#46: Jeffrey Wu

Age: 31

Location: California

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. In a mix of unsorted memories, I have big Tom Toonami, bootlegs of Inuyasha, setting timers for Adult Swim to catch .hack//sign and Cowboy Bebop, and waking up early to try to watch Pokemon but getting dragged to school. DVDs of Tenchi in Tokyo and random bits of El Hazard from the Chinese video rental place as well.

You gave me a big mix of unsorted memories! Could you give this to me in a timeline, maybe?  These memories take place during my middle school years,—1996 to 2000—when my family had cable TV for the first time. From there I would discover Toonami and Adult Swim.

I think in that era started with Sailor Moon, and looking it up I remember bits of Robotech and Dragon Ball Z. During this time there was a video rental place in a Hong Kong market my mom would take us to rent movies. They had Sailor Moon LD if I remember correctly, and a limited list of anime titles. Since I did not have anyone to reference these titles off of, I pretty much picked up what was on the shelf. There were no complete runs so I didn’t really watch any show to completion. The place has long since closed down with the downturn of all home rental businesses, so I can’t really pull up everything I have ever seen from there. Tenchi Muyo and El Hazard ended up sticking in my mind the most, though I think I only saw three episodes of El Hazard off of their one DVD. I think the Escaflowne movie was there as well.

When Pokemon first came out I heard how popular it was from school, which got me to try to watch it. I think I had to look up its air time in the TV guide book that got delivered. I remember the show’s first run was on channel 13, weekdays at 6:30 am. But my parents weren’t very hot on me wasting time in the morning before school watching TV. I only caught a few episodes before I had to stop. Both my parents worked so I had more time during the afternoon runs of shows.

I think around 1999 I finally learned how to set our VCR to tape shows, and I used this to record normal Saturday morning cartoons because I took Chinese classes that started during these show times and I really liked cartoons back in the day. This carried over to recording the Adult Swim stuff at night as well. This is where I remember Cowboy Bebop, FLCL, and .hack//Sign came up.

My younger sister at some point, probably around ’98 or later, brought home Inuyasha DVDs from a friend of hers. Actually I think this was during Toonami’s run of Inuyasha, because I remember watching dubs of the first season, and then subs for a bit from these DVD’s. They were bad subs, that I remember.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it?
I think first was the more serious tones compared to the Nicktoons were showing at the time. Action and animation were big parts of it. I also found myself a “slice of life” genre fan and really only anime had these stories. I think shows with a slow pace to them was a stark contrast to the mile-a-minute activity American cartoons had, which kind of stuck with me.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? Doraemon. I think that series is Simpsons-old.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? The high school anime scene was disjointed. Someone tried to get something going for the lunch hour, but it was way too short for anything to happen. I got more into IRC groups, 4chan, and the Adult Swim anime forums at that time. Never really connected well due to that online nature. Only really got somewhere in college with a proper anime club.

What was college anime club like? I went to UCI for my college, right out of high school, and the club there was Cal Animage Epsilon. There I met a few people who had a good history of anime going back to the tape sharing days. They showed pretty much all pirated stuff, except for a quarter or two of working with Funimation’s Anime Club program, which I remember watching Kiddy Grade and answering their questionnaire. For the first three years the club president was really driven to show things we could not normally see, and then also show things that were just freaky. Sexy Commando was one thing he brought on us. Anything with 12 episodes worked great so we could finish the series within the quarter. One interesting thing he got us to watch was Densha Otoko, which got me to look into Jdrama for a while. I’m looking through the club page of shows and they really covered quite a gamut.

At this time I really got the hang of pirating anime and manga. I made use of IRC while on the college campus, and branched to bittorrent when I moved off campus. My second run of roommates were folks I met at the club, and since they didn’t have TV, more entertainment came from the internet.

Do you remember your first convention? What was it, and what was it like?
Anime Expo while it was still in Anaheim. I volunteered for a free badge for a Saturday and a Sunday I believe. Missed the nice panels cause I was working and was too young to have money to shop, and no real way to record the experience.

Did you go back to Anime Expo or did your volunteer experience sour you on it? Up until their second time at the Los Angeles Convention Center, I would more or less make it to the Expo for a day of volunteering. I believe their first year at LACC I went with a full time position, and shacked up with others for the entire convention. I think for the early years, while it was at Anaheim, being able to catch bits of the Cosplay Masquerade was interesting enough. About that time the video rooms were showing things I could find online, but missing panels was neither here nor there, since I was mostly drawn to one by their subject matter. I never really planned for a panel; only seeing them on the schedule when I got there. I stopped volunteering when they made the change to not providing badges for people who volunteered, and I got my own job. I still went for each year since then, think I missed one and I’m not going to this year’s either. They’ve been getting even more crowded and your ability to attend things on a whim is really hurting.

What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom then and anime fandom today? I feel like I got into the fandom just as this most recent iteration was taking place. 4chan was the bulk of what propagated anime talk, and everything seemed to derive from that. I definitely felt separate from the legal community as that wasn’t what I was doing for my viewings, since the other two other places I knew talking about anime, ANN and Adult Swim, had restrictions on talking about unreleased stuff. I myself have pivoted for being more legit, and putting off some of the dumber arguments around piracy, but I still feel there’s an argument in putting a priority on how much you’re spending to live. As for contrast, it feels small going from the short period of bittorrent to this run of streaming when right before that was the intricate network of tape trading existed. 2008 seemed to have really changed things though, pushing the kind of experience pirates had up to then to a legit platform. Its definitely a big contrast from getting three-episode DVDs months apart.

Jeffrey can be reached on Twitter

#43: Megan R

Age: 33

Location: Iowa

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. Weirdly enough, anime can be found scattered throughout my childhood. I can remember singing along to the theme song for Maya the Honey Bee on Nick Jr. I can remember getting completely absorbed by Sailor Moon during junior high. I watched Pokemon not because of the games (which I somehow was completely unaware of), but because I thought Pikachu was cute and Team Rocket was funny. Despite that, I wasn’t aware that these shows were part of some larger thing—I just though they were just another sort of cartoon.

I wasn’t really aware of anime as this separate, larger thing until 2010, when I was well into my 20s. For that, I have Jacob Chapman to thank, back when he was making video reviews as Jesuotaku. I started watching his reviews simply out of curiosity but his analysis made me curious about a number of the shows he reviewed. Eventually, my curiosity was too great, and I can clearly remember going to Best Buy and mentally debating for something like five minutes over whether to pick up Romeo x Juliet or Ouran High School Host Club. I went with the latter, loved it to pieces, and never looked back.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? I’ve always loved animation in all forms, but anime simply told different stories and looked different from the Western animation I was used to. It was more ambitious in some ways and way more friendly to both older viewers and to women.

How did you find anime to be friendly to older viewers and women? I don’t know if anime itself was necessarily all that friendly to older folk and women at the time. Manga fandom was a different story. Both then and now, it’s always skewed toward an older and more feminine audience so I fit in right away. I was able to find plenty of interesting articles and critics to follow and learn from, especially since it was so easy to discover new voices thanks to the popularity of Manga Moveable Feasts. They were these regular events where a particular blog would host all sorts of articles around a particular series or mangaka and they were a veritable cornucopia of interesting insights and reviews. Sadly, the manga blog scene has died down since then, but I look back at that time fondly and it’s part of the reason I started writing my own reviews in the first place.

As for anime, the fandom at the time was largely centered around forums.  I didn’t really enjoy larger ones like the ANN forums because the conversation was so repetitive, shallow, and sometimes juvenile.  I didn’t really find a sense of community until I found a smaller fan forum where some of the posters would host regular stream nights.  These became the equivalent of must-see TV for me as I would chat with the regulars while we watched half a dozen episodes of some scheduled series along with shorts, AMVs, random Youtube videos, even clips of joshipuri wrestling [female pro wrestling in Japan].  It wasn’t exactly legal, but anime streaming was only just becoming a thing in those days and this format felt more personal and personable than simply marathoning shows on Hulu by myself.  We came from all over the country, if not the world, and ranged in age widely, but that didn’t matter in the chat so long as you have interesting conversation or a few jokes to make.  Some of those regulars are still online friends of mine and I talk with them on Twitter on the regular.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? 2010 was not a great time for anime, considering that so many shows were going out of print and streaming was in its infancy. I think the biggest show at the time was Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, as far as visibility and sales.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? It’s weird that I got into this fandom at a time when it was most decidedly on the decline. That awkwardness could be felt on the anime forums where I hung out. There was more than a bit of pining for the glory days of the boom years, frustration with the lack of quality titles (and thus, the proliferation of piracy), but still some hope and plenty of discussion.

Could you go into detail about the decline you perceived? 2010 was a bad time for both the anime and manga industry. Those few companies that survived the recession in one piece were simply trying to stabilize things and that wouldn’t start truly turning around until Bandai shut down not too long after. The manga scene was in even poorer shape and that wouldn’t come to a head until the next year when Borders shut down and Tokyopop followed them shortly thereafter.

I was largely oblivious to this at the time because I was still trying to learn as much as I could about this strange new world of fandom. There were so many shows for me to catch up on, so many books to read, and so much history I wanted to learn and understand. I didn’t have the same frame of reference that others did. I didn’t really grasp that things were not in great shape until the 1-2 punch of Borders and Tokyopop. I had only just started collecting manga at the time, but I remember being awed by their selection. I couldn’t have known at the time that those long aisles full of books were just about to go away. The Tokyopop shutdown was the first real big fandom event that sticks out in my mind, even if the biggest impact for me personally was that it might affect my ability to finish getting the full run of Fruits Basket. It’s only in retrospect that I can look back at that time and realize just how diminished it was compared to even two or three years later.

So it’s not still on the decline, in your opinion? Oh no, not at all. If anything, it’s the healthiest it’s been in years. Streaming and simulcasting breathed new life into it and made anime more accessible than it ever was before. As for manga, it took the publishers a little longer to gather themselves up and start rethinking their approaches, but they found the big crossover hits and license rescues they needed to succeed. If anything, the manga world is entering into some interesting and unprecedented ground. We’re seeing publishers takes risks again and dabble in genres they wouldn’t have even during the boom years of the 2000s. It’s a brave new world out there in manga, and I for one am eager to see just where it goes.

As a fan who got into anime later, did you ever feel unwelcome or like you needed to study in order to grasp people’s comments and jokes? I may have been late to anime and manga, but I had been online for many years and had floated around the edges of some of the major fandoms of the 2000s. I’ve also always been the sort of person who tends to read voraciously and likes to learn as much about any new interest as much and as fast as possible. As such, it didn’t take me too long to adapt to anime and manga fandom.

How did becoming an anime and manga blogger change your participation in fandom? I learned how to better express myself and to really articulate what made the works I consumed good, bad, or something in between. Ever since I was a kid, I was the sort of person to savor the media I loved by myself instead of sharing it with others. I knew in my own mind what I liked or didn’t like, but that approach meant I was never really called upon to explain or defend those preferences to others. By writing reviews, I learned to exercise those underused portions of my mind and to hone my writing skills to best express them. Of course, critique is like potato chips: once you start, you can’t stop. I couldn’t apply these critical skill to the manga I read and not do the same for the shows I watched. I might not always enjoy every show I watch or book I read, but I feel like I get more out of it regardless because I can explain what does or does not work instead of settling for “this was good/bad/ok/whatever”.

What’s the biggest contrast between anime and manga fandom then and anime and manga fandom today? The biggest difference between anime and manga fandom then and now is how instantaneous and free-form things are now. When I started, those fandoms were largely contained within forums and blogs. It was possible to forge communities within those spaces, but it was more limited and distant. Now it’s so much easier to connect thanks to social media and simulcasting. Just through Twitter, I’ve met people and learned things that I would have never known or encountered otherwise. The fandom also feels more lively since shows can be watched as they premiere in real time and you can watch the conversation grow and evolve with it live.

Unlike a lot of my peers, I didn’t know any anime or manga fans growing up because I grew up in such a small, rural community. I didn’t get to enjoy things like anime clubs in high school or college. I didn’t attend a con until I was 30. I wasn’t even aware of things like DVD releases of shows I knew as a kid (which is good, because college-aged me would have spent too much money on those old Sailor Moon boxsets had I known they existed). The online part of anime and manga fandom is essentially all I’ve ever known of it. It’s added so many people to my life that I might not have ever known otherwise, to say nothing of the boxsets and books it’s added to my shelves. It’s given me outlets I would have never considered. It’s added so much color to my life that it’s hard to imagine what what my everyday life would be like without it. I may have been a late comer to the fandom, but I’ve never regretted a single minute of it.

Megan can be reached on Twitter and her website

#42: Lynette Cantos

Age: 27

Location: Fort Lauderdale, Florida

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. I can’t recall the year but I know I was eight years old when I watched both of the most popular and recognizable anime series: Sailor Moon and Pokemon. Growing up in Puerto Rico, they were shown at different times based on our cable provider, so WB used to air new Pokemon episodes early in the morning while after school, Cartoon Network showed Sailor Moon during the Toonami block—the first one with Moltar.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? The storytelling aspect of anime in comparison to Western cartoons is what drew me in. Granted, I still loved and grew up with the classic Nickelodeon originals and the Disney Afternoon block, but the sense of character development, emotions, cliffhangers in anime is something else. I’ve cried more and attached myself more to anime characters so that’s saying something in regards to the powerful storytelling on some anime shows.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? Living in Puerto Rico back then, it was a case of being in a small fandom within a small island. It was rare for me to meet other fans that weren’t in the same middle school or municipality as I was because I didn’t have a car, cellphone, etc. in the early 2000s. Then, the last years I was in the island before moving to the U.S. (2004-2007), I started to get more involved in attending local gatherings and cosplay photo meet-ups.

Was the Internet a part of fandom at the time? If yes, how? If no, how did you connect with other fans? Most of my fandom connection was online through early Geocities fansites and anime forums specifically targeted at both Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura fansites. I even taught myself some basic HTML so I could curate my own Geocities fansites based on my favorite Sailor Moon character (Sailor Venus) and favorite Cardcaptor Sakura shipping (Sakura and Yukito—which nowadays I find it completely problematic).

A group photo from Lynette’s first convention in San Juan.

Do you remember your first convention? What was it, and what was it like?
It was 4th of July, 2004 at the YMCA center in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Back then, our “conventions” were more of a subculture flea market in that local vendors had tables set up at the basketball gym arena and several of them just happen to sell anime merchandise. I remember seeing a post online about how they planned to cosplay at said event so I, my brother, and my former best friend at the time spent two weeks prepping up our first cosplays. The “conventions” were held up on a quarterly basis on Sundays at the YMCA, and over time the attendance grew so much that it wasn’t until I moved away that they rebranded into “Puerto Rico Comic Con” and expanded to the national convention center in the tourist area of San Juan.

Lynette cosplaying as Misato.

I want to hear about your first cosplay! Oh my God, it was a really awful Sailor Venus cosplay LOL. I say this because there’s only so much a 14 year old with limited allowance money and no prior sewing skills could do in 2004. My wig was an itchy and bright Party City-esque blonde wig that I actually bought at a theatre costume shop at my nearby mall and the rest of my set-up (skirt, bow, tank top, shoes) were bought from the street markets in my hometown.

I may bash on it now but at the time, I was so proud of creating something from scratch and I had people take photos of us (myself and my former friend who cosplayed as Kagome from InuYasha), so I got instantly hooked. At that point, I saved up as much of my allowance to evenly budget what kind of cosplays to work on. For my quinceañera, I bought a sewing machine and had my grandma teach me on top of signing up for sewing classes out in San Juan. Besides Sailor Venus, I cosplayed Mimi from Digimon, Aerith from Final Fantasy 7, and Misato from Neon Genesis Evangelion while attending the local cons back home in Puerto Rico.

Lynette cosplaying as Mimi.

How did your fandom experience change after you moved to the US? The biggest culture shock for me was the diversity of anime fans. Obviously, growing up and living in Puerto Rico, most of the friends I had and made during my time there strongly identify as Boricua/Latinx so moving to the US and meeting people who are from different races and ethnicities—especially here in South Florida, where the population is just as diverse—was awesome. However, I had to tone down my Spanish/Spanglish talk and references sometimes so I struggled with that for the first half of my freshman year.

Also, during the first years of living here (2007-2009), I stopped watching anime altogether because of the group of friends I hung out with were mainly into video games or comic books so that was always the main focus within the group dynamic. It wasn’t until 2010 when I moved away from Florida to Virginia that I got back into anime. At that time, my mom created a Netflix account and the first anime I saw was Nana and it was the best worst decision ever. I say this because I was preparing to move away when I started to watch it and my husband and I (back then, boyfriend/girlfriend) were in a long-distance relationship, and Nana is a deeply emotional shoujo anime so I was in tears for weeks.

I thought it was neat how your first site was about a ship you don’t like anymore. How have you changed as a fan over the years? Pardon my French, but I was a weeaboo little shit when I was younger compared to nowadays hahaha. Back then, I used to watch and read whatever I could get my hands on just because it was “anime” and I was a snob when it came to people liking popular anime. Nowadays, I have a secure identity of what I like and don’t like with different anime genres and it’s okay to own it and admit you don’t like certain things and there’s nothing wrong with that or yourself. When I see an anime gaining popularity or traction via social media or cosplay groups at conventions, I’m the total opposite now in that I seek it out immediately because there’s a reason why it’s so popular.

Also since becoming more of an intersectional feminist, I’ve gained a more critical perspective than when I was younger regarding anime I watch. A big example is watching Hana Yori Dango/Boys over Flowers when I was a teenager, and how romantic I thought the relationship between Makino and Domyouji was. Nowadays, I see the problematic and sexist tropes behind it all and some of the scenes like the bullying ones make me uncomfortable to rewatch now. Do I still watch it once a year when I’m feeling sappy? Yes, but now I know better than to long for something like that anymore.

Lynette can be reached on Twitter and Instagram

#39: Emma Bowers

Age: 33

Location: Los Angeles, California

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. My father got me into it. He was a huge science fiction buff, and he started renting VHS episodes of anime at the Hollywood Video. Iria, Ghost in the Shell, Neon Genesis Evangelion, etc. I was about 15, and started to branch out into other genres of anime. Slayers, Ranma 1/2, Fushigi Yugi, Black Jack. Eventually, once I ran out of options at the video store to rent, I started purchasing videos. I remember discovering Cowboy Bebop this way. I had a part time job as a busser and all of my income went to buying these tapes (and eventually DVDs). I got a job at the Suncoast when I was 16, and I was on cloud nine ’cause I got a 35% discount (which was great when you were spending $30 on 3 episodes of subtitled anime), but I also took it upon myself to promote and recommend anime to people. At the time, the only anime on TV and easily accessible was Dragon Ball Z and Sailor Moon.

How did your dad discover anime? I’m honestly not sure how my dad first got into anime. He was very much into old science fiction, and as he was drawn to a lot of the anime sci-fi, I’m sure that’s what got him in to it. My Dad died about 10 years ago, so no idea if he’d still be into it now.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? It was so different in terms of its themes and story telling than the animation you saw in the west. With the exception of Ralph Bakski films, and Heavy Metal l, it was the first animation I’d seen that had adult themes. I also was amazed at the on-going story arcs so many of them had.

Back at Suncoast, did you ever see shoppers looking for anime specifically? I did run into a lot of other fans, and it was funny ’cause at the time I was going through my “elitist weeb” period. So here I was getting into all these new up and coming anime like Cowboy Bebop and Trigun, and everyone who came into the store just wanted the newest tape of Dragon Ball Z. The funny part was, I was moving to Los Angeles and my LAST week of working there, a guy came into the store and said, “Hey… last month, you recommended this movie… Princess Mononoke… and it was really good… thanks!”.  It makes me laugh at how snobbish I was about stuff like that. I’m a lot more “live and let live” now when I meet people who don’t have the same tastes or interests in anime I do.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? Hands down, Dragon Ball Z. It was on TV, and this was before streaming options. So it was the easiest to access. I once tracked down some fansubs cause I wanted to see all the stuff that Cartoon Network had edited out (these are those infamous subs where you had Goku dropping f-bombs). I was really into DBZ as well, but after I while I got into a snobby phase where I didn’t like it ’cause I felt people were too into it and over looking other titles.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? I’d say, harder. This was pre-LiveJournal, let alone Facebook, Twitter etc. so when you’re a 16-year-old living in Albuquerque, you experience a lot of isolation. When you did meet other anime fans IRL, you ran the risk of hanging out with people who were toxic and even predatory. I made some friends via the IRC chat, mailing lists, and just even emailing people who had fan pages I liked, but it really didn’t have the strong communities like it did now.

You had a mixed bag experience online at the time. Can you tell me about the first time you met other fans IRL? The first time I met fellow online fans was at Otakon 2001. One of my buddies met me at the airport in Baltimore and I just remember seeing him face to face and thinking ‘WOAH’. These days it’s really normal of me to meet internet pals at cons and in a very casual manner (“oh hey. we’re at so and so panel/we’re at this bar, come by!”), but to meet someone for the first time in The Meat Space was really surreal and wrapped my mind.

Emma, 17, cosplaying Milly at Otakon 2001.

Do you remember your first convention? What was it, and what was it like?
Yes. It was Otakon 2001. That’s pre 9/11! I cosplayed as Milly Thompson from Trigun, my very first cosplay! I got so much positive attention from it and it was so amazing to be surrounded by that many people who loved the same stuff I did. It was also before it was easy to shop online, or merch was available at malls, so I went back home with like, $300 worth of anime crap.

What kind of stuff did you buy? Do you still have it? Oh man… I bought a TON of Japanese untranslated manga (lol, I couldn’t even read Japanese at that level), lots of art books, ufo-catcher dolls, little pins (I bought one of Saito from Rurouni Kenshin. i remember this ’cause he was my favorite character in Kenshin and my friend at the time was REALLY shady about this. Always going “ew! why do you like him! he’s UGLY.”  Like I said, it was a different time), and a few CDs. This was important ’cause at the time, anime cons were the only place you could get CDs that were not bootlegged. Sadly, I’ve moved a few times/changed a lot of my interests and I’m an anti-hoarder, so all that’s left is a Cowboy Bebop art book.

What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom then and anime fandom today? I’d say the biggest (and best!) difference in fandom is the variety of people. My first cons/groups, it was all cis, white people. I had lots of friends who had very conservative or centrists views, friends who’s imitate response to gay characters or same-sex shipping was “ew” or some very narrow minded shit like that. Now I got a ton of friends who are different ethnicities, many of my friends identify as queer, or trans and I think that’s wonderful that they feel safe and comfortable enough to do so. I go to cons and see so many different people, which is a great sign, it means anime has become more accessible to different groups of people. I think a lot of that is owed to american broadcasts like Toonami and distributions like Crunchyroll and Funimation getting simultaneous releases that you can watch for free or cheap.

Emma can be reached on Twitter

#38: Tommy Phillips

Age: 32

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. Technically the first anime I saw was Speed Racer in the middle of the night on Cartoon Network. And like all kids, I watched Pokémon. But in 2001 I got into Cardcaptors, Sailor Moon, and Tenchi Universe. I was a big fan for a while, but then I turned 17 and was “too cool for anime.”

Fast-forward to 2007. I drove by an anime convention in Pittsburgh (Tekko) and proceeded to make fun of all the cosplayers. My mom called me out on my hypocrisy—I had cosplayed Darth Vader to the premiere of Episode III. So I took a closer look at this anime thing. Seeing how much fun all the cosplayers had at the con melted my heart, and my now-soft heart was ready for anime.

On the night of May 14, 2007, I watched InuYasha for the first time—the episode “Mistakes of the Past”—and I’ve been hooked ever since. I’ve been to approximately 35 cons in the last 10 years. I’m an otaku now, and I’m never looking back.

Your mom sounds like a classy lady. My mom was a first-grade teacher for about 20 years up until her forced retirement due to various health problems. She always looked out for the kids who were getting bullied. Her ability to help the children who were not as popular made her very popular with her parents as well as her students. So it only seemed natural when she pointed out my hypocrisy in making fun of cosplayers when I had in reality cosplayed just a couple years earlier. Thanks to her, I gave up my “eminence front” of being too cool for cosplay, and eventually fell in love with the art myself.

Why do you think your first reaction toward cosplayers was judgement? I was bullied from my very first day of first grade. There was definitely a pecking order in my class, and I was at the bottom. As the years went on, and I got older, and other kids left my school, I moved up in the hierarchy. Eventually I became the bully, making fun of others. That included the cosplayers I saw. It was wrong, but I never realized it until that day my mom called me out on it. I became the very thing that I had suffered from, but my mom set me straight and I’ve been a different person ever since. Becoming an otaku literally changed me from being a bully to being a friend to those who are bullied. The best lesson I learned from my experience is, don’t give into hate.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? It had to be the fact that female characters were strong, especially in stuff like Sailor Moon, Tenchi Universe, and InuYasha. Strong female characters seemed so new to me, growing up with only American male-oriented cartoons. It was characters like Sailor Mars, Ayeka and later Sango who won me over.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? Probably Bleach at the time of my renaissance in 2007. Fullmetal Alchemist was big too.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? It was a much more relaxed atmosphere than it is now. Instead of all the political crap that has popped up within convention communities, people were much more accepting of everyone.

How has anime fandom gotten more political over time? I think the defining moment for me was at Colossalcon this past year, when a skit involved beating up a Trump cosplayer with a baseball bat and the masquerade hosts chiding the audience if they weren’t for Bernie Sanders. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Trumpster, but there seems to be so many political causes these days in Facebook groups that receive hundreds of likes while actual discussion of con activity gets pushed to the bottom. I guess my best answer is that the transition from anonymous discussion on message board forums to putting your name out there on Facebook groups in the past five years has led to people feeling the obligation to push their political views in places where it really doesn’t belong.

Was the Internet a part of fandom at the time? If yes, how? If no, how did you connect with other fans? Yes, I found fellow fans on a website called “Christian Anime Alliance.” At the time, the forums were active and helpful. Also, I’d use YouTube to look up videos from Tekko to see what I missed at the con in which I made fun of people at first (then recanted).

Has your religion continued to figure strongly in your anime fandom? While the Christian Anime Alliance is practically dead, my Christian views still heavily affect the way I watch anime. Over the years, I’ve found many links between my faith and what I watch. It may not be intentional, or it may very well be so, but I’ve seen connections between various characters and Biblical figures. My favorite has to be the connection between Kuniko Hojo from Shangri-La and Moses. Not many people have seen Shangri-La, which is a shame, because it is an utter masterpiece. Kuniko runs away from her people, before having that “burning bush” moment that brought her back as their leader, and after many trials she ends up leading them into their “promised land.” It’s a beautiful parallel that helps me enjoy the series more, and definitely cements Shangri-La as one of my all-time favorites.

Do you remember your first convention? What was it, and what was it like?
Erie Anime Experience 2007—a tiny con but with great cosplayers, a friendly guest (Kyle Hebert), and a video game tournament where I recorded my one and only win at Super Smash Bros. Melee. It was an amazing experience for a con virgin.

What inspired you to begin blogging about anime? I honestly can’t remember the exact reason I decided to start blogging, whether it was something I thought long and hard about, or whether it was just a whim. In any case, I began my blogging journey in February 2008, and while it hasn’t been all sunshine and roses, I feel as if I’m better off now than I ever was before. I’ve found my niche and I’ve crawled into it nicely. While my original goal of blogging was to blog both anime and sports, I’ve discovered that my true blogging passion is for anime, and I now only blog about American football seasonally.

What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom then and anime fandom today? I think the biggest difference between fandom when I first became a fan and now is the way we interact online. In 2007, everything was still on message board forums. You’d have specific categories to make your posts, and you’d have to make sure you played by the rules. Now everything is social media. There’s Facebook, where you have to make a splash or otherwise your post gets buried, Twitter, where hashtagging is key to get anyone to notice, and there’s Tumblr, which is meme city. The best example I can give is the IchiHime fandom. For those who aren’t familiar, IchiHime is the abbreviation for fans of the romantic relationship between Ichigo and Orihime from Bleach. In the late 2000s, IchiHime had its own message board where fans could post to their heart’s content, and moderators made sure to keep the site free from needless bickering. By 2016, when “we won” (IchiHime is canon now), the Tumblr wars were overwhelming. Opponents of IchiHime purposely tagged their vicious anti-IchiHime posts with “pro ichihime” in order to start fights. Obviously there’s a big difference between then and now, and it’s obvious what I prefer. What will fandom look like in the 2020s? That might be up to Mark Zuckerberg to decide.

Tommy can be reached on Twitter

#34: Ink

Age: 38

Location: New Jersey

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. My earliest recollection of anime, not that I knew it as such at the time, was watching Star Blazers on Saturday morning. It was the one of the first shows scheduled for that broadcast day, and my six-year-old self loved it. Ultimately, however, it was just another cartoon to me back then.

In my teens, my hormones brought me to the likes of La Blue Girl on the animation shelf at the local video rental store. I laughed off “anime” like most of my peers back then for its ridiculousness, and stayed with American cartoons for the most part.

In college, I roomed with the inner-city youths from the worst parts of Camden, Philadelphia, and Newark (NJ). I came back to our apartment one day to find all three sitting on the couch watching some brightly colored nonsense. When I asked what it was they were watching, all three enthusiastically turned around and said some variant of, “Oh shit, you’ve never seen Pokemon? You gotta watch this!” I declined and left.

After moving into my first apartment in Pennsylvania, a new friend showed me some VHS tapes he had of a ridiculous show called Dragon Ball Z. We’d hang out and drink and watch it. Fun times were had. He also had a VHS of Maison Ikkoku, which is when my thoughts on anime started to shift. During the same period, Cowboy Bebop started airing on Toonami, and when I saw that, I officially came around to respecting anime. (My friend didn’t initially take to CB as I did, but he came around.)

When I moved back to New Jersey, my mother died shortly thereafter. Shortly after that, Fullmetal Alchemist started airing on Adult Swim. This was what harpooned my loyalty to Japanese cartoons. The breadth of genres and stories I sporadically encountered over 30-some years made me realize that my love for cartoons and anime’s fearlessness for subject matter were perfect for one another.

I’m sorry for your loss. Was the focus in FMA on Ed and Al’s mom part of what endeared you to it? How so? The mother’s death and her sons’ desperation was absolutely what endeared me to that show. Until then, I’d not seen (or at least remembered seeing) anything that dark in anime, and the plot was just sort of a right place/right time sorta thing. I actually wrote this piece for Ani-Gamers detailing my connection with the original series after Brotherhood finished its simulcast. Every year since watching it the first time (once I owned the DVDs), I watch the last three episodes and the movie on October 3. FMA is more a part of my life than any other anime though there are definitely better and more mature titles out there. It’s almost like watching bittersweet home movies.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? When I saw it as a child, anime was just another cartoon. Bright colors, cool explosions, fun stories.

When I discovered anime as “anime,” it was the maturity of (some of) the stories that were being told as well as the art styles behind them.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? Respective to my stages of anime discovery: Star Blazers (Space Battleship Yamato), Cowboy Bebop, and Fullmetal Alchemist.

To rewind just a bit, you watched La Blue Girl at a time when you didn’t watch other anime. How did you even find out about hentai in that case? At the time, I really wasn’t watching many cartoons at all actually. My teenage friends and I were just renting whatever R-rated fare we could get away with at the video store when we came across that… which had a 13+ sticker on it (as I recall) and was in the very front of the store on the regular animation shelf. I remember laughing like mad at the plot and the mechanics involved, but my mind’s forever scarred from lines like “I will now thoroughly and violently penetrate you.” I honestly can’t actually recall when I contextualized hentai as Japanese porn cartoons, but at some point it came to be the thing from which I had to (and still have to) explain to people as “not the norm” for anime.

After you rediscovered anime, how did you interact in the fandom? How did you make friends with other fans? What really got me into the fandom, and not just liking the anime I was watching, was spending more time with fellow fans. I owe my initial dive into the deep end to my friend Ben, who decided we should go to Otakon one year. There, I felt connected but also like an outsider for my ignorance of the medium. It was great to know so many people loved the same thing I had come to, and it filled me with a desire to learn more about it.

Although Ben’s more of a cosplayer than a panel freak, like me, I would had never discovered panels and the infinite fun through learning they bring without, frankly, being bored waiting for him to move for all the people requesting his picture. (He makes a damned good Episode 1-3 Obi Wan.) It was in a panel at the first con I went to by myself, the very first Castle Point Anime Con (CPAC), where I met Evan of Ani-Gamers, and I’ve been contributing to that site (and others) ever since. That exposure has led to interacting with many great people online via twitter and podcasts. Cons tend to deepen those ties from all of us gathering together, and now when I give panels, I love hanging out afterwards and talking with possible new friends!


My mind’s memory is that of a dying fly, so you’ll have to forgive the fact that all I really remember about the first Otakon I attended was being absolutely shocked how balls-to-the-wall forward people were regarding wearing their fandom on their sleeves…literally; I felt so out of place wearing normal clothes that my heart for fandom grew three sizes that day. It’s a feeling I would always like to remember.

Could you elaborate on feeling like an outsider? Early on in fandom, I felt like an outsider for just not knowing enough, not showing enough. It felt like my liking of these cool foreign cartoons was not worthy of being around people so fervent in their liking of “anime.” I didn’t know the lingo, and I could only speak to the few shows I’ve seen. I remember thinking, “Oh, god, there’s a history to all of this?!” and kinda freaking out. That was entirely in my own head though, and I’m kinda glad it was. Attending panels is where I learned my love for this fandom as well as what its obsessed with, and I’ve come to see anime fans as some of the most accepting fans out there.

Today you’re on staff at Ani-Gamers, a blog about anime. How did that start? As of this moment in time, I contribute articles and columns to, co-host a podcast (Oldtaku no Radio) on, and perform editorial tasks for Ani-Gamers. It was Evan Minto who started and still runs that blog, and it was he who handed me a business card at the end of a CPAC edition of C.R.A.Z.Y. O.T.A.K.U. to solicit writers. He said he was looking for academic takes on anime, video games, and manga. I said I’m an aimless English major with penchant for overly elaborate analyses. He said, “Welcome.”

How has going from passive consumer to active fan creator changed your fandom? Poetic! I really love the term “active fan creator,” because that’s honestly what I hope I’ve become. To that end, evolving “from passive consumer to active fan creator” has given me social media nightmares (literally dreams where my Twitter feed starts attacking me for the degree of naiveté or incompetence in my reviews/opinions). But dealing with the anxiety is way more than worth it for the payoff of hearing someone say that they read your piece and comment on how it affected them or their views on whatever you reviewed. Creating content that engages while being informative is tantamount to what I aim to do, and to that effect, my fandom has changed to one of bittersweet toil. It’s like being in the marketing department to some degree—a creative job but one with time cards nonetheless. I often feel burnt out for speaking with such passion and craft into a very large void, but those scattered comments, like stars, keep me going further into and along with the fandom.

What’s the biggest contrast between fandom then and now? When I was watching cartoons I didn’t know as anime, those much more intense than I were subbing tapes to spread the love. Now most anime are simulcast legally, supported by a relatively huge fanbase, and dissected/lauded/jeered by the same. This is a wonderful time to be an anime fan. We’ve almost got it all, including creators visiting domestic conventions in person and answering questions about their work. This is high-level stuff! It doesn’t get much better. We should count ourselves lucky and contribute in any way possible to further anime exposure and appreciation.

Ink can be reached on Twitter

#32: Claire Napier

Age: 30

Location: West Midlands, England

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. I remember quite specifically hating the look of The Littl’ Bits, recognizing that the aesthetic was different but having no ability to comprehend why the difference existed or bothered me (the triangular mouths were upsetting, idk why). I suppose I was about five?

Later I remember one or two older boy-men wearing shitty square Dragon Ball shirts in the village shop, and knowing it was some kind of something. Then when I was 11 or 12, I went online and discovered Harry Potter fan content and fan sites, which branched out into Sailor Moon Geocities pages with sparkly gifs and I was just… captivated.

I bought a Sailor Moon VHS from eBay when I was 14, saw Guyver in the specialist video shop but didn’t have enough money to risk buying it (there were so many), eBay’d [Mamoru] Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell at 15. Prior to that I’d just try to watch the anime-est looking cartoons when I visited my grannie, as she had more than the regular terrestrial channels. I scrabbled for dregs, really, no connection with any scene or fansub community. Went to my first anime con in my late teens, started finding DVDs, and by then you were just about able to get decent-length video on home internet connections.

How much were those VHS tapes on eBay, do you remember? I feel like they were around eleven to fifteen pounds. But that sounds so expensive now! I suppose I was pretty “desperate.”

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? Sailor Moon was for girls but it was in some way serious. The romantic elements weren’t apologized for. And I’d heard that “in Japan” comics and cartoons were “respected.” That was appealing. I wanted a part of a pro-drawing adulthood.

Did you have aspirations to make comics or manga? I wanted to draw comics. For a long time (basically as soon as I left school, although I followed the dream as it got smaller and smaller though four years of higher education) that seemed far too impossible a career, so I became a critic instead, and eventually realised that I wanted to make “art comics,” not career comics, which was partly why it seemed so overwhelming in the first place. So now I do and I love my life. It wouldn’t be worth it without knowledge of manga— knowledge of the stories available there, the attitude to layouts and lettering, and the women who’ve made professional lives for themselves as mangaka. The more egalitarian image of creatorship that one can see in Japan from the outside is a vastly soothing emotional agent.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? Sailor Moon. The Slayers?? I remember a lot of Slayers. I don’t know what Slayers is, though. It was just there a lot.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? Lonely as hell and intensely modular but better than nothing.

Why so? It was entirely online! And there wasn’t the chattiness of modern fandom. Everyone had their own page, it seemed, and I could make my own fansite (or shrine, as you say) and I could put a visitor’s book on it but… that’s not conversation, it doesn’t actually function as sociability. It’s more like a museum visit. There was some level of distanced intimacy, basic kinship, but i had no idea how to actually communicate, reciprocally, with my mutually interested peers. So when I say modular, I mean that while all of these sites and pages added up to a scene, the scene was more than the sum of it’s parts. I was nourished by the total, but found the trees, so to speak, rather too widely spaced.

I’d like to hear more about what Sailor Moon online fandom in particular was like. Did you read/create fanfic, for example? My participation in Sailor Moon fandom was entirely passive! Because I didn’t know who anyone was or what anything meant—even after that one VHS, all I knew was the first episode or so. So I couldn’t create any fan content; I could only consume it. And that consumption wasn’t educational, it was only atmospheric—I didn’t learn any facts from fansites, I just felt that Sailor Moon was… “it.”

Now I understand that it was possibly the only all-girls adventure story I’d ever seen admired and respected, and that I was just starved for the ability to choose WHICH girl I identified with instead of, wow, picking between pink or yellow. I hadn’t found that since Enid Blyton’s St Clare’s stories, and I’d never even known anyone else who liked those out loud. Seeing people revere it was enough. I do know that it was Geocities fanpages I was looking at, but beyond that it’s all lost by the mists of memory.

Do you remember what your first anime con was like? What was it? it was… hard to navigate? It was expensive. It was good, I enjoyed it, it reminded me of a village fete. But with anime screened in theatrical amphitheatres. The was quite a lot of titty anime, which I probably wouldn’t prioritise as a communal thing. There was a really good Iori Yagami cosplayer. Such a great outfit, so simple! And it was solidly constructed and looked very natural on him, more like clothes than a costume. There was a Lulu, too, and all the canteen workers were like “omg, it’s Lulu!” I only remember video game cosplayer from my first anime convention. I accidentally looked through the hentai box in the dealer’s hall, and again– that’s not what I was really looking for, at all, in my search for pro-creative community. The ability for teen girls to accidentally search through a box of fucktoons.

How did you transition from passive consumption to participation, for example, your Women Write About Comics position? How is your fandom different now? Harry Potter fanfiction. I was an avid reader, of stories and of “meta,” which is what we called critical analysis. As I moved into accessing manga and comics and eventually tokusatsu, I missed that aspect of fandom dreadfully. It had become second nature to me! It was normal to discuss character motivation and narrative implication, and because it was normal I hadn’t realised how vital it was to me to exercise that style of thinking and that sort of conversation, and be taken seriously by peers just as interested (in the in-world happenings and the creative decisions behind them) as I was. I couldn’t find many people who would indulge this kind of response, and it made me really cross, honestly. Which was pretty rude of me. But I needed it, I still need it, it’s just a part of how I function as a person.

So I joined a comics forum that was a bit more into that style than most, it was run by several people who had also been deep into Harry Potter fandom which might be a coincidence or might be something else, and when the opportunity came out of that film get involved with WWAC I was like, fate, try and stop me. Taking “fandom” seriously as response to art and craft, allowing enthusiastic or untrained scholarship and experienced critical response to be recognised as such, it’s necessary, and for me my position at WWAC is essentially an ongoing response to how keenly I remember that need for community and visibility and, I suppose, legitimacy of the idea that comics and women can both glitteringly matter, in great volume.

Claire can be reached on Twitter

#29: Mike L

Age: 34

Location: New Jersey

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. I had always been aware of the spiky-hair designs in the back of gaming magazines (envelope art and import shops in places like Electronic Gaming Monthly). I was into games, and games alone, but had been growing to notice how clearly some aesthetics were distinctly Japanese. It wasn’t until a friend (who was into American comics, namely Spawn) prodded me to check out a super cool cartoon the following weekend that I finally learned what “anime” was. What I saw was the second episode of the original 1996 syndication broadcast of Funimation’s Dragon Ball Z English dub.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? I always enjoyed, even as a kid, getting in at the ground level of any new product, movement, or “fandom”. I don’t think I recognized it at the time, but there was a thrill in knowing things before anyone else, and trying to project what might catch on. (Later in life, I’d find my calling in marketing. Go figure.)

Otherwise, it was just how “different” anime felt. It was clear this was something unique compared to the other shows on at the time; I think to things like the USA Action Extreme Team lineup (Street Fighter cartoon among all the other video game adaptations). For Dragon Ball in particular, it was a serialized story with an ever-growing cast of characters. It could be an investment (in all senses of the word: emotional, time, monetary). For someone who moved a lot as a kid, it was also a way to quickly find new friends that had a similar intense degree of enthusiasm; if you were into it, you were INTO it. Twenty years later, I’m still running a Dragon Ball website!

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? From my perspective it was Dragon Ball, but obviously Sailor Moon was the next thing we could grab onto. Anything in the “Japanimation” section at Blockbuster was second-tier by virtue of it simply being available (Vampire Hunter D, Akira, Ghost in the Shell, etc.), followed by whatever aired on Sci-Fi’s Saturday Anime block.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? My perspective has always been one of in-person but also unique in that it was not just online in terms of general discussion with other fans, but also from a management perspective. I got into Dragon Ball in 1996, and began my website in January 1998. Sure, it was garbage for a while, but it quickly grew into something significant. Dragon Ball web traffic was insane over the next few years, and having a second-generation Dragon Ball fan site ready to go for the upcoming boom meant learning a lot of lessons about design, presentation, moderation, content management, etc. Quite frankly, it was an amazing self-discovery process by proxy of anime.

For quite some time, “fandom” was defined by learning more and more about the show, and therefore learning more and more about what was changed in its dub. I’ve come to the conclusion that we as the new fans effectively ruined all legitimate discourse of the series for several years. There were no meaningful discussions about the series itself anymore; it was all about the changes. It took years and years for that to recover, and only did so once we finally received uncut/bilingual products and were able to let the franchise rest/die for an extended period of time to then refocus… and quite frankly, for us all to grow up a little bit.

What inspired you to start your own Dragon Ball website? Were other fan sites part of it? When I started my site in January 1998, there was already an established base of comprehensive, well-known, authoritative Dragon Ball fansites (namely Wuken’s Suushinchuu). I didn’t feel that I had anything to add at that level, but I was still desperate to get involved and produce SOMETHING. That started with VegettoEX’s Ultimate DBZ Links Page on my AOL web space. Even then, I still had nothing to really offer; everyone knew all five or six of the good sites already, so who needed a links page?! It was a way to get started, though. I quickly found myself recording audio files and writing (terrible) reviews, so that helped the site expand into VegettoEX’s Home Page. Even THAT began to take a turn with the kind of content and news coverage I wanted to focus on, and at some point in 1999 it became Daizenshuu EX, which I ran until 2012 with our merger with Kanzentai into Kanzenshuu.

All that time, I was continuously looking to other sites to see what they were doing, and more importantly, what we could do better. Something I had always been fascinated with was the series’ music, and while there were decent CD listings in things like Dr. Briefs’ DBZ FAQ, new products were coming out and I was beginning to pick up on mistranslations. I aimed to build the largest, most-comprehensive listing of Dragon Ball music out there, and we accomplished that! I then looked to our music database as the template for other guides we could create. I looked to clean website designs and great color choices like SREDBZ had; I can directly trace back my love of yellow and blue back to Scott’s site right there. I wanted it to be a welcoming site with just the right kind of fun personality, but also that authoritative tone. I don’t think we got there for quite some time, but we eventually did!

The “golden era” of Dragon Ball fansites feels like it ran from about 1997 to 2002. The first generation of raw Japanese and fansub-based fans left an incredible base for us to work from, and Funimation still actively producing the show for the first time gave us plenty of contemporary material to work with. We had a lot of fun, but a lot of us were also still pretty young (late teenage years). We drove the old guard out while we were coming to grips with early Internet culture. While most of it was in good fun (the title tag wars with Planet Namek, for example), there was also a ton of histrionics and grudges that we never truly understood the origins of. Kids being kids.

I looked to the types of dub-specific coverage we were all getting trapped into, and reflected on what we might be able to offer as a simultaneous contrast and complement to that. I brought Julian on board in 2003, which allowed our Japanese news coverage and translations to immediately set us apart. For a whole slew of reasons (web advertising crash, completion of Funimation’s first run of the dub, people just generally losing interest, etc.), most of the other sites of the era closed up shop. At some point, we were essentially all that was left! We had such an incredible base of our own at that point, so I made it a priority for us to stick around and provide the best Dragon Ball coverage we could for as long as we could.

What has been the most rewarding part of running a site like this? I learn something new every day. You might think that after running a series-specific website for nearly twenty years you’ve seen all there is to see, but that’s just not true. Whether it’s a little factoid about the series’ production, some funny new quote from an ancient interview, or even a recently-unearthed character design, there’s always something new out there for you.

Oh, and that whole “making new friends” thing, I guess…! It’s so funny looking back on the days of meeting some random person in a chat room or newsgroup and saying “hey um would you like to work on my website with me?” I can’t imagine handing a password over to a random person like that anymore! That’s how it was back then, though. Today Kanzenshuu is run by four people, all of whom I speak with on a daily basis… and not just about Dragon Ball! These are easily some of my best friends in the world.

Are there any opportunities you wouldn’t have had if you didn’t run Kanzenshuu? My website has served as the basis for everything I do now in my professional life. From content management to design to marketing, it all traces directly back to VegettoEX’s Ultimate DBZ Links Page. When I was in college, there were marketing degrees, sure, and there were IT degrees, sure… but the rest of the curriculum was still trying to catch up with how content on the Internet fit into all of that. While the educators struggled with that, I figured it all out on my own courtesy of Dragon Ball.

It’s clear you have a major connection with the Dragon Ball franchise over other anime series. What is it about Dragon Ball that resonates with you? Have any other series come close to making you feel the same way? I figure I’m the same as most people: what you see first is what leaves the biggest impression on you. Beyond that, though, I love the ensemble cast, I love the music, I love the character designs, I love the writing style… it’s just everything I love wrapped up into one, ever-expanding package.

The amount of head-space dedicated to Dragon Ball makes it difficult to really get absorbed into other franchises. That’s not to say I don’t read/watch other things, and that’s not to say I don’t enjoy some of them an incredible amount, but the bar has been set pretty high. Dragon Ball is just so approachable, so easy, so comfortable, and yet has enough layers to dive into if you really want to nerd out over any given aspect.

That all being said, Futurama is my other not-so-secret love. I’d probably be running the Futurama equivalent of Kanzenshuu today were it not for Dragon Ball. It’s possible and likely that I’ve heard Billy West’s voice more in my life than Masako Nozawa’s, which shocks a lot of people!

Would it be possible to build a site like Kanzenshuu today? Why or why not? It’s certainly possible, but I don’t know what level of crazy you’d have to be to attempt it. I wish people WOULD do it! What we have is the result of four people investing years and years of prior work into something, all brought together into one complete package. It’s something we do because we love the series, and have this irresistible urge to document and share. To start completely fresh? I can’t imagine that. It would have to be with a new series that you place your bets on and hope it becomes something huge; that way you have your foot in the door for everything as it comes out. Start small, but stay comprehensive. That’s not to say we were first in line with Dragon Ball – far from it. We took the downtime opportunities we had, though, and threw everything we had at it at times in our lives where we had the free time to do so. People often ask us what theme we used for the site, or where we downloaded all of our stuff, etc. We have to explain to them that we built it all ourselves, bought it all ourselves, fact-checked it all ourselves, and translated it all ourselves. It’s something that takes time and dedication.

Today? Isn’t it easier to just launch a Tumblr with some magazine scans you can’t read? Run a Twitter account collecting everything you find? Make some YouTube videos talking over game footage? Start up or take over an existing subreddit? Try to clean up someone else’s mess on Wikia?

You can probably sense the combination of jealousy and contempt in that description! It’s just so easy to launch a platform these days with zero costs (other than a lack of true content ownership). We never had those opportunities. Just like most people wouldn’t know how to launch something like Kanzenshuu, we wouldn’t know how to launch something modern and laser-focused in its delivery. We’re stuck in and a relic of the Internet past. We’re not a blog. We’re not a traditional news site. We’re not a video channel. We’re not an official resource. We don’t have quick-bites for people to digest. There’s no money to be made, and no fame to bask in.

But we also wouldn’t have it any other way! I don’t truly hold anything against anyone for wanting to go a different route; just like I made a dinky links page in 1998, people should do what makes them happy and what allows them to have fun with the series they love so much. It’s that personal engagement and sense of accomplishment that kept us going, and I wish that every fan could find something so fulfilling.

What makes my day is when people tell me they “wish there was a Kanzenshuu for ________.” I couldn’t ask for a better compliment.

What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom when you got into it and now? The obvious answer is probably piecemeal VHS fansubs vs. instant total availability on streaming services and home video. Whereas we would have been happy to get maybe six episodes of the Cell arc subtitled and two episodes of GT in raw Japanese and call it a day at that point, fans can sit back today and binge watch as much of the series (in chronological order) as they want!

That being said, the more things change, the more they stay the same. While in 1999 everyone created their own website with power level lists and Tenka’ichi Budokai brackets with a left-hand column navigation on a black background with website traffic/hit counters, in 2017 everyone has a YouTube channel with “What If?” theories and power level debates with subscription milestone celebration videos.

That’s not to say EVERYTHING truly is the same as it was back then. Something I’ve come to realize is that, when I was getting into the series and discovering its origins and changes for the American market, those changes dominated discussions… at the expense of all other topics. One of the recent projects on our site has been the “Press Archive” where we look back at Dragon Ball coverage from not just contemporary anime and gaming magazines of the day, but also things like newspaper articles and such. What’s clear is how well-versed in Dragon Ball the general anime fan was pre-Funimation, and how accurate the coverage and discourse could be. Sure, there were the occasional outlandish statements and clearly-fabricated tidbits in longer articles, but on the whole, things were pretty great. Once the English dub came to America, it feels like it completely sidelined all new initiatives. Magazine coverage went from enthusiastic to sick-of-hearing-about-it begrudging nods. Fans focused entirely on meticulously documenting all dub changes, yet never diving back to explore and document that original version that was supposedly being tarnished so much. All the meanwhile, an enormous group of new fans were coming in via the Toonami broadcast; being so young at the time, they wouldn’t come online for another five to ten years, shocked to find that the now-old-guard (ourselves still feeling like the “new” fans!) had no respect or nostalgia for the version they were growing up with. Meanwhile, we were simultaneously shocked to realize there WAS an enthusiastic audience for these new voices and replacement music! These people weren’t parroting our opinions back at us; what had gone so horribly, horribly wrong?!

At least for Dragon Ball these days, I’m noticing how fans are simultaneously more specialized and more generalized than ever before. We’re so fortunate to have attracted fans from all walks of life to chat with us on Kanzenshuu; we have the animation experts, the background music experts, the in-universe experts, the directorial experts, etc. On the flipside, we’re seeing more and more fans that aim to have as broad an understanding and expertise as Kanzenshuu tries to present. That’s great for everyone!

And that’s what makes me excited. As Funimation makes strides in accuracy with their Dragon Ball treatment, and as the Japanese industry realizes that Dragon Ball is a global phenomenon and should be treated as such and shared with everyone simultaneously, so too are we seeing that turnaround from the younger generation of fans. They want to know who said what when. They want to know how that ties in to the production. They want to know why certain characters act differently than they remember from watching it growing up. They just want to LEARN. I see myself in them, and that makes me excited to continue doing what I do. There’s still a lot of growing to do as today’s communication platforms and the presenters mature, but the potential for even better news coverage, higher-quality translations, and in-depth documentation is sitting right there! Hopefully people remember Kanzenshuu along the way…! 🙂

Mike can be reached on Twitter.

#28: Thanasis

Age: 33

Location: Reading, United Kingdom

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. It was back in 1989 in my local VHS rental shop. Of course, I had no idea that the term “anime” existed. I was almost six years old and in first grade, and for the whole of elementary school I would be amazed by the stories of Igano Kabamaru, Robotech, Captain Harlock, Bioman (yes! Super Sentai as well), Plawres Sanshiro, Video Senshi Lazerion, Getter Robo, UFO Grendizer, Voltus V, Windaria, Nausicaä, and so many more!

All the series were dubbed, but I am grateful that the localization department of whoever was in charge of these VHS tapes decided to keep the Japanese names and Japanese songs!

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? The robots. The stories. The morals. That feeling that these narratives were made for children but were “not” made for children. I am at a loss for words here, but I think that there was an aura of importance in these stories.

“I think that there was an aura of importance in these stories.” I would love to hear more on what you mean by this! That’s a good question that is very difficult to answer. Take the great American Saturday morning cartoons: I was knee-deep in He-Man, She-Ra, Bravestar, Silverhawks, Thundercats, Blackstar, Transformers, TMNT, even My Little Pony and Care Bears. All great shows and memorable and unique. But they lacked a certain maturity that my childish mind longed for. It might sound contradictory, but the characters in the shows I mentioned earlier felt stiff and one-dimensional. They were there to instruct and draw a clear line between good and evil. Not anime, though. Not Area 22. Not Captain Harlock. These were imbued with emotion and themes that were larger than life. I liked that.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? I’m not sure. Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball were very popular Saturday morning cartoons.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? We didn’t even know the term “anime” at the time, so there was really not a fandom to be a part of. We just really liked the “cartoons.” We talked about them. Had fun watching them. Who cared what the tag was.

Who was “we?” I was fortunate enough to have a group of friends who had the same interest in Japanese RPGs and anime as I did. We played Secret of Mana on the SNES together and Zelda on the Game Boy. We watched Saber Rider and Voltron without knowing about Bismark and GoLion, and Macross was an unknown word even if Robotech was a part of our lives. Even in titles where the original Japanese songs and names were retained, we knew that the cartoons were foreign (and possibly from Japan, I don’t remember that particular detail) but we had no idea about the term “anime.”

Do you remember the first time you became aware of what anime was? The first time I became aware of the term was with the rising popularity of Dragon Ball Z and Sailor Moon. I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but I do remember that it was one or two years before 2000. For me, it was just a term. Knowing about anime didn’t change my perspective on the medium, it just opened a new world of titles and stories I could get my eyes on. It didn’t matter if they were from Zambia or Argentina. Anime was great.

Did you stick with anime up until today, or did you ever take a break from it? I am very much the same child as I was back then. I still watch anime and play JRPG. I am also an assistant editor for an anime news online site based in Japan called MANGA.TOKYO. Otaku culture is part of my life. ^^

What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom when you got into it and now? I was never fully integrated into the fandom for various reasons. My introversion, distrust for large groups, and aversion for conflict kept me away from forums, events, conventions, and public discussions. But I was always an avid observer, and I think that what changed was the rise of the internet. This answer could become an article of its own, though. A worryingly increasing percentage of members of any fandom are not driven by a genuine love for the medium, but instead, they seek an opportunity to employment, a chance to get the ‘money’ doing what they ‘love’, a way to give weight to their opinion. Fame, fortune, attention, etc. We are all slaves of our DNA and in the end, it is the creators who are always paying the price.

But haven’t you also mixed business with doing what you love with your editing job for an anime magazine? Guilty as charged, but the quotation marks around love were intentional. There are people who genuinely care about the medium, from writers and in-between animators to anisong musicians and ‘Random Streaming Platform’ executives (probably). I am not condemning or judging anyone. I just feel that more and more people are taking advantage of the medium to make money without really caring about the medium itself. It’s natural and it’s just an observation that is actually more prevalent in gaming than it is in anime. After all, anime is still a niche community that is slowly showing signs of going just a bit mainstream. I have issues with idolization, sexualization, exploitation, social media stardom, the hype-building marketing machine, the drop in quality and the rise in quantity, and so much more. There is a dark side to every industry; this is not news. I just feel that the majority is on its way to a red lightsaber.

Thanassis can be reached on Twitter and his website

#27: Katy C

Age: 30

Location: Fort Worth, Texas

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. The first anime I saw and knew it was anime was Sailor Moon. When I was in elementary school, I watched anime without knowing what it was. Then I got into middle school and could access the internet from the library. I remember my sister and I would pretend to be Sailor Moon and Sailor Mars all the time and ran around our backyard screaming about defeating Queen Beryl.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? I love the diverse storylines. For typical American cartoons, there wasn’t an actual storyline to each episode you watched, so you can watch them completely out of order—they were mostly one-offs. In anime, they are telling a continuous story. It was vastly different from other shows I saw growing up.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? I think the most recognizable anime is Pokemon.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? It was a bit hard to find other people interested in anime where I’m from, which is a small city in South Texas. Oddly enough, it wasn’t until I got into high school that I was able to find kindred spirits who were into anime as well. One of my friends introduced me to both manhwa [Korean comics] and manga during my sophomore year. It was a bit hard to participate in anime themed events since they were hours away from where I lived and no one around locally were passionate enough to start one. I am thankful that my siblings shared the same passion as I did so I could always rely on them for discussions and such. Considering where I lived growing up, my parents were completely okay with their children being into anime because we were busy buying YuGiOh! cards instead of becoming hoodlums. Several times, my mom has watched shows with us and it was always nice being able to discuss the latest episode with her over coffee each morning.

Are your siblings still into anime? What about your mom? Two of my four siblings share the same passion for anime and Japanese culture as I do. I believe us three were introduced to anime around the same time. We are super close so while growing up, we all watched the same things together, meaning my brother, Joe, also watched Sailor Moon with my sister and I, and my sister and I would join him for Dragon Ball Z. When my brother was in elementary school, he had a monstrous love for Godzilla so my siblings and I spent a lot of our afternoons watching old Godzilla films that had horrible (oooorrrr some dare say fantastic) voiceovers.

I’m very thankful that my mom grew up being a nerd who traded gum and other trinkets for comic books so when we started getting into anime, she also was introduced to it. I remember when we finally got cable and DVR, she would watching Inuyasha and Gundam Seed with us every Sunday morning and we would have discussions with her about it around the kitchen table while drinking coffee. Even though we have all moved out, she had managed to watch Attack on Titan with my brother when he visits my parents.

Would also love to know what kinds of things your mom would say about anime over coffee (and which anime)! A lot of the time my mom had trouble distinguishing who was male or female in the shows. For the longest time, she believed that Kenshin from Rurouni Kenshin was a girl which we had to always correct her on. She also had problems pronouncing Inuyasha and would instead say, “EE-no-washa”, but she had no problems saying Sesshoumaru, which to her was “best boy” in her eyes. I know it’s a little sappy, but it’s rather fantastic having a parent who shares the same interests as you and encourages you to keep at it. She is one of the driving forces behind creating Yatta-Tachi. She told me that it would be completely natural for me to do something like that and knew I would be successful and so here we are!

What was it like meeting other fans in high school for the first time? Meeting people who shared a similar interest in anime was rather …odd? I didn’t have cable when Trigun, Outlaw Star, and Cowboy Bebop were airing on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim, so most of the time that’s what they were interested in. There were some were more into hentai, but there were a couple that I was able to exchange VHS tapes or manga with. Actually, during that time, I was also getting into playing YuGiOh! so we would host our own mini-tournaments at school.

Can you tell me about your first convention? The first convention I went was RealmsCon, which was back in 2008. Back then, I didn’t know too much about conventions, but my friend, Sam, went to RealmsCon every year and had me tag along with her. The convention took place in Corpus Christi, Texas, which was 2 hours away from my hometown, Harlingen. There were a lot of firsts during that trip: first time going on a trip without my family, the first time being able to finally immerse myself into the fandom, and the first time getting severe food poisoning, which knocked me out the first & second day of the convention. Compared to conventions I go to now, this convention was ridiculously tiny and took place in a Holiday Inn with artist alley was part of the main hallway of the hotel. I don’t remember doing too much during the convention other than raving every night until 4 am, food poisoning and getting my Haruhi Suzumiya shoulder bag which I still have today!

What was the first fandom you REALLY got into? Like creating fan works, buying stuff, etc. SAILOR. MOON. I was disgustingly obsessed with Sailor Moon growing up. In middle school, I usually to spend all my free time printing out images and translated lyrics of the songs so I could teach myself Japanese (yes, I was such a weeb back then). I use to draw Sailor Moon on EVERYTHING such as book covers, school chalkboards, on my hand and use to have a spiral notebook filled with drawings. At one point, I TRIED to make my own scouts but that never worked. Back when floppy disks were a thing, I had the song, “Power of Love” saved onto it so I could listen to it while I was browsing the internet at school.

Tell me about creating Yatta-Tachi. Is it your first anime site? How did your fandom change when you became a creator of fan works as well as a consumer of them? Yatta-Tachi wasn’t the first site I created that had to do with anime and Japanese culture. Back in college, I had an MP3 rotation site where every month I would post anime songs that I was into at the moment. Yes, stupid and very illegal. I also use to do forum signature banners for friends as well. During high school, I use to create mock website designs using Netscape and fill it with animated sprites of Sailor Moon and DBZ characters but I was cool like that. My maturity has evolved rapidly once I started learning more about the industry. Before I knew better, I was an ex-pirate who didn’t give a crap about watching shows legally because honestly, it didn’t even cross my mind what I was doing was damaging to the anime industry. Boy, if I could go back in time, I would have some rather strong words to say to myself.

What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom when you got into it and now? The main contrast between fandom then and fandom now is how it’s stupidly easy to watch anime now. If young fans now knew of the struggles it was for us to get anime, I think there would be less whiny about paying a few bucks to watch shows legally on sites like Crunchyroll and Funimation.

Anime is starting to become mainstream which means it will only become easier and easier to watch the shows. Honestly, the college version of me would have had a heyday and probably waste my life away binge watching so many shows, going to conventions, meet-ups and MOVIE SCREENINGS (which didn’t exist for me living in Smalltown, USA)!

Katy can be reached on Twitter