Location: Cleveland, Ohio
When did you discover anime? Share as much as you remember. I discovered anime right after Pokemon hit US TV. I was a fan of the game and the anime just kept building my enjoyment of the games. I learned it was from Japan and started watching everything my 10-year-old self could find. These were shows like YuGiOh, Cardcaptor Sakura, Sailor Moon, and Dragon Ball Z. Toonami was very important to my early years, really only watching what they showed, but loved these cool Japanese cartoons. Looking back on it, before I discovered anime, Power Rangers was my favorite TV show as a child, not realizing until much later that it too was also based on a Japanese property, so liking anime seems to stem from that initial enjoyment of tokusatsu shows.
What appealed to you about anime when you first discovered it? It was different than American cartoons. The stories seemed different. Having the tie-in with the Pokemon video games made me more attached to the show, as I would try to replicate Ash’s team—his Pokemon became mine. With other shows though, they felt like Power Rangers but animated. For example, both Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura transformed just like the Power Rangers did.
What would you say was the most popular anime at the time? From my point of view, Pokemon or Digimon. These two shows were the height of popularity amongst my friends. Now we were between eight and 10 years old, so we didn’t know of some of the other great shows at that time period.
What was it like to be a part of anime fandom at the time? To my friends and I, we weren’t part of the anime fandom. We were just fans of these cartoon shows that featured cool monsters. We didn’t know about or go to conventions. We didn’t know what fansubs were or that there were more shows out there than what WB, Cartoon Network, or 4Kids showed.
You got into anime very young. Did you stick with it consistently, or was there a lull in your fandom? There was a a lull right around the end of sophomore year in high school. I transferred from a private school to a public school after 9th grade. I met a kid in the anime club at the private school and he introduced me to fansubs, we both ended up transferring to the public school and joined the anime club there. I left shortly after joining as the kids in the club were more interested in some strange H game they had downloaded or putting down dubbed shows on Toonami as “trash.”
So I distanced myself from anime for about a decade until two friends got me to watch something on Crunchyroll three years ago. I guess the weird thing is that while I didn’t watch anime, I was still reading Naruto on a weekly basis because I thought it was close to ending…
How have your tastes in anime evolved over time? In the beginning it was all shonen action as that’s what I had access to. Now that I can access everything, my tastes are a little of everything. I’m quick to bail on a series if I don’t think it’s going to go somewhere, but I’ll watch pretty much everything. Just looking at my Crunchyroll queue, there’s slice of life, sports, romance, comedy, and gory action.
How did you participate in fandom aside from watching shows? I didn’t really participate in the fandom when I was younger. I didn’t know cons existed, and I certainly couldn’t convince my parents to take me to one if I knew of one. I would buy games like Pokemon or Digimon, but after Final Fantasy 10, I didn’t buy games with an anime aesthetic. I wanted gory games or first person shooters. My enjoyment of anime ended when the credits rolled.
What’s the biggest contrast between anime fandom when you got into it and now? I would have to say the accessibility. I’ve heard of tape swaps and people recording for an entire weekend to give a third of a series to people, now you can find it on Crunchyroll, Daisuki, or Funimation without much effort. I think I have a CD with Iriya’s Sky that someone in anime club gave me still, but that was 2005. When I started watching it in the late 90s I had no idea where to get stuff not on TV or at a Suncoast.
Tom can be reached on Twitter.