#13: Matthew Newman

Age: 34

Location: Baltimore, Maryland

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. My discovery of anime is a two-part story.

Part one: discovering it in 2001 when I went with some new college friends at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to an anime club meeting. I got hooked quickly on the social atmosphere and anime in general. The first show I remember watching with everyone was a run through the entirety of Bastard!! in a huge auditorium. It was a lot of fun and the series was so campy it lent itself to being watched in a group. This made it far more fun to watch and really got me interested in seeing more of it. After that, I plowed through a lot of different anime my friends and the anime club at RPI had. I went through Neon Genesis Evangelion, Love Hina, and eventually got to Cowboy Bebop, which really got me hooked. Still one of my favorite series to this day.

Yet, in about 2006, I was super busy in graduate school trying to plow through a masters thesis and stopped watching as much—if any—anime. This stagnation remained for years.

It wasn’t until 2014 that I discovered it again. I had been spending my nights alone as my wife, being very pregnant with twins, couldn’t get comfortable sleeping except on our couch. I would wander up to bed to be on the same floor as our rather young kids… but couldn’t sleep right alone. That’s when I started checking out our On Demand options and, on a whim, tried out the first episode of two-anime series – Fractale and Blue Exorcist. I remembered everything I had loved about anime in the early ’00s and was hooked all over again. The fun of Blue Exorcist and the deep thinking of Fractale got me back into it again. Soon I was looking into blogs to find out more about it. That’s when I stumbled into Beneath the Tangles, which in turn led me to watching Your Lie in Aprilthe first show I watched close to when it aired in Japan.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? It was animation without the limits I had seen thus far in who it was aimed at. At 18, I still enjoyed the occasional cartoon and Adult Swim was still in its early days. The only anime I was exposed to in high school was Pokemon and I really didn’t think of it as anime at the time. The shows and films I was watching, though, they were different. It was a new presentation of stories and genres I already found appealing.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? Then in 2001? Cowboy Bebop and Evangelion were the big ones I recall people being the most excited about.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? Honestly, when I first got into anime I did not realize much about the wider anime fandom. It wasn’t until a few years later that I went to my first convention and when I got there, I was a bit overwhelmed. In terms of online fandom, in 2001, Facebook was three years away, Twitter five years away, and I knew nothing of the greater anime fandom. The methods of communications and our ability to connect now is so different than it was then.

Joining the online fandom in 2014 when I rediscovered how I liked anime was so different. These people who loved anime like me were everywhere and I could connect with them, chat with them, and share our common interest. It was so different and… kind of amazing.

Can you tell me about your first con? Well, my first con was Genericon. I was an RPI student and the convention is literally right in the middle of campus. I spent all manner of evenings, sometimes all-nighters, watching anime in during Genericon in 2003, 2004, and 2005. However, Genericon was a catch-all convention for assorted geekery that had some anime airing in a few rooms. However, Genericon was also a gaming and sci-fi convention. There were sci fi showings, LARPs, pickup D&D games, tons of board gaming, as well as video game tournaments. It was fun, but I wasn’t just there for the anime. I was there to socialize with my college friends who were into…any combination of those things. I didn’t dress up at any Genericon I attended.

In the summers of 2003 and 2004, I went to Otakon with friends. I had never been to Baltimore until that point and kind of went in blind being told by my friends, “This is a huge anime convention.” They were correct. My one friend decided to dress up as the Cheat from Homestar Runner and made his costume out of a huge pile of yellow fabric we picked up from Wal-Mart on our way out of town. We drove overnight in 2003 and arrived early in the AM to go to Otakon in 2003. My one friend then proceeded to use spray paint on the lawn outside of the convention center to finish off his the Cheat costume. I, however, did not dress up that year. At the time, there were definitely anime showings at Otakon as well as other live-action Japanese movies (including Battle Royale which I both watched and purchased on DVD in the same day if my memory serves me correctly). The following year I went with a smaller group of friends, this time with the courage to dress up as Lupin III. My costume comprised of my own pants and shirt, a purple tie I borrowed from a friend, and a woman’s sized red sports coat I purchased from the Salvation Army. I saw it screaming at me on the shelf and had to get it. Got some temporary black hair dye and grew out my sideburns in the build up to the con and dyed my hair the night before. I was instantly recognizable and constantly smirking. Had a number of people ask to take pictures of me, which was fun! Haven’t been to an anime con since (did, however, go to MommyCon DC for a while with my wife last year… that’s a story for another day, though). While they are fun, it’s not really in our family budget for me to go to conventions, especially as I’d be going alone. Honestly, I’m not sure when I’d be interested in going back—but possibly when my kids are old enough that they’d be both interested and appreciative of attending a con.

What do your wife and kids think of your anime fandom? Do they ever watch with you? My wife doesn’t really get the draw to anime. She’ll watch it with me periodically, but it’s not really her thing. Her and I do not always have the same interests in media, however we still share them with each other. My kids, however, I do watch some anime with. It started with introducing them to Chi’s Sweet Home. I’d read them the dialogue, they’d sit there and watch it with me. This led to other shows and now them watching a few shows they’ve gotten into on their own that we’ve found together on Crunchyroll’s catalog (Cardcaptor Sakura in particular, my 7-year-old son absolutely loves it). The good folks at Yatta-Tachi have given me an opportunity to talk about this in particular at their site.

How did you make the leap from reading anime blogs to writing your own Beneath the Tangles column? It honestly started with me writing about anime on my personal site. What I began as an overtly political website shifted overtime into a catch-all blog about everything I’m interested in. From my little corner of the internet, I began to write about anime, in particular where it intersects with my faith. I started sharing these articles (at times obnoxiously) on Twitter and it got the attention of the editors at Beneath the Tangles. During a transition period on the blog, they asked if I would be interested in writing a column for them. I agreed and have been writing “Newman’s Nook” since.

How is fandom different when you’re participating as well as consuming? I feel the biggest difference that I’ve found in participating is that everything isn’t quite inside a vacuum. When you’re a lone wolf consumer, you are just watching it, forming your opinion, and moving on. Participating within the fandom helps in learning what others see in anime, sharing what you see, finding new recommendations, and, frankly, it’s fun to share. I don’t have a lot of local friends who are into anime, so participating in the the online fandom serves as that social outlet for discussion.

What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom when you got into it and now? The biggest difference is how much easier it is to get into anime now than it was then. In 2001, I could basically see what little was available on television or through what others I knew personally owned (through legal or less-than-legal means). Now? There are many streaming options, it’s on cable, you can buy anime off the shelf in stores, and you can buy it on Amazon or from other online retailers. And with the easier availability comes an increased visibility of different options, different series. Before it was mostly whatever my friends were into or what was super popular. Now, I have access to everything from the super popular to anime about the relationship between male figure skaters or a family of anthropomorphic mushrooms. It’s a good time to be an anime fan.

Matthew can be reached on Twitter

#12: Tom S

Age: 28

Location: Cleveland, Ohio

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. I discovered anime right after Pokemon hit US TV. I was a fan of the game and the anime just kept building my enjoyment of the games. I learned it was from Japan and started watching everything my 10-year-old self could find. These were shows like YuGiOh, Cardcaptor Sakura, Sailor Moon, and Dragon Ball Z. Toonami was very important to my early years, really only watching what they showed, but loved these cool Japanese cartoons. Looking back on it, before I discovered anime, Power Rangers was my favorite TV show as a child, not realizing until much later that it too was also based on a Japanese property, so liking anime seems to stem from that initial enjoyment of tokusatsu shows.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? It was different than American cartoons. The stories seemed different. Having the tie-in with the Pokemon video games made me more attached to the show, as I would try to replicate Ash’s team—his Pokemon became mine. With other shows though, they felt like Power Rangers but animated. For example, both Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura transformed just like the Power Rangers did.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? From my point of view, Pokemon or Digimon. These two shows were the height of popularity amongst my friends. Now we were between eight and 10 years old, so we didn’t know of some of the other great shows at that time period.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? To my friends and I, we weren’t part of the anime fandom. We were just fans of these cartoon shows that featured cool monsters. We didn’t know about or go to conventions. We didn’t know what fansubs were or that there were more shows out there than what WB, Cartoon Network, or 4Kids showed.

You got into anime very young. Did you stick with it consistently, or was there a lull in your fandom? There was a a lull right around the end of sophomore year in high school. I transferred from a private school to a public school after 9th grade.  I met a kid in the anime club at the private school and he introduced me to fansubs, we both ended up transferring to the public school and joined the anime club there. I left shortly after joining as the kids in the club were more interested in some strange H game they had downloaded or putting down dubbed shows on Toonami as “trash.”

So I distanced myself from anime for about a decade until two friends got me to watch something on Crunchyroll three years ago. I guess the weird thing is that while I didn’t watch anime, I was still reading Naruto on a weekly basis because I thought it was close to ending…

How have your tastes in anime evolved over time? In the beginning it was all shonen action as that’s what I had access to. Now that I can access everything, my tastes are a little of everything. I’m quick to bail on a series if I don’t think it’s going to go somewhere, but I’ll watch pretty much everything. Just looking at my Crunchyroll queue, there’s slice of life, sports, romance, comedy, and gory action.

How did you participate in fandom aside from watching shows? I didn’t really participate in the fandom when I was younger. I didn’t know cons existed, and I certainly couldn’t convince my parents to take me to one if I knew of one. I would buy games like Pokemon or Digimon, but after Final Fantasy 10, I didn’t buy games with an anime aesthetic. I wanted gory games or first person shooters. My enjoyment of anime ended when the credits rolled.

What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom when you got into it and now? I would have to say the accessibility. I’ve heard of tape swaps and people recording for an entire weekend to give a third of a series to people, now you can find it on Crunchyroll, Daisuki, or Funimation without much effort. I think I have a CD with Iriya’s Sky that someone in anime club gave me still, but that was 2005. When I started watching it in the late 90s I had no idea where to get stuff not on TV or at a Suncoast.

Tom can be reached on Twitter

#11: Louis

Age: 22

Location: United Kingdom

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. We got a Digibox [a UK satellite TV receiver] for the first time when I was around six years old. Cartoon Network was a channel we had and it had its Toonami blocks. I used to really enjoy watching Dragon Ball Z on there. Because of that, and a few episodes of Gundam Wing and Tenchi Muyo (neither of which I really understood), I looked for similar shows elsewhere.

Toonami didn’t last long, but Fox had stuff like Digimon, Sailor Moon, and Hamtaro. I didn’t get into any of these as much as Dragon Ball but I still super enjoyed them. My mum took notice of this and at some point discovered a super minor early DVD release of Princess Mononoke. It would proceed to be my favourite movie from my childhood through even my teen years. Ghibli movies kept me interested even as, for various reasons, TV anime phased away from me.

But because of Ghibli being so important to me, in secondary school, I eventually became friends with people super into it. It is from them I discovered Angel Sanctuary, and the wonderful teenage crazes of Death Note and Code Geass. From there I was pretty much set. I started airing anime when Dragon Ball Kai came out. And when Attack on Titan exploded I discovered Crunchyroll, and its catalogue led to my current interests today.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? It was cool. I was a young kid, seeing the magic and explosions in all the stuff on Toonami and Fox was intoxicating. Gohan was around my age fighting aliens and flying. And even though I didn’t catch much of it, even the ads for Cardcaptor Sakura and Sailor Moon seemed, well, magical and fun. I liked colourful cartoons.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time?
Dragon Ball Z when I was a kid. When I came back definitely Death Note. (Though Dragon Ball never stopped being that huge well-known icon.)

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? I cant really speak about when I was a very young kid, but when I came back via Death Note and stuff it was nice. I never really had a consistent friendship group growing up so connecting with nerds over cartoons was nice. I was a troubled kid who joined the school quite late through second year. I felt very isolated before then.

Afterwards, I had a whole world of teens being silly. Forum roleplaying, chatting about Light and L during lunch. Even cosplay and con stuff was nice. My teenage social life basically revolved around people I met due to anime.

So you were a pretty isolated kid, but anime fandom changed that. Tell me about your first time meeting other fans and bonding with them over anime. I first really started meeting people through a friend. I met her at sports day and just ended up spending the whole day chatting with her. I didn’t really know much about anime and manga outside of Toonami stuff, but I guess we just immediately started getting along? She even lent me some volumes of Angel Sanctuary to read. Which I guess was quite different to the only manga I’d read at that time, Rurouni Kenshin, to say the least! She was in the year above me so hanging out with her, and her friends, introduced me to a friendship circle it was otherwise doubtful I would’ve been in. I now had people to chill out with at lunch and at weekends. We didn’t do much anime watching together or anything, but just chatting about characters from Death Note and Bleach and just enjoying each other’s company formed the basis of my social life from that point onwards.

How did you and your friends express your fandom? 

For the most part we just chatted. Which character’s we liked, which we didn’t, whether they were hot or not, usual teenage stuff. But also this friendship group did involve some creative people. One of my friends did GCSE art and as part of their workload drew Ryuk from Death Note from instance. Fanart, fanfic, and roleplaying were big parts of most of that group’s self expression. I dabbled a bit. Never really getting into fanart outside of forum signatures, never really getting into reading or writing fanfic either. But I did do some roleplaying, and I also became a moderator for a friend’s website.

What was roleplaying like? I dabbled in the IMVU [2004 instant messaging client] scene for a bit? Which if I remember correctly was huuuge. Like there were huge roleplaying groups with hundreds of members roleplaying being ninjas from Naruto for instance.

That first friend I mentioned was either part of or helped run a pretty major roleplaying group. By the time I got to know her, she’d moved off of IMVU and had made her own website. It was called ‘akiko.net,’ though I don’t believe it’s up anymore. It primarily consisted of people who knew that friend, either IRL or from her IMVU roleplaying days. It wasn’t strictly speaking a roleplaying site. It had a roleplaying section but it was more or less just a small anime themed forum where a bunch of teens hung out. There were classic forum games and a sort of chat room section at the top.

Honestly I can’t really remember much of the roleplaying there. Like it definitely happened but that entire website was probably closer to how I use Twitter these days. It was just a bunch of teens from around the world who’d found people to chat to about stuff that may or may not have been related to some anime.

Tell me about the first time you cosplayed.  I think the first time I cosplayed was at school come to think of it. To raise money for charity, sometimes my school put on fancy dress days. That friend who I keep mentioning because she was really quite the person to know, encouraged me to join her cosplaying from Angel Sanctuary. She was far more experienced than I and had done far more ‘proper’ cosplay before. So we decided that she’d dress as Michael and I’d dress as Raphael (I think I had to Google these to remind myself lol). So she had some charity shop fake leather and a fake arm prop come to think of it and I cobbled together some casual clothes that looked a little like Raphael would wear and used some tinfoil to make a cross.

Looking back I guess it could be a bit embarrassing, but it was fun. I liked the manga, I liked doing stuff with my friends. Dressing up is fun on its own even if I was heavily restricted, and had to explain to everyone who asked who I was cosplaying as. Which, understandably, didn’t help them.

Do you remember your first anime con? My first anime con was a small UK one called J-Con! It’s a little bit bigger now, but I believe when I first went it was only its third year running and it was much smaller. We went with half of us sorta cosplaying casual Bleach—I was covered in green eyeliner and face makeup—and half of us cosplaying Naruto, a bit less casually. And it was just, really exciting? I’d never been to anything like that before, certainly not without my family there, so I definitely remember bouncing in line waiting to get in, even though I must have been quite cold given the wind and me not wearing much.

There wasn’t really much to the con itself. There were some stalls dotted down a hallway, an artist’s room, and the stage. The main things I really remember from that was how I sort of ditched my group at one point to chill with a Maka from Soul Eater cosplayer. Pretty certain I spent most of the con just playing and chatting with her. (God I was one of those annoying teens running around a convention badly pretending to be in character). Never actually got her name or spoke to her again, but I do remember that she had fallen asleep the night before when felt-tipping her Death Scythe.

Also for some reason a bunch of people who totally shouldn’t have been dancing on stage were dancing on stage and I for some reason joined them. No staff actually told us off in person for that but there later was an announcement warning people not to do that or they’d be kicked out.

What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom when you got into it and now? I don’t think that much has changed from a socialising aspect? At least what little I see of what teens are getting up to in fandoms is more or less the same. Though everything is much bigger nowadays. It’s easier than ever to watch anime, and there’s even legal streams of it! That was not something I even thought would begin to exist when I was first getting into airing anime. Yet nowadays I can open up Crunchyroll and have a sizable portion of everything that’s airing in Japan right now, and a back-catalogue that’s bigger than the sites I was using as a teen. Like Crunchyroll has all of Naruto and all of Bleach. I know as a teen I had to go to separate sites for each of those, and those sites were only interested in those shows.

Word of mouth was all I really had to go on back then. If I wanted to watch a show it’s because I knew someone who was watching the show. Now, even overlooking my knowledge of anime writers and stuff, Crunchyroll exists with recommended anime bits? Like sure, it’s a tad messy. But when I first discovered CR when Attack on Titan aired I sure as hell followed those chains of recommendations. So yeah. I guess legal streaming and more visibility are the key differences I see between nowadays and almost a decade ago.

Louis can be reached on Twitter

#10: Hugh

Age: 22

Location: London, England

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. I remember deciding one day at 18 years old to read the first few volumes of Bleach in my school library. I then decided to watch the anime after looking it up online. I was aware of anime before but it was the first time I really looked into it and took an interest.

What about Bleach made you decide to give it a chance after previously not being interested in anime? Something about that artwork was really appealing to me, and I don’t just mean the eyes; the panelling and the general character design weren’t like anything I’d seen before.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? It was mainly a way for me get back into animation again, so it having such a unique style and direction compared to Western animation really piqued my interest. It was also appealing to see different cultural sensibilities at work that really hooked me in, especially when it comes to my favourite anime, Gintama.

You said anime appealed to you because it helped you “get back into animation.” What was it like when you were into animation the first time? What I mean is that when I was a kid, I would religiously watch Cartoon Network. All sorts of things happen in animation that can’t happen anywhere else, and I loved that. Then at 12 years old or so, I decided for some dumb reason that I was too old for cartoons so I just stopped watching them. Anime made me realise that I never stopped liking animation, so it was an ideal way to get back into animation.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? Attack on Titan. It had just started when I got into anime, so it was interesting to get into the fandom when there was a currently airing show that people thought was going to make anime more mainstream again.

When was anime mainstream before? When Toonami was on the air. Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z were huge.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? See previous answer, but yeah it was pretty exciting to be getting into a medium that felt like it was only getting more and more popular by the minute.

How did you connect with other fans? When I was nearly caught up with Gintama in 2013 I joined up with a fan site called Yorozuya Soul, and I still have friends I speak to on twitter from that site. It isn’t really active anymore, unfortunately.

Aside from actually watching shows, how did you participate in fandom? Besides checking fan sites and Tumblr pages, I only starting going to cons towards the end of 2014. London Comic-Con was my first. I don’t really buy all that much merchandise in all honesty outside of the occasional T-shirt and figure. Currently, I only have one figure—Gintoki in a Kamehameha pose, because it was too funny to pass and thankfully wasn’t too expensive.

What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom when you got into it and now? Not a lot. I go through phases of what I decide to nerd out on, and currently I’m in an anime/manga phase, so I can’t really say if all that much has changed. However I can say,that the anime community on YouTube has expanded massively from 2013 till now. And that anime feels more prevalent in wider Western pop culture than it was in 2013, an example being the Arby’s Twitter account explicitly referencing Jojo recently.

So anime fandom is on-again off-again for you? What inspired your latest foray into the fandom? I find that any resurgence in my anime interest happens whenever the Gintama anime comes back, as that is my absolute favourite show period and I can always make time for it.

Hugh can be reached on Twitter

#9: Zayed A

Age: 20

Location: Chicago, Illinois

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. There are actually two points of discovering anime for me.

First one is when I decided to pick up Durarara!! on a whim after watching a couple of episodes back in the day. Decided to follow it weekly and was really REALLY into it. I was so used to the feel of Naruto that I wasn’t expecting DRRR!! to be so….modernized. It was refreshing, to say the least. And fun, too!

But after that, I just fell off the anime map. I became slower and slower with Naruto until I stopped trying to keep up. This lasted about 2-3 years.
Then, in late March 2013, I was browsing a certain board for a certain show on a certain website, and then I came across this little GIF right here:

I don’t know, I guess looking at this made me feel a bit warm inside? Haha.

Anyway, I quickly showed this to my friend who was more experienced in anime than I was, and I was told that the name of the show is Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Pretty much immediately after, I marathoned the entire thing on Crunchyroll. Literally. All of it. Didn’t even read the synopsis or have any prior knowledge of the show outside of a name and that one GIF. It took me to some wild places, lemme tell ya. Also hilariously, the GIF wasn’t even in the series proper. It’s from the OP for the first two films.

Anyway, that’s what really got me back into anime. A couple weeks later, I kept seeing posts about Attack on Titan on that same board (even though anime has its own board lol) and I thought, hey this looks popular, so I pick that up too, and catch up on the entire thing in mid-August.

In that same timeframe, I also ended up

  1. Re-watching DRRR!!
  2. Watching all of K-ON!
  3. Watching Nichijou

I ended up enjoying those three things much more than AoT. I believe it’s what caught me in that niche of just watching cute girls doing cute things as my preferred genre, haha.

Was the forum you mentioned 4chan? You guessed it. /a/ was the main platform for my re-entry. It’s where pretty much all of my anime discussion would take place. I stopped going there sometime after, though. I think it was in early 2015.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? I don’t know, really. It just… felt different from whatever else I watched. That’s all I can remember, I’m afraid. At least for 2010.

But in 2013, the appeal was how cute it could be. No exaggeration. I mean, I watched Madoka Magica on flimsy cute GIF pretenses.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? Back in 2010? I think I was watching the most popular anime, Durarara!!. I’m legitimately not sure though. I wasn’t paying attention.

In 2013, it was during late March, so I think it was JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure as it was closing up its first season. Very, very quickly after, however, attention shifted to Attack on Titan.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? To be honest, I wasn’t paying attention to the anime community at the time. I was just focused on doing my own thing. To an extent, I still am. I never expected the community to be this big, though.

What was online anime fandom like at the time? I’m going off of what I’ve seen on /a/, but I feel like I can apply this to most places. The fandom as a whole seemed a bit less… abrasive, in a way? Like, it was easier to have gentle discussions about anime back in 2013. Now everything just feels so much more fast-paced and discussions become more aggressive and to the point to compensate.

How did you connect with other fans? Before I had my Twitter account, I had two thing: /a/ and IRC. I was in a certain IRC channel on the Rizon server, very small, only like 11 people max. But they were mostly warm to me.

You got into anime at a time when it was starting to get very established. Did you run into any “gatekeeping” or were you made to feel welcome? Back in 2010? Not really. I mostly kept to myself as I watched Durarara, so yeah I didn’t really run into anything. In 2013? It was mostly the same. It was a bit easy for me to ease into the fandom, actually!

What was the first anime-related purchase you made, and how much did it cost? I was at a bookstore in downtown Chicago back when I was going to university there. I had this one friend that would always talk about how good the manga Evergreen is, so I thought I’d humor them by purchasing the first volume right there—along with the first volumes for Prison School and Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto!

Since then, I’ve purchased and read through the other three volumes of Evergreen, but never made it past the first volume for Prison School or Sakamoto. I’ve also purchased many, many more volumes of manga since then! My manga interests have also taken an interesting skew towards yuri, finding myself buying every single volume of Citrus, and several other volumes of yuri manga. Kinda curious as to how that happened.

What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom when you got into it and now? This is a tough one. I think we’ll go back to what I mentioned when I was talking about online fandom, about how everything’s so fast-paced now. Back then, discussions were noticeably slower. Kinda more lax. It sort of made me feel welcome there, in a way. Had I tried going into it now? I probably wouldn’t get into fandom nearly as much. It gets really frantic at times and I’m not sure how I would take it if I didn’t get into anime until now. I mean, I still like where I am, but I kinda wish people would just slow down, y’know? They’re just cartoons, people!

Zayed can be reached on Twitter

#8: Chris M

Age: 34

Location: Baltimore, Maryland.

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. At 8 or 9 years old, browsing through the animation section at Erol’s Video.

Erol’s Video? It was essentially the precursor to Blockbuster video in the late ’80s to mid ’90s. It was one of the larger video rental chains out there. This one is was actually in a shopping center by my house. It eventually was bought out and became a Blockbuster, actually.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? The artwork and the much more mature stories.

Mature? But you were, like 8. As far as the cartoons of the time in the US vs. anime, they were things like Transformers and Centurions—a show you are too young to have been exposed to, I think. They were all right, but were expressly written for children, and therefore followed certain rules about content, strictures that anime did not need to follow. In anime, characters could die and violence could be real. it was significantly less sanitized than American cartoons were. The animation and art direction were also generally far superior, in my opinion, to most American cartoons.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? In America, anime had just begun having a presence… so most likely Speed Racer.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? Extremely niche. I am the one who introduced most of my friends to anime.

Tell me about introducing friends to anime. What was that like? Remarkably easy. I simply invited them over to my house to show them, at the time I think it was Neon Genesis Evangelion. Patches, as I am sure you know, took to it right away, as did most of my friends. I dare say we were all fairly precocious, so we all were attracted to the more adult themes of anime.

Adult themes? So, I think one of the first anime I watched with friends was Neon Genesis Evangelion, which is an extremely weighty series from an emotional and intellectual standpoint: characters die, the world is not a happy place, mankind on the brink of extinction. These sorts of themes just weren’t very common in American cartoons. That’s sort of what I mean. Most of the anime we watched at the time was much… grittier, and intense, I would say. Bubblegum Crisis was much the same. It was straight cyberpunk, mulling over questions like machine autonomy and intelligence, corporate dominance, etc. Again, not themes you were likely to find in American cartoons 😛

Do you remember your first anime-related purchase? I think the first anime I actually bought was the box set of Outlaw Star. For much of my life I simply sponged off my brother’s anime collection. It was a box set, so I wanna say it was actually around $100 or so. I used birthday money to buy it.

Do you remember your first anime con? My first con was Otakon 8, I think. I went with a friend of mine from Japanese class in high school, and spent the day just wandering around and taking the sights in. I want to say the original Naruto series was just making its debut in America in fansub form, but I might be wrong on that… this was quite a while ago. 15 or more years ago, I think o.o

Anime inspired you to visit Japan, so tell me about that. Yes, I was inspired by anime to take Japanese language courses, which then gave me the opportunity to go to Japan. Japan was just so culturally different from the US that I was fascinated by it. I actually really enjoyed how Japanese sounded when spoken, even if I didn’t always understand it. Much of my favorite music to this day remains Japanese rock and pop, most of it anime theme songs, natch.

What’s the biggest difference between fandom then and fandom now? I think the only major change between anime fandom then and now is connectivity. It is so much easier to find and talk with anime fans than it was when I first got into it—and I think anime has also gained more acceptance in the eyes of the public in general. For example, the first anime movie that I know of to show in American theaters was Princess Mononoke, which showed up about 10 years after I got into anime.

Chris can be found on Twitter

#7: Nick

Age: 23

Location: North Carolina

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. I first “discovered” anime watching heavily edited Voltron on TV, plus Toonami runs in the early 2000s, but my first time seeing an anime and wanting to really get into the medium at large was a friend dragging me to our high school anime club’s first meeting. We watched episode 00 of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and I laughed so hard I fell out of my chair.

What was the club like? The club was decently popular for the size of the school. At the start of each year we’d start with around 40 or so interested members, but usually by the end of the first term we would be down to around two-dozen core members. We originally met in the school’s library, but were moved to our (almost never present) advisor’s classroom after the Vice Principal caught us playing ecchi anime on the projector wall. I was a member for three years, but had to leave in my senior year to focus on classwork and extracurriculars for college applications.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? I’d always enjoyed cartoons, and anime was one of the first places I saw animation with a more structured, serialized approach to storytelling.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? In anime fandom I’m pretty sure it was Haruhi. In the world at large, Naruto.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? I only really started getting into online fandom years later, but my impression from the other anime club members and their stories is that it was a whole lot of expensive DVDs and roving bands of cosplayers doing the Hare Hare Yukai dance.

What was it like to be in online fandom when you joined it? My main online hangout around that time was actually Gaia online. I frequented their anime and music forums a lot. Outside of that I didn’t have a huge amount of contact with the online community outside of like, YouTube comment arguments.

Do you remember your first anime-related purchase? The first anime purchase I ever made was buying the first 3 DVD volumes of Serial Experiments Lain and a local used book/disc store. I’d watched the whole series online (on YouTube in nine-minute chunks XD) and fell in love with it, and when I found those discs I nearly had a heart attack since they had been out of print from Geneon for ages. Sadly I could never find the final volume.

Do you remember your first anime convention? My first and only anime convention was going to Animazement with some of the anime club members. It was only for the first day and I honestly don’t remember much besides holding the camera for the upperclassmen’s Hare Hare Yukai performance.

You only went to one? I’d like to go to an anime con again, but I’d like it to be one where I can meet up with online friends, and currently that’s not economically feasible. For what I’d do differently, I’d want to go the entire convention, and have a definitive idea of what panels, events, or guests I’d want to see. Basically do the con as it’s supposed to be instead of wandering around as a broke teenager with no idea what half of what I was seeing was.

What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom when you got into it and now? The biggest contrast that stands out to me is how fast everything moves now. When I first found anime it seemed like one or two big shows would come out a year and that would be all anybody really talked about outside of staples like Naruto and One Piece. But now with simulcasts and seasonal viewing there’s almost always something new to talk about every month. It can be pretty exhausting at points =”D.

Today, you do some work for Anime News Network. Did you ever imagine anime becoming part of your identity in that way? Definitely not. I’d occasionally entertain the idea of submitting something when I first started watching seasonal anime, but until very recently I’d never had the nerve to submit or query anything like that.

Nick can be reached on Twitter.

#6: Kit P

Age: 32

Location: Washington, DC

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. I remember watching Akira and the film Tenchi Muyo in Love on the Sci-fi Channel in New York, between 1993-1996. I knew these were not considered Western cartoons, and these were feature films (the channel did anime films on Saturday after Mystery Science Theater 3000).

After that I got into Sailor Moon, which was also on TV then, and through 1996-2003, I managed to find video rental stores with series like The Slayers, Fushigi Yugi, Irresponsible Captain Tylor, Revolutionary Girl Utena, and more. My first convention was in 2000 and I already had a good idea of some anime at the time.

Can you tell me about your first anime convention? It was Otakon 2000. I remember convincing my parents to drive me for a day trip, and bringing a notepad with me to ask questions to artists in artist alley and a disposable film camera to take cosplay pictures. My parents complied, even though they considered anime to be very childish, and to leave Japanese pop culture to the Japanese. So I had a bit of a rough time at the start, because I was fighting against all those misconceptions.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it?
It focused on an overarching narrative (or characterization, or both) much more than many of the other cartoons at the time (though obviously there were notable exceptions like Gargoyles). So I really enjoyed that the story meant something.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time?
Ehhh, this was the ’90s so there were lots of anime that people still remember (Dragon Ball Z, Sailor Moon, Yu Yu Hakusho, and later on Pokémon) so…

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? $30 VHS tapes and you had the choice of the tape being subtitled or dubbed. No dual audio here! In part because of that, and because not much was licensed (or later episodes not released), there were fansub trading circles and tape circulations. Watching anime at cons or at an anime club was pretty important then still.

How did fansub trading circles work? Did you have to join an anime club? No, not necessarily. Some were through the Internet: you’d find people listing what they had or could get, and you sent a money order in the post to a PO Box… ^^;

But for some series or seasons of series like, for a long time, Sailor Moon‘s later seasons, this was the only way to get them before the tipping point of Internet broadband use.

How did you meet other fans? IRL? Online? Hmmm, online. Though that depended on where you lived, too. It was easier to find other fans in New York than Oklahoma, simply due to the numbers being in my favor more.

What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom when you got into it and now? A lot of things from back then are still going on but I think… nowadays, while there’s an emphasis on culture on the East Coast conventions (so film, music, traditional arts, etc), fandom now is so much more consumer oriented in a weird way. Before, you might strike up a conversation with someone in the registration line because they like anime and you do too, or you heard the word Gundam. But then there was a need for connection, for depth.

Nowadays it’s – more complex. People even in the same series fandom say true fans read the chapter raws when fan circles scan them… there’s a heightened sense of if you don’t do fandom a certain way it’s bad, and this gets thrown around with all sorts of intentions. Obvious example: people refusing to buy the anime or manga of a series, and then the arguments about why or how the industries respond. There are so many arguments for why they might make this decision: from convenience of scans, to social expectations of reading the latest chapter/seeing the latest episode, to finding or imagining faults with translations.

It’s not that conspicuous consumption wasn’t going on, or fandom policing wasn’t already a thing, but now it’s combined with other factors – like consumption combined with not supporting the industries, policing who’s a true fan and who isn’t, recognizing memes and series but feeling pressured to watch everything as soon as it’s out… I think it’s more stressful for everyone, as it’s all out there, now. I think fandom is still very insecure about itself, but due to the pressure to always be online/immediate, we see much more of its negative aspects now.

Kit can be reached on Twitter

#5: John S

Age: 34

Location: Schenectady, New York

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. I discovered anime in 1990 when I bought Revenge of the Ninja Warrior, which was a dubbed, edited version of Dagger of Kamui. I knew it was animated in Japan but didn’t know what anime was at the time. Still, I knew it was different from other cartoons I had seen at the time.

What made it starkly different was the tone and atmosphere of the movie. It had a somber tone to it due to the hardship and tragedies that the main character, Jiro, encountered. There’s a particular scene towards the end where he sees his childhood home, which made me feel something I never felt before—that whole feeling about the passage of time and the sadness that comes with that. It was a while before I saw something that would be considered anime again but that was my intro.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? The way characters were drawn. They looked more complex than average American cartoons. Plus, the music in some anime was very theatrical and unique. Also, with the level of violence and death being a legitimate possibility, there were actual consequences at stake.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? Ghost in the Shell or Dragon Ball Z.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? I didn’t know really many people that liked anime . It was kinda of a solitary thing for me where I grew up.

Can you tell me about your first time connecting with other fans? The first time I connected with someone that was a fan of anime was probably in 2003 when i started going to college at Plattsburgh State University. I had a roommate named Mike who was big into anime at the time. I remember when we first meet, he asked me if i had ever seen Cowboy Bebop and as I was unpacking my stuff on move in day showed him my Bebop DVDs.

We bonded over watching a lot of stuff together like FLCL and Yu Yu Hakkusho, which were airing on Toonami at the time. I remember we had these philosophical debates about Evangelion back then, especially after watching the movie End of Evangelion. I remember always trying to get him to watch some of the older Gundam that was available at the time like Gundam 0079 and Char’s Counterattack, but he always said older anime was not his thing, which was a bit disappointing because I love older anime like Fist of the North Star, UC Gundam [a group of Gundam shows that take place in the same timeline, called Universal Century] and City Hunter.

Through him I meet other people in my dorm who were also into anime and we had these nights were we would order Chinese food and marathon some anime in our room with several friends. I remember one time, he had spent some of his student loan refund on the Escaflowne DVD boxset and we had tried to marathon the whole show in one day but we had to tap out at like episode 17, probably due to mental exhaustion. There was an anime club on campus but I only remember going to one meeting and they had Otaku No Video on that day. I never really got the opportunity to partake more in the club at the time due to class load and my part time job. The club always met on the weekend during the day and I had to work.

What was the first anime-related purchase you made, and how much did it cost? My first anime that I bought myself with my own money was probably Record of Lodoss War volume 1 VHS which I think was about $19.99 in the summer of 1996. It was dub only. Man, back in those days you had to choose between sub or dub only and sub was always more expensive.

What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom when you got into it and now? The biggest change between fandom when I got into it and how it is now is probably there is less gate keeping than there was before. I feel social media has played a big part in breaking that down. I remember seeing you tweet something a while back about still having not seen Akira yet. It made me think about how back when I got into anime there were certain OVAs, TV, and movies you had to have seen to be considered a true fan and Akira was one of them. If you hadn’t, you had to turn in your fandom card, and mediate under a water fall to repent for your sins. Now with social media that’s something that can be shared and that’s OK.

Another big change is the sheer amount of anime available. Back when I was just getting into to anime, it was small relative to now. I feel that has made fandom grow more mainstream, especially with anime being on Netflix, Hulu, and Crunchyroll.

John can be reached on Twitter

#4: Andrea

Age: 28

Location: United Kingdom

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember.
My first experience was with Pokemon. It was the only anime airing on the tv at the time I started watching.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it?
The story, the animation, the characters, the song. Everything.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? Definitely Pokemon. Everyone was watching it, even those who didn’t enjoy other “cartoons.”

How did you connect with other fans at the time? Mostly friends at school. With Pokemon being my entry point I was maybe 10 or 11 at the time talking about it at school and watching it with friends when it was on TV.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? I don’t know if I truly was then. I felt I had to “grow out” of it pretty quickly as “cartoons were for kids” and didn’t rediscover it again until last year.

Where did the pressure to “grow out of it” come from? I think the pressure to grow out of it came mostly from society. I lived in a fairly small village and and just the concept of a girl being into “boy things” like games and anime was always a bit strange at my school, even if most of my friends were boys.

The other problem was the anime I saw snips of, after Pokemon and Thundercats, always involved girls being exposed, abused, taken advantage of for laughs. There wasn’t anything I came across that I connected with.

How did you get back into anime again last year? The biggest thing for me really was Anime Feminist and finding entry points that didn’t involve the almost stereotypical aspects of anime.

Also I wrote a blog post back when I was starting out about my history with anime and manga:

I wanted something lighter, though, and my eyes strayed to manga. I had a hard time figuring out what I wanted to try. After some friend recommendations, and a bit of internet research, I invested while at Forbidden Planet in 2015. I went for “Fullmetal Alchemist – a friend recommendation, “Blue Exorcist” and “Rosario+Vampire” – internet recommendations. I’d wanted to pick up “Fruits Basket,” another friend recommendation, but unfortunately they didn’t have any.

I found something enlightening in “Fullmetal Alchemist,” not every manga has awkward scenes. “Blue Exorcist” had a few odd moments, and “Rosario+Vampire” showed what you were getting from the start but I realised something about the manga I enjoy – I don’t mind fan-service shots when I know that’s what I’m getting. It’s when they creep into story lines and I don’t expect them that it bothers me. I still stayed away from anime but as I read more and more manga over the last two years I found myself wanting to watch anime too but I didn’t want to take the risk at just finding more and more anime that made me uncomfortable.

A website started up that I’ve mentioned before, Anime Feminist, a site I found from Kotaku and kept an eye on. I read a few articles and found myself returning time and time again. They did reviews on the first episodes of seasons on Crunchyroll and some of them sounded very appealing, but I was wary. A friend offered me a trial of Crunchyroll and I started watching some in October. I began with a recommendation from Anime Feminist, “Poco’s Udon World.” I watched the first episode of that, tried an episode of “Trickster” and also “Attack on Titan.” I’d finally found anime that I enjoyed and other places for inspiration and thoughtful articles too.

What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom when you got into it and now? I don’t know if I could contrast it. I’m such a different person than the teenager me that felt ashamed to enjoy things that weren’t deemed “normal”. The internet has changed things for sure. Having found people who enjoy similar things and even just feeling like it’s okay to be able to look at anime and say “I like this but not this!” rather than having to enjoy everything to be a fan.

Andrea can be reached on Twitter or her blog