Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
When did you discover anime? My first experience with anime is one of my oldest memories, back when I watched mostly the public service broadcaster TVOntario, and my favourite book was The Little Engine That Could. I have vague recollections of that time of the little blonde haired kid who lived in space and went on adventures down on Earth by catching a ride on a comet by hooking one in a fishing net. Some 20 years later I discover the title of that show was Adventures of the Little Prince, which was part of the World Masterpiece Theatre franchise, adapting well-regarded global novels into children’s anime.
After that is a period where anime was always around, mixed in among my other cartoon entertainment. I remember watching Sailor Moon and Garfield most mornings before catching the school bus (Dragon Ball Z was on just before this, but was too early for me to catch). Pokemon and Digimon made big splashes with me and my brother, and everything that looked like them was nicknamed “-mon” on the schoolyard (“Yugimanz,” etc…).
The first time I made the connection that, “Oh all these shows are part of the same category,” was when I discovered Fullmetal Alchemist at age 12. My mother took us along for her friend’s wedding, sending us back to the hotel when it was time for the reception. So there we are flipping through channels late at night to amuse ourselves. We land on Adult Swim and the Phantom Thief episode is showing. The premise of the story and plot of the episode interested me, but the thing that struck me most at the time was the first accidental groping I had ever seen. Of course my hormone-riddled 12-year-old brain said “Yes, more of this please”. Google led me to a site that hosted the episodes and that linked to other series, and the rest is history.
I googled “Yugimanz” but I still don’t get it. Why did this meme get popular? I’d say from people only passingly familiar (maybe they can name Pikachu), and a little disdainful. It’s another proxy battle show with monsters, so it must follow the naming pattern, right? Add in a bit of leetspeak and it deforms farther.
What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? Everything anime did was big. Big emotions, big fights, big stupid idiots, big monsters, big worlds, big grandiose music, big flashy villains. But also stories like FMA that were quieter that told more intense stories with darker consequences than I was used to. It also appealed to my nerdiness: “This power works like this, and interacts with this other power because of such-and-such scientific property.”
What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? I was big into YuGiOh!, so as far as I’m concerned that was the most popular. Most anything on the FoxBox or Kids WB was A-list material in my book (Shaman King, Ultimate Muscle, Kirby, etc…). I think I just missed the Inuyasha bubble, and got in just as Death Note was hitting. The Big 3 Shonen Jump shows were around, but I wasn’t aware of them then.
What were the big three? Why weren’t you aware of them? I’m speaking of One Piece, Naruto, and Bleach. The latter two anime were only on cable and satellite, which I didn’t have, so I wasn’t exposed to them until later. One Piece was on Fox, but it wasn’t a big deal like it became. Shonen Jump magazine was ongoing, but I only ever saw one issue of that, which my aunt got for me because Yugi was on the cover.
What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? My sphere of fandom initially was basically just me and my brother, watching our favourite Saturday Morning Cartoons, reading magazines off the rack at the grocery store. After that, a couple schoolyard friends who’d bring their flashy toys (Trading Cards, Digivices, etc.). A lot of playing pretend and battles of the imagination happening during recess.
Was the Internet a part of fandom at the time? The first anime forum I joined was a YuGiOh! one, fronted by a simple generator that let you create cards. I was there for the card game, but there was an Anime and Manga section. I learned a whole bunch of things for the first time. Things like the word “anime,” and that it doesn’t rhyme with “lime.”
Everyone had anime avatars/signatures, many leading me to new shows to watch. One time I was asked over MSN what my thoughts were on Bleach and I replied, “Like the cleaning liquid?” It was full of cool people, and troublemakers. People who could write, draw, role play, edit photos and videos, critique creations, and play the card game, of course.
Do you remember your first convention? Anime North 2011 in Toronto. The first summer after moving away from home for university. It was an exciting time: I had joined in the anime club, had been exposed to many more anime titles, and had a much better idea of what I liked. I don’t recall any events or guests that year, but my traveling companions pointed me to the big ones, like Anime Hell. I have some photos of the time, mostly cosplayers of Fairy Tail and One Piece, as well as a tentacle monster carrying a blow-up doll, and a Morning Rescue cosplayer from Madoka Magica. I spent big in the dealer’s hall, adding to my modest collection of DVDs and merch. And had my first experience meeting an internet celebrity and bumbling in front of them. I made a friend or two, and had plenty of polite conversation, but it was the next year that I made some real connections and stayed in contact with people.
What was the biggest thing you bought? How much was it? That first year, must’ve been the 10 manga volumes of Fullmetal Alchemist which I spent about $40 on.
Who was that internet celebrity you met? It was Arkada of Glass Reflections fame.
Tell me about the following year and making real connections! That following year, Anime 2012, I decided to try cosplaying for the first time. Pretty simple, Sanji from One Piece, just my one good suit and a blonde wig. Went around the photoshoots taking pictures. Funny thing happens when I go to the Fairy Tail one. Because I look like a character from that show (Leo), and get roped into the shoot and I play it off in character as Sanji sneaking in to get close to the pretty FT girls. After that weekend, I go looking around for pictures from the shoot and someone’s started a group chat on Facebook for cosplayers at that shoot. Seems I’d made a memorable impression. The 20 or so of us get talking and knowing each other better, soon we’re throwing holiday parties and hanging out on weekends the play boardgames.
Jackson can be reached on Twitter.