When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. Back when I was 13. I had a habit of watching TV after coming back from school, and there was that TV program called La Kaz on Canal+ that broadcasted many good anime at the time. I usually avoided the whole thing (because I wasn’t too keen on the anime aesthetic) until one day I came upon an episode of Fullmetal Alchemist in 2003, the episode where Edward was starting to realize Wrath had his arm. That stuff really impressed my teenage self back then. Despite having no idea what was going on, I kept watching it religiously every day until it ended.
What didn’t you like about the “anime aesthetic” at first, and why did you change your mind? Back then I had this stereotype in my mind. “Anime is violent and stupid,” and “they’re ugly cartoons.” I did find it ugly, mostly because of the pointy eyes and the YuGiOh/DBZ hair. I must have been influenced by my parents who themselves must have been influenced by the few politicians (family associations and in particular the social democrat Segolene Royal) who were fighting to prevent anime from airing on national TV. Which is ironic because back when I was little I used to watch Lady Oscar (The Rose of Versailles) and Le Petit Lord (an anime adaptation of the Little Lord Fauntleroy, the name in Japanese is Shokkoshi Ceddie) on French TV. The later in particular was my favourite show (albeit tied with Tintin). And I loved the aesthetic.
Neither me nor my parents had any idea those were technically anime or even Japanese productions, I only realized they were anime much later, long after I was already neck deep in the medium. That’s why I don’t consider them my gateway anime. I suppose I always loved anime, I just didn’t know it.
What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? How unusual the plot was, mostly. How well handled the drama was, too. I didn’t even watch the previous episodes but I was instantly hooked on and invested in Edward’s character.
What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time?
My first experience of an anime fandom was with a Naruto scanlation team forum. You can sum it up by arguing on shit that happened in the chapters. They also taught me how to crack Photoshop and digital painting.
What were scanlations like at the time? Was this before you could get Naruto manga legally? The scanlation team had a private sub forum to themselves so they could work on the weekly chapters. That was around the time the French licensed manga was roughly 20 volumes behind on the Japanese weekly Shonen Jump release.
Did you assist with the scanlation? A few times when they lacked people. I wasn’t a permanent member though. Also a few times, the team gave me the raw cover early and I managed to speed colorize it so it’d make it into the release. I also participated in numerous color chapter projects and colorization contests.
You said they helped you learn digital painting and Photoshop. Did you use that to create any fan art? At first I only colorized [Naruto manga artist] Kishimoto’s pages and covers. But yeah, I went on to draw my own fan art. If you must know, actually I’m in art school. Haha. So yeah, you could say that was a turning point for me.
What was the first anime-related purchase you made, and how much did it cost? Probably a Fullmetal Alchemist manga volume. Five euros. It was so cheap back then.
Do you remember your first anime convention? Can you tell me about it?
I went to my first anime convention rather late compared to when I first got into anime. I only remember spending all my money (60 euros) on the real size replicas of Zoro’s three katanas. This is so typical for a weeaboo at her first convention it’s almost embarrassing, but eh, I still had a great time. And the swords compliment my cupboard nicely.
What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom when you got into it and now? It’s hard to tell because the places I hang out at changed a lot over the years. I don’t even hang around french speaking communities anymore. Now my favourite place to discuss anime is [4chan forum] /a/.
I get the distinct sense that anime is becoming more and more mainstream though. Ten years ago I couldn’t find anybody to discuss anime with, except on
the internet. Now a few of my friends have a favourite anime.
Justine can be reached on Twitter.