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.