#60: Kelly S

Age: 30

Location: Southeastern United States

When did you discover anime? I discovered anime in stages. At first, I found out about a show called Sailor Moon because of chats on AOL. I watched the show on Cartoon Network during the Sailor Moon R arc in the late ’90s. I didn’t realize Sailor Moon was anime at first, but looking around online, I found a fan page that, crazily enough, is still around. I started looking up the different magical girl anime listed, although there wasn’t a lot of information out there at the time. I found the “anime” section of my local video rental store and liked that it all looked like Sailor Moon. The first anime I rented was Ah! My Goddess! It was okay. Then I rented Slayers and fell in love. Slayers was my obsession for years and years, and it was my introduction to fanart, fanfic, fanvids, cosplay… Before I knew it, I was sending out self-addressed stamped envelopes to fansub distros and hanging out at Suncoast. I went to my first convention in 2001.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? I liked the art style a lot. It was colorful and bright, and at a time when Lisa Frank was my aesthetic, I think Sailor Moon hit that sweet spot. After getting hooked on the plot, I was curious about what else was out there, and then when I watched Slayers, the storytelling and humor struck home with me.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? Sailor Moon was a big one simply due to it being a gateway anime, along with Dragon Ball Z. After that, I can recall licensed releases being popular due to accessibility: Cowboy Bebop, Tenchi Muyo!, Slayers, Record of Lodoss War, Outlaw Star, Yu Yu Hakusho, and Trigun. Magical girl shows were popular.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? Pretty fun. It felt like an underground culture at the time, and knowing the lingo and connecting with other fans resulted in strong bonds. Even knowing some Japanese was “cool.”

It took some doing, but I converted one of my friends into an anime fan, and we would have sleepovers where we’d marathon shows. My overnight bag was always heavy with clunky VHS tapes, and I can fondly recall the sound of tapes clacking together as I walked with the bag on my shoulder.

I’d like to hear more about the friend you managed to convert into an anime fan. What won her over? Is she still a fan?  Unfortunately, that friendship fizzled out a while back due to various reasons, so I’m afraid that story is open-ended. My impression is that, for her, it was more of a passing interest. She liked Sailor Moon a bit due to its popularity at the time, but I won her over through sheer enthusiasm, forcing her to watch fansubs with me. She did enjoy Slayers, and so for a while, we’d pass notes to each other in class with doodles of Xellos and Valgarv, our two favorite characters. We enjoyed Kodocha, too. In high school, she became less interested in the anime scene and more interested in other things, eventually moving away as I’d reach an apex in my fandom. I took her with me to a convention once, and although she had fun, we spent a good amount of time hanging out and going off the convention center grounds instead of participating in fan activities.

Slayers seems like it was huge for you. What kind of fanworks did Slayers inspire you to make? I was never involved much in the creation of fanworks, more the consumption. I wrote one fic for an online friend in the Slayers fandom, and never shall it see the light of day! With Slayers, I began to read massive amounts of fanfic, and from that point on, I was a fanfic junkie. Even these days, if I watch, read, or otherwise interact with a piece of media, I immediately look for fanfic. I watched a Netflix show out of curiosity four days ago, and since then, I’ve read about 12-15 fanfics from it. Oftentimes, I may not be a “fan” of the show, but I love the show beyond the show. In addition to fanfic, I made a few terrible fanvids. I used my vidding skills to create a fanvid as a school project once… using a VCR! It was very tedious. Happily, learning about encoding and video formats was a résumé booster, so thank you, terrible fanvids.

Was the Internet a part of fandom at the time? If yes, how? If no, how did you connect with other fans? Yes and no. I found anime due to the Internet thanks to simple fan pages. I found the Sailor Moon fan page and learned about the hundreds of episodes that the States didn’t have at the time. I read up on the light novels of Slayers and on the characters of all the shows I watched. Most of the Internet’s role in the late ’90s was as a source of information and images. I saved my favorite illustrations onto 3.5-inch floppy disks.

As time went on, UBBs and message boards became popular, and I talked to people through those. As anime went digital, I talked to people on IRC, too. I bought anime and Japanese imports through web stores. After going to a convention, I’d look up photos on A Fan’s View to relive the moment.

Do you remember your first convention? What was it, and what was it like?
The first convention I went to, Animazement, was amazing. I met up with an online friend at the con and sang karaoke with them. People were really into Chobits, Dragon Ball Z, and Final Fantasy cosplay. I took disposable cameras to the con and wondered what the people at the photo developing lab thought of all the costumes I’d caught on film as I took the rolls of film to be developed. The con was the only place where I could play DDR and buy Pocky, so I stocked up Japanese snacks and played tons of video games. I also got to see weird Japanese commercials and other late-night video trash, the kind of stuff that’d be easy to find on YouTube now. (The “Yatta!” music video, for example.) J-rock videos were hard to come by, and everyone in my friend circle was happy to see clips. Gackt was huge. A highlight of my trip was running into Yuu Watase on the elevator.

What did your family think of your interest in anime? My family was incredibly supportive of my interest. They were the ones who drove me hours and hours to my first anime convention in my early teens, despite having no idea why I liked “cartoons.” My grandmother even helped sew my first cosplay, and I wore a character wig to her birthday party. No one in my family teased me or told me my interest was silly, even though I suspect they thought my interest was a phase.

Tell me more about acquiring anime at the time. Truth be told, I spent a lot of money on VHS tapes at Suncoast. I was also very lucky to have a well-stocked video rental store nearby that had lots of videos. For example, I didn’t have to buy all of the tapes from Slayers… just the last few. I would say that all of my earned money from my after-school job went into buying VHS tapes. The lack of dual language tracks made the dub versus subs wars very fierce at the time, but I was online friends with some people wanting to be voice actors, so I think dubs were looked at more fondly in my circle than in the rest of fandom. For series that weren’t released yet, I sent in S.A.S.E. (self-addressed stamped envelopes) to various fansub distros. At the time, there were titles out being released that people were 100% convinced would never be brought over to America. When digital media became more prevalent, I upgraded to sending out CD-Rs for digisubs. For a few years, I traveled to another school’s anime club, and all of the members would trade tapes, DVDs, and burned CDs. These days, I have a Crunchyroll, Funimation, and Anime Strike subscription, most of which have offered streams of the shows I watched fansubbed all those years ago. It might be an unpopular opinion, but I still like dubs! I’m so happy to support the people who bring these shows and comics to life.

What’s the biggest difference between anime fandom then, and fandom now? I’d like to know about the biggest different for you personally. It is unbelievably easy to get anime these days, and the pace at which titles are streamable is incredible. For example, the fact that simuldubs are a thing is something I would have never, ever thought possible. If I want to watch Slayers right now, I can press a few buttons on my smartphone and cast it to my television in under a minute. If I want to make a cosplay outfit, there are tutorials available. If I want to binge-read a manga, I can buy the whole series for my Kindle (which I have done). All of this accessible media is not only easy to get a hold of, but it’s accessible in a way that supports the creators, too. It’s also easier to find fans of even the most obscure media.

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