Location: Boston, Massachusetts
When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. I’ve been aware of it almost my entire life. My siblings watched the Speed Racer dub when they were growing up, so I’d seen most of that, and I’d caught a few episodes of the original Voltron series when I was little. I didn’t get super into it until the DiC dub of Sailor Moon, which I watched off and on until it aired on Toonami, and then I became OBSESSED. Gundam Wing, Cardcaptor Sakura, Escaflowne, Ronin Warriors, and a bunch of others only solidified my love for it.
What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? I think the main appeal to me was the different art and storytelling styles. Specifically, when I got into Sailor Moon (and other magical girl anime), it was the idea that girls could be the main focus and have all the cool superpowers. It wasn’t a totally unknown concept to me at the time, but most of the other media I was into were either strictly male-centric or didn’t bother to focus all that much on the female characters. The fact that Usagi and friends could be silly and argue and at the end of the day still be best friends, all with awesome magical abilities and high-stakes saving-the-world battles, really sold me on it.
What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? My pre-teen self would’ve only known about the shows on Toonami and Fox, so she would absolutely say Sailor Moon. Looking back now, it was probably Cowboy Bebop or Trigun? Neither of which I watched until I was in college.
What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? Sailor Moon was my first fandom ever, online or otherwise, so it was sort of life-changing in a lot of ways, if I may be so cliche. I made a lot of friends online back then (one of whom I’m still friends with!) and got exposed to so much amazing media that I wouldn’t have been aware of if it hadn’t been for anime fandom. I don’t remember there being much drama (unlike the fandom I got into in my later teen years, Harry Potter), but I was also pretty oblivious to anything that wasn’t immediately affecting me at the time.
What was it like to be a part of Sailor Moon fandom in particular? Were there certain sites everyone visited? This was 16+ years ago now, so I may be over-nostalgic, but I remember it being a very positive experience! There were a lot of older people in the group I primarily interacted with (probably in their 20’s-30’s back then, which seemed INCREDIBLY OLD when I was 13/14), and they were generally encouraging and nice to those of us who were younger. I learned a lot from them—not just about fandom and anime, but about writing and editing and how to interact with people on the internet. I kind of wish I knew what they were all up to now, but I lost track of them a really long time ago. We used Yahoo! Groups to talk mostly, and AIM when that was a thing, and there were a couple Sailor Moon fansites that we all visited. I’m not sure if any of them are still accessible or not. Lycentia’s Sailor Moon Graphics is one I specifically remember since I think I learned some basic HTML from it. Fanfiction.net was the big fic repository at the time, before they banned explicit stories.
How did you express your fandom? Fanfic! It was usually very angsty and/or dark, or at least what I thought was dark at the time. Pretty sure I wrote a bunch of Sailor Moon/Mary Higgins Clark fusions, which in retrospect is highly embarrassing and ridiculous. Oh well.
Tell me about the friend you are still friends with! How did you meet them? Are they still into Sailor Moon now? S and I met through the Yahoo! Group we were both a part of! She’s a few days older than I am, so it was our Thing to refer to each other as “big sister” and “little sister” respectively (in Japanese, of course), even though we were the youngest in the group. Back then I was very close-minded, but S was always patient with me and provided me with a window into life not informed by my family and the community we lived in. I still really admire her, though we don’t talk much beyond wishing each other happy birthdays these days.
How was being a part of fandom “life-changing?” Life-changing in a way that I think is akin to having spent your whole life living in a cave and then coming out and seeing the world for the first time. I mentioned before that I was spectacularly close-minded back then; I grew up in a very religious community that discouraged interaction with non-religious people and condemned any kind of “alternative lifestyle,” among other things (think Pentecostals, or Seventh Day Adventists, for reference). My friends in real life were all people I’d known since birth, and we weren’t allowed to do a lot things that kids elsewhere could freely do. We were encouraged to pursue religious hobbies only, and academic achievements meant very little if you weren’t considered pious enough. Discovering and getting involved with fandom completely changed the way I thought about myself, my friends and family, and the world. I’m also not afraid to say that I probably wouldn’t still be alive if it weren’t for fandom – I was in a bad place mentally in my early teens, and getting involved in Sailor Moon fandom helped turn that around.
What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom when you got into it and now? Anime fandom hasn’t changed all that much to my knowledge, except for how there’s a much wider range of series readily (and cheaply) available these days via Crunchyroll, Netflix, and other legal streaming sites (which is still amazing to me—I love the future!). I think perhaps it skews younger than it had before, but that might be my inner Fandom Old Person talking. Fandom as a whole tends to lean in hard on the “the more things change, the more things stay the same” proverb, in my experience, so it’s difficult to gauge any true contrast that isn’t entirely personal.