#41: Justin Stroman

Age: 27

Location: New York

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. Was around the 3rd grade when I stumbled onto a show simply titled Pokemon. Needless to say, at the time, I had no idea it was anime. It just so happened to air on TV alongside other cartoons at the time, and I didn’t think much of it.

In fact, I didn’t think much of it for a while since I didn’t really seek out anything else like it—if it was on my TV, and it was a cartoon, I was gonna watch it.

So truthfully I probably did not realize what anime was or could be like until I discovered The International Channel somewhere around 1999 or 2000. It was a channel devoted to showing, well, foreign creations. The two that I remember was Dragon Ball GT (at a time where we had Dragon Ball Z and all) and Slayers…subtitled.

Yes, that’s right, subtitled. I can’t tell you how odd that was, but I can tell you how I remember the subs were also yellow… Anyway, it started with that, then TechTV started Anime Unleashed, and my interest in anime began right here.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? I have to think at the time it was the stories that drove me than anything else. Most of the cartoons that I watched like Scooby Doo, Tom & Jerry, etc, and even stuff like Power Rangers generally were set for kids to enjoy, so that meant you’ll get comedy sets, monster of the week, etc. Pokemon had some of that too, but the overarching goal was Ash’s journey to become a Pokemon Master. There was a story driven reason to tune in each week. The look of anime might have also been a factor as well.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? Very much a quiet thing. Like nobody I knew went out of their way to talk about anime unless it was on Toonami. Forget about buying anime—the only places I could figure out where it was was at FYE or Suncoast, in New Jersey. It was at least a good hour or so by train going from NY to NJ, and the only time I would ever go to the mall was if the whole family was. And I discovered magazines like Otaku USA and Newtype pretty late.

Was the Internet a part of fandom at the time? If yes, how? If no, how did you connect with other fans? While I think you could do a bunch of things thanks to the internet in the early 2000s, I wasn’t old enough to buy anything online, or find out where to watch anime online, or… well, yeah. I was very much a TV person. So I can probably say it impacted others, but not me personally.

So truthfully, I didn’t really connect with many fans around the 2000s.

How did you start connecting with fans then? There were two times where I began connecting with fans: 2008 and 2010.

Inspired by what my friends did in high school, I had the bright idea of starting an anime club… as a freshman in college. I only knew one person at the school who was interested in anime, and that was through a summer program. So it was a case of convincing students before classes started (each class had about 20-30 people), then making my case to the Student Council why the school should have an anime club. For me, it was a very harrowing experience as I’m introverted by nature. I think it took about a month and a half before I had my club officers and six other students that said they’d be interested in joining the club! Anyways, I was President for those four years, and those four years were a mix of stress and regrets yet remains one of the best experiences ever. It was great to meet a number of people who liked the same thing I did, and generally do things I’ve never done before with people that were super passionate about anime. While there are many things I’d like to take back, there are also many things I will cherish for a long, long time.

In 2010, one of those anime club members happened to be a writer. I began desiring to write about anime and manga—I ended up asking about teaming up to start a blog. That blog turned out to be Organization ASG, or Organization Anti-Social Geniuses, sometime in late December. Six years and five months later, I still had no idea this would be the result, as I’ve found friends, met cool people, and traveled to Anime Boston and Anime Expo as press, which I used to believe was for only for super popular (and more established) outlets, and cover a convention. Like anime club, there are many things I’d like to take back but there are also many things I will cherish for a long, long time. Unlike anime club, I hope there’s a lot more experiences to come since I’m still maintaining the site.

Do you remember your first convention? What was it, and what was it like?
The first convention that I went to was New York Comic Con 2006 on a Sunday. I remember because I went with my mom. It was definitely a culture shock since I had never seen so many people that were into all of this, including anime or manga.

My first strictly anime convention I went to was the second New York Anime Festival in 2008. Just like NYCC, just seeing people in cosplay, all the items in the dealers’ hall, etc, I had never experienced anything like it.

When you went with your mom, whose idea was it? What did your mom think of the con? It was definitely my idea to go, but naturally I was not going alone! I guess I was either 16 or 17 when I told my mom about NYCC and she decided she was coming with me since it was my first convention and first time at the Jacob Javits Center.

My mom was shocked at the amount of people that was there, mainly because I don’t think she knew there would be this many fans of comics and stuff. But aside from that and her desire to buy certain art materials that she saw, I can’t remember if she felt any other way about the con.

You said, of your first con, “I had never experienced anything like it.” Could you elaborate why and how? So I think the biggest event I can say I went to where there was a lot of people was a basketball game when I was a kid. The only thing I remember was the stadium I went to (Continental Airlines Arena, where the Nets used to play). School plays had a lot of people (parents and relatives) watching their kids singing on stage, and those were something else since I had to be the one singing!

But just going to NYCC felt different. For starters, it meant a lot of walking around. It meant discovering ways to buy anime (or manga). It meant seeing people in costumes (and finding out what cosplay meant!). For someone who relied heavily on anime on TV and whatever VHS I could find in stores, it was certainly a new experience to me.

Now that you’re a blogger, how has your view of the fandom changed? How has your participation in the fandom changed? Before starting all of this I didn’t really have a view of fandom since I didn’t interact with most of it. But in starting a blog and interacting with not only bloggers, but fans and industry members either to learn information or get quotes for a story, I’ve basically met a ton of passionate people who love what they do. Do they love working on a costume a week or a day before a convention? Probably not. But I’ve met those people and they will spend long hours to express what they love, and that is cool. While there’s always issues, I’d like to think the positives far outweigh the negatives within fandom.

I guess the best way to answer how I participate in fandom is I try to contribute in some way. There are a number of ways to show support for what you love, whether it’s buying anime BDs or manga, cosplaying, drawing, or shooting videos. Before blogging the only thing I did was watch whatever was on TV, then find anime on YouTube (not knowing it wasn’t legal at the time to watch them) and then read manga. Now I’m actually way more aware of upcoming anime and manga, I’m probably watching more anime than I would’ve without blogging, and of course, I try to write about either industry or things happening in the community.

So I’d say my participation in fandom has changed considerably since I started blogging.

Justin can be reached on Twitter

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