#69: Jamie T

Age: 22

Location: Arizona, USA

When did you discover anime? I discovered anime through my long distance best friend James’s blog when he watched and reviewed Death Note in 2013. I watched it that week, but I wasn’t sold on anime. After a year of reading his reviews as he slowly got into it, he convinced me to try Studio Ghibli. The Secret World of Arrietty amazed me, followed by Whisper of the Heart. I madly watched Studio Ghibli, then Satoshi Kon’s films upon James’ recommendation and loved them. I began trying TV series with English dubs (Fate/Zero, Spice and Wolf, Ouran High School Host Club, Psycho-Pass, etc.) Princess Jellyfish sold me even further. Then Gugure! Kokkuri-san sold me on subs late 2014 and I’ve been faithfully watching seasonal anime since then!

How did you meet James? We actually met through each other’s blogs as teenagers; I was looking for other Star Wars fans, I found his blog, and we struck up an online friendship! We commented frequently for years, then started skyping to discuss Marvel films, and then when he finally got me into anime we skyped almost weekly to discuss new episodes of seasonal shows.

Not only are we are still friends; we are actually long-distance dating now! He’s been my boyfriend now for over a year. We have met in person three times, at about two weeks time, and have made many plans for the future! He actually does not blog anymore, for personal reasons, but we are in communication all the time and we still watch and talk about anime! We always look forward to our next visit because we enjoy watching anime in person together.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? Death Note was addictive and strange, I couldn’t stop watching. Everything else about it was odd; the art style, the eyes, etc. But like any well-told story, if the story and characters are well-written, you can’t look away.

What was it about Death Note in particular that made you such a fan? I have a hard time understanding why Death Note grabbed my attention like it did, as I never marathoned shows in a couple days like I did it. I just remember I COULDN’T STOP haha! I think it’s because it felt so mature compared to the content I’d seen in American animation and how well the psychology and suspense was executed. It just grabbed me and didn’t let go.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? I wasn’t super aware at the time what was very popular. But most likely Attack on Titan.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? I actually don’t have much comment on that, outside of my best friend, I wasn’t very involved in the anime community online. I wanted to experience anime without much outside input besides general recommendations and the like.

Was the Internet a part of fandom at the time?  Oh yes. Internet is how I found out about anime in the first place, through reading blog reviews.

Could you elaborate on which blogs? It was primarily through my friend-now-boyfriend’s blog that I learned about anime. I had never heard of it before. He reviewed movies and TV shows on his blog, so when he discovered anime, he began frequently writing and posting reviews for the shows he watched. As his best friend, I read them all out of politeness and pure curiosity haha! I read his thoughts on different anime shows for a year before jumping on board with him—I was stubborn in my thinking anime was odd. XD It took a while, but he sold me on it!

Do you remember your first convention? I’ve yet to go to an official anime convention. I have attended the Phoenix Comic-con before and after being an anime fan. The last time I went, 90 percent of what I bought was anime-related posters and merchandise. I would love to attend an anime convention in the future though.

Can you tell me about your first anime-related purchase, what it was, and how much it cost? My first anime purchases included two 11×16 inch posters, one of Kise from Kuroko’s Basketball and a manga cover of Fate/Zero. They were eight dollars for each unless you bought two, in which case both were for $10. I remember thinking that was kinda a silly bargain and spent a good fifteen minutes going through the massive stack finding a second poster I liked, which was the Kise poster. I also bought a 13×22 inch poster of the boys from Free! all clothed and sitting on the edge of a pool with sunflowers looking just adorable. I don’t remember what I paid for that one. I also bought my first wall scroll, featuring the power players from Kuroko’s Basketball. It was around 20 dollars I believe. I’m a huge poster girl so I still have all of these on my walls, along with about eight new additions!

For you personally, what’s the biggest difference between your anime fandom then and now? I think the biggest difference is that I’m learning that it’s ok to put it on hold when I need to. I used to start crappy seasonal shows and feel like I had to finish them. Now with my life being a bit busier, I’m learning to control the fandom, not let the fandom control me. It doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy watching all kinds of good and bad anime anymore, it just means I’ve grown up a little bit. So I guess my fandom is little less obsessive and now more hobby-like, if that makes any sense at all.

Jamie can be reached on Twitter

#67: Ellery

Age: 22

Location: Venezuela

When did you discover anime? I first discovered anime when I was a little kid. Anime was actually aired quite a lot back when I was young, even in local channels outside of cable.

The first anime I got into was Dragon Ball Z, specifically the episode where Goku first dies (really nice way for a kid to be introduced to something), DBZ’s hispanic dub didn’t have any censoring but my parents didn’t really care cause they just saw it as a cartoon (they did make sure to tell me not to imitate what I saw though).

After that I got into it through the usual anime like Pokemon and Digimon, but really anime was such a big part of my childhood, whether it was more shonen oriented things like Inuyasha, Yu Yu Hakusho and Gundam Wing or more kid friendly toy commercial brand anime like Medabots, Beyblade or Yu-Gi-Oh.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? I just liked how it was different from normal cartoons. I enjoy cartoons and the ones that aired when I was young (Dexter’s Laboratory, Powerpuff Girls, and the like) were fun, but anime offered a different type of rush plus I loved how the stories had continuity and the characters went through different things.

Not gonna lie though, I liked the cool fights, transformations and all that shonen cheesiness those shows were known for, it was like I fell in love and I still love it to this day even though I’m more critical of them.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? Dragon Ball Z, by miles. Even people who don’t know about anime know about Dragon Ball Z to this day.

How did you learn that? Did somebody surprising bring up DBZ when you were a kid? It was mostly due to the fact that pretty much anyone who grew up in Venezuela at that time has heard about Dragon Ball. I’ve known people who have no interest in anime and even hate it but who absolutely love Dragon Ball. Most of the reason for that is that the series really aired everywhere over here and the merchandise spread even more.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? It was normal I guess; every kid watched it’ cause it was on all the time, to the point they were like any other TV series so we’d just walk up to school and start talking about the last episode of Digimon or how Goku pulled out a new awesome (really weird now that I’m older) transformation or if Ash was going to win the League (ha ha ha ha).

Was the Internet a part of fandom at the time? Not really, I mean we were kids and it was at the time when the internet was just starting to pick up ( I remember my mom showed me how to use it when I was eight) so it was more a case of just talking about it in class and stuff.

Do you remember your first convention? I actually don’t, I think I was six.

You were SIX? Well it was actually more like a regional festival rather than a convention, back then all the anime that aired was so popular that you had all types of people dressing up as the characters for it since it was an event where people could wear costumes. I don’t remember much from it aside from the fact I got a Wargreymon action figure.

What was the first anime that you became a serious fan of? Hmmm the first anime that I can say I was hooked on for a long time was probably Naruto. I think I spent a month marathoning what was out of the show when I first discovered it and was hooked on it for years. Aside from that one I was really into Digimon and Gundam, but could never find anyone to talk to about it but when I first started watching I think I re-watched Gundam Seed (yes…even Gundam Seed Destiny), 00 and Wing like two times.

What did your family think about your interest in anime? Well, when I was a kid they just saw it as me being into cartoons and stuff and then when I was a teenager I actually kept it a tight secret from them, which made them wonder if I was watching porn most of the time. Eventually they found out and accept it as long as it didn’t get in the ways of my studies (which it sometimes did… but they don’t need to know that), even if my mom still expects me to grow out of it at some point. I’m still wondering if it would somehow make things better or worse if I showed her some of the more serious aspects of anime.

What’s the biggest thing that’s changed between your anime fandom then and now? Well, I certainly am a lot more dedicated to it now. Not only do I watch a lot of anime, I also take into account why I like what I like and try to learn more about the industry and what drives it, not just about the studios involved but why anime is made the way it is. I also really pay attention to what other people think and say about the shows I like because I think that taking others’ opinions into account also helps you judge and change your own opinion, after all, there might be stuff you hadn’t noticed that others did.

Ellery can be reached on Tumblr.

#62: Emily

Age: 42

Location: San Francisco Bay Area

When did you discover anime? I grew up watching anime on TV, and while I could tell it was Japanese from all the names in the credits, I didn’t know it was a specific thing called “anime.” I watched stuff like Captain Harlock, Battle of the Planets, Tranzor Z, Macron 1, Robotech, and all those animated versions of fairytales they’d show on Nickelodeon.

I first got into anime (or “Japanimation”) as a specific thing in high school in 1991. The movie theater at the nearby university was showing a double feature of Lupin III: Castle of Cagliostro and Vampire Hunter D. Both were subtitled. While I actually laughed more at D than Lupin, I thought both were great, and from that point on, I made an effort to find and watch whatever anime I could. The pickings were slim. I could find stuff like Clash of the Bionoids and Warriors of the Wind at local video stores, along with random tentacle things. I also found some anime for rent at a local comic shop, where I managed to watch stuff like Gall Force and later on, Ranma 1/2. I even rented random raw anime from a local Japanese video store.

When I started college in 1992, I saw flyers for the University Anime Club, and I finally managed to join in in 1993. I stayed in the club as a full time member and later as an officer through 1997, and then returned as a regular member again from 2001-2007.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? I liked how a lot of it had fantasy and sci-fi elements. Fun stories with young characters. Things I couldn’t really find much of in the fiction and US comics I was reading at the time. (These days, the YA fiction boom covers a lot of what I was missing at the time.)

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? Probably Akira or Ranma 1/2.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? I felt a bit odd at first because there weren’t really many girls into it at the time. I’d go to a convention in 1995, and it was definitely mostly guys.

Also, my university’s club was huge. In its heyday in the mid-late ’90s, we’d have 200+ people show up for weekly screenings because the Club was really the only place to see anime beyond the same half-dozen tapes at the video store.

And screenings were different because much of the time in the early days, things were not subtitled so we’d watch with a flyer that had a description of the action. Eventually more things were fansubbed, and Club members with connections got their hands on them and shared the loot. The Club had a huge library of VHS tapes, both raw and fansubbed, that members could check out for a week. So the Club was the place to be, even for all the unsocial nerds, lol. I could chat with people who liked the same things and learn about new shows. As time went on, and the anime selection at video stores increased and the internet made anime more freely available, Club attendance decreased because it wasn’t the only option anymore.

Being a girl in a mostly male space—what was that like? did you ever feel like an outsider? Why do you think anime fandom was so male? I don’t think I really felt like an outsider. Maybe an oddity occasionally at first, but female fandom sort of exploded once Sailor Moon hit, so things changed after that.

A reason the fandom at the time might have skewed more male is because, at least for me locally, the only place I could really find anime stuff at first was my local comic shop, which already skewed male. And a lot of early titles we got were pretty violent: wholesome things like Urotsukidoji, Wicked City, and whatnot. But things like Rumiko Takahashi series had a wider appeal, and then anime started appearing in regular video stores, and then manga started appearing in regular book stores, and so the audience expanded.

Was the Internet a part of fandom at the time? It was a part of fandom in the form of newsgroups like rec.arts.anime or bulletin boards. Later on there were chat rooms and IRC . Eventually, web pages appeared, and anime fans made tons of fan sites (myself included!) on places like Geocities and you could find all of them through the Anime Web Turnpike. General fansites connected via webrings and top site lists, then collective web pages, then blogs. I think Wikipedia probably killed the concept of the anime fan site, since I don’t see passionate fans really making those sites anymore. Now it’s mostly Wikipedia, news sites, and review blogs.

Tell me about your sites! Are any still up? I made a bunch of anime and manga fan sites, starting in around 1996 or so. I have kept several of them online, though they are kind of painful to look at now, and I only make sporadic attempts to update them.

Currently some of my fansites are for:

Do you remember your first convention? What was it, and what was it like?
My first anime convention was Project Z-kon in January 1995. It was an attempt at making a winter version of A-Kon, but I guess it never took off. It was tiny, maybe only a couple hundred people attended. I had fun though. I went for one day. The dealer’s room had about 6 tables, but I still managed to get a P-chan plush from Ranma 1/2, Macross Plus OST 1, and a Dragon Half CD, so I was happy! It was my first time seeing anime merchandise for sale! My fist big convention was A-Kon 6, later that summer. Maybe 1500 people attended that time, and it was also great fun. The masquerade had entertaining skits, and I was just so amazed to see all the anime merchandise for sale. Lots of bootleg CDs though. I learned quickly how to spot an SM bootleg CD!

There were screening rooms showing things I hadn’t seen, and while there were some people in costume, the focus back then really was more about ANIME than it seems to be these days. My impression of cons now is that they are more about showing off cosplay and repeating memes than the actual act of watching and enjoying anime. But that’s probably because again, anime is so easily available at home now, and everyone is connected on the internet, you don’t really need a club or convention to find other fans.

What’s an SM bootleg CD? SM CDs are “Son May” CDs. Son May was a bootleg company from Taiwan that produced copies of anime CDs—direct copies of existing soundtracks with lesser quality printing on the packaging, as well as their own compilation CDs, like ‘Polling Best Anime Themes of 1996,’ etc. Many anime conventions were not so strict about what kind of merchandise was in the dealers room. So, while we’d always see legit anime music retailers like Mikado selling real CDs for at least $30 a pop, some other dealers would have the Son May CDs for $14-16 each. For broke college students with not too many scruples (or just ignorant about bootlegs), these were amazing lol. Heck, if you had enough friends chipping in, you could order CDs in bulk direct from SM in Taiwan and it would average out to about $6 per CD. I eventually grew out of that phase and realized I should support the industry, and switched to buying real stuff from Mikado, but I still have a bunch of SM CDs from the early days.

In your opinion and personal experience, what’s the biggest difference between anime fandom then and now? The quantity and easy availability of anime now. It’s staggering how much is out there, and how the internet has made things so much easier to find. The idea that we can watch stuff within hours of Japan is mind-boggling. And that we get almost all of it, the good stuff and the dregs. So fandom feels so spoiled now, hahaha. There are complaints if a show is delayed a few hours or days, or complaints about stuff like Little Witch Academia being delayed a few months for binge streaming here. I want to shake my nth-generation bad-tracking EP mode raw VHS tapes at you spoiled whippersnappers, hahaha.

Emily can be reached on Twitter.

#61: Alexandria G

Age: 20

Location: Columbus, Ohio

When did you discover anime? I discovered anime at a very young age (in the early 2000s) because of my older half-sister Chelsea, who is eight years older than myself. She was always obsessed with Japan and anime, having countless Sailor Moon tapes and merchandise; her closet was bursting with SM dolls and figures, and she had a whole binder full of first edition, Japanese holographic Pokemon cards under her bed. I lusted over it through my whole childhood. She was so obsessive over Sailor Moon that my mother was pushed over the edge and essentially forbade the viewing of anime, and especially Sailor Moon, in any part of the house except for the basement, where she could not see or hear it. Of course, that only made me more curious about it, though I could not express that sentiment out loud. Probably out of spite for my mother, she planted the “anime seed” in me and my younger sister by showing us Studio Ghibli movies like Spirited Away, Totoro, and Kiki’s Delivery Service. We had no idea these movies were from another country since they were dubbed in English, though I don’t think we would have cared much. They were different from the usual coming-of-age Disney stuff we were used to, so I was fascinated with them. When Chelsea went off to college, I would look forward to her return on holidays because she would bring her DVD of Spirited Away back home. Seed successfully planted!

Fast forward a few more years and I was going through my obligatory adolescent wolf phase. I loved roleplaying wolves on forums (my OC was a black wolf named “ViperScar”) and drawing my fursona on deviantART. One day I was looking at some dank wolf art on dA and someone mentioned a show called Wolf’s Rain. So, I gave it a try, because wolves! I binged the whole thing on YouTube, with each episode uploaded in three ten-minute parts in what must have been atrocious quality. I didn’t understand all of it, but I loved it, and it made me feel mature because of all the blood. A few episodes in, I figured out it was Japanese. I didn’t want to be associated with anime since my parents hated it so much, so I rationalized that it wasn’t “real anime,” because it was dubbed in English and had an English OP/ED. I kept my interest in the show a relative secret (though I introduced it to my BFF who probably only sat through it because he had a crush on me).

Alexandria as Riza Hawkeye and Chelsea as Maria Ross from ‘Fullmetal Alchemist.’

My interest in this show allowed me to really bond with Chelsea; we weren’t particularly close until the summer after my fifth grade year, when she discovered I had tasted the forbidden fruit. I think she was excited to have another person to talk to about anime and Japan, even though I had only really seen one title. And I was happy to get the attention and fulfillment resulting from having an actual connection to my sister. She would take me on long drives to the nearby Japanese markets and bookstores and we would talk about anime and play Yoko Kanno tracks from a CD in her car. She also told me about the times in distant past where you would have to get anime by mailing blank tapes to strangers so they could copy shows to them and then send them back. Her stories about ’90s anime fandom were so far removed from my reality at that time that it almost seemed like some sort of mystical Tolkeinesque fantasy. I was enchanted by it. Everything was good.

A few more years passed and my parents separated. Everything was not good. He subjected me, my mother, and my younger sister Danielle to narcissistic abuse, terrorizing us in our family home every day after he got off work and then leaving suddenly to return to his girlfriend. Chelsea and my other half-sister Lindsay were living out-of-state at this time, so they didn’t have to deal with him. Everything had turned around so quickly that no one knew how to handle it. Suddenly, we had no father, no money, barely a mother (she was sick and constantly bedridden; my dad was her physician and purposefully gave her medication that would interact negatively in the body), no friends, and I was deep into clinical depression that was so far unresponsive to medication.

Because of all the turmoil, I became close with Danielle and we binged shows like Sherlock, Hannibal, Adventure Time, and Star Trek: The Next Generation together. When I was a junior in high school, I heard about an animated show called Fullmetal Alchemist, and the premise sounded interesting. There was a catch though: it was one of those forbidden Japanese cartoons! I asked Danielle if she was okay with watching an anime and she was just kind of like “sure.” We were hooked, watching the original and Brotherhood two times over the course of a month. It only made us hungry for more; that summer we watched Cowboy Bebop, Trigun, and Evangelion. There was a showing of Evangelion 3.33 in theatres that we had the privilege of going to and it was a religious experience. Then, I haphazardly learned how to sew by watching YouTube videos just so we could cosplay Riza Hawkeye and Maria Ross. That winter, we went to our first anime convention wearing the cosplays I so lovingly sewed together. I spent so much time on them that I actually broke my cheapo sewing machine! We were officially knee deep into anime fandom and it only snowballed from there.

To this day I have watched 274 different TV anime and am an avid cosplayer. I have gotten many other people into the medium and am even learning Japanese with great enthusiasm. Most strikingly, it has helped me deal with the treatment-resistant depression that has been slowly taking all positive feelings away from me over the years. Stories like NGE, Rurouni Kenshin, Berserk, Revolutionary Girl Utena, and The Rose of Versailles have given me a slew of interesting and multifaceted characters and situations to analyze, while things like JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure and One Piece allow me to smile when it seems like nothing else is worth smiling at. All of these things have brought me immense joy and remind me that I am still capable of feeling it.

I know it’s silly and cheesy to say something like this, but I am very thankful for anime. It has allowed me to connect to my family and make friends in new places, inspired me to continue making my own art, and has often made life the slightest bit easier to handle when it seems like everything is falling apart™.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? How unique the stories and characters were in comparison to what was available in the West.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? Pokemon and Naruto; later, Attack on Titan.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? When I was a kid and first getting into anime, I wasn’t even that involved in a wider fandom. It was more as a teenager and an adult that I realized there even was a fandom and got more involved. And that was pretty much present day, so it wasn’t much different than now!

Do you know how your half-sister Chelsea found out about anime that led to her getting hooked on Sailor Moon? No surprisingly, no one seems to know how it started. I can’t remember a time when she wasn’t into anime, and she is very secretive about her feelings and passions.

Alexandria’s first cosplay, San from ‘Princess Mononoke.’

How did anime fandom lead to an interest in cosplay? How did you learn cosplay was a thing? How did cosplay make you feel? I think it was just a natural evolution of what I was doing before for Halloween, etc. I always went all out on my costumes (e.g. James Cameron’s Avatar costume in for Halloween 2010 with full-body blue paint and latex prosthetics) and enjoyed assuming the identities of fictional characters because I just didn’t like my own identity too much. I saw a lot of cosplay over the internet and I had already learned some sewing basics by the time I was getting serious about anime; It seemed like an enjoyable way to express my deep love for the things I liked while also pretending to not be me for a little bit. Cosplay was and is very empowering for me; I am a lot more animated when cosplaying and it’s fun interacting with people that have the same interests. It’s a source of validation in addition to it being a chance to show off my craftsmanship.

Do you remember your first anime con? Yes, it was Ohayocon 2014! I cosplayed Fullmetal Alchemist with my sister, but we only ended up cosplaying for one afternoon. The con seemed huge and overwhelming, especially since we were so young (I think I was 16-17 while my sister was 13-14). We couldn’t find registration to pick up our badges for the first 2.5 hours we were there, it was actually kind of a stressful experience and we didn’t really go to any panels that because the place was so hard to navigate. The day after was more enjoyable, we decided not to cosplay and were able to go to to more panels because of the time that freed up in the morning.

How does your mom feel about anime now? Does she still dislike it? It’s not something that she seeks out by any means or anything, but she does seem to have a deeper appreciation for anime since it’s helped her daughters so much. At one point, she considered writing a thank you letter to Eiichiro Oda, since One Piece helped me through a very rough part of my life and very well could have saved me.  Heck, I think she considers herself a lowkey fan of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, though a lot of that comes from the surplus of buff and attractive men in that show. Who can blame her, though!

It’s heartening to see how anime helped you bond with your sisters. Do they still watch anime today? Do you still watch together? I am living on my own now so I don’t get to see Danielle very often, but when I come home we marathon it together. I’d say it’s our main sister-bonding activity and it’s a highlight of my visits. I don’t see Chelsea very often either; she lives in Japan and is there indefinitely since she fell in love and got married there! Apparently, she doesn’t watch anime much anymore, though her husband is into it (he’s big on Attack on Titan and JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure).

What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom then and anime fandom today? I feel like I haven’t noticed any significant changes since then, I don’t think I’ve been part of anime fandom long enough to notice too much.

Alexandria can be reached on Twitter

#60: Kelly S

Age: 30

Location: Southeastern United States

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#56: Jennifer

Age: 44

Location: Durham, North Carolina

When did you discover anime? In the olden days of the 1970s, there existed Speed Racer and Battle of the Planets, but they never hooked me. In college in the early 1990s, a vampire-loving friend acquired VHS tapes of Vampire Hunter D and Vampire Princess Miyu (OVA) at a science fiction convention; in a fit of nostalgia in 1997 I bought Miyu through Suncoast video, but the clerk gave me such grief for requesting anything as uncool as Japanese cartoons that I resolved to purchase future tapes from some new online vendor called Amazon. Fast forward to the 2000s, when I caught a glimpse of Inuyasha on Adult Swim, and I was hooked. After Inuyasha was Ghost in the Shell, and while it wasn’t to my taste necessarily, the voice actor who played the Major had a phenomenal voice. I bought a TiVo so that I could capture both shows. In 2007 the twenty-something in my lab introduced me to online fan-subbed, and this was back in the day before YouTube videos played longer than ten minutes. To have accessible material was a dream. I’m now a subscriber to legitimate anime stations, and I consume print and digital manga.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? Two things: it filled a hole left behind when Buffy the Vampire Slayer went off the air. I will always be a sucker for Scooby-Doo crossed with Days of Our Lives shows. Secondly, the on demand aspect of online fan-subs: all I wanted to do was watch television while eating dinner after a long day at work, and the only thing on cable TV at that time was news or garbage.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? I was a working professional, so I was only confiding with close friends.

How did being a working professional make fandom prohibitive? Working for a large corporation, there was a lot of pressure to not stand out. It was a very competitive environment. The only safe topics of conversation were traffic, sports, or weather; admitting to liking anything unusual might give your coworkers something sticky with which to label you or otherwise undermine you. It took me years to realize somebody the next lab over watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer, too, because we just couldn’t admit it aloud.

Is it different today? Are things easier now? In the workplace, it really depends on the folks in your micro environment. In my mid-forties I mind less about my reputation. If my manager gives me grief because I slapped a Hello Kitty magnet on my car, so be it. What is easier is accessing other fans online.

Was the Internet a part of fandom at the time? If yes, how? If no, how did you connect with other fans? I only connected by word of mouth with other fans I knew through work: the twenty-something recent graduate, and the friend practicing her hiragana with names from an anime during a company safety meeting.

When did you first begin participating online, and what form did that take? I had no idea that an online fandom existed until relatively recently. (A couple of years ago?) I found Anime News Network through internet searches and followed the handles of contributors to Twitter. I read more than I write or post, because at the end of an exhausting day, I just want to be informed and entertained. I had no clue that other fans were out there or that I could search for them.

Do you remember your first convention? What was it, and what was it like?
2009(?) Animazement in Raleigh, NC. I hear that it’s a very well-run convention, and the participants have a reputation for enthusiasm and good behavior. It was overwhelming and fun!

Why did you decide to go to a con? I knew a family who were volunteering, and they encouraged me to go.  They also gave me advice as to which panels to go to, and that helped me from becoming overwhelmed.  It helped that I had been to my own professional conventions before, so I didn’t mind the noise or the crowds.  It also has helped that Animazement has earned a reputation for being a very well-run event, and the crowds are generally well-mannered and cheerful.  I love the  shopping, the energy, and the many creative cosplayers.

For you, what’s the biggest change between anime fandom when you discovered it and anime fandom now? My perception of fandom has changed.  I used to think that fans were all young adults, and while that is who mostly goes to cons, I have found writers online who represent much more diversity in age and experience.

Jennifer can be reached on Twitter.

#55: Annalyn

Age: 24

Location: United States

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. It was 2009, during the summer between my sophomore and junior years of high school, and I was barely sixteen years old. At the time, Hulu provided my main TV source and online escape from reality—and with my mental health the way it was at the time, that escape was much valued. This was in the good old days when you could have a free Hulu account and only get thirty-second commercials. Naruto popped up as a recommended show, likely because of my interest in action-adventure and fantasy shows. The description caught my attention, so I watched the first episode. And the next. And the next. The first Naruto OP still fills me with nostalgia, transporting me back to where I sat on (not at) my parents’ kitchen counter, watching my first anime late at night. With Hulu’s help, I discovered similar anime, like Inuyasha. Before long, I was hooked on anime as a medium.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? The continued storylines. I felt like most American TV shows were very episodic, whereas anime would continue with the same complex storyline for dozens—or even hundreds—of episodes. I hadn’t seen these layers of conflict and character development in more than a couple other shows. Plus, the scenarios captured my attention and characters captured my heart in ways that, again, few American shows had ever managed.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? Probably Naruto. I didn’t talk much with other fans during my first year of anime viewing—in fact, I can only think of three or four off the top of my head—but I remember the sites with illegal streaming often had something Naruto-related in their titles, and Naruto and Shippuden were nearly always at the top of any list sorted by popularity.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? Again, I can’t comment on much that has to do with other fans for my first year of watching. But after about a year and a half, I started getting involved in fandom online, primarily on Anime-Planet. In the A-P forums, I got to know a wonderful mix of people from all over the world, folks who knew how to be welcoming and have fun—but many of whom were also willing to engage in deep discussions about things like religion. We’d play forum games, talk about anime, participate in forum signature competitions, discuss religion…

This community propelled me into aniblogging, a hobby I continue to this day. I barely know how to start telling you what it was like to be a part of this community of anime fans. I can say that Anime-Planet and the aniblogosphere encouraged me and gave me a sense of companionship during one of the loneliest, hardest times of my life.

Was the Internet a part of fandom at the time? If yes, how? If no, how did you connect with other fans? Yes. In addition to the forums and blogging I mentioned above, Twitter quickly became a center part of my anime experience—for me, that part started 2011, over a year and a half after I first found Naruto.

You imply that mental illness was a major part of your early anime fandom. If you’re comfortable discussing it, how did anime help you during this time? I did struggle a lot with anxiety and depression before and during my first couple years of anime fandom—and these issues exasperated ADHD symptoms that had barely bothered me before. At first, anime wasn’t exactly a help. It was an escape, and an unhealthy one at that. I would easily watch an entire 12-episode anime on a school night… multiple school nights in a row. There were times when I’d be watching anime in bed, then suddenly notice light coming in my window, alerting me that I had to be at school in just a few hours. This resulted from my lack of time management, my hyperfocus, my struggle with switching tasks, and, again, my need to escape anxiety.

When I discovered Anime-Planet, I found other fans who had similar or worse anime habits, and who pretty much boasted about how much anime they consumed at a furious rate, and about how addicted they were. I started to absorb that attitude and feel sort of proud of my anime habits—while still feeling a bit guilty.

But if it wasn’t anime, I’d have used American TV shows and books to escape the world. My anime binging habits were definitely a symptom, not a cause, of my troubles.

And anime did help. At first it was only in more shallow ways. It could make me giggle and squeal even in the depths of my depression. It stopped my racing thoughts—a temporary relief, sure, but a relief nonetheless. It provided my scattered, tangled brain with something it could actually focus on for hours at a time.

As I started blogging, anime became a help in bigger ways. Or rather, I believe God used what began as unhealthy anime and internet habits and turned them into something wonderful. I started using concepts from anime to help me process my own life. The football anime Eyeshield 21, for example, resulted in an excellent journaling-turned-blogging session on perseverance and effort. I saw how Sena (the main character) overcame repeated failure and pummeling, and I concluded that I could do the same—that I must do the same.

The online community helped, too. One of the initial triggers for my depression was loneliness, though it took me a while to figure that out.

How did the community you found at Anime-Planet make you feel less alone? Oh boy. I wrote a 2,000-word essay on this—and that’s the word count after significant pruning. Let’s see if I can give a shorter answer than that…

First of all, I could drop my mask online, among anime fans. Or rather, I could start fresh. People in real life knew me from before my mental health issues. I felt like I had to continue being that put-together, smart, hardworking good girl. That distanced me from people IRL. Online, though, I had no mask. I knew my anime habits wouldn’t cause judgment or disappointment, but the opposite. The people I met actually had similar interests and faults. And as I aniblogged more, I was determined to be open about everything except personally identifiable info (like location, name, and birthdate). That was the only way I knew to keep my mask from re-forming. I shared my anime habits, my anxiety, my depression—and because of that, I was able to truly connect with people. I probably could have connected more deeply with people offline if I’d been more open about my brokenness… but I was clumsy about relationships. And shy. Offline openness would become much easier later, after I practiced online.

On Anime-Planet, I found people who valued what I had to say in my blog posts and recommendations. We had common ground, connection—and goodness, those comments lit up my world, especially at first. People cared about what I wrote. They watched what I recommended. They heard me.

An even bigger breakthrough happened in the forums, starting in January 2011. I’d been lurking around the forums for a while, still too shy and unsure of myself to contribute to conversations about anime or daily life. But then a new thread in the “General Discussion” section caught my eye. It was titled “General Religion Thread.” Long story short, this had two effects on me: First, it got me started in the forums, where I found a whole bunch of welcoming people to play forum games with, discuss religion with, and who even got me started on making forum signatures. This was my main social interaction outside of school. But second, and more importantly, this is where I met TWWK—or Charles, as I’d later start calling him.

Charles and I checked out each other’s blogs. His blogging approach at Beneath the Tangles, a blog dedicated to the connections between anime and spirituality, would inspire me. His comments on my posts and his requests that I guest post at BtT encouraged me in my writing. And connection with him would lead to connection with other bloggers. Through blogging, I would find other anime fans who struggled with anxiety and depression, who resonated with what I wrote. I’d exchange opinions with others about anime and religion. I’d learn to overcome shyness about commenting on others’ blog posts… I’d grow, I’d have fun, and I’d learn, in a way that was much less stressful than interacting with people IRL. And somehow, the beginning of this managed to overlap with the same months I’d say were my worst, as far as depression and anxiety goes. Anime and fellow anibloggers were often the bright spots in my dark days—though, of course, there were still stretches where even online interactions and blogging were too much for me.

How did becoming an anime blogger change the way you interacted in the fandom? I’m currently blogging at Beneath the Tangles, and my posts can all be found here. Or rather, I’m on hiatus now, but I’ll return there soon! I’ve been blogging at BtT since early 2015, and I was even on the leadership team for a time. I’ve came a long way since 2011, when I felt too insecure to accept Charles’s invitation to guest post.

If you’d like to check out my old blog, you can find it here. But it’s very much retired now—I’ve closed comments and everything.

Becoming an aniblogger kept me inspired and involved in the fandom in a new way. I’ve mentioned much of its significance above. But I’ll add that it’s the reason I first joined Twitter—I thought that would be a good place to network with other anibloggers and perhaps get more blog traffic. Now, my involvement on anitwitter has a life of its own.

How was/is your Twitter fandom participation different than Anime-Planet? My Twitter participation is decidedly more sustainable than my Anime-Planet participation was. Anime-Planet forums took a lot of time and energy. Because of the anxiety I had at the time and my introverted nature, the discussions—both on the discussion boards and in private messages—were sometimes more involved than I could handle. When that happened, I’d drop off the face of the earth… and eventually, I reached the point where I never returned to A-P. On Twitter, however, such involved discussions are rarer. 140-character Tweets are less likely to overwhelm me than a long forum post. I’m less likely to procrastinate on replying—though I still do.

In some ways, Twitter has become more personal than A-P, simply because I’ve been there longer. I share many aspects of my life, and so do others. But I also interact with a wider range of people, especially when I’m tweeting about a show. We all get excited about it together, and that’s a delight!

What’s the biggest contrast between fandom when you discovered it and now? For me, the biggest contrast is how I am involved. I started off as a newbie on the sidelines, trying to contribute to the A-P community by adding recommendations, reviews, and blog posts—but still too shy to comment on others’ blog posts or participate in forum discussions until I was practically invited to do so. I didn’t know much about how community could transcend a single site, spreading out across various blogs and social media. In the months that followed, though, I did gain confidence, and blog comments would become one of my chief ways to interact with fellow fans.

Six and a half years after joining Anime-Planet (so, eight years after watching ep 1 of Naruto), I’m no longer a newbie. I can confidently use “tsundere,” “yandere,” or “yuri” in a sentence. I’ve given advice to younger fans and bloggers. I don’t hesitate to comment on others’ blogs, since I fully understand how comments can encourage bloggers and promote community. But my primary interactions with fellow fans tend to be either on Twitter or with other Beneath the Tangles writers—still online, though in a more private setting. And I’m trying to figure out how the blazes anime fandom and aniblogging fit into an adult, post-college life. Especially the adult, post-college life of an ADDer with two jobs and time management issues.

Basically, I am the the biggest contrast between my fandom experience six years ago and my fandom experience now. As I’ve changed, my experience of fandom has changed immensely, and I’m still sorting it out.

If fandom outside of my personal experience has changed much, I’ve barely noticed. I do think it’s shifted more and more to social media like Twitter and Tumblr, rather than blog comments and websites. But I’ll leave further speculation to the more observant.

Annalyn can be reached on Twitter

#52: Daniela

Age: 24

Location: New Mexico

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. Honestly, my memories of this are very vague? I fell in love with anime in elementary school (and have been in love ever since), but I’m not sure when the shift between my liking anime that I didn’t realize was different than the cartoons I watched (i.e., Pokemon and Digimon) to my actively understanding my love of anime as me loving something called “anime” occurred. I’m not sure if I knew YuGiOh! was an anime when I started watching it. I probably knew Dragon Ball Z was, and definitely knew it by the time I started watching things like Gundam Wing and Yu Yu Hakusho. By the end of elementary school (which was 5th grade for me), I was a full-blown anime fan, relying on rentals from Hastings to introduce me to new series.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? Everything? I liked the stories, the animation—everything. Unlike cartoons, anime had an overarching plot, which I loved. It didn’t hurt that I never really liked live-action television, for whatever reason.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? Digimon had a universal appeal among other kids, even those who weren’t into anime/didn’t know what it was. For those of us who did, it was Dragon Ball Z, Yu Yu Hakusho, and Gundam Wing. I was vaguely aware of the existence of Sailor Moon, but never saw it myself because I didn’t have the channel it was on, and, as it wasn’t until I was in 6th grade that I even met another female anime fan, it didn’t even occur to me to check if Hastings had such a girly series to watch.

How did knowing other female anime fans change the way you engaged in fandom, as opposed as when you bonded over anime with your brother? Meeting other female anime fans definitely changed how I engaged with fandom. Before, I watched anime with my brothers and his friends, and we spent a lot of time talking about it, but I also continually restricted myself in what I talked about. That is, I talked about the kinds of topics they talked about, and avoided anything that could be construed as “girly”, like when I had a crush on a particular character or was invested in a particular pairing / wished that a different pairing would happen. Sometimes I got around these constraints with a kind of personal code—i.e., saying a particular character was my “favorite” when what I really meant was “this character is super-cute and I totally have a crush.” It was all very much an attempt to just “be one of the boys” and “not like other girls,” but it also wasn’t really a conscious decision—it’s something that I only realized that I was doing when I met other female anime fans and felt free to talk about whatever caught my attention in an anime, whether that was squeeing over a particularly awesome fight scene or sighing over something especially romantic.

And I didn’t just stop with my female friends—having those friendships also left me more comfortable to talk about whatever I wanted with my brother, and, to a lesser extent, his friends. I’m not sure if I can say exactly why this was the case—like I said, much of this was a subconscious reaction from me—but if I had to guess, I’d say it’d because I had a safety net that I hadn’t had before. I no longer had to worry as much about what my brother’s friends thought of me, because I had my own friends who loved anime too. As for my brother, he’d always been my best friend: seeing that other anime fans didn’t have a problem with the more so-called “girly” parts of my interests made me more confident that he wouldn’t have a problem with it either. (And he didn’t—I’m fortunate to have a truly excellent brother.)

Looking back, being an anime fan before I met other female anime fans was characterized by a lot of tension, first in hiding my love of anime from “normal people,” and then from hiding particular aspects of my enjoyment of anime from those who remained. Meeting other female anime fans released that tension and allowed me to relax in a way I couldn’t allow myself to before.

It was also after that I met other female anime fans that I began to be drawn into online fandom, particularly fanfiction, but I’m not sure if I can say that was directly because of meeting them. I do think it accelerated the process (as it was one of those friends stumbling upon fanfiction and then showing it to me that introduced me to the concept), but I’d already been fond of writing for years, and had just begun exploring the Internet myself at home, so it’s not impossible that I would have stumbled upon it eventually. It did become a core part of our friendship, though, and one that was never shared by the male anime fans in my life.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? It was COMPLETELY DIFFERENT from how it is now. A big focus was on actually getting access to various series—it was really freaking hard. My brother and I depended on rentals from Hastings and friends who had more channels than us recording bits and pieces of series for us. It was very male-dominated—like I mentioned above, I didn’t meet another female anime fan until I was in the 6th grade; before then, I relied on my brother and his friends to talk about anime with.

Also: loving anime was like, a HUGE SECRET for me. I was open enough about it with my brother and his friends, but with MY friends and classmates? Nope. Never said a word. I only met the other female anime fan in 6th grade because I vaguely described a moment “from a show I saw” in front of a new acquaintance, and SHE (who was ALSO keeping her love of anime a secret) recognized it as a moment from Yu Yu Hakusho—and then, on top of that, that revelation led to me finding out that another girl I’d been friends with since 4th grade was also obsessed with anime and video games and had been keeping it a secret. Like, we’d been good friends for over two years, and these were major hobbies for us, yet neither of us had felt comfortable enough to reveal our “secret” to one another until a series of coincidental events sent our secrets toppling down. There was just such a taboo on being an anime/video game fan, and doubly so if you were a girl—it’s weird to remember that now.

Why did people back then keep anime fandom a secret? Why was it especially important for girls to do so? Again, I don’t think I ever consciously thought about why it had to be such a secret, but I think I can break it down the reasons why I felt that way. There was very much a dislike of the “other,” that is to say, the “nerdy.” This very much only applied to anime and video games. Even what we thought of as the “normal” kids in our school were drawn to card games for a few years during elementary, and other kids actually admired me for reading so much. My brother and his friends were actually bullied to varying extents, though I didn’t know this until years later. At the same time, I was very much aware of how other, “normal” people viewed one particular friend of my brother, who was also happened to be the one who was the most open about loving anime (he wore anime-themed t-shirts, had anime pins on his backpack, etc.) (He was also, I learned later, the one who had been bullied the worst.)

Basically, the culture around me gave me the feeling that liking anime and video games was something to be looked down upon, though it’d never been stated to me in such terms. Furthermore, there was a sense that these were essentially “boy” interests—boy interests that should be mocked, yes, but something for boys all the same. So that compounded the problem for me: it was supposedly embarrassing to like these things, and even if it was going to hypothetically be okay for a boy to like them, I, as a girl, shouldn’t have been interested in them at all. I think I mentioned that I’d been close friends with a certain girl for two years before we found out that we were both closet anime and video game fans (and fairly passionate fans at that). I never asked her why she kept it a secret and she never asked me, and it was because it was something that we never needed to ask: it was something that we both took as a given.

Was the Internet a part of fandom at the time? If yes, how? If no, how did you connect with other fans? For me, the internet didn’t really play a role until I got into middle school. Any connection with fans happened only if you happened to meet someone who liked anime (which sometimes was a complicated thing to figure out, as my story in the above answer might suggest.)

What was online fandom like then? What sites and services did people converge around? Most of my online fandom interactions were in the context of fanfiction and the fanfiction-writing community. The very first site with anime fans on it that I discovered was called Quizilla. I believe that it no longer exists, but it was a website formed around user-created quizzes. Not all were fandom-related, not by a longshot—there were all sorts of quizzes with titles like “What color is your soul?” and “What animal are you?” and so on—but there were also fandom-related quizzes like “Which Yu Yu Hakusho character are you?” and “Which Inuyasha character would be your boyfriend?”

It was through this website that my friends and I discovered fanfiction. Quizilla definitely wasn’t created to host stories, but people posted them anyways. This is a bit difficult to explain, but I’ll try. Each chapter of a story was posted as its own “quiz” (and before Quizilla implemented a folder structure where you could group quizzes of a similar type, it was sometimes difficult to find each chapter in the right order on the writer’s page). People handled this in different ways: some posted the entire chapter text in the first question box, others split it up among questions boxes with the “answers” being used to track people’s reactions (i.e., “I like it so far, keep going!” could be the first answer option, while the second would be something like “Ugh, this sucks!”). The only way to track how many people read a story is if they went to the quiz results page, so some authors would post the last section of the chapter in the results in an effort to get people to click through, while others would try to tempt them with the promise of pretty/cute/sexy fanart (which they’d usually found through Google—crediting the original artists definitely wasn’t a big concern back then). Later, Quizilla did implement a story posting feature, and reactions among the writers were mixed: most of my friends (online and offline) and I were decidedly against it, though I no longer remember why.

Pretty much all the stories on Quizilla were self-inserts, and I believe that it was mostly younger fans in their teens who converged there. Most discussion took place through private messages, which were usually started when someone liked someone else’s story. Some people did put what were basically chat room widgets in the results pages of their stories, but most of what was posted there was feedback on the story itself, though sometimes actual discussion did occur. I think that Quizilla did implement message boards or community posts later on, but I never spent much time on them.

A couple of years later, I discovered fanfiction.net, and through it Livejournal. I still spent time on Quizilla, but I definitely began to fade out of it as my main online home in favor of Livejournal. I joined LJ when I was about 13, and I do think there was an older demographic there than there was on Quizilla: while there were plenty of people around my age and older, I don’t really recall anyone who was younger than me—at least, not who would admit to it—and there were plenty of people college aged and older. There was much more in-depth discussion there than on Quizilla, but also more discussion about our personal lives. I made friends on Quizilla, but I made many more on LJ, and the environment on there was definitely more conducive to that. At the same time, there was a stronger emphasis on pseudonyms than there is now. Only my closest friends learned my real name, for instance.

I also briefly spent some time in a general chatroom on an anime website. I’m not sure which one it was anymore. Both male and female anime fans talked there, most of them in their teens or early twenties, and fanfiction didn’t play a role in the discussions at all. There were also roleplaying communities on LJ and Proboards, but I didn’t really spend much time there, so I can’t say much about it.

Do you remember your first convention? What was it, and what was it like?
I’ve… actually never gone to a convention. I remember that I was D Y I N G to for most of middle school and high school, but all the conventions at the time were just too far away, and too much money for me to justify it with.

Have you been to any in-person fandom events, like a club? I was technically a member of my high school’s anime club for about two years, but it was a disappointing experience all around. It mostly comprised of everyone disagreeing about what anime to watch, and then watching nothing in the end. There was also a bit of an unwelcoming attitude there. For instance, my best friend at the time had a well-known love of Pikachu, and when we were tossing around ideas for a potential t-shirt for the club, many of the members thought it would be “hilarious” if some drew a picture of Goku killing Pikachu to use on the t-shirt. Yeah.

For many years I also attended a regular meet-up of card players at a local restaurant every Saturday, and while the focus was mostly on card games (all kinds, but the main one was initially Yu-Gi-Oh, and then Magic: The Gathering later on), many of them were fans of actual anime as well. Some of the memberships between these groups did overlap (though there were many more card-players than anime club members), and both very much had a boy’s club kind of atmosphere (my best friend at the time was the only other girl who attended the card-playing meet-ups), though I liked the card-player meet-ups better.

You said anime fandom, “was very male-dominated.” Is it different today? Why or why not? This is a bit of tricky question for me to answer, because the context in which I interact with anime fandom is so very different. Anime fandom was very male-dominated for me in my early years as a fan because I was almost entirely limited to interacting with anime fans in real life, and the majority of them (at least, the majority who would admit to be anime fans) were male. Even when I started interacting more with (mostly female) fans on the internet, I continued to know mostly male anime fans in real life. These days, I interact almost solely with female anime fans, but nearly all of those interactions occur online.

That being said, I do think it’s easier for me personally to be open about being an anime fan than it was when I was younger. If I worry about someone judging me for being an anime fan in real life, it’s because I’m worried that they’ll judge me for being someone who likes anime, period, not because they’ll judge for specifically being a girl who likes anime. In that sense, I do think the boundaries have broadened.

#50: Rine Karr

Name: Rine Karr

Age: 31

Location: Colorado, USA

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Rine can be reached on Twitter.

#49: Viga

Age: 30

Location: Minneapolis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Viga can be reached on Twitter and YouTube