Location: Washington, DC
When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. I watched some anime in Korea such as Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water when it was aired on TV or Ranma 1/2 from rented video tapes, but I believe Evangelion was the first anime series I completed and became a huge fan of. If I recall correctly, I picked up a copy of Animerica from the local Suncoast Video, and on the last page there was an advertisement for the release of the last VHS of the Evangelion TV series. I bought the first two episodes on VHS, and ended up owning the entire series and passed it around to friends at school.
How did your access to anime change once you moved to the US? When was that about? I moved from Korea in 1997, and my access to anime in the US were limited to either purchasing VHS/DVDs or watching whatever was on network or cable TV. Thinking back, those early weekend night/morning anime showings on Sci-Fi network and Toonami were game changers in making anime more mainstream. I have to say it might have been worse in Korea, especially as most mainstream Japanese media were not allowed in South Korea untill late 1990s-early 2000s. Kids in South Korea watched anime on network TV but it was heavily localized and removed any if not most traces of anything overtly Japanese. I did get some bootleg video CDs in Korea when that was a thing.
What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? Complex story and its unique art direction. It definitely had more mature content and was visually different than what was on Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon. (This was right before Toonami began.) Even today, I prefer anime series with complex storylines, excellent production values, and captivating mise en scène: some of my favorite anime from the late ’90s to early ’00s are Ghost in the Shell, Mobile Suit Gundam: 08th MS Team, Cowboy Bebop, Record of Lodoss War, and Ninja Scroll.
Evangelion was the first show you really got into. Why so? How did you express your fandom? I guess the angsty part? *rolls eyes* I mean, Evangelion have some great action sequences and cute characters, but in my high school years I definitely identified with the high drama of Evangelion. I still have a soft spot for it, though nowadays I would be like, “man up, Shinji.” Expressing my fandom materialized in many doodles of Evangelion, making those Bandai plastic kits, sharing my VHS collection with anybody interested, and sometime discussing it afterwards.
What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? I think in the US anime was getting enough interest and there were enough anime releases to occupy a small section in stores like Suncoast Video and EB Games. I also remember catching some anime on Sci-Fi channel and MTV. However, most kids in high school did not know much about anime other than some series being aired over the TV, and even admitting your interest in anime could be seen as being nerdy- you had to tread carefully!
Was the Internet a part of fandom at the time? If yes, how? If no, how did you connect with other fans? Yes but way smaller and limited compared to the fandom today. It is amazing that people can follow the anime being aired in Japan and discuss individual episodes merely minutes after they were aired. I think I knew there were forums and chat rooms for discussing anime yet did not feel compelled to venture into them. My university also had an anime club, but I lost interest after a semester because I was not interested in what they were watching, and the fact that they were willing to watch something they already saw over and over!
So growing up, was anime a solitary thing for you or were there friends or siblings you could watch and discuss with? My sister and my brother all watched Evangelion. My brother actually volunteers for cons, though I don’t know if he watches many anime. Growing up, we were way more into manga, with Dragon Ball/Dragon Ball Z, Slam Dunk, and Monster being some of the favorites. I have to say in South Korea manga were more popular and accessible than anime, and I guess we followed suit. I later tried out an anime club at my university, but it seems pointless to watch something over and over—I love watching movies and TV shows, but the communal viewing of anime for 3-4 hours seemed too dull for me.
Do you remember your first convention? What was it, and what was it like? I have never been to an anime convention, but I have been to the very first PAX East. While it was fun in small doses, I never liked the hours of waiting or the large crowd. However, Otakon is moving to downtown DC this year so I want to go and catch Jam Project as well.
It’s been a while since you sent this. Did you end up going to Otakon? No, I did not go to Otakon. I had a business trip early on Sunday morning! (God, I became a square.)