#49: Viga

Age: 30

Location: Minneapolis

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. When I was eight, Roujin Z was on HBO. I didn’t know what it was, but me and my cousins liked it. I’ve seen Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z before on syndication, but Pokemon was the first animation I knew came from Japan.

How did you find out? I think it was because near the end of one episode in the dub they were at a party in kimonos and put two and two together. Or maybe I heard it school? Either way, I was into it! I didn’t hear the term “anime” until early 2000 though.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? It looked different than all the cartoons I was watching. I would try to draw characters that looked like anime all the time. The floodgates of fangirling didn’t open until I’d seen Digimon and Toonami.

Sounds like Digimon was your first real fangirling obsession. What about Digimon resonated with you so deeply?  My first was actually Sailor Moon. I loved it and got my hands on whatever info and VHS I could. (Remember those Beckett anime guides? Lol!)

Digimon was the anime that made me push my fandom harder. I went to the library to look up Digimon stuff all the time and I found fansites. (My favorite was the now defunct and replaced Lelola. Finding fansites deepened my awareness of other anime. Also, I have a special love for Digimon since I would try to draw my own digimon and digivice like Takato in Tamers, and it was like it was just for me since i didn’t know anyone else that liked Digimon. Now I know a lot of people who do! Every year at Otakon a bunch of fans have a get together and for the past few years me and my friend Simon would do a Digimon fan panel. Hopefully, we will again!

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? Even in the hood, DBZ was the big thing. I liked Sailor Moon more though. I’ve seen so many anime be the TOP THING, but Sailor Moon and DBZ are still staples.

Interested by your words, “even in the hood.” Was income or demographic related to your early anime fandom experience in any way, either as a divide or a unifying thing? DBZ was popular among young black males growing up. There was always someone who grew up with it on local TV and people who watched the Toonami broadcast. I went to school in DC and there was guys tracing the artwork or sharing the computer to read about the episodes that didn’t come out here yet. Income wasn’t related to my early fandom as it was ALMOST NON EXISTENT! HEHE. So using the school computers to find out more or just watching anime on Toonami and other channels was the only way. It wasn’t a unifying thing until I switched schools where there was a HUGE student anime fan community. Unless it was DBZ, it seemed to get judged, so I carefully hid my preference for Sailor Moon.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? In the early 2000’s I thought we were blessed to have anime mixed with afternoon and Saturday morning cartoons and cable to handle the rest. Money was the thing I needed to get more and I had no money. So, me and friends at school would borrow each others’ tapes and I’d watch them a bunch so I could remember it well. If I wanted anime music, I’d put my cassette recorder next to the TV speaker or record from a friends CD. Of course going to Blockbuster was necessary and I bought the cheap VHS tapes since DVD was getting big. Also, spending lunch at school looking at Animerica and joining my school club at Katsucon 2002. I didn’t have a computer yet, so any online aspect I missed out on except the occasional look at Anime Turnpike in the school library.

Can you tell me about Katsucon 2002? What was it like going with the school club, also? What did Katsucon have back then? Katsucon 2002 was also known as Katsucon 8: The Classics. We’ve been planning in my club for a few weeks and I saved my meager allowance and skipped buying lunch to go. It was an art club, but was also the stealth anime, manga, and gaming club. To save extra money I even walked two miles to school to meet up with everyone.

While I went with a group, I mostly walked around without a clue what to do. I was gawking at every costume (and learned it was called cosplay.) and staring at the art in the art show. I remember a lot of Tenchi, Outlaw Star, and DBZ cosplay. Also, cosplay for this little known manga at the time called Bleach. I remember wanting that Ryo-Ohki backpack badly and not having enough. I remember reading all the covers of the VHS tapes and DVDs to try to take note of shows I wanted to watch. The best thing was watching Wings of Honneamise and being amazed! Then I sat in line for something called a “masquerade.” I didn’t know what it was at time, but it was popular and my school’s drama club was taking part in it. Sadly, our chaperone had enough of this nerdy madness and I had to leave.

There’s a lot of things I would have taken advantage of if I was more informed about anime and the fandom. Like meeting Noburo Ishiguro, going to Steve Bennet’s cel painting workshop, or going to the fanzine panel. I am typing this while looking at the booklet. Yes, I have the booklet. I keep every badge and booklet of every con I go to in a collection.

When did you begin participating in online fandom, and what was it like then? I didn’t really participate at first. I mostly just read fansites. Then around 2005 I joined the ANN forums. I was there everyday and even became good friends with a bunch of people there long ago. I was once known for asking a lot of questions all the time. After a lot of fansites just died on me, ANN became my main place for info and fandom.

I didn’t create online until 2007 when I did The Otagal Podcast. I was inspired by Geeknights and Anime World Order and wanted to try it. It was my first try at reviewing anime. It’s very cringe to listen to now, but I had listeners. I did it for 3 years, but then I podfaded.

Then my fandom went into a live direction with doing panels for years until returning to anime online with my show The Idols of Anime.

You met your partner through fandom, right? What was that like? I met my fiance through a very different fandom, hehe. We DID get together at an anime con. It was wonderful, but I’m the anime one while he’s the comic one.

Today you participate a lot in fandom, from paneling at conventions to running a YouTube channel. How did you make that leap into creating? The thing that made me get into creating was wanting to be something more than just a fan. I started out as an attendee and wanted more so I became a volunteer. Then I wanted more so I became a panelist. Then more so I became a podcaster, a youtuber, a staffer, and soon to be a guest at a con! When I saw others do things with their fandom like make podcasts or videos or fanart I wanted to join them. Their excitement became my excitement.

I have tons of friends that are doing amazing things in fandom. (Like you, hehe!) It makes me want to work harder and have fun harder too!

What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom when you first discovered it and anime fandom today? The biggest contrast is sheer size! Katsucon 2002 was about 3000 people. Now it’s close to 18,000? There’s more cons now than ever and they have some big numbers. Also a change is what’s being cosplayed more. I remember seeing strictly anime cosplay, but as I write this, I’m at a con and see the top spots go to Overwatch and Steven Universe. There’s still tons of anime cosplay, but now people cosplay whatever they want without worry and that’s awesome.

In 2002, people still came to buy and watch anime, but now we can go to Crunchyroll and the like anytime. Info about series wasn’t a widely available back then. Manga hasn’t taken over the bookstores yet and Suncoast was still around at the mall.

What’s always changing is the big thing everyone is obsessing over. Remember the Haruhi dance done at cons ten years ago? Was just talking about how that didn’t seem long ago, but was. SAO will become a memory.

Really, fandom culture will always be fandom culture, but with different tools, new anime and new settings. The attitude and love will always be there.

Viga can be reached on Twitter and YouTube

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