I started watching anime when I was a small kid by accident. This was back when Blockbuster was still around and small mom and pop VHS rental places were EVERYWHERE. I saw Kiki’s Delivery Service when I was around 1. It was a mistake of my parent’s. Little did they know they would be introducing me to what is now a lifelong media consumption hobby.
When I saw Sailor Moon for the first time, I knew it was similar to what I had seen before, of course, this was still in my Barney the Dinosaur is amazing age and I couldn’t quite yet put into words why this animation was more captivating to me. When my mother and I would go to movie rental places, I would ask if they had anything new that “looked like that,” and take home whatever did. I would also take home stuff like “Conan the Barbarian” (I now own most of the original novels) & Horror films. My mom let me. Funny thing is, I was 7 when I first saw Conan & paused the film when the girl was changing because there were breasts explicitly shown and I thought it was too adult for me because of this. I was a prude at 7 & Anime was amazing to me.
In high school I joined an anime club at school & tried to socialize. I was terrible at it. I didn’t have much experience with people my own age and found social situations difficult. My first ever boyfriend hated Anime with a passion, but didn’t know what it was called. I played dumb when I found out, he apparently did not know that many of the shows I had described to him were anime – ha! Joke was on me.
In 2006 I attended my first anime convention, it would not be my last. The first year I went to an anime convention, I went with the anime club from school. It was very difficult to both play dumb and be super excited about being around other people who liked the things I liked. Coincidentally, 2006 was also the year Crunchyroll started.
I remember getting on the 30 (sometimes the 31) metro bus with my partner (he was the guy I had a huge crush on who didn’t think of me that way) & making a day of being in Little Tokyo. We would go to the book store and to the one store that was around that had anime and Lolita stuff. It was so exciting to eat mochie and discuss manga, as though it was the only thing in the world. There was also a small fish pet store over by “The College” that had a small collection of anime & manga (it is still there, to this day). I remember when companies went bankrupt and novels were shelved. I remember when tower records went out of business and I mourned another anime distribution place near me going away.
A lot has changed over the years. Anime is now “all the rage.” Anime Expo had 357,178 unique visitors this year (2017). The gold line now connects Little Tokyo to the little fish pet store, “that one little store,” it has expanded to multiple specialty shops across the street form the original place, & one can now ride the train from the LA convention center to Santa Monica.
I attended Anime Expo for 9 years (2015 was the last time I went) & have looked for smaller anime conventions since 2006 (including ALA) to get a better (not so crowded) experience. I have followed the expansion and evolution of Crunchyroll and almost missed the deadline to apply for the press pass because I was out of the loop for a few months due to a physical issue. I was stoked when I got the confirmation, but that quickly turned to lethargy. I was having difficulty because I wasn’t going to be able to afford the trip. Luckily, in the end, I was. My boss even moved my schedule around so I could go, come back, and work a normal week (I only recently started working more, again).
Cut to August 24, 2017. I never thought I would be here – living in a predominately Japanese area, with access to anime as it becomes available in Japan, with a partner who loves me and anime (and video games and fantasy and can debate world building and authors), working at my childhood dream job (funeral home), able to attend anime conventions, & adventuring with strangers who are as devoted, if not MORE devoted, to anime than I am.
Anime, I would be a different person without you. Thank you for the lessons, the friends, and the entertainment. May anime never die.