Location: Washington, DC
When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. I remember watching Akira and the film Tenchi Muyo in Love on the Sci-fi Channel in New York, between 1993-1996. I knew these were not considered Western cartoons, and these were feature films (the channel did anime films on Saturday after Mystery Science Theater 3000).
After that I got into Sailor Moon, which was also on TV then, and through 1996-2003, I managed to find video rental stores with series like The Slayers, Fushigi Yugi, Irresponsible Captain Tylor, Revolutionary Girl Utena, and more. My first convention was in 2000 and I already had a good idea of some anime at the time.
Can you tell me about your first anime convention? It was Otakon 2000. I remember convincing my parents to drive me for a day trip, and bringing a notepad with me to ask questions to artists in artist alley and a disposable film camera to take cosplay pictures. My parents complied, even though they considered anime to be very childish, and to leave Japanese pop culture to the Japanese. So I had a bit of a rough time at the start, because I was fighting against all those misconceptions.
What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it?
It focused on an overarching narrative (or characterization, or both) much more than many of the other cartoons at the time (though obviously there were notable exceptions like Gargoyles). So I really enjoyed that the story meant something.
What would you say was the most popular anime at the time?
Ehhh, this was the ’90s so there were lots of anime that people still remember (Dragon Ball Z, Sailor Moon, Yu Yu Hakusho, and later on Pokémon) so…
What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? $30 VHS tapes and you had the choice of the tape being subtitled or dubbed. No dual audio here! In part because of that, and because not much was licensed (or later episodes not released), there were fansub trading circles and tape circulations. Watching anime at cons or at an anime club was pretty important then still.
How did fansub trading circles work? Did you have to join an anime club? No, not necessarily. Some were through the Internet: you’d find people listing what they had or could get, and you sent a money order in the post to a PO Box… ^^;
But for some series or seasons of series like, for a long time, Sailor Moon‘s later seasons, this was the only way to get them before the tipping point of Internet broadband use.
How did you meet other fans? IRL? Online? Hmmm, online. Though that depended on where you lived, too. It was easier to find other fans in New York than Oklahoma, simply due to the numbers being in my favor more.
What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom when you got into it and now? A lot of things from back then are still going on but I think… nowadays, while there’s an emphasis on culture on the East Coast conventions (so film, music, traditional arts, etc), fandom now is so much more consumer oriented in a weird way. Before, you might strike up a conversation with someone in the registration line because they like anime and you do too, or you heard the word Gundam. But then there was a need for connection, for depth.
Nowadays it’s – more complex. People even in the same series fandom say true fans read the chapter raws when fan circles scan them… there’s a heightened sense of if you don’t do fandom a certain way it’s bad, and this gets thrown around with all sorts of intentions. Obvious example: people refusing to buy the anime or manga of a series, and then the arguments about why or how the industries respond. There are so many arguments for why they might make this decision: from convenience of scans, to social expectations of reading the latest chapter/seeing the latest episode, to finding or imagining faults with translations.
It’s not that conspicuous consumption wasn’t going on, or fandom policing wasn’t already a thing, but now it’s combined with other factors – like consumption combined with not supporting the industries, policing who’s a true fan and who isn’t, recognizing memes and series but feeling pressured to watch everything as soon as it’s out… I think it’s more stressful for everyone, as it’s all out there, now. I think fandom is still very insecure about itself, but due to the pressure to always be online/immediate, we see much more of its negative aspects now.
Kit can be reached on Twitter.