Chicks on Anime

by B. Dong, C. Brienza, R. Sevakis,

About the contributors:

Bamboo is the managing editor for ANN, and writes the column Shelf Life.
Casey is a freelance journalist, and also writes reviews for ANN.
Robin is an illustrator, and also the creator of Anime News Nina.

This week, we sat down with Natalie Baan, a long-time anime fan who first got into the hobby through her science fiction fandom. Since then, she's been very active in the online community, and has become very well-respected in the fan-fiction world (later on, she'll be returning to talk with us about fan-fiction, and the why's and how's of slash-fic). She's done freelancing work with Tokyopop, helping to adapt light novels, and also with Seven Seas, where she helped copy edit.

Update: Some of the comments were attributed to the wrong people the first time around, but have now been corrected. My apologies for the error.

Bamboo: Natalie, you have been a science fiction and anime fan for quite some time, yes?
Natalie: Yes. Actually, I started out in standard science fiction and fantasy fandom in the late 80s and from there came into anime fandom having watched anime at the conventions and gotten into fandom that way. It's really different. It's getting less different these days as you're getting more crossover.
Bamboo: Meaning science fiction conventions and anime conventions are different? Or they were different in the 80s, compared to now?
Natalie: I think they are different conventions. I think they are getting a little less different as more of the anime fandom is bleeding into the science fiction conventions. Have any of you been to cons other than anime cons?
Robin: I've been to comic book conventions before there was hardly any anime influence in them. That's probably the only thing I've seen.
Natalie: A lot of the science fiction conventions are very bookish. There are some that are more media-focused and some that are more book-focused. There are a few up in Massachusetts that are just book-oriented. They actually discourage hall costuming. They don't want you to come in costume because they don't want to have that kind of atmosphere going on. It's very literary. There are some people who go in costume, but it's a lot more understated, and not so much in character the way they are at anime conventions. The demographic used to be older at the science fiction conventions. There were also whole families—parents who had been in the con culture since they were in college would bring their kids. I don't know if you get that multi-generational thing as much in anime.
Bamboo: There is some, and I think that's been increasing more and more every year, but maybe not as much as at comic book conventions. Many of the older people you see at smaller conventions are parents who are there to chaperone their kids. Sometimes you have older fans, but it's not as prevalent as it used to be, I think.
Robin: I think there are not as many older fans, but also, maybe the older fans just don't go to as many conventions anymore because it's been so taken over by the young crowd. On the other hand, I still do see some generational variation and families. I had an Artist Alley table at Ohayocon in Columbus, Ohio, and I met this woman, and she was really great. She was a fan of ANN and the comic, and what I thought was cool was that she was an older woman. I think she was a college librarian, or worked in a college, and she was at the convention with her kids. They were buying anime and she was buying anime, but they were getting their own titles. I just thought that was cool because you don't see a lot of that. There is still some there, though.
Natalie: One Anime Expo that I went to, there was a grandmother and her young granddaughter who was maybe 10 or something. They did a fabulous Fushigi Yuugi cosplay. It was the best thing I've ever seen. They had really nice costumes. The grandmother was really into it and it was great. But that is not something you see very often.
Bamboo: I kind of wonder if our generations will end up being the older generation going to anime conventions. One of my readers who sent in pictures of his shelves for Shelf Life said that he was a school teacher, and used his own money to buy manga for his students to read. I thought that was really cool. So you have these older people who are trying to introduce people to fandom. I wonder if we'll continue going to anime conventions.
Natalie: Anime fandom as an entity is not very old, as a lot of people taking part. But the fandom itself is not very old, in a matter of speaking. That's when you start talking about established conventions. You had people passing around old homemade VHS tapes and all that, but as far as big groups getting together, it's a decade, decade and a half.
Robin: What's interesting to me is that the fans from the earlier days were so different. When I was in Michigan, the only convention I got to go to when I was young was the Motor City Comic Con. It was just the local comic convention, but it was pretty big. When I first started going, there was almost no anime. It was all comic books. Slowly there was a bigger anime influence, but the people there who were anime fans were the same people who were the old school comic book fans. There were a lot of older males... some who were kind of socially awkward still, but it's interesting because I feel that the crowd is just so different than what we have now. It's not just age, but also attitude, I guess. They were more old school. Like, they were the people who went to the comic cons and the sci-fi cons, and all that, and they had a broader scope, and then they found anime which had a lot of sci-fi and fantasy in it.
Natalie: We had to work for our anime! These kids today don't know how good they have it!
Bamboo: I think the purpose of anime cons has changed. My first convention wasn't even that long ago—maybe it was 8 years ago? But it was long enough back in the day that we still had VHS fansubs and you would send in your money and some sketchy dude would send you a VHS tape.
Robin: It was Justin.
Bamboo: *laugh* I did get fan subs from him.
Robin: Good old purple cases.
Bamboo: And there was the prevalence of anime clubs, where you'd go to the club, watch an episode or two episodes of any given series, and spend the entire day hanging out with your friends watching anime. Then you go to anime conventions and suddenly it's like, “Look at all these anime fans!” Then you would go to the video room and say, “Look at all these new shows! Look at all this cool stuff! Woah!” You would just go there to learn and just get more. Now it's just one big party. People come here just to hang out with their friends.
Robin: To socialize.
Bamboo: The video rooms are empty nowadays, unless it's a premiere. What's the point of going to a video room when you've already watched the fansub of that show?
Robin: Yeah, I think you are right on that. In the old days, I think just because anime was just so much more hard to get and kind of more underground, the community felt more tightly knit. Like you said, you had to work for it. And there was no Anime News Network or Internet. I think the Internet has changed everything because if you don't know what anime is, you can find out, and you will get a ton of answers.
Casey: There is also a different kind of convention now. Look at where we are now, at the New York Anime Festival, which is being put on by Reed Exhibitions. Reed Exhibitions is owned by Reed Elsevier, and they own LexisNexis, and God knows what else.
Bamboo: Reed Elsevier? The publisher? With all the textbooks and journals?
Casey: Yeah. They're a corporation. For profit. You could say something about how people aren't in the video rooms because they've already watched the fansub online or downloaded it online, or whatever the case may be, but also the videos being shown are old because they're licensed titles. Reed Exhibitions isn't going to show something that isn't legal to show here. And they aren't going to do the sort of below board things you saw in the early days of conventions put on by fans for fans.

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