Location: Reading, United Kingdom
When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. It was back in 1989 in my local VHS rental shop. Of course, I had no idea that the term “anime” existed. I was almost six years old and in first grade, and for the whole of elementary school I would be amazed by the stories of Igano Kabamaru, Robotech, Captain Harlock, Bioman (yes! Super Sentai as well), Plawres Sanshiro, Video Senshi Lazerion, Getter Robo, UFO Grendizer, Voltus V, Windaria, Nausicaä, and so many more!
All the series were dubbed, but I am grateful that the localization department of whoever was in charge of these VHS tapes decided to keep the Japanese names and Japanese songs!
What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? The robots. The stories. The morals. That feeling that these narratives were made for children but were “not” made for children. I am at a loss for words here, but I think that there was an aura of importance in these stories.
“I think that there was an aura of importance in these stories.” I would love to hear more on what you mean by this! That’s a good question that is very difficult to answer. Take the great American Saturday morning cartoons: I was knee-deep in He-Man, She-Ra, Bravestar, Silverhawks, Thundercats, Blackstar, Transformers, TMNT, even My Little Pony and Care Bears. All great shows and memorable and unique. But they lacked a certain maturity that my childish mind longed for. It might sound contradictory, but the characters in the shows I mentioned earlier felt stiff and one-dimensional. They were there to instruct and draw a clear line between good and evil. Not anime, though. Not Area 22. Not Captain Harlock. These were imbued with emotion and themes that were larger than life. I liked that.
What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? We didn’t even know the term “anime” at the time, so there was really not a fandom to be a part of. We just really liked the “cartoons.” We talked about them. Had fun watching them. Who cared what the tag was.
Who was “we?” I was fortunate enough to have a group of friends who had the same interest in Japanese RPGs and anime as I did. We played Secret of Mana on the SNES together and Zelda on the Game Boy. We watched Saber Rider and Voltron without knowing about Bismark and GoLion, and Macross was an unknown word even if Robotech was a part of our lives. Even in titles where the original Japanese songs and names were retained, we knew that the cartoons were foreign (and possibly from Japan, I don’t remember that particular detail) but we had no idea about the term “anime.”
Do you remember the first time you became aware of what anime was? The first time I became aware of the term was with the rising popularity of Dragon Ball Z and Sailor Moon. I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but I do remember that it was one or two years before 2000. For me, it was just a term. Knowing about anime didn’t change my perspective on the medium, it just opened a new world of titles and stories I could get my eyes on. It didn’t matter if they were from Zambia or Argentina. Anime was great.
Did you stick with anime up until today, or did you ever take a break from it? I am very much the same child as I was back then. I still watch anime and play JRPG. I am also an assistant editor for an anime news online site based in Japan called MANGA.TOKYO. Otaku culture is part of my life. ^^
What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom when you got into it and now? I was never fully integrated into the fandom for various reasons. My introversion, distrust for large groups, and aversion for conflict kept me away from forums, events, conventions, and public discussions. But I was always an avid observer, and I think that what changed was the rise of the internet. This answer could become an article of its own, though. A worryingly increasing percentage of members of any fandom are not driven by a genuine love for the medium, but instead, they seek an opportunity to employment, a chance to get the ‘money’ doing what they ‘love’, a way to give weight to their opinion. Fame, fortune, attention, etc. We are all slaves of our DNA and in the end, it is the creators who are always paying the price.
But haven’t you also mixed business with doing what you love with your editing job for an anime magazine? Guilty as charged, but the quotation marks around love were intentional. There are people who genuinely care about the medium, from writers and in-between animators to anisong musicians and ‘Random Streaming Platform’ executives (probably). I am not condemning or judging anyone. I just feel that more and more people are taking advantage of the medium to make money without really caring about the medium itself. It’s natural and it’s just an observation that is actually more prevalent in gaming than it is in anime. After all, anime is still a niche community that is slowly showing signs of going just a bit mainstream. I have issues with idolization, sexualization, exploitation, social media stardom, the hype-building marketing machine, the drop in quality and the rise in quantity, and so much more. There is a dark side to every industry; this is not news. I just feel that the majority is on its way to a red lightsaber.