ANN 5th Birthday Editorial - Justin Looks at the Beginning

by Justin Sevakis,
When Chris e-mailed me a few days ago to tell me that ANN was turning 5 years old this month, I almost jumped out of my seat. Then I looked at my watch, for some reason thinking my cheap Casio displayed what year it was.

But indeed, Chris was right. Five years ago this summer, I started what was to become my baby for the next year and a half. I had been fansubbing with a friend of mine all though high school as "Kodocha Anime", and we had taken the group quite far, but I was ready for something else. As graduation approached I found myself enrolled in a college that I knew didn't fit me and that I had a long, boring school year to look forward to.

As a prominent fanboy, I was also getting increasingly frustrated with the lack of real, faithful news in the anime scene. Back in 1998 most fans still got their information from either the newsgroups (where nobody knew what was fact and what was rumor) or from Animerica (which, being a magazine, went to press months ahead of time and was usually reported with either a heavy newbie or Viz bias). was little more than a fansite at the time and AnimeNewsService was just starting out itself.

I had little experience with journalism, but I had taken a class in high school and was a news junkie for most of my childhood. (Blame my parents — they wouldn't let me have a TV in my room so I would go to sleep listening to the local all-news radio station.) An anime news website seemed the ultimate challenge. I could post a new story daily, make a nice profit from the banner ads, and hopefully build a functional place where people could visit on a daily basis for their news fix.

The first few site designs were, frankly, dreadful. There were more than a few times where I really crossed the line of professionalism. At first, most of the companies in the industry didn't know what to make of me. Some of them were immediately supportive while others I had to break in the door.

And it was a great time to cover the industry. Bandai was just starting to launch their American division, Mixx was just starting to turn into TokyoPop (and pissing off a lot of people in the process), Media Blasters was just starting to get big. The rush that I got from trying to get answers from people was unbelievable. I was having the time of my life.

And then a number of things happened. The biggest one is that I moved to New York City, where there was a lot more to do, and started to attend film school. Suddenly, I was in a place where I didn't need to seek out something to do — I had more than enough already. The site wasn't making a profit — if I did the math, I made something like $0.30 an hour. Certainly not enough to live on in the most expensive city in the US.

I may have stepped away from Anime News Network, but I could never forget the experience, and how wonderful the support was from all of the readers. There are still times where I truly miss it — when I wish I could just hold up a badge, shout "PRESS!" and start demanding answers.

It is almost impossible to be an objective professional and still be an anime fan. There's too much personally at stake, and sooner or later one of the two sides in you win out. That's why most anime fans that try to make it in the industry don't succeed. Anime News Network has an even more impossible tight-rope to walk: to stay objective and be professional and still not only be fans, but speak for the fans. It's a seemingly impossible task, and there's not a day that goes by that I am not extremely impressed with the current crew. From all of the milestones that Chris and George have crossed with the site, from the launch of the Encyclopedia to day-to-day operations, I am proud to say that I had a hand in creating their foundation.

This year, I revisited what was my first anime convention, Project A-kon in Dallas, TX. My first time I went as a journalist, representing ANN in the summer of 1998. This year, I went as an industry vendor, representing Central Park Media. The con was spending its last year in the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport Hyatt, which is slated for demolition.

It was a very hot convention. The air conditioning could not handle the 8,000+ people attending, and the hotel staff had put Febreeze in a pressurized insecticide sprayer and were literally hosing the place down. Some of the non-fans I went with were more than a little weirded out by the whole thing.

While we were having lunch one day, we struck up a conversation with one of the security heads, who was sitting across from us. He began recounting some of the wilder things he's had to deal with. We asked if he was a fan. He wasn't. So, why does he do it? "Because it gives me hope."

Anime fans cross every gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic boundary. They are welcoming of anyone who loves anime — regardless of class or disability (physical mental or social). Despite the, at times, ludicrous politics and disagreements, one would be hard-pressed to find a more care-free, loving group of people all sharing one passion. To serve that group, in any capacity, is nothing short of a privilege.

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