Location: United Kingdom
Tell me how your friend introduced you to Detective Conan. I cant entirely recall. He was a friend with whom I often talked about gaming and other nerdy things with. I think it was something he had just talked about watching and ended up showing to me. He was already familiar with anime from a young age, as his family was originally from Hong Kong. He had already watched a handful of shows such as Gundam, Doraemon, and so on.
How did you get a copy of Conan? As your probably aware, Detective Conan wasn’t legally available in the UK at the time. So we started out watching it by downloading it in parts that had been uploaded to YouTube. After a while we found the Detective Conan Translation Project, which at the time handled the majority of the fansubs for the show. They hosted most of the episodes on their site via Mega Upload downloads as well as torrents.
Why did your friend like it, and why did you? I think a major draw of the show, initially at least, was the fact that it encouraged viewers to guess the solution to each episodes mystery. It was in some ways a game to try and solve the case before the show presented the solution. The puzzles that were at the core of the show felt, at the time, unique, interesting, and difficult to solve—which made coming up with the solution before the show even more satisfying. Often, me and my friend would talk about whether we had solved the mystery, what had tipped us off and what our wrong deductions had been. So in that way it also furthered the social aspect of the show. As with many long running shonens, once it had hooked us in, the characters and the promise of overarching plot developments kept us watching.
What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? Art style and more adult themes than regular cartoons.
When you said you liked its “adult themes,” what do you mean by that? Maybe I should say that it presented events and ideas that I hadn’t seen presented in an animated form before. For example, Detective Conan featured many gruesome murders, as well as suicides. I think more than that, anime presented darker themes in a much more accessible form than live action ever could have for me, at the time. Detective Conan, for example, was very reminiscent of the many police procedural dramas that dominated UK TV at the time, (and still do). Yet, it presented the ideas of those shows in a more action-oriented style and cut down the length into a format that was easier for me to consume. Meanwhile, the harem shows that I watched shortly after seemed to appeal directly to me with their teenage protagonists. Shows like Girls Bravo, as much as I would have hated to admit it back then, appealed directly to me as a hormonal teenage boy, and contained themes that I probably would have thought of as adult. By and large, anime was just something different and fresh that seemed to appeal directly to me, while still have at least a little of what I felt was “adult” at the time.
What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? Had little knowledge of the wider community at the time, just me and my friend.
For you, anime was just something you and your friend did together. What did other people think of it, like your parents? Did they think it was odd? I was, and still am, a very introverted person, thus I didn’t really talk about anime to anyone outside of those I already knew enjoyed it. I think rather than others finding the hobby odd, I rather prescribed that notion to it myself, and so was nervous when labeling myself as an anime fan or bringing the topic up in conversation. The majority of people around me already saw me as a very nerdy or geeky person so I think they saw it as just another extension of that, but again I was myself very aware that others might find it strange or odd.
Did you participate in online fandom? What was that like? I have used forums on and off but never for a long period of time. I did for a while run a YouTube vlog-style channel and participate in things like the 12 Days of Anime, but never really felt like I was interacting properly with the community through it. I also had a few a couple of goes at making AMVs [Anime Music Videos] as video editing was something that interested me at the time. I still like to keep up to date with the conversations surrounding shows via Twitter but I very rarely participate. I think again my lack of interaction mainly came down to my own shyness.
After Detective Conan, what did you really get into as an anime fan? After Conan, the same friend introduced me to Ah! My Goddess and through that we both watched/found quite a few harems and romantic comedies. At this point I found airing anime through Angel Beats and focused mainly on watching airing shows for a while. I think around this time I started to grow bored of a lot of the tropes I had seen in a large majority of the shows I had watched up until this point, and made it a mission to find and watch strange shows. So I ended up watching a lot of Gainax and Shaft shows, anything by Masaaki Yuasa, although at the time stuff like The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya still felt strange to me. I think through this process I became interested in the history of these studios and their creators.
What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom when you got into it and now? Definitely availability, both in the content itself as well as information about the content. We have gone from maybe one show streaming legally when I was starting to watch anime to almost all shows streaming. This year we are also getting a multitude of theatrical releases. There is also certainly a greater wealth of anime content as well as a greater demand for it.
Simon can be reached on Twitter.