#123: JJ Kelley

Age: 48

Location: Wiltshire, UK

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. When I was a kid, most of my friends were watching Scooby Doo, but I was crazy about a show called Battle of the Planets. I think it was the first cartoon where the good guys had setbacks and suffered. I noticed that the 7-Zark-7 bit was weirdly out of place, but ignored it. It wasn’t until years later that I found out it had been a severely edited anime show called Kagaku Ninjatai Gatchaman.

Years later, during my first semester at Virginia Tech in the US, there was a thing on campus called AnimeFest. I was bored and curious. I opened the door to a dark video room, and the guy in charge nearly fainted at my feet… literally, because he hadn’t eaten in 24 hours as he was getting everything prepared. I helped his roommate get him to the car… and found myself in charge. First anime I watched there was Tonari no Totoro. Age 17, and it stuck.

Two years later, I was president of VTAS, the anime club there.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? Bad guys sometimes win, and good guys get to suffer a bit in order to reverse that. Blew my mind as a kid.

By the time I hit university, though, it was the amazing visuals of the Miyazaki films that really caught me.

Still, I can’t deny that it’s the whole darkest before the dawn trope that still works for me.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? Ranma 1/2 was big, well, anything that was Rumiko Takahashi, really. Not really my thing, as I wasn’t really into farce.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? Totally different from now. Utterly. Back then, we’d trek up to Washington DC to meet with another club, and daisy chain dozens of VCRs together to get unsubbed anime from either tapes made by US military guys in Osaka or wildly expensive laser discs. Our club had a gigantic suitcase full of tapes.

During my year as VTAS president (1990-91), I managed to, ah, persuade Virginia Tech to buy us an Amiga and a genlock for subtitling. Nearly talked them into getting us a set-up to make our own cel animation. If this sounds crazy, it was mostly due to the fact that we had 300+ club members and were the largest non-sports related club on campus. Our Tuesday meetings had a minimum of 200 people. This was all people willing to watch raw untranslated anime.

So, once we had the machines, during my term and the next year, I subbed shows for the club meetings and our twice yearly Animefest weekends. Taught myself Japanese just to know when to hit the enter key for dialogue. That first year, the subs made the club explode even larger, but then the titles I was subbing were Record of Lodoss War and Gundam 0083. I managed to con the club into watching Legend of Galactic Heroes as well with selective edits of the cool ship battles. By the time people realised it was a “talking heads” show, they didn’t care.

“Subtitling whilst barefoot, probably in 92′, maybe 93′. The tapes with the orange stickers are the club’s rental tapes. You can see the two VCRs (both with the VTAS labels) linked for subtitling. On the floor next to my right foot is the massive kanji dictionary. I’m working on the Amiga 2000, the genlock is on the left side of the table. And awwww, my old NES. I have no idea why I was using a Christmas biscuit tin as a seat.”

We had one AnimeFest in 91′ where we fan-premiered the Silent Möbius film that I subtitled for the event. What a nightmare. I worked for two weeks timing the subs for it, even bought the CD so I could translate the ending song, and still, somehow the whole thing was lost hours before the event. We hacked the auditorium set-up, and I subtitled the damn thing live in front of 500+ people. (Seriously glad the fire marshal didn’t show up. We definitely had more people that we should have in there.) I made two mistakes, and one was during the ending song. I can’t listen to “Sailing” without twitching.

I stopped fan-subbing once companies like ADV and Animego started doing some seriously good stuff. As I’d only subbed for my college club, not for sale at cons or even in the post, it wasn’t a big thing. Viz did some nasty saber-rattling at that time as well, but their Ranma subs were pretty horrible back then.

It was during one of the VTAS AnimeFests that Larry Drews and Chris Impink started making noises about starting an East Coast anime convention. AnimeFest already had a huge audience coming from out of state as well as from Tech, we had a guy selling bootleg Chinese knock-off CDs, a bunch of fan art on display under the stairs, people wearing stuff, a program book… And that’s how Katsucon started, really.

Was the Internet a part of fandom at the time? If yes, how? If no, how did you connect with other fans? There was email, and basic stuff, but this was before Mosaic introduced all the pretty pictures to the Web. So we’d get some subtitling scripts from other clubs, or swap timings, but most of our interactions with other clubs were face-to-face at either SF cons or by attending their meetings. I drove up to DC for weekend taping marathons, drove down to Raleigh NC a few times for the UNC’s club anime weekends (where I had to console a Japanese expat who had no idea about how Minky Momo died.)

[Editor’s Note: After the show’s toy manufacturer sponsor backed out, the animators had Minky Momo get hit by a toy truck. It was brutal.]

“The Katsucon Ichi (I think). I’m talking to Jan Scott Frasier (Director Studio IG at the time, worked on Evangelion) in front of the dealers’ room in the Virginia Beach hotel. “

Do you remember your first convention? What was it, and what was it like? Katsucon Ichi, where I was Head of Art Show. (The first three years or so, we used the Japanese numbers for the con, but I think after San/3 we stopped as it was just confusing people.)

I ran the Art Show for the first few years there. Back then, the Art Show was huge. Now it seems to be an afterthought, with most fan artists being in the Artist Alley. For Katsucon 3, I had so many artist submissions that I had to choose whose work to hang. Biggest artist influencer during those years was Clamp Studio due to X. We had a small sectioned-off Hentai area, which I nixed after the third year because no-one would hang anything, the chickens. I used Magic the Gathering cards clipped in half for the baggage check and nearly made Bob Woodhead of Animego cry. (He wandered around that first year with a deck just to flash his damned Black Lotus card around.)

Artist Alley didn’t exist back then, so you’d find me, Rob DeJesus, Fred Perry and a bunch of others hanging about outside the art show drawing on tables placed there for water coolers. One friend of mine who shall remain nameless handed over a sketchbook to DeJesus and, when asked what he’d like drawn, replied “Whatever!” Mistake. Sleep-deprived and punch-drunk artists granted carte blanche means a whole sketchbook full of anime-style porn with an increasingly outrageous use of Pocky.

“Katsucon Ni, 1996. All the main female staff for the con. We couldn’t be in the Masquerade (aka, Cosplay contest), so we intro’d the groups as the Sailor Scouts. I was Mars. I managed to run in those heels during some con chaos that needed senior staff. Nothing better than dealing with hotel management in a sailor fuku to be a real pro.”

Being con staff in the ’90s was incredibly different. No corporation, just a bunch of fans. So much more casual. I looked in on a meeting for Katsucon a few years back, as an alumnus. It was insanely complicated. The early cons, Japanese guests were easy to get. The idea of US cons was new to them and the publishers. Katsucon got Masakazu Katsura [manga artist for Video Girl Ai, character designer for Tiger & Bunny] as a guest by offering time at a gun firing range. Staff couldn’t be in the Masquerade (the term from the SF cons, we hadn’t started using cosplay then), so a bunch of female staff dressed as the Sailor Scouts for fun. I was Sailor Mars if you find the photos online. We made all our own costumes and props. Either the second or third Katsucon, I made two life-size Azaka and Kamidake, the Jurai guardians from Tenchi Muyo, out of free-standing lamps and hula hoops. They became the big photo-op prop that year.

Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z had started airing on TV, so we had a bunch more small kids than we’d expected. Lots of bewildered parents being dragged around by pre-teens then. The dealers’ room was a bit caught off guard that first year, but then so were we.

“… And then the damn Con Dance guys showed up and totally outdid us. Somewhere I have a photo of me and Rob Lantz striking the Mars pose together. We still refer to each other as ‘My Twin.'”

You’ve spent a lot of your time as a fan in leadership roles, as a club president, a convention founder, and convention staffer. Do you continue to seek out roles like this today, why or why not? I’ve moved back to the UK, and did join a club in Bath for a while. It was very small and met in the skittles room in the basement of a pub. Having a pint and watching anime was rather fun. But I wasn’t anything more than a fan there. Now I work in the comics industry (DC and Marvel, not manga), I’ve mostly slid out of anime fandom. I keep up to date to some degree, and whenever I visit the US and the timing is right, I go to Katsucon.

Because of your roles, did you mainly interact with fandom in person? How did the internet change that, if at all? Fandom for me was almost entirely in person, other than getting translated scripts for subtitles back in the early ’90s. Most of us subbers were at university, so we all had college email. Still, really no social interaction that way, mostly just swapping scripts and timings. Now, all my interactions with anime fandom are online and not in person. Bit sad, really.

Also regarding the internet, do you remember any of the old sites or forums you frequented in the early days, and could you tell me about them? I did do a bit of BBS stuff, friend of mine ran one,  but not much. Later in the ’90s, past my subbing days but well into the Katsucon years, I did a fair bit of chatting with Jan Scott Frazier over ICQ, mostly chatting about anime soundtracks. Cowboy Bebop in particular. But I can’t recall much more.

What was the first fandom you got really invested in? How did you express your fandom? Age 9: Battle of the Planets. I was absolutely nuts about that show. Had the lunch box. Made a watch and a helmet out of tinfoil and cling film. Did a lot of jumping off high things. I’m surprised I lived through it. Later found out about APAs and was sad that I’d been too young for it. (probably just as well, or I’d have had an early encounter with slash/yaoi.)

In my university years… Might be odd to say, but I never went crazy mad about any particular show. Plenty of shows I’d press on others, especially with the VTAS voting tapes. I was desperate to get people to watch more than Maison Ikkoku, which I seriously loathed. First show I was genuinely surprised by liking was Marmalade Boy. Everything I hated in an anime. Sports, miscommunication, slice of life, high school drama? Ugh. Yet not only did I watch the entire series, I kept the tapes for ages. In fact, wouldn’t be surprised if they’re upstairs somewhere still. I’m looking around my office, and other than a book on the art of Studio Ghibli and a bunch of ancient NewType mags, I’m oddly anime fandom free.

Another photo of the Sailor group from Katsucon Ni.

Wait, what’s an APA? Stands for Amateur Press Association. There’s a Wiki page on it, but look at it as a Tumblr post for the pre-internet geeks. They were started by amateur press owners in the 1870s, and many still run today. A number of the SF ones led some big authors down the path to writing professionally.

By the time I first saw one, BBS had more or less killed them off (despite the lack of art, which was one of the pluses for an APA.) Friend of mine showed me her collection of Gatchaman/Battle of the Planets APAs, which were amazing. Fanart, fanfic, and of course, slash, because Berg Katse [from Gatchaman] and his makeup were just too much temptation. Anime-oriented APAs provided synopses for anime (pre-subbing, so these were like gold), information on upcoming series, news about toys. Friend of mine managed a brilliant prank in one, where he gave a loving synopsis for a series called Hoi Polloi, art and album info included… and the thing never existed. I don’t have any personally.

Oh, and APAs are still a thing here in the UK. I’ve seen them at Gosh Comics in London.

Today you live in the UK. How do your experiences of the US and UK anime fandom communities differ? Mmm, I should explain. My mum is British, my dad is American. I’m very transatlantic. I think I’ve now lived equal time in both countries. Until my mid-twenties, I came over to the UK mostly for either summer or Xmas holidays.

I didn’t meet the UK fandom until I was subbing in the 90s. Can’t recall how it came to be, but I did end up meeting a crew of Londoners because of the internet. I first met Helen McCarthy back in the days of Anime UK. Managed to watch the UK dubbing of All-Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku because of her, which was hands-down one of the oddest anime experiences ever. They really stretched to get as many UK regional accents in as possible, and I nearly died at the one they chose for Nuku Nuku. Later on, we showed it at Katsucon (something that would be so illegal now, oops, but we were really clueless that first year). I brought over a lot of UK animated work, including the first Aardman Studio film, A Grand Day Out, as well. A clay animation called The Trap Door was a huge hit with VTAS. Many of the older UK fandom are just as intense about Gerry Anderson as they are about anime.

The UK anime fandom, as I’ve experienced it, are a tight bunch. Might be because one of the first anime introduced to the UK was Urutsukudoji, followed by Akira. It sort of cemented the idea of anime being porn and violence in the mainstream. But again, I’ve really not been involved with it much.

“Otakon 1 or 2.”

What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom when you got into it and now? We were idiots. No, seriously. It was so casual back then. No pressure for perfect photos or costumes. It was all home-made. You had to go to tremendous lengths just to see new stuff, and subtitles were an amazing bonus if you could find them. There was one show that we thought aired in black and white, but we found out was in colour, only our copy was so many generations down the line that the colour had warped. Then we got the final episode of Gunbuster, and thought it had happened again. We’d get tapes from friends, from army bases, from strangers in trenchcoats, and some times we had no idea what the show was before we’d put it in the VCR. It was like anime Gatcha. Sometimes you’d find that a show with a weird title was something utterly amazing, other times you’d find you’d been given tentacle porn. My poor roommate. She was cataloging the tape library, and after watching Creamy Mami, she stumbled across Cream Lemon [NSFW]. Oh so very not the same thing. But you just didn’t know. Friend of mine created a spoof anime synopsis for an APA, and I think it spread across the US as a rare hard-to-find show. We’d go through all the NewType issues, trying to figure out what was airing.

Today, no mystery. Advance info for every show coming and going. Easy access to everything with Hulu and Crunchyroll, all in mint quality. (Dubs are still a mixed bag though.) I’m a mix of envious and sad. I do think that if I was the same age I was when I first stumbled into that Animefest right now, I would have only stepped shallowly into the fandom. The sheer flood of it, the high pressure at the cons… I’d have kept to myself. I think it was easier for introverts back then.

JJ Kelley can be reached on Twitter

#121: Christopher

Age: I’m 26 now, finished my studies and am now working full-time.

Sadly this means I have a lot less time for anime. I went from 30+ shows a year to maybe 5-6 now. If you ever do a “time skip” follow up series, let me know because this is a real personal struggle for me.

Location: Karlsruhe, Germany

When did you discover anime? Like most German kids, I watched Yu-Gi-Oh!, Pokémon, Digimon, Dragon Ball Z, etc. without realizing what it was. By 15 I thought I had grown out of it but my neighbor was really into Naruto. When I dragged a case of pneumonia around long enough to chain me to the bed for three weeks, I decided to try it out. Looking for more, I found the fansubbing communities online and with them, a whole new world for me.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? The “shonen battle” trope. There is just nothing what could get a 15-year-old more hyped than that and you didn’t find it in any other medium. Funnily enough, this is now the trope I’m probably most tired off.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? DBZ was always big but at the time Naruto got all the good “kids show” spots. So I have to say Naruto.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? The first two to three years, I wasn’t part of it. I just loved watching anime and sometimes I would visit a forum but discover that most other German anime fans were pretentious douchebags.

It wasn’t until I started fansubbing that I discovered how fun the community can be if you find your place in it.

What was your role in the fansubbing community? I actually got more or less “forced” into fansubbing. I was an author for the biggest German Naruto site (GermanNaruto.de* – clever, I know) and the site started a fansub group to deliver quality german fansubs for our beloved ninja. I was originally not part of the team but as with all group projects, people were unreliable and I more often than not ended up helping out with timesetting and proofreading subtitles to get the episode out in time. We actually existed out of the fansubbing community as we didn’t care about the craft itself but only about delivering an enjoyable Naruto experience for our users as German subs (even Crunchyroll ones) were mediocre at best at the time.

[*This fan site is no longer accessible at this address. Find it here.]

As anime has become more accessible, have you continued to be a part of fansubs? Why or why not? Even though I, to this day, would never want to join another fansub project, I really enjoyed being part of this team. I’m sad I lost contact with most of them but one of my best friends is a girl I met there.

The site itself fizzled out shortly after the manga finished but we continued to sub Naruto to the very end of the anime. I actually don’t know how this correlates with anime becoming more accessible since none of us did it for any other reason than because we liked doing it.

Was the Internet a part of fandom at the time? If yes, how? If no, how did you connect with other fans? It was mainly just a source for streams with some forum threads dedicated to certain shows. (Around 2010.) Since Germans never talked about anime as anime there were only small groups who were interested in it and those usually met in those threads.

Two of Christopher’s autographed posters from Conichi.

When I finally started checking out English sites two years later, I discovered that I probably missed out on a lot of stuff. So it’s hard for me to say how the internet was involved in general.

Do you remember your first convention? What was it, and what was it like? Aninite 2014. Hard to believe that it took me four years to visit a convention and on top of it it was one in Austria. I met up with my fansubbing group who I only contacted via Skype before. The convention was OK I guess, but I was too busy meeting people (which is always the best part of cons) to really evaluate it.

It probably had little programming apart from the main stage and focused a lot on selling merchandise and holding art workshops. But that didn’t matter much since I was there for my online friends.

Christopher’s autographed Kill La Kill poster is “my most valuable possession.”

On the other hand, Connichi two months later was a whole new world for me. I ran from panel to panel, meeting Atsuhiro Iwakami from ufotable and Studio Trigger’s Sushio who worked on two of my favorite shows of all time. I kinda regret not being as informed about the industry at the time, but I can’t help but smile when I see my posters with their autographs.

All the other panels were great too and I met a few longtime friends there.

The whole experience was a blast and is the reason I go every year: connecting with people, getting to meet my (now) idols, and finding out so many new things about anime and manga—these are some of the best feelings in the world.

Christopher’s Gilgamesh (Fate series) figure.

What was the first anime-related purchase you made, and how much did it cost? This is a really tough question. I’m not entirely sure what the first thing I bought was but if we are talking about the first thing that meant “buying into anime” for me then it’s definitely my Misaka Mikoto (Raildex) figurine. It’s too bad I don’t have a picture right now as she is still in a box from my move to the new house a couple of weeks ago. I actually bought her at Aninite and getting this figurine was a must for me. She and Gilgamesh (who I got shortly after and who is luckily standing behind me so you get a picture) are to this day constantly in my top five favorite characters. Both cost around 45€/$50/£38.

In hindsight, this was either a great or terrible idea, as I now have a hard time spending more on characters I don’t like quite as much while not really getting more expensive figurines of those two since I already have them.

Did you stay a fan the whole time up until today? If yes, what kept your interest? I did stay a fan the whole time and I hope to be one for the rest of my life. The reason I fell in love with it has a variety of reasons which I will spare you since I’m rambling way too much anyways but it boils down to that for me, it is the freest medium. There are no boundaries, the possibilities are endless, and every story looks like it feels to the characters. In this unlimited pool of ideas, I will always find something I enjoy.

You said you loved shonen battle anime when you discovered the medium. What types of anime do you like now and why? I’m not sure I have a “type”. Until two years ago I always said I’d watch everything except BL as long as it’s fun but having seen and loving Doukyuusei I can’t even exclude that anymore. If there is one thing I look out for then it’s well-drawn relationships. Those don’t need to be necessarily romantic but can be rivalries, friendships or feuds as well. White Album 2, Oregairu, Hibike Euphonium, and Shinsekai Yori are really good examples for this.

Oh.. and I have a thing for B (horror) movies which is why I have a strange love for Another, Mayoiga, and even Pupa and School Days.

In your opinion, what’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom today and anime fandom when you first got into it? For me, there are two big differences: The first one is that with the growing accessibility and mainstream drift that anime is getting, it’s getting harder to know someone through anime. When I started seven to eight years ago, the community was very small and anime watchers all had things and character traits in common. Finding out that a colleague/classmate watches anime meant that you would for sure get along. Today, all different kinds of people watch anime, which is great but drives out this feeling that you would like anyone who watches anime. Also, there are so many shows that if you both watch anime it’s not even likely you both watch/like the same things.

On the other hand, give it a few years and we’ll be able to recommend anime like any other show on Netflix.

The second contrast is me getting older and having less free time. I cannot really partake in the community anymore. I spent my whole time in college on /r/Anime, Twitter, Sakugabooru, and similar sites. After getting a consulting job, I maybe get to open Reddit for five minutes a day and haven’t read an (anime related) article in a year. And even if I had time to participate, the amount of seasonal anime I’d need to watch would mean sacrificing a lot of time I can otherwise spend with friends, hobbies, and family. So the contrast is that anime has become much more of a solitary activity for me. I do hope to change it but if I’m honest with myself, the chances aren’t too great.

Christopher can be reached on his Instagram and Twitter

#96: Anthea

Age: 24

Location: Switzerland

When did you discover anime? When I was around seven or eight years old. I think it started with Sailor Moon reruns on a TV channel I watched often. I bought magazines and other Sailor Moon merchandise, created my OCs [original characters] etc. Later, I started reading manga when I found a volume of Dragon Ball lying around at my cousin’s place. I borrowed all of them from a classmate. Around the same time, there was an anime afternoon on a German channel that I watched quite often.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? For Sailor Moon, I liked that it was a team of heroes, not just one. In general, I would say that the first anime and manga I consumed were just different than anything I’d seen before. I cannot pinpoint exactly what it was, it was just… different, for lack of a better word.

Could you tell me about your Sailor Moon OCs? The Sailor Moon OCs I created were based on the original Sailor Scouts, especially Sailor Jupiter, who was my favourite.

I was very frustrated that at some point the focus of the show seemed to be solely on Usagi, so I invented characters that would interact more with the rest of the team.

Since I also wanted them to draw their powers from planets, I did not change that much. So maybe they don’t exactly qualify as OCs, but more as my versions of the characters or “evolutions” or something like that.

I believe I called them “Sailor Super Jupiter/Mars/etc…” (very creative). They mostly had the same colour-scheme, but their clothes were more ornamental and I distinctly remember drawing their sceptres/staffs. I don’t think I spent a lot of time thinking about their powers, I probably thought of them as more powerful versions of the Scouts’ attacks.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? Rather below the radar of most people, I think. I participated in online discussions on a German anime site, but did not know many people who were into anime IRL. There was a convention just starting out in the area where I live around that time. Back then, it was very small. Today, it has grown considerably and makes the news regularly. So I would say anime fandom was not obscure exactly, but certainly less visible than today.

Was the Internet a part of fandom at the time? If yes, how? If no, how did you connect with other fans? Yes. As I mentioned above, I joined a big German fanpage, where there were discussion boards about a lot of different anime and manga. The page also hosted fanart, fanfiction and cosplay pictures. I still visit it from time to time, but kind of drifted away from it. I do not put a high emphasis on the communal aspect of fandom anymore, but having the opportunity was (and is) great.

What was that “big German fanpage” called? What were the discussions about? Did you meet people that way? The site is called Animexx. I still have an account there, but I don’t log in that often. I mainly participated in discussions about Inuyasha, which was my favourite anime and manga at the time. Discussions were about favourite characters, OTPs and thoughts about how it would end. I think the anime (the original 160ish episodes anyway) were about to end, but the manga was still going and there were discussions about what would become of the characters (would Kagome return to her time etc.) I was also in a group of fellow Swiss anime fans where we talked about how to find shops that sold manga and anime-DVDs and if we had friends IRL who were into otaku-related things. I believe this group also organised meet-ups, but I never attended one, I think I was too shy.

I did have a pen pal back then who was a huge otaku, but I met her through the letter page of a Swiss youth-magazine and not over the internet. The girl I exchanged letters with was a big Inuyasha fan as well and we were in contact for about 4 years; I even met her once. The letters eventually stopped, I think it was because our interests started diverging (I started having an “anime-slump” around age 15 and she gravitated more towards J-Pop and J-Rock which I was not really into), but I have fond memories of our exchanges.

You said the page also hosted fanart, fanfiction and cosplay pictures. Did you participate, and if so, how? I read fanfiction and went through fanart galleries, though I did not actively participate. I did draw a lot of fanart back then (between ages 10 and 18), but I never uploaded anything. Frankly, my drawings were not very good and I did not really feel an incentive to share them with the online world. Same goes for fanfiction, although I did publish some on Animexx when I was around 17-19. They were about Harry Potter however (Animexx is mainly for anime, but there are other fandoms represented as well), since I was more into HP and similar books/movies then and less into anime. I did not cosplay, but I loved looking at the pictures other users uploaded. Apart from participating in discussions, I was more of a lurker.

Do you remember your first convention? What was it, and what was it like?
It was the one in my hometown (it’s hosted in a different city since 2015, I think), JapAniMangaNight. I attended for the first time in 2012. It was a very intense experience. So far, I had of course been aware that other anime fans exist (even in Switzerland), but seeing so many of them at the same time at the same place (a lot of them in costume!) was somewhat of a revelation. I went two more times and then to another convention last year and I still enjoyed it, but that first time was truly special.

What made your first con so special? This sounds like such a cliche, but I was so moved to see so many people who were also into anime (and other nerdy things) in one place. I of course knew that I was not the only otaku around, but seeing so many of them assembled (most of them in costume!) was sort of a revelation. The first time I attended a convention I was hardcore into Hetalia and there were some Hetalia cosplayers. This made me very happy and I asked every one I saw whether I could take their picture. After that first time and since I started spending more time around online fans, the novelty of seeing so many anime-fans has worn off a little, but I still enjoy going to cons.

What did your family think of your interest in anime? They were/are accepting. My mother especially has been on the receiving end of a lot of enthusiastic tirades about my current anime-obsessions, but since we often discussed different media (books, TV shows etc.), this was not out of the ordinary. My father always remained somewhat baffled I think, but he encouraged me, not least because my initial interest in anime and manga evolved into an interest in Japanese culture in general. He does not get the concept of fandom at all, but since I learned other things through that initial interest in anime and manga, he was never really bothered.

How have you grown and changed as an anime fan since you discovered anime? I have grown and changed a lot. For one, my genres of choice have changed and I have become more picky. When I first got into anime around age 11, I loved action/shonen shows. In my teens, I was a shojo enthusiast (especially high school romances, I adored those). Today, at age 24, I don’t have one genre, but I tend to watch shows aimed at older fans. I tried rewatching some of the shows I loved when I was younger (Case Closed, Inuyasha, DBZ) and despite the nostalgia, I couldn’t get back into it. I don’t mean that these shows are bad, I have just outgrown most of what I watched back when I was in middle school/early high school.

Right now, I also don’t feel very motivated to check out many new shows. Until last winter, I followed at least two shows each season, but I think right now I just want to take a break and maybe rewatch some older stuff or finally get around to seeing shows I’ve meant to watch for ages.

Overall, I would say that I have settled down somewhat. I still get very enthusiastic about certain shows (Yuri!!! on Ice being a prime example, I barely shut up about it!), but in general, I have a more measured approach and tend to enjoy anime more in solitude or discuss it with some people I know personally.

Anthea can be reached on Twitter

#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

#51: Edward

Age: 45

Location: Austria

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. That’s sort of complicated. I’ve been watching anime all my life. In the early ’70s, the Austrian children’s TV programming included lots of World Masterpiece Theatre shows. There were co-productions (Maya) and some classics (SinbadKimba the White Lion). I was always aware that these cartoons came from Japan. Japan and America dominated on TV; I enjoyed both, and had no clear preference. (There were some British shows, and some from all over Europe.)

In the early ’80s, TV broadcast Captain Future. I don’t remember which stations broadcast the show, but I know it ran in the afternoon. I didn’t know back then, but it was censored for violence, and had a completely new soundtrack written by a German. What fascinated me the most about this show as a teen was a recurring villain team. I was used to incompetent henchmen, and little teamwork. The villains here cared for each other every bit as much the protagonists, and they were equally competent.

I don’t remember exactly when I first heard the term “anime.” My gut tells me it must have been the late ’80s or the early ’90s. Early ’90s would make most sense, since that’s when music stations such as MTV or the German Viva started airing anime, and late night TV started broadcasting subbed anime.

The first subtitled anime show I ever saw was Silent Möbius, which has a special place in my heart for this reason alone. Other shows that aired were better or worse. One notable show is The Irresponsible Captain Tylor. They also occasionally had marathon weekends (an entire season in two nights) and best of nights (lots of recent first episodes in one night—this was my first encounter with Evangelion). There’s an anime magazine in Germany that debuted in late 1994, which sort of supports my gut feeling and dates the term “anime” to the early ’90s.

A milestone in children TV programming was the first anime set in Japan I can remember: a ’60s sports show, Attack No. 1, about a female volleyball team. I remember being fascinated with publicised exam results. Similarly, also in the early ’90s, came the first fanservice culture shock: Agent Aika. They push you into the deep waters first, don’t they! This show is a weapon of mass panty exposure. I understood nudity, but that fascination with underwear was mystifying. It felt perverted and innocent at the same time. I watched pretty much any anime I could find, so I watched that, too. It wasn’t all bad, either, and the follow up—Najika Blitz Tactics—was a little better, and I got used to the odd fanservice, too.

I didn’t have a VCR for a long time, so the only anime I own in VHS is Princess Mononoke. Not many new shows came out later, and VHS died, and once again, I was a late adopter to the next technology, and I didn’t really have a DVD player for a long time. The next thing I bought was Haruhi Suzumiya in, I think, 2008. I’d buy a lot of DVDs from then on.

A writing friend recommended Elfen Lied based on my writing. She said she was fascinated with the combination of innocence and violence. I hadn’t ever heard of that show, but I replied that I was used to that sort of thing, although I couldn’t remember specific examples. I looked for the show online and found it on youtube, which in turn led me to fansubs. I started watching anime as they aired near the end of 2009. I never really participated much in the community. I’m a registered member at animesuki (for the forums), and I follow a couple of blogs, and I talk about anime on a writing site, and that’s about it. Nobody around me in real life shares my hobby, although I got my mum to watch Usagi Drop (and also the Heidi reference scene in episode one of Kuragehime [Princess Jellyfish]).

So, now maybe you can answer the question: when did I discover anime? As a child? In the ’80s with Captain Future (an adult show censored for children)? In the ’90s boom, when the term “anime” started being used? In 2009 when I was discovering fansubs? I don’t feel like I discovered anime. It’s always been sort of there, though for half the time not under that name.

What did your mom think of the anime you showed her? I think she thought Usagi Drop was cute and was looking forward to the weekly episodes, though I’m sure to some degree she was humouring me. Still, I tried other shows (such as Shirokuma Café, and I could tell they didn’t work). I do show my mum certain scenes I think she would enjoy, most recently the opening scene of episode one of Classicaloid (which I overheard her telling Dad about later).

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? In a sense, anime was a huge influence on forming my taste in the first place. It’s not that I discovered anime as an alternative to anything. I simply grew into it.

As an example: When I started watching Ghibli movies (starting with Princess Mononoke), I soon learned I preferred Takahata to Miyazaki. Later I learned Takahata is responsible for the WMT shows I remember most fondly: Heidi and 3000 Leagues. Coincidence? I doubt it. I saw them early in life and that’s just what stuck with me. Takahata may be part of the reason I like slice of life so much.

Do you remember your first convention? What was it, and what was it like?
I’ve never been to such a thing, and I’m not sure any exist. I don’t know if I wanted to go, since I dislike crowds. I am curious, though. I did spend three days in Vienna once, because an independent cinema had an anime theme day (around the time Spirited Away was new). It was an old cinema, with an old and noisy projector and uncomfortable seats. The most memorable show I saw was Perfect Blue. They also showed Roujin Z—an OVA dubbed English with German subtitles. (Even the cinemas seemed to show whatever they could get their hands on.)

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? I wasn’t part of the anime fandom, and I’m still really only a marginal figure. I enjoy talking about anime now and then, so I occasionally reply to blog post or forum threads, but not very often. The reason I reply here is because the project interests me. (As an aside: I hold a degree in sociology.)

Have you used your degree to studied subculture before, or participate in other projects like this one?  I’ve never actually done any research. I got my degree, but never did anything with it after finishing. Still, the interest is still there. For what it’s worth, I was writing my thesis about the letter section in an American comic book (Sam Keith’s The Maxx). My interest was theoretical: I was mostly interested in how interaction across space-time could be viewed theoretically (the relationship between real space/time and social space/time was surprisingly understudied, considering the rise of the internet). I was only secondarily interested in fan culture.

#44: Ioan

Age: 16

Location: Great Britain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ioan can be reached on Twitter

#35: Omar

Age: 18

Location: Italy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Omar can be reached on Twitter

#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

#31: Justine

Age: 25

Location: France

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. Back when I was 13. I had a habit of watching TV after coming back from school, and there was that TV program called La Kaz on Canal+ that broadcasted many good anime at the time. I usually avoided the whole thing (because I wasn’t too keen on the anime aesthetic) until one day I came upon an episode of Fullmetal Alchemist in 2003, the episode where Edward was starting to realize Wrath had his arm. That stuff really impressed my teenage self back then. Despite having no idea what was going on, I kept watching it religiously every day until it ended.

What didn’t you like about the “anime aesthetic” at first, and why did you change your mind? Back then I had this stereotype in my mind. “Anime is violent and stupid,” and “they’re ugly cartoons.” I did find it ugly, mostly because of the pointy eyes and the YuGiOh/DBZ hair. I must have been influenced by my parents who themselves must have been influenced by the few politicians  (family associations  and in particular the social democrat Segolene Royal) who were fighting to prevent anime from airing on national TV. Which is ironic because back when I was little I used to watch Lady Oscar (The Rose of Versailles) and Le Petit Lord (an anime adaptation of the Little Lord Fauntleroy, the name in Japanese is Shokkoshi Ceddie) on French TV. The later in particular was my favourite show (albeit tied with Tintin). And I loved the aesthetic.

Neither me nor my parents had any idea those were technically anime or even Japanese productions, I only realized they were anime much later, long after I was already neck deep in the medium. That’s why I don’t consider them my gateway anime. I suppose I always loved anime, I just didn’t know it.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? How unusual the plot was, mostly. How well handled the drama was, too. I didn’t even watch the previous episodes but I was instantly hooked on and invested in Edward’s character.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? I have no clue, either FMA itself or Naruto I guess? It could have been GTO [Great Teacher Onizuka] too though.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time?
My first experience of an anime fandom was with a Naruto scanlation team forum. You can sum it up by arguing on shit that happened in the chapters. They also taught me how to crack Photoshop and digital painting.

What were scanlations like at the time? Was this before you could get Naruto manga legally? The scanlation team had a private sub forum to themselves so they could work on the weekly chapters. That was around the time the French licensed manga was roughly 20 volumes behind on the Japanese weekly Shonen Jump release.

Did you assist with the scanlation? A few times when they lacked people. I wasn’t a permanent member though. Also a few times, the team gave me the raw cover early and I managed to speed colorize it so it’d make it into the release. I also participated in numerous color chapter projects and colorization contests.

You said they helped you learn digital painting and Photoshop. Did you use that to create any fan art? At first I only colorized [Naruto manga artist] Kishimoto’s pages and covers. But yeah, I went on to draw my own fan art. If you must know, actually I’m in art school. Haha. So yeah, you could say that was a turning point for me.

What was the first anime-related purchase you made, and how much did it cost? Probably a Fullmetal Alchemist manga volume. Five euros. It was so cheap back then.

Do you remember your first anime convention? Can you tell me about it?
I went to my first anime convention rather late compared to when I first got into anime. I only remember spending all my money (60 euros) on the real size replicas of Zoro’s three katanas. This is so typical for a weeaboo at her first convention it’s almost embarrassing, but eh, I still had a great time. And the swords compliment my cupboard nicely.

What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom when you got into it and now? It’s hard to tell because the places I hang out at changed a lot over the years. I don’t even hang around french speaking communities anymore. Now my favourite place to discuss anime is [4chan forum] /a/.

I get the distinct sense that anime is becoming more and more mainstream though. Ten years ago I couldn’t find anybody to discuss anime with, except on
the internet. Now a few of my friends have a favourite anime.

Justine 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