#105: Jen A. Blue

Age: 35

Location: Washington, DC

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. It was the back half of 1995—either the summer before high school or early in my freshman year. The father of one of my middle school friends was a huge audiophile, and he had a big TV with an amazing sound system in the basement, and my friends and I would hang there. Another friend brought subtitled VHS tapes of The Slayers, the first half of the first season, and we shotgunned them in one sitting. Anime was rare or non-existent on syndicated TV in DC at the time, and I didn’t have cable growing up, so it was my first time seeing anything like it.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? The answer that makes me look good is that it was about characterization and serialization. This was just a couple of years after Twin Peaks, X-Files, and Babylon 5 had barely started, so (outside soap operas) serialization on American TV was still very rare and limited to SF shows. Character-driven drama within a genre setting was also pretty rare on American TV pre-Buffy, so Neon Genesis Evangelion (the next box set we marathoned in that basement) was a revelation.

There’s also just my lifelong love affair with animation. I moved from being a little kid watching the toy-driven dreck of the mid-80s to a slightly older kid watching Ducktales and Animaniacs, then a tween watching Batman: The Animated Series and early Simpsons. Becoming a teenaged anime fan was the next logical step.

The answer that makes me look less good: I was 14, in the process of discovering I have a thing for smart, ass-kicking redheads with strong opinions and nasty tempers, and my first two anime were The Slayers and Neon Genesis Evangelion. Add in that my crush for most of high school was a Japanophile and… yeah.

Tell me about your high school crush! Did anything come out of that? She was smart, shy, small, and cute, basically the classic nerd version of the girl next door. Brilliant with computers—I think she works for Microsoft now—and like I said, a major Japanophile. JRPGs, manga, anime, eventually language and culture, literature, food. As for what came out of it, a close friendship that lasted a decade or so before she moved out to the west coast and we lost touch. Never dated, but that’s probably for the best.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? Like I said, the DC area didn’t really get anime on TV until Toonami. I never even heard of Dragon Ball Z or Sailor Moon until I started going to conventions in ’99. The gateway show for everyone—not just the half-dozen of us in that basement—was The Slayers. That was the thing EVERYONE watched and liked.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? I’m not sure there was such a thing as anime fandom just yet. We were just nerds, and that meant you liked nerdy things. Someone who liked anime probably also liked tabletop RPGs, video games, science fiction, or science/tech–if not all of those things, at least most of them. So all of that would be in play when hanging out.

What was the first anime fandom you got really invested in? How did you express your fandom? Definitely The Slayers. Like I said, we all watched it and all enjoyed it, then moved on to other anime. But Slayers stuck with me more than the others. I wrote fanfic, which fortunately never left my computer and no longer exists in any form. I found the fansite Inverse.org and devoured everything they had on the backstory, the world, how magic worked, gods and monsters. A lot of that was from stuff only published in Japan, so in our little circle I was (at least at first) the only one who knew any of it. One summer during college, maybe 2003 or so, I got the Slayers d20 rulebook and ran a weekly tabletop game set hundreds of years after the show. Then, when the show had its 20th anniversary a couple of years ago, I did a panel on it at a couple of cons.

Oh, and my latest book starts with a quote from it!

Was the Internet a part of fandom at the time? If yes, how? If no, how did you connect with other fans? It was sort of in the process of becoming part of fandom. When I started, we all sort of got into anime together in that basement, and then met other people who were already into anime, or showed anime to other fans and got them into it. It was all in-person. The Internet had fansites and such, but that was one person or a small group posting up pictures and info, not really a social experience.

How did you get involved in this friend group? Did you all go to the same school or comic shop or something? Like I said, it started as a group of my middle school friends. Then I went to a different high school from most of them, and some of the friends I made there joined the group. We would all hang in one or another of our houses’ basements; sometimes we would watch anime, or play a tabletop RPG, or video games, depending on exactly who showed up and what mood we were in.

Do you remember your first convention? What was it, and what was it like?
Yes, my first convention was Otakon in ’99. It was kind of overwhelming! I’d never encountered so many anime fans in one place, and it was hard to know what to do. I spent a lot of time in video rooms, sampling shows I hadn’t heard of before. That was what cons were for, for me–finding out what anime was out there. It wasn’t until years later when I had broadband and could download (or, later, stream) shows that cons became about seeing people.

How did you get into blogging about anime and doing media analysis? I really didn’t know what I wanted to do when I started college, so I opened up the course guide and circled everything that sounded interesting. Then I added up the credits and figured out which degree that was closest to, and it turned out to be English. For shits and giggles, I decided that at least once a semester, I would do a paper that incorporated my nerdy interests, so already as an undergrad I was getting a little practice writing on things like religion in Final Fantasy, nonsense literature and webcomics, Milton and Lord of the Rings, that kind of thing. Somewhere in there, my friends and I watched a terrible-quality fansub of End of Evangelion, and they basically all turned to me and said, “Okay, Jen, you’re an English major. What the hell?” Being young and cocky, I said, “Give me a week.” I vaguely remembered some of the symbols that appeared in the movie from my Bar Mitzvah classes, which is a whole ‘nother story—Bar Mitzvah students are not supposed to be learning Kabbalah!—and I cobbled together a reading. More importantly, I had a lot of fun doing it!

Flash forward a decade. I was in a bit of a rut—I had a job, it was paying the bills, but I wanted to do something I cared about. One thing I did (and do!) really enjoy was presenting panels at conventions, because it was using the same mental muscles as those college papers and the End of Eva thing. Anyway, independently of that, I discovered this guy Phil Sandifer, and his amazing Doctor Who analysis—absolutely brilliant stuff. Through him, I discovered the world of media studies (he’s got a PhD in the field), which I hadn’t even known was a thing. I realized that this was exactly what I wanted to do. Grad school wasn’t really an option, but with some gentle prodding from my then-girlfriend Viga—who also got me into doing panels—I went the “outsider academic” route. I started blogging about animation, mostly American cartoons at first, but then I noticed that BY FAR my most popular post was a review and analysis I did on the third Madoka Magica movie, Rebellion. So I did a series of posts on the show, and The Very Soil, my book on Madoka Magica (shameless plug) grew out of that. And I pretty much just haven’t stopped since!

In your personal experience, what’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom then and anime fandom today? I’d say there are two really big changes. First is streaming. Anime is ridiculously easier to get—and get legally!—than it was back then. If I hear about a series, I can usually be watching it within minutes. But back then, well, we were lucky enough to have an anime-and-games store just a few blocks from our high school, and even then there’d be a lag of at least a year between the show airing in Japan and it showing up at Starland. And like I said, we were lucky—a lot of people had no way of getting anime at all, outside of the dealer’s room at a con or long chains of friends trading tapes with friends. The result, I think, is that things have sped up. New shows spread through the fandom faster, but they also fade faster. The hot new thing changes pretty much every season, where in the ’90s it would stay the same a lot longer because it just took longer until most people had seen it.

The other thing is, back in the ’90s and before, very few things actually made it to the U.S. With a few hilarious exceptions, that was usually the best of the best. And when we ’90s teens were kids, in the ’80s, American cartoons SUCKED. Nowadays we get basically every anime, including all the crap, and American animation has gotten massively, unfathomably better than it was when I was a kid. I write about this more in the “Secret History of Anime Fandom” section of my new book, Animated Discussions (shameless plug two), but basically I think the result is that there was a lot of hostility to American cartoons in anime fandom back then, and virtually none now. You especially see it with cosplay—some of the most popular cosplays of the last few years have been Steven Universe and Adventure Time characters. That would’ve been unthinkable at anime cons in 1999 or 2000.

Jen can be reached on Twitter

#104: Patrick Hogan

Age: 33

Location: New York

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. It actually all began with an obscure Japanese-French production called The Mysterious Cities of Gold that aired on Nickelodeon in the late 1980s. Unlike almost all other cartoons and children’s programming at the time, it told an ongoing story, with each episode ending with a cliffhanger. It also mixed together history, science-fiction, and fantasy in a way I had never seen before, although I think I was a bit young to appreciate the historic setting. It came on TV right when I got home from school and I’d race to the basement every day to try and catch the opening (which I now find downright painful to listen to).

I didn’t know this was anime at the time, or even what that word meant. It was just another cartoon. It wasn’t until a friend in high school showed me a VHS dub of Samurai X (aka Rurouni Kenshin) that I became aware of animation from Japan as a separate thing. From there, I soon fell into the action shows being aired on Toonami and the rest is history.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? I think it was the serial nature of most of the shows I was exposed to that really intrigued me. Throughout most of the ’80s and ’90s, American television rarely told ongoing stories. With a few exceptions, most episodes hit a reset button and everything was back to normal next week. But anime told ongoing stories. A plot could be bigger than a 22 minute episode and continue onward, sometimes over the entire life of a show. I found the possibilities for this exciting.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? I’m not even sure from when I first got into it. I was like 6 years old and it was 1989. I wasn’t exactly trading mail-order tapes. As I got older, there definitely was a period where everyone knew what Sailor Moon was, and then Pokemon got very big. Dragon Ball Z had this very slow burn of popularity where I thought I was the only one who knew about it, and then I got to college and everyone was saying “Oh, I love Goku.”

Was anime more of a solitary thing for you growing up, or were there friends or siblings you watched with? Anime has definitely always been more of a solitary interest. Up until my most recent job, which had an anime Slack room with about 12 or so people in it, I probably only knew a handful of other people who liked it.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? I actually started my college’s anime club as a freshman. It never really went anywhere, garnering probably about six members at its height. But even with six members, I remember having a very difficult time putting together a schedule of events that would make everyone happy. Every person had a very specific type of anime that interested them, and it was hard to reconcile the person who wanted to screen a Slayers marathon with the person who only watched Street Fighter anime series and nothing else. Going in any one direction meant you would have an event where it would be literally only two or three people show up in a university room that could hold like 30, which was always awkward.

How does it feel to participated in this small anime fan group, and now to experience anime going mainstream? I mean, I think the main thing I’d say is never try to start a college club as a freshman, and also that maybe the best way to meet other people who share your interest isn’t to start a university-sanctioned club. Although I kind of wonder if the club would do better or worse today. Yes, anime is more mainstream, but does that also mean it’s less likely to be something someone is interested in enough to join a club about it? I don’t know.

Was the Internet a part of fandom at the time? The internet definitely helped expose me to anime series I would never have seen otherwise. When Gundam Wing first aired on Toonami, I went looking for more info online, which is how I found that there were almost a dozen other Gundam series, with Wing alone in its own continuity.

Netflix helped a lot too. I got Netflix’s DVD subscription service shortly after it launched when I was in college and suddenly all sorts of stuff became available to me. There used to be an anime review website called Anime Academy. I sorted their reviews by grade and just started going down the list via my Netflix queue. I’m looking at my Netflix DVD history now and I see stuff like Crest of the Stars, Princess Nine and Record of Lodoss War that I had kind of forgotten about until now.

Was your participation on the internet passive, or did you interact in the fandom in some way? It definitely was more passive. I remember spending a lot of time just looking at different fansites and just taking everything in. There was so much information online that you would never get from watching anime on TV, like that we rarely saw the opening and closing credit scenes that were attached to the shows in Japan. I never really got into any forums or communities either, although I definitely went through a Gundam Wing fan-fiction phase, which is how I first learned what yaoi is.

What was the first anime you got really invested in? How did you express your fandom? The first one I really got into was probably Gundam Wing. There were other anime before that, but Gundam Wing just had so many details that you could do a deep dive into, whether it was the mobile suits or the political factions. It didn’t always makes sense, and it makes even less sense now, but there was just so much going on.

Do you remember your first convention? What was it, and what was it like?
I have never been to an anime convention! It sounds weird, but I’m not crazy about crowds and noisy places and am pretty socially awkward. I’ve been to other large conventions and found them to not be my favorite places in the world, so I’ve pretty much stayed away.

What did your family think of your interest in anime? I saw you just went to Japan (and the Gundam statue!) with your dad. I actually went to that Gundam statue alone! My dad was going to Japan on a business trip, and I crashed in his hotel room to save money. Neither he nor anyone else in my family is too interested in anime, although they’re not against trying it every now and then. We all went to see Your Name when it was in U.S. theaters in the spring and everyone really liked it. My dad sometimes asks me about different anime that are currently popular. He works for a Japanese company and I think he likes at least having a cursory knowledge of Japanese culture for no other reason than to have something to talk about at the water cooler.

Finally, in your experience, what’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom now and when you first got into it? I remember watching a subtitled, bootleg VHS tape a friend brought back from Hong Kong of Evangelion four years after the show aired on Japanese TV and we were on the bleeding edge because we’d seen Evangelion subtitled. Now I stream new episodes of My Hero Academia like a day after they air in Japan through a site that has officially and legally licensed it. Everything’s faster now and I think that’s a good thing.

Patrick can be reached on Twitter

#103: Kori

Age: 31

Location: Brunswick, Maine

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. The year was 1999, and I was 13. I’d fallen in love with the Pokemon (Red) video game, and one day discovered that there was a cartoon version of the story. From the first episode I caught on TV, I was hooked. It was my gateway. I drew fanart, and my very first comic (I’m a professional cartoonist now) was a jagged and messy Pokemon fancomic about my adventures with my favorite Pokemon, Dragonair. My repertoire expanded almost immediately to any anime I could find information about on the internet, aired on late-night Cartoon Network (carefully time-recorded on VHS), or otherwise appeared on TV or in my local comic shops. Animerica Magazine was pretty integral to my keeping updated and immersed in anime. Having my fan art printed in Animerica and in Animerica Extra gave me the ego boost I would ride into an actual art career.

How did your interest in anime factor into your journey as an artist? Did you go through a manga-style angular chin drawing phase? Anime was alllllways at the core of my artistic journey.  A good number of people in comics today who are my age remember the struggle of fighting teachers when they told you not to “draw anime style.”  And I understand why, now, they put up that fight.  “Anime style” is a visual language that makes sense to someone who watches it, but doesn’t to those who never have.  So of course the giant eyes and sweatdrops and pointy chins seem baffling to them, and it turn, to your college admissions portfolio reviewers. I get it.  But it felt crummy!  Other cartoonists are influenced by the comics and cartoons they idolized, and you can see the influence of Archie Comics or Powerpuff Girls in a lot of folks’ comics today too!  But since our influences were foreign, because the visual language we aped was not native, we we told to cut it out.  Often with no suggestion of where to look instead.  So when I tried to fight that fight, I pulled from “traditional” or classical illustration, and spent a long time, as many of my peers did, being sure I was drawing “more correctly” to “realistically” but always being asked if “it was anime,” anyway!  It was tough!  And it’s not like anyone was having conversations with us ABOUT the cultural exchange, or even the bigger colonial implications around the dialogue that WAS happening.  Anyway, yes. I drew lots of pointy chins.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? Watching Pokemon as a freshly-minted teenager, I was excited by the way the narrative carried across episodes. Each episode had a fight of the day, but it was part of a journey. It lacked the reset button of The Simpsons, but was more structurally engaging than The Little Mermaid (TV.) It seemed unique. And it felt like a bridge into a new world, because it was foreign and because there was a community around it. I was posting Ash/Misty romantic fanfiction on message boards online before I understood that fanfiction was a /thing./ Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z followed, and by the time I’d sunk my claws into Gundam Wing, Slayers, Tenchi Muyo, and Utena, I was gone! The western anime-loving community was my place. No small part of my fascination was in the subtextual and sometimes textual queer themes. I was a budding /something/ at the time (lesbian? transboy? time would tell-) and the genderqueer/tomboy/lesbian in Sailor Uranus, longing gay love of Utena‘s Juri, and extensive slashability of the Gundam Wing boys gave my needs a home, my desires validation, my expressions an outlet.

Could you expand on this over the course of your fandom? How did anime factor into your exploration of sexuality? After the initial blossoming into a queer butch because of shoujo manga, anime didn’t factor a whole lot into my sexuality until I wrestled with my love of yaoi later on in my mid-20s.  The community was always there and part of its actualization, of course; my first online girlfriend was a fellow Utena roleplayer, and one summer-fling boyfriend was someone I met at an anime convention in Maine, who wooed me by singing that impossibly fast Gravitation song at karaoke.  But it wasn’t until around 25 or so that I looked at myself, on the cusp of coming out as trans, and the fact that I’d basically only consumed yaoi/slash since I got to college, and realized the complicated sexual sociology of it. As an afab person, I’d appreciated a medium by which I could explore sexual imagery without seeing sex /done/ to a female body.  Porn and hentai all established women as objects that sex was done /to/, often violently.  While yaoi in general wasn’t necessarily /better/ in that regard, it at least allowed me to separate /my/ body from sexual violence.  My current identity as a bi enby doesn’t give as much credit to anime as it does the webcomics community, but the transition from one family to the other was smooth, since there is plenty of overlap there.  That I now draw the trans-inclusive adult comics I wished I had as a teen and young adult probably owes to that yaoi legacy directly, though.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? When I “discovered” anime, the most popular thing was probably Dragon Ball Z. Even though shoujo (Sailor Moon, Fushigi Yuugi) was more my thing, I still understood what a force and presence the DBZ fandom was. I could never be sure because my perception was affected by whatever I was most obsessed with at the time, but Sailor Moon was big, as was CLAMP as an entire entity and force. Evangelion was also very present. But nothing would be like DBZ.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? It was like stepping to the garden of eden. Or being on a rewarding treasure expedition. Me, a tiny art-making teen, discovering a world where people expanded and reimagined narratives (fanfic,) examined fictional relationships (ship manifesto,) multiplied content through art (doujinshi, fanart,) shared- OH how they SHARED- their passion… and it was the wild west of internet, too. Navigating the community was an adventure. You had to participate to find what you were looking for. It made that rare piece of Evangelion merch, 3rd generation VHS Kodocha fansub copy, or perfectly-aligned-with-your-interests Card Captor Sakura fanfic absolutely like earning treasure. It was rich with discovery.

What were you usually looking for, then? Where did you participate? Did you make any lasting friendships, or discover new shows that way? I was looking for all of the above.  Fanart, doujinshi, fanfic, Evangelion dissertations.  For example, if I was looking for Touya x Yukito (Cardcaptor Sakura) fanfic, I couldn’t hop on Ao3 and click the Touya/Yukito tag.  I have to either web-search (Google was not yet the standard) or ask around for a Touya/Yukito fansite (one Geocities or Angelfire, probably) that would then host or link to fanfics.  Instead of collections, you usually found a fansite that featured the site’s owner’s own fanfiction.  You really had to work for that reward.  I can’t remember the names of those fansites anymore, they were so all over the place.  I vaguely remember the transition to Livejournal as a new standard for communities and roleplaying, but I don’t think I could name any of those, either.

I don’t think I’ve maintained any friendships from those days! We’re talking 15 years ago, when I was a teenager and a very different person.  We’ve all grown up and found new spaces to occupy … as much as I still value Utena, I don’t really need to be on an Utena RP board anymore, and I think everyone else has established new identities since then too.  I can’t think of anyone from those days that I’m still close to.  In college I made friends with folks in the Ookiku Furikabutte community that helped me through hard times and are still close friends of mine today, but no one from those early days.  Every once and a while I’ll get a message from someone who will be like , “Woah, are you Shirono from the Pokemon Boards back in 1999?” and we will reminisce for a whole five seconds, but that’s it.

Finding new anime, at least for me, didn’t happen in communities, because they weren’t “anime” communities, they were show-specific communities.  Pokemon boards talked about Pokemon, Utena LJ talked about Utena.  Discovering new anime came through some specific channels, like Animerica magazine, which reported on both stateside releases as well as what was coming out in Japan.  There was also fansubs, which I credit with exposing me to A LOT of new anime. See, when you bought a fansub, the two or three episodes on the tape might not take up the entire tape.  So some fansubbers would fill the extra space with anime openings.  So at the end of my Kodocha tape, there would be opening themes for Fushigi Yuugi, Mamono Hunter Yohko, and City Hunter.  I proceeded to pursue each of those shows.  Why did fansubbers do that, though, I always wondered.  Was it purely to spread the gospel of new anime?

Was the Internet a part of fandom at the time? If yes, how? If no, how did you connect with other fans? Yes, internet and fandom were inextricable in the early aughts. Fansites were your source for news, eBay your source for rare merch, group sites for your mail-in-fansubs, message boards for your discussion. It was an exciting time; despite the burgeoning attempts Real Player made at establishing itself as a way to watch video, we still had dial-up internet and relied on the community access to get our fix. I took chances sending physical dollars and checks to strangers on the internet and was never let down, getting copied CDs and VHS tapes in the mail, weeks or months later, every time. Message boards and fansites were where I spent most of my time, role-playing, reading fanfic, dissecting episodes, characters, relationships, and story arcs.

Do you remember your first convention? What was it, and what was it like?
Shoujocon 2001, in East Brunswick, New Jersey. It was magical. It was more accessible to me in Pennsylvania than any other convention at the time, and my parents could drive my friends and I there. I cosplayed Yuzuriha Nekoi from X/1999. I met a CLAMP messageboard crush. I returned in 2002 with different high-school friends and a preparedness to take advantage of what I now knew a convention could give me. The two years blur a bit in my memory. That second year, I cosplayed in a Kare Kano group. I sang in and won the karaoke contest. I bought Gundam Wing doujinshi, sneaking an 18+ wristband over my little teen fist to get into the restricted section of the dealers’ room. I met up with people I’d met on Utena message boards. I shared home-printed copies of my first scrawled doujinshi (also Utena.) I bought a $40 JPOP CD (expensive now, but imagine THEN!) I still have the printed photos from these experiences. It blew my mind.

What was meeting your messageboard crush like? Worth it, or never meet your heroes sort of thing? It was uneventful!  I had a little baby forum crush on them but they didn’t on me.  We took a picture together and I never heard from them again!  We weren’t close in the first place, I just thought they were cute and looked like Kamui.

What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom when you got into it and now? The biggest differences, I think, are the means to access content, the availability of content, and the discourse.

As I mentioned before, you couldn’t just google “Sailor Uranus x Sailor Neptune doujinshi” or “Tamahome x Chichiri fanfic” and FIND IT, let alone just click through tags on Ao3.  You had to hunt and you often had to establish human connections to get to what you were looking for.  Today you can access content for your very specific shipping interests almost immediately and definitely without interacting with anyone.  It’s not like recc lists aren’t still valuable and we don’t make connections these days!  But the work you /needed/ to put in to find your goods was different in nature!

It’s so EASY to watch anime now.  All of it!  Any of it!  It’s so great, now, with both legal avenues for the big stuff (Crunchyroll, Amazon, etc.) and less-legal avenues for the obscure stuff.  More manga is published in English and more quickly, and scanlations are available for more weird and independent stuff than ever. There’s basically no way to NOT find what you’re looking for instantly these days. Before it was buying fansubs off the internet, downloading a third of an episode on dial-up, or saving $60 to buy a tape with 2 episodes on it at Suncoast. 0_0

Finally, wow, both good and bad has come from the global discourse on anime and manga and fan communities.  I absolutely do not want to get into the specifics, but we are having good conversations about appropriation and problematic content (to the benefit of POC, women, and queer people, but we are also having very BAD conversations about appropriation and problematic content (to the detriment of POC, women, and queer people!) Before, we went by the motto “don’t like, don’t read,” which meant problematic ideas were not challenged, but also, it meant that people weren’t harassed for exploring ideas in fiction.  Progress resists binary reduction, so it’s messy, but I wouldn’t go back in time either.

Kori can be reached on Twitter

#102: Nicholas T

Age: 31

Location: Kitchener, Ontario, Canada

When did you discover anime? 1995 I would guess. It was at this time that shows like Sailor Moon and Samurai Pizza Cats were starting to show up on TV before elementary school.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? They looked completely different, and had a very different style and storytelling to them.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? I wasn’t much involved in fandom until I got a bit older and entered high school where I started going to my first few conventions.

At this time, it was a lot of in-person interactions. I didn’t have much in terms of internet (28.8k dial-up), so when I did I would look up Dragon Ball Z or Sailor Moon (especially Dragon Ball Z uncensored), and I’m sure some forums existed.

What was the difference? Why was uncensored better? At the time, I think the difference was just that I wanted to see “what people were keeping from me.” I wanted to see the “real” version, but also a lot of the differences were just cultural or required to air on North American television. It wasn’t so much that the “uncensored was better” as some of anime wasn’t available in North America yet.

You said you discovered anime in elementary school in 1995. But you’re still a fan today. Did you watch anime continuously that whole time? Or did you take a break? Over the years, there has definitely been a huge difference in my intake levels of anime. I watched a lot of anime (probably 5-10 series per year?) up until 2008 or 2009 (from elementary school to university). After I graduated, intake probably dropped to 1-2 series a year, and is now probably somewhere in between. Manga intake has been pretty continuous.

You said you didn’t start talking to other fans until high school. Can you tell me about what that was like? Was there a club? There wasn’t a club in high school, but through a variety of other clubs and classes, I managed to find people who were fans. I remember it being easy, because I wasn’t really afraid of showing off what I am afraid of like I am now. In elementary school, we had to compose a music piece, and I transcribed the Pokemon theme for flute… and a lot of meeting other fans was like that. It was a lot of bringing up different fandom-related things in casual conversation, or doing class activities that revealed people with similar interests.

Do you remember your first convention? Anime North 2003. It was an anime convention, and it was amazing. There were viewing rooms, and games, and people and goods. I remember going to tons of different panels to learn about different things like the Japanese language and fanthropology.

Did you get inspired to learn more about those topics? How so? I was inspired to learn more about those topics! As a result of some of those panels, I ended up buying books on Japanese, and later (in University) taking some classes on the language. As well, I ended up following a bunch of blogs on Fanthropology for a while, and making friends with one of the panelists who is pretty involved in a lot of fannish activities. I also now do a podcast, Fanthropological, where we try to dig into different fandoms every week.

Nicholas can be reached on Twitter.

#95: Ian

Age: 32

Location: Seattle

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. Anime was first introduced to me in the early 1990s. My grandfather was a fan of black-and-white monster films, which led to us watching kaiju films. From Godzilla and Mothra came animated versions of monsters and robots fighting to save the universe/galaxy/planet/reincarnation of the peacock buddha. I was hooked immediately, but I had no idea what I was really watching.

Were you introduced to anime by the same grandpa who showed you kaiju films? If not, who? After my grandfather opened my eyes to transnational cinema, I was always looking for something different. When I was in middle school, a friend of mine from a few houses down the street (name omitted by request) acquired a VHS tape and some photocopied papers with a script printed on them. He invited me over, because I was better and faster at reading than he was. Between myself, and the few friends that gathered, we watched Ranma 1/2 each taking turns reading the script out loud as we watched the show in its original Japanese language. We got tapes mailed to us, and each box came with scripts for some, and they always contained a piece of paper with the name and address of the next person we were mailing them to. These were not even fansubs, and they had commercials from early 1990s Japanese television stations during the episodes.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? In the late 1990s and I was introduced to some titles that have great cultural significance. Most notable, Ranma 1/2 and Neon Genesis Evangelion. Another series that I was given to watch was titled Martian Successor Nadesico, and this is the show that forever changed my life.

Tenkawa Akito, the main character of Nadesico, is a chef and gun-shy pilot of the mecha within the sci-fi series. He is also a fan of a faux classic giant robot anime, Gekigangar III, which he enjoys with the mechanics and other pilots. One of his lines in the final episode hooked me, more on that in just a moment.

I watched to the final episode of Nadesico. I got to 25 out of 26, and I simply couldn’t bear the thought of watching the last episode. I was too attached, I felt empathy with the characters, and my form of escapism would be over if I watched it. My heart couldn’t take it, and I didn’t want to watch it for months.

Akito’s line from that episode? Well, it translates oddly. But the general premise is that he couldn’t bring himself to watch the final episode of Gekigangar III because he couldn’t bear to have his friends leave him. The Gekigangar that lived in his heart would not last if he finished the show, so he didn’t.

I resonated with a character in a way that I never had before. Not in live action, not in film or TV, not in any of the books I had read. That bond that I shared with him became the reason that I am a lifelong fan.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? We all knew each other back then. Everyone in the Seattle area knew our brick and mortar anime stores, and where to find shirts, wallscrolls, DVDs, and figures. It was a tight knit and massive community.

Can you tell me about this community? Who did it consist of? How did you associate with one another? Our Seattle community was largely comprised of those who knew about our brick-and-mortar anime shop called Anime Kingdom (now defunct). Since it was the only place to get wallscrolls, T-shirts, and general anime merchandise, it was usually occupied by several fans from the area. Over time, we all exchanged phone numbers, and some of the more affluent kids had email addresses.

Beyond the store, the anime club at the University of Washington was very large. At its peak, over 100 students would gather for weekly screenings of episodes acquired from some means or another. The club was known as Anime Discovery Project (ADP). ADP was the core of Seattle otaku for many years. They had the manga and VHS library, opportunities for viewing, gatherings outside of the college just to hang out with one another. Sadly, after a few years, the students graduated and their replacements could not keep up with the advancement of technology. ADP still exists, but in name only.

Was the Internet a part of fandom at the time? It was, in a way. Through IRC clients and malware infested file sharing software, we all upgraded from VHS tapes and photocopied scripts to digital copies of our shows. Most of the people we spoke to, we had met through anime themed events at local stores.

You mentioned downloading digital copies of shows online, but was there a social aspect to internet fandom for you? I did not engage the social side of the online anime community back then. Truthfully, my family was broke and I didn’t have access to the internet at home until I moved out. Being limited to computers at college was very difficult.

I’d love to hear more about these anime themed events! Anime Kingdom and ADP would hold events throughout Seattle for fans. A day that I recall was when we all travelled to Kicks Hobby Japan in the North part of the city. We visited with the owner, set up tables outside, someone was handing out posters with Gundam models featured prominently. The shop was known for models and figures, and so this day was spent painting, sharing techniques, displaying creations, and sharing favorite moments in Gundam. It is worth noting that this event was before Gundam Wing was airing in Japan, so these fans were very dedicated to their classic franchise. Passing people would stop in to ask why there were so many people gathered, then people saw the models. An older gentleman returned to his home, and brought some model planes he had built and wanted to share with us. We gave him lots of table space, asked about his painting methods, and in the end he went home with a few mobile suit models.

These type of events brought us together as fans of individual shows and franchises. But sometimes it was even more personal. A house in Seattle was known as the hachiroku house, home of the webmasters of hachi-roku.net. Their yard had several cars up on blocks, and parts were even available if you were willing to take them off the cars. They were always around to talk about Initial D, drifting, itasha, or anything car and anime related. When my friends and I were building a Tofu shop style ’86, we visited the house and took a few trim pieces to be repainted. We had our gatherings all over the state, but it was the local groups that overlapped that really kept us all connected.

Do you remember your first convention? Sakuracon 2003. It was like standing between a wardrobe and a looking glass, and seeing my dreams coming true. Cosplays, music videos, people I didn’t know being accepting and kind and having fun. I was there all weekend, and I have not missed a year since.

What was the first fandom you got really invested in? How did you express your fandom? My first fandom was Ranma 1/2. It is a show that holds the best memories for me, and gives me a desire to share anime with others. Like most fans, I showed my interest by cosplaying. As with many first cosplays, it was comprised of clothes I already owned and a hope that someone would recognize me. I dressed as Genma, Ranma’s father. I shaved my head, wore a white gi and blue bandana, and walked proudly into my first convention in 2003 wearing my first cosplay. Within SECONDS I heard a young woman yell “DADDY!!” and looked over just in time to see a female Ranma cosplayer charging towards me with her arms outstretched. I opened my arms, we hugged, and I shouted “My long lost son!” The hallway of people laughed, and I was in the hallway for several minutes doing poses of us fighting or arguing or her standing on my back as I laid facedown on the floor. First cosplay, first convention, first photoshoot, first ten minutes I was in the building. It was a great experience that I will always remember.

For you, what’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom then and anime fandom today? Anime fandom now lacks a quality that past fans had. Formerly, we connected at conventions or events, by word of mouth, or by mailing each other things we found. When one person owned a DVD set of a show, that person got invited everywhere, never paid for food, and was always welcome. Once everyone had seen the show, it would rotate to the next person who bought something, and the cycle repeated. We would call one another to ask for DVDs or VHS copies. Soundtrack purchases were worthy of a listening party at someone’s house.

Now…I texted a friend after seeing Kimi No Na Wa (Your Name) in theaters. She saw it twice the next day, the second time with her husband. He texted me the link to iTunes to buy the soundtrack shortly after the film got out. Within 24 hours, three people saw a film and bought a soundtrack and then… nothing. That was it, that’s the whole story. While Your Name spread like wildfire, it still did not touch us all in the way anime used to. It would connect dozens of people across social and economic spaces.

Our connections are simultaneously more abundant and nonexistent. My friends and I all watched Yuri!!! on Ice as it aired. Some people lasted a few episodes, some became obsessed. None of us communicated about the show until long after it was done airing. We watched it alone, and at the same time.

It is an extremely odd experience to watch My Hero Academia weekly with my roommate. He watches English language only, I watch the show in Japanese. He watches on Funimation, I watch on Crunchyroll. I use a PS4, he has a laptop. I live in Washington, he currently works in Alabama. We watch this show on the same day, at the same time, and yet everything about our experience with the episodes is completely different.

We’re connected, but we somehow manage to stay separated. 

I think that is the biggest contrast. The level of connected that we do and don’t have.

Ian can be reached on Twitter

#94: Dustin K

Age: 31

Location: South Carolina

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. My first memory of knowing what I thought this “anime stuff” was is seeing Sailor Moon on Saturday mornings before the regular Kids WB shows would air, so this would be roughly 1995 when I was in the 3rd grade. I just kinda knew that Sailor Moon wasn’t like traditional cartoons that I watched like Batman: The Animated Series or Animaniacs, so I only had this understanding that they were Japanese cartoons. I knew of a girl who lived in the same apartment building I did who had a Sailor Moon denim jacket she wore every day, but I never had a chance to talk to her or ask her about the show.

In the fall of 1998 the Pokemon craze first came to America. I would catch new episodes of Pokemon right before I got to the bus stop around 7 AM when I was in middle school. I knew it was a cartoon based off the Red and Blue Game Boy games that had been out for a few months, and eventually I got my copy of Red that Christmas. Even though I was watching Pokemon and playing the games, I didn’t consider myself an anime fan of any sort. It was just a cool craze the kids I knew were part of, kind of like how yo-yo’s were becoming a craze at that time.

I remember going to the video stores at the mall where the local Suncoast was located, but I never really looked at the anime section other than I knew where it was. It wasn’t before long before I realized that was about to change for me…

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? I guess I could be considered a “first generation” Toonami anime fan, because without Toonami presence being on TV around that time, It wouldn’t start the chain events that has lead me to writing about my story on this site almost 20 years later.

It was March of ’99 and I was at the lunch table with my nerdy Pokemon friends that I knew since we all lived in the same apartment community together. One of them started to talk about this new show called Dragon Ball Z that was on Cartoon Network in the afternoons. The more he talked about it, the more I had to know what this show was about. My first memory of watching DBZ was a few weeks before Toonami did their DBZ20XL week long marathon, which gave me a chance to catch up on the beginning. From then on, I liked what I saw and I was hooked. I even remember my mom and my brother in my room building Legos while they aired the first three DBZ movies on TV for the first time ever that summer of ’99. After that it was only a few more months before DBZ became the hit it is today. Even at that point, I wasn’t a big anime fan, but I was hooked on this DBZ stuff.

This was when I started to pay attention a bit more to the anime section at my local Suncoast, and I remember asking my aunt who I visited in Arkansas to see if any Blockbusters carried rental DBZ tapes past the episodes Toonami didn’t air past until months later (which was around episode 50, or the same amount that is in the Rock the Dragon DBZ boxset). Of course none of the stores had anything past those episodes, because they weren’t even released commercially yet. I remember that being a long waiting game until the end of the year when the Frieza Saga continued on TV.

What later catered to my gateway anime show was the March of 2000, when one show would change my very being into being the ultimate Gundam fan I am today: Gundam Wing. Gundam Wing did to me what Attack on Titan has done to anime fandom, being “that” gateway show to gradually lead them down the path of wanting more and more anime. Sure Toonami had Tenchi Muyo, Rurouni Kenshin and others that I kept up with, but the world of Gundam took a hold of me many years later.

It also didn’t help that Adult Swim started up when I was starting high school in 2001 with Cowboy Bebop being my other obsessed show along with Gundam. Adult Swim and Toonami aired Gundam 0080 and 0083 in late 2001/early 2002, which I have those first airings on tape to this day. Anime on TV is a powerful weapon, especially on how it can be marketed at retail stores for people wanting merchandise off their favorite show. But what I was obsessed with was just the beginning.

You said, “I guess I could be considered a “first generation” Toonami anime fan.” Can you tell me about this generation of anime fandom? Today can you spot one even if you don’t know their age? My definition of “first gen” would be anyone that watched Toonami pre-Tom 3 or 4 era I’d say. It’s nothing official, but Toonami to me up to the Tom 3 era and Tom 4 era are two different areas. If you talk to people who are Toonami fans, you can tell how old they were just on what shows they were obsessed with during Toonami for what they remember. I came in during the last half the Moltar era, but I didn’t check out anything pre-Moltar when I heard their schedule was old Hanna Barbera cartoons and some Voltron. I didn’t get into watching Robotech on TV at that time, and if it was on it probably didn’t interest me at the time (yet I’m a Gundam fan today, go figure).

It’s really true when people say that television rules a society, and in Toonami’s case, rules a generation of anime fans into the new millennium. I personally think without Toonami, anime fandom wouldn’t be like it is today, or this large. You can owe western anime fandom to the television, the evidence is clearly there that every person who has a story to tell on this site saw anime on television at one point in their lives. It’s kind of baffling to me that someone like Carl Macek would find a way to adapt anime to American television to cast a wide net of new fans and viewers to turn fandom into what it is today, and still be looked on in history by some as the antichrist of anime. His idea of getting anime out there to a wide audience works, and we see it years later with how far anime fandom has gone because of television networks hosting them.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? Since I’ve been talking about anime at the turn of the century, certain shows were still big online that had a lot of discussions at that time (and still to this day). One show that I finally saw after hearing so much about it was Neon Genesis Evangelion, which I didn’t see ’til the summer of 2002. How I saw Evangelion was rather interesting, because I saw it en espanol in a hotel in Guayaquil, Ecuador. There used to be a Spanish animation channel called Locomotion that aired anime, and since I was there for a week on a church mission trip, I happened to catch my first episode of Evangelion, which is episode 11: “The Day Tokyo 3 Stood Still.” Still today it’s one of my favorite episodes, along with “Lilliputian Hitcher,” which was the second episode I saw on that trip. I even remember seeing some Rurouni Kenshin in Spanish, which the episode I saw must have been from the latter arc of the anime series.

It wasn’t until I meet a friend in my sophomore year of high school who lent me his Eva VHS tapes (which were half dubbed/half subbed) which is how I finished the series. I also got to see other stuff in my high school days and things I rented from Blockbuster that expanded my knowledge and hunger for anime even more. One of my favorite OVA’s is Sol Bianca, and it was a rip from STARZ one of my other friend in high school lent me. I believe I saw it dubbed, which i’m still trying to track down, even though I own some cels and all of Sol Bianca between the original and the “Legacy” collections.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? The only world of fandom I was part of was my group of nerd friends in high school who I did airsofting with and watched whatever anime they were watching. Some would bring in taped G-Gundam in and show it to a friend during lunch break on one of the school TV’s, which the teachers didn’t care what we did with them as long as they weren’t broken when we got done with them.

The internet played a major part of my fandom, mostly from joining online forums. One forum in particular I first joined was ran by none other than Zach Nathanson, or the main host of The One Piece Podcast. This was looooooong before he ever got into One Piece. This of course lead me to joining sites like Toonzone where the people I started to talk to on there are still friends with me today online, which is where most of my connectivity with nerds are these days. It’s our own little nerd community, and I don’t see that changing soon.

I fully believe that having an online community has greatly helped me as an anime fan over the years. I’m still friends with many people today that I’ve meet through online forums and even though AOL Instant Messenger. Some I have met in person and others I have yet to meet.

It’s actually through anime podcasts that I’ve become friends with people to this day as well, which our only meet up would be Animazement since I’m originally from Raleigh NC before I moved to South Carolina. Even with me doing my own anime podcast I’ve been able to meet people at local conventions who know me through my podcast or through panels I’ve done over the years. The community might have its weirdos, but I seem to get along with them pretty well for the most part.

Dustin’s mecha collection, including Gunpla.

Tell me about Gundam Wing and how it became your “gateway” anime and obsession. How did you express your fandom for it? I wouldn’t be a Gundam fan if it wasn’t for Gundam Wing as that first stepping stone. As much as Gundam fans want to criticize Gundam Wing (and I was formally one of these people for many years), I realized that Wing was the perfect show to introduce the western world into Gundam. It’s not perfect by any means, but I really can’t think of any other Gundam series that would “hook” a western audience quite like Wing did. It was the right show for that right time, and Cartoon Network and Bandai of America I think picked the right content to bring Gundam to the west publicly.

I remember when it first came on Toonami in March of 2000, and I was heavily engrossed in the show. I remember looking online about Gundam Wing and someone mentioned how it’s a whole series of shows under the Gundam title going back to the late ’70s. To me, that blew my mind, but I wouldn’t know too much about it until other series of Gundam came to Toonami in coming years.

There was a point that I fell out of anime from early 2001 to that early September when I went to high school my freshmen year. It was 08th MS Team that was airing that got me really hooked into Gundam because it looked as if I was watching an animated version of a Vietnam war movie, but animated with giant robots. It also didn’t help that I met a friend that same year who helped me get into Gundam more, which is when I remember picking up one of my earliest Gunpla kits at Toys R Us and bought a number of them off him over the years to come. It was also from my same friend that I became a big Victory Gundam fan, and it all started from low-quality Real Media files subbed in Chinese to get me introduced to a Gundam series that wasn’t going to be released in the states ’til another 15 years later. I eventually found ways to watch it fansubbed in English online, but I’d never thought Victory Gundam would ever make it stateside, but I was glad RightStuf put it out on Blu-ray. I even have a “shrine” to Victory Gundam on my shelf above my anime DVD/BluRay collection. I think what drew me to Victory was that a lot of people weren’t talking about it or knew little of the show when I was seeing it in 2002. And for me, I have a tendency to obsess over things that no one cares about because it just makes it more unique for me to enjoy I guess.

I was so obsessive over Gundam that I made some fan films using my Gunpla kits that I had in high school, that after years of debating on doing this, I decided to upload them on youtube after being on a tape for over 15 years. They are quite bad, and my story was all of the top of my head, but I felt that I had to express my creativeness with what I had at my disposal at that time. If anything they might be for a good laugh, but I had fun making them regardless of how big of a piece of garbage they are hahaha.

I have kept a good tape collection of Gundam on TV over the years, since I have taped recordings of Gundam 0080 when it first appeared in 2001 on the Toonami Midnight Run, and Gundam 0083 early in 2002 on Adult Swim. If any Gundam is on TV I was there to record it, which I still have those recordings in a box to this day. I remember even getting the first printing of Mark Simmons “Gundam The Official Guide Book” when it was released that Spring of 2002, and that I had on my person throughout high school in my bag. The book is a little beat up, but I look at it as a great resource bible for Gundam knowledge pre Gundam Seed. Over the years I’ve collected and sold off my Gunpla collection, and my podcast gets Gundam material from RightStuf to review, so I’m very grateful to be given that opportunity by an anime company to review their products. I’m not sure if I’m the biggest Gundam fan out there, but to me I’m the biggest one I know.

You mentioned Initial D was your biggest anime obsession today. Tell me about how that happened. I actually came across Initial D first at an arcade in Massachusetts when I was visiting a friend that summer of 2003. I remember walking around a mall when the arcade there had the Initial D Ver. 2 cab out in the open, which just came out that year. I was able to sit down and play the first track and made my own custom card on a magnetic card that Sega used for people to save their data on. After my first race and getting some points, I was able to keep the card and thought the game was really cool but didn’t think much of it.

Fast forward a few months later and I was checking out my Victory Gundam data CDs I bought from my friend a year prior, and on the last disc was the first 4 episodes of Initial D. Two of them had a Japanese track with English fansubs, and the other two were dubbed in Chinese with English subs. After watching the first episode, something clicked in me to be completely hooked on the series. I think it had everything to do with the Eurobeat music, car racing on mountains that didn’t look as stupid as it trying to be full of stunts in those Fast and Furious movies that were coming out at the time. The show got ahold of me hard. It was around this time that Tokyopop was releasing the DVDs for Initial D for the first time.

So over the course of the next year, I was buying every Initial D DVD that was coming out from Tokyopop and was watching them in Japanese to keep the Eurobeat tracks since the dub rap lyric music was god-freaking-awful. It also helped that a local amusement place in Raleigh NC that had those same Ver. 2 arcade cabinets of Initial D, and I made every attempt my junior year in high school to head up there when I could. I remember a friend in high school was buying the manga, and I remember bulk reading a huge amount of issues over a weekend.

What kept me hooked on the arcades was the arcade scene for Initial D. Online there were several teams that would compete against one another in places like Canada, China, Northeast and on the West Coast that would do meet ups and post up time attack times to always get the one up over someone on a course by fractions of a second. The worst people attitudes ever got was the usual trash talk on forums but that was the extent that I saw. Some did videos trashing other teams because of a fraction of a second, it was essentially another way for guys to dick measure each other on an arcade, but it’s all in good fun in the end haha.

Another huge positive for me for being an avid Initial D player and a fan was how I met my best friend to this day. I was working Toys R Us Christmas in 2005 in the video game area, and one guy came in that we hit it off pretty great. He was a nerd like me that liked video games and we seemed to have the same interest. I wasn’t sure if I said it or him, but one of us blurted out about playing Initial D. All I remember was being really happy that I found another Initial D player. What was also awesome was that I got to hang out at his house that night and play the PlayStation 2 game, which I didn’t know existed for home console and he burned me a copy on the spot to play. Over the years we have had some fun discussions on Initial D regarding making fun of how the music was written, taking road trips to playing arcade games, and even playing against each other from time to time. Of course, it’s also us doing life together by staying in touch and selling video games the past few years at Animazement. I should note that to people who are video game collectors, my friend is Josh Fairhurst of Limited Run Games, which is his own company that has been featured in printed and online magazines about his business printing limited copies of games out there for collectors.

Dustin’s “Initial D” arcade cabinets.

My other big thing on Initial D is how I acquired my very own arcade cabinets over a year ago. There is a local arcade joint in my town that for a number of years had the original Ver. 1 of the game sitting in a corner of the old area before the owner switched places. I would always try and haggle for a better price since the machines are beaten up and need work, but the owner would always overcharge on what I thought they were worth. Once I heard that the owner moved, I heard he left his old arcades in the old building to try and auction off. Sometime later I noticed someone took over his old spot and found that his old machines were still there. I immediately went to the area where the Initial D cabs were, and behold they never left their area. So for 300 bucks I bought both cabinets from the owner at the time and took them home in my garage where over the past year I’ve been slowly trying to restore them to working order. I still need a few more parts but they are both running fine to where both people can play against each other. It’s funny how 14 years after I first played Initial D in the arcade, I’m now a proud owner of the arcade, and it’s a wonderful thing to have.

Dustin cosplaying as Det. Percy from “Riding Bean” for Animazement 2010.

Do you remember your first convention? My first convention was Animazement in 2007, when it was still meeting at the old Sheraton hotel before they moved to the Raleigh Convention Center where it’s going to be housed for I’m sure many years to come.

I remember actually going on a whim when I knew it was that weekend, and decided to take whatever cash I had on me and make a day event out of it. I really enjoyed getting cool stuff from the dealers room, the small game room that has expanded so much over the years, and meeting some cool people that over the years are now people I still meet up with all these years later. I have gone just about every year consistently since 2007, so Animazement is my home con that I go to.

What did your family think of your interest in anime? My family at first didn’t have an issue with it but then wanted to try to make it an issue. There was a past story on this site that is somewhat similar to mine, where I grew up in a Christian environment which dictated some decisions on what I was allowed to watch and not watch. I was able to relate to that person’s circumstance easily, but I had a better outcome. After a while, my family went from not wanting me to watch any Dragon Ball Z to not really caring what I watched.

My family has never said to me that they didn’t like my anime hobby, probably because they knew I grew up as someone that became a productive member of society and is doing something with my life than being a basement dweller nerd. I want to believe I’m as hardcore of a nerd as they come, but I’m still a functioning member of society, where I’m working towards finishing my Bachelors in Communication at Anderson University in South Carolina. I’m still a strong believer in the Christian faith, and to my family that’s more important than whatever hobby I’m interested in because it’s important to me. Everyone has a hobby and will have hobbies, but there is a way to use a hobby to help the kingdom of Christ. Being in anime fandom is no different than being part of an outdoor sporting group or a car club, it’s the fact that you’re with other people to share ideas and beliefs, it’s the hobby that brings people of the same interest together, which gives a person of the Christian faith a chance to serve others and share the gospel.

When and why did you decide to start your podcast? Well, the podcast I have isn’t my first podcast. I made a joke once that if “podcasting were like wives, I’d be paying a hell of a lot in alimony by now.” The current co-host I have Jonn is someone I’ve known for over 10 years from this animation forum Toonzone, and me and a handful of other users from that site communicate through online chat services to this day, coming from AIM to now Slack. For a number of years I wanted to do an anime podcast because I had this desire to talk about the anime I was watching, and that seemed to be the best outlet to do it. My friend Jonn was telling me that they started a podcast on a website called ToonRadio.net, and called it The Kool Kids Klub. The title was meant as a joke, but I didn’t care since I wanted to talk about whatever I wanted to talk about. We kept that name for about a year, then did another one that lasted six months and after some falling out between people, I wanted to be on hiatus.

My friend Jonn and I still wanted to do podcasting, but weren’t sure on a name. He pointed out that we could name it after the blog that I do, The Anime of Yesteryear, and I told him why not. So after 4 and half years later and past 100 episodes, were still doing what we’re doing. I’ve had guests on our show like Arron Clark from EvaGeeks, Geoff Tebbetts from Golden Ani-Versary blog, Gerald Rathkolb from Anime World Order and voice actress Lisle Wilkerson as guests since we started. If anything the podcast really keeps me rooted in my anime fandom since it makes me stick to watching anime and discover new things that we wouldn’t find on our own. The purpose is to stick to anime that is past 2000, but we do occasionally break that rule from time to time, and cover other stuff that interest us.

The big thing that keeps me and my co-host going is staying committed and diligent. I think people podfade when they realize that it’s more work than they want and just give up. But if you want to keep a podcast going, you have to stay diligent and commit to make it go as long as possible. I don’t want to quite podcasting, because I like to run my mouth and I got things to say, and its also pretty strong in my heart to keep it going.

How did podcasting changed the way you interacted with anime? With fandom? I’m able to give anime a more critical look than just saying I like/dislike something without any hard reasons as to why. It also helps that other podcasts out there that review things I enjoy but will slam hard on them. Podcasting is also just a nice way of someone giving an audio critique on a title compared to a written one. I’ve come to realize that everyone has an opinion on whatever show they like or dislike, and it shouldn’t get to me if they think and believe opposite of what I like and dislike.

I think it’s good to hear the opinions of other anime fans out there that don’t always share the same opinion you do. Instead of taking someone’s slam piece on an anime you enjoy to heart and being pouty and bitter at them because they don’t like what you don’t, look at it as an opportunity to see the weaknesses of the thing you enjoy, but also find ways to strengthen your love of that series. I certainly have been harsh on titles that other people enjoy, but I also love titles that other people don’t enjoy. But at the end of the day, it’s all about having fun right?

What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom then and anime fandom today? I’d say it’s definitely time and tastes changing. I’ve noticed that series that I still believe are hot items like Cowboy Bebop, Trigun, Gundam, and other series and OVAs I remember enjoying at 17 and knowing other people that enjoyed it, are now titles that other 17-year-olds don’t know anything about and consider them “old” at this point. I think that’s the nature of slowly becoming part of the “old guard” of anime fandom now in my early 30s, where my mind and fan spirit of how I’ve always seen anime are now relics of their time, and the new titles I don’t care to really be interested or I think are just “copies” of what I love to share that aura of excitement and love that today’s anime fandom is obsessed over. The feelings and love stay the same, it’s just another product to fit into that groove while the thing you still love is tossed into the wastelands, and only the older crowd will remember it.

I can’t make anyone be obsessed with the anime I love, but I sure can introduce them to it, and hopefully, they might see a series or OVA in the same light as I still believe it has many years later. I feel that it’s a natural obligation for those who have been in anime fandom for a long time to be mentors to newer fans in introducing them to series that they normally wouldn’t pick up on their own. It’s kind of biological for the old generation to naturally teach the young generation of anime fandom. This is why I love doing panels at conventions and podcasting because I have that drive to express that.

Dustin can be reached on Twitter

#90: Brian

Age: 33

Location: Baltimore, Maryland

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. I was 16 and the only “anime” I had seen up to that point were bits and pieces of Robotech and an odd episode of Dragon Ball Z that aired at 6:30 on a Sunday morning.

I thought anime was pronounced “animmh” because the only reason I was familiar with it as a concept was reading the word in an issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly, talking about a Japanese RPG for the Sega CD. I was a *hardcore* classic cartoon and animation nerd (I wrote a 55-page research project on Hollywood cartoons my junior year when honestly we were only required to write maybe 10 pages) and after some Altavista-ing in 1999 I found an anime club on the University campus: the Tucson Animation Screening Society (TASS).

I emailed one of their officers asking if I could attend a screening, and that same weekend I saw the first two episodes of Cowboy Bebop, subtitled episodes of Sailor Moon, Rurouni Kenshin, and the capper: Katsuhiro Otomo’s wonderful, gorgeous anthology film Memories. That film struck me like seven concurrent bolts of lightning, and to this day I call it my favorite film ever.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? The novelty of it was something of a shock at first, having grown up on Looney Tunes and the like, but I was instantly drawn in to the fact that series like Rurouni Kenshin were definitely serialized stories, not just one-off episodic adventures that could be watched out of order.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? I can’t separate my time in TASS with Gundam Wing; I vividly remember watching dingy fansubs at screenings and then, several months later, seeing those same episodes (largely) unchanged and dubbed on Toonami.

What was the first anime you got really invested in? How did you express your fandom? Because I came at anime from a very snobbish mindset I never really got “invested” in any particular series or anything. It was always my view that animation itself was art, so I gravitated more towards the feature films with more serious stories. I mentioned Memories, but I also remember feeling levitated by Wings of Honneamise and of course Akira. I remember seeing Jin-Roh on a fansub around this time as well and being completely blown away. I saw the people who were into fanart and fanfiction and cosplay; I was always kind of jealous in a sense that I felt as though I couldn’t contribute to those in some way due to my own insecurities.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? It was a liberating social experience. Not too many nerds who argue about Frank Tashlin’s best cartoons have bi-weekly meetings. It was also my introduction to things like shojo, and series like Revolutionary Girl Utena, both of which had me like “Hey whoa, girls like these things too; all kinds of people like these shows but sometimes for different reasons and it’s all good!”

Could you tell me about making friends with other anime fans early on? As far as making new friends, it helped that TASS had a club atmosphere. It was in the club’s interest to grow membership numbers (you had to pay your yearly dues to stay in good standing) and so they were always welcoming to newcomers. I remember just a few months after joining the club, going to the house of one of the club’s leaders and checking out his backyard telescope (southern Arizona has very clear skies so it’s a popular haven for astronomers) and watching imported laserdiscs. I think we watched the first episode of Tenamoya Voyagers.

Was the Internet a part of fandom at the time? Wouldn’t have found out about fandom otherwise. I also VERY quickly graduated from just going to TASS meetings regularly to aggressively sending away SASEs [Self Addressed Stamped Envelopes, more on this here] to fansubbers (God bless Kodocha and their purple Barney tapes) and tape trading, all of which wouldn’t have been possible without alt.rec.anime.misc and nascent Geocities websites.

What was tape trading like? Purple Barney tapes? The purple Barney tapes! Kodocha was a fansub group named after the manga and anime series of the same name, and their gimmick was that all their tapes came on purple VHS tapes. From what I understand, someone in the fansub group visited a VHS manufacturer that had hundreds upon hundreds of blank, purple VHS tapes that were originally meant to be used for episodes of Barney the Dinosaur, and they had the foresight to snag as many blank extras as they could.

I started with Kodocha because they were one of the few who didn’t require any tape trading—you sent an SASE, maybe a few bucks, and you got your fansub. I didn’t have a second VHS player at home to copy tapes, but I sure did at my high school. I was part of the Media Arts program, and for my junior and senior years I had an independent study. They never gave me any directive on what to do, so I ended up using their VHS equipment to copy tapes and take naps. Tape trading was fun and I built up a sizable collection over the span of those two years, though lord knows where those tapes are now. (I was also trading tapes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes.)

It’s the sort of thing that I can’t imagine having the patience to deal with as an adult, spoiled with broadband internet. You’d find somebody on Usenet or their Geocities webpage where they’d list what they had as well as what they were looking for. You’d exchange emails (“I got the complete set of Hyper Police, can I trade you for the first arc of Rurouni Kenshin?”), send ’em off in the mail, and wait oh-so-patiently for weeks and weeks until my mom or dad would confusedly ask me if I had ordered something from Cincinnati or wherever.

I don’t have any, but Zac [Bertschy] posted some old Kodocha tapes on Twitter some time ago.

A Kodocha tape.

Was anime seen as something weird back then? What did your family or friends think of your interest in anime? Of course it was seen as weird. Nobody really knew what it was. My parents—conservative Mormons though they were—were mostly just happy that I was getting out of the house and meeting friends, so they didn’t seem to upset about it. I’m sure if they knew the content of some of what I was watching they’d be upset, but this was around the era when Pokemon was starting to become a popular children’s cartoon show, so they mostly thought I was just watching more of that.

Most of my peers in school who weren’t into anime themselves were at least curious about if, if I remember right. If anything I was made fun of more for being the weird kid who read books about old Disney cartoons in class than I was for liking anime. Anime at least had an edge to it that most kids my age found interesting: there’s violence! Swearing! Boobs and stuff!

Do you remember your first convention? Only vaguely. I believe it was Anime Expo either in 2005 or 2006, one of the last years it was held in Anaheim. The convention itself was a drunken blur. Mostly I remember the ride from Tucson to Anaheim: 8 1/2 hours in a crummy, smelly van, driven by a TASS volunteer with a cowboy hat, the place littered with old computer parts probably dating back to the 1970s, while a bevy of Kimagure Orange Road soundtracks blared.

For you, what’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom then and anime fandom today? I’d say the biggest difference in the fandom has everything to do with the internet, most importantly: accessibility. Outside of anime being on cable TV like Toonami, you can go on YouTube and type in the name of whatever anime you’re curious about and you’ll at least find a clip or something, while Crunchyroll has every damn episode of Naruto available on demand. Anime wasn’t something you just happened across, for the most part, and if you were curious about it, it certainly took longer than a five-second Google search to check it out. I mean, I had to physically go to a building on a college campus every few weeks to see it before Toonami got started.

In a way though I think fandom is quite similar in a lot more ways than it is different; if anything I’m the one that’s changed. These days as a grown-up, I’m very picky about what shows I watch. The only thing I’m really keeping up on that’s simulcasting is My Hero Academia. Meanwhile people I know on Twitter are literally watching EVERYTHING. Every damn show that’s airing. That’s insane to me—except I remember my time at TASS and that’s precisely what I did, every other week, for years. I’d sit down and even if it was something that probably wouldn’t appeal to me in some way, I still watched it, just to check it out. It’s how I found out about really great shows like Yawara! and so on; you probably couldn’t get me to spend 20 minutes watching a new anime about a girl in school practicing judo, but at the time I was simply voracious and wanted to watch everything.

Brian can be reached on Twitter

#88: Samantha F

Age: 32

Location: Rhode Island

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. I first discovered anime when I was eight years old. I was visiting family, and my uncle knew that I loved Robotech, Transformers, and shows that that “futuristic” vibe. He invited me to check out a new cartoon. It was on VHS, the video was grainy and warped – like it had been transferred to other tapes a bunch of times, but I was intrigued.

I sat, entranced, as the C6250’s whistle blared through the TV’s mono speakers, as the wheels began to turn and the camera shifted to a view of train tracks stretching into an endless blackness.

Then the logo appeared: “Galaxy Express 999.”

Honestly, at the time, I had no clue as to what I was getting into. And, really, who would? I was freakin’ eight! The cast didn’t speak English, might as well have been moon speak for my mind at the time. Then the subtitles popped up: they were hasty, rife with misspellings, and flashed by so fast. But I got a few words, and I could get the gist.

That said, it wasn’t the words that mattered. The characters said mountains through their visual language and their tone. Maetel’s distinct knowing sadness, Tetsuro’s desperation to leave everything behind… it spoke volumes.

It became sort of our monthly thing. I’d visit, and we’d watch more Galaxy Express 999. By the time we finished, I was hooked. I had been to a few anime club meetings, and I just wanted more, and more, and more.

By the time I turned twelve, I was ready to begin buying my own anime. I actually picked up my first tape—which contained two whole episodes of Ranma 1/2at the flea market in Taunton, MA.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? Honestly, it’s hard to really state what it was. There was just so much that was different from the norm. The visual language, the characters, the general setup were so unique, so different from other cartoons. They didn’t talk down to you, and they expected that you’d be able to understand concepts that just did not exist in western cartoons. People died and mourned, people didn’t always find that happy ending, and sometimes, the best path of action was that which would bring real pain.

Yes, there were silly shows like Dirty Pair, but it just felt like there was so much more to the world, so many places to explore and discover.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? I can’t say for certain, as this is going back about twenty-four years now. But, at the clubs, we’d watch a lot of titles like Dirty Pair, Patlabor, and Devil Hunter Yohko. The last meeting I went to was in 1994-ish – I was about ten, and the group was in the middle of Sailor Moon R and Ghost Sweeper Mikami.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? Dear lord, where do I start? I was in a bit of a weird spot, being a kid who was jumped in. But that never really seemed to matter. It was always a welcoming community‚we’d watch, we’d talk—and yeah, they’d tell me to “shut the fuck up” when I started saying something stupid, but they still let me, an eight-year-old kid, weigh in on things with an equal voice. It was just a welcoming, super supportive group of geeks and social misfits, who were united in the search for awesome anime.

Wait, this was with your uncle and his anime club? Tell me more about this dynamic. That it was! Basically, my uncle was an… “interesting” person. He introduced my brother to Star Wars, and me to anime. Not long after we started watching Galaxy Express 999 together, he decided it was a good idea to introduce me to his club. It was, well, a group of adults, all guys in their 20s and 30s, and they gathered at one of the members’ homes. A couple of people had tapes—sometimes they were taped off of TV (like Voltron, Star Blazers, and Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs). Others, they were whatever could be rented from CJ’s Video (a little mom ‘n’ pop shop in Bristol, RI – now defunct). Other times, though, one of the tape-bringers had a treat. “Newest shit, straight from Japan!” In 1992, this meant that we were watching titles like Sailor Moon, Yu Yu Hakusho, and Tekkaman Blade. Mind-blowing stuff. Kind of hard to comprehend when you’re eight years old and there’s no subtitles, though. (heh)

Now, after watching the day’s episodes, the group would sit around, and basically bullshit about the shows they’d watch. I wish I could tell you what about, exactly, but we’re going back 25 years now. I remember that they basically did go talk about what they really dug about the episodes, and what didn’t work. We’d talk about favorite characters and how shows stacked up to other titles that we saw at the time.

And, well, as someone who was part of the club, I was given a pretty equal voice. If I liked watching Sailor Mars kick butt, then I could say it. If I thought that Cyber Formula GPX felt like Speed Racer, I could bring it up. At the same time if I was saying something stupid that wasted valuable meeting time, they’d be quick to call it out like anybody else—with a quick “shut the fuck up, Mike.”

It was a strangely liberating experience for someone who grew up in a pretty strict household—to be treated as an equal among people far older than I was, and to actually be able to discuss something I genuinely adored without being blown off as “just a kid going through a phase.” Nowadays, I wonder if they were humoring me, but if they were, I still appreciate it greatly.

Also, what did your parents and siblings think about your interest in anime? At the time, my brother really didn’t give a rat’s butt. He was 10, and he was just starting to find his own passion in music—particularly the drums. And, for many years, it stayed that way. He’d be the charismatic musician, I’d be the gawky anime and gamer geek. It wasn’t until about 2005? when he asked for a few examples of anime for a college course he was taking. I loaded him up with the essentials for newcomers—Akira, Cowboy Bebop, Afro Samurai, and so on. And, while it didn’t ignite a passion in him, he did come out to say, “I get it. I see why you like this so much—and I’m behind ya, 100%.”

My parents, on the other hand… they weren’t too thrilled.

My uncle was my dad’s brother. The two really didn’t have a good relationship to begin with. In one of my father’s anecdotes from his childhood, he tied my uncle up to a tree with a leash and left a bowl of food and water like a dog. He called my uncle “Tree Boy.” No word of a lie.

But anyway. He saw the whole fascination in anime as a bit creepy, because, to quote him: “My loser brother watches that queer shit and he amounted to nothing.” He tried to dissuade me whenever he could.

My mom, on the other hand, thought it was a phase—something I’d grow out of, and just outright abandon by the time I hit puberty.

Yeaaaaah, about that. Didn’t happen. In high school, I and a few other classmates started our own little tape trade—we’d make copies of shows we had, and trade them among ourselves.

Does your uncle still watch anime? What does he think of your work in the fandom? Sadly, I haven’t talked to my uncle since my grandfather passed away in 2002. Don’t even know where he lives anymore.

Was the Internet a part of fandom at the time? The internet as we know it didn’t exist! We had clubs—gatherings of like-minded fans, where we’d watch shows on VHS that were brought in by a lead member. The tapes were grainy, often fifth or sixth generation copies, but they were our lifeline as fans of a medium that was pretty much underground.

Do you remember your first convention? I do! Mikkakan in 2001 was held at Merrimack, New Hampshire’s Radisson Hotel. This was the definition of a tiny convention. Only 33 people attended the event, including guests and staff. Still, it was an eye-opening experience—to walk the halls of the Radisson, and see people milling about, talking about shows like One Piece or Hellsing like it was nothing.

That said, I think Neil Nadelman’s panel at the event was something truly transformational. Sure, it was just a talk about localization. But, for some reason, his passion and adoration for the medium spoke to me. It told me that I wanted to be involved in this industry for as long as I could manage.

Sixteen years later, and I’m still at it, writing away night after night. 🙂

When and why did you start Anime HeraldI started Anime Herald on September 19, 2010. I originally launched the Herald because, well, [the place I wrote for before,] Anime Dream was starting to slow down. Matt (Brown—former Anime Dream Editor-in-Chief) was losing steam, and I was still churning out content on a near-daily basis. I saw the writing on the wall, but I didn’t want to stop writing about anime. So, I broke off.

Anime Herald actually began as a bit of an amorphous blob—anything that came through, I’d try it—and believe me. Some of the earlier content got weird at times, while I was trying to figure out what would stick. But, anyway! It slowly took shape—first as a repository of personal essays, editorials, and reviews.

Eventually, things started to solidify as I found formats that worked. I started learning which article formats that would pull in readers, and which were just becoming dead air. And, eventually, it just kind of took shape to the format you see today. Met some amazing people along the way, many of whom I’m proud to call my friends, and it’s just been a crazy seven-year ride.

How has being an anime reporter changed the way you watch anime? How has it changed the way you interact in the fandom? Honestly, becoming an anime reporter was both the best and worst thing that could happen as a fan. I say this jokingly, of course, but there’s a nugget of truth beneath the humor.

I started my formal anime career (not counting the little fan sites I ran in 2000-2001) at Anime Dream, as a reviewer. At the time, I had a pair of fantastic mentors: Matt, and and editor that I only knew as “Elfshadow.” They both taught me a lot about how to approach a show from a more critical lens—to spot elements like mise-en-scene and color usage to sell a mood. They taught me about narrative and dialogue tropes, as well as things like “bank shots” (shots used repeatedly through the course of a show to save money on animation) and sakuga (sequences of noticeably higher quality, used to highlight a particularly important scenes).

Matt and Elf also taught me how to tell when those seams that hold a show together were starting to slowly unravel. After reviewing shows about four or five years, you start to just take on that mindset—that analytical bent, where you’re slowly tearing down a show or film, silently noting what works and what doesn’t while you form your opinions.

Right now, I live my life in the news feeds. I pop open J-Blogs like Otakomu and Comic Natalie while I’m drinking my morning coffee, and I cruise through sites like Animate Times, Crunchyroll, and Anime News Network from the time I get home from work, to the time I go to bed at night. I’ve been doing the beat for 6-ish hours a day, seven days a week, 360-ish days a year since 2008.

And, really, that adds another layer to your approach to anime—I’ve found that, more often than not, I’m dissecting not just the nuts and bolts, but the people who make the shows. Suddenly, I’m thinking about who made the show, which studio put it out, and so on and so forth. So it’s started to factor in that calculus as I watch.

Honestly, as for interactions? I’ve always been a private person by nature. This isn’t on purpose; I’m just a bit of an introvert. Working as an anime reporter, managing our social media accounts and the like, has really allowed me to open up a bit. I’m still an awkward, gawky tech geek, but I’m someone who can talk more openly, and who can throw down in a good conversation.

Heck—if not for Anime Herald, I don’t think I’d have the guts to even attempt—let alone host a panel at Anime Boston each year. It’s been a great way to kind of lean into the challenges of talking with people.

Since you discovered anime, how do you think you’ve grown as an anime fan? Oh wow… I don’t even know how to answer this one! For about as long as I can remember, I’ve been an anime fan. So, I mean… it’s very much a part of who I am, and what I do.

As a fan, though, I think being jumped in that early, being able to see that little slice of a community at an early age, is something that stuck with me. Though I stopped going to the club meetings, it was a super special time in my life. I was able to see amazing things, and experience incredible shows with people who were genuinely passionate about anime. If I hadn’t met them, I probably wouldn’t be watching anime today.

And, to be honest, I always wanted to bring that feeling of camaraderie and community to the world, somehow. Still not sure how to really do that.

That said, it’s inspired me to really take an interest in helping new fans, spreading the good word, and to generally helping to make this fandom a better place whenever possible.

Samantha can be reached on Twitter and her blog

#85: Keith

Age: 36

Location: Sidney, Maine

When did you discover anime? My first anime series was the original season of Voltron back in the mid ’80s. I was a huge fan of the series as a kid, even though I didn’t know what “anime” was.

It wasn’t until the late ’90s and the advent of Toonami on Cartoon Network that I discovered Voltron‘s origins but also discovered Sailor Moon, which aired as a replacement for Thundercats after that show had gone through all its episodes twice. Although dismissive of the “girl show” at first I started getting into the story, characters, and the art. Besides Voltron, other shows followed like Robotech and Dragon Ball Z. Everything snowballed from there.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? I’ve always been an animation fan, but anime had an approach to art, characters, and storytelling that wasn’t insulting to my intelligence like many American shows produced at the time.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? This was 1998, so the big shows for American audiences were Ranma 1/2, Tenchi Muyo (Both TV and OAV), and Evangelion. Pokemon and those shows hadn’t come to America yet.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? Being in Central Maine, it was just me and my best friend. During school one of my friends was an exchange student from East Asia who was the only other person who was familiar with anime outside of Akira, so it was kind of lonely.

Did you meet your best friend because of anime, or did that happen after? My best friend and I have been friends since we were 11. He knew of anime some time before I did. It wasn’t until I got into it that we started becoming big time otaku and started watching everything we could find. A lot of what he had watched was from the old Sci-Fi network back in the early ’90s, whereas I didn’t get the channel until 1996.

Also, how did that exchange student join your duo? She really didn’t. We had an art class together and when I started getting into anime by my senior year. She said she used to watch that stuff when she was back home growing up. She ended up giving me a Right Stuf catalog and we became friendlier during the year. Unfortunately, I lost contact with her when I graduated. Like I said, she was the only person I knew at that school who knew what anime actually was instead of “that Akira stuff.”

What was the first fandom you got really invested in? How did you express your fandom? I was a He-man kid! When I was very little (kindergarten age) I was big into He-Man and the Masters of the Universe! I knew all the characters and had a number of the figures, vehicles, and playsets. I was into that until about 1988 when the original series was ended. After that was G.I. Joe and I never really got out of that. I still collect those little figures and this past year my collection topped 500 figures for the first time. I also got into Silverhawks, Thundercats, Voltron, Centurions, Inhumanoids, and a bunch more of those good ’80s cartoon shows and toy lines.

Was the Internet a part of fandom at the time? It certainly was. Back in those days a lot of people had free Geocities websites (myself included) and a lot of places to find fanfiction and message boards to go to, even if those sites were basic ones.

A screenshot of the Sailor Sun Fan Fic Collective, Keith’s Geocities page.

What was your Geocities site? HA! It was the old Sailor Sun Fan Fic Collective! That site was where I stored and “published” my Sailor Moon fanfiction series. It was a single series that was over 150 stories by the time I ended it, since I was trying to write my novel at the time. I first got into that when watching Sailor Moon and started imagining my own character involved so I just started writing. The story started right after the second season and took things in a much different direction away from the Monster of the Week type stuff the show did.

The pen name “Soul Tsukino” was one of the fan characters I created, I also had a wedding, a childbirth, mixed both Tenchi Muyo and Ranma 1/2 into it, and basically broke every “rule” of fanfiction there supposedly is out there. I use it as a talking point in my “Damn Write!” writing panel at conventions as a way of telling people that I’m not an elitist when it comes to fan iction. “I wrote a 150 story Sailor Moon fanfic series with TWO self-insert characters, an otakukin, involved Sailor Pluto getting married and having a kid, mixed in both Ranma and Tenchi, and gave Kodachi Kuno cancer, and I apologize for NONE of it!”. I kept up that series for 11 years and really cut my teeth as a writer with it.

I have since moved on to original fiction, which you can find here.

Do you remember your first convention? My first con wasn’t until February of 2002. The very first PortconMaine held at the University of Southern Maine campus. It held maybe 200 people during a single weekend. I wasn’t used to gatherings like that and felt a little out of place with the cosplayers and well traveled otaku. It was fun, even if I felt I wasn’t very high on the totem pole.

Was there a pecking order in fandom? Early on in my fandom it kinda felt like it, even if it was more in my head than anything. You had the people who went to cons, the people who went to the BIG cons (Otakon), the cosplayers, con staff, the con chairs, and stuff like that leading to becoming an “Otaking.” As time went on I realized two things: 1) I didn’t need to watch EVERYTHING and just find stuff I liked, and 2) I don’t need to prove myself to anyone other than myself.

In your experience, what’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom then and anime fandom today? The availability! Sure there was stuff in the stores like Suncoast, Sam Goody, and the video rental stores, but nothing like we have today. Anime wasn’t being dubbed into English as much as it is today and we certainly didn’t have streaming sites like Crunchyroll or Funimation’s site that made finding this stuff much easier. More anime shows up on TV now where as back then having anime come to Cartoon Network was an EVENT.

The convention culture hasn’t changed that much, it’s just gotten bigger. Using bootlegs and fandubs at cons is more frowned upon now (thankfully). In Maine, we have more annual conventions now than we did back in 1998 and even rural places like this can get anime now. It’s also more socially acceptable to be an anime geek now than it was back then.

Keith can be reached on Twitter. 

#79: Tony Y (Manga Therapy)

Age: 34

Location: Brooklyn, New York

When did you discover anime? In 1994, I was over at a friend’s place and he had a VHS tape of Dragon Ball Z (Cantonese-dubbed). He told me that we should watch it. I said “sure” and it was one of the episodes from the Frieza arc. That’s how it all began.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? The fact that people actually died and bled during fights. I grew up on series like X-Men, Power Rangers, TMNT, Transformers, etc. where the bad guys all got away and good guys didn’t really die (well, Optimus Prime did die in the TF movie). Seeing how different it was from American cartoons got me interested. The character, Vegeta, fascinated me because I learned that he was a villain but turned reluctant hero (albeit slowly during the time). I didn’t think bad guys could change, so that drew me more into the world of anime.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? I can tell you from my experience that Dragon Ball Z and Sailor Moon were EVERYWHERE in Chinese-related neighborhoods in NYC. The Chinatowns in NY had merchandise related to both series.

What kind of stores did you go to for anime and how much did it cost? Did you watch anime in Chinese? There were a few stores in Chinatown. I remember fansubs/original JP VHS tapes were sold in big shops and small ones. I bought fansubs from a tiny kiosk in the basement of a little mall called Elizabeth Center in Chinatown. I got tapes of DBZ/DBGT that contained two to three episodes each and a couple of anime movies for $3-$5 each. There was another kiosk in Elizabeth Center that sold Chinese-dubbed episodes of anime. I got some Dragon Ball GT Chinese-dubs for about $3, but the thing was that each tape was one episode.

I also forgot to mention that I rented Chinese-dubbed episodes of GTO, Rurouni Kenshin, and Initial D from a small Japanese stationery store in Chinatown right near Elizabeth Center. I signed up for some program and I think it was $1-$2 per tape and each tape had multiple episodes. This was about 15-16 years ago. All those places are now gone though thanks to how things changed in the late 1990s to early 2000s.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? I never thought I was a part of the fandom at the time because I was only like 12-13 and there was no internet accessible to the public yet. No one I knew at school was into anime because of the lack of access to VHS fansubs around my area. You had to go to places like Chinatown to get them. You know how some of the elder statesmen proclaim how lucky today’s kids are. It was like that.

Was the Internet a part of fandom at the time? Was IRC even around in 1994? I never connected with fans while getting deeper into anime. I kept to myself mostly.

Tell me about the first time you DID make an anime fan friend. My first actual anime friend was one of my little cousins actually! I used to hate him at first when I was a kid, but I invited him over to my place to play PlayStation games when he was about 9-10. I let him play all the PS Final Fantasy games. At the time, he started watching Dragon Ball Z when it appeared on Cartoon Network. Over time, he came over a lot to do homework, play games, have fun, and talk about geek stuff. He’s going to be 25 this year and we still keep in touch over anime/manga (he told me his boss at his current job is obsessed with watching anime and reading manga on Crunchyroll). I guess you can say that a relative was my first anime friend. 🙂

Do you remember your first convention? My first anime convention was in 2003. It was the Big Apple Anime Fest. I remember watching Initial D: 3rd Stage and attending a few panels by myself. I also met one of my best friends who I still talk to today. I also got some goodies there too, so it was a fun experience. Yet I didn’t go to a con again until 2008 for New York Anime Festival.

Why did you start blogging about anime? I blogged about anime because I wanted to share how anime/manga shaped my life and what lessons it’s taught me. I had some success blogging about Japanese music, so why not shift it to something I know more about? Granted, I wouldn’t say that I’m an expert on the subjects, but I take joy and pride in learning new ideas and talking about them with an audience that’s interested.

How did blogging about anime change the way you interacted in anime fandom? Blogging introduced me to the anime and manga industries. I’ve gotten to meet a variety of interesting people that I thought I would never get to meet.

However, I do feel that there’s too much going on in terms of conversations on anime and I can’t handle all of it. It feels like you have to know so much about this series and that one to the point that you have to prove something to someone or a group of people. Maybe I feel that some anime fans are chasing some kind of status that doesn’t mean much in the end. I tried to join an anime club back in college, but I went one day and never came back afterwards.

That’s probably why a relative was my first anime friend because I was a mentor to someone who didn’t know much. Also, I realized over time that anime fandom and manga fandom are two totally different types of groups. They don’t always intertwine. I’ve met manga bloggers who don’t watch much anime and I’m okay with those folks. These days, I follow mostly manga as I grew up reading a lot when I was a kid. I will still have conversations with anime fans, but I do wish I can talk about certain manga (i.e. My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness, Complex Age, I Am A Hero, Vinland Saga, Golden Kamuy) regardless if they get anime adaptations. Books are powerful.

In your experience, what’s the biggest difference for you between anime fandom when you discovered it and fandom today? This is a very tough question for me to answer because I never hung around anime fandom as I never went into IRC to chat with other anime fans back in the day. Yet if I take the time when I first attended my first anime con in 2003 and compare it to 2017, I do suppose the biggest difference is acceptance.

I was teased for being so into anime when I was a senior in high school. Those same kids today probably won’t be teased as much. This generation and our generation as well are a lot more expressive about being anime fans because of Western culture’s continued mindset of encouraging the self. Granted, we still have a ways to go. I still get comments about anime being “sexual” because of nuances in Japanese culture.

Also I feel that with anime/manga being mostly relegated to the Internet, it creates an isolation effect on fans, which ties into what I just mentioned about Western culture’s influence. It’s depressing to hear things like anxiety/depression/suicide being associated with anime fandom. I’m glad that Crunchyroll wants to do events like CR Expo because right now, we need a united community of anime fans that will be there for each other despite whatever differences we have.

Tony can be reached on Twitter.