode and pretending I was Relena Peacecraft watching a Gundam battle in space, worried about political ramifications.)

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? I could answer this two ways: what was most popular among my demographic or what was most popular in the Western anime fandom at the time.

For my demographic, elementary and middle school kids in the ’90s, the most popular were: Dragon Ball Z, Pokemon, Sailor Moon, Tenchi Muyo, Yu Yu Hakusho, Cardcaptors [the American cut of Cardcaptor Sakura], Zoids, Digimon, Gundam Wing… basically anything that came on the Toonami block or on Saturday mornings.

In general popular anime of the era, not mentioned above, included: The Vision of Escaflowne, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Slayers, Martian Successor Nadesico, Serial Experiments Lain, Magic Knight Rayearth, Battle Angel Alita, Silent Mobius, Ghost in the Shell, Princess Mononoke, Gundam (08th MS Team, 0083: Stardust Memory, 0080: War in the Pocket), Revolutionary Girl Utena, and Cowboy Bebop. I’m leaving things out but you get the idea.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? The biggest part of my anime fandom during adolescence revolved around the playground or the lunch-table and discussing anime shows, pretending to be anime characters, or lamenting how the bus didn’t get us home in time to see if Goku had FINALLY defeated Frieza yet. As time went on, most of these conversations fell to the wayside as the majority of kids were only watching these shows because they happened to be on during times kids watched TV. By high school, only a handful of kids actively pursued anime and we were almost all emo/geek/goth. I remember, after anime was banned, getting a CD with anime openings on it from one of my friends. I got exposed to Blue Gender, Rurouni Kenshin, and the like by playing their opening songs on repeat.

That being said, before anime was banned in my household I did get a chance to attend 2001’s Anime Weekend Atlanta. It was one of the best weekends of my childhood. I saw I wasn’t alone.

I remember looking at the DVDs and VHS tapes for sale which were almost all too expensive for a 12-year-old. I also remember a man sneaking upskirt photos of a cosplayer but I was too young and surprised to intervene. The one time we wondered into a video room, with my friend’s mom, we had the unfortunate luck of strolling into a showing of Wicked City. After that, she made us leave.

Another memory I have is discovering manga in my local mall’s Waldenbooks (RIP). My first manga was Sailor Moon. As I branched out (eventually picking up Slayers, Tenchi, Cardcaptors, Pokemon, and Love Hina) I discovered that I would have to hide some of these from my parents because of onsen scenes. I will say, for a poor kid in the ’90s, manga was the best way to access new titles since VHS and DVDs were waaaay too expensive to buy. I couldn’t rent tapes from Blockbuster because I didn’t want my parents to think of anime as anything but innocent cartoons. Occasionally Waldenbooks would give VHS tapes with 2 episodes on it if you bought enough manga. These tapes were my first exposure to Revolutionary Girl Utena and my first exposure to subbed anime. I would watch them in secret.

Once our household got the internet, and before it was banned because Jesus, I also remember perusing the countless anime fan sites (what I fondly remember as the Angelfire/Geocities era of the internet). I partly taught myself how to use a computer and how to use the internet by going to anime fan sites, looking at pictures, and listening to midi files of anime theme songs. I lost my mind when I realized you could right click and save jpegs. By the time I was 12, I joined my first forum and honed my internet conversation skills by talking about Tenchi Muyo. At the time I didn’t fully recognize the border between “irl” friends and forum friends. When anime, and therefore the internet, was banned, I basically lost almost all my friends since I was an introverted kid. I still wonder what happened to them. I think I’m going to go look for that forum now to see if it still exists.

I am sure it was painful to share about anime being banned in your house, so thank you. Did you get right back into anime as soon as you moved out? You’re welcome.

Honestly, an anime ban was just a portion of the joys that surrounded growing up in that house. I moved out immediately after graduating high school, in part, to escape that level of control. The other reasons are a little personal but I couldn’t physically stay safe living there. I did not immediately get back into anime after moving out. Most of my late teens and early twenties were concentrated on working two jobs and going to college full time. I also couldn’t afford the internet at the time so that was a large hurdle.

I eventually got back into anime by taking my best friend to Anime Weekend Atlanta 2012 as part of her bachelorette party. Being there reminded me while I originally fell in love with anime in the first place. I started by re-buying some of the series and manga that my parents threw in the garbage. Shortly after, I was able to afford the internet again and began to watch whatever was on Netflix. I didn’t start to watch seasonal anime until 2014. Since then I’ve been balancing following 3-4 shows a season while trying to catch up on all that I had missed from 2002 to 2014. I’m still playing catchup to be honest.

Do your parents know you are back to your old anime ways, and if so what do they think?

My father passed away in 2013. While he was aware of my ongoing geek interests more so than my mother, he never knew I got back into anime. My Mother still does not know that anime is my biggest hobby and does not know that I also still play video games, read fantasy and sci-fi novels, play Dungeons and Dragons, or go to conventions. She does not visit my apartment so she has never been privy to my otaku hoard. It’s easier to avoid the subject. I thought I was going to have to divulge the truth last November because I wore a Dragon Ball Z shirt to the hospital and ended up having gallbladder removal surgery but I managed to stay in a hospital gown the entire time she was around. I do not avoid the topic because I am afraid of her or because I am ashamed of anime.

Could you tell me why you avoid it then? This is a tough question to answer. Unfortunately my Mom will not accept a large portion of my private life. This extends beyond anime to encompass almost all aspects of my life. She doesn’t know that my best friend is gay. She doesn’t know that I’m a Democrat. She doesn’t know that I’m agnostic. She doesn’t know that I’m a geek. I suppose what I’m trying to say is: I erect boundaries so I can continue a relationship with my mother and anime is just a single piece of that. I sustain the relationship because, God help me, I love her and because she was temporarily all alone when Dad died. I accept she will never see all of me. It still hurts but as long as she’s willing to respect those boundaries I will continue the facade. It’s not ideal, but after losing Dad… even if the time I have her isn’t truly genuine it’s still something I am not ready to walk away from yet unless she one days crosses the line.

So you are no longer religious? I am agnostic. Religion was used as an excuse to isolate me from my hobbies, my belongings, and my friends. I no longer feel hostile towards religion and have taken care to study different religions in college but, ultimately, it isn’t for me.

If I had to choose a religion I would probably go with Zen Buddhism. Also, thank you for reminding me that I need to track down the Saint Young Men OVA and movie. Please look that up if you don’t know what that anime is about.

Would love to hear more about the con! I’ll share that I took a disposable camera and convinced a friend to get the film developed since I couldn’t risk my parents seeing the cosplay pictures I took. I kept the photos hidden in my closet and would stare at them from time to time until they were discovered and thrown out. I particularly remember a Utena cosplayer I took a picture of. I still have a draw towards Revolutionary Girl Utena, in part because it was the first anime I saw subbed and because that cosplay was the tangible reminder I had that I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t a freak.

Here is a picture of myself (left) and my friend, Kara, that I went to AWA 2002 with. We were 13. I made a Washu (from Tenchi Muyo) shirt out of fabric paint since I could not buy an anime shirt. My friend is cosplaying as Saint Tail from the anime Saint Tail. She was my best friend in elementary school but moved to Atlanta when were in 6th grade. If she did not live there I would not have been able to attend the con. I kept it a secret from my parents. I am guessing that Kara’s mother did not tell my parents about the con. I’ve been told as an adult by some friends’ parents that it was sort of understood that my parents were extreme.

Finally, what’s the biggest contrast between anime as a kid and anime fandom now? The biggest difference in anime fandom has to be access; both in regards to anime and anime fandom. Once upon a time you had to scour stores for anime and hope they had what you are looking for. With streaming services this hunt is mostly gone, but with the loss of the hunt comes the loss of the euphoria that surrounded finally finding what you were looking for. The internet has also introduced an era of fans easily being able to access each other. We can view cosplay photos from cons we can’t go to, and discuss anime with others we would have otherwise had no access to.

I joined anitwitter late last year and have been blown away by the personalities, opinion pieces, and websites I’ve discovered. While it’s been a joy to follow fellow otaku and to discover sites like Anime Feminist, taking part in anitwitter also makes me feel more obligated to watch current shows. With the constant stream of anime I can’t help but feel less emotionally attached to shows that would have made a bigger impression on me otherwise. I believe that sometimes our fandom goes too fast and can lead to burnout. I wonder if that burnout contributes to the fandom starting to skew younger or if it’s a combination of responsibilities that accompany aging? That being said I would not go back to the way things were if given the choice. Oh brave new world that has such moe living in it.

Chelsea can be reached on Twitter

#25: Dawn

Age: 35

Location: Dallas, Texas

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. Technically when I was around five or six with things like Unico, Galaxy Express, and Warriors of the Wind at video stores, and watching repeats of Speed Racer with my dad on TV. It wasn’t until I was 12 or 13 when I discovered stuff like this was “Japanese animation” and that was why I liked it so much. With the Sailor Moon/Dragon Ball boom in ’95, I got more into tape trading & fandom type things like cons. I’ve been buying and watching since.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? The art styles were nothing like what I’d seen before, and there were more sci-fi/fantasy bends to stories, which I really enjoyed.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? When I was first becoming aware of what anime was? Definitely Star Blazers and Robotech a little later.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? When I first started collecting it, there wasn’t really much of a “fandom” in my area. I occasionally ran into other fans at comic conventions (my main source of getting tapes at first), sometimes at the comic store. It wasn’t until the mid ’90s when I started pen-paling that I really communicated with other fans. (This was after I published my address in a comic pen pal column saying I was looking for friends who liked anime as well.) We’d talk about our favorites, trade tapes and small merch like trading cards & stickers, etc. This was long before having the Internet & chatting online was common. It was basically the snail mail equivalent to that.

Tell me about tape trading. Did it cost money? How did you get tapes you could trade? Tape trading varied to whoever it was you were trading with and what you were trading. Sometimes I traded tapes with friends—this was the easiest, of course. We’d write up lists of what anime VHS we owned… I was VERY thorough & would include info on the condition of the tape, what “generation” it was (i.e. if it was a copy of a copy, something taped off TV, or a store-bought copy), etc. We’d buy blank tapes, choose what we wanted the other to copy, hook the VCRs together, and make copies for each other.

If I was trading tapes with a pen pal, it went pretty similarly; only we’d mail each other the tapes, which of course added to the cost. And sometimes I’d trade tapes with people I’d see on BBS boards or mailing lists who’d post their lists of tapes they had. If I didn’t have anything they’d want to trade, most would offer to send me a copy of something if I sent them a few bucks for a tape & the cost of postage. (Of course, there were a few times that money would be sent and I’d never receive anything. This was the dangers we had to face in the pre-Paypal era of sending cash or money orders through the mail… no guarantee or safety net if it got lost in the mail or someone just decided to keep your money.)

The tapes I started with were either things I recorded off of TV, things I bought either retail or at comic conventions & comic shops, or things I had rented and made copies of. For years, one of the standard things my parents would give me as gifts were blank VHS tapes, because they knew I’d use them! (I know that might sound ridiculous, but the cost of tapes added up quickly!)

Tell me more about pen paling. What magazine let you do this? Who were your pen pals and where were they? Are you still in touch? Many of the anime/manga related magazines would let you publish your address if you were interested in having people write to you who were also anime fans! Animerica, Mangazine, and I believe Protoculture Addicts all had pen pal sections or would include them in their Letters from Readers sections. Back in the day of American Monthly-style manga releases, Dark Horse & Viz often had letters sections in the backs of their more popular titles (similar to old Marvel or DC comics) and would also publish your address for pen pals if you requested it. I wrote to many people this way all over the US, and even in other parts of the world like the UK, Spain, and Italy!

Most of my pen pals were girls close to my age or a little older, too—I only had maybe two or three male pen pals. Many of us wrote to each other, so we were all kind of networked, too, because it was so hard for some people to find local fans to talk to and geek out with. At one point, I had nearly 100 pen pals, if you can believe it! But nowadays, I only still keep in contact with maybe 20 or so, though we now keep in contact via the internet. (Though a few of them still write me letters, too!)

One of my favorite memories of pen paling with other anime fans was that when Sailor Moon was originally canceled the first time, many of my friends asked if I knew how the end of the season (what was Sailor Moon R) went. I had managed to get fansubs of it, so I hand wrote detailed notes of the last few episodes for my friends who couldn’t afford to trade tapes. Word got around that I had the lowdown on Sailor Moon knowledge, so others asked for explanations as well… I got so tired of re-writing them over and over again that I ended up writing it one more time & making multiple photocopies to send to people just to save time. (This was before I had access to a computer & printer, obviously!)

What were comic conventions like back then? The comic conventions I went to in the ’90s were definitely super small affairs that would probably be laughable compared to the ones people go to now. Three banquet halls in a DoubleTree Inn: one for vendors, one for special guests (usually comic artists or inkers, sometimes a writer or a voice actor who was known for comic-related cartoons), and then another sectioned off into video rooms (i.e. a tube TV with a VCR on a cart with about 10 folding chairs in front of it), with maybe one or two lonely TVs for random anime or tokusatsu showings. The untranslated stuff would either have an accompanied printed paper script passed out to people so they could “follow along”, or the person showing it would stand there while it played and gave a play-by-play narration (which was kind of sketchy at best).

Sometimes in the “dealers room”, you’d be lucky and find someone who’d have bootleg VHS of random anime, almost ALWAYS untranslated (sometimes it’d just be something randomly recorded off of Japanese TV, commercials and all!). Every once in a while you’d also find someone who had a relative who got stationed in Japan in the army or navy & picked up a bunch of random toys or stickers to sell, for ridiculously high prices because it was “imported” and “rare.” Back then I was still keeping current with American comics alongside manga and anime, though, so I always enjoyed going to these and scouring the area for any anime stuff that looked cool.

Today you run the Anime Nostalgia Podcast. What captivates you about anime back then? Growing up, I gravitated towards anime because it seemed so much more imaginative than the usual stuff I’d watch. The art styles were usually a bit different, which made them intriguing, and there were movies or shows that featured young girls or women as the main characters. There was also a lot of really neat sci-fi stories being made, too, which I was also very interested in. While anime still has most of that going for it today, there’s something to be said about HOW these older things were made. You can’t replicate the look of ink and paint on celluloid with a computer…I mean, you can TRY, but it’s just never going to look exactly the same. Watching something like the Galaxy Express 999 movie, The Fantastic Adventures of Unico, Robot Carnival, Gunbuster, or Akira… there was a team of people who painted all of those frames, bit by bit, and there’s an aesthetic there that’s very difficult to capture with modern technology. I hate to romanticize it because I’m definitely not saying modern animators today don’t work hard (because they DO, a little TOO hard, really!), but there’s something almost awe-inspiring about seeing a giant mecha transform on screen without the help of a 3D modeling computer program. These were the things that people working today were watching that inspired THEM to work in the industry, not to mention stuff like this inspired a whole generation world-wide, not just in Japan, to write their own stories, or become animators or storyboard artists or character designers.

Every era of anime has their gems, and I love sharing these older things with new fans because they get to see it with fresh eyes for the first time. That’s part of the magic of anime, and why it’s so fun to share things with others. There’s always something you haven’t seen yet, just waiting to be uncovered and loved for the first time.

What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom when you got into it and now? The most obvious difference is definitely accessibility. It felt like there were less anime fans back in the day because the threshold for becoming one wasn’t very easy to jump over. If you wanted anime, you had to find it, and it wasn’t easily gotten for most people. If you didn’t have a local video store that carried any, you had to seek it out either through mail order or comic stores. There wasn’t much anime on TV for free, and the ones that were were famously edited or changed, and you just had to deal with it. Before the internet, if you wanted fansubs of something, you had to wait YEARS for something to be translated & available, and you’d have to order it through snail mail. Now you can get anime pretty much everywhere, and even watch things for free online with ads on various streaming sites. Anyone can get into anime in a single afternoon, and have years worth of anime at their fingertips, which is pretty convenient!

It’s also SO INCREDIBLY EASY to find almost all the information you’d want to know about an anime series, who produced it, the creators, the voice actors, the designers, the animators… I remember poring over Japanese magazines like Newtype and Animage, learning specific people’s names in kanji so I could look for them and see what else they were doing. Every tidbit of information fans could find was worth their weight in gold; and once Geocities took off, fansites were sometimes our only source of info for things (and sometimes it’d just be someone giving their best guesses).

Dawn can be found on Twitter and the Anime Nostalgia Podcast

#24: Sarah

Age: 36

Location: Ireland

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. As a little girl, I watched loads of shows. I knew they were Japanese cartoons, but they were all dubbed in French. I used to browse the aisles of FNAC whenever I went back to France. In 2012, after lots of recent chats about Rose of Versailles I looked it up online, only to discover I could watch it again! And down the rabbit hole I fell…

So you bought it in France and watched it dubbed in French? Yes, I lived in France from age two to 17.  I used to watch anime on kids TV shows on Saturday and Sunday mornings, dubbed into French.  There was a bit of censorship, but not too much.  There was some collaboration between the French and Japanese animation industries so we benefited from that.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it?
Stories.

What about those stories made them special? They were so imaginative!   Remember, I was a kid back then (mid ’80s to very early ’90s) so I didn’t yet appreciate the various artistic components within the medium.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? Dragon Ball, Saint Seiya, Candy Candy, Cat’s Eye. I could go on…

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? Just like any kids watching cartoons really…

Tell me about rediscovering anime in 2012. Why did you take a break from anime, and what was it like to dive back in? When I was 15 I started going to school here in Ireland, and moved back here full time in 1997.  There was a lot less anime on TV here back then, which is why I stopped watching.  I always remembered them fondly though, and could still sing the theme tunes to some of my favourites. In fact, I’ve also got a playlist on YouTube of my favorite OPs and EDs even today.

Shows from when we were kids was a favourite topic of small talk with friends and family members, but I didn’t have that many in common with those who had grown up in Ireland.   Imagine my delight when I discovered that anime had also been a staple of kids TV in Italy way back when!  My husband is 10 years older than me, so the only show we had both watched was “Goldorak”, which is what Mazinger was called.  Some of our other Italian friends on the other hand were of the same vintage as me.  When we were talking about “Oscar” (French name) / “Lady Oscar” (Italian name), one of them told me she had been watching it recently online… so guess who went on Google as soon as possible?

I started by watching Rose of Versailles, but subbed this time, and Georgie. The first new anime that I watched was Ouran High School Host Club, and I haven’t stopped since.  I’ve come across some real gems, and I appreciate the medium as an art form now in ways I couldn’t when I was younger.  I’ve cried, I’ve laughed, and I’ve been blown away by the intricacy of some shots.  What I love about anime is that at its best, it marries music, sound production, direction, storytelling and visual art into a beautiful whole.

In 2012, did you participate in fandom? Talking on forums, creating fan art or a site, or anything like that? At first I just read some synopses on some sites like MyAnimeList, but eventually I wanted to keep a list of the manga I was reading and the anime I had watched.  That is when I discovered Anime Planet.  I’ve been active on and off on the forums on that site, and I’m a member of the Welcome Committee.  This is my main link to anime fandom, though I also follow a few users on Twitter, which is how I discovered your project!

What did your family think of your interest in anime? Right now my family consists of my husband and my son. They don’t share my interest, but they don’t mind it either.

When you first discovered anime you saw it as just normal cartoons. When did you go from being a cartoon fan to an anime fan specifically? When I started watching anime seriously again in 2012.  I have a much better appreciation of the work that goes into producing each episode… and more patience for different styles and types.

Sarah can be found on Twitter and Anime Planet

#23: Kyle C

Age: 26

Location: Washington, DC

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. Like many ’90s kids, I started off with Pokemon and Digimon, but back then I didn’t even really consider or know that it was a Japanese product. It was only until I watched Spirited Away for the first time and watched the extras that I understood what anime actually was. Shortly after I came across Fullmetal Alchemist, happily bought all 13 volumes for $25 a pop, and the rest is history.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? The stories were so different than the American media (mainly games, TV shows, and comics) I consumed that I couldn’t stop watching. Especially coming to FMA during my last year in middle school, it was my first introduction to cartoons that went deep into adult themes, conflicts, and ideas. So perhaps a part of it was being drawn to something that was a little more “adult.”

You’re one of many to say you were interested in anime’s “adult” themes. But can you elaborate on what that means to you, ideally with examples? When I speak about “adult” themes, I have two examples I can give. The first is the original Fullmetal Alchemist series during the Ishvalan War arc. When it was released, the wars going on in the middle east were still pretty fresh. Being able to watch one of those episodes, change to any major news network channel and see scenes of the wars going on really stuck with me at the time. Of course, there have been and continue to be series that cover current events (war or not), but FMA was the first series where I experienced that direct parallel. And when you’re a young teenager just starting to develop your tastes and ideas about the world, I think it was pretty pivotal. Another example is Welcome to the NHK, which goes really deep into issues of depression, the value of friendships, and dealing with growing up. Granted I was midway through high school when the series came out, but Welcome to the NHK was one of my first series with more relatable adult themes that made me evaluate my own life and relationships.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? Absolutely FMA and Inuyasha. Basically anything that was on Toonami or Adult Swim around the 2005 era.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? I feel like a part of it was the beginning (some say golden age) of forum fandom. Everyone had their particular website, and their online screen name or persona. Around that time Gaia Online was huge, so being a part of fandom also meant having your dumb little avatar as well.

Please tell me what it was like to be on Gaia Online. (I have never been on it, so go into detail!) Gaia Online was definitely a strange place in retrospect. It was a forum that allowed you to customize an avatar with special monthly items. However all of those items were heavily influenced by anime/manga/games, but they got around any copyright stuff by being non-specific. For example when Naruto was a big hit, they released a bunch of ninja-related items—one of them being the signature headbands—but without any of the symbols from the show. Everyone I knew ate. it. up. At the end of the day, everyone was just trying to make their avatar look as close to their favorite character as possible. (And if you paid up, you probably could!) The people behind the site knew their audience for sure. From there it was basically an all-purpose forum with fan discussions/convention talk/cosplay how to’s/role playing. I actually met a lot of my earliest convention friends through the site.

How did you participate in fandom at the time? Funny enough, the way I mostly participated with fandom was staffing at cons. My senior year of high school, I started staffing for Anime Iowa and, long story short, the Programming Head couldn’t go that year and I took up the role. While I was still only a few years into the actual fandom at that time, I really dove headfirst into organizing the events people went to in the first place!

How did you connect with other fans? This answer definitely flows from the previous, but I connected with other fans through the convention scene. My home con for a long time was a ~3,000 person event out of Iowa. With a con that small, it was really easy to make friends and connections, and I still keep in touch with a lot of the people I met there. Some of those connections got me to go staff at other cons around the country as well.

Did anime inspire you to learn Japanese and become a translator? Oh, absolutely. My path to learning Japanese definitely started with wanting to learn what the shows were saying, but once I started taking it seriously in college, anime-comprehension became much more of a secondary reason. I was lucky enough to have professors who introduced much more broad aspects of the culture, so while I still watched shows and tried reading raw manga, I learned real fast not to rely on my nerdy media as a sole means of practice. I’ve heard similar stories, but classmates in my Japanese 101 classes who were only there out of their love of anime dropped real fast.

Do you remember your first anime convention? Can you tell me about it? God bless my mother, but for my first con we drove all the way from Northern Illinois to Des Moines for Anime Iowa in 2005. After the friend I planned to meet bailed, I was by myself for the entire weekend. I remember that’s where I saw Bleach for the first time and thinking it was the coolest thing I ever saw. I’ll always remember the Naruto dub premiering on Toonami that weekend too. I actually had no idea what Naruto was at the time, but the atmosphere was pure hatred because of the “Believe it!” catchphrase and it being at the height of the “dub v. sub” argument. I took a photo of a sign in the lobby that said “BOYCOTT THE US NARUTO DUB” with a bunch of signatures, but unfortunately that photo is lost to time. I actually went back up to my room that night, watched the two episodes that premiered, and it quickly became one of my favorite series.

What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom when you got into it and now? Outside of not having to pay $25 for single DVDs anymore, for me the biggest contrast between fandom then and now is the increased visibility and role of female fans. Of course there have always been anime fans who are women, and maybe it was just my perception at the time, but for a while it felt like series for women were “Shojo Beat adaptations” or “Yaoi.” (I am really happy those paddles are not a thing anymore.)

Now it’s pretty well known that the majority of Shonen Jump readers are women, and in general I think everyone enjoys the hits together more. The most in-depth discussions I’ve had about shonen-sports series (Haikyuu!! and Yowamushi Pedal specifically) have been with women, which I don’t think would have been such a thing 10+ years ago. Certainly a welcome change in my book.

Kyle can be reached on Twitter

#22: Margaret

Age: 30

Location: Boston, Massachusetts

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. I’ve been aware of it almost my entire life. My siblings watched the Speed Racer dub when they were growing up, so I’d seen most of that, and I’d caught a few episodes of the original Voltron series when I was little. I didn’t get super into it until the DiC dub of Sailor Moon, which I watched off and on until it aired on Toonami, and then I became OBSESSED. Gundam Wing, Cardcaptor Sakura, Escaflowne, Ronin Warriors, and a bunch of others only solidified my love for it.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? I think the main appeal to me was the different art and storytelling styles. Specifically, when I got into Sailor Moon (and other magical girl anime), it was the idea that girls could be the main focus and have all the cool superpowers. It wasn’t a totally unknown concept to me at the time, but most of the other media I was into were either strictly male-centric or didn’t bother to focus all that much on the female characters. The fact that Usagi and friends could be silly and argue and at the end of the day still be best friends, all with awesome magical abilities and high-stakes saving-the-world battles, really sold me on it.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? My pre-teen self would’ve only known about the shows on Toonami and Fox, so she would absolutely say Sailor Moon. Looking back now, it was probably Cowboy Bebop or Trigun? Neither of which I watched until I was in college.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? Sailor Moon was my first fandom ever, online or otherwise, so it was sort of life-changing in a lot of ways, if I may be so cliche. I made a lot of friends online back then (one of whom I’m still friends with!) and got exposed to so much amazing media that I wouldn’t have been aware of if it hadn’t been for anime fandom. I don’t remember there being much drama (unlike the fandom I got into in my later teen years, Harry Potter), but I was also pretty oblivious to anything that wasn’t immediately affecting me at the time.

What was it like to be a part of Sailor Moon fandom in particular? Were there certain sites everyone visited? This was 16+ years ago now, so I may be over-nostalgic, but I remember it being a very positive experience! There were a lot of older people in the group I primarily interacted with (probably in their 20’s-30’s back then, which seemed INCREDIBLY OLD when I was 13/14), and they were generally encouraging and nice to those of us who were younger. I learned a lot from them—not just about fandom and anime, but about writing and editing and how to interact with people on the internet. I kind of wish I knew what they were all up to now, but I lost track of them a really long time ago. We used Yahoo! Groups to talk mostly, and AIM when that was a thing, and there were a couple Sailor Moon fansites that we all visited. I’m not sure if any of them are still accessible or not. Lycentia’s Sailor Moon Graphics is one I specifically remember since I think I learned some basic HTML from it. Fanfiction.net was the big fic repository at the time, before they banned explicit stories.

How did you express your fandom? Fanfic! It was usually very angsty and/or dark, or at least what I thought was dark at the time. Pretty sure I wrote a bunch of Sailor Moon/Mary Higgins Clark fusions, which in retrospect is highly embarrassing and ridiculous. Oh well.

Tell me about the friend you are still friends with! How did you meet them? Are they still into Sailor Moon now? S and I met through the Yahoo! Group we were both a part of! She’s a few days older than I am, so it was our Thing to refer to each other as “big sister” and “little sister” respectively (in Japanese, of course), even though we were the youngest in the group. Back then I was very close-minded, but S was always patient with me and provided me with a window into life not informed by my family and the community we lived in. I still really admire her, though we don’t talk much beyond wishing each other happy birthdays these days.

How was being a part of fandom “life-changing?” Life-changing in a way that I think is akin to having spent your whole life living in a cave and then coming out and seeing the world for the first time. I mentioned before that I was spectacularly close-minded back then; I grew up in a very religious community that discouraged interaction with non-religious people and condemned any kind of “alternative lifestyle,” among other things (think Pentecostals, or Seventh Day Adventists, for reference). My friends in real life were all people I’d known since birth, and we weren’t allowed to do a lot things that kids elsewhere could freely do. We were encouraged to pursue religious hobbies only, and academic achievements meant very little if you weren’t considered pious enough. Discovering and getting involved with fandom completely changed the way I thought about myself, my friends and family, and the world. I’m also not afraid to say that I probably wouldn’t still be alive if it weren’t for fandom – I was in a bad place mentally in my early teens, and getting involved in Sailor Moon fandom helped turn that around.

What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom when you got into it and now? Anime fandom hasn’t changed all that much to my knowledge, except for how there’s a much wider range of series readily (and cheaply) available these days via Crunchyroll, Netflix, and other legal streaming sites (which is still amazing to me—I love the future!). I think perhaps it skews younger than it had before, but that might be my inner Fandom Old Person talking. Fandom as a whole tends to lean in hard on the “the more things change, the more things stay the same” proverb, in my experience, so it’s difficult to gauge any true contrast that isn’t entirely personal.