#98: Micchy

Age: 19

Location: Massachusetts

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. It was in seventh grade that my best friend showed me Bludgeoning Angel Dokuro-chan. Trashy as it was, I somehow found it entertaining enough to watch the entire thing. I didn’t start looking for more anime until a year later, though. When a particular Avatar: The Last Airbender YouTube guy mentioned Inuyasha in one of his videos, I started watching that show just for the hell of it (in three parts on Youtube, as the kiddos were wont to do in 2011). From there I started taking my friends’ recommendations of Death Note, Fullmetal Alchemist ’03, Ouran High School Host Club, and Soul Eater. It all went downhill from there.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? Around 2008, I discovered Avatar: The Last Airbender and got really into it. But if you’ll remember, that was the year it concluded. For several years I contented myself with watching ATLA reruns on Nicktoons, but eventually I started craving more animated serials. Anime was the closest thing to that, so I ran with it. And there was no shortage of anime fans in ATLA fandom to give me recommendations (some better than others, of course). That was how I wound up watching Cowboy Bebop and Baka and Test basically concurrently.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? Among my friends, Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood was all the rage. It might have just been my particular friend group, but that was the show most often recommended to me. (Also: there was one girl who was Extremely Into Death Note, and another who was Diehard Hetalia. Boy, middle school 2011 sure was something.) Poking around Avatar fan forums I’d catch bits of seasonal anime discussion. I think it was mostly Madoka Magica talk, since that show was nearing its conclusion (and hiatus?) just then.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? Most of my exposure to anime fandom was through my friends, all of whom were chuuni as heck. We were a bit behind in adopting weeb memes, so I’d imagine it was more akin to the con scene circa ’07 than anything else. “Cake is a lie,” Hare Hare Yukai, that sort of thing. Not a far cry from current anime fandom. Pretty sure there were more anime blogs around then, though.

Would love to hear a chuuni story from middle school. (For example, I only responded to “Ren-chan” in middle school. I’m sorry.) At some point I got a few friends to call me Micchan, but I think the most embarrassing thing I did was do the Hare Hare Yukai in public at a school dance. This was in 2011 or so, a while after Haruhi Suzumiya stopped being a huge deal iirc. I blame its extensive TVTropes documentation for making me believe otherwise.

I also waxed poetic a LOT about the three-act tragedy I was writing. (Inspired by FMA and Black Butler, naturally.) It was mostly an excuse for me to make strange dying-cow noises at lunch, being little more than a string of hopelessly tryhard “emo” cliches. For the record though, I never had a Linkin Park phase or anything similar.

Was the Internet a part of fandom at the time? I was part of the “three parts on YouTube” generation of anime fans, so yeah, absolutely. It was just a bit before legal streaming got really ubiquitous, so I got all my anime through sketchy pirate sites. There was no real shortage of people to talk to about anime, though. The trouble was finding a forum that didn’t hella suck.

Back in your middle school days, did you find out about anime mostly from YouTube or from anime blogs? You mentioned both and I am wondering if the landscape was transitioning more to vloggers by then. Vlogging wasn’t as much of a thing circa 2010 as it got to be a few years later. Instead, I found out about “must-see” anime by (lol) reading comments on the three-part YouTube videos. Most notably I remember getting into an argument with somebody over the merits of FMA ’03 vs. Brotherhood, during which somebody yelled at me to watch Cowboy Bebop, Evangelion, and Ghost in the Shell already. (I wound up watching and loving the first two, after which I went back to reevaluate my hardline pro-Brotherhood stance. To this day I still haven’t watched Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex, though. Sue me.)

After getting a little experience with said “essentials” I started looking to TVTropes (lol) and a bunch of anime blogs for “Top [x] Anime” lists, paying most attention to people who seemed to share my pretentious-ass taste.

Do you remember your first convention? What was it, and what was it like?
My first con was a tiny local con in the Detroit area. It was mostly a day of my friends and I wandering around the dealer’s hall and goofing off in really awkward FMA cosplay. I don’t remember much besides going home in the early afternoon because there was nothing to do there.

I wound up going to Youmacon 2012 the year after that. I remember going to a few panels, but mostly I wandered around like the clueless 14-year-old I was. Bought a few tchotchkes, that sort of thing. There was lots of Slenderman cosplay. Also, a pair of Mawaru Penguindrum HHH cosplayers whom I later wound up following on Tumblr. That’s about all that sticks out in my memory.

What was your first anime-related purchase and why did you get it? If it’s bizarre I’d love a photo. The first thing I ever got was a keychain with the Death Note inscription on it. Like, it was this steel rectangle with the logo stamped on one side and the Death Note instructions on the other. Completely cheap and useless, but I remember freaking the shit out over just finding merch of a thing I liked. Any way to show my enthusiasm, I guess? Of course, I strung it up on a chain and wore it around my neck like the nerd I was, showing it off to anyone who recognized it. Now that I think of it though, that thing was probably a bootleg; there were at least two typos on it.

The second thing I bought was a trading figure of Mari from the second Rebuild of Evangelion movie, in part to show off my snobbish nerd cred (“look, I like smart anime like EVA!”) but in truth, mostly to look at her underwear, not that I would’ve admitted it. It came in a little box with all of its parts individually wrapped in plastic: torso, skirt, legs, arm, and stand. I probably took a bit longer to put her together than I should have (goddang queer denial) despite being mildly disappointed that her underpants were plain white (“it’s ironic, I swear!”). I kept her anyway, and to this day Mari Shikinami remains on my desk judging the crimes of 14-year-old me.

Today your shitposts are such a big part of the anisphere. How did you first discover Twitter, especially Anitwitter, and decide to start using it? While some folks start out as normal Twitter users that slowly get sucked into the Anitwitter black hole, I was born smack dab in the middle of it. I first got on Twitter to follow @ANNJakeH‘s streams and started using it extensively when I realized some of the anibloggers I liked were far more active there than on their own sites. Surrounded by constantly shitposting anime-likers, I inevitably became one myself. Since then it’s been a gradual devolution of my typing skills. And inhibitions, frankly. In 2013, I had no idea that in four years I would become known primarily for watching bad children’s cartoons and bragging about licking exploding puppets, but here I am. I’m sorry, 2013-Micchy. You deserve a better future than me.

You have a column with Nick on Anime News Network. How did becoming an anime reviewer/writer change the way you interact in the fandom? Honestly, it didn’t! I’ve been shying away from hardcore property-specific fandom in favor of being an anime fan in general for years now, so that hasn’t changed at all. The column in question is really relaxed and casual for “anime journalism,” so to speak, so in practice it’s more an extension of what I do on Twitter (i.e. occasionally make observations between the terrible jokes) than anything else. I imagine that might change if I ever decide to do more formal(ish) long-form anime writing, but right now it’s pretty chill. The only thing that’s really changed is that I occasionally feel remorse for retweeting disgusting memes, because professionalism or something. (Then I decide I don’t really care and go back to retweeting unholy Minion/Heybot fanart crossovers.)

Since you’re one of the community’s prominent queer voices, I’d like to know if anime fandom had anything to do with you exploring your sexuality? Pretty early on, I started chatting with a friend of a friend about anime. One of our favorite activities was to share cute anime fanart with each other for each other’s approval. Over time said images got more and more risque (as a joke, of course!) until eventually I realized, shoot, this wasn’t actually ironic? Girls were… really cute? It took following several queer people on Anitwitter (@composerose in particular) and talking it through to get fully comfortable with the idea of being queer, but after I figured out I wasn’t weird for really liking Sayo Yamamoto’s version of Fujiko Mine it kinda started to make sense. Not that it all clicked instantly! It took a while for me to figure it out. But now that I think about it, I wish I could go back and tell teenage me to quit stressing about it and just enjoy whatever the hell I wanted. After all, who cares about labels when there are cute anime boys and girls to retweet? That’s my biggest takeaway from it all, to chill and be whomever I want with these heaps of fellow anime weirdos. Anime fandom can be great that way.

What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom back then and anime fandom today? It’s so much bigger! Thanks to Crunchyroll (and other services, but mostly Crunchyroll, shoutout to my boi Miles) it seems like everyone and their dog is at least vaguely familiar with anime now. Plus, now that I’ve found a nice pocket of people who share my artsy-fartsy taste, it feels a lot easier to connect with and hang out with people who like discussing the stuff. It’s so easy to share my favorite new shows with people and go, “Hey, you know you can watch all this stuff for free and then scream about it with me afterwards?” Whereas even five or six years ago it was a pain in the rear to get people to watch anime like Mononoke without going, “Okay, it’s hard to find on most sketchy pirate sites but keep looking!”

Micchy can be reached on Twitter

#89: Andrew C-P

Age: 16

Location: Washington, United States

When did you discover anime? Back in winter of 2014. I was browsing images on the internet and came across a gif of Haiyore! Nyaruko-San, which I found to be pretty funny. So I decided to check out an episode or two to see the source material. I never expected to get into anime, but I really liked watching Nyaruko, and I ended up watching everything there was to watch. Both OVAs, both seasons, and both mini series. I had learned pretty much everything there was about that show. I even waited patiently for the third and final OVA to come out that following June. I also re-watched entirely right before June. Never in my life had I been so fascinated by one show.

After Nyaruko, I watched others throughout that summer of 2015, and finished Attack on Titan, (I watched the anime and got up-to-date on the manga), Sword Art Online (as much as people hate it, I still love it, especially the light novels), Kill la Kill, Himouto Umaru-Chan, and some others that I can’t recall. This may not seem like a lot, but I was the guy who was reluctant to actually watch anime, so watching all of that was a lot for me.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? The humor. Even though Nyaruko was chock-full of references I didn’t understand until later on, I still found it to be really funny. I had never seen a show with as characters as vibrant as these.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? Let’s see: this was 2014. I wasn’t super into anime yet then so I wouldn’t exactly know, but I think Attack on Titan was still super popular. I can only guess at this because kids at school were still wearing Attack on Titan shirts.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? I wasn’t really a part of the fandom per se. I liked anime, but I never got involved with the community until late August of 2016, when I got into a Discord server about anime. Then, the next month, I joined a cat café themed server revolving around just liking anime in general. I now host my own server centered around my all-time favorite anime Spice and Wolf.

How did you get into Spice and Wolf and why is it your favorite? I got into Spice and Wolf from one of those “Top 10” YouTube videos. I really loved the story. Despite what the title may suggest, there is nothing fanservice-y about it. It’s about a merchant who happens upon a wolf deity who is trying to get to her home in the north. On their way there, they happen upon many economic schemes to profit from. I recommend it to anyone who asks.

Could you tell me more about Discord servers for fandom discussion? Sure! You join a Discord server by receiving the invite link from someone inside the server. That sounds exclusive, right? They aren’t! A lot of people post their server invite links in a public place so people can join. The first one I joined, I found the link on the Crunchyroll forums right around the time I started using Crunchyroll. It was a Discord server for a group I unknowingly joined named “Shenanigans.” From there I got to talk to lots of cool people, and join other servers that people had made, who have their own awesome people in them.

Do you remember your first convention? I have never been to a convention. I don’t think I’ll go to one until after I turn 18, mainly because I show that I like anime around my friends and family. Anime is like a secret passion for me.

If it’s secret, who do you tell about it? Who don’t you tell? Why not? The only people I tell about liking anime are people online. I don’t tell my IRL friends because I’d be made fun of. I used to have their same mindset as well, thinking it was all weird weeb shit. Because of that, I don’t really care.

You said kids wore Attack on Titan shirts to school. Did that mean anime fandom was generally socially acceptable? Whether it was cool or uncool to like anime really belonged—and still belongs to—what social clique you are in. The clique I was in wasn’t very keen on anime, but there were plenty who were.

How do you think you’ve grown as an anime fan since discovering anime? I don’t believe I’ve grown much. I still watch just to watch it, and I watch what I want to watch, no matter the horrible reviews (cough Sword Art Online cough). Everyone has different likes and dislikes, and that’s just fine.

Andrew can be found on Crunchyroll

#53: Jackson Wyndow

Age: 18

Location: New Zealand

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. Well, depends how you describe “discover.” I of course watched Pokemon, YuGiOh!, Gundam, Naruto and other mainstream anime, but when I got into it seriously and began critically thinking about it was in 2015, my parents were on a holiday, I had a house all to myself and restarted with Soul Eater.

Well there’s also RWBY if you wanna count that.

What resonated with you about Soul Eater? What does “critically thinking” about anime mean to you? I’d always been interested in anime, but mostly in Pokemon and Naruto. After my parents disapproved of my watching Naruto, I kind of stopped for a while, mostly out a shame for all the shonen tropes. But when they were out of the house for a week and I had the whole week to do whatever I want, I decided I wanted to get back into anime. I’d learned about Soul Eater with a friend I’d met online in a community about RWBY (Which means RWBY is potentially the reason I write about anime). As for the critically thinking part, I didn’t just want to watch long-running shonen any more, but I wanted to watch anime that could be considered artistic in its own way. I did eventually write about Soul Eater, in what I consider to be one of the edgiest posts I’ve ever written.

Why did your parents disapprove of Naruto? The violence, mostly. I remember I watched it once when every one was in the main room and they said they didn’t want me watching it any more because of the violence. Also the fanservice. They still dislike me watching it. (The amount of time I spent to get a license was blamed on all the anime I watched).  But they mostly put up with it, as I tend to keep my hobbies to myself.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? It was something new and different. At the time I was home schooled and had just moved to a new country, so I didn’t have that many friends. Talking with people online about anime, something I liked and had a cool community that seemed to like me, was a big part of my life.

What country did you move from? What was your new town like? I moved from Australia, where I lived the first 15 years of my life, to New Zealand just after my 15th birthday.

It was tiny. I went from Perth, where the shops were close and anything you wanted to do was within walking distance to a town where there was only one shop that closed at 2pm at the latest. The next town was half an hour away through sharp bends and high hills. It was designed for trucks, not walking. The town also had no one else my age in it, which is why I suspect I spent so much time watching anime.

First you talked with friends online about anime. Did you eventually meet other anime fans in person? Yes and no. There was no one at school who watched it with the passion I did, but I did manage to convince one of my friends to watch some of the more action packed series like Hellsing Ultimate and Black Lagoon, and he eventually got into it. A few others also watched Space Dandy (dubbed, the heretics), but I don’t know if they watched any other series. I started university this year and joined the anime club, but my natural shyness, tests and assignments (Engineering student >.<), and disinterest with the shows they were watching made me stop going. However, one guy at my dorm enjoys it, and another reads Berserk, so I have some people to discuss it with in real life. Continuing the trend I started at school, most of my friends dislike anime, but they have to deal with me.

Do you remember your first convention? What was it, and what was it like?Kind of? I’ve never been to a full on anime con, but the anime sections of the cons I’ve been to—Supernova and Armageddon—have always been fun.

I haven’t been to Supernova since I was 12, so I don’t really remember it. But in Armageddon there was a decent section of anime in the main area, with Gunpla, Fate/Stay Night figurines, popular manga, and smaller, slightly more niche shops (ex: one that sold dakimakura) hidden away from the front.

How did you participate in fandom online? Did you write on forums, or blog, or draw fan art, or something? I can’t draw to save my life, so I write about anime with conviction. I took a writing paper for my first semester of university, and I wrote a 2,500 word research essay into why people watch hentai, going 500 words over the limit. However my lecturer loved it, saying that some of the material I was getting into was postgraduate level and I had natural talent for more journalistic writing. I conducted a survey online, and got a lot of support and responses to pursuing this topic even further.

What’s the biggest change between how you participated in fandom then and how you participate in fandom now? I suppose I’m more active on anitwitter in a way, being active in the community of the site I write for, Fighting For Nippon. I’ve also started to get my own ideas of things I would like to write about. As I said above, the sheer volume of responses I got in response to my hentai survey makes me want to take it much further, as I could not find any real writing on the topic that was from a fans perspective, as opposed to a university professor. Gotta get known as a writer somehow, right?

Jackson can be reached on Twitter

#44: Ioan

Age: 16

Location: Great Britain

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. I can’t really point to a definite time when I “discovered” anime as such. As a younger child I consumed some anime, catching Ghibli movies on TV, watching Pokemon, YuGiOh!, and Bakugan during summer holidays in Bulgaria (my home country), and I remember renting a copy of Steam Boy from a library once and I even got gifted The Sky Crawlers game for Wii by a relative. But of course I didn’t recognise these as anime at the time.

As for when I started to recognise anime as anime that would probably be from randomly browsing YouTube top 10 lists a few years ago. And in terms of actually watching anime, a cartoon reviewer who I was following at the time, around late 2014, did a review of an episode of Zatch Bell which convinced me to watch the show, which I marathoned up to where the dub ended (around episode 100) in about a week. Though I enjoyed Zatch Bell it was not what got me hooked on anime. That was Cowboy Bebop, I think I watched it in early 2015, which I discovered through top lists on YouTube, some WatchMojo ones, but I think the one that really convinced me to watch it was by another cartoon reviewer called Lewtoons. After Bebop I went on to watch a bunch of other shows like Death Note, The Melancholy Of Haruhi Suzumiya, Trigun, Baccano and Neon Genesis Evangelion which cemented my interest in the medium.

You said Cowboy Bebop is what really got you hooked on anime. What about it was so appealing to you? As Cowboy Bebop is still my favourite anime there’s quite a lot I could say appealed to me. Like the fact that characters that seem cool and fun on the surface level end up having quite a lot of depth behind them. There’s also the fantastic directing and writing, the incredible soundtrack, and the visuals—which are probably the best of any cell-drawn anime TV series. But what results from these elements, and what at the core so appeals to me about Cowboy Bebop, is the range and intensity of emotions it manages to make me feel, from the joy of watching Ed’s adventure in Mushroom Samba, to the slight sadness mixed with an intense sense of happiness and contentment brought on from watching Chess Master Hex winning once last epic game against Ed before seemingly dying, the sadness of Hard Luck Woman, and listening to Blue right after Spike’s death.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? I don’t think I found some central appeal in anime as a whole, but rather in specific shows. For example, I thought Spike from Cowboy Bebop was a really cool and entertaining character. Isaac and Miria from Baccano seemed very fun and hilarious. I found Vash the Stampede’s goofiness in Trigun quite endearing. That’s at least what got me to watch these shows, I ended up loving them for much more than that.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? Attack On Titan.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? I didn’t interact with the fandom much. I mostly just watched some reviews of shows on YouTube. Still, I can’t imagine it was much different than it is today—this was only back in early 2015.

I know very little about anime fan YouTube. Could you tell me about how you got into it, and what the appeal of YouTube video anime reviews is for you? I’d been on YouTube for a few years before getting into anime, and discovered the world of anime reviews mainly by people like Glass Reflection and DouchebagChocolat. What appealed to me about these was finding out what shows to watch, as I was new to anime and didn’t know many shows, and this gave me a decently wide knowledge of anime. As for how I got into it, I can’t remember how I found Glass Reflection, probably stumbled onto his content. As for DouchebagChocolat, I think I may have stumbled onto his Eva rebuild videos at some point, but I really got into him after a brony YouTuber, who I think found his videos through Digibro, made a video about him.

Eventually, I drifted away from plain reviews, finding them boring, and turned to more analytical YouTubers like Digibro. I use him as an example as he’s probably the most popular in this category. He’s also probably my favourite and you’ve interviewed him so you should have some idea of what his content is like. What appeals to me about this type of video is the interesting ideas they present and how they go more in depth about why the creator thought a certain way about a show, and so why that show might appeal to me. I got into this kind of video through Digibro, and I found him because of my knowledge of him from brony analysis fandom, which I used to be a part of, despite having seen only one or two of his brony videos.

Was the Internet a part of fandom at the time? If yes, how? If no, how did you connect with other fans? Yes, all the ways it is today. I can’t think of any big changes that have happened in past two years, apart from analytical anime content becoming more prominent on YouTube thanks to people like Digibro. Though, maybe it didn’t become more prominent and it was just me discovering it.

Do you remember your first convention? What was it, and what was it like?
I haven’t been to any anime specific convention, the closest thing I went to is MCM Comicon London, in May 2016. I’m sure there is lots of footage of MCM Comicon’s on YouTube, so anyone can see what it’s like. I remember the toilet being very crowded, being surprised at the amount of cosplay—having never seen cosplay in person before—and not being able to find any posters of shows any shows I liked.

Have you made friends through anime fandom? IRL or online? Can you tell me about those connections? I haven’t made any friends in the anime fandom, I’m quite introverted. As for IRL, there are a few people who I started talking to because they were into anime, but unfortunately our tastes are quite different so not much of our conversation revolves our anime.

You got into fandom later than a lot of the creators you follow and interact with. What has that been like? I’m not exactly sure how to answer that, so I guess I’ll do it by contrast. In some of these stories, people have talked about the difficulty of finding anime and discussion of it, but as someone who got into anime only a couple of years ago, this hasn’t been a problem. Most airing shows are quickly subtitled and available for streaming within hours on Crunchyroll. Even shows that are not licensed, like PreCure, get fansubbed within a day of airing. Even the vast majority of older shows are available for streaming, whether from official sources or illegal ones, and torrenting with at least subtitles. There’s only one film I’ve found where there were absolutely no English subtitles, Violin In the Starry Sky, and even though it’s on only about 500 people’s lists on MAL you can still easily get torrents of it without private trackers. For me, its been easy to find discussion of anime. Whether it be on YouTube, social media or Reddit or other websites and even IRL, I have people that I can talk to about anime.

Have you felt welcomed by older fans? I haven’t had much active engagement with the community. I’ve been more passively consuming content and discussion. To that extent, I’d say that to use the word “welcome” would be a bit misleading, but I certainly haven’t felt at all alienated. As I said, I started out by getting quite a good body of knowledge of various shows and have since learned a lot about other aspects of anime like directors, studios, etc., so I never really feel left behind when people are discussing anime, though I can’t say that the other anime fans my age I know IRL have as much knowledge as I do, and so might feel alienated by such discussions.

Ioan can be reached on Twitter

#36: Alex C

Age: 19

Location: Madrid, Spain

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. I knew about anime since I was little, maybe when I was around nine. I watched One Piece, Bleach and Naruto everyday on TV. Later, I kind of forgot a bit about anime, but I re-joined the anime fanbase when Shingeki no Kyojin [Attack on Titan] started to be broadcasted.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? The style (I love manga style) and the stories.

Were you a manga reader before you watched anime? Why did you like its style?  I started reading manga right before getting into anime, so you could say I became a manga reader thanks to anime. I really liked it because it was more aesthetically pleasant than usual superhero and American comics to me. Also, I found interesting to read backwards back in the day. I was some kind of weirdo.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? Naruto or One Piece.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? I wasn’t in the fandom itself because I was a child, but when I started to watch anime again, with SnK, it was exciting. I would discuss every episode with my friends.

Tell me how you connected with other fans when you got into Attack on Titan fandom. I didn’t really get into the fandom because I have never been a huge fandom participant. Aside from the classic “shitposting” and memes, I didn’t really connect with other people via internet for Attack on Titan. In real life, though, it was different. My friends and I would spend hours talking about how some character or some scene made us feel. We would spend hours trying to mimic the voices of our favourite ones, too. Bit of a childish habit we keep nowadays.

What was online fandom like? Were there certain sites you visited to connect with fans? I mainly shared my things with the other Internet fans of AoT on Twitter or some pages of Tumblr (I didn’t really get into Tumblr though, some people told me it’s a really strange site) through hashtags and all of that. I did specially connect with the Spanish fandom of AoT, since there were some funny simple jokes about the names of some characters in Spanish [Mikasa, for example] and that kind of stuff.

Living in Spain, do you watch anime with English subtitles? I watch anime with both English and Spanish subtitles. I do prefer the English ones though, at least the ones in Crunchyroll are more… “likable” to me, for my taste. Also, I have had some bad experience with Spanish fansubs who weren’t able to do translations that made sense at all.

Was it more difficult to get anime in Europe than it might be for US fans? Back in the day, maybe. I’m sure around 2013 there already were some official and licensed anime streaming sites on the Internet, but you know, a 14-year-old guy with no knowledge of how anime licenses work would watch anime in whatever site he found it on—even not-so-legal sites. Nowadays, I do my best to find and watch anime that has been licensed in official sites in order to help the community to get more anime. I am currently even looking for a job in order to be able to spend money on things like that—premium memberships in sites that I think deserve money and support. But in general, I think that it shouldn’t have been VERY difficult to find official anime in Europe in 2013. You just had to look for it, and I hadn’t the knowledge nor the patience to do it. It’s kind of embarrassing.

How did you watch Attack on Titan? Were you able to get it legally? Like I said,  I didn’t get it legally, but once the anime got licensed and the manga came to Spain I tried to contribute to make up for it purchasing three copies of it for some of my friends that didn’t watch the show or read the manga. Since then, they became anime fans, and bought almost every AoT manga they brought here.

What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom when you got into it and now? I think the community hasn’t changed much: it has just grew a lot. In that context, the number of fans of some specific type of anime has grown, while some other types have always had a ton of followers. It’s not that the anime fandom has changed, it has grown thanks to the broadcasting services’ work and the new territories anime is exploring. I think there is nowadays an anime for every type of person, and thus, every type of tastes.

Alex can be reached on Twitter

#35: Omar

Age: 18

Location: Italy

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. Back when I was eight, a channel called Italia 1 used to broadcast old episodes of One Piece and Dragon Ball Z.

Even if I didn’t know it was anime, I looked it up a few years later when that channel restarted both series from the beginning. After that, I got caught up in this world and now I’m here sharing my story.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? I felt it was different compared to other cartoons. I didn’t know it was anime, but I felt a distinct degree of quirkiness from it that satisfied me. Its over-the-top elements really spoke to my younger self’s soul.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? Not a lot of people knew what they were watching was anime. For them it was just another Sunday morning cartoon. Before I was even born, Mazinger and other Go Nagai works were really big. Then Italy entered the DB and DBZ era. After that, during my childhood, a lot of people watched Naruto. However, even if shonen anime dominated the scene, there were plenty of shojo fans who would watch everything ranging from Cardcaptor Sakura to Sailor Moon. I also have to mention Captain Tsubasa, which was known here as Holly & Benji.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? I don’t think I’ve ever noticed a local fandom. My local comic book store didn’t have a lot of customers and most of them were really reserved. My friends weren’t really big fans, having seen only Naruto, Death Note, and Fullmetal Alchemist. After I grew up I joined the international fandom on social media and now I’m here.

Why don’t you think there was a local anime fandom in Italy? I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to throw you off with that answer. When I said there was no fandom, I meant that many people didn’t look at anime as a Japanese product. They didn’t make a distinction between animation from Japan and animation from other countries. That applies to the general public. I think fans are people who care about a certain product and are knowledgeable about it.

There was a fandom, but it was rather small compared to the amount of people who watched anime during their childhood but didn’t even know the people behind them.

When did you first discover the international fandom scene? When I was 14, i.e. after joining international media in general. As I got more and more accustomed to English, I started following international trends on every social media. I didn’t even have a proper way to watch anime back in the day. Italian TV stopped investing on new shows like back in the day (when I wasn’t even born) so I had to rely on the Internet to find new shows. I ended up on pirate sites (shame on me) , as legal outlets were extremely limited (they still are, but at least now I can watch on Crunchyroll and we even have local legal streaming sites, such as vvvvid.it). After befriending some folks on those sites’ forums, I started following anitwitter and from that moment I joined the international fandom.

What was the fandom internet like when you first began participating? Not really different from what it is now, I only joined four years ago. The main difference is that there is way less drama now, and plenty of interesting threads to follow. I don’t know if it’s only me, but I feel like anime criticism has become way more refined nowadays.

Have you ever been to an anime con or other in person fandom event? Only local cons, in one of the main cities in southern Italy. As you might imagine, there aren’t a lot of attendees so the con is really small and is lumped together with an yearly book festival. Not that I’m complaining about, I always manage to score some good findings and I’ve met the best Italian manga critic there [Dario Moccia, in Omar’s opinion].

Do you remember the first time you participated in fandom? Like, created fan content (art or fiction), wrote a blog, anything like that?  I’ve never been really good at writing my thoughts down and all my anime drawings are tracings (I’ve done those only for fun though, never posted them online and never took credit). I guess my best contribution to the fandom was sharing my thoughts with other people on forums (my English isn’t good enough to write anything in a blog post and nobody would take me seriously here in Italy). I prefer reading think pieces and original takes on a show to sharing my own views.

Your English is amazing. Anyway, how did you start making friends through anime fandom? I didn’t make a single friend in real life through anime. Maybe because other interests in other fields,but not because of anime. The people I’ve befriended online became my friends either because they shared my interests or because they didn’t and we ended up exchanging arguments in a peaceful manner. I never shut anyone out simply because their opinions were different from mine,but rather I tried to understand them and while some people refused to have a friendly chat about something and got angry for no reason, other people took as a chance to discuss with me about things they love, as I’d offer a different insight. However, I don’t get to travel a lot and the only other country I’ve ever visited is Morocco (my parents’ home country), thus I’ve never met an online friend in real life. As soon as I get the chance I will though.

What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom when you discovered it and anime fandom today? Like I mentioned earlier, I think it’s criticism. Maybe I wasn’t following the right threads, but current day anime criticism feels a lot sharper.

Omar 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.