#76: Filip V

Age:  33

Location: Belgium

When did you discover anime? As a six or seven-year-old kid in the early ’90s, with not much on Belgian television for kids, I watched the French “Club Dorothée.” It had a great line-up of great ’80s anime classics, like: Saint Seiya, Captain Tsubasa, High School! Kimengumi, Ranma 1/2, and even Dragon Ball Z. I didn’t understand anything of it (I don’t speak French), but I enjoyed watching it anyway.

With local TV-channels broadening their scope for kids and Club Dorothée stopped, I sadly enough forgot about anime even existing after a while. But later on, in the early 2000s, the Anime Boom that was happening in the US also blew over to Belgium and I was re-introduced to anime, with ’90s and early ’00s classics like Gundam Wing, Pokémon, Yu-Gi-Oh, Rurouni Kenshin and once again: DBZ.

From there, with broadband internet finally being a thing in Belgium, I started my anime journey.

For your reintroduction, what was the TV block that was a part of? Was it in English or another language? Two TV channels had an anime block, airing on weekdays between 16-18 o’clock [4-6 PM] (if I remember correctly). Both channels relatively new, with a similar target demographic of kids, teens and young adults.

– “VT4” had a block with Pokémon (Dutch), Medabots (Dutch), Gatchaman (English) and Yu-Gi-Oh (English)

– “Kanaal 2” had a block with Digimon (Dutch), Crayon Shin-chan (Dutch), Gundam Wing (English) and Dragon Ball Z (Ocean Dub)

Due to those shows being aired on a (almost) daily basis, a lot of them had a lot of re-runs. I think I saw Gundam Wing like three or four times before it was swapped with another show.

I know VT4 had reruns of some of their weekday shows on the weekends (no, really!) + a few more, like Sailor Moon and Rurouni Kenshin (English).

In terms of dubs, think of it as follows: If the target demographic was young kids, the anime would be dubbed in Dutch. If not, it was English with Dutch subtitles. That’s basically what happens to Flemish/Dutch television overall.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? The expressive animation, storytelling and action that was unheard of in most kids cartoons from the ’80s.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? Saint Seiya, or as it was named in French: “Les chevaliers du zodiaque” (the knights of the zodiac).

What did your family think of your interest in anime? My parents knew that I was a fan of animated series overall but couldn’t tell the difference with me watching classic cartoons, “those yellow guys” (The Simpsons), or anime. Trying to explain the difference was like trying to talk to a wall. They accepted it as typical concerned parents who would rather have their kid spend more time studying instead of watching TV. My sister is seven years older than me and was more of a non-presence at home (either studying, spending time with her BF of going out), so I doubt she ever formed an opinion of my “watching habits”.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? No clue! Without internet available, I really had no idea what the fandom was like. And I only heard later on from other Belgian people my age that they discovered anime in exactly the same way as I did.

Was the Internet a part of fandom at the time? No, so I didn’t talk to other fans for a while. Most kids from my town were either not interested in cartoons/anime, or only in the hype show of the moment: Transformers, TMNT, Power Rangers, etc. And those that were interested in more niche things just didn’t want to admit it, out of fear of being bullied.

Heck, when I was twelve and I said in class that I still enjoyed watching the Disney Afternoon block; a lot of kids just laughed at me and I even got reprimanded by teachers for “still watching cartoons at my age.”

Tell me about what it was like once you finally got broadband internet. How did you use it as an anime fan? A lot of the shows I watched were on endless reruns while waiting for new seasons, so first thing I did when I had internet was trying to find more of my favorite shows: Yu-Gi-Oh and Dragon Ball Z. I would download episodes and visit fan-sites to find out more info about the shows in general. Boy can you imagine my shock when I found out there was a better dub of DBZ, not to mention when finding out that Gundam Wing was just one of many Gundam series? Jaw-dropping moments.

I was a regular visitor (and later even a moderator) on a few anime forums that were focused on DBZ, like the “DeadZone Forums” and the Dutch “DBZ-Media.nl” (both now gone) where I got influenced to watch more and more anime and where I got the knack for writing fan fiction (first obviously DBZ related, then my own stories later on).

You said it was hard to make anime fan friends at first. Tell me about the first time you made friends with other fans. The first anime friends I made were on previously mentioned forums, especially the Dutch anime forum. It felt good to know that there were more people that spoke my language that were fans of anime. But while there were a few forum meet-ups in real life, they remained “far-off people”.

Real anime friends I started to make when I started playing Yu-Gi-Oh in real life in Ghent. Most players got into the game due to (one of) the anime series and most of them ended up being anime fans in general.  That was the first time I started being friends with people that had the same interests as me and didn’t live on the other side of the country (in a matter of speaking).

Do you remember your first convention? Yes, that was back in 2006: F.A.C.T.S. in Ghent, Belgium. Back then, I didn’t even knew it was called a “convention”. It was a one-day “event” that happened and was advised to me by a friend.

There was a good amount of people, and I was surprised to see some people being dressed up in military outfits, storm troopers and even Xenomorphs. And I was most interested in the Guests: Anthony Daniels, and some of the cast of Allo Allo (Guy Siner, Richard Gibson and Kim Hartman).

I enjoyed it so much, I returned there pretty much every single year. And I’ve seen the yearly con grow and expand so much over the years: From small one-day event to the (self-proclaimed) “biggest con” in the BeNeLux.

When did you start blogging about anime, and why? That was back in 2012. I had been playing Yu-Gi-Oh for a few years now and was following other Yu-Gi-Oh related blogs at the time. And while I quit writing fanfiction at the time, there remained the “need to write stuff”. It’s hard to describe this feeling, but you’ll probably understand since you’re a writer yourself.

So I ended up creating a blog myself. And while it did start out solely focused on Yu-Gi-Oh, I slowly also started to write about anime in general.

[You can read Filip’s blog here.]

Are your fanfics still online somewhere? Sadly enough, no. Since it was posted on forums that have been long gone, they’re no longer visible. One of the fanfics I co-wrote with others (based on Slayers/Record of Lodoss War and the Shining Force Games) had been archived by one of the co-writers shortly before it was shut down. He shared it with us afterwards so that we had some sort of “memory” to it. But the DBZ one is completely gone.

My main story was “Futuroscope”, about a kid who incidentally wished himself to the far future, where the earth is being attacked by aliens and he has to help defend the earth. Think of it as DBZ meets Stargate in a Futurama-type setting.

Sadly enough, also taken down when the forum it was posted on was shut down. I still have the drafts locally, but I need to rewrite the earliest chapters before I ever dare to publicize them again in any form.

In your experience, what’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom then and now? I think the biggest difference is that today, fans have an appreciation for anime aimed at young kids. When I joined the anime community in the early 2000s, there was a hatred towards “kiddy anime” like Pokémon, Digimon, Beyblade, and many others. It got dismissed by most, and people that enjoyed watching those shows were often hated upon. Think of it as “hardcore gamers” hating on “casual gamers.”

But today, most people in the anime community and a lot of anime YouTubers have admitted that they got into anime thanks to those “kiddy anime.” Look around on the internet and you’ll see many people praise the shows that were hated on in the past, like Digimon or Pokémon. And I think the people that were part of the community back in those days have started to accept that this has been a good thing for the anime community in general.

Filip can be found on Twitter

#75: Joe

Age: 30

Location: Oklahoma City, OK

When did you discover anime? I was 12 when I bought my first anime DVD. I had been aware of it for a while before that, thanks to friends at school that had HBO, and I had seen some stuff on Sci-Fi on Saturday mornings, but there was something extra special about spending my own money on my own interests, so I would say that is when I truly discovered anime.

What was that first DVD? The first anime DVD I bought was Akira. I suppose that’s potentially cliche, but that was the one film I’d heard about from people at school that was supposed to just blow your mind. I wanted to know what they were talking about. The edition I bought was one of the special editions, in a steel book and everything, so it was on the pricier side for the time. If my memory serves, it was around $25 or so.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? It looked so much different than what I could find elsewhere. It was telling stories that I couldn’t find anywhere else at the time either. There was a sense of getting away with something as well, as what I was finding to watch was clearly intended for an older audience.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? Dragon Ball Z was all the rage, but pretty much anything that was aired on Toonami was the talk at school for a while.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? Since it was not quite the commodity it seems to be today, it was fun to feel like you were a part of some small group. People would look at you like you were weird, but I was rather used to that.

I never had access to the internet at home, so I had to buy my collection over time at high prices. The nice thing about this was that I really knew what I was getting since I had time to look into them, but it sucked because I just wanted to see everything that I could.

Joe’s anime collection.

Tell me about your collection! Here’s a photo of my collection, as I still have all of it. It might not look all that impressive, since I had to condense it all into DVD binders so I could actually store it all. I’m not sure how many individual titles I have anymore, but disc-wise it’s well over 1,000. It’s very heavy.

You said being part of anime fandom meant people thought you were weird, but you were used to it. Were you “weird” before anime? I always felt weird, and to a certain extent I still do. My parents were both school teachers, and I went to the school at which my mom taught. As a result, all the other kids felt I was the perfect target for whatever they felt needed to be said. I tried to roll with this by wearing strange clothes or things like that. I also did fairly well in school, which resulted in mixed responses from others. Growing up in Oklahoma, doing anything outside of going to church and hunting in the fall resulted in all the weird looks. I think all of this combined resulted in my desire to escape into worlds different than this one.

Since anime was an unusual interest at the time, how did you meet friends who also liked anime? I had one friend in elementary school, and we are still very close. As soon as I bought something I liked, I’d share it with him. In this way we’d kind of build our understanding of what was out there and just go from there. Once into junior high, talking about one’s enjoyment of DBZ was more acceptable, so I made a few more friends that way.

Was the Internet a part of fandom at the time? As I said above, I’m sure there were communities online, but I didn’t have access to them. I tended to just keep my fandom to myself, talking with the few friends I had that were interested in anime when I could. Our tastes were similar so that was nice.

When did you finally get internet? Did it change how you consumed/thought about anime at all? Not to make my family sound too much like a bunch of luddites, but I didn’t get my own personal internet connection until college. This did effect my consumption of media in general, and anime specifically, because I’ve been about five to seven years behind, or at least it feels that way. As evidenced by my collection, I’ve never had success with streaming services like Crunchyroll or Funimation’s service. It doesn’t feel right to me. I desire a sense of ownership over the shows I watch, a sense that I have helped continue the release of shows I like.

For you personally, what’s the biggest shift between anime fandom then and now? The biggest difference to me, and it makes me feel really old to say this, is fan theories. The ability for people to watch shows as they air means they can also fill the internet with theories. This is still so foreign to me. It doesn’t feel like I’m watching anime unless I’m marathoning the entire series in one go. There has never been room for theories in my experience. I enjoy digging into the creators and directors much more.

Joe can be reached on Twitter

#73: Steve B

VHS tapes from Steve’s collection.

Age: 37

Location: Midwest United States

When did you discover anime? In 1993, an older friend took me to see a screening of Akira in town. He then introduced me to his large pirated tape collection. Once it started to appear in Blockbuster and other rental places we would rent as many as we could and spend the entire weekend copying them onto 6-hour VHS tapes. A few years later a man, who would become a good friend, opened a store specializing in anime and other Japanese imports. Through him I got involved in the fansub tape trading circles.

At the time, how and why did people justify tape-copying? Were there any other ways to get anime? There was no justification for copying tapes we rented; everyone understood it as piracy.  I guess as long as it was for private home use and no one was trying to pass them off for sale as the real thing no one thought it was a crime to worry about.  I started to think about that too and how the world of tapes (audio and video) in the ’80s really changed the perception of and made piracy a mass market thing.  Up until the early ’90s a lot of VHS tapes were still being priced for the rental market.  When a release was first available it could cost upwards of a hundred dollars to buy the VHS.  Then after a while it would drop down to standard mass sale pricing.

Aside from the outright pirate copying of tapes we rented from video stores, fansubs were an entirely different thing.  All of the fansubs we had were things that weren’t licensed in the United States.  Its the old idea of no harm due to none of the distribution companies in America losing money. A lot of the stuff was recorded directly off of TV in Japan, commercials and all. We made the excuse that if we were in Japan we would be watching it on TV for free anyways. I still have ‘nightmares’ about the mid ’90s Japanese Ronald McDonald. Some brand recognition was born out of it though, I’ve had a fondness for Glico products for decades now!

The first trip I took to Japan, May of 1998, I dropped close to $150 on VHS tapes. The first two tapes of the Nuku Nuku TV series and a strange Eva tape called Genesis 0:0 In The Beginning. I still have them, too.

The best fansub memory is getting a copy of Princess Mononoke in ’98. The first version we got our hands on was copied onto too short of a tape and it cut out right as San and Ashitaka were trying to give the forest god his head back.  When it hit the theaters in town in ’99 everyone from the anime store (of which the fansub copies of the tape were procured from) all went to see it. The fansubs of Evangelion Death and Rebirth were particularly memorable too, as Rebirth ends right as Asuka is about to fight the mass production units… talk about a cliff hanger.

The ‘End of Evangelion’ fansub Steve mentions in this interview.

I’d love to hear more about fansub tape-trading circles. How long did it take for an exchange to happen? How did you meet people to trade with? Being a teenager in the mid ’90s of course I’m out and about town more on my own, hanging out at coffee shops, record stores, underground parties and all-ages dance clubs. So meeting new people would always bring up the topic of anime among them. You make friends with people, compare what shows you have and what other people have. We would either swap tapes for a while to watch and/or copy them or make copies to hand of to other people. At my friends store some of us would pitch in a $20 here and there to help him get tapes from the various fansub groups.  I never bought directly from a fansub group so I can’t speak on that experience. It would usually be a few months from when something was broadcast and it got into our hands.  Sometimes a year.  At this point we weren’t too aware of what was being aired in Japan and when unless we looked at Japanese issues of Newtype magazine.

Once the millennium turned and fansubs started to become a digital thing my friend who ran the store was on top of all the groups releases.  He would pull them as soon as possible, put them to VHS and have them at the store as quick as he could.  There was always a whiteboard at the store with the release dates of videos. One side was commercial the other side was fansub. I started watching Naruto in 2003 through his store and by the time it started to hit the States on Cartoon Network I was so far ahead, keeping up with the Japanese release schedule at this point, I decided there wasn’t any point in stopping.  I think I finally got annoyed enough with the show about episode 140 or so of Shippudden. So yeah, I suffered through the legendary 80-some odd episodes of Naruto filler… waiting each week to see if we would actually have new story, falling into the rampant internet hype and rumor mill.

My friend’s store closed down in 2004 and I took it upon myself to be the source for hot new anime with all of my friends, hosting intimate weekly viewings at my house and filling DVDs and external hard drives with the latest shows I had pulled.  I did some dabbling in hard encoding as well when Sgt. Frog started to air.  No one was picking it up and I was enjoying it.  So I started working on my own translations, using my own knowledge a friend who was way more fluent than I and whatever translation files I could find on the net.  I was also re-encoding files at this time too. MKVs started to show up and my system had a hard time handling them.  I had a few programs that would convert the files to AVI files and allow me to rework or add in my own sub files.  This was all in 2004 through 2006.  I stopped because it was time consuming and my computer wasn’t powerful enough.  It would take hours to re-encode a 24 minute episode.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? As I think pretty much everyone can relate to, it was different. I was used to Disney and Hannah Barbara. Obviously I had watched localized anime since I could remember, Robotech, Battle of the Planets, the weirdly hypnotic Grimms Fairy Tale Classics on Nickelodeon. But of course the stuff aimed at adults, which was the most available in the beginning of the ’90s was way different and more gritty. The ’80s had a lot of anti-Japanese sentiment in America so it seemed a lot of the Japanese origins were hidden on purpose.

Why do you think this was? What kind of stuff was hidden, for example? The ’80s was a pretty down period economically and Japan was doing really well.  At that time I was living in a small rural Wisconsin town and everyone was pretty much anti anything foreign.  But the Japanese were buying up a lot of land and buying into a lot of companies in America at that time.  Hell there is even a weird artifact movie/TV show about that called Gung Ho.

A great example of really hiding the Japanese origin, as we kindly call it, localizing, from that time period would be Robotech.  You would only really see the Japanese names scroll by really fast in the end credits… if at all.  I’m sure producers and advertisers and whoever else in boardrooms was nervous that if something was widely known to be foreign to the public would reject it outright for whatever reason.  I think its still somewhat true today and probably universal in most countries really.  Look at The Office… NBC was pretty quiet about that being a direct copy of a British show.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? I don’t think there really was one, this was right before anime became a hot thing and was known more widespread in the mid ’90s. We watched whatever we could get our hands on.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? It was exciting, it was subversive in many ways, and it was exclusive. We could only get tapes and manga from the local hole-in-the-wall comic book stores.

Could you tell me about one of these stores that you went to a bunch? What was it like? How much did tapes and manga cost? I worked a telemarketing job in a trendy university part of town, having lived in the suburbs. In the same building was a comic book store that myself and a friend I worked with would go to every payday.  I remember paying $25 for the Streamline subtitled copy of Akira.  The only reason it was $25 instead of $40 was because I was buying the copy the store rented out.  But it wasn’t unusual to pay $30 to $40 dollars for a tape.  Black Magic M-66 was $35 I think, Appleseed was about the same.  Back then Gen Con was still in Milwaukee and at the end of the ’90s you saw a more visible anime presence in the dealer room.  I would go crazy when ADV would sell off stock for dirt cheap.  I was scooping up copies of anime I had been watching to death on pirated cassettes for $10.  Here is Greenwood, Patlabor, Dominion Tank Police.

One thing I regret never getting around to buying though was a collectors DVD set of Lain that came in a metal lunch box. I think that thing ran like $120 or so. The first purchase I made from my friends anime store (prior to me knowing him) was the first season box set of Ranma 1/2 for $200. I had to special order it and put half the money down before hand, that was in late 96 I believe. I still have almost all of my commercial VHS tapes, I tossed the hentai ones I had collected before I got married 8-). Just under 60 of them in my collection. I make sure I always have a working VCR.

Before I moved into the house I bought I made sure I got rid of the nearly 200 pirated/fansub tapes I had in my collection. I had decided it was time to get rid of them and bundled them up in a few yard bags and tossed them in some random business dumpster in the dark of night.

I wasn’t buying manga at this time. The same friend I worked with ended up getting a job at a different comic book store and he ordered a lot of stuff that I would borrow and read at the time. But I didn’t start buying manga myself until about 5 years ago. Pretty much the manga that was available was through Dark Horse at this time and it was typical American comic book release pricing and schedule. One 20ish page book for around $3 every month or two months or so. Tankoubon weren’t a thing and neither was right hand reading.  Everything was transposed and flipped for left hand reading. The first manga I ever saw, but didn’t know it was manga, was Lone Wolf and Cub in ’93. A friend of mine had it and I was blown away by the violence. AT this time I was reading X-Men comics pretty heavy and the commercial comic industry was pretty tame at that point, just mildly racy.

Was the Internet a part of fandom at the time? If yes, how? If no, how did you connect with other fans? Not yet, I got into it right around the time AOL exploded and everyone got sucked into the web. There were BBS communities obviously but I was unaware of them at the time and didn’t actually get involved in online anime groups until later in the ’90s when I started to live in IRC.

When did that happen? I got into IRC once I was no longer able to go on AOL due to the prohibitive monthly membership fee. I got access through an older friends university log in to the school remote network and logged into IRC from there, as a replacement for AOL chat groups. It was really just a place to meet people and discuss anime and role play, typical chat room stuff. I ended up being friends with a girl in the main chat room I hung out with that lived in the area, which opened up access to different anime. She was the one who introduced me to Gundam through copies she had of Gundam X and 0083, this was in 99 and I was already out of school and living on my own with roommates. So at this point anime was on TV 24/7…and video games. Beyond this the internet was used to hit up Anime Turnpike to look at fan art and learn about other series’. But it wasn’t a big part of my existence at that point. Being a broke ‘should be in college’ kid internet access wasn’t always reliable and I liked to party too much with my IRL friends and roommates.

Do you remember your first convention?  I actually didn’t hit any anime conventions until I was an adult and went to it for my children to experience it. As a teenager and young adult the only con I ever went to was Gen-Con, which had a good industry and grassroots anime presence. It was primarily a tabletop gaming con. I watched a lot of anime at the con, the fansub of Escaflowne being quite memorable due to the excellent soundtrack on a massive surround system.

You mentioned taking your kids to anime cons. Do they like anime? What do they watch and when did you introduce them? Does your partner like anime? My kids love anime.  I’ve raised them on it.  My 13-year-old daughter told me a few months ago when she borrowed some Chi’s Sweet Home manga from the library that one of the earliest cartoons she remembers watching is the fansubs of the original Chi series.  I tried to find a lot of anime for them where they were younger, always looking for NHK programs, whether they were in English or not.  I had a lot of episodes of Pythagoras Switch and Nanami-chan.  All the old Pokemon too.  Of course all the Studio Ghibli stuff.  I try to take them to as much anime when it hits the theaters as possible.  The last one we went to was a late night subbed showing of Your Name.

My kids like the con experience too. Sadly the local con doesn’t have much.  Hopefully next year I can put the funds and time together to hit ACEN for a proper con experience. My daughter has been feverishly drawing and working on  her own manga-type style. Most of the manga I buy nowadays, I buy with the intention of letting them read it as well. There are always shows on Crunchyroll and Netflix/Hulu that we watch on a weekly basis as well.  My son goes along for the ride, enjoying it, but my daughter consumes a lot of it. Between manga she buys or gets from the library and the shows she watches on her own on CR… like Fairy Tail. I can’t stand it personally but she loves it.  Her group of friends are also into anime at various levels so she has that part of her life to nerd out in on her own.

My wife on the other hand… tolerates it to an extent.  When we were dating she watched some anime with me but she got tired of it eventually and now I try not to watch it around her!  She has her own nerding that she does that I’m not into so we are nerds of different flavors.  She runs a store at our nearby Renaissance faire so she’s neck deep into that passion.

Steve can be reached on Twitter.

#66: Sean F

Age: 34

Location: Orlando, Florida

When did you discover anime? I’m sure a lot of people have the same old story of “I was watching anime before I knew it was anime” type of stories that involved shows like Voltron and Robotech. While that applies to me as well, my first encounter with something I KNEW was anime was the Tenchi Universe TV series. It was around 1997 or 1998 when my best friend borrowed the first VHS volume and had me come over and watch it. I was so enamored with it that I watched all four episodes AGAIN later that night. That opened the door for other popular series at the time like Ranma 1/2, Evangelion, Slayers, and Dragon Ball Z to consume my free time… and my wallet.

How much did anime cost back then? How did you afford it and where did you buy it? Anime VHS tapes varied depending on what you were buying. If it was a fansub on VHS, the average price was around $15-20 per tape. You’d only find these tapes at a dealer at a local convention or if you were lucky, an Asian hobby store like Florida Oriental Trading here in Orlando. Official releases varied on if you bought English dubbed or English Subtitled. Dubs tended to range from $20-25 while subs were around the $30-35 range. And sadly, you would only get two episodes of content for a TV series or an OVA.

As for money, anytime I had some extra cash it would go towards the hobby. I was fortunate to have a small, monthly allowance from my Dad. At other times, I would save lunch money for the week and use that towards a new volume of Ranma 1/2, Tenchi Muyo, Slayers, etc… Needless to say, I had a decent VHS collection at the time.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? If I had to sum it up to one thing, it had to be the barriers that it broke through that was prevalent in domestic animated series and films in the U.S. I’d rarely seen anything in animated form have stories and characters that felt three dimensional or the mature content it tackled. Once I got a taste of it I had to see more.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? If we’re talking mainstream, and I mean stuff that was on TV, it had to be DBZ or Sailor Moon. If we’re talking fans who actual bought VHS tapes my answer would have to be Evangelion.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? It was the ultimate secret club. I felt like I was apart of something underground and exclusive. If you ever met someone else who was into anime at the time and knew the “secret handshake” so-to-speak, you had the chance to make a new friend. Hell, I still have a few friends from high school like that. We bonded over anime. Started up a club after school and would watch everything from official VHS releases to a new fansub someone had acquired.

Tell me about the club! Where did you meet? Did you have a teacher supervisor? Do you still know anyone from then? My old high school anime club came around when I saw a flier posted around school. I was really excited that I would get to meet new people who shared in what felt like a small, secret fandom. I quickly bonded with most of the club and still have a few people I consider dear friends to this day. We had a few teacher sponsors who allowed us access to a classroom after school on Wednesdays. I was the VP and unofficial “tape guy.” No matter what, I always had a tape ready to go watch. In year two, I had to move away due to family issues. But it had tripled in size from the original dozen who started it. From what I was told, the club slowly evolved into a place where people would congregate to play Pokemon and YuGiOh! card games. It was almost like a bridge from ’90s anime fandom to the boom of the 2000s in that regard.

Was the Internet a part of fandom at the time? Yes, even in the old dial-up internet days I consumed as much content as possible. I was a frequent visitor to the old Anime Web Turnpike and various “web rings” for all my favorite shows. Fanfiction was also a great avenue to get more of your favorite shows when you had to wait months on end in between tape purchases. Old message boards like rec.arts.anime were the norm. I even listened to old Real Audio internet radio shows. These things predated podcasts. I even still have a few on an old external hard drive. They have not aged well.

Can you tell me about Real Audio internet radio shows? What did they cover? How did you listen to them? I did NOT know about these! I was obsessed with getting as much information as I could about anime and the fandom in general in ’97-98. I would be online daily checking out the Anime Web Turnpike for webrings and anything I could find on my favorite shows. I don’t remember exactly HOW I came upon this, but I remember listening to an “internet radio show” that I’d stream through the Real Audio player simply called “Otaku Radio.” Original title, right? Hosted by guys named “Tirkiman” and “Stratos” would talk about whatever they were watching at the time. I think they had over 50+ episodes. From what I recall, they lived in Atlanta. Anime Weekend Atlanta was a common topic of conversation. I believe there was an episode dedicated to time travel differences between Dragon Ball Z and Kimagure Orange Road. But one in particular I remember was right around the debut of DBZ and Gundam Wing on Toonami. It was not kind to the rise of anime popularity with girls at all. Lots of “boys treehouse club” talk is the kindest way I would describe it. Listening to it again in 2017 was really odd.

Sounds like a time capsule! Where can I listen to it? That old show is LONG GONE from the internet. HOWEVER, I do have an old episode I converted and uploaded to my soundcloud. This episode was recorded around 2000 sometime.

Here’s the link to it:

Do you remember your first convention? I was a frequent attendee at Megacon in Orlando in the late ’90s. It was a catch all convention that had everything, including anime. My first “anime only” con had to be the first Anime Festival Orlando back in 1999 or 2000. AFO started small. Had a dealer’s room that had a ton of stuff I wanted at the time. Wendi Lee was the marquee guest. Overall, I remember it most for hanging out with friends at the time.

For you personally, what’s the biggest difference between anime fandom back then and now? The biggest difference by far is how many more casual fans there are in 2017. Back in 1996, finding someone else who liked anime was like finding a unicorn. if you found someone who liked anime you became instant friends. You had to be hardcore to like anime. You had to have the zeal to hunt down and learn as much as possible. Going to conventions that had an anime viewing room was a big deal because you may get to see something you’ve never seen before. In 2017, it’s insane how much access you have to everything. What’s nuts to me, there’s currently a fourth Tenchi Muyo OVA series being released and almost no one is talking about it. That would have blown my mind in 1997. There are so many other examples I could give. Just the idea of being able to watch almost every single new series from Japan literally an hour after it airs on TV for $7 a month has me flabbergasted. I have a lot of nostalgia for the early days of my anime fandom, but I love what it’s become today. Anime is still a minority in the world of fandom, but it’s no longer invisible like it was twenty years ago.

You mentioned you were in the army after you finished school, and I’d love to hear some stories about anime fandom in the military. 

How did you meet other anime fans in the army? Meeting other anime fans in the army basically always happened by someone either seeing me watching or talking about anime. When you live on post and reside in the barracks, you end up with a duty known as “CQ” where you basically work the front desk of the building checking IDs, allowing food deliveries to go up, visitors, etc. While on said duty, you basically spend 24 hours straight watching TV and playing video games. I used this opportunity to watch anime on the government’s dime. Every so often someone would notice Cowboy Bebop or Dragon Ball Z on the TV and strike up conversation about it. That sometimes led to me recommending other shows and vice versa. One time I met an anime fan on Fort Bragg through MySpace of all things. Dude was literally half a mile from where I lived. He was really into Go Nagai and giant robot shows, which was really amazing considering that it was early to mid-2000s and I didn’t know too many people like that outside of the internet. One my favorite stories I like to tell is a guy who once asked me if I had “L.A. Blue Girl”—he pronounced it like the city and not “la.” Sadly for him I did not possess a copy. Funny side note to that, I heard a local mom and pop video store was closing down and selling old VHS. I went in to see if they had any anime. and SURE ENOUGH, a random copy of LA Blue Girl volume 4 was in the porn section. Later that week, I surprised him and presented him with it. He smiled and thanked me. I truly felt I had made a difference in someone’s life that day. Doing a little more digging online I actually found a local anime club called the East Coast Anime Society that had been around for a while. Met some more cool people who actually made fanzines from the early to mid-90s. Most of the group contributed to Animazement for many years too.

Life changes when it becomes known that you’re the “anime guy” in the unit. I’ve had numerous people knock on my door on different bases around the world, most whom I didn’t even know, asking me if I had anything from Naruto to Full Metal Panic Fumoffu. I felt like I was a local drug dealer. “Hey man, you got the animes?” was a regular question asked. I was even put on the spot by a superior to, and I’m not kidding when I say this, recite a monologue from an anime. I was given 24 hours to come up with something. I went with a few lines from one of my favorite series Giant Robo. Kenji Kurusame’s famous dub line of “I’m just an immortal kind of guy” went over very well with the good staff sergeant. I know it sounds weird, but that’s how we killed time during a deployment to Afghanistan.

During my last month in Afghanistan, I was on guard duty for our camp on Bagram Air Base. We had just started hiring local Afghan security forces to assist us working the gate. Basically I was in charge and got to stay in the shack while they handled the work outside. I had a few volumes of manga for such situations. While reading one volume of Densha Otoko aka Train Man, I had flipped to a page where the female lead was taking a shower and was clearly nude. The Afghan guard that was sitting next to me at the time noticed and his eyes widened in surprise. His interest in my reading material had increased ten fold and then asked if he could “borrow” it so he could practice reading English. He swore up and down that he’d get it back to me a week later. I politely declined knowing that had I lent it out I would never get it back, and also, if he got caught with it and got in trouble for whatever reason I KNEW it would get back to me somehow. I was so relieved when that shift ended.

How did you acquire new anime while you were in the army? This answer is going to be fun. At first I would go around Fayetteville, NC checking every brick and mortar store I could find for DVDs. FYE, Best Buy, and a few other nameless movie/CD stores were regular destinations. Believe it or not, the Babbages at the mall was notorious for breaking street dates for new anime releases. Got them five days early. Always loved getting the new volume of Yu Yu Hakusho that way. The PX on Fort Bragg was like that too sometimes. What was even better was that a lot of those mid-2000s perfect collections that ADV would release would also be on the shelf at ridiculous fire sale prices. I’m talking MSRP $60-70 would be on sale for as low as $30. But the best place by far was a little known comic shop known as Phantasy Central.

Let me tell you, I have never been so lucky in my life than to have been stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina and to have discovered this lost hidden gem for anime fans…

By chance I had gotten into a conversation with someone at the aforementioned Babbages about anime I liked and went on how I wish there was some sort of place to get more anime. I was told to go to this little place in Spring Lake just outside of Fort Bragg. I hopped in a cab and headed straight over. As soon as I opened the door I was blown away by a gigantic VHS collection of anime. Dubbed, subtitled, fansubs… all for rent. I was in heaven. You name ANY anime commercially released in the US on VHS it was there. I was able to finally check out shows I only heard about. Imagine if Crunchyroll was a physical store where you could check out anime. It was that amazing. I watched all of Kimagure Orange Road over the period of a month. My worst mistake was watching the first KOR movie during my lunch break and went back to work holding back tears. I was asked if everything was OK multiple times the rest of the day. Sadly, the store had to close their doors a few years later. But that place was a regular hangout for me at the time and one I will never forget.

Was anime popular among soldiers? Why do you think that might have been? The easy answer is Dragon Ball Z. It was the hot show at the time came on TV right around when most soldiers were released for the day. It had a lot of action and over the top characters. I remember one time when deployed in Afghanistan, I brought my entire anime collection with me in about four large CD binders. When it was discovered I had Dragon Ball Z I was asked many times to borrow a few here and there. One guy even asked me to rip all 70+ DVDs and upload them to our shared media server we used to watch movies and TV shows. Needless to say, I did not have the time or the ability to accomplish such a task.

Sean can be reached on Twitter.

#65: Grant J

Age: 30

Location: United States

When did you discover anime? S Depends on the definition of “discover,” as I was exposed to Voltron, Battle of the Planets, Speed Racer, and others so early on they are formative memories. I thought about them in the same way that I thought about Transformers, G.I. Joe, Looney Tunes, or anything else on television—cartoons that I liked.

It wasn’t until I caught Demon City Shinjuku on Sci Fi Channel’s Saturday Anime (I was, what, 8? Maybe 9?) that I became aware of these things as a separate category of animation. It was a feeling similar to when you think, “Oh, I guess I haven’t eaten,” and then you realize you are famished. I began taping Saturday Anime religiously, scouring my grandparents’ TV Guide and newspaper for any sign of airings at strange hours, and renting out everything my local Blockbuster stocked.

Did you live with your grandparents? What did they think about your interest in anime? I was raised by a single mother so I often spent nights, weekends, or entire summers with my grandparents. They took no interest in my anime watching habits as they set up a spare TV for me to watch when I was over. This meant I had free reign, so I took every opportunity to ingest anime, kaiju movies, martial arts movies, and anything else I could find. There was a very real, tactile joy to poring over newspapers and/or Reader’s Digest and trying to find this stuff to watch and record later.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? Anime was playing with a completely different toolbox of genre tropes than I was used to, had a cinematic visual language unlike anything I had seen in American animation, and the level of detail communicated to me that these creators cared as much about animation as I did.

And, well, let’s be real—it had blood and kewl robots and lasers and did you see that dude’s head explode?!

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? In a word: all. It was incredibly difficult to find, and finding other fans was similarly difficult. After a few failed initial attempts at getting some friends into it, I realized that what I thought was mana from heaven was apparently bizarre to some others. So when I did find other anime fans, we mostly just sat around watching each others’ collections and freaking out about it.

We saw anime as a monolithic pillar, and we loved all of it. Certain titles came up more often than others due to access (like Blockbuster) but until Toonami hit we didn’t really think in those terms. Anime still felt small, whether it really was or we were just dispersed.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? Like being in a cult. Or, maybe like being in a cult inside of a cult, since even finding other “general” nerds was tough back then. Geek was not chic in those days—it would be decades before spandex-clad heroes would rake in billions at the box office.

Still, we loved it, it was like having a secret language. We could communicate in a way that no one else really “got” (whether they cared to was another matter).

Since people were quiet about liking anime, how did you find fellow fans? A careful mixture of tactics. The most obvious was asking others if they were fans outright or trying to bring it up casually in conversation (which was not at all casual given my social awkwardness at the time). This may seem strange, but a safe route was keeping my eyes peeled for people who drew a lot. Anime seemed to attract people who either could draw or desperately wished they could (I was/am in the latter category). But often people doodled in class or had art on their trapper keepers (if they were brave enough) and if it was in the “anime” style that was one way to spot new potential friends. Another route was attempting to show people anime that meshed well with existing fandoms like sci fi or fantasy; Bubblegum Crisis and Record of Lodoss War were great litmus tests in this regard. But overall I did anything I could to find new fans without sliding even further down the social ladder.

Where did you mostly hang out with these people? Did you introduce them to shows, or did they introduce you? The schoolyard mostly, and then later at one another’s houses if our parents would let us. We were too nervous to risk bringing tapes to school, so sleepover nights became mad dashes to show all of your favorites to one another and make copies if you had spare tapes. So it was a healthy mixture of both once that initial hurdle had been leapt.

You also mentioned failed attempts to get friends into it. Did you lose friends because of anime? I wouldn’t say I ever lost friends over anime, but my fandom certainly made me drift apart from others that either did not like it or lost interest over time. Though now that I think about it I may have subconsciously shut someone out at one point. I recall a former friend who I never really spent much time with after I showed him the Area 88 OVA and he bad-mouthed it the entire time.

Was the Internet a part of fandom at the time? If yes, how? If no, how did you connect with other fans? No, not until much later. Even when the internet appeared, it took a while for enough of us to have home computers and internet access to really even consider searching out fandom online.

Word of mouth, mainly.

Tell me about those early days after you finally did log on.  A lot of Geocities and Angelfire, and a lot of shrines [fan sites to specific anime or characters]. I used to pore over episode and film descriptions, having no clue whether it was accurate or not. I had become pretty skeptical of random nerd information at this point (such as video game rumors about ‘hidden levels’ or ‘secret moves’ that you spent hours trying to uncover, only to find they were a schoolyard lie… it hardens a child), so I was always reading with one eyebrow perched. Still, I voraciously consumed anything and everything I could find, much of it little more than a few words and some still images.

Mostly it started with Robotech, Battle for the Planets/G Force, Star Blazers, Voltron, and Japanese Transformers episodes, but soon it spiraled outwards into whatever else I would come across. I knew of many shows and films by reputation but never really ventured into trying to download entire episodes, and I’m not sure if such a concept even crossed my mind until late high school/college. Forums also helped a lot (I missed the usenet days entirely), but even there information could get dodgy. It was all very hodgepodge, often embellished or fabricated for the sake of making the speaker appear to be king/queen nerd. A lot of this information gathering was fun, but it required a lot of effort. Because of this I often spent a lot of time re-watching my favorite shows over and over while digging deeper into those specific fandoms. It was a safer return on my time investment than trying to find new things, a habit I am still trying to break decades later.

For you, what’s the biggest difference between fandom then and fandom now? It feels like we won the war in a way. It’s all here now—we can access basically every single bit of anime that is (and nearly all that was). Anime fandom feels like less of a struggle to get/see the shows, and more like a struggle to sift through the mounds of content and find what is worthwhile. It is not just a problem for young fans, either. I once worked an entire summer to save up the $150+tax for the complete set of six Record of Lodoss War tapes, but these days even I perk a brow at a $10 subscription fee for streaming content including hundreds of titles. Times change but the times also change us, I suppose.

For better or worse we get everything and it’s like drinking from a fire hose. That constant flood changes the texture of fandom quite a bit. Sometimes I feel like anime fandom was a wild dog fighting for scraps and eating anything it could find, but now it will just eat and eat until it’s sick because it doesn’t know any better. That is not meant as a judgment in any way, mind you. Anime has always been about devotion, but I guess the old form of devotion was paying exorbitant prices, building tape trading network, or pounding the pavement to find some hole in the wall store. There is still a lot of devotion in fandom, but it has adapted to match the new ecosystem.

Grant can be reached on Twitter.

#60: Kelly S

Age: 30

Location: Southeastern United States

When did you discover anime? I discovered anime in stages. At first, I found out about a show called Sailor Moon because of chats on AOL. I watched the show on Cartoon Network during the Sailor Moon R arc in the late ’90s. I didn’t realize Sailor Moon was anime at first, but looking around online, I found a fan page that, crazily enough, is still around. I started looking up the different magical girl anime listed, although there wasn’t a lot of information out there at the time. I found the “anime” section of my local video rental store and liked that it all looked like Sailor Moon. The first anime I rented was Ah! My Goddess! It was okay. Then I rented Slayers and fell in love. Slayers was my obsession for years and years, and it was my introduction to fanart, fanfic, fanvids, cosplay… Before I knew it, I was sending out self-addressed stamped envelopes to fansub distros and hanging out at Suncoast. I went to my first convention in 2001.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? I liked the art style a lot. It was colorful and bright, and at a time when Lisa Frank was my aesthetic, I think Sailor Moon hit that sweet spot. After getting hooked on the plot, I was curious about what else was out there, and then when I watched Slayers, the storytelling and humor struck home with me.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? Sailor Moon was a big one simply due to it being a gateway anime, along with Dragon Ball Z. After that, I can recall licensed releases being popular due to accessibility: Cowboy Bebop, Tenchi Muyo!, Slayers, Record of Lodoss War, Outlaw Star, Yu Yu Hakusho, and Trigun. Magical girl shows were popular.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? Pretty fun. It felt like an underground culture at the time, and knowing the lingo and connecting with other fans resulted in strong bonds. Even knowing some Japanese was “cool.”

It took some doing, but I converted one of my friends into an anime fan, and we would have sleepovers where we’d marathon shows. My overnight bag was always heavy with clunky VHS tapes, and I can fondly recall the sound of tapes clacking together as I walked with the bag on my shoulder.

I’d like to hear more about the friend you managed to convert into an anime fan. What won her over? Is she still a fan?  Unfortunately, that friendship fizzled out a while back due to various reasons, so I’m afraid that story is open-ended. My impression is that, for her, it was more of a passing interest. She liked Sailor Moon a bit due to its popularity at the time, but I won her over through sheer enthusiasm, forcing her to watch fansubs with me. She did enjoy Slayers, and so for a while, we’d pass notes to each other in class with doodles of Xellos and Valgarv, our two favorite characters. We enjoyed Kodocha, too. In high school, she became less interested in the anime scene and more interested in other things, eventually moving away as I’d reach an apex in my fandom. I took her with me to a convention once, and although she had fun, we spent a good amount of time hanging out and going off the convention center grounds instead of participating in fan activities.

Slayers seems like it was huge for you. What kind of fanworks did Slayers inspire you to make? I was never involved much in the creation of fanworks, more the consumption. I wrote one fic for an online friend in the Slayers fandom, and never shall it see the light of day! With Slayers, I began to read massive amounts of fanfic, and from that point on, I was a fanfic junkie. Even these days, if I watch, read, or otherwise interact with a piece of media, I immediately look for fanfic. I watched a Netflix show out of curiosity four days ago, and since then, I’ve read about 12-15 fanfics from it. Oftentimes, I may not be a “fan” of the show, but I love the show beyond the show. In addition to fanfic, I made a few terrible fanvids. I used my vidding skills to create a fanvid as a school project once… using a VCR! It was very tedious. Happily, learning about encoding and video formats was a résumé booster, so thank you, terrible fanvids.

Was the Internet a part of fandom at the time? If yes, how? If no, how did you connect with other fans? Yes and no. I found anime due to the Internet thanks to simple fan pages. I found the Sailor Moon fan page and learned about the hundreds of episodes that the States didn’t have at the time. I read up on the light novels of Slayers and on the characters of all the shows I watched. Most of the Internet’s role in the late ’90s was as a source of information and images. I saved my favorite illustrations onto 3.5-inch floppy disks.

As time went on, UBBs and message boards became popular, and I talked to people through those. As anime went digital, I talked to people on IRC, too. I bought anime and Japanese imports through web stores. After going to a convention, I’d look up photos on A Fan’s View to relive the moment.

Do you remember your first convention? What was it, and what was it like?
The first convention I went to, Animazement, was amazing. I met up with an online friend at the con and sang karaoke with them. People were really into Chobits, Dragon Ball Z, and Final Fantasy cosplay. I took disposable cameras to the con and wondered what the people at the photo developing lab thought of all the costumes I’d caught on film as I took the rolls of film to be developed. The con was the only place where I could play DDR and buy Pocky, so I stocked up Japanese snacks and played tons of video games. I also got to see weird Japanese commercials and other late-night video trash, the kind of stuff that’d be easy to find on YouTube now. (The “Yatta!” music video, for example.) J-rock videos were hard to come by, and everyone in my friend circle was happy to see clips. Gackt was huge. A highlight of my trip was running into Yuu Watase on the elevator.

What did your family think of your interest in anime? My family was incredibly supportive of my interest. They were the ones who drove me hours and hours to my first anime convention in my early teens, despite having no idea why I liked “cartoons.” My grandmother even helped sew my first cosplay, and I wore a character wig to her birthday party. No one in my family teased me or told me my interest was silly, even though I suspect they thought my interest was a phase.

Tell me more about acquiring anime at the time. Truth be told, I spent a lot of money on VHS tapes at Suncoast. I was also very lucky to have a well-stocked video rental store nearby that had lots of videos. For example, I didn’t have to buy all of the tapes from Slayers… just the last few. I would say that all of my earned money from my after-school job went into buying VHS tapes. The lack of dual language tracks made the dub versus subs wars very fierce at the time, but I was online friends with some people wanting to be voice actors, so I think dubs were looked at more fondly in my circle than in the rest of fandom. For series that weren’t released yet, I sent in S.A.S.E. (self-addressed stamped envelopes) to various fansub distros. At the time, there were titles out being released that people were 100% convinced would never be brought over to America. When digital media became more prevalent, I upgraded to sending out CD-Rs for digisubs. For a few years, I traveled to another school’s anime club, and all of the members would trade tapes, DVDs, and burned CDs. These days, I have a Crunchyroll, Funimation, and Anime Strike subscription, most of which have offered streams of the shows I watched fansubbed all those years ago. It might be an unpopular opinion, but I still like dubs! I’m so happy to support the people who bring these shows and comics to life.

What’s the biggest difference between anime fandom then, and fandom now? I’d like to know about the biggest different for you personally. It is unbelievably easy to get anime these days, and the pace at which titles are streamable is incredible. For example, the fact that simuldubs are a thing is something I would have never, ever thought possible. If I want to watch Slayers right now, I can press a few buttons on my smartphone and cast it to my television in under a minute. If I want to make a cosplay outfit, there are tutorials available. If I want to binge-read a manga, I can buy the whole series for my Kindle (which I have done). All of this accessible media is not only easy to get a hold of, but it’s accessible in a way that supports the creators, too. It’s also easier to find fans of even the most obscure media.

#50: Rine Karr

Name: Rine Karr

Age: 31

Location: Colorado, USA

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. I first discovered anime when I was in late elementary school or early middle school. My first brush with it was with Sailor Moon in 1995. I distinctly remember getting up really early in the morning, at around five or six, and sneaking downstairs after my dad left for work to watch it on FOX. I fell in love with it and eventually watched most of Sailor Moon and Sailor Moon R on the staticky USA Network in 1997. Technically, I suppose, I also saw The Last Unicorn when I was young, and although it’s not a Japanese cartoon, per se, the animation was done by Topcraft. I also watched ThunderCats and other ’80s cartoons on television that had ties to Japanese animation studios.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? Something about Sailor Moon stirred my imagination. When I first started watching the show in 1995, I didn’t know what anime was. I remember thinking that the style of the animation seemed different from most shows on television. I remember thinking that the setting seemed different somehow from my suburban hometown. Initially, I did not know that Serena/Usagi lived in Tokyo, and I remember wishing that I could wander around my town like Usagi, visiting jewelry stores, cake shops, and Crown. I also remember wondering why all the girls wore sailor suits. And I remember really wanting Usagi’s Mary Jane shoes and her black satchel school bag, except that I could never find them at the mall. Usagi was one of the first female cartoon characters that I could really relate to, and I became enthralled by all the magic and lore in the story.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? Pokémon and Digimon definitely were more popular than Sailor Moon, at least among my male classmates. None of the girls I knew watched anime. Also, YuGiOh! became popular later.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time?
There wasn’t much of a fandom to be a part of, at least, none of my friends watched Sailor Moon. I didn’t get AOL and dial-up internet at home until 1998, so I didn’t really learn more about Sailor Moon and other anime like Escaflowne, which I also loved, until then. I joined some webrings and connected with some people through Neopets, but again, I didn’t really know anyone who liked anime until I went to college. There I watched Adult Swim, went to my first anime convention, and occasionally visited my college’s anime club. I finally made friends who also loved anime! Crunchyroll soon became popular after that, and, obviously, now I get most of my fandom kicks from the internet and anime cons.

You didn’t meet other fans until you went to college. How did that work out? I’ve always been a bit nerdy. I’ve always gotten into books, movies, and video games more than my classmates. My parents met in the ’70s playing D&D after all, so I’ve never been adverse to geeky pursuits, but in high school, I kept most of my interests to myself. Perhaps there were other girls interested in anime and manga, but I didn’t know any of them. In college, it felt like everyone was out to be themselves, to wear their hearts on their sleeves, so I embraced my geekiness and found friends who were also interested in anime. A couple of them are still my friends 10 years later, and my husband who I met in college is also an anime fan, so I’d say that it worked out well!


Did you stay a fan the whole time up until today? If yes, what kept your interest? If no, what got you back into anime again? I’d say that I’ve been an anime fan ever since I saw Sailor Moon in the ’90s, but I probably had a small break in high school, since no one else I knew watched it. Also, there was a lot less anime on TV then, and I didn’t have cable, so I sort of stopped watching for a couple of years. College was an excellent time to get back into it, since, like I said, I met other people who liked it, and my college had cable TV. In the end, however, it was probably my first anime con in 2007 that really inspired me to fully embrace the anime fandom.

Can you tell me more about early internet fandom? Were there particular sites or forums you visited? It’s difficult for me to remember all of the sites I visited back in the day. Many of them don’t exist anymore. I remember visiting a lot of Expage.com and Geocities websites. Some of them had scanlations of all of the Sailor Moon manga and artbooks, some of them had GIFs of sprites from the Sailor Moon video games, and some of them had fan art. But they were hard to find. Webrings helped, but it still wasn’t that easy, so if Tumblr had existed back then, I would have been addicted! I also spent a lot of time on LiveJournal, but what I sampled there was more like personal blogs than fan blogs. I didn’t participate in too many forums, no anime forums at all, although I did spend a lot of time on the Cittàgazze website and forum, a community for His Dark Materials fans, as well as The Lord of the Rings Fanatics Plaza.

What was the first fandom you got really invested in? How did you express your fandom? Definitely Sailor Moon! The Sailor Moon fandom feels ancient at this point. It’s 20 years old! And although I never really talked to other Sailor Moon fans until I became an adult, I’ve always felt like I was a part of the community. When I first started watching the show, I couldn’t really express my fandom; I didn’t have any money, and it was difficult to find Sailor Moon merchandise. But now I can, and I have done so by purchasing the entire series, as well as many of the manga volumes. I’ve also written about my love of Sailor Moon for Women Write About Comics a number of times, as well as my love of other anime at Girls in Capes.

Do you remember your first anime con? If so, what was it like? My first anime con was Tekkoshocon in 2007. Tekko is a small con hosted in Pittsburgh. When I went, there were about 2,500 attendees, a small number compared to cons I’ve attended since, but it was the perfect size for a newbie back then like me. I had been reluctant to go initially, but I had a lot of fun in the end. The con allowed me to experience everything an anime con has to offer, and I got to talk to a lot of like-minded people. I remember the video rooms were my favorite part. I got to sample anime I had never heard of before, from classics like El Hazard: The Magnificent World to newer shows like Elfen Lied. Now when I attend anime cons, I tend to avoid the video rooms, because they only play shows I’ve already seen, but back then, it was a learning experience.

What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom then and anime fandom today? I think there are two things that make the anime fandom today different and even better than it was in the past. Firstly, access to anime is easier now than it ever was before. I always relied on television channels for my anime when I was young, which made watching a series in order very difficult. Lots of anime in the ’90s were highly Americanized and heavily edited for broadcast TV. American producers and distributors even cut some episodes completely, because they felt that their content was inappropriate for young American audiences. And although sometimes translations of subtitles are changed and censored today, the American anime industry is a lot more transparent than it used to be. The internet changed everything! Secondly, anime and other geeky pursuits have become more mainstream over the last decade or so, which has made the pursuit of anime more fun than ever. Being a geek is more socially accepted, and so going to cons and talking to other fans and expressing your fandom in how you dress, how you decorate your living spaces, and how you spend your time and money is so much more fun! The anime fandom feels like a big family of like-minded people, and although many of my internet friendships are sort of abstract and tenuous, they make me smile every day.

Rine can be reached on Twitter.

#49: Viga

Age: 30

Location: Minneapolis

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. When I was eight, Roujin Z was on HBO. I didn’t know what it was, but me and my cousins liked it. I’ve seen Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z before on syndication, but Pokemon was the first animation I knew came from Japan.

How did you find out? I think it was because near the end of one episode in the dub they were at a party in kimonos and put two and two together. Or maybe I heard it school? Either way, I was into it! I didn’t hear the term “anime” until early 2000 though.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? It looked different than all the cartoons I was watching. I would try to draw characters that looked like anime all the time. The floodgates of fangirling didn’t open until I’d seen Digimon and Toonami.

Sounds like Digimon was your first real fangirling obsession. What about Digimon resonated with you so deeply?  My first was actually Sailor Moon. I loved it and got my hands on whatever info and VHS I could. (Remember those Beckett anime guides? Lol!)

Digimon was the anime that made me push my fandom harder. I went to the library to look up Digimon stuff all the time and I found fansites. (My favorite was the now defunct and replaced Lelola. Finding fansites deepened my awareness of other anime. Also, I have a special love for Digimon since I would try to draw my own digimon and digivice like Takato in Tamers, and it was like it was just for me since i didn’t know anyone else that liked Digimon. Now I know a lot of people who do! Every year at Otakon a bunch of fans have a get together and for the past few years me and my friend Simon would do a Digimon fan panel. Hopefully, we will again!

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? Even in the hood, DBZ was the big thing. I liked Sailor Moon more though. I’ve seen so many anime be the TOP THING, but Sailor Moon and DBZ are still staples.

Interested by your words, “even in the hood.” Was income or demographic related to your early anime fandom experience in any way, either as a divide or a unifying thing? DBZ was popular among young black males growing up. There was always someone who grew up with it on local TV and people who watched the Toonami broadcast. I went to school in DC and there was guys tracing the artwork or sharing the computer to read about the episodes that didn’t come out here yet. Income wasn’t related to my early fandom as it was ALMOST NON EXISTENT! HEHE. So using the school computers to find out more or just watching anime on Toonami and other channels was the only way. It wasn’t a unifying thing until I switched schools where there was a HUGE student anime fan community. Unless it was DBZ, it seemed to get judged, so I carefully hid my preference for Sailor Moon.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? In the early 2000’s I thought we were blessed to have anime mixed with afternoon and Saturday morning cartoons and cable to handle the rest. Money was the thing I needed to get more and I had no money. So, me and friends at school would borrow each others’ tapes and I’d watch them a bunch so I could remember it well. If I wanted anime music, I’d put my cassette recorder next to the TV speaker or record from a friends CD. Of course going to Blockbuster was necessary and I bought the cheap VHS tapes since DVD was getting big. Also, spending lunch at school looking at Animerica and joining my school club at Katsucon 2002. I didn’t have a computer yet, so any online aspect I missed out on except the occasional look at Anime Turnpike in the school library.

Can you tell me about Katsucon 2002? What was it like going with the school club, also? What did Katsucon have back then? Katsucon 2002 was also known as Katsucon 8: The Classics. We’ve been planning in my club for a few weeks and I saved my meager allowance and skipped buying lunch to go. It was an art club, but was also the stealth anime, manga, and gaming club. To save extra money I even walked two miles to school to meet up with everyone.

While I went with a group, I mostly walked around without a clue what to do. I was gawking at every costume (and learned it was called cosplay.) and staring at the art in the art show. I remember a lot of Tenchi, Outlaw Star, and DBZ cosplay. Also, cosplay for this little known manga at the time called Bleach. I remember wanting that Ryo-Ohki backpack badly and not having enough. I remember reading all the covers of the VHS tapes and DVDs to try to take note of shows I wanted to watch. The best thing was watching Wings of Honneamise and being amazed! Then I sat in line for something called a “masquerade.” I didn’t know what it was at time, but it was popular and my school’s drama club was taking part in it. Sadly, our chaperone had enough of this nerdy madness and I had to leave.

There’s a lot of things I would have taken advantage of if I was more informed about anime and the fandom. Like meeting Noburo Ishiguro, going to Steve Bennet’s cel painting workshop, or going to the fanzine panel. I am typing this while looking at the booklet. Yes, I have the booklet. I keep every badge and booklet of every con I go to in a collection.

When did you begin participating in online fandom, and what was it like then? I didn’t really participate at first. I mostly just read fansites. Then around 2005 I joined the ANN forums. I was there everyday and even became good friends with a bunch of people there long ago. I was once known for asking a lot of questions all the time. After a lot of fansites just died on me, ANN became my main place for info and fandom.

I didn’t create online until 2007 when I did The Otagal Podcast. I was inspired by Geeknights and Anime World Order and wanted to try it. It was my first try at reviewing anime. It’s very cringe to listen to now, but I had listeners. I did it for 3 years, but then I podfaded.

Then my fandom went into a live direction with doing panels for years until returning to anime online with my show The Idols of Anime.

You met your partner through fandom, right? What was that like? I met my fiance through a very different fandom, hehe. We DID get together at an anime con. It was wonderful, but I’m the anime one while he’s the comic one.

Today you participate a lot in fandom, from paneling at conventions to running a YouTube channel. How did you make that leap into creating? The thing that made me get into creating was wanting to be something more than just a fan. I started out as an attendee and wanted more so I became a volunteer. Then I wanted more so I became a panelist. Then more so I became a podcaster, a youtuber, a staffer, and soon to be a guest at a con! When I saw others do things with their fandom like make podcasts or videos or fanart I wanted to join them. Their excitement became my excitement.

I have tons of friends that are doing amazing things in fandom. (Like you, hehe!) It makes me want to work harder and have fun harder too!

What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom when you first discovered it and anime fandom today? The biggest contrast is sheer size! Katsucon 2002 was about 3000 people. Now it’s close to 18,000? There’s more cons now than ever and they have some big numbers. Also a change is what’s being cosplayed more. I remember seeing strictly anime cosplay, but as I write this, I’m at a con and see the top spots go to Overwatch and Steven Universe. There’s still tons of anime cosplay, but now people cosplay whatever they want without worry and that’s awesome.

In 2002, people still came to buy and watch anime, but now we can go to Crunchyroll and the like anytime. Info about series wasn’t a widely available back then. Manga hasn’t taken over the bookstores yet and Suncoast was still around at the mall.

What’s always changing is the big thing everyone is obsessing over. Remember the Haruhi dance done at cons ten years ago? Was just talking about how that didn’t seem long ago, but was. SAO will become a memory.

Really, fandom culture will always be fandom culture, but with different tools, new anime and new settings. The attitude and love will always be there.

Viga can be reached on Twitter and YouTube

#48: Kris Lund

Age: 31

Location: Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. Probably around 1993? Here in Canada, we had the original Dragon Ball and Sailor Moon on the only national kids network at the time (YTV). I remember really getting into Dragon Ball and consequently after that Dragon Ball Z which I had to watch through a cable converter that my parents had at the time. From there I eventually was using paper route money to buy VHS of other series, along with the Pokémon explosion.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? Really it was the artwork I think, and the concepts. You’d never see a show as original as Dragon Ball was at the time on kids’ television in North America. A blend of humour and action all thrown together with interesting characters… that was something else all together.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? Definitely Sailor Moon in Canada. It was a huge thing for both boys and girls which was great. I liked it a fair bit, but we always got weird syndication issues here meaning it was a lot of re-runs and not new content. Eventually it became a lost interest as Pokémon came along, and Dragon Ball Z.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? If it wasn’t Pokémon… you were pretty isolated. I had one friend who was into anime other then me and introduced me to a ton of the great classics. Slayers, Slayers Next and Neon Genesis Evangelion are only a few of the things we managed to watch together (though in retrospect if his grandparents, who he lived with at the time, had known what on earth NGE was… well we’d never have seen that).

Tell me more about the friend who was more into anime than you. Did you bond because of anime? How did they get into anime? We definitely bonded because of anime. He was actually a home schooled individual for most of his life, so I didn’t ever really get a chance to hang out with him at school. As a result of this though, I’d walk over to his place after school and watch anime with him. We really didn’t have much in common aside from RPGs and anime honestly, so you could almost say it was the basis of our friendship. He got into anime himself because of other friends he had on the mainland. Not to bore you with a geographic limitation thing, but I was born on Prince Edward Island which at the time didn’t have any attachment to the mainland of Canada. The result of that was a really slow pickup of mainland things, this included anime VHS at the time, so we were limited to what was shown on TV really.

Did his grandparents ever find out about NGE or other shows you guys watched and have opinions? What did your family think about anime? Oh his grandparents knew that we watched things (usually they were the ones buying the VHS), but had absolutely no idea what we were watching in terms of the content. In retrospect NGE was definitely a bit much for a pre-teen/13-year-old as I had mentioned previously. But all they saw were the VHS box art, and it looked benign enough. My own family just sort of assumed they were cartoons in the traditional sense which I had always been really into since TMNT and Transformers back in the 80’s.

Did you stay a fan the whole time up until today? What kept your interest? 
Yep! Proud to say I’ve been a big fan for 20 years at this point, though my interests have expanded just beyond anime itself naturally. I think what keeps my interest going right now is the stories and world building. There is something special about the worlds that anime and manga creators work on that wouldn’t feel right or as in place if it was done live-action style. Other then that, the animation and art style itself keeps me coming back too with a recent example being a series like ACCA (love those colours).

What was the first fandom you got really invested in? Easily DBZ because it was a bit more pronounced in my area. I got into addons to the anime itself pretty heavily and purchased TGC cards, VHS tapes and some models that were extremely marked up at local stores.

What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom then and anime fandom today? Being around as long as I have I think what’s going on with anime fandom today isn’t so different from most other fandoms. Really intensity and access are at an all time high, and as a result you have people being pretty zealous about their fandoms. It’s something I don’t really agree with personally but I’m also getting older, so I’m not sure if it’s just my perception or if it’s reality.

What I mean when I say zealous about fandom there is a bigger or more vocal amount of arguing about Anime A being better then Anime B. There doesn’t really seem to be a limit on where a line is drawn when these comparisons are being made either. It’s almost as if the fandom fears that their preferred type of anime won’t get produced because there is a new type that has been seeing a rise in popularity in this cycle or something of the sort. I’ll never really understood that approach because we’re in a great spot right now with the amount of anime being produced. It keeps growing significantly and while there are always some clunkers in the bunch, the good stuff that has been made is really great!

Kris can be reached on Twitter

#47: George J. Horvath

Age: 30

Location: New Brunswick, New Jersey

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. If I really think about it, the first anime I ever saw were the likes of Voltron, but I obviously didn’t know that it was originally anime back in the late ’80s. I also had a Captain Power VHS tape as a kid that was animated, but didn’t realize it was “anime” until much later.

The first time I really understood what I was watching was “anime” was when FoxKids was airing Digimon and Escaflowne, and then when Toonami was airing Rurouni Kenshin and G Gundam. In 2004 I truly went in full bore as a fan with Fullmetal Alchemist.

At first you watched anime not knowing it was anime. How did you learn it was anime, and how did that change your perception of it? While I’m sure I heard the term “anime” here & there during the 90s, I didn’t really identify what anime was until around the time I was watching Toonami. I do remember watching Pokémon as a child & not identifying it as “anime”, and I think during that short time Fox aired its edited version of Escaflowne it did advertise it specifically as “anime”, so I guess I would say that was the exact moment I learned stuff like that was anime.

As for perception, it did add a bit of an extra allure to it, especially when Fox Kids (later FoxBox and 4Kids TV) started focusing more on airing anime than domestic animation. It was honestly a really cool time to get into anime, as I had a bunch of really cool series to watch, like more Digimon, Dinozaurs, Flint the Time Detective, Monster Rancher, Ultimate Muscle, Shaman King, and even a little tokusatsu in the form of dubbed Ultraman Tiga. Alongside Toonami, anime was being given this special feeling, as though it was something that most domestic animated series just didn’t focus on being. It was to the point where, I’ll admit, I was one of those “Anime isn’t a cartoon” kind of fan, but eventually I grew up and realized that separation like that is pointless.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? It was so different from what was being made here in North America. Even as a kid, when I saw Digimon, I could tell that it was doing things in a way that I had not seen before with animated television. As I became more and more of a fan, I also discovered my favorite appeal: Anime can truly be about anything.

Could you elaborate? Remember the old ad slogan of “There’s an app for that”? That same concept applies to anime, which is something you really can’t say about animation anywhere else in the world. Ever since I started really getting into anime and manga, I’ve seen, read, or even simply heard of stories about firefighting, wine tasting, basketball, baseball, boxing, American football, soccer, golfing, bread baking, Chinese cuisine, mahjong, go, card games, yo-yos, pachislot, kyotei racing, car racing, cleaning up space garbage, vikings, all manner of world history (not just Japanese), atomic bomb survivors, adapting classic literature (including even the Bible), teaching, poetry, even fictional butt and breast combat, among many others. Plus, this is all alongside the stereotypical stories of ninjas, samurai, swords and sorcery, giant robots, space wars, romances, comedies, and the like. I don’t even have to be initially interested in any of these subjects in order to enjoy them, because they are just well told stories with great characters and heart-felt emotion; I’m not into sports normally, for example, but I have no qualms with watching a sports anime. If you can think of a subject, you can probably be told “There’s an anime/manga for that”, and I don’t think you can honestly say that about any other country’s animation industry. More than anything, what I love the most about anime is that the Japanese are willing to tell a story using anything they can think of, which in turn creates a catalog so diverse that I may never stop being amazed at what comes from it.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? Without a doubt, Fullmetal Alchemist. Even someone who doesn’t really follow the general crowd just had to watch FMA, & it was the anime that truly got me to become a fan of the medium in general.

Why did Fullmetal Alchemist resonate with you like no other show before? Admittedly, the main reason I even gave FMA a try in the first place was because I had first heard of it through the video game tie-ins, which lead to me finding out about FUNimation licensing it… Yes, I watched fansubs because it got licensed; everyone had their moments of idiocy back when they were younger. Regardless, once I started watching I was hooked, and it was simply because, even compared to the other anime I has seen prior to it (either on TV or the boxset or two I had bought before then), it was very different. Ed and Al Elric’s journey to regain their missing bits of humanity just felt so tonally different from the Digimons, Arc the Lads, and G Gundams I had seen before. The story was outstanding, the characters instantly memorable, the action thrilling, and overall it just truly, finally, made me want to be a fan of anime in a more definitive & focused way, rather than the fan-on-the-side that I was before FMA.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? At the time, digital fansubs were the big thing, so it was a little wild and crazy at times. Multiple groups were doing the same shows, with varying levels of accuracy, style, and polish, and that resulted in most people preferring some groups over others. The end result was either prioritizing speed (for those who wanted it yesterday) or coming out a little later, but with a more polished & natural translation.

Was the Internet a part of fandom at the time? If yes, how? If no, how did you connect with other fans? I quickly joined the AnimeOnDVD.com forums, now known as The Fandom Post forums, and it was a wild time. There was such a strong focus on not just what titles were being brought over, but also on how well done the DVDs were on a highly technical level. Admittedly, I didn’t quite relate to them on the same exact level, but the passion was still there between all of us (both on a good level, as well as a not-so-good level).

How did you express your fandom early on? For a good number of years, I was simply content with watching anime and participating in forum talk over at AnimeonDVD.com. When Chris Beveridge sold the site to Mania.com, a blog section came with the updated forums, and over there I did start writing some pieces on all sorts of stuff, usually regarding anime or gaming; the Mania forums are now long gone, but that proto-blog wasn’t anything special. After I graduated from Rutgers in 2009, though, I started up a YouTube channel, where I reviewed various video games and smaller name anime. To be honest, I put next to no effort in any of those videos, especially from a production standpoint, though I somehow got props and positive feedback from them; I still can’t explain that. After a year of that, I finally decided to start up a proper blog, one where I could actually use my college-educated writing skills and deliver much more detailed and free form reviews for anime that have been forgotten or simply never talked about before. That wound up becoming The Land of Obscusion, and I’ve been doing that for over six years now.

And, really, the blog is simply a more focused and expressive form of my fandom, as I’ve always aimed more on watching what others are NOT talking about. It’s been like that since I truly got into anime (I didn’t move on to Evangelion or Cowboy Bebop after FMA, but rather I watched Ragnarok the Animation, Tokyo Underground, & Tales of Eternia the Animation), & it’s how I operate to this very day.

Do you remember your first convention? What was it, and what was it like?
My first convention was Otakon 2006, and all me and my friends did during the entire thing was buy tons of manga (and some anime) from the dealer’s room. Looking back on it now, I wonder how exactly we seemingly spent a three-day weekend simply buying manga, and we all bought a metric ton of it. Some of it was great & some of it was crap, but we were hungry for manga & just wanted more to read. Still, I did wish that we actually checked out more of the con, which we started doing from the next year on.

Your first Otakon you spent buying stuff. What about the next year? While I loved having such a large amount of manga to read while on the bus I used to get around Rutgers at the time, I quickly understood that there was an entire convention that I missed out on. From the second year on, I made more of an effort to experience more of what Otakon had to offer. In 2007 I attended some panels and checked out some of the video rooms, alongside perusing the dealer’s room. In 2008 my friends and I went to the JAM Project concert and had the time of our lives, while also doing more of what we did the year prior. Today, I am much more of a panel attendee, and have even moved on to running my own panels. My Otakon experiences have more or less mirrored my evolution as an anime fan, starting as a simple devourer of content before becoming one who wishes to learn more, and now being someone who wishes to show others.

What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom then and anime fandom today?  Easily the biggest contrast is the overall changing of the guard and a general relaxation of what makes one a “real fan.” While I didn’t have to deal with “gatekeepers,” like those who started in the old days did, there was still a bit of a hierarchy in the forum culture when I started. There were some people, who will remain nameless, who seemed to take delight in demeaning those who didn’t follow their “superior” tastes and preferences over at the old AnimeonDVD.com forums (and this also followed through to Mania to an extent), and it was primarily because they were giant fans of what was selling (and getting licensed) the most at the time; they truly felt that they were better (i.e. more of a “real fan”) than others for such petty reasons.

Today, however, the concept of a “real fan” is generally looked at with disdain, and that makes me happy. Nowadays, we get ~95% of everything anime that gets made, which in turn allows a person to be a fan to whatever extent or form he or she wants. You can be a guy who follows the newest stuff religiously, you can be a gal who waits until something finishes before checking it out, you can be someone who enjoys what others may not, you can stick with only watching a show or two at a time, you can watch something for the hope of seeing beautifully fluid animation, or you can be a weirdo like me who purposefully watches the stuff barely anyone else does, and the best part of all is that all of them are now considered “anime fans” equally. People can be as “real” as they want to be today, and I only wish it was like that back in the mid-00s.

George can be reached on Twitter and at his blog