Chris Beveridge

by Bamboo Dong,
If you haven't heard the name Chris Beveridge by now... well, you'll know it after this. Founder, creator, webmaster, and almighty Guru of Anime on DVD, Beveridge has probably seen and reviewed more anime than most people can name in a lifetime. The website was first created back in the late 90s, right as DVD was showing itself to be the clearly superior medium over the noble VHS. Since then, the site has come to house the internet's biggest archive of anime reviews, with Chris' personal count sitting at 2207 as of this posting. It also boasts one of biggest anime forum communities with almost 7,000 registered users. If there's one person who could have pulled all of this together, Chris Beveridge is the man.

What brought about your entry into anime fandom?

Mostly just complete geekiness. My first true anime fandom moment was at a science fiction convention in Boston back in the early 80s when Robotech was airing and someone had a laminating machine and was making “official Veritech pilot” licenses. At that time I had just seen the Macross movie subtitled based off of a laserdisc release in Japan and was first exposed to “true anime.” From then and that convention, I got into the fandom side of things since it was much smaller and had that fun feeling of geeky coolness that it did in those days.

Did you do any big side anime projects before Anime on DVD?

No, the site itself was my first active thing done within fandom other than random postings over the years. Up until then I was pretty much just a fan enjoying the shows and leaving it at that

What was the inspiration behind the site?

At the time, it was a fear of marginalization of the thing I had enjoyed. Throughout the 90s, as anime fandom increased, the dub fanbase had increased sizably while the subtitled side was fairly static. That's fine and I'm not saying anything against dubs, but what was happening in the late 90s was the beginning of the movement to the DVD format. My fear was that studios would just opt to do the one product and since they couldn't see specific sales data for a particular language choice as easily, they'd decide to just phase out the Japanese language version and go English only. Having grown up with just the English-only versions of shows in the 80s, I wanted to make sure that the other side got heard in some way.

The other inspiration for it was that DVD was such a new format to most people, but familiar enough to those who did laserdisc that there was a good chance for things to be done better and more interesting in the new format, and I wanted to see things done the way I wanted them done. It's a very selfish point of view, but one that I've found a lot of people have felt the same way over the years. So I set out to provide a place for anime fans to get away from regular DVD fans so they could be more distinct in providing their opinions and hopefully get the studios to listen to what we had to say.

I've noticed that you also have and a few other domains. Are you planning on riding out the anime wave as it hits all the new technologies?

Yeah, we picked up about a half dozen other domain names back in 2004 as things started to settle out, and it looks like there's going to be a protracted format war unless things change soon. While I don't think it'll be as big for anime for several years just due to the sheer lack of high definition anime in Japan, HD material is something I've very much into myself since I've had a capable set for so long and a decent amount of content via cable. But in the interest of being prepared for the future, I decided to pick up the domains and have them all point back to the AoD site, which I doubt we'll change the name of itself.

Do you think AoD has caused any big changes in the industry? What about fandom?

I doubt we've caused any big changes, but I like to think that over the course of the seven years we've been up that we've been able to provide some measure of influence. I know our position in the scope of things is small, sort of the tiny vocal minority that a lot of people tend to hate, but I like to think some of what we've talked about and asked for, particularly in the back and forth we have with a number of studio reps, has done some good. Otherwise they wouldn't continue to keep poking around to see what we're talking about.

Speaking of Studio Feedback, that section of your forum hasn't been as busy nowadays. Any thoughts?

It's not as busy as it used to be since things have settled out as the DVD product has matured and most studios know exactly the dos and don'ts. Generally there's always something to provide feedback about so it gets use, but the big ticket complaints tend to become major threads in the region 1 forum, such as the Gantz release pattern or the Toei releases. Studio Feedback's still an important part of the forums, but it's changed in how it's been applied over the years since we're not in the same situation as we used to be.

What's surprised you the most since you made the site? Either with the site itself, or industry/fandom.

The continued existence of the site itself surprises me. It really started as a lark back in early '98 as something for me to dabble in HTML a bit and just to do a little DVD promotion since I was keen on it at the time. I'd never have guessed that it would be what it is and what it's been over the years.

In terms of fandom, the way the community has changed and grown over the years has been a surprise. For the most part, even as much as they bicker online and argue, they're a very solid group of people that come together when necessary, and are really just a lot of fun to hang out with and party with. The community aspect has been one of the best parts of the site and knowing people around the world wherever you go is certainly a good feeling.

Probably the most surprising thing about the industry is that they haven't hired anyone to knock me off yet.

Haha, maybe they're saving you for a more sinister plan.

I can always hope. I like to be used!

Do you think online fandom is still revelant? Why?

Online fandom is still relevant since they're the ones that, to some extent, keep everyone else honest. A good chunk of online fandom is pretty irrelevant because they're just downloading shows and that's it; they're not really participating in fandom though they may claim as much. But a good portion of fandom is still the old die-hard types from the previous generations and they're getting the next generation in the same mindsets, showing them the way. Online fandom will always be the ones to provide that quick feedback that's needed to the studios—it's not the only bit of feedback they use and it's obvious, but it's one that can provide a good gauge for things in how the mainstream will react.

One of the best quotes I ever read came from the senior VP of Fox Home Entertainment when he was participating in some online forums a number of years ago, and that was “Please the hardcore 5% of the base and the rest will follow.” That's what online fandom is and that's why I think they'll always be relevant unless they completely shoot themselves in the foot.

So tell me about the future of AoD. Anything you plan on doing with (or without) the site, or anything you'd love to do if you ever got the chance?

Right now we're in the extremely early stages of planning out our “Version 3.0” of the site for sometime in the next year to eighteen months. We've grown considerably since the 2.0 went in back around 2001 or so since we've added the manga material and CD coverage. With the coming of two new formats and the possibility of anime being released on both of them, we're going to be getting things set up and cleaned up to really integrate the site properly. So a ground up approach is in the wings, but it's a long term project. The only other area I want to dabble in, and it's dependent on the 3.0 really, is to do some actual review book compilations, mostly for my own posterity, to have something physical I can reference come the day that I don't actually do this anymore and move on to something else.

What would you like to do if you moved onto something else?

I have absolutely no idea. Anime became a big part of my life after the previous project I was on ended, which was being an online game master in a pay MUD site for about five years. I had nothing planned after I left that and simply fell into this. I expect the same thing to happen again, since at the moment I can't think of anything else that I'd really like to do. Well, other than direct, but wouldn't everyone want to direct?

You've reviewed a ridiculous number of DVDs, enough to know what you think “works” and “doesn't work.” If you had the opportunity to direct something, what would it be?

Yeah, you're just trying to draw me out. I'll admit it, I want to direct porn. The world needs more scat-free porn and I'm the man to deliver it! But barring that, I don't think there's anything in particular I wouldn't mind working on since I enjoy shows from so many different genres. The more complex the better.

Tell me about your ideal porn.

If I did, most of the men on your site would pulverize me ;-)

Haha, for the sake of the readers then. Tell us what captures Chris Beveridge's vision.

Hm, it'd have to be a costume piece, just for the sake of diversity. A mixture of the usual Gonzo stuff and then throwing in some real showy Hollywood style elements. One of the things that stands out in my mind is that sometimes the more clothed, the sexier it is, so definitely something that plays up that alley.

Taking a quick jump back to the site, how many people does it take to run it? What would you say is the most important part of the site?

The actual operation is easily done by one person, but it usually takes a couple more for a fully smooth running site when you add in things like maintaining the forum. The most important part of the site is sort of a mixed bag. On one hand, it's the content. I've tried to make sure that content is king on the site, which is why there are as many reviews as there are and why we've added some new reviewers so we can cover more collections and provide alternate views with them. On the other hand, the forum itself provides such a vitality and sense of community that I think is what really makes it more than just any other site doing the same thing. It's always the people that count the most so it's a hard trade-up here. Without content, no people. With no people, nobody reads content.

If there was anything you could change about how things were done, or how things panned out, what would it be?

That's a question that's always easily answered for me because I'd never change a thing. The way things are going for me right now, I've got everything I ever want in my life and if changing something would change that, it's not worth the risk. There's always little things you'd want to happen different, or big things like not wanting the Internet bubble to burst or seeing certain retailers that provided some good income to disappear, but that's all small stuff that you never really remember at the end of the day.

Where do you see AOD in 10 years? Think the industry will last that long?

We'll probably be wherever the technology is at the time, which by then will likely be yet another format from the next one, so we'll still be interested. I don't see my passion for anime or movies changing since I've been into anime for nearly twenty years now and another ten certainly won't be any different, particularly since my own kids will be getting into it themselves. The industry will definitely be around, but it's changing every year as it always has, so it'll be interesting to see what it's evolved into by then. The more things change the more they stay the same and we're still really early in the game all things told when it comes to all of this.

One more question for the road. What's the most important thing you think AoD and its community has taught you all these years?

What it's probably taught me the most is that while it's never going to be easy, that there'll always be problems, at the end of the day it's all worthwhile. I've been doing this for just over seven years now and it's still something I look forward to every morning and enjoy dealing with, talking about and watching. From the people, the shows, and the industry. It's all just a fascinating and enjoyable smorgasbord of fun.

Well, thank you very much for you time. It's been fascinating talking to you, and I wish your site all the best of luck in the many years to come!

Thank you and to you as well!

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