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.

Last week, we talked with a longtime fan of anime and science fiction who shared some of her stories about how conventions have changed over the years. This week, our guest was someone with the opposite experience—someone who was just introduced to fandom two years ago through her job. We were lucky to be joined by Margo Yabs, a producer at Funimation. With a background in broadcasting, she joined the Funimation team a couple years ago, where she was thrust into the convention scene as part of the creative force behind the Funimation video podcast.

Bamboo: So we're here with Margot Yabs, a video producer from Funimation. Can you tell us briefly a bit about your job?
Margo: When I'm at anime conventions, I'm out here to produce the Funimation podcast. It's called Funimation Update, and every single Monday, we have a show for anime fans, those who love anime, and who want more information on what's going on in the industry, and also what we have out for animation. So I come out here to conventions, make schedules, and I make sure it happens.
Bamboo: I believe you were just thrown into this community a couple years ago, is that correct?
Margo: Yeah, I have a broadcasting background. I studied that in school. One of my friends in school was editing for Dragonball Z and said, “Hey, we have a Funimation Channel going on.” They had a job opening, and I decided to take the job, and that's how I got thrown into it. They were looking for a producer, and coming from broadcasting, I had the skills, so I got thrown into that.
Robin: So did you know anything about anime before you took the job?
Margo: Very little. I knew the popular anime like Pokemon, and Dragonball Z, Sailor Moon, but outside that, I didn't know anything else.
Casey: Did you have to educate yourself?
Margo: Yeah, I did. I remember going, “Gosh, what is Anime?” I went out and did some research online, got some books in the library, and thought, “Alright, before I start my job, I kind of need to know what anime is.” But now, after two years, I know more.
Bamboo: Did you experience any kind of culture shock at your first anime convention?
Margo: Yeah. *laughs* The first one I went to was Wizard World in Arlington, Texas, which was kind of smaller. It's more comic books. Then I got thrown into New York Comic Con, about three months after I was hired. And then I went to Anime Boston, which was the first real big anime convention that I went to. It was a shock, with the cosplayers I had read about. And now it's just business as usual. I have cat ears too. I'm wearing my Gunslinger Girl shirt. So, you know.
Bamboo: I've always wanted to be one of the people walking past the convention center during an anime convention, not knowing what it was. I always thought it'd be the coolest experience as an outsider walking by and thinking, “What is going on here?” But I can never have that experience because chances are, if there's an anime convention, I'm probably there for it.
Margo: For work.
Bamboo: For work. So I guess maybe I should go to a scrapbooking convention or something, but I can't even imagine what it would be like running in and just seeing all sorts of cosplayers running around, hitting each other with yaoi paddles.
Margo: Yeah, for the first year I was with Funimation, it was always, “Hey, what's this? What's that?” I just learned about yaoi, what, last year? So every little thing was new. I'm still learning. I'm watching more anime now then I did before. I appreciate it more. I meet voice actors in the break room at work and it's like, “Hey! Who's that?” And then I find out, and realize, “I've seen this anime! Oh my gosh, I'm a fan!”
Bamboo: Did you have any preconceptions of anime fans before you went to anime conventions? Either through the internet, or word of mouth.
Margo: I really had no exposure to anime at all. I didn't have any friends in high school who watched anime. It wasn't until I was in college, with one of my first friends in my first days in college, that I watched an anime series for the first time. I don't remember what property it was, though I think it was actually a Funimation title.That was my first exposure to it, and then the more I was in college, the more I'd meet people that liked anime.
Casey: Do you think you would continue to continue to watch anime and be involved in the fan culture if you moved on and found a different job with a company that wasn't involved in the anime industry? Or is it more job-related?
Margo: It's kind of job related now, but I think the more that I watch and the more that I attend the cons, the more that changes. I know the voice actors that are my friends, and I'll watch one of their shows and think, “Oh wow, these are my friends. I'm really impressed with what they do. They're doing this show next, too and so on.” I think I'll still support it. It's kind of a part of me now. Had I not gotten into anime… I don't know, maybe I would have. But it's because of this job that I have more exposure. I like it.
Bamboo: How many anime conventions do you go to a year?
Margo: I think in the past two years, probably like eight or nine. I think maybe four a year. There are people that I work with who go to 13 a year.
Bamboo: Yeah, I can't do that. I don't know how I'd survive.
Robin: Plus, just the energy alone to deal with it. One thing about anime conventions is that the energy level is so high. It's always a big party, so going to that many a year… I'd just be tired.
Margo: It is exhausting. It's about three or four days at a time. And we work, I'd say, almost ten hour days, and we're on our feet and walk around and we try to interact with people all the time to try to get something. But it's so exhausting that by the time we go back… oof.
Casey: I think it's hard, too, especially for you or Bamboo, because everyone else is here to have fun and you're here to work. They're all having fun and you're like, “Oh my God, my boss is right over there!”
Bamboo: Well, I still have fun at conventions, but now it's a different kind of fun. Back in the day, I had fun doing stuff like karaoke and what not, but now I'm able to meet up with readers and hang out with my staff. It's a good time. Though I guess I spend more time growling at attendees than I used to.
Robin: Well, now you're all jaded and stuff.
Bamboo: This is true, I'm a little jaded. Hopefully you're not jaded yet, Margo. Hopefully you're not jaded yet.
Margo: No, I'm having fun. I mean, I get to meet people like you! And I love meeting people in the industry and it's nice seeing friends at conventions that I can only see in certain parts of the country. I'm not jaded.
Bamboo: So through your job, you've really gotten to know anime fans, because you talk to them for the podcast all the time, right? What is your impression of anime fans?
Margo: That they're dedicated. In a good way. They're dedicated, and they love something and have a passion for something. And I guess it transcends, because I have a passion for communicating and broadcasting. So that's why I come out. I want to relay that message. I'm not as much a fan as other cosplayers, but I want to help share their passion with other fans, and I want to bring that across.
Bamboo: You're the only female in the video department, aren't you?
Margo: Yeah. I've had to put my foot down a lot. I'm the organized one. I'm a schedule keeper, a time keeper, wrap this up, done. We'll get it tomorrow if we need something else. Getting the guys' press passes? They wouldn't even be here. Making sure we have our hotels booked, our flights booked—making sure they even get their receipts. I have to get them envelopes to put their receipts in. I need to make sure the boys get things done. I just make sure everything is organized. That way everything can work, because everyone can play their own role, and mine's to make sure everyone's there.
Casey: So, regarding the other employees—were they fans before they started working for Funimation, or were they like you, where they kind of became acquainted with the industry afterwards?
Margo: Everyone I work with is pretty different. Some of them have been there longer then I've been there. Some of them were already big fans to begin with. Some of them were also thrown into it like me.
Casey: I think when some fans start to work in the industry, they still have the kind of fan mentality. And it's really hard to be punctual, and keep that deadline and turn it into work because they're playing. They treat it like play.
Margo: Even though I'm not a major fan, it still feels like play sometimes. You know, I'll be getting some episodes ready, and I'll think, “Ooh… I can watch this.” Work is so fun.
Casey: So you don't feel that divide between the fun and the work. I've edited some manga, and I find that the more that I did it, the less that I liked it outside of work. *laughs* I didn't want to deal with that, you know. What was fun before I started working for a manga publisher was no longer fun outside of work.
Margo: There are times when I'll come home from work, I'll go to IFC, and I'll see Speed Grapher on, and I'll think, “Oh, I was at work all day, I don't want to watch this.” Sometimes I'll think, “Ooh, have I seen this episode? I think I'll watch it.” It depends; it varies. I don't feel jaded when I go home. There are days when I really want to go home and watch a DVD.
Bamboo: Do you think you are one of those lucky few, then, in the anime world? I feel like so many anime fans see us and think, “I wish I could have your job,” and half of us think, “No, you don't.”
Margo: It's because it's still work. And it's still a job. And we still have deadlines. You don't just goof off and have fun and get your paycheck. There are things you might not want to do, but you have to do for your job. Making sure deadlines are met, I mean that's what I do all the time. And going to meetings, you know, and calling meetings. You know, normal work stuff that you have to do.

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