#1: Lauren Orsini

Age: 30

Location: Northern Virginia

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. I was in 6th grade, so I was 11 years old. My best friend at the time asked if I wanted to come over and watch Sailor Moon, a show I had never heard of.  She told me it was called anime. Later, we visited her older sister’s room, which was papered from floor to ceiling with printed-out anime pictures.

We borrowed some of her older sister’s VHS tapes of The Slayers to watch in the basement. I was hooked.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? None of the American shows on TV resonated with me. My sisters and friends liked shows about attractive teenagers in high school, but I didn’t see myself in those characters at all. I liked bombastic and flawed Lina Inverse better.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? Either Sailor Moon or Dragon Ball Z, which were both airing on Toonami.

How could people watch anime? How did you? You could watch a very limited selection on Toonami, or you could buy anime on VHS at Sam Goody, Suncoast, or Another Universe at the mall. (None of these stores exist now).

The first anime I bought was Neon Genesis Evangelion at Another Universe. It cost $30 for three subtitled episodes. Since it was so expensive, most people picked just one show to collect. My Evangelion tapes are extremely beat up because I swapped them with friends to watch what they had.

Were you part of an anime club? No, but I spent a lot of time in middle school with a group of girls who were also really into anime. We would watch it at sleepovers. We also gave each other nicknames; mine was Ren-chan. Today I’d rather not share something so embarrassing!

Are you still friends with anyone from that time? Yes, most notably my friend Kailer. We still hang out and recommend anime and manga to each other (usually BL stuff).

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? Fans found each other online. There was Anime Turnpike, a list of links to what was probably every anime-related website at the time. You could write fanfiction on fanfiction.net, but there was no real hub for fan art or other fanworks, so people would create sites called “shrines,” dedicated to either individual characters or “pairings,” two characters they’d like to see date. For example, I was a fan or Nuriko from Fushigi Yugi so I would spend time on Nuriko “shrines” seeing people’s fun facts and fanfic about them.

Can you remember the first time you made a derivative work inspired by anime? While watching The Slayers, my friend and I would pause the tape and try to sketch Lina’s face. Later on, I drew a lot of Gundam Wing art including the infamous shirtless Duo Maxwell poster I put up in my bedroom. (Since actual Gundam Wing posters were expensive, I decided to make my own.)

When did you first attend an anime convention? Not until I was 20, in college. My first convention was Otakon 2006.

What were anime conventions like then? This was only 10 years ago, so not so different than they are today. Otakon already had a five-figure attendance number, which was a huge shock to somebody stopping by for the first time. I had never seen that many anime fans in one place before.

What’s the biggest contrast between anime then and anime today? Access. It is much cheaper and easier to get anime now than it ever was then.

Interested in sharing your own introduction to anime?

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