#113: Jeanne Morningstar

Age: 32

Location: Indiana

When did you discover anime? My first exposure to anime was actually those Robotech novelizations by Brian Daley. I ran across them in the late ’90s at that college bookstore we have whose owner will never get rid of anything if he can help it. I was an avid reader of weird obscure science fiction books and this seemed like something intriguingly different, so I jumped in. (This was also how I discovered Doctor Who via the Target novelizations.)

Eventually I started finding out more about anime. I got into Ranma 1/2 via Doctor Who crossover fanfic. (Unfortunately I don’t think the Doctor fell into the Spring of Drowned Girl.) I learned I was supposed to hate Robotech. I learned about Sailor Moon, something that would one day have an enormous transformative impact on my life, via fan pages.

Due to the nature of ’90s anime fandom where the source material was scarce and hard to get ahold of, I didn’t watch actual anime for a long time. I watched my first anime at a high school anime club; I’m pretty sure it was either Nausicaa or Cowboy Bebop. I fell in love with a bunch of shows via fan pages and fanfic that I never actually watched until much later. Even when Toonami started I didn’t get into it because we had only one TV in the house and I was worried what my parents would think of it; I didn’t watch anime regularly until college.

At the time, why were fans against Robotech Most of it was due to the changes that Macek made to the material. (The TVtropes name for unnecessary dub changes was “Macekre.”) There was also I think the desire for “real” anime fans to distinguish themselves from the casuals. There’s always been the issue of Robotech blocking the Macross license, though when anime was kind of an underground-ish thing even among officially licensed works that was less of a big deal.

Of course, there were genuine Robotech fans too, who enjoyed the Macek lore and the novels and comics that built on that. There was actually some excitement when the abortive CGI revival, Robotech 3000, was
announced. There’s a Geocities fan page for Robotech 3000 which I find weirdly poignant now.

You visited fanpages for anime you didn’t watch until much later. How did you understand fan pages for shows you didn’t watch? It was interesting because I wound up developing a lot of emotional investment in things I never saw and still haven’t seen. Then again, sometimes that still happens today. There are a number of shows I’ve never seen but know extensively through shitposts and memes. Back then, the issue was scarcity—anime was hard to get ahold of if you didn’t have the right channels. Now it’s the opposite problem. There are a million series available online and no one can watch them all. (You’d have to eat eventually.)

You were worried about your parents finding out about anime. What did your parents think of your interest in anime when they found out? Initially I think they were a little leery of anime—I had to be careful to distinguish the anime I watched from the hentai, as there was still an aura of perversion and creepiness around anime/manga in the popular consciousness up to the late ’90s. When the mid-’00s manga boom took hold, that lessened, and I started having more conversations about anime and manga with them. This decade, they actually started watching it themselves. At first they were interested only in more “respectable” Ghibli-ish stuff but then got into more otaku-y things
like Fairy Tail. Of course, maybe that’s not so surprising now that we live in a world where influential middle-aged centrist pundits watch hentai.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? I’ve always been predisposed to like things that are weird and colorful and energetic—that’s why, as a comics fan, the Silver Age stuff I could find reprints of was always my favorite, even deep in the heart of the Image ’90s. (Though that could be like that too, in other ways.) I liked a lot of the motifs and themes that cropped up in anime that was big at the time—giant robots, Blade Runner-style cyberpunk android stuff, magical girls, cool machines, tough women who blew things up.

And gender was definitely a big part of it. I was nonbinary and had no idea at the time. I never questioned consciously whether or not I was a boy but I gravitated toward things that involved female protagonists, and there was a lot of that in anime. Sailor Moon was a story by and for girls and it helped me experience the world in a different way. (I had a tremendous crush on Rei, BTW.) And then there’s Ranma 1/2—one of the first things I came into contact with that made me think about gender fluidity and such. I was intensely fascinated with the concept without quite knowing why.

Can you tell me more about how anime figured into your nonbinary identity? Anime has always been a space that allows for more exploration of
gender variance even as it’s often frustrating in not fully committing
to queerness and transness. Ranma 1/2 helped me think about the
concept of gender fluidity, in a half-articulated sort of way. Sailor
Moon helped make femininity feel more accessible to me and also played
with gender through characters like the Starlights.

Anime has been a hugely important factor in queer and trans culture in
the US among people in my generation and later. (Probably other
countries too—I’d really like to know more about the international
reception of Sailor Moon!) I feel like a lot of trans and nonbinary
people identify with magical girls because it presents femininity
through a lens of transformation-fantasy, where you get the power to
become your best and most fabulous self. I’ve come over the years to
identify more with Usagi, as someone who’s just starting to feel their
way into femininity. She’s not cool and elegant and struggles to keep
up with all the expectations society places on her, but she’s deeply
loved by people around her and has the potential to become a goddess.
Maybe someday I can be a Moon Princess too.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? Ranma 1/2 was huge. Huge. It dominated anime fandom in the same way that Naruto, Death Note and such do now. There was an everliving crapton of fanfic. Sailor Moon was big too, and drew in a lot of fic, fanpages, passionate fan investment of all kinds.

Dirty Pair was a series that had a pretty substantial following which I really got into even though I never saw it. I still have a lot of fondness for that concept and characters to this day, even though I’ve only seen like one episode and read a couple of the Adam Warren comics.

Other popular series included Slayers, Evangelion, Tenchi Muyo, and Utena. Dragon Ball Z was the #1 shonen anime back in the ’90s and very early ’00s, but I never really warmed up to that. I do remember that my family used to stay in a vacation house in North Carolina with another family, and we would watch some anime on the Cartoon Network, and they showed the same episodes of Dragon Ball every time we went there. They involved Vegeta turning into a were-monkey. I remember those episodes really well.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? Most of how I related to anime was through fanfic and fan pages. That was true of a lot of people back then, I think. There was a ton of fanfic written by people who never actually saw the show, who were basing it on other fanfic they’d read. It was pretty wild.

The fanfic often went in some really weird directions, as fanfic does. There were Ranma 1/2 fics that were slice-of-life comedy like the show, but also ones that were epic dramatic stories, sweet or and tragic relationship-based stories. People got really invested in who was the Best Girl for Ranma and wrote stories that wrote whatever love interest they liked as perfect and demonized the ones they didn’t like. (Polyamory was not really on the table.) There were some really ambitious Sailor Moon stories that created new mythologies. Evangelion attracted a lot of fix-it fic from people who wanted the characters to be happy or wanted it to “make sense.”

There were also original anime-inspired stories, sort of OEL before the age of webcomics. And there were crossovers—just about everything was crossed over at some point with Ranma, Sailor Moon and/or Evangelion. The Sailor Moon/Hellblazer crossover was probably my favorite. There was one mega-crossover series that brought in just about every anime under the sun, and a lot of other fandoms too—Undocumented Features. I think it’s still going on. It started with a bunch of self-insert college students bringing the Dirty Pair to life via a computer program. They blow up the campus, of course, and then the authors each marry one of them and then go off to explore the universe. It eventually crossed over with a million other things, as other authors joined in the universe and married their own anime girlfriends.

And that’s another thing—anime fandom was a lot more straight and cis than it is now. There were a lot of selfinsert-y fics by male writers where they dated their favorite characters. Yaoi was not discussed much, until it made a sudden surge around the beginning of the ’00s, which seemed to be a crucial point for teenage girl fandom activity. There wasn’t a lot of femslash/yuri even though Sailor Moon is extremely conducive to that and Utena was pretty popular. (And Dirty Pair for that matter—there would be a lot more Kei/Yuri if that were a thing now.)

Sometimes people made an effort to scrub queerness out of series that were extremely queer. Like the whole Prince Uranus thing–when some people were claiming Haruka/Michiru wasn’t really gay because Haruka was the reincarnation of a man, and claimed to have sources from [Sailor Moon creator] Naoko Takeuchi to back it up.

That said, I am sure there were a lot of queer people out there running into this stuff in anime and forming their own identities, like I was. We just didn’t have a community and context for that the way we do now.

At the time, how did you connect with other fans? Online? I didn’t really interact with people much on the anime internet. I passively read a lot of fan stuff and lurked on a couple usenet newsgroups. Weirdly I didn’t go much into the Sailor Moon groups, where my future partner was a prolific poster. We were like sailors passing in the night, or something.

Tell me about meeting your partner! Points if the story is related to anime. We met through a small writing group/shared universe we’ve been part
of a long time which originated on Usenet. We both wrote stuff that drew influence from both Western sueprhero comics and animanga. We started collaborating and throwing around ideas and turned out to have a lot of really specific interests in common, like Doctor Who novels. We’re both interested in taking apart and analyzing pop culture and genre fiction so we had a lot of great conversations, and then we eventually both independently realized we were genderfluid, and then that we were in love.

How is your anime fandom experience different today than it was back then? Anime has never been my primary focus but always been a consistent thing in my life. There are particular series I get intensely
into—Yuri!!! on Ice helped me through some difficult times earlier this
year. Nowadays, I learn about new series through Twitter and Tumblr. I
don’t necessarily go out of my way to follow people who post about
anime and manga, but it comes up a lot in queer contexts.

Jeanne can be reached on Twitter

#103: Kori

Age: 31

Location: Brunswick, Maine

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. The year was 1999, and I was 13. I’d fallen in love with the Pokemon (Red) video game, and one day discovered that there was a cartoon version of the story. From the first episode I caught on TV, I was hooked. It was my gateway. I drew fanart, and my very first comic (I’m a professional cartoonist now) was a jagged and messy Pokemon fancomic about my adventures with my favorite Pokemon, Dragonair. My repertoire expanded almost immediately to any anime I could find information about on the internet, aired on late-night Cartoon Network (carefully time-recorded on VHS), or otherwise appeared on TV or in my local comic shops. Animerica Magazine was pretty integral to my keeping updated and immersed in anime. Having my fan art printed in Animerica and in Animerica Extra gave me the ego boost I would ride into an actual art career.

How did your interest in anime factor into your journey as an artist? Did you go through a manga-style angular chin drawing phase? Anime was alllllways at the core of my artistic journey.  A good number of people in comics today who are my age remember the struggle of fighting teachers when they told you not to “draw anime style.”  And I understand why, now, they put up that fight.  “Anime style” is a visual language that makes sense to someone who watches it, but doesn’t to those who never have.  So of course the giant eyes and sweatdrops and pointy chins seem baffling to them, and it turn, to your college admissions portfolio reviewers. I get it.  But it felt crummy!  Other cartoonists are influenced by the comics and cartoons they idolized, and you can see the influence of Archie Comics or Powerpuff Girls in a lot of folks’ comics today too!  But since our influences were foreign, because the visual language we aped was not native, we we told to cut it out.  Often with no suggestion of where to look instead.  So when I tried to fight that fight, I pulled from “traditional” or classical illustration, and spent a long time, as many of my peers did, being sure I was drawing “more correctly” to “realistically” but always being asked if “it was anime,” anyway!  It was tough!  And it’s not like anyone was having conversations with us ABOUT the cultural exchange, or even the bigger colonial implications around the dialogue that WAS happening.  Anyway, yes. I drew lots of pointy chins.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? Watching Pokemon as a freshly-minted teenager, I was excited by the way the narrative carried across episodes. Each episode had a fight of the day, but it was part of a journey. It lacked the reset button of The Simpsons, but was more structurally engaging than The Little Mermaid (TV.) It seemed unique. And it felt like a bridge into a new world, because it was foreign and because there was a community around it. I was posting Ash/Misty romantic fanfiction on message boards online before I understood that fanfiction was a /thing./ Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z followed, and by the time I’d sunk my claws into Gundam Wing, Slayers, Tenchi Muyo, and Utena, I was gone! The western anime-loving community was my place. No small part of my fascination was in the subtextual and sometimes textual queer themes. I was a budding /something/ at the time (lesbian? transboy? time would tell-) and the genderqueer/tomboy/lesbian in Sailor Uranus, longing gay love of Utena‘s Juri, and extensive slashability of the Gundam Wing boys gave my needs a home, my desires validation, my expressions an outlet.

Could you expand on this over the course of your fandom? How did anime factor into your exploration of sexuality? After the initial blossoming into a queer butch because of shoujo manga, anime didn’t factor a whole lot into my sexuality until I wrestled with my love of yaoi later on in my mid-20s.  The community was always there and part of its actualization, of course; my first online girlfriend was a fellow Utena roleplayer, and one summer-fling boyfriend was someone I met at an anime convention in Maine, who wooed me by singing that impossibly fast Gravitation song at karaoke.  But it wasn’t until around 25 or so that I looked at myself, on the cusp of coming out as trans, and the fact that I’d basically only consumed yaoi/slash since I got to college, and realized the complicated sexual sociology of it. As an afab person, I’d appreciated a medium by which I could explore sexual imagery without seeing sex /done/ to a female body.  Porn and hentai all established women as objects that sex was done /to/, often violently.  While yaoi in general wasn’t necessarily /better/ in that regard, it at least allowed me to separate /my/ body from sexual violence.  My current identity as a bi enby doesn’t give as much credit to anime as it does the webcomics community, but the transition from one family to the other was smooth, since there is plenty of overlap there.  That I now draw the trans-inclusive adult comics I wished I had as a teen and young adult probably owes to that yaoi legacy directly, though.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? When I “discovered” anime, the most popular thing was probably Dragon Ball Z. Even though shoujo (Sailor Moon, Fushigi Yuugi) was more my thing, I still understood what a force and presence the DBZ fandom was. I could never be sure because my perception was affected by whatever I was most obsessed with at the time, but Sailor Moon was big, as was CLAMP as an entire entity and force. Evangelion was also very present. But nothing would be like DBZ.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? It was like stepping to the garden of eden. Or being on a rewarding treasure expedition. Me, a tiny art-making teen, discovering a world where people expanded and reimagined narratives (fanfic,) examined fictional relationships (ship manifesto,) multiplied content through art (doujinshi, fanart,) shared- OH how they SHARED- their passion… and it was the wild west of internet, too. Navigating the community was an adventure. You had to participate to find what you were looking for. It made that rare piece of Evangelion merch, 3rd generation VHS Kodocha fansub copy, or perfectly-aligned-with-your-interests Card Captor Sakura fanfic absolutely like earning treasure. It was rich with discovery.

What were you usually looking for, then? Where did you participate? Did you make any lasting friendships, or discover new shows that way? I was looking for all of the above.  Fanart, doujinshi, fanfic, Evangelion dissertations.  For example, if I was looking for Touya x Yukito (Cardcaptor Sakura) fanfic, I couldn’t hop on Ao3 and click the Touya/Yukito tag.  I have to either web-search (Google was not yet the standard) or ask around for a Touya/Yukito fansite (one Geocities or Angelfire, probably) that would then host or link to fanfics.  Instead of collections, you usually found a fansite that featured the site’s owner’s own fanfiction.  You really had to work for that reward.  I can’t remember the names of those fansites anymore, they were so all over the place.  I vaguely remember the transition to Livejournal as a new standard for communities and roleplaying, but I don’t think I could name any of those, either.

I don’t think I’ve maintained any friendships from those days! We’re talking 15 years ago, when I was a teenager and a very different person.  We’ve all grown up and found new spaces to occupy … as much as I still value Utena, I don’t really need to be on an Utena RP board anymore, and I think everyone else has established new identities since then too.  I can’t think of anyone from those days that I’m still close to.  In college I made friends with folks in the Ookiku Furikabutte community that helped me through hard times and are still close friends of mine today, but no one from those early days.  Every once and a while I’ll get a message from someone who will be like , “Woah, are you Shirono from the Pokemon Boards back in 1999?” and we will reminisce for a whole five seconds, but that’s it.

Finding new anime, at least for me, didn’t happen in communities, because they weren’t “anime” communities, they were show-specific communities.  Pokemon boards talked about Pokemon, Utena LJ talked about Utena.  Discovering new anime came through some specific channels, like Animerica magazine, which reported on both stateside releases as well as what was coming out in Japan.  There was also fansubs, which I credit with exposing me to A LOT of new anime. See, when you bought a fansub, the two or three episodes on the tape might not take up the entire tape.  So some fansubbers would fill the extra space with anime openings.  So at the end of my Kodocha tape, there would be opening themes for Fushigi Yuugi, Mamono Hunter Yohko, and City Hunter.  I proceeded to pursue each of those shows.  Why did fansubbers do that, though, I always wondered.  Was it purely to spread the gospel of new anime?

Was the Internet a part of fandom at the time? If yes, how? If no, how did you connect with other fans? Yes, internet and fandom were inextricable in the early aughts. Fansites were your source for news, eBay your source for rare merch, group sites for your mail-in-fansubs, message boards for your discussion. It was an exciting time; despite the burgeoning attempts Real Player made at establishing itself as a way to watch video, we still had dial-up internet and relied on the community access to get our fix. I took chances sending physical dollars and checks to strangers on the internet and was never let down, getting copied CDs and VHS tapes in the mail, weeks or months later, every time. Message boards and fansites were where I spent most of my time, role-playing, reading fanfic, dissecting episodes, characters, relationships, and story arcs.

Do you remember your first convention? What was it, and what was it like?
Shoujocon 2001, in East Brunswick, New Jersey. It was magical. It was more accessible to me in Pennsylvania than any other convention at the time, and my parents could drive my friends and I there. I cosplayed Yuzuriha Nekoi from X/1999. I met a CLAMP messageboard crush. I returned in 2002 with different high-school friends and a preparedness to take advantage of what I now knew a convention could give me. The two years blur a bit in my memory. That second year, I cosplayed in a Kare Kano group. I sang in and won the karaoke contest. I bought Gundam Wing doujinshi, sneaking an 18+ wristband over my little teen fist to get into the restricted section of the dealers’ room. I met up with people I’d met on Utena message boards. I shared home-printed copies of my first scrawled doujinshi (also Utena.) I bought a $40 JPOP CD (expensive now, but imagine THEN!) I still have the printed photos from these experiences. It blew my mind.

What was meeting your messageboard crush like? Worth it, or never meet your heroes sort of thing? It was uneventful!  I had a little baby forum crush on them but they didn’t on me.  We took a picture together and I never heard from them again!  We weren’t close in the first place, I just thought they were cute and looked like Kamui.

What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom when you got into it and now? The biggest differences, I think, are the means to access content, the availability of content, and the discourse.

As I mentioned before, you couldn’t just google “Sailor Uranus x Sailor Neptune doujinshi” or “Tamahome x Chichiri fanfic” and FIND IT, let alone just click through tags on Ao3.  You had to hunt and you often had to establish human connections to get to what you were looking for.  Today you can access content for your very specific shipping interests almost immediately and definitely without interacting with anyone.  It’s not like recc lists aren’t still valuable and we don’t make connections these days!  But the work you /needed/ to put in to find your goods was different in nature!

It’s so EASY to watch anime now.  All of it!  Any of it!  It’s so great, now, with both legal avenues for the big stuff (Crunchyroll, Amazon, etc.) and less-legal avenues for the obscure stuff.  More manga is published in English and more quickly, and scanlations are available for more weird and independent stuff than ever. There’s basically no way to NOT find what you’re looking for instantly these days. Before it was buying fansubs off the internet, downloading a third of an episode on dial-up, or saving $60 to buy a tape with 2 episodes on it at Suncoast. 0_0

Finally, wow, both good and bad has come from the global discourse on anime and manga and fan communities.  I absolutely do not want to get into the specifics, but we are having good conversations about appropriation and problematic content (to the benefit of POC, women, and queer people, but we are also having very BAD conversations about appropriation and problematic content (to the detriment of POC, women, and queer people!) Before, we went by the motto “don’t like, don’t read,” which meant problematic ideas were not challenged, but also, it meant that people weren’t harassed for exploring ideas in fiction.  Progress resists binary reduction, so it’s messy, but I wouldn’t go back in time either.

Kori 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

#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