#19: Alexander

Age: 22

Location: New York

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember.
I discovered anime through Toonami when I was four or five. My first show was Dragon Ball Z. I was hooked ever since.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? The cool fights and art.

What about the art specifically appealed to you? I think the biggest reason I liked the art was because of how detailed and kind of angular it was, in comparison to the regular American cartoons at least.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? Dragon Ball Z or Pokemon.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? Basically every kid at school was watching shows after school so it didn’t really feel special.

Why didn’t it feel special? It was kind of mainstream, lots of kids had Dragon Ball and Pokemon stationary. Maybe if I was older and had access to shows not on TV I’d feel weird about sharing my interest in anime with people, but not the way things were then when everyone was into it.

Do you remember the first time you connected with other fans, in person or online? Besides talking to kids at school about power levels and such I think the first time I really talked about anime outside was waiting on line to buy Pokemon Platinum, there were so many anime fans at Nintendo World, I almost felt obligated to join in a conversation. The first time I really connected with fans online though was probably in 2013 when I started using Twitter a lot more. Before then I’d look at anime forums for download links but never post anything, heh.

What made you stick with anime even after you were done with DBZ? Toonami continued to show more stuff that caught my interest and then I got access to DVDs coming out and a international channel that aired some shows in Japanese without subtitles, like Detective Conan.

Could you tell me about your first anime con? I’ve never been to an anime convention, but with Anime NYC coming up, I might change that.

What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom when you got into it and now? How many different types of anime fans there are now from the sakuga crowd, to the people that only love certain studios, and those that follow certain directors. It doesn’t feel strange but I think it should.

Why should it feel strange? I mean I get how anime became bigger and different people like it for different reasons but when I think about how it was marketed at least, it should feel weird to me that people follow anime for certain directors, voice actors, or studios .

How was it marketed? I think I mean when I used watch to commercials for new shows, they would focus on the genre or subject. Now people who don’t care about that stuff in a show might still watch it if their favorite director was directing it or a certain voice actor was in it. Fans get invested today not only because of who the show is marketed for, but because they care about the production behind it.

Alexander can be reached on Twitter.

#18: Austin P

Age: 28

Location: Brooklyn, New York

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. When I was in first grade, I used to get up early on Saturday mornings just to maximize the amount of time I could play video games on the weekend. I was all set to jump into a new session of Super Mario RPG when, flipping through the channels, I stopped on a cartoon I’d never seen before that was utterly unlike anything else I’d ever seen, a cartoon that turned out to be Dragon Ball.

I don’t remember what it was that caught me beyond the novelty—though I could bet money the expressive character designs and exotic look did a lot to pull me in—but I was pretty much hooked from there: waking up at 6 AM to catch the newest adventure of Goku and co. was now part of the weekend ritual. I remember being devastated when it ended and remember desperately trying to find ANYTHING like it, but that was basically impossible without the internet.

So I was all primed and ready when Dragon Ball Z started airing on Cartoon Network three years later. From there? It was a pretty typical story.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? I don’t remember exactly, but I have the distinct feeling that the serialized—as opposed to episodic—nature of the storytelling, the expressive character designs, the playfully built mythology and the sheer wackiness of it all had a lot to do with that.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? Probably Speed Racer; that was the only point of comparison my folks and their friends had for Dragon Ball. Anime just wasn’t really heard of beyond that.

What did your parents and friends think of your new interest in Dragon BallMy parents were more baffled that I was up at 6AM on a Saturday than anything, while my friends didn’t really think much of it other than that it looked odd. I tried to show it to one or two at sleep-overs, but between being woken up much earlier than they were used to and their general disinterest, I don’t think I managed to do more than annoy them.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time?
I wasn’t aware of a fandom at all, honestly. I had one friend in my class who was also a big fan—we’d spend our recesses making up our own little fanfiction comics—but that was it.

Tell me about that friend in your class. Which shows did they like? Could you tell me more about the comics, if that’s not too embarrassing? Are they still an anime fan/in touch with you? Most of our cartoon diet at that time was what any other kid had in their daily diet: like most of our peers we were watching all the same stuff on Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network, your Rugrats and your Rocko’s Modern Life and your Ren and Stimpy. The furthest our interest in anime extended beyond Dragon Ball was to Speed Racer, which would just show up on Cartoon Network at random times we could never quite predict, but we weren’t following it the same way we did Dragon Ball (couldn’t, really), so while our parents’ reaction to the cartoon and our own recognition that this and Speed Racer were somehow not like everything else we were watching let us know that we’d stumbled onto something “other,” we just didn’t have the context to understand why it was different. Which coupled with a lack internet and real information network to keep us in the dark.

And the comics were about exactly what you might expect from a buncha first-graders with rudimentary drawing abilities. We basically just had Goku reunite with the crew and go on more adventures and tangling with the same characters again and again. We weren’t very creative, sadly. (Though I do think there was a bird man who could also ride the Flying Nimbus in there? For some reason the bird man couldn’t fly under his own power. I don’t think we ever knew why). I remember we were both REALLY depressed after the end of those thirteen episodes, especially because the American narrator said something about how Goku never saw the others again, so we were kinda desperate to change that. Looking back this is, really oddly, probably the first time I came up against the idea of loneliness as a kid. Odd.

But no, that friendship didn’t really last long. Sidney and I stopped hanging out about two years later and while I was in the same schools as her all throughout high school, I’d be surprised if she remembered even a word of this beyond 5th or 6th grade.

Do you remember your first anime-related purchase? How much did it cost? Sure. It wasn’t for another three years, because I just never saw any anime merchandise before that, but once Dragon Ball Z premiered my friend and I were trying desperately to get any look forward into the future of the series, so we were all buying VHS’s without really considering its connection to what we were seeing on Toonami. I’d grabbed The Tree of Might thinking it was somehow this big deal, because, well, I didn’t know any better. It was about $20—a month’s allowance—and boy, looking back, I wish I’d known so much better.

The first important purchase I ever made was of the first VHS of The Slayers, which introduced me to the idea that maybe, just maybe, this whole anime thing was a LOT bigger than I’d first realized.

When you got the internet, did you participate in online fandom early on? What was it like? Yup! I found the internet in 3rd grade and was pretty active sucking up any information I could about older Dragon Ball episodes and even had this awful webpage that did some weird conflating between Dragon Ball and Final Fantasy and the Redwall series (Christ, I was an embarrassing kid). From there it wasn’t long before I was finding chat rooms so that when Dragon Ball Z hit I was ready to start migrating into a lot of chat rooms. I remember Steve’s Dragon Ball Z page being a big one, and remember getting REALLY into the chat rooms there.

It was really odd. Judging by language and attitude and topics of conversation, I’m pretty sure I was the youngest person in these areas, a fact that only became more pronounced every day and which in turn made it a little bit creepier every day, too. There was a lot of aggression, there: these stupid play fights we’d do act out in the chatroom would always turn into real-life pissing contests. A LOTTA tough guy talk, a lotta trash talking, a whole buncha people trying to prove that, well, they were as cool and manly as the characters on the show (I think it was telling that EVERYBODY there had a Cell, Piccolo or Vegeta avatar or screen name). There was never serious talk about the show, never any real discussion about plot or theme or other anime. Just a lotta posturing, especially whenever somebody with a slightly feminine handle or avatar came into the room. I left after about a month and, quite frankly, felt pretty good about that departure.

How has anime fandom changed as you’ve gotten older? I’ve never really been big into any fandoms. While I had about three friends throughout high school who were big fans of anime and one college (we literally became friends because he heard me talking about Zeta Gundam on my radio show and called in to say that I was mistaken, Yazan Gable was in fact the best pilot in the series), most of my life I’ve gone without a larger network. Right now I can think of literally two people I can say anything about anime two without earning a cocked eyebrow. My own per love for the medium has deepened over time—probably the biggest change in the last few years is that I’ve started contributing articles and reviews to Unwinnable and Otaku USAbut I’ve never really found myself comfortable with communities at large. I tried anime clubs in college and was in one when I first moved here to NYC, but I got bored of them fast. I find a lot of the fandom is more celebratory than I’m comfortable with: I’m one of these incessantly critical people who finds dressing up as characters and paying $60 to spend a weekend hundreds of other people in celebration of a shared hobby to be REALLY squicky.

I’ve never considered anime a part of my identity the way a lot of fans do. I love it, don’t get me wrong; I wouldn’t be writing about it if I didn’t. And I find the community of writers that’ve sprung up on the internet to be a real blessing for my own tastes and my own work. Honestly, this has been my favorite thing about the last decade of the anime fandom! I just find that it’s not such a defining part of my identity that I have a need to share this with others. And I don’t begrudge the fandom what it is. I’m just really selective about the folks I spend my time with and  there other things in relationships I value more than whether or not they share my love of anime. I try to introduce them to certain series that I think they’ve got to see or a movie that might appeal to their sensibilities, but I mostly keep it to myself.

Austin can be reached on Twitter and Bandcamp. He also has a webcomic

#17: Cai Kingston

Age: 31

Location: Vermont. (But my recollections take place in the Deep South.)

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. This is a little tough to answer, because during the ’80s and early ’90s it was pretty common to get introduced to Japanese animation through localized dubs on local TV or video store rentals. Additionally, Japanese studios were deeply involved in a lot of properties we assume to be American productions.

For the sake of brevity, I’d say proooobably 1989 or so? I remember being very, very small and watching stuff like Robotech and Star Blazers in the time after I got a baby brother but before we had a Nintendo, so it had to be sometime before Christmas 1989. Yeah, 1989. I didn’t know where the shows came from or anything, naturally.

As far as knowing where the shows came from and understanding that I could follow sources for more of this thing that was so appealing to me, I think I was like. Eight. So 1994-1995. This was around the same time I was getting into Japanese monster movies and Chinese martial arts films, so I was at this point asking probing questions of video store people and running into tapes with subtitles instead of people yelling really fast in English and going ~AH~

So: 1989 or 1994, depending on whether you need me to have known it was a separate kind of thing from cartoons and not just cartoons I liked better that kind of looked alike.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? PEOPLE WITH THE PROPORTIONS OF HUMAN BEINGS. I know a lot of people will write that they were struck very hard by the art, and it’s no different for me. I was really drawn in by the expressive faces and the reasonable proportions of the human characters.

I realize now that I was also drawn to the approach to animation and direction even if I didn’t have the language for that yet. I liked the economy of it, I liked the sense of wider space and tolerance for quiet establishing moments even in localizations cut and dubbed to try and match the constant noise and movement of American cartoons.

I liked that they didn’t always have to be funny.

Overall, even localized all to Hell, Japanese animation had a sensibility that appealed to me in a way the majority of American animation still doesn’t.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? I could not tell you. I just couldn’t. I know Robotech was still enjoying a lot of attention/circulation toward the end of the ’80s, I know Dragon Ball Z started getting very popular sometime after 1995. For the most part, though, lack of internet access and being literally raised in the woods without going to school kept me pretty ignorant of what the nerd world at large was into.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? I didn’t have many fans to interact with, or that much drive to do so.

As far as being into it was concerned?

Weird. It was, looking back, very weird and desperate. It wasn’t stuff you could buy in Wal-Mart at the time, not really, so if you wanted to get something specific you needed access to niche physical sources like a comic shop or a good circle of people with connections. You COULD get catalogs, but those were where? At comic book stores, usually. Or in video stores, sometimes.

I found most of my best stuff in flea markets, either because the vendors had deals with bootleggers or because moms were cleaning out their college-bound kids’ collections. I would go on literal pilgrimages to a particular market that I knew to be an especially choice and ever-refreshing source. It was 40 miles away.

I am not kidding.

How much did flea market tapes cost? I’d put the average at around $15, the median at $25, and the tippy top at $40. Remember, VHS were still fairly contemporary things at the time. Depending on where I went and what I bought, it would fluctuate. If a vendor knew that what they had was abnormal and desirable, or had attractive tapes in boxes and so on, it would always cost more. If it was a big place with shelves and shelves of tapes that people just dumped off regardless of box presence or bootleg status, it tended to be cheaper. Now, when you look at figures like an average of $15, understand that this was for around 90 minutes of footage. Mmmmaybe 120 minutes. Except! Sometimes you’d get swindled and it would be as little as 60 minutes! That works out to like $7.50 an episode, which is BONKERS by today’s standards.

Yeah, that’s right, sometimes (A LOT OF TIMES…) you’d plunk down tens of dollars and not be that sure what you were even getting. If you were buying something out of a catalog, it could be a total crap shoot because you bought sight unseen in a market that was still full of opportunists. Some vendors kept Exotic Foreign Tapes in the same sad sterile glass counter cases as the Game Boy games and other stuff kids might steal, so you couldn’t even touch them without making it clear you were going to buy something before you even read the back of the box. It was a goddamn wasteland.

When did you get internet? Can you tell me about participating in anime fandom online at that time? Hah. As in solid internet at the house? That had to be 1998 or early 1999.  Yeah, definitely. Our first internet-connected computer (’cause they had to be hooked up to a phone jack and use the house phone line, and not every room had that) was in our kitchen. I had my own hand-me-down PC in my room, but that was for games and tinkering.

As for participating, I have to say I didn’t do much of that for a very long time. At least not by today’s standards. Most of what was around for my interests consisted of disconnected sites managed by single people or small teams. You could use programs to get into chat rooms, but I didn’t do too much of that. There were mailing lists, which I guess I could describe briefly as “those marketing newsletters but sourced to everyone subscribing, and also usually about what sci-fi characters you wanted to bone/see naked.” Not a lot of mailing lists for what I was interested in, at least not that I managed to find at the time.  I mostly used the internet as a fact-gathering tool to determine what was coming out, how to get it, and whether it was worth my time.

It’s funny. For being so isolated, I didn’t experience the common drive to find and befriend everyone who was into my particular interests. It wasn’t until things got especially bad at home, around 2001, when my physically present friends thinned out because being around me got too intense, that I got desperate for online friends.

Tell me about your first time interacting with other fans. Do you still know them today? In person, specifically for fan-related things? That’d probably be my first job, when I was 15. I worked at a comic/game/video shop from 15-17, and we ran something of a viewing/gaming group on Saturday evenings.  It was held in this dingy little back room we called The Gulag, and it was a cut-rate circus if ever I did see one. We’d sit around a table made of plywood and saw horses in plastic deck chairs from Wal-Mart, watch a single tape or disc, and then play tabletop games until… whenever. I guess it was kind of like an anime club, but it never received any specific definition. We all liked anime, so that was what we watched. It must have helped that the owner got a whole bunch of feedback on newly-arrived titles that he could then turn around and parrot to customers.

I do (technically) still know some of these guys! Some of them have families which is… terrifying, because I remember getting in back alley sword fight re-enactments with them, but ultimately positive. That having been said, I absolutely avoid them whenever I’m back down south. Mistakes of one’s youth and all that. [Cai is loosely quoting Char from Mobile Suit Gundam here.]

Tell me about your first fan event. When was it and what was it like? I was twenty one years old, and it was the dang worst. As it turns out, when you’re not old enough to drink and you run pretty cold on nerds to begin with, being immersed in nerds set loose in an environment that encourages them to be all the things you can’t hang with, conventions are a nightmare.  No one in my group had warned me, for instance, that people will just grab you. I have no idea if that still flies, but it was totally a thing then and it was absolutely intolerable to me. The first night, I got invited to a room party that culminated in me being shoved forcefully toward a “cuddle pile” and then bailing out of sheer terror. It felt like an inescapable, boozeless, sexless orgy of screaming and cackling for three days and I had no fun at all. Also, everything was overpriced.

I know a lot of people have fun at anime cons, but there’s a dark side, too, so you have to be careful. Lots of people you meet online (and at cons, increasingly) are in fandom out of a very human desperation for contact and validation. That makes it a rich, ever-renewing feeding ground for predators and abusers.

Today you’re still really into Captain Harlock. How has your interest in that show changed over time? I think the biggest thing that’s changed is perspective. I have a perspective and a vocabulary now that let me understand and articulate what I owe to a fictional universe and its creators. I can acknowledge now that I might not have felt even remotely confident ditching a terrible home situation—by train with no plan and next to no money—if I hadn’t been wrapping myself up in daydreams about throwing everything away to live freely since I was 12 years old. That a set of stories affected me so profoundly and for so long is probably why I can’t stop telling stories. Hell, the first novel-length thing I ever finished was Harlock fanfiction I never showed anybody. It wasn’t a self-insert story, but… it might as well have been.

Something else that’s changed is my… self awareness? Regarding it? Like, I’ve made peace with and embraced how much queer theory I can apply to it and how those parts definitely appealed to my issues and fantasies as a weird little queer in the South. Seriously: Name me a better barely-coded gay daydream than uprooting yourself from a society that hates you to go play cowboys and pirates and skinny dip with your best friend forever. You can’t.

Have you always  been really into anime? Or did you take a break from fandom for a while? A break from the collective activity of fandom? Yes. A break from individual interest? No.

What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom when you got into it and now? I can’t be sure because I was so, so isolated early on and not too keen on reaching out based on interest alone. I could say it’s way more social now, but what if that’s always been the case? One thing I can say with confidence is that it’s way, way, way easier to get everything. Cheaper, too. Damn kids.

Cai can be reached on Twitter

#16: Gary M

Age: 18

Location: Canberra, Australia

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. Back in 2011 or 2012, I was given a copy of Hyper Magazine [an Australian video game magazine] and the back cover was dedicated to anime reviews. This issue had come with a DVD with a two-episode sampler of High School of the Dead as well as a couple of trailers.

I had also been a big fan of the One Piece manga without knowing that it was related to anime for a couple of years by this point.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? Well at first it was violence and tits, but in the series shortly after discovering it, I found that there were cool stories When I was 12, I discovered Deltora Quest and enjoyed it for this reason.

What did you think about High School of the Dead? How was it different than anything else you’d seen? I thought High School of the Dead was the coolest thing I’d ever seen. Mostly because of the ecchi elements of it, but also the fusion with the action oriented elements of the series. Nothing that I had seen before it had looked or sounded like this show, nothing had a similar subject matter and nothing had shocked me as much as when I saw that first episode. It was really surprising to me to see it as something that could exist and that I had never heard of something like it.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? I think at the time it was Blue Exorcist.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? In the area I lived at the time (a small town in the countryside), I was the only person who was watching anime online. Other people around me were watching whatever the local DVD store had or what was on TV (mostly 4Kids).

How did you connect with other fans?  For a while, I didn’t. But eventually I found the forums of the sites that I was using to stream and this was in a period where I had extremely inconsistent Internet speeds, so on weekends or after school I would lay on my bed and just refresh the tab the forum was in while I waited for the episode to load in another tab. Eventually I found out about 4chan and I started using that as my main contact with other anime fans.

What was fandom like online? Were there certain sites people who were into anime congregated at? From my memory, the only places people were really talking about anime where 4chan and YouTube. I do remember some shows having their own forums or having a discussion section on their wiki. The fandom surrounding anime was really fractured from the way I remember it. People would stick to the things they liked and not really branch out that much.

What was the first anime-related purchase you made, and how much did it cost? Excluding things like YuGiOh and Pokemon cards, it would have been a figure of Charlotte Dunois from Infinite Stratos. She was wearing her piloting suit. It was a Sega Arcade figure so it was really low quality—I think it cost like $10 [Australian dollars] + shipping from AmiAmi.

Do you remember your first anime convention? It would have been Gammacon 2014. It was on the second floor of a hotel. It was more of a split between anime and gaming, not just an anime con. There was a small merchant area which had all these tables set up and it was mostly bootleg merchandise.

What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom when you got into it and now? I think the community has become more focused on the here and now of anime. While there are still people who are talking about older works (especially in the academic research area), they are much less common and people are in a way forgetful of past anime. Back when I started getting into anime discussions I saw active discussion about Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex, and I don’t see that kind of thing today.

Ultimately, I think I was lucky with the time I got into anime because it let me experience two generations of anime discussion and culture—the new stuff, plus the old stuff people were still discussing. Now I think the culture is more and more based around the transience of anime as entertainment.

Gary can be reached on Twitter and YouTube.

#15: Simon C

Age: 22

Location: United Kingdom

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. I began with YuGiOh, Pokemon, and Beyblade. Only really got started when a friend introduced me to Detective Conan in high school.

Tell me how your friend introduced you to Detective Conan. I cant entirely recall. He was a friend with whom I often talked about gaming and other nerdy things with. I think it was something he had just talked about watching and ended up showing to me. He was already familiar with anime from a young age, as his family was originally from Hong Kong. He had already watched a handful of shows such as Gundam, Doraemon, and so on.

How did you get a copy of ConanAs your probably aware, Detective Conan wasn’t legally available in the UK at the time. So we started out watching it by downloading it in parts that had been uploaded to YouTube. After a while we found the Detective Conan Translation Project, which at the time handled the majority of the fansubs for the show. They hosted most of the episodes on their site via Mega Upload downloads as well as torrents.

Why did your friend like it, and why did you? I think a major draw of the show, initially at least, was the fact that it encouraged viewers to guess the solution to each episodes mystery. It was in some ways a game to try and solve the case before the show presented the solution. The puzzles that were at the core of the show felt, at the time, unique, interesting, and difficult to solve—which made coming up with the solution before the  show even more satisfying. Often, me and my friend would talk about whether we had solved the mystery, what had tipped us off and what our wrong deductions had been. So in that way it also furthered the social aspect of the show. As with many long running shonens, once it had hooked us in, the characters and the promise of overarching plot developments kept us watching.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? Art style and more adult themes than regular cartoons.

When you said you liked its “adult themes,” what do you mean by that? Maybe I should say that it presented events and ideas that I hadn’t seen presented in an animated form before. For example, Detective Conan featured many gruesome murders, as well as suicides. I think more than that, anime presented darker themes in a much more accessible form than live action ever could have for me, at the time.  Detective Conan, for example, was very reminiscent of the many police procedural dramas that dominated UK TV at the time, (and still do). Yet, it presented the ideas of those shows in a more action-oriented style and cut down the length into a format  that was easier for me to consume. Meanwhile, the harem shows that I watched shortly after seemed to appeal directly to me with their teenage protagonists. Shows like Girls Bravo, as much as I would have hated to admit it back then, appealed directly to me as a hormonal teenage boy, and contained themes that I probably would have thought of as adult. By and large, anime was just something different and fresh that seemed to appeal directly to me, while still have at least a little of  what I felt was “adult” at the time.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? Had little knowledge of the wider community at the time, just me and my friend.

For you, anime was just something you and your friend did together. What did other people think of it, like your parents? Did they think it was odd? I was, and still am, a very introverted person, thus I didn’t really talk about anime to anyone outside of those I already knew enjoyed it. I think rather than others finding the hobby odd, I rather prescribed that notion to it myself, and so was nervous when labeling myself as an anime fan or bringing the topic up in conversation. The majority of people around me already saw me as a very nerdy or geeky person so I think they saw it as just another extension of that, but again I was myself very aware that others might find it strange or odd.

Tell me about the first time you became aware of a larger fandom around anime. I was very quickly aware of the niche of the Detective Conan community through DCTP, Detective Conan World and other sites.  Finding the wider community I think was a bit more gradual and I don’t have that strong a memory of it. However I think it was around the time I discovered seasonal anime through Angel Beats. I think it was around this time that I discovered sites such as Anime News Network, Anime Planet, as well as the YouTube community.

Did you participate in online fandom? What was that like? I have used forums on and off but never for a long period of time. I did for a while run a YouTube vlog-style channel and participate in things like the 12 Days of Anime, but never really felt like I was interacting properly with the community through it. I also had a few a couple of goes at making AMVs [Anime Music Videos] as video editing was something that interested me at the time. I still like to keep up to date with the conversations surrounding shows via Twitter but I very rarely participate. I think again my lack of interaction mainly came down to my own shyness.

After Detective Conan, what did you really get into as an anime fan? After Conan, the same friend introduced me to Ah! My Goddess and through that we both watched/found quite a few harems and romantic comedies. At this point I found airing anime through Angel Beats and focused mainly on watching airing shows for a while. I think around this time I started to grow bored of a lot of the tropes I had seen in a large majority of the shows I had watched up until this point, and made it a mission to find and watch strange shows. So I ended up watching a lot of Gainax and Shaft shows, anything by Masaaki Yuasa, although at the time stuff like The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya still felt strange to me. I think through this process I became interested in the history of these studios and their creators.

Do you remember your first anime-related purchase? How much did it cost? My first directly anime-related purchases were FLCL and Darker than Black on DVD, each of which cost around £15.

What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom when you got into it and now? Definitely availability, both in the content itself as well as information about the content. We have gone from maybe one show streaming legally when I was starting to watch anime to almost all shows streaming. This year we are also getting a multitude of theatrical releases. There is also certainly a greater wealth of anime content as well as a greater demand for it.

Simon can be reached on Twitter

#14: Chito

Age: 21

Location: Lima, Peru

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. I’d say that the first time I watch an anime was back when I was five, when I first watched Cardcaptor Sakura, but apart from that, Dragon Ball Z, and Naruto, I really didn’t watch much anime nor I was interested.

It all changed in 2014. I was bored at home and decided to watch something on Netflix. There was an anime that looked like Cardcaptor Sakura that triggered my interest. I thought it was going to be the same fluffy adventures about a magical girl saving the world, but it wasn’t. It blew me away completely for how different it was from anything I’ve watched before—it was Puella Magi Madoka Magica.

Once finished, I wanted more. So I watched the next show in the queue: Sword Art Online. I fell in love with it and was really sad when I finished it, but then I read in a local anime magazine that a new season has just been released. I was really excited and wanted to watch it ASAP. Fortunately, the article shared the place where I could watch it. That’s how I discovered Crunchyroll.

I got an account, watched a lot more of anime, then started watching anime seasonally, then started importing Blu Rays, then started buying manga, then discovered anime blogging, then created my own anime blog, and now I’m filling this survey while listening to “Renai Circulation” (on loop).

That’s how I discovered anime as hobby and a passion, and I’m pretty happy with my current life.

What local magazine was that? The magazine is called “Club Manganime”. A few days after finishing SAO, I happened to see the cover of this magazine with GGO Kirito and the main villain, DeathGun, [both Sword Art Online characters] on it. I bought it immediately and looked for their SAO article. There was this little box at the bottom saying that we could watch SAO II for free on Crunchyroll. My older brother told me that his friend had a premium account and he was really nice to share his account with me. There I discovered lots of new things, and my days as an anime fan officially started.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? When I watched Madoka Magica, I was absorbed by its dark story and its characters. It was completely different from everything I’ve watched before. I thought it was going to be like Cardcaptor Sakura, but turned out to be one of the greatest anime ever created!

It was amazing and changed my views on anime as a media forever.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? At that time, Akame ga Kill, Tokyo Ghoul, and Sword Art Online II. I think ufotable’s Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works was airing as well.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? I guess it was really fun. It felt different from any other fandom. For the first time in my life, something felt really personal to me, and I wanted to share the things I loved with a lot of people.

Anime fans in Peru are really nice people and have a lot fun watching and discussing anime. And with the help of Twitter, I was able to be part of the English-speaking anime fandom. This part of the fandom helped me a lot to learn about this industry and, that way, love it even more.

What is anime fandom like in Peru? How is it different than English-speaking anime fandom? In my experience with anime fans here in Peru (especially beyond the Internet), I’d say anime fans here are very lively and like to have fun with what they’ve got. The times I talk to people in festivals and the like, they’re very nice. Casuals LOVE Dragon Ball, but the most hardcore fans tend to like lots of anime, especially the ones that became huge hits, like SAO, Attack on Titan, Tokyo Ghoul, etc. I really haven’t met people or read comments of people talking about things they don’t like, they usually just talk about the things they love. There isn’t much difference between Peruvian and English-speaking fandoms, but if I had to mention something, it would be the memes and the jokes, which are a bit dirtier than in English.

Can you share one of the dirty memes? No. I’m rather ashamed of them, to be honest.

What inspired you to start an anime blog? I’d say my main inspiration was reading Nick Creamer’s reviews at Anime News Network and discovering his own blog. Back in February 2016, I started working at a company where I had to use WordPress a lot. Shortly after I discovered that many people on Twitter talked a lot about anime in their own WordPress blogs, Nick included, I really wanted to talk about anime myself, too. So I said why not? I got my debit card, asked some friends to help me out with the website, and started writing! I started in Spanish, of course, but some months later, I discovered “12 days of anime“, which invited all anibloggers out there. I once again said why not, and started writing in English! My personal blog is called miblogotaku.com, and as I said before, I write in both languages. (but English is harder than I thought!)

How did your fandom change once you started creating content as well as consuming it? Once I started writing and sharing things on Twitter, I got to know a lot of very nice and fun people. Which really made me happy, because I felt there’s actually someone out there who actually likes and reads my stuff, and that feeling is really precious to me. There was one time one of these people took a screenshot of one of my articles and showed it to me on Twitter, telling me that he found that part hilarious and loved it. I was shocked and very happy at the same time.

What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom when you got into it and now? As a Peruvian, watching anime legally was a bit harder than it is now. Online stores didn’t ship DVDs or manga to my country,  and if they did, shipping costs were very expensive. Licensing restrictions were hell to me, especially when Funimation licensed something I wanted to watch. But time has passed and shipping costs have gone down. Amazon started sending more stuff to my country, and the impossible “marriage” between FUNI and Crunchyroll happened, bringing even more anime than ever before.

Fall 2016 was the golden season to me, as everything was available in Latin America. Even Amazon Prime Video became available here, and I’m getting an account soon only to watch Rage of Bahamut: Virgin Soul. And there’s even a Mexican anime festival that is bringing A Silent Voice to my country!!! Believe it or not, back in 2014 I could just dream about these things, now they’re slowly becoming something possible and even true. It’s a very good time to be an anime fan.

Chito can be reached on Twitter

#13: Matthew Newman

Age: 34

Location: Baltimore, Maryland

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. My discovery of anime is a two-part story.

Part one: discovering it in 2001 when I went with some new college friends at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to an anime club meeting. I got hooked quickly on the social atmosphere and anime in general. The first show I remember watching with everyone was a run through the entirety of Bastard!! in a huge auditorium. It was a lot of fun and the series was so campy it lent itself to being watched in a group. This made it far more fun to watch and really got me interested in seeing more of it. After that, I plowed through a lot of different anime my friends and the anime club at RPI had. I went through Neon Genesis Evangelion, Love Hina, and eventually got to Cowboy Bebop, which really got me hooked. Still one of my favorite series to this day.

Yet, in about 2006, I was super busy in graduate school trying to plow through a masters thesis and stopped watching as much—if any—anime. This stagnation remained for years.

It wasn’t until 2014 that I discovered it again. I had been spending my nights alone as my wife, being very pregnant with twins, couldn’t get comfortable sleeping except on our couch. I would wander up to bed to be on the same floor as our rather young kids… but couldn’t sleep right alone. That’s when I started checking out our On Demand options and, on a whim, tried out the first episode of two-anime series – Fractale and Blue Exorcist. I remembered everything I had loved about anime in the early ’00s and was hooked all over again. The fun of Blue Exorcist and the deep thinking of Fractale got me back into it again. Soon I was looking into blogs to find out more about it. That’s when I stumbled into Beneath the Tangles, which in turn led me to watching Your Lie in Aprilthe first show I watched close to when it aired in Japan.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? It was animation without the limits I had seen thus far in who it was aimed at. At 18, I still enjoyed the occasional cartoon and Adult Swim was still in its early days. The only anime I was exposed to in high school was Pokemon and I really didn’t think of it as anime at the time. The shows and films I was watching, though, they were different. It was a new presentation of stories and genres I already found appealing.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? Then in 2001? Cowboy Bebop and Evangelion were the big ones I recall people being the most excited about.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? Honestly, when I first got into anime I did not realize much about the wider anime fandom. It wasn’t until a few years later that I went to my first convention and when I got there, I was a bit overwhelmed. In terms of online fandom, in 2001, Facebook was three years away, Twitter five years away, and I knew nothing of the greater anime fandom. The methods of communications and our ability to connect now is so different than it was then.

Joining the online fandom in 2014 when I rediscovered how I liked anime was so different. These people who loved anime like me were everywhere and I could connect with them, chat with them, and share our common interest. It was so different and… kind of amazing.

Can you tell me about your first con? Well, my first con was Genericon. I was an RPI student and the convention is literally right in the middle of campus. I spent all manner of evenings, sometimes all-nighters, watching anime in during Genericon in 2003, 2004, and 2005. However, Genericon was a catch-all convention for assorted geekery that had some anime airing in a few rooms. However, Genericon was also a gaming and sci-fi convention. There were sci fi showings, LARPs, pickup D&D games, tons of board gaming, as well as video game tournaments. It was fun, but I wasn’t just there for the anime. I was there to socialize with my college friends who were into…any combination of those things. I didn’t dress up at any Genericon I attended.

In the summers of 2003 and 2004, I went to Otakon with friends. I had never been to Baltimore until that point and kind of went in blind being told by my friends, “This is a huge anime convention.” They were correct. My one friend decided to dress up as the Cheat from Homestar Runner and made his costume out of a huge pile of yellow fabric we picked up from Wal-Mart on our way out of town. We drove overnight in 2003 and arrived early in the AM to go to Otakon in 2003. My one friend then proceeded to use spray paint on the lawn outside of the convention center to finish off his the Cheat costume. I, however, did not dress up that year. At the time, there were definitely anime showings at Otakon as well as other live-action Japanese movies (including Battle Royale which I both watched and purchased on DVD in the same day if my memory serves me correctly). The following year I went with a smaller group of friends, this time with the courage to dress up as Lupin III. My costume comprised of my own pants and shirt, a purple tie I borrowed from a friend, and a woman’s sized red sports coat I purchased from the Salvation Army. I saw it screaming at me on the shelf and had to get it. Got some temporary black hair dye and grew out my sideburns in the build up to the con and dyed my hair the night before. I was instantly recognizable and constantly smirking. Had a number of people ask to take pictures of me, which was fun! Haven’t been to an anime con since (did, however, go to MommyCon DC for a while with my wife last year… that’s a story for another day, though). While they are fun, it’s not really in our family budget for me to go to conventions, especially as I’d be going alone. Honestly, I’m not sure when I’d be interested in going back—but possibly when my kids are old enough that they’d be both interested and appreciative of attending a con.

What do your wife and kids think of your anime fandom? Do they ever watch with you? My wife doesn’t really get the draw to anime. She’ll watch it with me periodically, but it’s not really her thing. Her and I do not always have the same interests in media, however we still share them with each other. My kids, however, I do watch some anime with. It started with introducing them to Chi’s Sweet Home. I’d read them the dialogue, they’d sit there and watch it with me. This led to other shows and now them watching a few shows they’ve gotten into on their own that we’ve found together on Crunchyroll’s catalog (Cardcaptor Sakura in particular, my 7-year-old son absolutely loves it). The good folks at Yatta-Tachi have given me an opportunity to talk about this in particular at their site.

How did you make the leap from reading anime blogs to writing your own Beneath the Tangles column? It honestly started with me writing about anime on my personal site. What I began as an overtly political website shifted overtime into a catch-all blog about everything I’m interested in. From my little corner of the internet, I began to write about anime, in particular where it intersects with my faith. I started sharing these articles (at times obnoxiously) on Twitter and it got the attention of the editors at Beneath the Tangles. During a transition period on the blog, they asked if I would be interested in writing a column for them. I agreed and have been writing “Newman’s Nook” since.

How is fandom different when you’re participating as well as consuming? I feel the biggest difference that I’ve found in participating is that everything isn’t quite inside a vacuum. When you’re a lone wolf consumer, you are just watching it, forming your opinion, and moving on. Participating within the fandom helps in learning what others see in anime, sharing what you see, finding new recommendations, and, frankly, it’s fun to share. I don’t have a lot of local friends who are into anime, so participating in the the online fandom serves as that social outlet for discussion.

What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom when you got into it and now? The biggest difference is how much easier it is to get into anime now than it was then. In 2001, I could basically see what little was available on television or through what others I knew personally owned (through legal or less-than-legal means). Now? There are many streaming options, it’s on cable, you can buy anime off the shelf in stores, and you can buy it on Amazon or from other online retailers. And with the easier availability comes an increased visibility of different options, different series. Before it was mostly whatever my friends were into or what was super popular. Now, I have access to everything from the super popular to anime about the relationship between male figure skaters or a family of anthropomorphic mushrooms. It’s a good time to be an anime fan.

Matthew can be reached on Twitter

#12: Tom S

Age: 28

Location: Cleveland, Ohio

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. I discovered anime right after Pokemon hit US TV. I was a fan of the game and the anime just kept building my enjoyment of the games. I learned it was from Japan and started watching everything my 10-year-old self could find. These were shows like YuGiOh, Cardcaptor Sakura, Sailor Moon, and Dragon Ball Z. Toonami was very important to my early years, really only watching what they showed, but loved these cool Japanese cartoons. Looking back on it, before I discovered anime, Power Rangers was my favorite TV show as a child, not realizing until much later that it too was also based on a Japanese property, so liking anime seems to stem from that initial enjoyment of tokusatsu shows.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? It was different than American cartoons. The stories seemed different. Having the tie-in with the Pokemon video games made me more attached to the show, as I would try to replicate Ash’s team—his Pokemon became mine. With other shows though, they felt like Power Rangers but animated. For example, both Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura transformed just like the Power Rangers did.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? From my point of view, Pokemon or Digimon. These two shows were the height of popularity amongst my friends. Now we were between eight and 10 years old, so we didn’t know of some of the other great shows at that time period.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? To my friends and I, we weren’t part of the anime fandom. We were just fans of these cartoon shows that featured cool monsters. We didn’t know about or go to conventions. We didn’t know what fansubs were or that there were more shows out there than what WB, Cartoon Network, or 4Kids showed.

You got into anime very young. Did you stick with it consistently, or was there a lull in your fandom? There was a a lull right around the end of sophomore year in high school. I transferred from a private school to a public school after 9th grade.  I met a kid in the anime club at the private school and he introduced me to fansubs, we both ended up transferring to the public school and joined the anime club there. I left shortly after joining as the kids in the club were more interested in some strange H game they had downloaded or putting down dubbed shows on Toonami as “trash.”

So I distanced myself from anime for about a decade until two friends got me to watch something on Crunchyroll three years ago. I guess the weird thing is that while I didn’t watch anime, I was still reading Naruto on a weekly basis because I thought it was close to ending…

How have your tastes in anime evolved over time? In the beginning it was all shonen action as that’s what I had access to. Now that I can access everything, my tastes are a little of everything. I’m quick to bail on a series if I don’t think it’s going to go somewhere, but I’ll watch pretty much everything. Just looking at my Crunchyroll queue, there’s slice of life, sports, romance, comedy, and gory action.

How did you participate in fandom aside from watching shows? I didn’t really participate in the fandom when I was younger. I didn’t know cons existed, and I certainly couldn’t convince my parents to take me to one if I knew of one. I would buy games like Pokemon or Digimon, but after Final Fantasy 10, I didn’t buy games with an anime aesthetic. I wanted gory games or first person shooters. My enjoyment of anime ended when the credits rolled.

What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom when you got into it and now? I would have to say the accessibility. I’ve heard of tape swaps and people recording for an entire weekend to give a third of a series to people, now you can find it on Crunchyroll, Daisuki, or Funimation without much effort. I think I have a CD with Iriya’s Sky that someone in anime club gave me still, but that was 2005. When I started watching it in the late 90s I had no idea where to get stuff not on TV or at a Suncoast.

Tom can be reached on Twitter

#11: Louis

Age: 22

Location: United Kingdom

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. We got a Digibox [a UK satellite TV receiver] for the first time when I was around six years old. Cartoon Network was a channel we had and it had its Toonami blocks. I used to really enjoy watching Dragon Ball Z on there. Because of that, and a few episodes of Gundam Wing and Tenchi Muyo (neither of which I really understood), I looked for similar shows elsewhere.

Toonami didn’t last long, but Fox had stuff like Digimon, Sailor Moon, and Hamtaro. I didn’t get into any of these as much as Dragon Ball but I still super enjoyed them. My mum took notice of this and at some point discovered a super minor early DVD release of Princess Mononoke. It would proceed to be my favourite movie from my childhood through even my teen years. Ghibli movies kept me interested even as, for various reasons, TV anime phased away from me.

But because of Ghibli being so important to me, in secondary school, I eventually became friends with people super into it. It is from them I discovered Angel Sanctuary, and the wonderful teenage crazes of Death Note and Code Geass. From there I was pretty much set. I started airing anime when Dragon Ball Kai came out. And when Attack on Titan exploded I discovered Crunchyroll, and its catalogue led to my current interests today.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? It was cool. I was a young kid, seeing the magic and explosions in all the stuff on Toonami and Fox was intoxicating. Gohan was around my age fighting aliens and flying. And even though I didn’t catch much of it, even the ads for Cardcaptor Sakura and Sailor Moon seemed, well, magical and fun. I liked colourful cartoons.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time?
Dragon Ball Z when I was a kid. When I came back definitely Death Note. (Though Dragon Ball never stopped being that huge well-known icon.)

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? I cant really speak about when I was a very young kid, but when I came back via Death Note and stuff it was nice. I never really had a consistent friendship group growing up so connecting with nerds over cartoons was nice. I was a troubled kid who joined the school quite late through second year. I felt very isolated before then.

Afterwards, I had a whole world of teens being silly. Forum roleplaying, chatting about Light and L during lunch. Even cosplay and con stuff was nice. My teenage social life basically revolved around people I met due to anime.

So you were a pretty isolated kid, but anime fandom changed that. Tell me about your first time meeting other fans and bonding with them over anime. I first really started meeting people through a friend. I met her at sports day and just ended up spending the whole day chatting with her. I didn’t really know much about anime and manga outside of Toonami stuff, but I guess we just immediately started getting along? She even lent me some volumes of Angel Sanctuary to read. Which I guess was quite different to the only manga I’d read at that time, Rurouni Kenshin, to say the least! She was in the year above me so hanging out with her, and her friends, introduced me to a friendship circle it was otherwise doubtful I would’ve been in. I now had people to chill out with at lunch and at weekends. We didn’t do much anime watching together or anything, but just chatting about characters from Death Note and Bleach and just enjoying each other’s company formed the basis of my social life from that point onwards.

How did you and your friends express your fandom? 

For the most part we just chatted. Which character’s we liked, which we didn’t, whether they were hot or not, usual teenage stuff. But also this friendship group did involve some creative people. One of my friends did GCSE art and as part of their workload drew Ryuk from Death Note from instance. Fanart, fanfic, and roleplaying were big parts of most of that group’s self expression. I dabbled a bit. Never really getting into fanart outside of forum signatures, never really getting into reading or writing fanfic either. But I did do some roleplaying, and I also became a moderator for a friend’s website.

What was roleplaying like? I dabbled in the IMVU [2004 instant messaging client] scene for a bit? Which if I remember correctly was huuuge. Like there were huge roleplaying groups with hundreds of members roleplaying being ninjas from Naruto for instance.

That first friend I mentioned was either part of or helped run a pretty major roleplaying group. By the time I got to know her, she’d moved off of IMVU and had made her own website. It was called ‘akiko.net,’ though I don’t believe it’s up anymore. It primarily consisted of people who knew that friend, either IRL or from her IMVU roleplaying days. It wasn’t strictly speaking a roleplaying site. It had a roleplaying section but it was more or less just a small anime themed forum where a bunch of teens hung out. There were classic forum games and a sort of chat room section at the top.

Honestly I can’t really remember much of the roleplaying there. Like it definitely happened but that entire website was probably closer to how I use Twitter these days. It was just a bunch of teens from around the world who’d found people to chat to about stuff that may or may not have been related to some anime.

Tell me about the first time you cosplayed.  I think the first time I cosplayed was at school come to think of it. To raise money for charity, sometimes my school put on fancy dress days. That friend who I keep mentioning because she was really quite the person to know, encouraged me to join her cosplaying from Angel Sanctuary. She was far more experienced than I and had done far more ‘proper’ cosplay before. So we decided that she’d dress as Michael and I’d dress as Raphael (I think I had to Google these to remind myself lol). So she had some charity shop fake leather and a fake arm prop come to think of it and I cobbled together some casual clothes that looked a little like Raphael would wear and used some tinfoil to make a cross.

Looking back I guess it could be a bit embarrassing, but it was fun. I liked the manga, I liked doing stuff with my friends. Dressing up is fun on its own even if I was heavily restricted, and had to explain to everyone who asked who I was cosplaying as. Which, understandably, didn’t help them.

Do you remember your first anime con? My first anime con was a small UK one called J-Con! It’s a little bit bigger now, but I believe when I first went it was only its third year running and it was much smaller. We went with half of us sorta cosplaying casual Bleach—I was covered in green eyeliner and face makeup—and half of us cosplaying Naruto, a bit less casually. And it was just, really exciting? I’d never been to anything like that before, certainly not without my family there, so I definitely remember bouncing in line waiting to get in, even though I must have been quite cold given the wind and me not wearing much.

There wasn’t really much to the con itself. There were some stalls dotted down a hallway, an artist’s room, and the stage. The main things I really remember from that was how I sort of ditched my group at one point to chill with a Maka from Soul Eater cosplayer. Pretty certain I spent most of the con just playing and chatting with her. (God I was one of those annoying teens running around a convention badly pretending to be in character). Never actually got her name or spoke to her again, but I do remember that she had fallen asleep the night before when felt-tipping her Death Scythe.

Also for some reason a bunch of people who totally shouldn’t have been dancing on stage were dancing on stage and I for some reason joined them. No staff actually told us off in person for that but there later was an announcement warning people not to do that or they’d be kicked out.

What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom when you got into it and now? I don’t think that much has changed from a socialising aspect? At least what little I see of what teens are getting up to in fandoms is more or less the same. Though everything is much bigger nowadays. It’s easier than ever to watch anime, and there’s even legal streams of it! That was not something I even thought would begin to exist when I was first getting into airing anime. Yet nowadays I can open up Crunchyroll and have a sizable portion of everything that’s airing in Japan right now, and a back-catalogue that’s bigger than the sites I was using as a teen. Like Crunchyroll has all of Naruto and all of Bleach. I know as a teen I had to go to separate sites for each of those, and those sites were only interested in those shows.

Word of mouth was all I really had to go on back then. If I wanted to watch a show it’s because I knew someone who was watching the show. Now, even overlooking my knowledge of anime writers and stuff, Crunchyroll exists with recommended anime bits? Like sure, it’s a tad messy. But when I first discovered CR when Attack on Titan aired I sure as hell followed those chains of recommendations. So yeah. I guess legal streaming and more visibility are the key differences I see between nowadays and almost a decade ago.

Louis can be reached on Twitter

#10: Hugh

Age: 22

Location: London, England

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. I remember deciding one day at 18 years old to read the first few volumes of Bleach in my school library. I then decided to watch the anime after looking it up online. I was aware of anime before but it was the first time I really looked into it and took an interest.

What about Bleach made you decide to give it a chance after previously not being interested in anime? Something about that artwork was really appealing to me, and I don’t just mean the eyes; the panelling and the general character design weren’t like anything I’d seen before.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? It was mainly a way for me get back into animation again, so it having such a unique style and direction compared to Western animation really piqued my interest. It was also appealing to see different cultural sensibilities at work that really hooked me in, especially when it comes to my favourite anime, Gintama.

You said anime appealed to you because it helped you “get back into animation.” What was it like when you were into animation the first time? What I mean is that when I was a kid, I would religiously watch Cartoon Network. All sorts of things happen in animation that can’t happen anywhere else, and I loved that. Then at 12 years old or so, I decided for some dumb reason that I was too old for cartoons so I just stopped watching them. Anime made me realise that I never stopped liking animation, so it was an ideal way to get back into animation.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? Attack on Titan. It had just started when I got into anime, so it was interesting to get into the fandom when there was a currently airing show that people thought was going to make anime more mainstream again.

When was anime mainstream before? When Toonami was on the air. Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z were huge.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? See previous answer, but yeah it was pretty exciting to be getting into a medium that felt like it was only getting more and more popular by the minute.

How did you connect with other fans? When I was nearly caught up with Gintama in 2013 I joined up with a fan site called Yorozuya Soul, and I still have friends I speak to on twitter from that site. It isn’t really active anymore, unfortunately.

Aside from actually watching shows, how did you participate in fandom? Besides checking fan sites and Tumblr pages, I only starting going to cons towards the end of 2014. London Comic-Con was my first. I don’t really buy all that much merchandise in all honesty outside of the occasional T-shirt and figure. Currently, I only have one figure—Gintoki in a Kamehameha pose, because it was too funny to pass and thankfully wasn’t too expensive.

What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom when you got into it and now? Not a lot. I go through phases of what I decide to nerd out on, and currently I’m in an anime/manga phase, so I can’t really say if all that much has changed. However I can say,that the anime community on YouTube has expanded massively from 2013 till now. And that anime feels more prevalent in wider Western pop culture than it was in 2013, an example being the Arby’s Twitter account explicitly referencing Jojo recently.

So anime fandom is on-again off-again for you? What inspired your latest foray into the fandom? I find that any resurgence in my anime interest happens whenever the Gintama anime comes back, as that is my absolute favourite show period and I can always make time for it.

Hugh can be reached on Twitter