When did you discover anime? As I’m sure like a million other respondents also said, I saw it on Toonami and Fox Kids back in the ’90s watching stuff Pokemon and YuGiOh! I wasn’t sure what it was at the time, besides cartoons that I liked. I recall a buddy of mine saying Gohan and Videl had a kid named Pan and I had NO IDEA how he obtained this magical information, but it was because it had already happened in Japan.
I first became aware that these were anime in the later 90s or early 2000s, especially with the Toonami block of the era. Dragon Ball Z, YuYu Hakusho, and other anime really got me interested and, more importantly, clamoring for their nostalgia come 2007 or so, when I delved back into anime of that time.
What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? I just wanted to watch cool cartoons, man. And these were cool cartoons.
Though the intellectual answer is that they’re Asian and I’m Asian and I was craving representation beyond the… yellow power ranger.
What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? I dunno if I was ever part of an anime fandom until Twitter. There were anime clubs in high school and college, but I never joined them. My fandom was isolated and sad.
What was that like? Did you have friends you just didn’t talk about anime with? Did you have other hobbies that took priority? High school was a little weird for me. In elementary and junior high, I was a pretty big nerd; I played YuGiOh! and watched all the anime that was interesting to me on TV.
But around high school, I got super into sports. Probably because the White Sox and Bears were doing really well at the time, which helps enthusiasm. Anime and stuff was part of my past at that time, and I had no interest in revisiting it.
It wasn’t until I met some other friends in high school, who were also into this kind of stuff back when, that I wanted to get back into it. I voraciously rewatched all the “classics” of my youth, like Pokémon, Dragon Ball Z, and Yu Yu Hakusho. I talked about it with my friend group, and some individual members of the anime club, but I didn’t see a need to join the club proper. I also wasn’t watching club anime yet, so there’s no influence on wanting to do the thing I saw upon rewatching all these series. I just wanted to shoot Spirit Guns.
Tell me about when you did meet other anime fans. I kinda covered this above, but I didn’t really know these other dudes I was talking to were anime fans. We were just friends and reminiscing about various things, playing games together or walking around school shooting the shit when anime came up as the cartoons we used to watch. I don’t remember if we knew it was anime at the time, but we did know we liked it.
Actually, this is an unrelated story and going to be a huge digression, but I met this girl from the anime club (though I had no idea she was in it) and we kind of became friends because we both liked anime. She’s the one that got me into shojo manga through Arina Tanimura, Otomen, and many other manga (and thus further into manga over anime). I only found out later that my parents knew her parents because we were both adopted Koreans with heart conditions. Our parents met each other in some group that taught how to take care of your kid with a heart condition, but they moved away. It was very coincidental that we met 15-odd years later in high school.
Was the internet a part of fandom at the time? I mean, almost definitely, but I didn’t participate in internet fandom at all.
Tell me about when you did finally log on. Like probably a lot of other folks, the internet allowed me to revisit these old shows I used to know. First, because we could google vague terms (cartoon shot spirit energy from finger show, or whatever) and actually find the shows we could never remember. But more importantly, we could pirate them… which we did, because we didn’t know any better. Pirating led me to spending thousands on anime and manga, and their tangential merchandise, which may have never happened without the internet. Not that that forgives it.
Do you remember your first convention? What was it, and what was it like?
Yes, AnimeIowa 2009. My friend forced me into going to the con with her, her friend, her sister, and my buddy because I had never gone to an anime con before and I was the biggest anime fan of the bunch. The con is only ~3,000 people, so it was small and chill and almost no one of note was there. I didn’t know anime cons did cool things like panels without voice actors and teach you things or whatever.
How did you qualify as the “biggest” fan of the bunch? I was the dude who knew all the shows, and at the time I was super into dubs. So I could hear a voice and spout off whoever was speaking in most dubs at the time. Everyone else knew anime, and liked a lot of their own respective shows, but haven’t dug much deeper than “anime is cool.”
In your experience, what’s the biggest difference between anime fandom then and now? Twitter, at least for me. Twitter obviously existed in the early years of my fandom, but Twitter as well was in its infancy. In high school and college, having never joined an anime club, anime was always a niche thing that not too many people were into. I ran into a few that liked it in various classes, but it was never more than that. With Twitter, I can talk to a bunch of folks about shows we all love. Or hate, I guess.
Kory can be reached on Twitter.