#42: Lynette Cantos

Age: 27

Location: Fort Lauderdale, Florida

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. I can’t recall the year but I know I was eight years old when I watched both of the most popular and recognizable anime series: Sailor Moon and Pokemon. Growing up in Puerto Rico, they were shown at different times based on our cable provider, so WB used to air new Pokemon episodes early in the morning while after school, Cartoon Network showed Sailor Moon during the Toonami block—the first one with Moltar.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? The storytelling aspect of anime in comparison to Western cartoons is what drew me in. Granted, I still loved and grew up with the classic Nickelodeon originals and the Disney Afternoon block, but the sense of character development, emotions, cliffhangers in anime is something else. I’ve cried more and attached myself more to anime characters so that’s saying something in regards to the powerful storytelling on some anime shows.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? Living in Puerto Rico back then, it was a case of being in a small fandom within a small island. It was rare for me to meet other fans that weren’t in the same middle school or municipality as I was because I didn’t have a car, cellphone, etc. in the early 2000s. Then, the last years I was in the island before moving to the U.S. (2004-2007), I started to get more involved in attending local gatherings and cosplay photo meet-ups.

Was the Internet a part of fandom at the time? If yes, how? If no, how did you connect with other fans? Most of my fandom connection was online through early Geocities fansites and anime forums specifically targeted at both Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura fansites. I even taught myself some basic HTML so I could curate my own Geocities fansites based on my favorite Sailor Moon character (Sailor Venus) and favorite Cardcaptor Sakura shipping (Sakura and Yukito—which nowadays I find it completely problematic).

A group photo from Lynette’s first convention in San Juan.

Do you remember your first convention? What was it, and what was it like?
It was 4th of July, 2004 at the YMCA center in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Back then, our “conventions” were more of a subculture flea market in that local vendors had tables set up at the basketball gym arena and several of them just happen to sell anime merchandise. I remember seeing a post online about how they planned to cosplay at said event so I, my brother, and my former best friend at the time spent two weeks prepping up our first cosplays. The “conventions” were held up on a quarterly basis on Sundays at the YMCA, and over time the attendance grew so much that it wasn’t until I moved away that they rebranded into “Puerto Rico Comic Con” and expanded to the national convention center in the tourist area of San Juan.

Lynette cosplaying as Misato.

I want to hear about your first cosplay! Oh my God, it was a really awful Sailor Venus cosplay LOL. I say this because there’s only so much a 14 year old with limited allowance money and no prior sewing skills could do in 2004. My wig was an itchy and bright Party City-esque blonde wig that I actually bought at a theatre costume shop at my nearby mall and the rest of my set-up (skirt, bow, tank top, shoes) were bought from the street markets in my hometown.

I may bash on it now but at the time, I was so proud of creating something from scratch and I had people take photos of us (myself and my former friend who cosplayed as Kagome from InuYasha), so I got instantly hooked. At that point, I saved up as much of my allowance to evenly budget what kind of cosplays to work on. For my quinceañera, I bought a sewing machine and had my grandma teach me on top of signing up for sewing classes out in San Juan. Besides Sailor Venus, I cosplayed Mimi from Digimon, Aerith from Final Fantasy 7, and Misato from Neon Genesis Evangelion while attending the local cons back home in Puerto Rico.

Lynette cosplaying as Mimi.

How did your fandom experience change after you moved to the US? The biggest culture shock for me was the diversity of anime fans. Obviously, growing up and living in Puerto Rico, most of the friends I had and made during my time there strongly identify as Boricua/Latinx so moving to the US and meeting people who are from different races and ethnicities—especially here in South Florida, where the population is just as diverse—was awesome. However, I had to tone down my Spanish/Spanglish talk and references sometimes so I struggled with that for the first half of my freshman year.

Also, during the first years of living here (2007-2009), I stopped watching anime altogether because of the group of friends I hung out with were mainly into video games or comic books so that was always the main focus within the group dynamic. It wasn’t until 2010 when I moved away from Florida to Virginia that I got back into anime. At that time, my mom created a Netflix account and the first anime I saw was Nana and it was the best worst decision ever. I say this because I was preparing to move away when I started to watch it and my husband and I (back then, boyfriend/girlfriend) were in a long-distance relationship, and Nana is a deeply emotional shoujo anime so I was in tears for weeks.

I thought it was neat how your first site was about a ship you don’t like anymore. How have you changed as a fan over the years? Pardon my French, but I was a weeaboo little shit when I was younger compared to nowadays hahaha. Back then, I used to watch and read whatever I could get my hands on just because it was “anime” and I was a snob when it came to people liking popular anime. Nowadays, I have a secure identity of what I like and don’t like with different anime genres and it’s okay to own it and admit you don’t like certain things and there’s nothing wrong with that or yourself. When I see an anime gaining popularity or traction via social media or cosplay groups at conventions, I’m the total opposite now in that I seek it out immediately because there’s a reason why it’s so popular.

Also since becoming more of an intersectional feminist, I’ve gained a more critical perspective than when I was younger regarding anime I watch. A big example is watching Hana Yori Dango/Boys over Flowers when I was a teenager, and how romantic I thought the relationship between Makino and Domyouji was. Nowadays, I see the problematic and sexist tropes behind it all and some of the scenes like the bullying ones make me uncomfortable to rewatch now. Do I still watch it once a year when I’m feeling sappy? Yes, but now I know better than to long for something like that anymore.

Lynette can be reached on Twitter and Instagram

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.