This is part two of my Geek Origin Stories series. Last week, I wrote about Magic. This time, I want to write about one of my oldest and most treasured fandoms — anime. I actually still have my diary entry from the first time I watched anime. At the risk of embarrassing myself, I will post it in full right here:
Wow – 11 days ’till my 13th birthday. Cool. Today was a good day, but I’m remembering it backwards. I was just over at Sharon’s and since her sister was not there, we watched some Japanese animated cartoons – “The Slayers.” It was translated to American [sic] only in the print at the bottom, so we tried to listen to Japanese words and make up phrases. I learned how to say, “That is a secret” because one character, Xello [again, sic] said it. He said [illegible attempt at spelling Japanese]. Sharon is a lot more obsessed with anime than I will ever be. I guess it’s because I don’t have a sister who owns those anime video tapes, and where else could I get them from?
Er yeah… embarrassing. But I wanted to post this in full since it shows how far anime has come since I was first initiated. For Sharon and I, the only source of anime was Sharon’s older sister or the video store at the mall, which sometimes had anime VHS tapes for $40 each. I cringe to think I spent once spent a year saving $120 of my allowance to buy Evangelion tapes!
This also explains why I didn’t have a lot of friends who liked anime back then. Today, the proliferation of anime on Hulu, Crunchy Roll, and other streaming websites has made the barrier for getting into anime less imposing than ever. But back then, you had to have a bottomless wallet or a benefactor. And even then, we had it easy compared to fans from the 80’s! In college, I interviewed Stan Sagan, a dealer at Katsucon, about his start in the fandom:
Sagan, 56, discovered anime while he was a theater major in college.
“One day somebody brought an anime tape into the studio, and as I watched it I thought, this is way better than what’s coming out of Hollywood!” he said.
Sagan was hooked, but back in the 1980’s, he said, getting anime wasn’t easy.
“There weren’t stores that sold anime, and you couldn’t download it from the internet. We watched it on VHS tapes that were copies of copies of copies that friends passed around. That’s why it was so great to go to a convention,” he said.
Back to my origin story, it’s clear that I wasn’t very good at predictions. I’m pretty sure Sharon hasn’t watched anime in years. (Another brilliant prediction from my diary: “I spend a lot of time on the Internet now. I will grow out of it soon.”) From there I watched whatever my friends and I could get our hands on. Gundam Wing was a big one, since it was dubbed on Cartoon Network. Same with Tenchi Muyo. I am sure it involved a lot of money pooling, but we also watched the entirety of Magic Knights Rayearth. I attempted Evangelion, but I never could afford to watch it — not until college, when I was able to buy it on DVD!
I didn’t hit the anime convention scene until college, either. My parents, understandably, were confused by why their daughter wanted to watch foreign cartoons and discuss them with strangers. They weren’t comfortable with what an anime convention was or could be. Usually, I indulged my interest by printing pictures of my favorite characters and pasting them in my diary. I also drew pictures as often as possible! But as interesting as THAT would be to see, let’s save a tiny bit of my dignity for the next post.
Next in this series: video games!
Share your own anime origin story in the comments.