#35: Omar

Age: 18

Location: Italy

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. Back when I was eight, a channel called Italia 1 used to broadcast old episodes of One Piece and Dragon Ball Z.

Even if I didn’t know it was anime, I looked it up a few years later when that channel restarted both series from the beginning. After that, I got caught up in this world and now I’m here sharing my story.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? I felt it was different compared to other cartoons. I didn’t know it was anime, but I felt a distinct degree of quirkiness from it that satisfied me. Its over-the-top elements really spoke to my younger self’s soul.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? Not a lot of people knew what they were watching was anime. For them it was just another Sunday morning cartoon. Before I was even born, Mazinger and other Go Nagai works were really big. Then Italy entered the DB and DBZ era. After that, during my childhood, a lot of people watched Naruto. However, even if shonen anime dominated the scene, there were plenty of shojo fans who would watch everything ranging from Cardcaptor Sakura to Sailor Moon. I also have to mention Captain Tsubasa, which was known here as Holly & Benji.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? I don’t think I’ve ever noticed a local fandom. My local comic book store didn’t have a lot of customers and most of them were really reserved. My friends weren’t really big fans, having seen only Naruto, Death Note, and Fullmetal Alchemist. After I grew up I joined the international fandom on social media and now I’m here.

Why don’t you think there was a local anime fandom in Italy? I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to throw you off with that answer. When I said there was no fandom, I meant that many people didn’t look at anime as a Japanese product. They didn’t make a distinction between animation from Japan and animation from other countries. That applies to the general public. I think fans are people who care about a certain product and are knowledgeable about it.

There was a fandom, but it was rather small compared to the amount of people who watched anime during their childhood but didn’t even know the people behind them.

When did you first discover the international fandom scene? When I was 14, i.e. after joining international media in general. As I got more and more accustomed to English, I started following international trends on every social media. I didn’t even have a proper way to watch anime back in the day. Italian TV stopped investing on new shows like back in the day (when I wasn’t even born) so I had to rely on the Internet to find new shows. I ended up on pirate sites (shame on me) , as legal outlets were extremely limited (they still are, but at least now I can watch on Crunchyroll and we even have local legal streaming sites, such as vvvvid.it). After befriending some folks on those sites’ forums, I started following anitwitter and from that moment I joined the international fandom.

What was the fandom internet like when you first began participating? Not really different from what it is now, I only joined four years ago. The main difference is that there is way less drama now, and plenty of interesting threads to follow. I don’t know if it’s only me, but I feel like anime criticism has become way more refined nowadays.

Have you ever been to an anime con or other in person fandom event? Only local cons, in one of the main cities in southern Italy. As you might imagine, there aren’t a lot of attendees so the con is really small and is lumped together with an yearly book festival. Not that I’m complaining about, I always manage to score some good findings and I’ve met the best Italian manga critic there [Dario Moccia, in Omar’s opinion].

Do you remember the first time you participated in fandom? Like, created fan content (art or fiction), wrote a blog, anything like that?  I’ve never been really good at writing my thoughts down and all my anime drawings are tracings (I’ve done those only for fun though, never posted them online and never took credit). I guess my best contribution to the fandom was sharing my thoughts with other people on forums (my English isn’t good enough to write anything in a blog post and nobody would take me seriously here in Italy). I prefer reading think pieces and original takes on a show to sharing my own views.

Your English is amazing. Anyway, how did you start making friends through anime fandom? I didn’t make a single friend in real life through anime. Maybe because other interests in other fields,but not because of anime. The people I’ve befriended online became my friends either because they shared my interests or because they didn’t and we ended up exchanging arguments in a peaceful manner. I never shut anyone out simply because their opinions were different from mine,but rather I tried to understand them and while some people refused to have a friendly chat about something and got angry for no reason, other people took as a chance to discuss with me about things they love, as I’d offer a different insight. However, I don’t get to travel a lot and the only other country I’ve ever visited is Morocco (my parents’ home country), thus I’ve never met an online friend in real life. As soon as I get the chance I will though.

What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom when you discovered it and anime fandom today? Like I mentioned earlier, I think it’s criticism. Maybe I wasn’t following the right threads, but current day anime criticism feels a lot sharper.

Omar can be reached on Twitter

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