#24: Sarah

Age: 36

Location: Ireland

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. As a little girl, I watched loads of shows. I knew they were Japanese cartoons, but they were all dubbed in French. I used to browse the aisles of FNAC whenever I went back to France. In 2012, after lots of recent chats about Rose of Versailles I looked it up online, only to discover I could watch it again! And down the rabbit hole I fell…

So you bought it in France and watched it dubbed in French? Yes, I lived in France from age two to 17.  I used to watch anime on kids TV shows on Saturday and Sunday mornings, dubbed into French.  There was a bit of censorship, but not too much.  There was some collaboration between the French and Japanese animation industries so we benefited from that.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it?

What about those stories made them special? They were so imaginative!   Remember, I was a kid back then (mid ’80s to very early ’90s) so I didn’t yet appreciate the various artistic components within the medium.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? Dragon Ball, Saint Seiya, Candy Candy, Cat’s Eye. I could go on…

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? Just like any kids watching cartoons really…

Tell me about rediscovering anime in 2012. Why did you take a break from anime, and what was it like to dive back in? When I was 15 I started going to school here in Ireland, and moved back here full time in 1997.  There was a lot less anime on TV here back then, which is why I stopped watching.  I always remembered them fondly though, and could still sing the theme tunes to some of my favourites. In fact, I’ve also got a playlist on YouTube of my favorite OPs and EDs even today.

Shows from when we were kids was a favourite topic of small talk with friends and family members, but I didn’t have that many in common with those who had grown up in Ireland.   Imagine my delight when I discovered that anime had also been a staple of kids TV in Italy way back when!  My husband is 10 years older than me, so the only show we had both watched was “Goldorak”, which is what Mazinger was called.  Some of our other Italian friends on the other hand were of the same vintage as me.  When we were talking about “Oscar” (French name) / “Lady Oscar” (Italian name), one of them told me she had been watching it recently online… so guess who went on Google as soon as possible?

I started by watching Rose of Versailles, but subbed this time, and Georgie. The first new anime that I watched was Ouran High School Host Club, and I haven’t stopped since.  I’ve come across some real gems, and I appreciate the medium as an art form now in ways I couldn’t when I was younger.  I’ve cried, I’ve laughed, and I’ve been blown away by the intricacy of some shots.  What I love about anime is that at its best, it marries music, sound production, direction, storytelling and visual art into a beautiful whole.

In 2012, did you participate in fandom? Talking on forums, creating fan art or a site, or anything like that? At first I just read some synopses on some sites like MyAnimeList, but eventually I wanted to keep a list of the manga I was reading and the anime I had watched.  That is when I discovered Anime Planet.  I’ve been active on and off on the forums on that site, and I’m a member of the Welcome Committee.  This is my main link to anime fandom, though I also follow a few users on Twitter, which is how I discovered your project!

What did your family think of your interest in anime? Right now my family consists of my husband and my son. They don’t share my interest, but they don’t mind it either.

When you first discovered anime you saw it as just normal cartoons. When did you go from being a cartoon fan to an anime fan specifically? When I started watching anime seriously again in 2012.  I have a much better appreciation of the work that goes into producing each episode… and more patience for different styles and types.

Sarah can be found on Twitter and Anime Planet

#22: Margaret

Age: 30

Location: Boston, Massachusetts

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. I’ve been aware of it almost my entire life. My siblings watched the Speed Racer dub when they were growing up, so I’d seen most of that, and I’d caught a few episodes of the original Voltron series when I was little. I didn’t get super into it until the DiC dub of Sailor Moon, which I watched off and on until it aired on Toonami, and then I became OBSESSED. Gundam Wing, Cardcaptor Sakura, Escaflowne, Ronin Warriors, and a bunch of others only solidified my love for it.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? I think the main appeal to me was the different art and storytelling styles. Specifically, when I got into Sailor Moon (and other magical girl anime), it was the idea that girls could be the main focus and have all the cool superpowers. It wasn’t a totally unknown concept to me at the time, but most of the other media I was into were either strictly male-centric or didn’t bother to focus all that much on the female characters. The fact that Usagi and friends could be silly and argue and at the end of the day still be best friends, all with awesome magical abilities and high-stakes saving-the-world battles, really sold me on it.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? My pre-teen self would’ve only known about the shows on Toonami and Fox, so she would absolutely say Sailor Moon. Looking back now, it was probably Cowboy Bebop or Trigun? Neither of which I watched until I was in college.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? Sailor Moon was my first fandom ever, online or otherwise, so it was sort of life-changing in a lot of ways, if I may be so cliche. I made a lot of friends online back then (one of whom I’m still friends with!) and got exposed to so much amazing media that I wouldn’t have been aware of if it hadn’t been for anime fandom. I don’t remember there being much drama (unlike the fandom I got into in my later teen years, Harry Potter), but I was also pretty oblivious to anything that wasn’t immediately affecting me at the time.

What was it like to be a part of Sailor Moon fandom in particular? Were there certain sites everyone visited? This was 16+ years ago now, so I may be over-nostalgic, but I remember it being a very positive experience! There were a lot of older people in the group I primarily interacted with (probably in their 20’s-30’s back then, which seemed INCREDIBLY OLD when I was 13/14), and they were generally encouraging and nice to those of us who were younger. I learned a lot from them—not just about fandom and anime, but about writing and editing and how to interact with people on the internet. I kind of wish I knew what they were all up to now, but I lost track of them a really long time ago. We used Yahoo! Groups to talk mostly, and AIM when that was a thing, and there were a couple Sailor Moon fansites that we all visited. I’m not sure if any of them are still accessible or not. Lycentia’s Sailor Moon Graphics is one I specifically remember since I think I learned some basic HTML from it. Fanfiction.net was the big fic repository at the time, before they banned explicit stories.

How did you express your fandom? Fanfic! It was usually very angsty and/or dark, or at least what I thought was dark at the time. Pretty sure I wrote a bunch of Sailor Moon/Mary Higgins Clark fusions, which in retrospect is highly embarrassing and ridiculous. Oh well.

Tell me about the friend you are still friends with! How did you meet them? Are they still into Sailor Moon now? S and I met through the Yahoo! Group we were both a part of! She’s a few days older than I am, so it was our Thing to refer to each other as “big sister” and “little sister” respectively (in Japanese, of course), even though we were the youngest in the group. Back then I was very close-minded, but S was always patient with me and provided me with a window into life not informed by my family and the community we lived in. I still really admire her, though we don’t talk much beyond wishing each other happy birthdays these days.

How was being a part of fandom “life-changing?” Life-changing in a way that I think is akin to having spent your whole life living in a cave and then coming out and seeing the world for the first time. I mentioned before that I was spectacularly close-minded back then; I grew up in a very religious community that discouraged interaction with non-religious people and condemned any kind of “alternative lifestyle,” among other things (think Pentecostals, or Seventh Day Adventists, for reference). My friends in real life were all people I’d known since birth, and we weren’t allowed to do a lot things that kids elsewhere could freely do. We were encouraged to pursue religious hobbies only, and academic achievements meant very little if you weren’t considered pious enough. Discovering and getting involved with fandom completely changed the way I thought about myself, my friends and family, and the world. I’m also not afraid to say that I probably wouldn’t still be alive if it weren’t for fandom – I was in a bad place mentally in my early teens, and getting involved in Sailor Moon fandom helped turn that around.

What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom when you got into it and now? Anime fandom hasn’t changed all that much to my knowledge, except for how there’s a much wider range of series readily (and cheaply) available these days via Crunchyroll, Netflix, and other legal streaming sites (which is still amazing to me—I love the future!). I think perhaps it skews younger than it had before, but that might be my inner Fandom Old Person talking. Fandom as a whole tends to lean in hard on the “the more things change, the more things stay the same” proverb, in my experience, so it’s difficult to gauge any true contrast that isn’t entirely personal.

#4: Andrea

Age: 28

Location: United Kingdom

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember.
My first experience was with Pokemon. It was the only anime airing on the tv at the time I started watching.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it?
The story, the animation, the characters, the song. Everything.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? Definitely Pokemon. Everyone was watching it, even those who didn’t enjoy other “cartoons.”

How did you connect with other fans at the time? Mostly friends at school. With Pokemon being my entry point I was maybe 10 or 11 at the time talking about it at school and watching it with friends when it was on TV.

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? I don’t know if I truly was then. I felt I had to “grow out” of it pretty quickly as “cartoons were for kids” and didn’t rediscover it again until last year.

Where did the pressure to “grow out of it” come from? I think the pressure to grow out of it came mostly from society. I lived in a fairly small village and and just the concept of a girl being into “boy things” like games and anime was always a bit strange at my school, even if most of my friends were boys.

The other problem was the anime I saw snips of, after Pokemon and Thundercats, always involved girls being exposed, abused, taken advantage of for laughs. There wasn’t anything I came across that I connected with.

How did you get back into anime again last year? The biggest thing for me really was Anime Feminist and finding entry points that didn’t involve the almost stereotypical aspects of anime.

Also I wrote a blog post back when I was starting out about my history with anime and manga:

I wanted something lighter, though, and my eyes strayed to manga. I had a hard time figuring out what I wanted to try. After some friend recommendations, and a bit of internet research, I invested while at Forbidden Planet in 2015. I went for “Fullmetal Alchemist – a friend recommendation, “Blue Exorcist” and “Rosario+Vampire” – internet recommendations. I’d wanted to pick up “Fruits Basket,” another friend recommendation, but unfortunately they didn’t have any.

I found something enlightening in “Fullmetal Alchemist,” not every manga has awkward scenes. “Blue Exorcist” had a few odd moments, and “Rosario+Vampire” showed what you were getting from the start but I realised something about the manga I enjoy – I don’t mind fan-service shots when I know that’s what I’m getting. It’s when they creep into story lines and I don’t expect them that it bothers me. I still stayed away from anime but as I read more and more manga over the last two years I found myself wanting to watch anime too but I didn’t want to take the risk at just finding more and more anime that made me uncomfortable.

A website started up that I’ve mentioned before, Anime Feminist, a site I found from Kotaku and kept an eye on. I read a few articles and found myself returning time and time again. They did reviews on the first episodes of seasons on Crunchyroll and some of them sounded very appealing, but I was wary. A friend offered me a trial of Crunchyroll and I started watching some in October. I began with a recommendation from Anime Feminist, “Poco’s Udon World.” I watched the first episode of that, tried an episode of “Trickster” and also “Attack on Titan.” I’d finally found anime that I enjoyed and other places for inspiration and thoughtful articles too.

What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom when you got into it and now? I don’t know if I could contrast it. I’m such a different person than the teenager me that felt ashamed to enjoy things that weren’t deemed “normal”. The internet has changed things for sure. Having found people who enjoy similar things and even just feeling like it’s okay to be able to look at anime and say “I like this but not this!” rather than having to enjoy everything to be a fan.

Andrea can be reached on Twitter or her blog

#1: Lauren Orsini

Age: 30

Location: Northern Virginia

When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. I was in 6th grade, so I was 11 years old. My best friend at the time asked if I wanted to come over and watch Sailor Moon, a show I had never heard of.  She told me it was called anime. Later, we visited her older sister’s room, which was papered from floor to ceiling with printed-out anime pictures.

We borrowed some of her older sister’s VHS tapes of The Slayers to watch in the basement. I was hooked.

What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? None of the American shows on TV resonated with me. My sisters and friends liked shows about attractive teenagers in high school, but I didn’t see myself in those characters at all. I liked bombastic and flawed Lina Inverse better.

What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? Either Sailor Moon or Dragon Ball Z, which were both airing on Toonami.

How could people watch anime? How did you? You could watch a very limited selection on Toonami, or you could buy anime on VHS at Sam Goody, Suncoast, or Another Universe at the mall. (None of these stores exist now).

The first anime I bought was Neon Genesis Evangelion at Another Universe. It cost $30 for three subtitled episodes. Since it was so expensive, most people picked just one show to collect. My Evangelion tapes are extremely beat up because I swapped them with friends to watch what they had.

Were you part of an anime club? No, but I spent a lot of time in middle school with a group of girls who were also really into anime. We would watch it at sleepovers. We also gave each other nicknames; mine was Ren-chan. Today I’d rather not share something so embarrassing!

Are you still friends with anyone from that time? Yes, most notably my friend Kailer. We still hang out and recommend anime and manga to each other (usually BL stuff).

What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? Fans found each other online. There was Anime Turnpike, a list of links to what was probably every anime-related website at the time. You could write fanfiction on fanfiction.net, but there was no real hub for fan art or other fanworks, so people would create sites called “shrines,” dedicated to either individual characters or “pairings,” two characters they’d like to see date. For example, I was a fan or Nuriko from Fushigi Yugi so I would spend time on Nuriko “shrines” seeing people’s fun facts and fanfic about them.

Can you remember the first time you made a derivative work inspired by anime? While watching The Slayers, my friend and I would pause the tape and try to sketch Lina’s face. Later on, I drew a lot of Gundam Wing art including the infamous shirtless Duo Maxwell poster I put up in my bedroom. (Since actual Gundam Wing posters were expensive, I decided to make my own.)

When did you first attend an anime convention? Not until I was 20, in college. My first convention was Otakon 2006.

What were anime conventions like then? This was only 10 years ago, so not so different than they are today. Otakon already had a five-figure attendance number, which was a huge shock to somebody stopping by for the first time. I had never seen that many anime fans in one place before.

What’s the biggest contrast between anime then and anime today? Access. It is much cheaper and easier to get anime now than it ever was then.

Interested in sharing your own introduction to anime?