Location: Oklahoma City, OK
When did you discover anime? I was 12 when I bought my first anime DVD. I had been aware of it for a while before that, thanks to friends at school that had HBO, and I had seen some stuff on Sci-Fi on Saturday mornings, but there was something extra special about spending my own money on my own interests, so I would say that is when I truly discovered anime.
What was that first DVD? The first anime DVD I bought was Akira. I suppose that’s potentially cliche, but that was the one film I’d heard about from people at school that was supposed to just blow your mind. I wanted to know what they were talking about. The edition I bought was one of the special editions, in a steel book and everything, so it was on the pricier side for the time. If my memory serves, it was around $25 or so.
What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? It looked so much different than what I could find elsewhere. It was telling stories that I couldn’t find anywhere else at the time either. There was a sense of getting away with something as well, as what I was finding to watch was clearly intended for an older audience.
What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? Dragon Ball Z was all the rage, but pretty much anything that was aired on Toonami was the talk at school for a while.
What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? Since it was not quite the commodity it seems to be today, it was fun to feel like you were a part of some small group. People would look at you like you were weird, but I was rather used to that.
I never had access to the internet at home, so I had to buy my collection over time at high prices. The nice thing about this was that I really knew what I was getting since I had time to look into them, but it sucked because I just wanted to see everything that I could.
Tell me about your collection! Here’s a photo of my collection, as I still have all of it. It might not look all that impressive, since I had to condense it all into DVD binders so I could actually store it all. I’m not sure how many individual titles I have anymore, but disc-wise it’s well over 1,000. It’s very heavy.
You said being part of anime fandom meant people thought you were weird, but you were used to it. Were you “weird” before anime? I always felt weird, and to a certain extent I still do. My parents were both school teachers, and I went to the school at which my mom taught. As a result, all the other kids felt I was the perfect target for whatever they felt needed to be said. I tried to roll with this by wearing strange clothes or things like that. I also did fairly well in school, which resulted in mixed responses from others. Growing up in Oklahoma, doing anything outside of going to church and hunting in the fall resulted in all the weird looks. I think all of this combined resulted in my desire to escape into worlds different than this one.
Since anime was an unusual interest at the time, how did you meet friends who also liked anime? I had one friend in elementary school, and we are still very close. As soon as I bought something I liked, I’d share it with him. In this way we’d kind of build our understanding of what was out there and just go from there. Once into junior high, talking about one’s enjoyment of DBZ was more acceptable, so I made a few more friends that way.
Was the Internet a part of fandom at the time? As I said above, I’m sure there were communities online, but I didn’t have access to them. I tended to just keep my fandom to myself, talking with the few friends I had that were interested in anime when I could. Our tastes were similar so that was nice.
When did you finally get internet? Did it change how you consumed/thought about anime at all? Not to make my family sound too much like a bunch of luddites, but I didn’t get my own personal internet connection until college. This did effect my consumption of media in general, and anime specifically, because I’ve been about five to seven years behind, or at least it feels that way. As evidenced by my collection, I’ve never had success with streaming services like Crunchyroll or Funimation’s service. It doesn’t feel right to me. I desire a sense of ownership over the shows I watch, a sense that I have helped continue the release of shows I like.
For you personally, what’s the biggest shift between anime fandom then and now? The biggest difference to me, and it makes me feel really old to say this, is fan theories. The ability for people to watch shows as they air means they can also fill the internet with theories. This is still so foreign to me. It doesn’t feel like I’m watching anime unless I’m marathoning the entire series in one go. There has never been room for theories in my experience. I enjoy digging into the creators and directors much more.
Joe can be reached on Twitter.