Location: Great Britain
When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. I can’t really point to a definite time when I “discovered” anime as such. As a younger child I consumed some anime, catching Ghibli movies on TV, watching Pokemon, YuGiOh!, and Bakugan during summer holidays in Bulgaria (my home country), and I remember renting a copy of Steam Boy from a library once and I even got gifted The Sky Crawlers game for Wii by a relative. But of course I didn’t recognise these as anime at the time.
As for when I started to recognise anime as anime that would probably be from randomly browsing YouTube top 10 lists a few years ago. And in terms of actually watching anime, a cartoon reviewer who I was following at the time, around late 2014, did a review of an episode of Zatch Bell which convinced me to watch the show, which I marathoned up to where the dub ended (around episode 100) in about a week. Though I enjoyed Zatch Bell it was not what got me hooked on anime. That was Cowboy Bebop, I think I watched it in early 2015, which I discovered through top lists on YouTube, some WatchMojo ones, but I think the one that really convinced me to watch it was by another cartoon reviewer called Lewtoons. After Bebop I went on to watch a bunch of other shows like Death Note, The Melancholy Of Haruhi Suzumiya, Trigun, Baccano and Neon Genesis Evangelion which cemented my interest in the medium.
You said Cowboy Bebop is what really got you hooked on anime. What about it was so appealing to you? As Cowboy Bebop is still my favourite anime there’s quite a lot I could say appealed to me. Like the fact that characters that seem cool and fun on the surface level end up having quite a lot of depth behind them. There’s also the fantastic directing and writing, the incredible soundtrack, and the visuals—which are probably the best of any cell-drawn anime TV series. But what results from these elements, and what at the core so appeals to me about Cowboy Bebop, is the range and intensity of emotions it manages to make me feel, from the joy of watching Ed’s adventure in Mushroom Samba, to the slight sadness mixed with an intense sense of happiness and contentment brought on from watching Chess Master Hex winning once last epic game against Ed before seemingly dying, the sadness of Hard Luck Woman, and listening to Blue right after Spike’s death.
What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? I don’t think I found some central appeal in anime as a whole, but rather in specific shows. For example, I thought Spike from Cowboy Bebop was a really cool and entertaining character. Isaac and Miria from Baccano seemed very fun and hilarious. I found Vash the Stampede’s goofiness in Trigun quite endearing. That’s at least what got me to watch these shows, I ended up loving them for much more than that.
What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? Attack On Titan.
What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? I didn’t interact with the fandom much. I mostly just watched some reviews of shows on YouTube. Still, I can’t imagine it was much different than it is today—this was only back in early 2015.
I know very little about anime fan YouTube. Could you tell me about how you got into it, and what the appeal of YouTube video anime reviews is for you? I’d been on YouTube for a few years before getting into anime, and discovered the world of anime reviews mainly by people like Glass Reflection and DouchebagChocolat. What appealed to me about these was finding out what shows to watch, as I was new to anime and didn’t know many shows, and this gave me a decently wide knowledge of anime. As for how I got into it, I can’t remember how I found Glass Reflection, probably stumbled onto his content. As for DouchebagChocolat, I think I may have stumbled onto his Eva rebuild videos at some point, but I really got into him after a brony YouTuber, who I think found his videos through Digibro, made a video about him.
Eventually, I drifted away from plain reviews, finding them boring, and turned to more analytical YouTubers like Digibro. I use him as an example as he’s probably the most popular in this category. He’s also probably my favourite and you’ve interviewed him so you should have some idea of what his content is like. What appeals to me about this type of video is the interesting ideas they present and how they go more in depth about why the creator thought a certain way about a show, and so why that show might appeal to me. I got into this kind of video through Digibro, and I found him because of my knowledge of him from brony analysis fandom, which I used to be a part of, despite having seen only one or two of his brony videos.
Was the Internet a part of fandom at the time? If yes, how? If no, how did you connect with other fans? Yes, all the ways it is today. I can’t think of any big changes that have happened in past two years, apart from analytical anime content becoming more prominent on YouTube thanks to people like Digibro. Though, maybe it didn’t become more prominent and it was just me discovering it.
Do you remember your first convention? What was it, and what was it like?
I haven’t been to any anime specific convention, the closest thing I went to is MCM Comicon London, in May 2016. I’m sure there is lots of footage of MCM Comicon’s on YouTube, so anyone can see what it’s like. I remember the toilet being very crowded, being surprised at the amount of cosplay—having never seen cosplay in person before—and not being able to find any posters of shows any shows I liked.
Have you made friends through anime fandom? IRL or online? Can you tell me about those connections? I haven’t made any friends in the anime fandom, I’m quite introverted. As for IRL, there are a few people who I started talking to because they were into anime, but unfortunately our tastes are quite different so not much of our conversation revolves our anime.
You got into fandom later than a lot of the creators you follow and interact with. What has that been like? I’m not exactly sure how to answer that, so I guess I’ll do it by contrast. In some of these stories, people have talked about the difficulty of finding anime and discussion of it, but as someone who got into anime only a couple of years ago, this hasn’t been a problem. Most airing shows are quickly subtitled and available for streaming within hours on Crunchyroll. Even shows that are not licensed, like PreCure, get fansubbed within a day of airing. Even the vast majority of older shows are available for streaming, whether from official sources or illegal ones, and torrenting with at least subtitles. There’s only one film I’ve found where there were absolutely no English subtitles, Violin In the Starry Sky, and even though it’s on only about 500 people’s lists on MAL you can still easily get torrents of it without private trackers. For me, its been easy to find discussion of anime. Whether it be on YouTube, social media or Reddit or other websites and even IRL, I have people that I can talk to about anime.
Have you felt welcomed by older fans? I haven’t had much active engagement with the community. I’ve been more passively consuming content and discussion. To that extent, I’d say that to use the word “welcome” would be a bit misleading, but I certainly haven’t felt at all alienated. As I said, I started out by getting quite a good body of knowledge of various shows and have since learned a lot about other aspects of anime like directors, studios, etc., so I never really feel left behind when people are discussing anime, though I can’t say that the other anime fans my age I know IRL have as much knowledge as I do, and so might feel alienated by such discussions.
Ioan can be reached on Twitter.