Fandom of the past
October 13, 2008 3:52 PM   Subscribe

Lets Anime: Reminisces of early American Anime Fandom. Including discussions of 80's cosplay, the rise and fall of the Animanga APA and other zines, and early merchandising. For more old school goodness see part 1 and part 2 of Mike Toole's "Dubs that Time Forgot" at Anime News Network.
posted by zabuni (42 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
That Jigen outfit in the first link doesn't look like it took a lot of work, but if I looked like the guy wearing it, I'd still be dressing up in it.
posted by Bernt Pancreas at 4:07 PM on October 13, 2008

There's no "us" in anime.

I love some anime, and I'm a little bemused to see it mainstream. When I happened to see a recent edition of the yearly literary/art magazine from my grade school in rural Mississippi, the cover (always featuring the senior class's best artist) featured a kawaii bishonen sorrowing over a single rose. Then I knew that anime's time had truly come.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:20 PM on October 13, 2008

Note: This post is best enjoyed with the Daft Punk album Discovery.
posted by hellojed at 4:26 PM on October 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

This brings me back to my college years when we were always sending out priority mail envelopes full of video tapes to get fansubs from all over the US. I remember lots of discussions about exactly what the best video tapes were.

Eventually a friend of mine bought an amiga and started fansubbing his own stuff. A few years later and that whole scene was gone, brought down by the rise of commercial releases and the ease of filesharing.

Thankfully my first webpage from those days seems to no longer be linked from anywhere and so no longer around to embarrass me.
posted by pombe at 5:16 PM on October 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Steven C Den Beste, where have you gone?
posted by jtron at 5:35 PM on October 13, 2008

I used to, and still do to some extent, like anime, mostly older stuff that had made its way here by the early 90s, e.g. Akira, Golgo 13: The Professional, Urusei Yatsura, Ranma 1/2, Video Girl Ai, etc. I looked at just as "wackiness from Japan", like kaiju movies and ultraviolent deathmatch wrestling and the like. When I discovered the "Anime fandom" discussed here, and learned how dorky and obsessive they were (making Star Trek megafans look rational), I kind of soured on it and didn't want to be associated with it. I'll still watch the older 80s stuff, but the newer stuff (Inuyasha and the like) is totally unwatchable and seems to be targeted solely at the otaku types.
posted by DecemberBoy at 5:51 PM on October 13, 2008

Oh wow. This is most excellent.

I think I entered the anime fandom at the beginning of its decline (though most people seem to get into something right before all the 'tards take over, so maybe that speaks more to personal perception than evolution of fandoms), briefly in the late 90s and then heavily again around 2001. Though Sailor Moon and Pokemon and whatnot were fairly ubiquitous, all the quirky, classic stuff (Miyazaki, Tezuka, etc.) was still considered underground and niche. Downloading subs of FMA or Shaman King seemed like the most avant-garde thing you could do.

(Mind you, I concede anime had its peak long before that.)

I'm pretty sure a catalyst for that change was porting Shounen Jump over to North America, even though it was monthly. It definitely blew all of that Animerica stuff out of the water, since it actually had, y'know, content, as opposed to just taunting reports of conventions you'd never get to go to. Meta much? Along with that, came the licensing of Naruto, the invention of Narutards, and the downspiral of the online anime fandom into "OMG INUYASHA IS SOOOOO HOT AMIRITE?"

(Speaking as someone who was a frequent poster on one of the original niche fansub sites that got overrun by Narutards after .... 4kids? Funi? picked it up)

Happily, it seems as though the recent trend of imitating Anime style by western cartoonists (and I'm looking at you here, Martin Mystery) has lessened some of the, dare I say it, elitism anime fans hold. It is no longer special to like anime; it's lost some of its exotic appeal. With any luck, it will be again more about the storyline and the characters and less about how well-rounded multicultural you are for liking non-USian entertainment.

Though the fangirls will always reign.


disclaimer: am east-asian though not japanese.
posted by Phire at 5:55 PM on October 13, 2008

Star Blazers. Greatest cartoon ever shown on American TV. Don't know if it counts as 80s anime - but figure it's close enough for a mention.
posted by kmartino at 6:36 PM on October 13, 2008

DecemberBoy, judging any art form by what's most popular--in this case, what makes it onto Adult Swim--isn't a good idea.

I got into anime when I was in middle school, when a heavily-edited version of Sailor Moon was playing on the USA Network. I joined my local university's anime club and checked out fansubs, watched fuzzy classics on the projector, bought probably-bootleg anime merchandise from that guy who went to Japan every summer...

I saw a lot of anime then, and I watch a lot now. There was great stuff then, and there's still a lot of great stuff now. You just have to look for it beyond turning on Adult Swim.

Don't compare Inuyasha to Miyazaki or other classics. Compare it to other interminable series with wacky villains and a desperately teenaged romantic subplot: Sailor Moon. (I mean, I prefer Sailor Moon over Inuyasha -- where else can you get a magical uterus attack? -- but it's not exactly Grave of the Fireflies.)
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 7:08 PM on October 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Theorem of Humor 71:
Putting puppydog anime-style eyes on anything is funny.

Godwin's Corollary:
The amount of humor derived from (71) is directly proportional to the evilness of the recipient of said modification.

hitler-chan.jpg (safe for non-jewish workplaces)

(via SomethingAwful)
posted by spatula at 7:17 PM on October 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

That first link, especially, was thought-provoking. Somehow I always thought of anime as a very late-90s thing. Probably because that's when I first encountered it, although I never really moved far beyond the most excellent Ghost in the Shell and its follow ups, and I think that what made that franchise acceptable was the absence of stereotypically "anime-ish" elements.

What's really been fascinating for me has been watching, year after year, as the "anime" section of the graphic novels section of Borders and Barnes & Noble have expanded until they are not only more numerous than the Marvel/DC stuff, but take up more shelves space than the romance, science fiction and mystery sections combined.
posted by AdamCSnider at 7:37 PM on October 13, 2008

Anime stopped being as entertaining to me when it started coming out in the US on DVD, with actual production values. It just wasn't the same as a fourth-gen VHS tape, indifferently subtitled by Cantonese guys with no particular skills in Japanese or English, and chock full of wacky Japanese commercials to boot.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 8:05 PM on October 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

everyone should watch Monster, Now & Then, Here & There, Grave of the Fireflies, and Spirited Away.
posted by sonic meat machine at 8:38 PM on October 13, 2008

Don't compare Inuyasha to Miyazaki or other classics.

Do you know who writes Inuyasha? It's written by none other than Rumiko Takahashi, who is credited with Urusei Yatsura, Maison Ikkoku, and Ranma ½ among others and has sold more than 170 million manga in her career.
posted by gen at 9:33 PM on October 13, 2008

everyone should watch...

Anime has quite a spectrum, and I've found telling people what I like or what they may like usually doesn't work out.

With that said, picking up anything by Miyazaki is a pretty good call to be at least entertained.

Grave of the Fireflies should be watched for many reasons. The biggest being it is based upon a book about a man's retelling of his childhood during WWII.
posted by P.o.B. at 9:43 PM on October 13, 2008

Yeah, gen, but just because she's popular doesn't mean she's good, or a classic. I wouldn't call Ranma 1/2 or Maison Ikkoku a classic any more than I would consider Love Hina a classic. And Inuyasha really has very little to differentiate itself from other formulaic shounen-with-a-dash-of-unrequited-love anime/manga.

Now Fullmetal Alchemist, on the other hand....
posted by Phire at 10:08 PM on October 13, 2008


Yes, I do know who writes Inuyasha. The bangs are hard to miss.

You should have also leapt to the defense of Sailor Moon, which I also implied isn't a classic, even though it's one of the most successful manga/anime series of all time and has had a huge influence on series that came after it. And, of course, since it's not an *ongoing series*, calling it a classic is a little less premature.

I personally don't think that Inuyasha will stand up to the test of time nearly as well as Ranma 1/2 or Maison Ikkoku. But that remains to be seen.

Where I was going with that comment is that comparing the series that are on Adult Swim these days with the "best picks" of your old anime club and coming to the conclusion that anime has gone hill just doesn't make much sense.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 11:44 PM on October 13, 2008

Star Blazers. Greatest cartoon ever shown on American TV.

Star Blazers was incredible. I had a big crush on Nova.

Then for a time there I liked Voltron (the one with the lions, not the cars) and then I forgot about anime for a long time. When I refamiliarized myself with it, it was through Rozen Maiden. I gave it a shot on the recommendation of a friend was pretty blown away by some of the psychological and religious themes it addressed, in particular with regards to the character Suigintou. It completely destroyed my notion of anime being either cutesy girly stuff or giant robots battling each other in space.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:45 PM on October 13, 2008

And now I check and see that Inuyasha ended on June of this year. Finally. Still, very new.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 11:47 PM on October 13, 2008

"I gave it a shot on the recommendation of a friend and was pretty blown away by", that is.

Also, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya has totally captivated me. Come on, Season 2!
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:48 PM on October 13, 2008

Since I finally saw Sailor Stars last month, so I feel like I should jump in here and defend Sailor Moon, but, you know, you can't compare Sailor Moon to Grave of the Fireflies. Especially since I don't like saying bad things about Grave of the Fireflies because it makes me sound like I have no soul. (I do have a soul, I even got teary while teaching Rumi and the red ribbon.)

Anime is about the same as it was, the only difference is that now even kind of bad shows are all over the internet (Vampire Knight). Ookiku Furikabutte was pretty good - exactly like sitting through a Japanese baseball game, only without the sunburn.

(And the magical uterus attack makes sense in context. really.)
posted by betweenthebars at 12:59 AM on October 14, 2008

You Johnny-come-lately whipper-snapper anime fans, with your Ranmas and your Sailor Moons and your Inu-yashas, you really need to get off my lawn. Fansubs my ear! Back in my day, we got together to watch fourth-generation videotapes of unsubtitled movies and TV shows, and if we were lucky somebody provided a xeroxed outline of the plot so we had some idea what was going on. And if not, we watched it anyway and we loved it. We couldn't get enough of it!
posted by The Tensor at 2:02 AM on October 14, 2008 [3 favorites]

I liked Evangelion a lot for the first part of the series when it seemed to be about giant robots vs. giant monsters. Then it got all weird and fucked up and "meaningful" and I remembered why I pretty much stick to Miyazaki and stuff about ninja, samurai, or giant robots.
posted by autodidact at 2:11 AM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

AdamCSnider: What's really been fascinating for me has been watching, year after year, as the "anime" section of the graphic novels section of Borders and Barnes & Noble have expanded until they are not only more numerous than the Marvel/DC stuff, but take up more shelves space than the romance, science fiction and mystery sections combined.

And this, too, shall pass.
posted by JHarris at 4:46 AM on October 14, 2008

Yeah, gen, but just because she's popular doesn't mean she's good, or a classic. I wouldn't call Maison Ikkoku a classic any more than I would consider Love Hina a classic.

What... the... fuck? Wow. Anime fans these days have no sense of history.

"I wouldn't call one of the foundational works in a genre a classic any more than I would consider something ten years more recent and based on its formula a classic"? You apparently do not understand what "classic" means. And if you don't think Maison Ikkoku is at the very least "good", if not "exceptional", you haven't any taste, either.
posted by vorfeed at 6:29 AM on October 14, 2008

A bit defensive there, aren't you? I didn't say I didn't like Ranma or Maison Ikkoku, I merely didn't consider it fundamental to my enjoyment of the fandom. Perhaps I am less of an otaku, since I don't consider the 'history of anime' to be essential in setting my preferences. I'll get off your lawn now.
posted by Phire at 6:46 AM on October 14, 2008

These days I tread carefully around my copy of Grave of the Fireflies as if it's an emotional handgrenade. The first time round I was in tears within the first five minutes.

Fast forward a few years and my girlfriend suggests watching it together. I'm thinking that with the passage of time I can handle this, no problem. I did a pretty good job up until the montage scene and then that was it - flood area ahoy. I demolished half a box of Kleenex in about 2 minutes. You find yourself almost begging for the film to end because you can't take it anymore.

Incidently, when Grave of the Fireflies first came out they showed it in a double bill with My Neighbour Tortoro. Come for the happy, fluffy creatures - stay for the firebombing, starvation and death.
posted by panboi at 7:15 AM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

vorfeed, amen.
posted by gen at 7:37 AM on October 14, 2008

My anime gateway drug? Patlabor.
Man, oh man, oh man.
I still love the heck out of it. I've found that as I get older, I'm pickier about the anime I watch. And that's a good thing and a bad thing.
Good, in that there's a lot of crap out there.
Bad, in that I really miss the enthusiasm and magic of discovering something new that hardly anyone knew about.
Trust me, when I say that anime fandom in 1988/89 was pretty dang small, comparatively speaking to today's hoardes.
posted by willmize at 8:33 AM on October 14, 2008

Perhaps I am less of an otaku, since I don't consider the 'history of anime' to be essential in setting my preferences.

If you'd said, "I don't really like Maison Ikkoku", I'd have had no problem with that. That's a matter of taste, and taste is variable (even when it's bad).

Instead, you said, "I wouldn't call Maison Ikkoku good or a classic". What's good or not is only a matter of taste to a certain extent, and what's classic or not is more-or-less a matter of the "history of anime". Like it or not, Takahashi (and MI in particular) broke tremendous amounts of ground, to the extent where the world of manga would be almost unrecognizable without her. Her stuff is so damn great that it influenced pretty much every single work which came afterward. And the lineup for the MI and Ranma 1/2 anime included talents like Kazunori Ito, Kenji Kawai, Akemi Takada, Masako Goto, and Shigeru motherfucking Chiba in two of his all-time best roles, and you think they aren't even good? I'm not sure which that makes me want to do more, laugh or cry.

You don't have to like the classics, but pretending as if your personal opinion makes them "not a classic" and/or "not good" is myopic to say the least.

on preview: wow, someone else who loves Patlabor! Don't see that every day...!
posted by vorfeed at 8:38 AM on October 14, 2008

Point taken, vorfeed, and I concede I misspoke previously and didn't communicate clearly. Apologies for the snippy otaku comment.

The point I had been trying to make was - just because she'd had previous successes doesn't mean everything else she does must by definition be the epitome of awesomeness. Regardless of other merits, popularity in and of itself (which I had interpreted to be the point of contention due to the x million manga sold worldwide data point), does not constitute a classic. I saw defense of an anime based on the merits of previous works of the author from a decade earlier, and wanted to point out a logical disconnect.

I don't know as much about the history of anime and Japanese culture as I should, perhaps, apart from a Patrick Drazen book a few years ago and occasional Wikipedia articles, so if you say her work was truly that revolutionary, then I'll take you at your word. I don't agree that I quite contested that to begin with, but again, I misspoke.

Thanks, zabuni, for providing this forum. I'd sort of missed fandom.
posted by Phire at 9:36 AM on October 14, 2008

Coming soon to a big city near you: "Otaku Over Thirty Con", aka "Grumpy Old Otaku Con".
No one under 30 admitted, period.
Cosplay tolerated, GOOD Cosplay appreciated.
All video rooms will be showing nothing but old school anime that we all love and remember.
Ditto for the Dealers Room.
Model building and figure painting workshops on the hour.
If you're not watching anime or taking a nap, then you're in the hallways or bar hanging out and talking about the above mentioned anime and reliving your halcyon days in fandom and sharing "Back when I first started...." and "Kids these days...." stories.

That is SO a con I would attend :)
posted by willmize at 10:49 AM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

The point I had been trying to make was - just because she'd had previous successes doesn't mean everything else she does must by definition be the epitome of awesomeness.

I agree with that, personally, as I'm not nearly as much of a fan of Inuyasha as I am of her earlier stuff... but there's a big difference between "her old stuff doesn't necessarily make the new stuff good" (which is true) and "the new stuff isn't good, and her old stuff isn't classic either" (which is laughable).

To be fair, though, I think Inuyasha does have something that differentiates itself from other formulaic shounen-with-a-dash-of-unrequited-love anime/manga -- Takahashi's characters. Her work is always deeply character-based, which is why she can go nearly 560 manga chapters and more than 160 anime episodes while still keeping readers' attention, even with a relatively simple premise. IMHO, while Inuyasha can't hold a candle to her earlier work, there's still a huge difference between it and something like Pokemon, and the fact that many don't see it is a shame.

if you say her work was truly that revolutionary, then I'll take you at your word

For example, you said you really love Fullmetal Alchemist -- you realize that Takahashi is one of Arakawa's chief influences, right? A female mangaka writes a shounen series about two family members who are cursed by their own foolish actions. The two undergo many adventures and battles related to breaking the curse and/or defending it from those who would exploit it, encountering a strange and often whimsical ensemble cast along the way. Now, is that Ranma 1/2 or FMA? I mean, I agree that FMA is good stuff, but it certainly didn't appear out of nowhere.

Whenever I look at polls like this one, of Japanese celebrities' favorite anime (translation here, it's the second poll), I'm always struck by how different the Japanese and American anime experience really is. Half of the top 10 are barely even known in the US (#4: Ashita no Joe, #6: A Dog of Flanders, #7: Sazae-san, #8: Candy Candy, and #9: Attack Number 1). The rest of the list is similar, as is the online general poll, in that more than half of the shows are almost totally unknown in the West. This is no accident: the overseas market only gets the series which will "sell to Westerners", which gives us a tremendously limited idea of anime in general, and the history of anime in particular. This is why it's such a total shame to see people dismissing the classics -- much of the really great stuff was made in the 70s and 80s!
posted by vorfeed at 11:06 AM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Wow! You guys geeked it up in here!
posted by P.o.B. at 11:19 AM on October 14, 2008

@vorfeed: Testify. Maison Ikkoku was my second gateway anime drug.
posted by willmize at 11:45 AM on October 14, 2008

@vorfeed: Testify. Maison Ikkoku was my second gateway anime drug.

Don't get me started, I can go on about this show all day. There simply is no better exploration of class struggle, loss, and everyday life in early 80s Tokyo, plus you get comedy, several different romance and coming-of-age stories, all of them wonderful, and an absolutely beautiful allegory about family.

Just the feel of it -- that bleak sense of hopelessness and extreme social pressure combined with the characters' total refusal to give up in the face of it -- is sublime. And the house! The house! And the neighborhood! I'd swear that Tokeizaka is a real place, and so are Maison Ikkoku, Cha Cha Maru, the tennis court, Kyoko's uncle's home... all of it crafted so lovingly, so perfectly, and with such attention to honesty and detail. Even the trains and the little noodle booths are real.

*sigh* It is time to watch it again, isn't it? Yes, I suppose it must be.
posted by vorfeed at 12:13 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you don't watch and appreciate black-and-white Astro Boy then you can't go to anime heaven.
posted by JHarris at 1:49 PM on October 14, 2008

What's amused me for a while is how many people stick with the notion of Anime being a genre (by people I mean the people I've seen and known in the United States). I think this comes down to "cartoons" in the US being seen as something for kids, so anything drawn or animated is for kids. Never mind the fact that comics (just non-animated cartoons, right?) have a much broader readership (but leaning towards the geeky, I'll admit), and that there are some amazing animations that span generational interest. Heck, look at the Simpsons - prime-time animation for nearly 19 years (wow - I feel older just typing that!) - still going (fairly) strong.

There's anime for all tastes and interests and maturity levels. From pop TV filler to spy films, comedy and drama, and plenty of twisted psychological stuff. There are some anime movies I chart up with my favorite live-action movies. I used to be a huge fan, and up on much of the new series and movies by way of digi-subs. But that's all stopped, after leaving college and the community of fans and the expansive library.

I joined the club in early 2000, if not 1999. There were still members who talked fondly of the days of Amiga-subbing films themselves (no hastily translated tapes there - some members knew enough Japanese to verify if the translations were correct, and could comment on the differences). We had a huge collection of tapes in the club, but many had been upgraded from Nth generation fansub to commercial jobs. There was even a discussion about if we should show digi-subs, due to the gray area legality. Mind you, we could have that discussion because we had members who would import R2 DVDs like mad, and we could live-sub DVDs from 3rd party subtitles (or our own members would write and time them out on their own). I think we finally gave in, once our rich members left and we only had a few people with passing knowledge of Japanese. Around this time I left the club.

I went to Anime Expo a few times, and Fanime once, with a crew dressed as characters from FLCL once, because it was fun. We all cringed at Man-Faye (if you've been to any West Coast cons, you've probably seen him - he might even travel farther than that, I don't remember). But AX got to be huge, to the point where any interesting panel would likely have a line that would take up half of your day, just waiting for some ubergeek to question the director of a series how a nuclear reactor could explode under the given conditions, when the main character was a young human girl who could FLY.

Yeah, walking into Borders and seeing a cluster of kids hunkered down by the manga shelves is weird to me. I really enjoyed having older fans to pass along their history to us (never really liked Maison Ikkoku or the other drama-based shows, though some won me over on sheer strangeness).

Parting thought: my friend got into a really bishonen (girl-focused) series after watching the episodes encoded in Real Media. He didn't realize how much of a girl-oriented show it was, and how beautiful the men were in the show until he finally saw the VHS dubs. The Real Media made everything vague enough that you could follow the show, but you lost a lot of detail ... oh, the early days of downloading from FTPs or Hotline =)
posted by filthy light thief at 1:59 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite] a nuclear reactor could explode under the given conditions, when the main character was a young human girl who could FLY.

Earth Girl Arjuna?
posted by The Tensor at 2:55 PM on October 14, 2008

filthy light thief: There's anime for all tastes and interests and maturity levels.

I think for many people outside of Japan, Akira was the anime that broke the stereotype of "anime = for children" as that manga/anime is clearly mature subject matter.

While this is anime of the present (and not past) I have to take a moment to plug Production I.G.'s 攻殻機動隊 STAND ALONE COMPLEX, or Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex as it has been a thoroughly entertaining police drama/action/suspense series that I believe holds its own even in comparison to non-anime police dramas.
posted by gen at 4:28 PM on October 14, 2008

Sturgeon's Law - 90% of everything is crap. In the 80's and early '90s, most of the crap was filtered out by the language barrier. You needed fans for a fansub. Now, everything, absolutely everything, makes its way over here in translation.

So, while the rate of incrediblyawesomeamazing anime/manga works appearing has actually increased (Tokyo Godfathers, Tekkonkinkrete), it's completely eclipsed by the corresponding increase in ohchristnotthisagainmadeoffail anime/manga junk (Pokemon, Naruto).

Also, curiously enough, nerds age. The original sensawunda they felt at the time has become as precious as the actual artistic merit of the works themselves. I'm not immune, so I'm really enjoying these links.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:04 PM on October 14, 2008

Oh MAN have I wanted to read pieces like this for a long time. E-props.
posted by colinmarshall at 10:36 AM on October 15, 2008

« Older Don'tgive me no jibber-jabber   |   New AI "Elbot" Scores 20% On Turing Test! Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments