AV MOD MATERIAL: The Anime Fan's Experience in the US, Part 1

| Wednesday, September 18, 2013

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AV MOD MATERIAL: The Anime Fan's Experience in the US, Part 1

Welcome to the Mexican and American Experiences! Please welcome our guests, Dream and DBZ_Universe. They will share their experiences and outlook on anime culture in their hometowns! Dream is from New York while DBZ_Universe originally lived in Mexico but currently lives in Oregon. Interview questions were written by Takashichea. Check out the American Experiences Part 1, 2, and 3 if you missed it.

How did you got into anime?

Dream: My first exposure to anime was during the mid-1990s when Sci-Fi Channel would air anime OVAs and movies like Iria Zeiram: The Animation and 8-Man After. I would have on and off exposure to it up until 2002 when Toonami was airing it regularly as part of their block and product-driven anime like Digimon and Pokemon were very popular. This was around the time where the 2000s anime boom was in full swing here in the states. I found myself watching anime more frequently around that time, watching anything like Tenchi Muyo, Dragon Ball Z and Outlaw Star. Since then, I've been a full-blown anime fan.

In Mexico, they find Pokemon, a spawn of Satan
In Mexico, they find Pokemon, a spawn of Satan

DBZ: How did I got into anime? It was 1997 and I was in Mexico at the time visiting family. It was one night I recalled back in 1999 when I got into anime thanks to Dragon Ball Z. At first, I just thought of it like an awesome cartoon and had no idea what was anime. Later on, I got intoPokemon only for 2 months because when I was a kid, my mom's family would tell me not to watch it since it was from the devil. They burned all of my Pokemon and DBZ collection. A year later we moved out to the United States. In 2001, I got into Digimon and later on in 2003, I found out about YuGiOh due to their TCG and up till this day I collect them. Around that time I also got into Yu Yu Hakusho and others that were on Toonami and Saturday morning if I recall correctly. However, I still kept Dragon Ball Z as my favorite even after getting into a lot more anime series. In 2006, I stopped watching anime because my friends got into comics in 2008, but I really didn't enjoyed it as much as Dragon Ball Z. In 2009, I got back to anime, but a few months later, I took a break from anime and decided to read manga instead since it caught my attention way more than anime. Because I spend most of my tine in the battle forums in Anime Vice, I haven't left anime nor manga.

How did you view anime and fans who love anime?

Finding folks online who love anime
Finding folks online who love anime

Dream: Around the time I first seen it, anime was like a completely different world that I wanted to experience more of with the animation, content and complex stories that were told in it. Beyond the occasional titles like Batman: The Animated Series or The Secret of NIMH, I didn't experience this amazement too often when I seen any other animated work here in the states since many in the mainstream perceive animation to be more a mere form of entertainment instead of an art medium that can express meaning to its audience.

As for the fandom in anime, I mostly had interactions with online communities of fans when I was starting off my interest in it since just about all my family and friends were limited or oblivious to understanding it. I was glad to connect with people that shared the same hobby as I did. From whom I interacted with, each had their own differing genres, titles and franchises they took interest in, which didn't seem any different from family and friends I had in real life who had different hobbies and interests they enjoyed.

DBZ: How? I guess the same way I view anime as well. I actually view an anime fan with a good expression since were I come from it is rare to find an anime fan.

Animation Age Ghetto Issues: Can animation bring deeper meaning and be enjoyed by all ages?
Animation Age Ghetto Issues: Can animation bring deeper meaning and be enjoyed by all ages?

Relating to an article (Why is Anime Invisible in Britain) I found, did you think anime can make it back to mainstream in your home country? Feel free to talk about censorship.

Dream: Beyond the occasional mention of Studio Ghibli and whatever airs on Toonami, I think anime has a really difficult hill to climb if there were ever a point where any serious effort were put in for it to get a mainstream foothold here in the states. As the linked article mentions, there is a difference in content standards for any objectionable content that airs on television between Japan and America. For instance, any of the violence and occasional dirty humor you see from any of the popular shounen titles like Bleach and Naruto would be comparable to a TV-14 rated TV series here in the states, showing mainstream American broadcasters are more conservative with content regulations than Japan. Censorship would be inevitable with more content heavy titles here in the states under present regulations, some likely would get too butchered to even fit in a half-hour time slot with commercials.

The other issue would come in the form of Animation Age Ghetto. TV Tropes provides a very detailed synopsis on this topic. But to make a long explanation short, many Americans are under the preconceived notion that animation is nothing more than a form of entertainment consisting either of children's titles or raunchy and crass comedies like Family Guy or The Simpsons. With Disney and Warner Brothers being considered the centerpiece of animation in the American mainstream for decades, the works and characters that they and others created with animation here in the states have cemented a mentality among many folks that animation can't be a medium to depict serious stories and topics that appeal to wider audiences as live-action films and TV shows can.

DBZ: Well by reading the article, it looks like they don't really broadcast anime much in the UK. I think anime will make it back mainstream over at the UK, specially with great new anime titles too. Though, the internet plays a huge part here because of it, anime fans can watch any anime show and not miss it. I hope this makes sense.

Have you been to an anime convention? How was it?

Dream: Never been to a convention in my life.

DBZ: I haven't actually and I really hope to go to conventions later on. I really want to go to one badly! I want to cosplay as Alphonse Elricsince that would be a very cool outfit to wear in a convention.

What is your buying experience like for anime and manga? Do you do it publicly or online?

Online Stores vs Retail Stores
Online Stores vs Retail Stores

Dream: While I was in college between 2003 and 2007, I didn't spend much on anime due to much of my expenses going towards tuition and much of my viewing for anime was via fansubs. In the occasions I did spend money on anime and manga, I did so in stores like FYE, Barnes and Noble, and Best Buy who normally had large sections of their stores reserved for anime and manga since the 2000s boom period was still strong and I was oblivious to the existence of online stores like Right Stuf during that time. I normally went for movies or complete series sets whereever possible since getting all the single volumes for a series were a very pricey option at that time. Many stores didn't carry all the volumes to any complete series I had interest in at the time.

Having been aware of online stores since 2009 now, I buy almost exclusively online since there are more choices for what you can buy and anime being cheaper in many instances than if you bought it from a retail store. The last time I even bought an anime from a store was two years ago and the FYE I used to occasionally visit for anime doesn't reserve as much of its shelf space for it as it used to with the 2000s boom having fizzled out. I haven't bought manga since 2010 since I chose to devote my spending towards anime and I sold whatever I had bought up for my small manga collection during that time.

The past two years, I've only been buying up anime I had yet to see in their entirety since I wanted to reduce how much anime I see via fansubs and would look into whatever was getting good reception from many folks online to determine what I should buy up. I'm not too fickle with what I choose to buy, so long as the condition of the DVD is in great shape. I normally buy anime from Rightstuf, Amazon or E-Bay. E-Bay and Amazon are a good resource for older or out-of-print titles most of the time since in many cases, Rightstuf's not too likely to carry them. Just beware of sellers offering bootlegs or are gouging prices.

DBZ: I buy both publicly a online depending on the price but publicly the most.

What are your views on Japanese culture?

Japan's ideals: group over individuals
Japan's ideals: group over individuals

Dream: The fun thing with anime is that it gives you a look into another culture with how it perceives itself and other countries, which led me to do quite a bit of research on the country and even take a Japanese history course while I was in college to know more of the country's mentality.

The major element to the culture that stuck out for me was the country's strong group over individual mentality, which places large emphasis on Japanese society to put priority on strengthening group dynamics like families, classes and workplaces to contribute to society as a whole. While thinking of group needs are all well and good, the Japanese seem to have some unique issues in their culture when it comes to valuing the needs of the individual. The societal pressure when it comes to this sort of mentality has resulted in cases like hikikomori, bullying and group suicides to develop. In addition, the lack of focus on individual needs also extends to mental health as the system for it is underfunded, understaffed and those involved in it have limited training with handling various mental conditions.

I guess this shows that like other countries, Japan has its own unique issues that stem from how its societal structure is set up.

DBZ: Very wonderful culture. I actually like the language and names, I recently went to a multiple culture event in some park and I went to visit the Japanese stands and they wrote my name and my Dog's name in Japanese then I bought this cool cat necklace. I would like to travel to Japan one of this days and tour around.

Is anime popular in America?

Dream: While there are more cheaper and legal options in getting anime than there were years ago when I first started my fandom, I do think anime's gone back to the niche following it had before the 2000s anime boom. The hype, exposure and press coverage you got out of it during much of the decade from the mainstream has fizzled out to a great extent. Sure, there might be the occasional mention you may get of it from the mainstream and Toonami's back on the air. But Toonami's only on once a week on a late night block and beyond occasional news coverage with anything from Studio Ghibli and city screenings of recent anime films, the medium lacks the huge appeal it had years ago from the mainstream.

It doesn't necessarily mean I don't think anime will have another boom period of popularity like it did in the previous decade. It all depends on timing and whatever quality titles Japan offers up that would be accessible to mainstream American audiences, so long as it doesn't take away from what makes anime unique and gives it its identity.

DBZ: It is actually. USA has a lot of anime fans and is very popular even in the comic book community. Dragon Ball Z, One Piece, Bleach and Naruto are big in USA.

What anime should have aired in America, mainstream TV or online?

Dream: With online, the increased use of legal streaming sites like Crunchyroll by fans have reduced the necessity of fansubs to a great extent in getting access to titles that major American distributors have yet to snag up. It doesn't necessarily eliminate the need for fansubs as there are still a decent number of older or niche titles that have a following with anime fans, yet are not accessible through any legal means beyond importing and deserve some option for fans to legally obtain while not paying an arm and a leg to get them. Some examples of titles include Legend of the Galactic Heroes, Dennou Coil and Macross Frontier.

With mainstream TV, I do think there could have been more diversity with the genres of anime offered to fans since action, comedy and product-driven titles were given prominent focus for airing to a great extent between the boom period and now.

For America, later titles in the Macross franchise like Zero and Frontier could have been huge hits here in the states given how popular the 80s anime and Macross Plus were with older fans. Unfortunately, the franchise is in a huge and complicated legal mess between American and Japanese licensees, which prevent these later titles from getting any kind of legal release here in the states.

DBZ: They should air Dragon Ball and other classics to bring back some nostalgic moments for a lot of fans. New anime as well would be awesome! especially with the awesome artwork which would look amazing in HD televisions. We should have an anime channel where only anime is aired and that would be better than waiting 1 week to watch anime on a Saturday night. For online, well anybody can watch any anime since that is the way is done most of the time now.

About the Authors

Dream is an 11-year anime fan known for his occasional blog postings here on Vice that cover the worst of anime called Ani-Crap Review. He can be found as ggultra2764 on MyAnimeList, Anime Mikomi Org and Anime News Network.
DBZ Universe is a huge anime/manga fan. I also love to debate and discuss battles and character feats in the forums of Anime Vice. Follow me @Shepalagolpe


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