Location: Schenectady, New York
When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. I discovered anime in 1990 when I bought Revenge of the Ninja Warrior, which was a dubbed, edited version of Dagger of Kamui. I knew it was animated in Japan but didn’t know what anime was at the time. Still, I knew it was different from other cartoons I had seen at the time.
What made it starkly different was the tone and atmosphere of the movie. It had a somber tone to it due to the hardship and tragedies that the main character, Jiro, encountered. There’s a particular scene towards the end where he sees his childhood home, which made me feel something I never felt before—that whole feeling about the passage of time and the sadness that comes with that. It was a while before I saw something that would be considered anime again but that was my intro.
What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? The way characters were drawn. They looked more complex than average American cartoons. Plus, the music in some anime was very theatrical and unique. Also, with the level of violence and death being a legitimate possibility, there were actual consequences at stake.
What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? I didn’t know really many people that liked anime . It was kinda of a solitary thing for me where I grew up.
Can you tell me about your first time connecting with other fans? The first time I connected with someone that was a fan of anime was probably in 2003 when i started going to college at Plattsburgh State University. I had a roommate named Mike who was big into anime at the time. I remember when we first meet, he asked me if i had ever seen Cowboy Bebop and as I was unpacking my stuff on move in day showed him my Bebop DVDs.
We bonded over watching a lot of stuff together like FLCL and Yu Yu Hakkusho, which were airing on Toonami at the time. I remember we had these philosophical debates about Evangelion back then, especially after watching the movie End of Evangelion. I remember always trying to get him to watch some of the older Gundam that was available at the time like Gundam 0079 and Char’s Counterattack, but he always said older anime was not his thing, which was a bit disappointing because I love older anime like Fist of the North Star, UC Gundam [a group of Gundam shows that take place in the same timeline, called Universal Century] and City Hunter.
Through him I meet other people in my dorm who were also into anime and we had these nights were we would order Chinese food and marathon some anime in our room with several friends. I remember one time, he had spent some of his student loan refund on the Escaflowne DVD boxset and we had tried to marathon the whole show in one day but we had to tap out at like episode 17, probably due to mental exhaustion. There was an anime club on campus but I only remember going to one meeting and they had Otaku No Video on that day. I never really got the opportunity to partake more in the club at the time due to class load and my part time job. The club always met on the weekend during the day and I had to work.
What was the first anime-related purchase you made, and how much did it cost? My first anime that I bought myself with my own money was probably Record of Lodoss War volume 1 VHS which I think was about $19.99 in the summer of 1996. It was dub only. Man, back in those days you had to choose between sub or dub only and sub was always more expensive.
What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom when you got into it and now? The biggest change between fandom when I got into it and how it is now is probably there is less gate keeping than there was before. I feel social media has played a big part in breaking that down. I remember seeing you tweet something a while back about still having not seen Akira yet. It made me think about how back when I got into anime there were certain OVAs, TV, and movies you had to have seen to be considered a true fan and Akira was one of them. If you hadn’t, you had to turn in your fandom card, and mediate under a water fall to repent for your sins. Now with social media that’s something that can be shared and that’s OK.
Another big change is the sheer amount of anime available. Back when I was just getting into to anime, it was small relative to now. I feel that has made fandom grow more mainstream, especially with anime being on Netflix, Hulu, and Crunchyroll.
John can be reached on Twitter.