#128: John

Age: 25

Location: Phillippines

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. I don’t think I “discovered” anime at all – when I was growing up, it seemed pretty normal, and the defining line between anime and cartoon wasn’t defined at all since I was raised with both types of animation from an early age. Both of my parents saw some anime when they were growing up as well, and there generally isn’t any sort of stigma or ostracizing of anime as a medium here. I’d argue it’s pretty normal to know a few anime on hand for any one person! I can’t even recall the very first anime I watched. It could’ve been Digimon, Pokemon, Dragonball Z, or Voltes V. Again, tons of it being broadcasted on TV, with parents that grew up with it being pretty normal as well blur the early lines quite a fair bit.

John in a very early cosplay as a chicken mascot.

Can you tell me about some of the ways anime is more normalized in the Phillippines compared to in other parts of the world? For one thing, anime is frequently shown on our local channels, with localized dubs! Even way back when I remember one of our primary channels, either a channel called ABS-CBN or GMA, broadcasted Pokemon and Digimon in Filipino. I know that this practice is still there, and I think it goes as far back as to the era of stuff like Dragonball Z and Voltes V even! So with that localization being there, anime definitely has a broader and much more mainstream reach here—at least with the popular, easy-to-watch stuff!

Also, in a culture where anime is something that everyone has seen a little of, including Mom and Dad, do you think it’s lost its “coolness?” Is it unusual to identify as an anime fan, spend a lot of time watching only anime, and being really involved in the fandom? I don’t think anime’s lost its coolness. It’s not too unusual to find someone really into anime, digging through every season of shows, and being part of meet up groups or local expos. I know that its far more common in Manila compared to my hometown of Davao, but even then, I’d say its fairly accepted to like anime—the usually overly otaku stuff does get a bit of a reaction though, like say, dakimakuras or speaking in what you would identify as “weeb talk” in a serious manner I suppose.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? The main thing that appealed to me is the concept and story that each anime carried: it’s drastically different from cartoons, especially so from that period in the ’90s to the early ’00s. Cartoons tended to be fully marketed and produced for a younger audience, with a lot of emphasis on comedy and slapstick: not much focus on action, or drama, or plots as zany and over the top as stuff like DBZ would bring.

One could argue that a lot of anime at the time was also targeted towards children—but the approach just seemed very different. It wouldn’t be as full-on comedy as cartoons would be, and animes tended to be less self-contained within an episode – there is an overarching plot that flows along as the season progresses, whereas cartoons tended to not have any macro progression in plot, and were pretty-much disconnected episodes that didn’t need much if any context at all to watch each one. I enjoyed the progression of anime and the fact that things would change—albeit slowly, in the case of a lot of long-running series (DBZ and its filler!)

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? Absolute toss-up: Dragonball Z was for sure the most consistently popular, but so many anime were flowing in and out of my local environs collective consciousness. Often times, Pokemon would be the talk as well, but a lot of anime-based-around-toys would be talked about as well throughout the years – Beyblade, Let’s & Go 4WD, YuGiOh, Zoids, and lots of Gundam as well. You’d have a lot of pop in with Digimon in that mix too. But there were other shows that far less, but more “dedicated” people saw: Cooking Master Boy, Super Fishing Grander Musashi, Flame of Recca, and a few others come into mind.

It wasn’t until I was in about 5th or 6th grade where tastes started to mature.  Haruhi Suzumiya popped up, Naruto was growing ever more popular, and a lot of people started gravitating towards those kinds of titles. Granted, most people still stayed on fairly approachable and wide-appeal anime, but a majority still kept up with different shows.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? It was normal! It didn’t feel like we were into anything different as kids. Just like talking about different Simpsons episodes, you’d talk about what happened in DBZ or Pokemon or Digimon last night, or you go play some YuGiOh with the other kids at recess or have a little Beyblade fight at lunch. It was fun, really innocent and wholesome. Not to say that people I know now are judgmental about likes and dislikes, but it was certainly much more lighthearted before the internet became a big thing.

Was the internet a part of fandom at the time? If yes, how? If no, how did you connect with other fans? No, not quite—even though a lot of my early period was between ’99 and ’06, landline modem internet and DSL weren’t ubiquitous yet, and so most people weren’t spending much time on various forums and all, at least for my own circle.

Tell me about how the availability of the internet changed your anime fandom experience when it did arrive. The internet opened up so much when it came into my household! It got me to meet like-minded people online, and helped expose me to more anime! Before then, I’d have to rely on what was broadcasting on TV, so it was fairly limited. With the internet, I managed to find people that were really into specific anime, such as Mega Man Star Force stuff (I was a kid, gimme a break!) and Haruhi Suzumiya fan forums when everyone was waiting for the 2nd season! It really helped broaden horizons, and helped make friends from across the globe with common interests—I still keep in touch with a few members I made friends with at around 2010 from haruhisuzumiya.net to this day! A lot of them are from all around too: a whole lot of Americans, a few Canadians, and a couple of Malaysian and Vietnamese friends from those few sites!

You seem to have a strong awareness of how your experience differs on a global scale and I’d love to know where that came from. The awareness of the strangeness of my own experience comes from talking with all those awesome people online! They always mentioned not having anyone in their immediate area being into anime, or not even having anyone near them aware of what anime is! So they always found it a bit awesome that there could be places where some anime is commonplace that isn’t Japan.

What was the first anime-related purchase you made, and how much did it cost? My first anime-related purchase… would toys count? It should be a Zoids kit but I’m not sure which was the first one I bought myself. I think it was the Cannon Tortoise. It probably costed me between ₱200 to ₱500 PHP in, say the early ’00s, which is about $3 to $9 USD—which is a lot as a kid from a third world country! My first non-merch or non-toy buy was a physical copy of Bloom Into You translated into English. No regrets!

Do you remember your first convention? What was it, and what was it like?
Unfortunately never been to a convention! Despite the large and common following of anime here, my city, in particular, doesn’t get many conventions at all. I haven’t considered traveling to Manila for the conventions in my country, and even though I lived in Singapore, I’ve never attended conventions there either, as there’s a lack of representation of genres I am personally interested in. Also the cost and travel time even in Singapore while living there was kind of a deal-breaker.

Do you think you’d ever be interested in attending an anime convention one day? Why or why not? Sure as heck would be! I never got to attend Anime Festival Asia while I was living in Singapore for over eight years, but I’d love to go at some point in the future! I’d be nice seeing people interested in the same genres I am, and I’d love to meet people from the industry: animators, VAs, producers, and distributors! Besides the joy of it, I’m an animator myself, so that exposure would be great for potential contacts in the distant future too!

In your opinion, what’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom today and anime fandom when you first got into it? The biggest contrast would have to be in how combative the fanbase can be now. You see it range from “ship wars” with people’s pairings in shows to outright fights between different fandoms of shows. And then the elitism present from liking certain anime, or disliking certain anime as well. Way back when, it was much more open, and people were excited to share and spread each anime they enjoyed with others! But nowadays you see so much fighting, it’s hard to remember that in the end, we’re all in the same niche together, not smaller niches split down arbitrary lines!

John can be reached on Twitter

#127: Isaiah

Age: 22

Location: California

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. When it comes to anime, I feel like my story is a bit of an odd one. I only thought of anime to be some cartoon, considering the first time I ever watched an anime was when I was 5 years old. My first anime ever was Yu Yu Hakusho, but I had only seen it as a cartoon, or rather, that was the label I stuck with since I didn’t know it was called “anime.”

I kept on watching the stuff I’d see on Cartoon Network and Toonami actively, up until Toonami’s departure from TV as a whole, so I was a bit lost and didn’t know where to continue Naruto from, since that was the big thing at the time for people my age, which, I was 9 years old I think?

I went onto Youtube and typed in “Naruto vs Sasuke”, only to find a bunch of AMVs, but I was under the impression that Naruto had died at the end of one of them, so I cried pretty hard at first until, at the end of the AMV, there was a little message. “Want to see more like this? Then go to [pirate site redacted]”, which made me laugh at first, but when I went onto the website, I was so amazed at what I had seen. There were so many anime, subbed, dubbed, I didn’t even know what it meant, I just kept on shouting at the screen, being all like… “THAT WASN’T ON TOONAMI, NOR WAS THIS. WHAT IS ALL THIS? IT’S SO COOL!” I was pretty excited, so I started Naruto from the beginning with it being subbed, only to find the experience to be a better one since I feel as though I missed out on some stuff watching it in English, maybe a script issue or so, which is a possibility.

After finally coming to terms with knowing what anime truly is at that point, I had decided it’d be a little unfair for me to call Yu Yu Hakusho my first anime since it was a cartoon only to me when I had witnessed it. My newfound knowledge of these animations being referred to as anime began with one titled Seto No Hanayome aka My Bride Is A Mermaid, which is honestly the Little Mermaid on acid. It turned out to be a romantic comedy, with quite the beautiful ending in the long-run, so I fell in love with more stuff from that moment on and here I am now, talking about it haha.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? You know, it’s a bit awkward, but I actually have a video regarding this!


The video was on Youtube but got taken down due to the Rugrats sadly, since a lot of this was under fair use too. It’s a weird video, has some odd editing, but I love it, my friend Aidan edited it for me.

Since I don’t know as to whether or not people will have a chance to watch the video, I can explain it here as well:

When I first discovered anime, since I’ll roll with Yu Yu Hakusho being my first and all… I kind of liked the fact it was something different? It had detailed looking characters, the episodes weren’t always just episodic, but also it had… a meaning to it, something that I was aware of when watching cartoons like the Rugrats, although, something felt different with anime. Yu Yu Hakusho taught me about death, which is what I go on about in my video I linked up above.

I was 9 years old when Yu Yu Hakusho ended, but I don’t actually recall seeing it to the very end on Cartoon Network, since the rest of it, I had viewed online at a later point. It’s still my first and it was, as people put it, the gateway drug that had gotten me addicted to everything else.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? Dragon Ball Z was without a doubt the most popular anime at the time. I remember it being talked about a lot at elementary school. Even I had fallen victim to it by buying all of the games that would come out… playing them all day until it was time for bed. I even dressed up as Goku for Halloween one time, which feels weird to me looking back on it now.

The next most popular series had to be Naruto though since everyone assumed it was about a ninja in training wanting to rule the school. I certainly can’t blame them though, considering that the first promo for it towards the end literally said, “BUT ONLY ONE WILL RULE THE SCHOOL!” This kind of made kids all around the school do the Naruto run or whenever they would get angry, they would act all wacky like Naruto in an angry state. It was… weird, but hey, I loved having fun with all my school friends like that, haha.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? I can’t really say that I was in a fandom honestly. Nobody really liked anything outside of Dragon Ball Z, Naruto, and Pokemon. I used to write Pokemon stories with my friends as a kid. We each wrote the stories from the perspectives of our individual characters, so something unique was bound to happen. It was a fun writing experiment as a kid, it’s more of the reason why I have this undying love for Pokemon regardless of the form it’s in, but only my friends know that. It may be a bit unhealthy since I get a bit too into Pokemon with all the immersive writing, but I like doing that. Don’t let the kid in your heart die!

I’d love to see your Goku Halloween costume or any old photos you’d like to share with me.  Sadly, all our old photo albums are in the storage unit we have. We probably won’t be going to it anytime soon, but I do have a photo of something really special to me.

Fally’s Macross Delta Walkure 3rd Live Show Blu-Ray.

This is the Macross Delta Walkure 3rd Live Show Blu-Ray. My girlfriend and my friends went out of their way to all pitch in money for this import, straight from Japan. They all know I really love Macross and for years, I’ve wanted official merchandise of it, but it’s always so expensive. Macross to me is honestly the best anime franchise out there, I absolutely love the work that Kawamori Shoji puts into it. I actually cried in receiving this, it made my day. It was recently too, earlier in 2019. It was supposed to be a secret Santa gift, but turned into a late birthday present!

Was the Internet a part of fandom at the time? If yes, how? If no, how did you connect with other fans? I didn’t start connecting with the anime fandom until around the age of 11. I mentioned earlier that I went onto some website called [pirate site redacted]. Well, the website had forums on it and it was my first experience with forums ever. The first real thing I had gotten to interact with on the forums was a fanmade Naruto story, going by the name of “Akira, Kanokage of the Three Mountains.” It was honestly a really cool story and I followed it for years, keeping up with every last update until the story was over. The guy writing it was passionate about the story. Looking back on it, it helped me put the finalized stamp on my dream of being an author one day. It’s a long journey for sure. I stayed away from episode discussions because I only cared about watching anything and everything at the time, but I always went for that fanmade Naruto story, always.

If we talk about how I connect with the anime community in present times, for five years I have been an admin on my page Enter The Fally Zone. I’ve been able to interact with a big community that has differing opinions, yet somehow, good civilized discussions of things with me. It feels nice to entertain people, to make them happy… to connect really. It’s a stellar experience for me that I wish everyone can have. I’ve come pretty far from lurking forums on that weird Naruto anime website and I’m happy that this has been my experience. So many people stop by my Facebook page, reaching out to me, asking how to reconnect with people through different means. It’s a bit odd at times considering my page is mainly an anime page where I entertain people with my opinions, reactions, and writings, but I like being able to talk about the personal side of things with my audience as well. I say audience, but… to me, now? They’re my friends and family that I can’t possibly replace or grow tired of. I love them all.

That’s why I’m overjoyed to do podcasts with my friend Critical Reikan who hosts a podcast called Weebspeak. We do it together most of the time and try to normalize the anime community one topic or interview at a time! This is my favorite one yet:


It’s a podcast with the Anime Youtuber, Under the Scope. He’s my favorite Anime Youtuber who also values the community and experiences to be had with anime as much as me. I love his content and it’s dragged me out of a slump a few times as well.

I don’t want to lose this connection, ever.

Your anime-focused Facebook page is incredibly popular! Can you tell me what inspired you to start it? Well, I had joined Facebook in May of 2012. I didn’t really get much use out of it considering that a lot of my online friends were on Xbox Live every single day, so if I needed to contact them, it would be there. The same can be said for my real life friends as well since I would just see them every day after summer ends, it didn’t really matter how long we wouldn’t keep in touch for, we kind of just caught up to each other that easily. With that being said, I didn’t really want to continue with using Facebook since it didn’t have a point other than to keep in touch with friends that I haven’t spoken to in a long time or if something were to arise. That’s when my friends had informed me of Facebook groups and how I can probably find some good anime related ones. Upon joining this one anime group, which was… somewhat abusive, I felt a bit turned away from the community, just a tad- to the point where I’d much rather talk about anime everywhere else that isn’t Facebook, that is until I met this guy named Anthony James Cranny, who I refer to as Cranberry haha.

Cranberry, as I call him, is a very funny man and he had a lot of heart behind his words, so naturally, when I was invited to his new anime Facebook group, I was delighted. Thing is, we only knew of each other from seeing one another’s comments but hadn’t really had many conversations yet. That’s why in this new group of his, what got him to notice me was this post made by a girl named Gracie. She listed off every anime she watched, so I thought to give her a big list of anime recommendations in return, to which… she never came back after that. Cranberry saw me being talked up by all these people in the comment section after that and since my name on Facebook wasn’t my real name at the time, it was “Fally”, his reaction was, “Falsworth?! You’re here in my group?!” He then added me as a friend and he got down to business, saying he wanted me to be an admin, that I’d be good. I was a bit shy at first, but everyone loved my cheerfulness, my free-spirited mind, my young heart, and the relation I would have with anime whenever I spoke of it.

One night, Cranberry was drunk and he had just got done watching a non-stop run of The Twilight Zone. He came into the group, made a big post asking, “How many of you think that Fally should make a Facebook page under the name of Enter The Fally Zone? It’s not just mine, but one of his favorite shows and I think it’d be cool since the young lad takes people to a world that only he knows how to display.” It was a bit embarrassing to see him talking me up like that, but everyone else started commenting freely about me as well, saying that I should go for it, that one day, I could probably make a living off of it, that if my dream in life really is to be an author, then this would be the first step out of many, to be a writer, learn the ropes, and experience things that I never thought to.

Thanks to that, on January 20th, 2014, just a few days before my birthday that would be on January 23rd, I started my Facebook page under the name of Enter The Fally Zone. Now, the thing about it is, while it may be big now, there was a time where I almost lost sight of what I wanted to do with it. I was too stuck in the mindset of… making serious posts. I would interact with people, I tried too hard to gather a following for the page, but I also was so strict on my admins, who were good friends of mine that I wanted to help me out. I was pretty mean, I got absolutely stressed out over that page at the start because I wanted to be big… I wanted it to, well, I wanted it to look professional in case I ever was given a job opportunity, be it an article writer, reviewer, anything writing related really. I feel like it wasn’t until late 2015 that I finally realized what my page truly was for the people who view it. That’s when I feel like my page really started, not that day on January 20th, 2014, but sometime in March 2015 actually.

Surely you know of the series Kyoukai No Kanata! [Beyond the Boundary]. It’s one of my favorites honestly, as it is a very moving story in the long-run. Well, in March 2015, Kyoukai No Kanata: I’ll Be Here – Movie 1 was released. I watched it two weeks after it’s release. It was a recap movie, but I was reliving those powerful moments from the series when I had first watched it back in 2013. As I was posting about it, this guy that goes by the name of Alejandro (I’ll refrain from using his full name) had commented. Alejandro said to me, “You’re one of the better admins out there you know? It’s hard to find an anime Facebook page owner who is as down to earth as you are.” I thanked him, replying with, “Really now? I didn’t really think I was doing anything all that different, I just like to post my feelings about things, be it sad, happy, or angry honestly.” Alejandro replied with, “That’s what makes you great! You’re human… every other anime Facebook page just posts memes or mocks people for asking the anime name, even though some people may have problems with reading. You on the other hand always let people know how you feel and that makes us feel things too, it’s why a lot of us come back, or why I do at least.”

Alejandro and I got to talking about the saddest anime we’d ever seen when he told me Clannad resonated with him because his girlfriend died but he was determined to get stronger and keep living. “That’s why I decided I’d start helping everyone I meet, be it friend, stranger, or someone who just hates me,” Alejandro told me. “Helping people… making them feel welcome, being able to spread happiness to others so easily when they’re done… it’s something that just comes naturally to you, Fally. You probably don’t realize it, but the reason why I’m able to tell you my personal story, despite you not knowing anything about me beyond these comments is that I know you, I know the type of person you are already, so keep up the good work and never lose sight of it.”

I was crying from all of it, honestly, I was. I felt like telling him that I was sorry for his loss, but I thought that would be in bad taste. I only told him that for him, I’ll keep making people happy every single day if I could. That became the goal for my page. I post about anime, games, movies, all sorts of media… but that can take a backseat at times when a person just wants their day brightened up; that is the thing I value most. Because of Alejandro, my cold streak towards my page and what I was doing had been broken, but with it came the vision I should have had for it from the start.

I know this was really long… but that is what got me to start my page, but also what inspired me to keep my page going further. Fame is nothing to me, I just want to make people smile during their hardest times

What was it like to go from anime content consumer to anime content creator? How has that transition affected your relationship with anime fandom? Honestly, it’s hard to say. I’ve always been one to think outside of the box when it comes to anime, always looking for a deeper meaning, which I think I can thank Yu Yu Hakusho for, but other pieces of media have helped shape me into this person who desires more from the things I watch. Futurama and Rugrats are two of my favorite cartoons out there, not for comedic reasons, but for the valuable storytelling that can be found within it, the imagery is just powerful in a lot of them. With that being the case and all, when I did become an anime content creator, I didn’t feel much of a change until I realized what I’m bad at.
I’d honestly say that going from an anime consumer to an anime content creator was only jarring when I realized that people wait for my opinion on something. I felt like a regular consumer until once again, another thing happened in 2015. In 2015, Death Parade had come out. If you were to watch Death Parade and go onto Facebook hoping to see people talking about it, then you probably would have found a small community, but nothing big. I watched Death Parade weekly, talking about the themes presented in each episode, starting these big discussion threads, it was a lot of fun! Seeing those threads go from 10 people talking to 70 people talking to a whopping amount that reached the hundreds, being able to watch the size of my page grow while gaining thousands of reach along with these posts was stellar to me. When the Death Parade Blu-Ray was announced by Funimation, there were so many people tagging my page in the comment section of Funimation’s post saying stuff like, “I watched this thanks to Enter The Fally Zone,” and so forth. It was pretty cool and for the times to come after it, I knew that people had this expectation of me to really go in depth with the things I watch.

Do you remember your first convention? What was it, and what was it like? My first convention was Anime Expo back in 2015! It wasn’t the best experience since I had gone with my father who isn’t fond of anime at all whatsoever. His only anime watched is Dragon Ball Z, but he’s pretty toxic towards things he doesn’t understand, so being at the convention with him… seeing how he was a bit rude to the cosplayers, yeah, I didn’t really like that.

There were two panels where my father never questioned the look I had in my eyes though, one of them being the DAISUKI Industry Panel and the Pony Canyon Panel with guest Tomoyo Kurosawa!

The DAISUKI Industry Panel was mainly them talking about how many companies they’re involved with. The special part about it was Shou Aikawa’s appearance though since he came to state that he was disappointed in anime. He wasn’t fond of how anime can have all these genres, yet somehow fail to properly utilize all of them, which was his biggest concern that anime wouldn’t be able to adapt for later times at this rate. As for the panel with Tomoyo Kurosawa, she’s known as the voice actress behind Oumae Kumiko in Sound! Euphonium. I was really excited to hear about her role of Kumiko since that was the character I was fond of the most in the show. Something about her stood out, so to hear Tomoyo Kurosawa voice how she felt about her, talking about this identification within the character, it felt… magical. You just don’t get to hear those stories anymore from people after they get matched to a character.

I really enjoyed my time even though my father said a lot of questionable stuff that frustrated me. I think he was happy to see me get so passionate over something though, so maybe it wasn’t bad as I thought it was back then you know?

Has your dad come around at all regarding anime and your fandom? What does the rest of your family think? Answering honestly to that, it would have to be no. My dad doesn’t like anime, he still only has Dragon Ball Z under his belt, since he refuses to watch anything else, even if I know he’ll genuinely like some shows. He showed me so many martial arts movies as a kid, so you think he would be open to martial arts anime right? Nope, not at all apparently. It is a bit disappointing, but he at least understands how amazing animation can be. He thinks animation in general, for all things, has come a long way, which is true.

While my dad doesn’t like anime, he is happy that I can speak so passionately about it to people and that I have a following. He really wants me to make something of myself, but it can be a bit disheartening at times when he won’t read my written pieces that I’ve posted on Medium, but it’s what I’m used to from him, so I guess there isn’t much to be said.

The rest of my family are into anime because there are other anime fans within my family, such as my cousin Jonathan who has shown everyone in his household Interstella 5555, the animated film that uses music directly from Daft Punk. My mom also watches anime a lot thanks to me and is always recommending series to her brothers. My grandma watched Case Closed with me a lot when she was around, which was quite nice as well. My grandpa, on the other hand, he doesn’t really like to read when he watches his shows or movies but he did sit there giving his full attention to Kids On the Slope because it reminded him of simpler times. I catch him humming the anime rendition of “My Favorite Things”, every so often too, it’s nice.

My family isn’t against anime, they can find some things weird at times, but other than that, they think it is a great medium. They really think my passions to get involved with this industry in some form is wonderful, so I hope to please them at some point in the future, not for their sake, but for my own, since I have a lot of people who believe in me.

Isaiah can be reached on his Facebook page and Twitter

#126: Gwynevere

Age: 26

Location: Rochester, NY

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. This is a difficult question for me because I feel like there are 2 distinct points when I “discovered” anime. I watched Pokemon VHS tapes my Mom got from the library because we didn’t have cable, but I had no idea what “anime” was. I really learned about an anime when I discovered Naruto in junior high and was so enthralled with it that I binge watched it on YouTube (Yes, in 360p resolution and each episode split into 3 videos). I got far enough into the series that only subbed episodes existed and had the epiphany that this series about ninjas with Japanese names for everything was Japanese. I could be oblivious at times.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? That they were different from American cartoons in the right ways. American cartoons were/are pigeonholed into being either comedies for kids or comedies for adults. Even the most generic shonen anime shows had more thematic and emotional variety. Plus, I’m a sucker for long narratives.

Also, perhaps just as important, anime was a space for people who are different. I was a “weird kid” even before I discovered that I was transgender and anime has helped me through my life journey the whole way.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? I don’t think I really joined the “anime community” until late high school/early college years. Attack on Titan soon became the new hotness, but I recall Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Monogatari, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Sword Art Online, and K-ON being also popular.

I tend to seek out shows based on topic and recommendations more than popularity, so I rarely watch things when they come out and do really keep track of trends.

What was the first fandom you got really invested in? How did you express your fandom? I don’t know if I would call myself obsessed, but I basically only read/watch Naruto for the entirety of junior high/ high school. I realized pretty early on in my life that my hobbies were niche and no one wanted to listen to me talk about them, so I mostly just read a lot of fanfiction at the time but expressed no outward interest in it. It wasn’t until college that I actually met other people who were interested.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? It was great at the time, at least as a consumer. I started buying anime DVDs in the early 2010s and the access and pricing were so much better than in the ’00s or ’90s. If there was something I wanted to watch, it was only a few clicks away either via an online retailer. It’s even better now with all of the legal streaming sites, but it was still very convenient.

Reddit wasn’t the world encompassing behemoth that it is now, so anime focused forum boards and fansites still had some life in them. I still fondly remember some of the WordPress anime reviewer sites I’d frequent and wish that they hadn’t moved on.

Can you tell me more about the WordPress blogs you used to read? Do you remember any of their names? Some of my readers might, too! Mainichi Anime Yume was one that I read for a while, although she started slowing down output when I started really reading. I forget its name, but there was a blog that “Arkada” from Glass Reflection and Jacob Chapman from ANN used to write on (I think). It’s been many years since they were associated with it, but I recall reading a little on it. I don’t know if it was WordPress or not, but I barely remember the exact format. [Editor note: I think this is That Guy With The Glasses, now known as Channel Awesome. This is the DesuDes Brigade, thanks to Brainchild for figuring it out! ] Oh yeah, and Anime Maru. I was writing for our college’s satire magazine regularly at the time, so I appreciated an anime version of the Onion.

Was the Internet a part of fandom at the time? If yes, how? If no, how did you connect with other fans? The internet was a massive source of information about anime, but I’m generally shy online, so my fandom experience was deeply tied to my college’s small anime club. The club itself usually only had 15-20 people show up on a good night, so it was small enough to be its own social circle. More specifically, it was functionally another LGBT club, except half the people there didn’t know it (myself included).

The LGBT-friendly themes and tropes drew us all together, and lacking another space to be ourselves, we turned it into our own socializing space, where Friday night anime viewings led to late night partying. It was pretty clear, especially in my later college years, that this was a massive turn-off to a large number of potential recruits who wanted a more traditional viewing experience. I recall that another anime watching group popped up at the time and we joked about it being the “straight-people anime club”.

My experience with a post-college local anime club has turned out much the same way, so if anything I owe anime a debt for like 90% of social life.

Do you remember your first convention? What was it, and what was it like?
The first convention I ever went to was GeneriCon at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY. It’s a tiny convention mostly focused on anime and our anime club organized a day trip there. I was only a college freshman and didn’t know what to expect, but I enjoyed shopping at the artists’ alley and seeing the cosplay.

My second convention, the following year’s trip to GeneriCon, overshadowed the first year’s. I was anime club treasurer and, for some reason, in charge of both funding and chaperoning the whole thing. The club mitigated to cost of hiring a bus by splitting the cost with the Japanese culture club, but despite being only a sophomore, I was put in charge of keeping track of a dozen other college students because the rest of the club’s leadership had no interest in going.

The cosplay I had chosen, Kyoko Sakura from Madoka Magica only added to the stress. It was only the second time in my life I had worn women’s clothes and I was still extremely nervous around strangers because of it.

Thankfully, anime conventions are generally tolerant and everything went smoothly otherwise. Most of my convention memories blend together but finding another Madoka Magica cosplayer there who took a picture with me and complimented my outfit still sticks out. It was a very validating moment.

Gwynevere as Kyoko from Madoka Magica.

I’m interested in hearing about your anime fan timeline as lined up against your transition timeline. How did anime fandom figure into your transition? Were there any shows in particular that helped you define your identity? I think videogames were more directly influential (Thanks, character creation screens!), but Madoka Magica was definitely something I was into very much in college. Like I watched it 10 times across 3 years. It’s not really trans but there are lesbian undertones and I identified with the characters. Like me and my (also trans) best friend got Kyouko/Sayaka cosplays with the intent of being a pair. If anything, I’d wanna go back and tell myself (and everyone) else to watch other magical girl shows because they’re also good in similar ways.

Wandering Son is the only LGBT specific one I watched before I came out and I definitely enjoyed it, even as someone who wasn’t aware of their own feelings. I still remember basically begging the anime club people when I presented it one night to not make crude jokes or riff on it like they did with other shows. Even then, I knew it was important to myself and knew that the LGBT community was valuable to me. LGBT anime is something I seek out much more now that I’m aware of my own gender, but I think just hanging out with a bunch of LGBT people all the time in the anime club was a strong push in the right direction.

Did you find support within the anime community during your transition, and if so, could you tell me how? I’d like to know how your anime club reacted. I was one of the last people in our group to figure out I was LGBT in our group (I was just an ally who cross-dressed for a while), so they were all super supportive of me. It was just sort of a natural shift and I don’t think anyone was that surprised.

Gwynevere as Hungary from Hetalia.

In general, I find many parts of the anime community to be accepting and I don’t think I’ve faced too much transphobia at cons and the like. Cross-dressing cosplay makes my wearing women’s clothing perfectly acceptable, but I get misgendered more often because everyone thinks I’m a cross-dressing man. It’s a frustrating trade-off.

I’ve found that many trans women find solace in anime because of the differences in what is culturally acceptable in the medium. I used to and many other trans women still do think of some anime characters as “transitioning goals”, which can give us hope, but I also think instills some unrealistic and harmful ideas about what one’s body should look like.

Much worse are the negative portrays we get, especially in hentai. I still hear people at cons saying the word “trap” and “futa” to refer to trans women and it’s very hurtful and reveals that we’re simply a fetish for a lot of people.

I think that a lot of LGBT anime/manga suffers from being made primarily by cishet people and they bring a lot of (sometimes unintentional) shitty attitudes towards us that I find off-putting. Toxic relationship and “forbidden romance” elements stain many otherwise enjoyable works. There’s definitely good stuff out there, but it takes a lot of work to wade through the dreck.

Open transphobia exists, especially in the more unsavory parts of the community, but there are plenty of allies and comrades in the greater community who I’m thankful for. It’s definitely a safe place in my life.

Gwynevere as Gardevoir.

I would love photos of your Kyoko cosplay (or any others) if you would like to share! I cosplayed as Kyouko from Madoka Magica, an alternate costume version of Hungary from Hetalia, and a DIY Shiny Mega Gardevoir [from Pokemon]. They’re… God I look so bad in those shots. Let the record show that I’m way hotter now.

In your opinion, what’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom today and anime fandom when you first got into it? The switch from DVDs to Streaming as the primary way of legally watching anime. Like I think it brings in a much wider audience and keeps fans from leaving because of restrictive DVD costs. What I’m able to cue up on streaming sites strongly influences what I watch, fortunately and unfortunately.

The switch to Reddit for anime discussion, along with every other hobby and topic, is super noticeable and it displaced at least a couple forums. I’m not happy about it, but I’m not really in a place to challenge it, so I just have to come to terms with it.

Gwynevere is not on social media. You can leave a comment for her here.


#125: Lynzee – “My ‘Anime Origin Story’ Is #MeToo”

Note from the editor: this project’s 125th installment is formatted differently than previous posts. Unlike the interviews that I conduct with most participants, this submission is published in the essay format in which I received it. 

Why the break in routine? Because this project doesn’t simply aspire to be a celebration of anime fandom, but an archive of fan narratives. Lynzee’s account is graphic and at times, difficult to read. However, it’s an important reminder that while we all love anime, the circumstances that brought us to seek it as a solace are not always ideal. I’m honored that Lynzee has chosen Anime Origin Stories as the platform to share her essay. 

Content warning for sexual abuse. The essay published is below the cut. 

Continue reading “#125: Lynzee – “My ‘Anime Origin Story’ Is #MeToo””

#124: Michael

Age: 50

Location: Raleigh, NC

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. I’d been a fan of Speed Racer and Battle of the Planets since I was a pre-teen, but the first anime I knew was anime was Robotech. I would have been 18 when I saw it, and I soon learned it was assembled from three unrelated animated series from Japan, which apparently had all kinds of this stuff.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? Macross captivated me. This show had a storyline that didn’t talk down to its audience; complicated protagonists and antagonists; a grand space opera backdrop; and transforming vehicles that managed physical and logical plausibility. Honestly, the last one probably was the biggest influence.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? In the mainstream, Robotech was probably most recognized as an anime series. Sailor Moon hadn’t hit yet; one could sometimes find heavily-edited and oddly-translated anime videotapes at Blockbuster, but few people realized they were anything more than stylized kids’ cartoons. Star Blazers (Space Battleship Yamato) had been extremely popular, but only a few older fans knew it was anime.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? Once you discovered imported anime, you almost always had to watch it untranslated. Sometimes a Japanese-speaking fan would provide Xeroxed synopsis handouts, but we spent a lot of time working out our own ideas of what was happening. Also, a lot of it was hard on the eyes, since we were generally watching 5th- or 6th-generation VHS videotape copies. Which is another point: back then, if you wanted to watch anything but a very few dubbed shows, you pirated your anime. I won’t defend the practice, but that was the reality.

Can you tell me more about the untranslated or synopsis provided days of anime? Who did you watch it with? Where did you have these watch parties? Where did people find anime to watch, and how did they decide if it was worth watching? Most of what I had the chance to watch at the time came via the Virginia Tech Anime Society in Blacksburg. They had a steadily-growing library of videotapes provided by other fan groups (such as the Baltimore-area JASFA), by Japanese exchange students who would bring tapes back from vacation, and by friends with military and business contacts in Japan. I got to know VTAS people through friends in overlapping fandoms, and many of them are good friends to this day. We would watch in one of the auditoriums at Tech using their AV equipment—not a problem as it was a sanctioned club and besides, half the AV department were members. As far as “worth watching,” that was mainly a matter of “I just got this and it was cool and I think you will agree!” Personally, sometimes I did and sometimes I didn’t, but that was fine, it was the nature of the club.

You said that back then piracy was the reality. When did that shift? When did the prevailing attitude around anime piracy change? Piracy is still rampant, of course; back then, the copyright holders seemed not to be very concerned. Perhaps they felt they were building a market for future exploitation (accurate, if true) or perhaps they believed the American market was not large enough to justify enforcement. I believe attitudes shifted in the late ’90s and 2000s as viewership matured, and anime became available by more legal means. An attitude I still hear is, “I will quite honestly pay money to see Series X the moment I’m given the chance to.”

Interestingly, I personally know at least two people who now have legitimate jobs in the anime subtitling industry due to the strength of their work on pirated fansubs. It’s a strange business.

Was the Internet a part of fandom at the time? If yes, how? If no, how did you connect with other fans? Well… the Internet didn’t exist yet. I am sure there were AOL message boards and Usenet newsgroups, but at the time I didn’t even know where to look for such. All my interactions with other anime fans were In Real Life, at general science-fiction cons, where we’d spend our time debating exactly how you pronounced Nausicaa.

Do you remember your first convention? What was it, and what was it like?
My first fan convention was in 1986, and didn’t involve anime. My first anime convention was Katsucon 1, where I helped with the Opening Ceremonies; after that, if memory serves it was NekoCon in 2011. I wore my Sailor Mars cosplay, which went over very well or very poorly depending on the observer. I remember the huge crowds, and incredible quality of some of the costumes, and feeling a bit lost because I’d been away from the fandom for a while and didn’t recognize a lot of what was popular.

Can you tell me about cons back when anime was grouped into sci-fi cons? I really want to hear about the 1986 con (since that’s the year I was born!) My first con in 1986 was a small 200-300 person convention in Roanoke, VA called RoVaCon. I was there for the Star Trek and Star Wars fandoms, and there was a strong literary sci-fi contingent represented there as well. There may have been bootleg anime tapes there—I remember a bootleg of Star Wars—but I did not notice them if there were.

Now, in 1987 I went to Technicon 4 in Blacksburg and was first exposed to untranslated anime in the form of the 1984 Macross movie (quite confusing to a Robotech viewer), Urusei Yatsura, and Captain Harlock. I may not have understood everything that was going on, but I was hooked. This was also my first introduction to anime cosplay: two young ladies I would later befriend cosplayed the Dirty Pair, and one of them cosplayed Lum. I was still a young man and will try not to sound like a creep when I say those images are permanently etched in my memory.

Can you tell me about helping to launch Katsucon 1? Why did you and the founders decide to start this con? I was little involved with the actual production – I just knew through VTAS several of the “First Ones,” as the original staff became known. They knew I was happy to appear on stage and run my mouth, so I was tagged to MC the opening ceremonies. Sadly, I was ill that weekend and remember little of the con. I can even remember if I was a good MC, but I obviously did not wreck the franchise!

You helped with Katsucon and then attended Nekocon years later. What caused the gap in between. Did you fall out of fandom for a while? If so, what drew you back in? I fell out of anime fandom for several years, simply because I had no means of keeping up. It became impractical for me to attend VTAS meetings held weeknights at a venue 90 minutes from my house, and so I didn’t have much access to new shows. Bootlegged tapes were disappearing from convention tables as holders began to enforce their copyrights, and Star Trek fandom was keeping me pretty busy. I attended NekoCon because I moved into the area where it was held, I needed more conventions in my life, I’d never stopped liking anime, and I wanted to get more involved with cosplay. I figured there would be enough “old-school” anime fandom there to give me a foundation from which I could catch up, and that proved to be the case!

What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom when you got into it and now? While some young intensely-serious fans will still try to claim it as theirs alone, anime fandom is now widespread in geek circles and even outside. Almost everyone I interact with has heard of Sailor Moon, Pokémon, and Dragonball Z. My first partner had a passing familiarity with anime, while my current partner and I trade showings of favorite work the other hasn’t seen yet. Of course, it’s far easier to watch anime legally, and both imported and American-produced merchandise is all over the internet for all. Cosplay has become an industry all its own; and relatedly, it’s now much easier to be an openly transgender or genderqueer fan in 2019 than it could possibly have been in 1987.

I’d love any photos you can give me of old cons or even VHS tapes from the fansubbing days! My VHS tapes are gone, because with the advent of streaming HD it’s become almost painful to watch blurry 4th-generation SuperLongPlay mode media. But I’ll share some of my pictures – you can find more of them at my Cosplay.com page.

My friends Telf and Denise as the Dirty Pair at Technicon. A life-altering moment.

Me (center) in ElfQuest cosplay, that same year.

Heather and my girlfriend Sonoko as the Dirty Pair, with Paul and myself in the background as Starfleet Vice. (Long story.)

Denise with me as a gender-swapped Daicon IV bunny in 1990. (I had just been in a car accident, thus the crutches.)

Tuxedo Mask for Halloween a couple years later. My friends JJ and Kim joined Telf and Denise.

Sailor Mars a few years after that. For a while I tried to look as feminine as I could when cosplaying such characters.

Me with Kara and Celia as Macross Frontier’s Sheryl Nome, Ranka Lee, and Klan Klang. This was the last time I shaved for a cosplay, as I was getting feedback from partners that a genderqueer look was cuter on me.

Kagami from Lucky*Star, Kotoko from Chobits (the second costume I made myself!) and me with an unknown cosplayer as Mako and Gamagoori from Kill la Kill. By this point, the beard was back to stay.

Michael can be reached on Twitter

#123: JJ Kelley

Age: 48

Location: Wiltshire, UK

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. When I was a kid, most of my friends were watching Scooby Doo, but I was crazy about a show called Battle of the Planets. I think it was the first cartoon where the good guys had setbacks and suffered. I noticed that the 7-Zark-7 bit was weirdly out of place, but ignored it. It wasn’t until years later that I found out it had been a severely edited anime show called Kagaku Ninjatai Gatchaman.

Years later, during my first semester at Virginia Tech in the US, there was a thing on campus called AnimeFest. I was bored and curious. I opened the door to a dark video room, and the guy in charge nearly fainted at my feet… literally, because he hadn’t eaten in 24 hours as he was getting everything prepared. I helped his roommate get him to the car… and found myself in charge. First anime I watched there was Tonari no Totoro. Age 17, and it stuck.

Two years later, I was president of VTAS, the anime club there.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? Bad guys sometimes win, and good guys get to suffer a bit in order to reverse that. Blew my mind as a kid.

By the time I hit university, though, it was the amazing visuals of the Miyazaki films that really caught me.

Still, I can’t deny that it’s the whole darkest before the dawn trope that still works for me.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? Ranma 1/2 was big, well, anything that was Rumiko Takahashi, really. Not really my thing, as I wasn’t really into farce.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? Totally different from now. Utterly. Back then, we’d trek up to Washington DC to meet with another club, and daisy chain dozens of VCRs together to get unsubbed anime from either tapes made by US military guys in Osaka or wildly expensive laser discs. Our club had a gigantic suitcase full of tapes.

During my year as VTAS president (1990-91), I managed to, ah, persuade Virginia Tech to buy us an Amiga and a genlock for subtitling. Nearly talked them into getting us a set-up to make our own cel animation. If this sounds crazy, it was mostly due to the fact that we had 300+ club members and were the largest non-sports related club on campus. Our Tuesday meetings had a minimum of 200 people. This was all people willing to watch raw untranslated anime.

So, once we had the machines, during my term and the next year, I subbed shows for the club meetings and our twice yearly Animefest weekends. Taught myself Japanese just to know when to hit the enter key for dialogue. That first year, the subs made the club explode even larger, but then the titles I was subbing were Record of Lodoss War and Gundam 0083. I managed to con the club into watching Legend of Galactic Heroes as well with selective edits of the cool ship battles. By the time people realised it was a “talking heads” show, they didn’t care.

“Subtitling whilst barefoot, probably in 92′, maybe 93′. The tapes with the orange stickers are the club’s rental tapes. You can see the two VCRs (both with the VTAS labels) linked for subtitling. On the floor next to my right foot is the massive kanji dictionary. I’m working on the Amiga 2000, the genlock is on the left side of the table. And awwww, my old NES. I have no idea why I was using a Christmas biscuit tin as a seat.”

We had one AnimeFest in 91′ where we fan-premiered the Silent Möbius film that I subtitled for the event. What a nightmare. I worked for two weeks timing the subs for it, even bought the CD so I could translate the ending song, and still, somehow the whole thing was lost hours before the event. We hacked the auditorium set-up, and I subtitled the damn thing live in front of 500+ people. (Seriously glad the fire marshal didn’t show up. We definitely had more people that we should have in there.) I made two mistakes, and one was during the ending song. I can’t listen to “Sailing” without twitching.

I stopped fan-subbing once companies like ADV and Animego started doing some seriously good stuff. As I’d only subbed for my college club, not for sale at cons or even in the post, it wasn’t a big thing. Viz did some nasty saber-rattling at that time as well, but their Ranma subs were pretty horrible back then.

It was during one of the VTAS AnimeFests that Larry Drews and Chris Impink started making noises about starting an East Coast anime convention. AnimeFest already had a huge audience coming from out of state as well as from Tech, we had a guy selling bootleg Chinese knock-off CDs, a bunch of fan art on display under the stairs, people wearing stuff, a program book… And that’s how Katsucon started, really.

Was the Internet a part of fandom at the time? If yes, how? If no, how did you connect with other fans? There was email, and basic stuff, but this was before Mosaic introduced all the pretty pictures to the Web. So we’d get some subtitling scripts from other clubs, or swap timings, but most of our interactions with other clubs were face-to-face at either SF cons or by attending their meetings. I drove up to DC for weekend taping marathons, drove down to Raleigh NC a few times for the UNC’s club anime weekends (where I had to console a Japanese expat who had no idea about how Minky Momo died.)

[Editor’s Note: After the show’s toy manufacturer sponsor backed out, the animators had Minky Momo get hit by a toy truck. It was brutal.]

“The Katsucon Ichi (I think). I’m talking to Jan Scott Frasier (Director Studio IG at the time, worked on Evangelion) in front of the dealers’ room in the Virginia Beach hotel. “

Do you remember your first convention? What was it, and what was it like? Katsucon Ichi, where I was Head of Art Show. (The first three years or so, we used the Japanese numbers for the con, but I think after San/3 we stopped as it was just confusing people.)

I ran the Art Show for the first few years there. Back then, the Art Show was huge. Now it seems to be an afterthought, with most fan artists being in the Artist Alley. For Katsucon 3, I had so many artist submissions that I had to choose whose work to hang. Biggest artist influencer during those years was Clamp Studio due to X. We had a small sectioned-off Hentai area, which I nixed after the third year because no-one would hang anything, the chickens. I used Magic the Gathering cards clipped in half for the baggage check and nearly made Bob Woodhead of Animego cry. (He wandered around that first year with a deck just to flash his damned Black Lotus card around.)

Artist Alley didn’t exist back then, so you’d find me, Rob DeJesus, Fred Perry and a bunch of others hanging about outside the art show drawing on tables placed there for water coolers. One friend of mine who shall remain nameless handed over a sketchbook to DeJesus and, when asked what he’d like drawn, replied “Whatever!” Mistake. Sleep-deprived and punch-drunk artists granted carte blanche means a whole sketchbook full of anime-style porn with an increasingly outrageous use of Pocky.

“Katsucon Ni, 1996. All the main female staff for the con. We couldn’t be in the Masquerade (aka, Cosplay contest), so we intro’d the groups as the Sailor Scouts. I was Mars. I managed to run in those heels during some con chaos that needed senior staff. Nothing better than dealing with hotel management in a sailor fuku to be a real pro.”

Being con staff in the ’90s was incredibly different. No corporation, just a bunch of fans. So much more casual. I looked in on a meeting for Katsucon a few years back, as an alumnus. It was insanely complicated. The early cons, Japanese guests were easy to get. The idea of US cons was new to them and the publishers. Katsucon got Masakazu Katsura [manga artist for Video Girl Ai, character designer for Tiger & Bunny] as a guest by offering time at a gun firing range. Staff couldn’t be in the Masquerade (the term from the SF cons, we hadn’t started using cosplay then), so a bunch of female staff dressed as the Sailor Scouts for fun. I was Sailor Mars if you find the photos online. We made all our own costumes and props. Either the second or third Katsucon, I made two life-size Azaka and Kamidake, the Jurai guardians from Tenchi Muyo, out of free-standing lamps and hula hoops. They became the big photo-op prop that year.

Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z had started airing on TV, so we had a bunch more small kids than we’d expected. Lots of bewildered parents being dragged around by pre-teens then. The dealers’ room was a bit caught off guard that first year, but then so were we.

“… And then the damn Con Dance guys showed up and totally outdid us. Somewhere I have a photo of me and Rob Lantz striking the Mars pose together. We still refer to each other as ‘My Twin.'”

You’ve spent a lot of your time as a fan in leadership roles, as a club president, a convention founder, and convention staffer. Do you continue to seek out roles like this today, why or why not? I’ve moved back to the UK, and did join a club in Bath for a while. It was very small and met in the skittles room in the basement of a pub. Having a pint and watching anime was rather fun. But I wasn’t anything more than a fan there. Now I work in the comics industry (DC and Marvel, not manga), I’ve mostly slid out of anime fandom. I keep up to date to some degree, and whenever I visit the US and the timing is right, I go to Katsucon.

Because of your roles, did you mainly interact with fandom in person? How did the internet change that, if at all? Fandom for me was almost entirely in person, other than getting translated scripts for subtitles back in the early ’90s. Most of us subbers were at university, so we all had college email. Still, really no social interaction that way, mostly just swapping scripts and timings. Now, all my interactions with anime fandom are online and not in person. Bit sad, really.

Also regarding the internet, do you remember any of the old sites or forums you frequented in the early days, and could you tell me about them? I did do a bit of BBS stuff, friend of mine ran one,  but not much. Later in the ’90s, past my subbing days but well into the Katsucon years, I did a fair bit of chatting with Jan Scott Frazier over ICQ, mostly chatting about anime soundtracks. Cowboy Bebop in particular. But I can’t recall much more.

What was the first fandom you got really invested in? How did you express your fandom? Age 9: Battle of the Planets. I was absolutely nuts about that show. Had the lunch box. Made a watch and a helmet out of tinfoil and cling film. Did a lot of jumping off high things. I’m surprised I lived through it. Later found out about APAs and was sad that I’d been too young for it. (probably just as well, or I’d have had an early encounter with slash/yaoi.)

In my university years… Might be odd to say, but I never went crazy mad about any particular show. Plenty of shows I’d press on others, especially with the VTAS voting tapes. I was desperate to get people to watch more than Maison Ikkoku, which I seriously loathed. First show I was genuinely surprised by liking was Marmalade Boy. Everything I hated in an anime. Sports, miscommunication, slice of life, high school drama? Ugh. Yet not only did I watch the entire series, I kept the tapes for ages. In fact, wouldn’t be surprised if they’re upstairs somewhere still. I’m looking around my office, and other than a book on the art of Studio Ghibli and a bunch of ancient NewType mags, I’m oddly anime fandom free.

Another photo of the Sailor group from Katsucon Ni.

Wait, what’s an APA? Stands for Amateur Press Association. There’s a Wiki page on it, but look at it as a Tumblr post for the pre-internet geeks. They were started by amateur press owners in the 1870s, and many still run today. A number of the SF ones led some big authors down the path to writing professionally.

By the time I first saw one, BBS had more or less killed them off (despite the lack of art, which was one of the pluses for an APA.) Friend of mine showed me her collection of Gatchaman/Battle of the Planets APAs, which were amazing. Fanart, fanfic, and of course, slash, because Berg Katse [from Gatchaman] and his makeup were just too much temptation. Anime-oriented APAs provided synopses for anime (pre-subbing, so these were like gold), information on upcoming series, news about toys. Friend of mine managed a brilliant prank in one, where he gave a loving synopsis for a series called Hoi Polloi, art and album info included… and the thing never existed. I don’t have any personally.

Oh, and APAs are still a thing here in the UK. I’ve seen them at Gosh Comics in London.

Today you live in the UK. How do your experiences of the US and UK anime fandom communities differ? Mmm, I should explain. My mum is British, my dad is American. I’m very transatlantic. I think I’ve now lived equal time in both countries. Until my mid-twenties, I came over to the UK mostly for either summer or Xmas holidays.

I didn’t meet the UK fandom until I was subbing in the 90s. Can’t recall how it came to be, but I did end up meeting a crew of Londoners because of the internet. I first met Helen McCarthy back in the days of Anime UK. Managed to watch the UK dubbing of All-Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku because of her, which was hands-down one of the oddest anime experiences ever. They really stretched to get as many UK regional accents in as possible, and I nearly died at the one they chose for Nuku Nuku. Later on, we showed it at Katsucon (something that would be so illegal now, oops, but we were really clueless that first year). I brought over a lot of UK animated work, including the first Aardman Studio film, A Grand Day Out, as well. A clay animation called The Trap Door was a huge hit with VTAS. Many of the older UK fandom are just as intense about Gerry Anderson as they are about anime.

The UK anime fandom, as I’ve experienced it, are a tight bunch. Might be because one of the first anime introduced to the UK was Urutsukudoji, followed by Akira. It sort of cemented the idea of anime being porn and violence in the mainstream. But again, I’ve really not been involved with it much.

“Otakon 1 or 2.”

What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom when you got into it and now? We were idiots. No, seriously. It was so casual back then. No pressure for perfect photos or costumes. It was all home-made. You had to go to tremendous lengths just to see new stuff, and subtitles were an amazing bonus if you could find them. There was one show that we thought aired in black and white, but we found out was in colour, only our copy was so many generations down the line that the colour had warped. Then we got the final episode of Gunbuster, and thought it had happened again. We’d get tapes from friends, from army bases, from strangers in trenchcoats, and some times we had no idea what the show was before we’d put it in the VCR. It was like anime Gatcha. Sometimes you’d find that a show with a weird title was something utterly amazing, other times you’d find you’d been given tentacle porn. My poor roommate. She was cataloging the tape library, and after watching Creamy Mami, she stumbled across Cream Lemon [NSFW]. Oh so very not the same thing. But you just didn’t know. Friend of mine created a spoof anime synopsis for an APA, and I think it spread across the US as a rare hard-to-find show. We’d go through all the NewType issues, trying to figure out what was airing.

Today, no mystery. Advance info for every show coming and going. Easy access to everything with Hulu and Crunchyroll, all in mint quality. (Dubs are still a mixed bag though.) I’m a mix of envious and sad. I do think that if I was the same age I was when I first stumbled into that Animefest right now, I would have only stepped shallowly into the fandom. The sheer flood of it, the high pressure at the cons… I’d have kept to myself. I think it was easier for introverts back then.

JJ Kelley can be reached on Twitter

#122: Daisy

Age: 64

Location: New York, New York

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. As the age outlier for your project, I hope my tale will prove amusing. My first experience with anime was in 1967, with Astro Boy. Growing up on a balanced diet of Disney and 1930s cartoons, there was something about this little robot with the squeaky feet that captivated me. There was quite the hiatus between that initial moment and the 1980s, when I was again able to connect with anime.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? The character of Astro Boy was appealing, but the sci-fi setting completed the deal. The whole package was so different from the anthropomorphous animals or traditional folktale villains from “regular” cartoons! And, perhaps, being at the liminal stage of entering adolescence may have made me more vulnerable to Astro Boy‘s quest for identity.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? None other [than Astro Boy]—he reigned supreme.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? There was no real fandom, as you can imagine. This was the Dawn of Time, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth and watched mostly The Flintstones.

Was the Internet a part of fandom at the time? If yes, how? If no, how did you connect with other fans? Internet? Computers? Those were part of the sci-fi stories we all loved to read and daydream about.

Do you remember your first convention? What was it, and what was it like? My generation, alas, was not much for conventions. I also did not grow up in the U.S., so another strike against being part of that subculture.

Where did you grow up, and when did you come to the US? I was born in the Dominican Republic, but after a civil war there my family moved temporarily to Puerto Rico, where I came across anime in the form of Astroboy. As I said, that was 1967.

I first came to the US in 1978, to work on my B.A. in Latin American Studies.

There was a gap between your interest in Astro Boy in 1967, and rediscovering anime in the ’80s. Can you talk about rediscovering anime? The gap between 1967 and the 1980s was due to my going back to the DR for several years, then going to college (a couple of years in the DR, then a couple more in the US), and then taking some time to start a family. Once my daughter was a toddler, I went back to anime as a source of “comfort food” for my soul. In the ’80s all forms of visual culture became more accessible through VHS/Beta tapes, and even some laser discs.

I started attending film school (Columbia College in Chicago), taking animation classes, hanging out with animators. This was the crowd that introduced me to fandom, a concept that had not existed when I was growing up in the Caribbean. Back then it was mostly an individual viewing experience; by the 1980s it had become more of a network if only because no single person could afford to find/own the tapes that were available either through legitimate or under-the-table means. You really needed a group of people who would travel, exchange, copy, invest so as to have a “lending library” that all of us could enjoy.

Back then we survived on strong helpings of Miyazaki, Matsumoto, and more Tezuka. Monster movies would fill in the gaps.

Some of my friends in that crowd would attend comic-cons and other cons, but unfortunately I was too busy and too strapped for cash to be able to take the time to do so. Internet didn’t become a reality until much later, so chatrooms were not part of the picture. Everything was more of a socializing in small group structure – we would have viewing parties, especially when someone from the group would travel to Japan (or Europe) and bring back new tapes and discs. Often we would rely on a couple of Japanese friends to roughly translate as we were watching, since these were not subbed titles.

How would you characterize your experience as an anime fan today? My current day experience as an anime fan is rather peculiar. I am now in my sixties, but I continue to watch inordinate amounts of anime. I follow favorite directors, keep a hawk eye on Anichart to figure out my seasonal viewing schedule, read reviews (Anime Feminist first, then ANN – no others), and am always ready to blather on about anime to anyone who’ll put up with me. I am fortunate that there are enough fans where I work (at a university with an Asian Studies program), so there’s always fresh blood. Many of my students are fans and they get a thrill from being able to talk about their favorites with one of their professors, who takes them seriously! Plus, they will sometimes alert me to titles I might have dissed at first glance (Xam’d Lost Memories, looking right at you).

While I have your attention, I wanted to share my beautiful fandom experience in Cuba. One would not expect a poor, socialist country to have any such outlet – but they do!!! Some of my students there (I’ve been going every year, couple of times a year, for over two decades now) love anime (One Piece, Naruto, but also some of the short-run series) even though it’s devilishly hard to get. There’s this thing called “The Package,” which is nothing more than an external hard drive that gets circulated every Wednesday with hours of content from Florida TV. You can also request content from “providers” – people who travel or have family in the U.S. and download entire series.

And there’s cosplay nights at some night clubs! Capitalism has won the battle, alas, but when it comes to anime I feel less bad.

In your opinion, what’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom today and anime fandom when you first got into it? I think the biggest difference has come about in the way people interact because of the changes in technology. Obviously, duh, we didn’t have so much as videotapes back in the mid-sixties, much less the internet. Being able to tweet, having access to so much streaming content, podcasts, blogs, connecting to fans all around the globe – these are things that would have smacked of science fiction (sorry, alternate reality or whatever) Back In My Day, as any good grandma should say. I mean, look at how Cubans have formed a solid fandom network in spite of all the drawbacks in their economy! They were not able to do that up until five years ago, when the government allowed some access to the internet. Yeah, technology has made a huge difference in fandom over the decades as far as I can see.

The other aspect that I think has changed a great deal is in the gender relations within fandom. I don’t have to establish cred as a fan just because I’m female, which I got a lot back then (up to the early 1980s).

Were there always female fans, but they just weren’t accepted? Or are there more female anime fans now? I can’t make claims for the number of female fans having increased. I have no way of knowing that, really, since I’m not attending cons and I don’t have a group of friends who can be considered fans who might give me that insight. I was thinking more along the lines of (back in the 1970s and 1980s) female fans in my crowd not being considered “hard-core” because we had other interests, not just anime. If you only cosplayed for Halloween or Mardi Gras, you weren’t a “true” fan; if you only dressed up as certain characters, if you didn’t own figurines or make models, that sort of thing, you would be part of the group but just not accepted as one of the guys.

The same group that I hung out with for watching anime or going to cons back then was also the group that I would play a made-up variation of D&D with, and god forbid that one of us “girls” wanted to create some original character! There would be grumbling, and the “Master” would verbally pat us on the head and tell us to be content with being Emeraldas or Maeter or some such.

Anyway, these same guys slowly came around as we women just did as we pleased or made their lives difficult!

BTW, my daughter grew up around all of this and is to this day a huge anime nerd. I’m so proud of her.

Did you introduce your daughter to anime? Do you watch anime together now, and if so, which shows? Yes, I introduced her to anime. The first things she watched were, obviously, Nausicaä and Totoro. But we went from there to all sorts of other shows: Ranma 1/2, Fushigi Yugi, Bubblegum Crisis, Unico, etc. We both loved watching Cardcaptor Sakura and Sailor Moon when she was older.

Nowadays we both work a lot, so we tend to have less time to watch together. But most recently we’ve watched Tamako Market, Nozaki-kun, Tonari no Seki-kun, we rewatched Inuyasha, and I forget what all else!

We sometimes will watch stuff independently and just exchange impressions, but whatever she sees and likes will be a sure hit with me – and vice versa. Our tastes dovetail perfectly.

Daisy can be reached on Twitter

#121: Christopher

Age: I’m 26 now, finished my studies and am now working full-time.

Sadly this means I have a lot less time for anime. I went from 30+ shows a year to maybe 5-6 now. If you ever do a “time skip” follow up series, let me know because this is a real personal struggle for me.

Location: Karlsruhe, Germany

When did you discover anime? Like most German kids, I watched Yu-Gi-Oh!, Pokémon, Digimon, Dragon Ball Z, etc. without realizing what it was. By 15 I thought I had grown out of it but my neighbor was really into Naruto. When I dragged a case of pneumonia around long enough to chain me to the bed for three weeks, I decided to try it out. Looking for more, I found the fansubbing communities online and with them, a whole new world for me.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? The “shonen battle” trope. There is just nothing what could get a 15-year-old more hyped than that and you didn’t find it in any other medium. Funnily enough, this is now the trope I’m probably most tired off.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? DBZ was always big but at the time Naruto got all the good “kids show” spots. So I have to say Naruto.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? The first two to three years, I wasn’t part of it. I just loved watching anime and sometimes I would visit a forum but discover that most other German anime fans were pretentious douchebags.

It wasn’t until I started fansubbing that I discovered how fun the community can be if you find your place in it.

What was your role in the fansubbing community? I actually got more or less “forced” into fansubbing. I was an author for the biggest German Naruto site (GermanNaruto.de* – clever, I know) and the site started a fansub group to deliver quality german fansubs for our beloved ninja. I was originally not part of the team but as with all group projects, people were unreliable and I more often than not ended up helping out with timesetting and proofreading subtitles to get the episode out in time. We actually existed out of the fansubbing community as we didn’t care about the craft itself but only about delivering an enjoyable Naruto experience for our users as German subs (even Crunchyroll ones) were mediocre at best at the time.

[*This fan site is no longer accessible at this address. Find it here.]

As anime has become more accessible, have you continued to be a part of fansubs? Why or why not? Even though I, to this day, would never want to join another fansub project, I really enjoyed being part of this team. I’m sad I lost contact with most of them but one of my best friends is a girl I met there.

The site itself fizzled out shortly after the manga finished but we continued to sub Naruto to the very end of the anime. I actually don’t know how this correlates with anime becoming more accessible since none of us did it for any other reason than because we liked doing it.

Was the Internet a part of fandom at the time? If yes, how? If no, how did you connect with other fans? It was mainly just a source for streams with some forum threads dedicated to certain shows. (Around 2010.) Since Germans never talked about anime as anime there were only small groups who were interested in it and those usually met in those threads.

Two of Christopher’s autographed posters from Conichi.

When I finally started checking out English sites two years later, I discovered that I probably missed out on a lot of stuff. So it’s hard for me to say how the internet was involved in general.

Do you remember your first convention? What was it, and what was it like? Aninite 2014. Hard to believe that it took me four years to visit a convention and on top of it it was one in Austria. I met up with my fansubbing group who I only contacted via Skype before. The convention was OK I guess, but I was too busy meeting people (which is always the best part of cons) to really evaluate it.

It probably had little programming apart from the main stage and focused a lot on selling merchandise and holding art workshops. But that didn’t matter much since I was there for my online friends.

Christopher’s autographed Kill La Kill poster is “my most valuable possession.”

On the other hand, Connichi two months later was a whole new world for me. I ran from panel to panel, meeting Atsuhiro Iwakami from ufotable and Studio Trigger’s Sushio who worked on two of my favorite shows of all time. I kinda regret not being as informed about the industry at the time, but I can’t help but smile when I see my posters with their autographs.

All the other panels were great too and I met a few longtime friends there.

The whole experience was a blast and is the reason I go every year: connecting with people, getting to meet my (now) idols, and finding out so many new things about anime and manga—these are some of the best feelings in the world.

Christopher’s Gilgamesh (Fate series) figure.

What was the first anime-related purchase you made, and how much did it cost? This is a really tough question. I’m not entirely sure what the first thing I bought was but if we are talking about the first thing that meant “buying into anime” for me then it’s definitely my Misaka Mikoto (Raildex) figurine. It’s too bad I don’t have a picture right now as she is still in a box from my move to the new house a couple of weeks ago. I actually bought her at Aninite and getting this figurine was a must for me. She and Gilgamesh (who I got shortly after and who is luckily standing behind me so you get a picture) are to this day constantly in my top five favorite characters. Both cost around 45€/$50/£38.

In hindsight, this was either a great or terrible idea, as I now have a hard time spending more on characters I don’t like quite as much while not really getting more expensive figurines of those two since I already have them.

Did you stay a fan the whole time up until today? If yes, what kept your interest? I did stay a fan the whole time and I hope to be one for the rest of my life. The reason I fell in love with it has a variety of reasons which I will spare you since I’m rambling way too much anyways but it boils down to that for me, it is the freest medium. There are no boundaries, the possibilities are endless, and every story looks like it feels to the characters. In this unlimited pool of ideas, I will always find something I enjoy.

You said you loved shonen battle anime when you discovered the medium. What types of anime do you like now and why? I’m not sure I have a “type”. Until two years ago I always said I’d watch everything except BL as long as it’s fun but having seen and loving Doukyuusei I can’t even exclude that anymore. If there is one thing I look out for then it’s well-drawn relationships. Those don’t need to be necessarily romantic but can be rivalries, friendships or feuds as well. White Album 2, Oregairu, Hibike Euphonium, and Shinsekai Yori are really good examples for this.

Oh.. and I have a thing for B (horror) movies which is why I have a strange love for Another, Mayoiga, and even Pupa and School Days.

In your opinion, what’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom today and anime fandom when you first got into it? For me, there are two big differences: The first one is that with the growing accessibility and mainstream drift that anime is getting, it’s getting harder to know someone through anime. When I started seven to eight years ago, the community was very small and anime watchers all had things and character traits in common. Finding out that a colleague/classmate watches anime meant that you would for sure get along. Today, all different kinds of people watch anime, which is great but drives out this feeling that you would like anyone who watches anime. Also, there are so many shows that if you both watch anime it’s not even likely you both watch/like the same things.

On the other hand, give it a few years and we’ll be able to recommend anime like any other show on Netflix.

The second contrast is me getting older and having less free time. I cannot really partake in the community anymore. I spent my whole time in college on /r/Anime, Twitter, Sakugabooru, and similar sites. After getting a consulting job, I maybe get to open Reddit for five minutes a day and haven’t read an (anime related) article in a year. And even if I had time to participate, the amount of seasonal anime I’d need to watch would mean sacrificing a lot of time I can otherwise spend with friends, hobbies, and family. So the contrast is that anime has become much more of a solitary activity for me. I do hope to change it but if I’m honest with myself, the chances aren’t too great.

Christopher can be reached on his Instagram and Twitter

#120: Kara

Age: 38

Location: Newport News, VA, USA

When did you discover anime? Anime has always been part of my life in some form—I watched Unico as a kid and a little bit of Sailor Moon when it boomed—but I really became interested in college, after a high school friend had spent ages telling me how great Slayers was.

I joined my college’s anime club, the William & Mary Anime Society (WMAS), sight unseen, with no knowledge of it whatsoever. I enjoyed our viewings of Revolutionary Girl Utena and The Irresponsible Captain Tylor, but it was a viewing of Castle of Cagliostro that finally roped me in and made me fall in love with anime as an art form.

It’s incredible that you joined “sight unseen.” Did you have any preconceived notions about what anime was going into it that made you want to join a club? So I was born in ’81 and had cable, which means I got a steady diet of anime-I-didn’t-know-was-anime in my childhood. Mostly that was Unico and the Grimms’ Fairy Tale series with the little green-haired girl in the opening. (You know. “Hey, come along and join the fun!”) I still had no context for “anime” until Sailor Moon got big, and then my only knowledge of it was Dave Barry writing an article about how he didn’t understand it. So my exposure was more limited and biased than nonexistent. Really, I just knew I had a friend who was into it and I kind of dug the art, so I wanted to see what it was beyond the look.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? At first, it was a whole new source of animation I’d yet to discover. But when I made friends with the local anime geezers who loaded me up on things like Macross and Bubblegum Crisis, I started getting a better idea of how much the animators cared. With the shows I tended to gravitate toward, there was an obvious love for the product that went into it: detailed backgrounds you only saw for the space of a few seconds, mechanical designs that invoked realism when I was more than happy to suspend my disbelief, things like that.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? Right when I was getting face-first into anime, Utena and Cowboy Bebop were still relatively fresh. In that span of college years when I made my way from knowing nothing to being relatively versed, the “gateway drugs” were Bebop and Fruits Basket. The live-action Sailor Moon also ran its course, so the entire fandom sort of had its toe in tokusatsu without really realizing it.

What was the first fandom you got really invested in? How did you express your fandom? I have two slightly different answers to this. The first anime I was ever REALLY a fan of was Unico, but I didn’t know what anime was, so it’s hard to call that “anime fandom.” But I did make myself a little cardboard cutout Unico I’d take places with me because I liked to imagine he was my friend and I’d go on adventures with him.

I think my first anime fandom, KNOWING what anime was, was Utena. I did some cosplay much further down the road, but while I was still in WMAS I headed up a parody dub of episode 3 called “Utena: Dance Dance Revolution.” I thought I was really quite funny and launching off things like “Voltron: Hell-Bent for Leather” and “Dirty Pair Does Dishes” and that whole scene. We had a good group, though. Shannon Granville (still a friend I see occasionally) was a very deadpan Utena, I did Anthy a la Molly in the original Sailor Moon dub… we had people’s roommates coming in and doing voices. I think one character spoke in fake Klingon. Something tells me it’s not aged well in a lot of ways, and there were a lot of club in-jokes, but I’ll bet people can find it if they dig around enough.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? Anime cons were still relatively small, and clubs and conventions were where you went to see things. So there was a camaraderie there that was more than just cosplay meet-ups. (Not to put down cosplay meet-ups—I still love them!) But like, we were just at the end of the sub vs. dub era when you had to choose which to buy. You couldn’t get pocky at World Market. It was sort of the “last hurrah” of anime as a subculture [as opposed to popular culture], which I don’t consider a “hurrah” at all because I like it being easily accessible. It was strange, jumping on in a time when it was gathering steam and getting big, but I kind of feel like I ended up being a product of two generations of fandom. Which means I love both generations, honestly.

Was the Internet a part of fandom at the time? If yes, how? If no, how did you connect with other fans? We were JUST on the edge of going digital. Like my first junior year of college (I took a medical withdrawal for a year), I distinctly remember both sending out for Lupin III fansubs on green VHS tapes AND downloading Neighborhood Story and Mahoromatic fansubs on Limewire.

The year or so I was on medical leave was when torrenting really became a thing, so it’s sort of like my college career is split into two chapters, and right along that chapter split is where the fandom started to become what it is today. Legal streaming was still several years away—even after I graduated, I was still working with fansub groups on obscure stuff (which you can now watch legally on Hulu). So I came in during the shift from “You can find maybe half of anything but you have to work for it” to “You can find things right after they come out but not legally.”

Did you participate in early internet fandom? Were there particular sites or forums you visited? I was actually into the late ’90s/early ’00s fandub community more than anything else: a bunch of people dubbing ten-second clips from SailorStars and whatever else, and sometimes doing actual audio dramas. I did a few longer-form projects (which shall remain nameless since, you know, that was copyright infringement). I did cross paths with a lot of people who ended up going pro, though—Cristina Vee notable among them. I had this sort of wild fifth-dimensional moment during the Crunchyroll Awards, doing live news updates while she was on camera and sort of mentally interposing that over our stuff 15 years ago.

The voice acting community was rough sometimes, as any online community can be, but it was some of the best stuff I ever did. I met a lot of friends and collaborators I still work with (like Mike Dent and Aron Toman), and I still do some voice acting (Toman’s Chronicles of Oz). It helped improve my range, too. And it gave us this whole crop of ready-to-go voice actors.

[Editor’s note: Kara is one of the professionals I interviewed for a Forbes article about transitioning from the piracy era to the legal anime industry. To read more about her story in this context, check here.]

Do you remember your first convention? What was it, and what was it like? My first con wasn’t an anime con, but my first anime con was only like a month after. It was Katsucon 6 and I went with WMAS (my anime club). My memories of it are extremely blurry, but I remember we were in the cosplay and we did “Anime Family Feud” with the Ikaris (Evangelion) vs. the Mishimas (Cat Girl Nuku-Nuku) hosted by Captain Tylor. I’d seen zero Eva, they just spray-painted my hair blue and said to act emotionless. I did get the biggest laugh of the night, though:

“So, Rei, how are you doing tonight?”
“I don’t know.”

Funnily enough, apparently WMAS got REALLY known for its skits after that because we did ridiculous parodies. A River Song cosplayer I met more than a decade later (who’s now a good friend) actually recognized me for those skits. Wild.

Would you mind sharing a photo of this cosplay, or any photos you have from Katsucon 6? Sadly, those photos are lost to the sands of time. I checked back on my college anime club’s site and a few other places but no joy. I can describe it, though. It was all closet cosplay with bits chopped up: Peter Pan collar shirt, a light blue dress I’d just cut chunks out of to imitate the shape of the front, and a frayed red ribbon for the collar. From onstage it looked fine. Up close it was a hot mess.

Today you are a professional in an anime-related field. How did your early anime fandom experience shape your career today? One of the most valuable things about my early fandom is I had friends of all ages: college friends, yes, but also older friends who had been into the anime scene literal DECADES longer than any of us. That was great because it brought us insight into the fandom before our time and encouraged us to watch older shows, but it was also a matter of leading by example.

Everyone has their “obnoxious time” as a new fan, especially if you’re a teen when you get into it. It’s just part of the maturing process. I was fortunate that I had older friends that understood it, guided me through it (occasionally with “tough love”), but didn’t write me off just because I was an annoying newbie who didn’t know as much as they did. They saw that as an opportunity to share what they loved and watch someone be enchanted by it for the first time.

If it weren’t for those people, I would have fled the fandom, rather than digging deeper into it to the point that I ended up working in multiple facets of the industry. Specific people like Mike Griffith, Rob Lantz, the late Dan Taraschke, are all people who were (and in some cases still are) my positive examples. And I work with more positive examples daily. Preserving the history of our fandom is such a big deal, but not to the point of keeping it “pure” or whatever. I hope in some way, what I do can help another new fan digging in for the first time feel welcome.

Kara can be reached on Twitter and her blog.

#119: Austin

Age: 23

Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. I will separate this into three discovery periods: before I knew of the term “anime,” when I first learned about the term anime, and finally my rediscovery of anime and what it can really encompass.

Until I entered high school in America, I grew up in Hong Kong. When I was still an elementary schooler, one night I was watching TV and airing on the TV was some cartoon movie that enthralled me. It was in a Cantonese dub (of which I understood basically nothing) with rough English subtitles that would appear once every couple of lines. Eventually it was past my bed time and I had to submit to my parental overlords who would have just forcibly torn me away from the TV otherwise. It killed me that I had no idea what this movie was even called (much less that it was a Japanese cartoon) and I only realized much later after I had learned of the term anime that this movie was in fact Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. I went through the same experience again from half-watching Princess Mononoke, also presented with a Cantonese dub and shoddy English subtitles during those same childhood years.

A ‘Legend of the Galactic Heroes’ cel from Austin’s collection.

I did not actually learn of the term anime until a friend of mine introduced me to Naruto during my middle school years. Today this is probably one of my marks of shame from my earlier days as an anime fan, but I rewatched the original Naruto TV series including filler at least three times. It didn’t take long after Naruto to check out the other Shonen Jump fare, and then I had a phase of watching a bunch of shoujo anime after getting a bit tired of shonen fighting stuff. After that I proceeded to much of the male otaku-pandering harem series. I began to watch most of the airing series that was being fansubbed at the time as I proceeded into high school until I reached major anime burnout. The show that really broke me was K-On. I had a revelation that the shows that otaku were hyping up as the “must check out” shows or the “best anime of the season” just did not really appeal to me anymore. Even those shows aside, after being burned too many times by anime with great beginning episodes that would then be completely unable to sustain their premise for their full running length (Gonzo anyone?), I was really questioning whether or not my heart was really in anime anymore.

My re-discovery of anime I have to credit 100% to the Anime World Order podcast. I very well may not be an anime fan today if I had not found their podcast during my high school burnout. It really opened my eyes up to just how many gems there were back in the ’70s/’80s/early ’90s and to get in the habit of just trying to learn more about who is actually involved in creating the anime I watch and love. It also really opened up my eyes to the fact that anime is not just Shonen Jump adaptations or a cesspool of otaku in-jokes and tropes, but it really does have the capacity to take on a much wider diversity of fictional material. Helen McCarthy summarized this well on the AWO interview with her (at the 5:58 mark):

“Anime is an adventure playground and like any adventure playground you’re only going to get out of it what you take in with you […] if you go looking to try new things, explore new genres, and look around for challenges, then anime is going to provide that.”

The pursuit of challenges is what keeps my anime passion alive. Every time I see a side of anime I’ve never seen before, my otaku expiration date pushes back even further. My hope is that I will never hit this expiration date, so long as I remember that watching anime does not have to be limited to the titles that trend with the anime fandom at large.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? For my elementary school story, the main feeling I came away from having half-watched both movies was “Wow, I did not know a cartoon could portray such a compelling story.” My prior exposure to cartoons was things of the nature of some of the older Walt Disney cartoons, Tom and Jerry, CatDog, and Rocko’s Modern Life to name a few. While I enjoyed those as a kid, we can all see that these are comedic endeavors that completely unlike the aforementioned movies. Those movies imprinted upon me a much deeper, lingering feeling of fulfillment.

Although Naruto marked my initial foray into anime, I have actually fallen completely out of caring about it at all. That being said, when I first watched it I really thought it was a fresh breath of air from all the Western cartoons done in episodic format. I actually love a lot of the DCAU cartoons but I feel like there is a limit to how far or deep you can take a story when constrained by that format. The serialized nature of Naruto and other series like it grabbed my attention and I grew a much stronger attachment to characters from long running series like this. This is not to say I necessarily dislike anime that take an episodic format, but an anime series portraying a single story that runs for the length of one or more cours returns a particular feeling of immense satisfaction when done well. I can’t say the same for most of the Western cartoons I watched when I was younger. I was also fascinated by many of the cultural differences from Japan that were exhibited in some of the anime I watched during this time, and so there was definitely an appeal of adventuring into a culture very different from my mostly Western sensibilities.

A ‘Galaxy Express 999’ cel from Austin’s collection.

The appeal of anime since my rediscovery of it has taken a much more fascinating turn. Prior to this point I did not really take to the cel-animated style of animation but I’ve grown exceedingly fond of it the more stuff I visit from the ’70s and ’80s. It saddens me to think that it practically a dead art at this point. (If I’m not mistaken Sazae-san was the last anime to use cel-animation and if the production for Sazae-san cannot keep it up… well nothing else can right?) The amount of artistic and narrative diversity that was possible during the ’80s due to the booming economy in Japan at the time is something that I have not really found in anime of recent times; with any luck crowdfunded anime will continue to carve out its own niche though. That aside, I also have bizarre theoretical nostalgia for the ’80s which my parents find both puzzling and amusing.

Just to clarify, even though I have primarily been focusing my attention on anime from the ’70s and ’80s since my rediscovery, I do think that currently anime is doing pretty well and when I do finally get around to watching some more recent anime it is not that hard for me to find something I would like. I am just in no rush to watch anime that everyone is talking about, and I am hesitant to watch shows as they air for fear of being let down by the end.

You grew up in Hong Kong and then Cambridge. Can you tell me how anime fandom was different in each city? I should clarify here. Until high school I grew up in Hong Kong. During high school I was in New Jersey. For undergraduate schooling onwards I was in Cambridge. So I’m not really sure I can say I “grew up” in Cambridge since I was already in college at that point.

As someone that cannot actually speak Cantonese (I can understand a very small amount), my experience is unlikely to be representative of actual fandom in Hong Kong. I also did not attempt to interact too much with fandom in Hong Kong. I think what stands out to me the most over there compared to the states are the sort of properties that were represented. I can remember walking in random malls and seeing illustrations and merchandise for Astro Boy casually in areas. Even more so for stuff like Doraemon. Doraemon would be broadcast dubbed on the Cantonese language channels. Basically you can clearly see representation of the set of anime or manga properties that are huge across East Asia but are virtually unheard of in the West. Many of these properties are popular to large audiences, not just self-proclaimed anime fans. As far as people at school (I went to a British private school taught entirely in English so again, possibly not representative), there were kids who were into those huge Shonen Jump titles like Naruto, Bleach, One Piece, and so forth. I do recall someone reading a localized (into written Chinese) Sgt. Frog manga volume. I wasn’t even aware that this was released in the states or that it had a following until checking just now. In my head I had thought of this as another “popular in East Asia but not in the West” property.

I went to a boarding high school in New Jersey and I didn’t leave campus much because I was lazy and going to town required more walking than I cared for at the time. So I can really only comment on the situation at school. I think besides what I’ve already said, it appeared to me that there wasn’t a lot of interest in an organized club setting for anime (although I feel like it could have been different if the school actually allowed for non-athletic and non-theater extra-curricular activities). There were however people with at least some kind of passing interest in anime; their presence was not very visible though so to this day I’m not entirely sure how many people actually cared about anime. This is when I really understood that there’s a whole population of people who consume anime but do not speak about it whatsoever.

College in Cambridge was a pretty huge letdown as far as anime fandom is concerned. Admittedly, if I was still the same fan I was when I was getting into this stuff I would have fit right at home. There were a lot of people to whom anime is essentially a bunch of memes. While I do actually think one great aspect about anime fandom is that people can celebrate it in so many different ways, it was a letdown for me that I had so much trouble finding people who would also want to take it seriously. I’m not gonna pretend like every anime is some kind of cinematic masterpiece, because that is not true at all. At the time it struck me as strange that anime fans had so little interest in seeking out things worthy of that kind of recognition. Stepping aside from my biases, there’s definitely a lot of that internet awareness of anime fandom that would be represented by anime fans at my school. So if you were the sort of person who was constantly on top of the zeitgeist of anime fandom, quickly jumping to one hot otaku property after the next, you would have had a great time.

A ‘Black Jack’ cel from Austin’s collection.

You spent a lot of time gravitating toward much older anime. What appealed to you about those over more modern titles? When I first saw a non-Ghibli cel animated anime, I was still in my relative infancy as an anime fan and the aesthetic did not appeal to me at the time. It’s funny that since then I now tend to gravitate much more to older titles. Probably the biggest driving force during my transition to older titles is wanting to get away from the glut of moe titles that kept getting pumped out. Before that point most of what I was watching was that moe stuff and at first I thought it was quirky and fun but later on I realized I was just lying to myself about liking that stuff anymore. There can be shows with moe elements that can still be good provided other quality aspects (plot, characterization, etc.) are there. However, the balance wasn’t really there when I was really getting sick of it. Nowadays anime seems to be doing a lot better than simply completing a checklist designed to cater only to the moe fanbase.

So older anime had a lot less moe stuff crammed into it. On the other hand, there’s a ton more mecha stuff there which I previously did not care for. I no longer have any resistance to mecha shows now and do enjoy greatly the ones that I have seen. I still don’t think I would call myself a huge mecha person though. I do really like the level of detail you see with some illustrations of robots. It is a shame that the animators who can actually animate robots in 2D are dwindling out.

The hand-crafted feel of cel animation versus the technically cleaner aspects of digital animation is something that I enjoy greatly. It’s really great whenever some window shatters or a building gets demolished and you can see the individual bits of debris and rubble. People spent weeks painting cels for something that amounts to a gorgeous second long shot. Whenever the camera perspective switches I’m blown away because everything in the shot has to be redrawn each frame. The warmer color palette gives a different vibe than that of modern titles. In any case, for many of these aspects there’s not necessarily a technical reason you couldn’t do these things in digital animation. However, there is one thing that was certainly different in the ’80s and that was the economy in Japan.

The amount of money that got pumped into the anime industry as a consequence of the ’80s bubble economy would allow for these super detailed and time-intensive shots. Not all old anime is like this of course, but at least the possibility was there. Besides that, the crazy amounts of money that would get thrown around would enable the production of strange, extremely non-merchandisable titles such as Angel’s Egg, To-Y, and Bobby’s Girl. Success or not, there is something fascinating about creative output in anime unrestrained by commercial considerations. If you wanted to pick a single decade to look for as much anime that is unlike anime you’ve seen before, unquestionably the ’80s is the place to go.

Putting aside my preference for the aesthetics or the experimental stuff of the time, if I were to try and sell someone on the concept of going back and checking older anime it would be that titles that have withstood the test of time are worth checking out. It’s hard to identify if an anime title is going to have any staying power at the height of its popularity. So the only reasonable way to unbiasedly test this I think is to simply wait and see. Especially nowadays, fans move rapidly from one show to the next. Here’s are modern examples of things I don’t think pass the test of time. How many people honestly care about The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya anymore (well, they weren’t doing themselves any favors with that second season)? How about Lucky Star? On the other hand, people will still bring up Akira as one of these cinematic masterpieces. Somehow fandom over Legend of the Galactic Heroes has persisted for all this time despite only very recently getting an official release for the first time. Old school fans still talk about Bubblegum Crisis. A couple of years back Carl Gustav Horn cared enough to assemble writers and put together a gorgeous 25th anniversary fanzine for Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise. To me, that is a strong signal that those particular titles are at least worth checking out. An argument could certainly be made that since so much less stuff made it to English speaking audiences back then, it was easier for fandom as a whole to rally and concentrate around a small subset of shows compared to now. But hey, people still care about this stuff more than 25 years later. Why not find out what all the fuss is about?

Austin at Otakon 2017, getting his ‘Bobby’s Girl’ cel signed by creator Masao Maruyama

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? I did not really try to connect with anime fans until high school. There did not seem to be a whole lot of interest in anime at my school when I tried asking around, and so I eventually started an anime club in hopes of finding other fans. Unfortunately basically any extracurricular activity that was not sports or theater was shafted because there were credit requirements related to these and so even though a bunch of people expressed interest in an anime club at my first administrative meeting, very few people could actually come to showings I held after school. To be honest I did not really have a good sense of direction for what I wanted to do with the club until I was a senior and had experienced my rediscovery of anime. It was also during this time I began nurturing my love of old anime. The goal I set that year was to try and break people’s preconceived notions of anime with every showing I did and try and make it a little educational by talking about some of the background details of how the titles came to be. So I would show titles like Royal Space Force, Project A-ko, Angel’s Egg, Gunbuster, and the early ’90s Black Jack OAVs to name a few. That being said, the anime club was really just one guy I had not met before I started it, and my friends most of whom were not really anime fans. The people that attended did tell me later after I had graduated that I showed them some really interesting stuff that they would never have associated with anime normally, so I guess I did achieve my goal in the end. I think there might have been more anime fans than I was originally led to believe but perhaps none of them were interested in going to an anime club. I say this because at a completely unrelated event I was talking to a friend about the unfortunate passing of Satoshi Kon and why this was a big deal, and someone I barely knew chimed in and said “Oh yeah I heard about that too!” I was shocked that someone else in my high school would even know of the name Satoshi Kon.

Then after that was college. Even though I went to a very nerdy college, I really did not connect much at all with anime fans I met there. It honestly was a really hard time for me as an anime fan to have to come to terms with the fact that I had so little in common with other anime fans in my age group. I am aware that what I am saying would probably anger some of the older fans who may have had to endure bullying for being into anime and would have killed to find any other anime fans. With the exception of one person (Hi Steve!), I basically did not meet any anime fans who really cared much about both old anime and the people who worked on them. Even putting aside old anime, people who went to the anime club in college were not particularly interested in having serious discussions about anime either. Apparently the club used to be open to the public but from what I hear, too many old folks being around turned off students from the showings so it was closed off by a previous club president who had graduated by the time I was attending. While I am sure this was done with good intentions for the students, I was pretty bummed out that had I only attended a few years earlier I would have been able to meet a bunch of older anime fans. The one time during those years I felt a really strong connection with other people about anime was during a summer internship in Tokyo when I was 20 years old; basically all the actual employees in my team were middle aged software engineers. That same summer I was again reminded how out of place I was and still am; I was cel shopping in Nakano Broadway and I realized that the only people that ever walked into the cel shops (I spent hours upon hours just looking at cels) that were younger than me were the kids of couples that were much older than me. It is not easy for me to be reminded frequently about my interests are quite out of place with other fans in my age group. I would love to meet other fans in-person that are into old anime regardless of their age but I do not really know of a way to do so easily. I think most people tend to socialize within their age groups so I am not sure there is an easy way.

Was the Internet a part of fandom at the time? It was, but I did not really use the internet to try and find other fans during middle and high school. These days I follow a bunch of the Anitwitter folks though. I mostly gave up trying to connect with other fans in real life circles. Some of my college friends who watch anime have tried to appeal to me by claiming to me things of the nature “Miyazaki seems like he thinks he’s the only one who can save anime” or “I can see how Hunter x Hunter was influenced by Naruto.” When I respond “Oh that’s interesting I never heard of that” and then ask them for a citation source or how they know any of this eventually they admit that they were bullshitting me which I do not take kindly to at all. Experiences like this deter me from wanting trying to discuss anime seriously with the anime fans I currently know in person. As a result I now sort of just silently follow the tweetings of (to name a few) the Mike Toole, Dawn / Usamimi and 80s_anime folks of the world. My small (maybe dumb) hope is that perhaps writing all of this may help open up some avenues to connect with other anime fans into older anime.

Austin at Otakon 2017, getting his ‘Bubblegum Crisis’ cel cel signed by Hidenori Matsubara.

Do you remember your first convention? What was it, and what was it like? My first anime convention was actually only a little over a year ago, at Anime Boston 2016. Prior to that my entire knowledge of what actually happens at anime conventions was pretty much based the AWO podcast coverage of them. I only went on Sunday and I mostly just spent time in the dealers’ room, especially at the only vendor that was selling cels. Instead of cels, at that booth I ended up buying two Galaxy Express 999 posters, a Royal Space Force poster, and a Macross Do You Remember Love poster. I’m kind of kicking myself for not going for the whole weekend because Masao Maruyama was a guest that year.

Tell me how you got a summer internship in Tokyo. Where was it? Did you speak Japanese? So I actually did three summer internships in a row in Japan. The first in Hyogo Prefecture (near Osaka), the second in Tokyo, and the third in Tokyo. These were all arranged through my school which had a program that you where you could do summer internships abroad. All of these internships were software development related (I majored in Computer Science).

The first internship was for a startup which excluding me and another intern from my school, consisted of literally just my French boss and a Japanese student working there. At lunch sometimes we would use Japanese but for work stuff I would just speak to him in English.

The second internship was for a more traditional Japanese company called Secom, and took place at their research lab in Mitaka city (the same city where the Ghibli museum is located). They asked me what language I preferred to communicate with and I insisted on Japanese because I was trying to get more comfortable speaking it. They seemed relieved and happy to accommodate that request, although we would have once a week English lunch table events which I would go to so they could practice English. Those lunch tables were the only time I spoke English at the company. In the present day my spoken Japanese has atrophied very hard, although I’m still practicing reading and listening. As I mentioned earlier, most of the people in my team were essentially folks in their 40s to 50s who majored in Computer Science back in the day. In other words, the demographic of people who would likely enjoy the same kind of anime that I do. This was exactly the case. I could talk about how great Galaxy Express 999 is and people would respond with pleasant agreement instead of a blank face, wow! Forgive me for tooting my horn a little, but those guys were continually surprised by just how much I knew about older anime properties; actually I feel like I actually don’t know that much compared to the super fans that I follow online. For a presentation I did in front of an audience comprised of people from a bunch of different teams, I showcased some of the cels I bought that summer and invited people to stop by my desk if they wanted to take a look at the rest. One guy who came by was talking about Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise and referred to Hideaki Anno as the director. I gave him a weird look and corrected him, pointing out that the director was in fact Hiroyuki Yamaga. He still wasn’t quite convinced but my supervisor had my back and said “he actually knows a lot about anime.” Most of the people in my team weren’t necessarily hardcore anime fans so much as people who enjoyed anime when they were younger. It just so happens those anime titles were exactly what I was into. As a half-joke I would tell friends in the states that I was finally with my kind of people. It was the first (of very few) major experiences I’ve had offline where I felt like I really had an overlapping anime interest with another group of people.

The third internship was not an internship so much as a summer research experience I did at Tokyo University. I think most students (all of them were graduate students) in the lab could read English decently, which was probably a requirement given that most academia is published in English, but they were no one spoke it at all. It was kind of unfortunate since my Japanese speaking had gotten a lot worse at this point so it was hard to actually engage in conversations about stuff. During my introduction to the lab I did mention (in Japanese) “Hmmm, as far as hobbies I’m into ’80s anime in particular.” After processing what I had said, one of the students responded “… wait we weren’t even born then.”

This reminded me of an amusing experience during my first summer in Japan before my first internship started, where I was in a language exchange thing that was happening at Tokyo University with my Japanese class from school. I didn’t realize it at the time, but apparently my bizarre interest in older anime left an impression on some people there. At the end of this language exchange thing, there was a closing event where on a whim they were someone should do karaoke. Prior to this I had used the opening to Gatchaman in a presentation for my Japanese class so everyone from my class wanted me to go sing the opening in front of a bunch of Tokyo University engineering staff and graduate students, which I did. I’m not even sure the graduate students knew what this was, and it must have been weird for some of the staff to get a flashback to their childhoods.

Was your interest in anime a contributing factor to you taking an internship in Tokyo? Maybe somewhat but honestly I don’t think it was that big of a factor prior to accepting the internship. Completely unrelated to my anime interest, I had read up a lot about lifestyle differences or social issues in Japan. So I was well aware that it isn’t some fantasy land where people casually walk down the street rocking Naruto headbands. Especially coming from Hong Kong and then living in the states, the culture shock wasn’t that big for me by the time I spent my first summer in Japan.

I also didn’t really have this anime fan obsession with Akihabara being the holy land nor did I feel like I absolutely had to make a pilgrimage over there to complete my anime fan journey. I did go a couple of times and at first it was a little overwhelming but honestly overall it was pretty boring for me. If you are down with all the hot anime merchandise and have tons of money, then they will very willingly accommodate that fan interest. But for someone like me whose mind was flooded with obsession over older anime, there wasn’t a lot that catered to me from there. Nakano Broadway on the other hand, THAT is where the old school anime fan stuff is at.

In your opinion, what’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom today and anime fandom when you first got into it? This is a pretty boring answer because it could apply to anyone besides people that became fans after the rise of streaming as a anime delivery mechanism, but it has to be just the sheer amount of anime that is available via legal means. More accessibility is great but ironically the problem of legal accessibility being solved has lead to the problem of too much anime being available. The latter is not actually a problem because it’s as simple as choosing not to watch everything, but I think any long term fans can probably name a person or two that tried to watch everything available every season and burned out really fast. As far as how this relates to fandom specifically, I think an obsession with always trying to stay up to date has lead to overall anime fandom having a very short term memory. To be honest not long after I was getting into anime I think this was already starting to happen, but now it seems even worse. I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t really see the modern equivalent of extreme concentrated pockets of fandom for older properties (whether that’s stuff from when I was getting into anime, or before). It would be a shame to lose that level of fan dedication. That being said, I’m still pretty optimistic that dedicated fandom will still thrive in some form.

Austin can be reached on Twitter and his blog.