My Life as a Late-90s Otaku: How Being an Anime Fan in America Used to Be Very, Very Different

By Loryn Stone

Anime in the United States isn’t anything new. If you look at the history, Japanese Animation has been on TV almost as long as television itself. Shows like Astro Boy, Gigantor, and Speed Racer blasted through those old black and white tubes in the 1960s. And since it was the 60s, no one cared if any hints of Japanese culture were completely erased from these early airings and depictions, because post-war blissful Pleasantville Americana, man.

Today’s blog post is not a History of Anime. I’m not at liberty to discuss such a grandiose topic, and besides, you have Wikipedia to teach you those things. No- I wasn’t born until 1985, I didn’t have much actual exposure to early anime, prior to well…the 1980s. And while I would absolutely adore to hear stories about anime fandom from someone who was a teenager or adult in the 1980s, that’s just not the perspective I can provide.

However, us kids who were cresting into their teenage years in the late 1990s and early 2000s have a unique experience in anime fandom. It was a transitional period, one where analogue life was dying, but the digital age was in its infancy. This meant fans had to be clever and resourceful, much like anime fans prior to 1995. The only difference is that we had the internet, and we got to be creepy-anime-hunting-hermit people. Which meant that we were able to locate and see almost everything we wanted without ever having to speak to a single living person.

I know, I’m painting a very attractive picture here, aren’t I? Just stick with me, because today, I’m sharing my experiences as a Turn-of-the-Century Anime Dork!

Ugh, Turn-of-the-Century Anime Dork. Those words hurt to write.


Getting ‘em While They’re Young

To this day, I can’t help but wonder if part of my attraction to anime can be traced back to my early Nick Jr. days when I was but a wee baby-sponge. Back when Nickelodeon was a fresh channel figuring out its content, the brand-new Nick Jr. preschool block was a combination of Canadian live-action shows and imported cartoons from Japan.

In addition to the charming aesthetic of these shows, the stories contained actual, arching narratives. Which meant they were bright, cute, and easy for me to follow, but complex enough to keep me engaged. Some of my favorites were Belle and Sabastian (which I can’t remember anything about, other than a boy and two dogs), The Little Koala, The Noozles (Which was a total head-trip about a little girl whose father disappeared into an alternate koala universe. Koalas must have been a thing in Japan in the 1980s) The Lil’ Bits, Maya the Bee, and Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

However, once Nickelodeon started creating more of their own content, like Eureka’s Castle and their 1990s Nick Toons, these charming old animes got bumped from the airwaves, disappearing into obscurity. But they were engrained in my memories.

70s - Mermaid

Another method of early anime-viewing came after a Disney movie was released onto video. Parents would scramble to the video rental place, and of course, every copy of the newest movie was gone. I was often subjected to the bummer versions of movies, such as the heart-breaking version 1975 Japanese version of the Little Mermaid (which I already discussed in a previous blog post) and some whacked-off version of Aladdin and His Magic Lamp.

Additionally, when I spent three years living in Israel as a kid from 1994-1997, my exposure to early anime grew. The Moomins was incredibly popular in Israel, and was broadcast regularly in both English and Hebrew, and the old Little Women cartoon sparked my interest in early colonial literature and Louisa May Alcott in general.


The Obsession Begins and the Rabbit Hole Opens

90s - Sailor Moon.png

But it wasn’t until I was about thirteen years old and my family finally got Cartoon Network that my life-long obsession with anime would take flight. Many of us remember the mid-day Toonami block, and that was the exposure that made my Otaku mind explode.

Which by the way, since I didn’t explain the word earlier, Otaku is a Japanese word referring to severe fandom. From my understanding of the connotation, the word is not exactly positive. A new word weeaboo has since popped up that’s in circulation today, and that one specifically refers to someone obsessed with anything from Japan. We all have that friend- the one who argues that everything from Japan is better, but the word Otaku refers more to pop-culture fandom.

But if there’s a word for a sushi obsessed fool, I’ll assign that one to myself too, please and thank you.

Once the Toonami block hit TV, there was an explosion of new anime fans, myself included in them. The two heavy hitters were Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z. Pre-Toonami OG fans of the show have anecdotal stories about waking up at whatever-the-hell o’clock and watching episodes while the sun was still flipping them off and telling them to go back to sleep.

Fucking radical

Personally, I’d seen Sailor Moon once before in 1996 and was thoroughly unimpressed because my Power Rangers boner was just too mighty at the time. But along came Toonami and I was sucked in, catching every single episode of Sailor Moon with my girlfriends. Our time between episodes involved drawing fan art, writing fan fiction, and me writing/drawing comics where I imposed myself and my friends as faux Sailor Scouts and the guys we hated as the enemies. No, I will never show them on the internet.

But as both Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z fans remember, the network only had access to a limited number of episodes that seemed to play on an endless loop, probably about sixty episodes of each show out of the two hundred total that each of them have, probably more for DBZ.

90s - Ranma

I wanted to know, what other fascinating Japanese animation was out there? What could I locally and easily get my hands on? Remember, part of my experience is that I’m a Los Angeles native. And part of living in a bigger city means that a lot of things, even obscure ones, are fairly accessible.

I did a little spin on Netscape to see what other anime fans were watching, and a list of titles popped up, mostly direct-to-video titles and anime movies. Some were aired late-night on the Sci-Fi Channel, and I recorded whatever I could catch from start-to-finish. (And no, I never did watch M.D Geist again.) But remember- at this point in our story, I’m no older than thirteen or fourteen. Those Sci-Fi Channel movies came on way past my bedtime, because I was a big dumb baby. No, I needed a solution that involved me watching anime at my convenience. Did my local Blockbuster Video or Hollywood Video have anime sections? There was only one way to find out.

90s - Devil Hunter Yohko

Now, let me stop and say this, and I think this is a sentiment that many anime fans at the time shared. Didn’t it seem like no one monitored the content of the videos creeping into the video stores? We all know that a lot of anime is has adult oriented or racy content. But then there was the time I rented Devil Hunter Yohko and watched it…with my mom. About ten minutes into the movie, there’s an animated sex scene, my first exposure to any kind of hentai scene (hentai is the Japanese word for pervert and has since been assigned to any sort of cartoon pornography.)

Watching it with my mom, I had to keep my cool and pretend I totally knew the scene was coming, taking the attitude of “Yeah Mom, these cartoons are super mature and stuff. What, you’re not adult enough to handle this awesomely bodacious cartoon boobie scene? Because you know…I am.” All while sitting on my hands while my hormone ridden thirteen-year-old body was trying not to have the best kind of heart attack.

Fortunately, La Blue Girl and Venus 5 weren’t hiding at the rental shop.

90s - Ninja Scroll
You know you remember where this scene goes. Don’t lie.

And if you haven’t watched Ninja Scroll or Legend of the Overfiend with your parents either, consider yourself lucky.


All the Merch in the Effing Room

Playing cards.jpg

I’m going to carve out some time to talk about merchandise. Because as we know from anyone obsessed with any sort of fandom or franchise, we want the toys, damn it. But for a long time, there just wasn’t very much. We anime fans had to get creative with the sort of stuff we collected. Even in my major city, much of the merchandise was limited to very expensive video tapes, running about $30 for four episodes of a show.

We had some ugly, ill-fitting Hanes shirts with random clipart or scenes from animes I’d never even seen (I wore my Bubblegum Crisis and Gunsmith Cats shirts until they fell apart.) There were bootleg CDs available, which I collected. We had posters, which splattered my walls, and prismatic sticker cards/playing cards, which I stuffed into protective sleeve sheets. To this day, I have my anime card collection in a binder, which I keep in my bedside table next to my grown-up lady toys. They’re very precious to me.

As for free merchandise, I collected anything that would chew up my family’s 4GB hard drive computer. Things like Windows 95 Desktop themes that changed the background, colors, and sounds on your computer and drove your parents crazy.

It really whipped the llama’s ass

I also collected an arsenal of Winamp skins, an early MP3 player that you could customize, as well as a bunch of terrible quality 40 second Real Player and AVI clips from rare animes that took hours to download and looked like garbage.

But the real show-stopping piece in my anime collection was my arsenal of Fan Subbed VHS. I’ll explain really quick what that is. Anime fans, typically college students with access to video equipment, would purchase raw anime Laser Disc. Using some sort insane magic, they translated anime, created subtitles, timed them with the show, and slapped the whole thing onto a video cassette tape. The best quality videos always came from Canada, but they were more expensive. If you could afford the Canadian Fan Subs, it was like getting to do the best and highest quality drugs. A multitude of Fan Sub websites existed, with sellers offering VHS copies of their VHS copies, anywhere from $5-$15 per video.

It was really that extreme

To this day I have a copy of the infamous Pokemon Seizure Episode that I purchased in raw Japanese for $9.

Now, some sellers had integrity and refused to sell any video tapes once a series had been licensed by a legitimate anime distributer, such as Viz, Manga, ADV, or Pioneer. Other sellers gave zero fucks, and would continue selling their video tapes despite the licensing. That’s how I got the entire Fushigi Yuugi series, all 52 episodes in shitty B- quality VHS for under $30 well after Pioneer purchased the rights.

And once I saw artwork of Eternal Sailor Moon with the wings, and the Sailor Starlight characters from the final season of Sailor Moon? Forget it- I needed to watch those NOW.

90s - Dragon Ball Z
I wish my high school anime club knew there was more to life than this

DBZ fans, don’t you remember the feeling you got once you learned there was more to life than the Frieza saga? It was like that.

So…you guys gonna start kissing yet, or what?

Or once I learned there were other Gundam series past Wing, the soap opera in disguise about five pretty teenage dudes that propelled dirty fan-fiction and Rule 34 to the extent that the badass robots were upstaged.


Anime Access Today


I remember all the funny old rumors I’d read about different shows that were supposedly coming to American TV. There was a rumor about Ranma ½ on Toonami (which was already way old and cancelled by the year 2000.) There was a Neon Genesis Evangelion rumor. There was an Revolutionary Girl Utena rumor, which would have been an excellent introduction to LGBT anime on American TV.

However, none of these ever happened.

During the time when Pokemon mania was at its peak, there were shows that managed to sneak onto American television. Fans of Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z tell horror stories about the chopping and splicing that happened during the shows’ western facelift. But at least the integrity was left in place.

Do you remember what happened to Card Captor Sakura? The show was renamed Card Captors, given that weird “Network TV Anime Gloss”. I don’t know the technical term, but Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh both got the same paint slapped on it. It was rewritten to focus on the male character, Li, and chopped down to like, half of its regular episode count.


Shows like The Vision of Escaflowne, while one of my favorite fantasy-romance-giant robot epics, just didn’t have a place on Fox Saturday morning. It was a huge flop and was quickly pulled.

Tenchi Ryoko Drunk
Tea, anyone?

Tenchi Muyo found a home on Cartoon Network, but it was a weird choice too, because not only was Ryoko the Space Pirate a raging alcoholic who was often naked, but the show also had the creepy lust gaze for the little girl, Princess Sasami.

(Although Ronin Warriors and Yu-Yu Hakusho seemed to do all right?)


It was all a mess. Though on the flip side, shows like Cowboy Beebop (noted by the AV Club as a “gateway to the medium as a whole”) found its raging fanbase in the US and outperformed Japan.

Anime today is more easily accessible than ever. Faster internet speeds have opened the flood gates for streaming services to provide a multitude of series, both old and new. New series are aired simultaneously with Japan, a phenomenon that my teenage ears ever would have believed. Services like Hulu, Amazon, Crunchy-Roll, and Netflix are absolutely mind blowing. And Netflix paying for original anime made in Japan? Plus, walking into Barnes and Noble and seeing top notch anime toys for sale? Are you kidding me? It’s incredible.

Ironically, the older I get, the more interest in new series wanes. I’m sure I’m not the only one. Many anime fans in my age group have kept up with One Piece, Gurren-Lagan, Kill La Kill, Attack on Titans, One-Punch Man, and Jojo’s Bizarre Adventures. Meanwhile, Hikaru no Go and Excel Saga are still new in my head. Sometimes we fall behind, and that’s okay. Because as we know from internet reality, the best you that you can be is the one that keeps those nostalgia goggles firmly glued to your head. So don’t throw out those out-of-print VHS and Fan Subs quite yet. You never know when they’re going to come in handy.

Kodomo no Omocha, Flame of Recca, or Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne, anyone?


You can find Loryn playing with her bootlegs on Twitter.

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  1. Remember Maple Town? That was my first anime that was shown on Nickelodeon. I also watched Maya the Bee. I remember my dad buying that version of The Little Mermaid after my sister begged for it. The Disney version we just saw in the movie theater and she was obsessed with it. I didn’t like it much. I was too scary for me.

    I really hated how they ruined Card Captor Sakura…… Heaven forbid you market cartoons for girls.

    I also remember anime being at Blockbuster and how even the non-adult titles still had a restricted “+17 and older” sticker on them. Even though I was in High School, I had to convince my mom to let me rent them. Of course when I rented Devil Hunter Yohko and Ninja Scroll, I got on edge hoping my mom didn’t walk in on those sex scenes.

    Amazing article!! It inspired me!! Maybe someday I’ll write my experience growing up watching Anime in the 90’s.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Hmmm… I think the Cities of Gold predated Mapletown. But then, I’m a bit older than you guys, being born in ’75 and remembering Battle of the Planets (Gatchaman), Tranzor Z (Mazinger Z), Thunderbirds 2086, and of course Voltron and Robotech.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This article is PERFECT. I remember these days so well. When I got to college in 1999 I found my first crack dealer…I mean fansub trader. He had the pretty versions of VKLL’s Sailor Moon subs and Escaflowne in hard clamshell boxes. It was like finding bars of gold just lying around. That’s also where I heard about these crazy things called ‘anime conventions’ (although I wouldn’t go to my first one until 2001). It was a glorious time. These days I call myself a retired otaku. I don’t actively keep up with anime, but I still go to cons (mostly to see friends) and cosplay when I can. I miss the simplicity that we had. Kids these days don’t know how easy they’ve got it! *shakes cane*

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      • Oh my gosh, VKLL… I never imagined I would hear that name spoken in this day and age! Val and his brother Jonathan are where I got my first fansubs (Sailormoon). Your article was great! I grew up with anime around the same time as you and it was fun to read about the similarities to my experience. One omission I noticed was newsgroups. Once I got my first computer in ’98, internet newsgroups became a huge part of the anime experience for me. It’s where I learned about all kinds of new anime series to check out and even led to my first online pseudo-romance and subsequent awkward meetup at my first anime convention (Otakon in ’99). Anyway, thanks for sharing the memories! I pretty much stopped following anime around 2002 but lately have started revisiting some of the classics: Bubblegum Crisis, Irresponsible Captain Tylor, 3×3 Eyes, Crest of the Stars, Berserk, His & Her Circumstances are what I’ve re-watched this year. Thankfully I converted all my old VHS collection onto DVDs years ago so I still get to watch it in all its analogue artifact glory! From what I’ve heard, the newer stuff just doesn’t hold a candle to the classics. What do you think… is there anything in the last 15 years or so worth checking out?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you for sharing this story with me! I actually JUST revisited this topic in video form and it is on the cutting room floor. It will be one the PopLurker YouTube channel in a week and a half. You’re right- I was part of some mailing lists. I even won a Sailor Moon poster in a fan fiction contest! I watched Chobits when it was new and loved it but that’s about as recent as it gets. Once the Slice of Life trend started (everyone is so cute and quirky)!8 tapped out. Shoujo just wasn’t what it used to be and fantasy anime took a back seat. Dr. Stone is okay but it’s sooooo aged down. If you have any suggestions my ears are open but I think I’m stuck in the 80s and 90s. ❤️


      • Girls und Panzer, maybe? its a bit slice of life-y in places, but with Tanks, and anything with Tanks is, by definition, awesome


      • Oh my gosh, Sailor Moon fan fiction… that brings back some memories. For some reason the name of an old Sailor Moon fan fiction “Tacky Yellow No Name” is still burned into my memory even after laying dormant for over two decades! You also reminded me of a Sailor Moon~Monty Python & The Holy Grail fan fiction crossover that I participated in on a newsgroup back in the day. Good times 🙂
        Chobits is also the last “new” anime that I watched back around 2003 I think, the last one I watched and liked back then. But I guess it’s good to hear that I haven’t missed out on a ton of good shows over the years… or maybe not, because that would mean there is a wealth of great shows waiting to be discovered..? In any case, I agree that the 80’s & 90’s was the golden era of anime! At least we always have that well to go back to.
        I’ll have to check out Dr. Stone and Girls und Panzer if I get a chance.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh god, I accidentally had to sit through La Blue Girl with my mother.I still have the entire vhs set. After the decades, its a running joke. I bought her the second series on DVD as a gag birthday gift for her 50th.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is HILARIOUS! My mom didn’t make a big deal out of the Yohko incident, but La Blue Girl might have been a little different. Bless her soul, was she a prude! Thank you so much for reading!


  4. Yes, you get me! While I came a bit later in the 80’s (I’m the budding teen in 2000) I can remember trying to catch glimpses of Hello Kitty and Sailor Moon through a grainy Spanish channel as a 5 year old (?)! I always talk about how there didn’t used to be aisle of anime (now there are literally aisles as you know) but you’d have to go to the “special interest/world’ section of Block Buster or Hollywood to find Anime. Crying Freeman, and some others but this is where I first discovered Ranma 1/2. Finding out when I got home that it wasn’t suited for a 3rd/4th grader haha! I also wanted to comment on how I could stand watching the DBZ re runs anymore so I went and literally read the entire script to the cell, and GT sagas.A lot of points you made resonate with me so much, thanks for writing this!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for READING this! I was 15 in the year 2000, so that’s my deal. I’m so glad you connected with it. Who ever would have thought we could go to Barnes and Noble and buy GORGEOUS FigureArts statues?! Man, the bootlegs in our day. I literally once pulled a broken Sailor Mars bootleg out of the trash of a comic book shop!


  5. I can’t thank you enough for giving this background on anime in the Pre-Toonami days.

    I had a feint thought in the back of my anime-induced head that there was more to the animation medium than just what was on Toonami, KidsWB, and Adult Swim (post-Toonami cancellation). But I never knew Nick Jr had anime way before any of the aforementioned stations. Today, I am on the insane hunt for rare anime especially fan subbed VHS’s or just anime VHS which was never transferred to DVD or Blu-Ray.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much! This was my life! My obsession! I bet you those old Angelfire sites are still up with the crazy lists of fan subs people had for sale. I had tons of magical girl anime, personally. Thank you so much for reading!!!


  6. This was an interesting read. I would spend summers in Mexico, and there was where it really opened up for me. There was a channel called locomotion that showed Anime all day even the adult ones. I would record the tv so I could take home my episodes of gundam wing, cardcaptors, samurai x, nightwalker, cyberteam, etc… I think the Spanish dubs did a better job than English anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Literally Nuzzling with Noozles was my thing!! I watched that so many times over!!
    For a while my friends thought I was making that stuff up until I tracked it down and found the name. Like how do you explain a little girl sneaking into a rainbow bear village passably with just bear ears?? (Didn’t remember they were Koalas at the time) Even now I can’t explain much. For a while I thought I dreamt it! lol!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh my god, thank you for making me laugh out loud! I nuzzled every toy I had hoping they would come to life. That show was so weird! And did it ever wrap up? What the hell was with the flying koala-wala-land?!?!


    • You’re so welcome! I’m delighted that you shared a similar experience! Yes, my Canadian friends are informing me that YTV had all their anime needs and never got the Toonami block. But you guys had those sweet VHS bootlegs! Thanks for reading and the follow. ❤


      • YTV and Fox Kids were the big intros for Canadian kids and then I got introduced to an anime club that was run at the local university. Anime, for 6 hours on a Saturday, I was in heaven and got exposed to so many awesome shows. Ah yes, the VHS bootlegs, I still have some from my first crack dealer, I mean supplier. lol

        Just a little side story to everyone mentioning Flame of Recca, for the longest time I never knew most anime shows were based on Manga. And I was so upset when the anime series ended for Flame of Recca, I kept wondering why there wasn’t more made. It was years later when I found the Flame of Recca manga, that there was tears of joy I could ‘find out what happened’. I never did finish reading the manga series. lol

        Liked by 1 person

      • I was in an anime club in high school, but I quit because they literally refused to watch anything but DBZ. I’d bring in Evangelion, Fushigi…nothing. They’d whine and want it turned off. So that was that. I love your experience at the university club. That’s so cool!!!


  8. I remember the old days of the anime fandom too. I watched Devil Hunter Yohko by myself back in 1999 when I was 8 on Starz. I first got into anime in 1996 when I discover Venus Wars on Sci-Fi. I remember when my mom recorded it for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Cool blog. I was born in ’80, so I had a very similar experience. Robotech was my first show I adored because it was serious! (yes I still actually like the syrupy Harmony Gold treatment!) I also loved Teknoman, and Voltron in the late 80’s on VHF stations. I had cable and sometimes would catch the badass Grimms Fairytale Classics, Noozles or The little Koala (R.I.P. Ishiguro-san) Then The scifi channel started playing the hardcore stuff at night, and I would sneak downstairs at midnight to watch gems like Project A-KO, and Dominion Tank Police! All this was before CN’s The Midnight Run. Such good times!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • ::gasp:: Ohhhhh my god, Erica commented on my blog post. I’m Fan girling. Dying. I love you so much. Napster, Morpheus, and Limewire were my bitches. I still have so much illegally downloaded anime music!


      • Haha! Thank you for the kind words. It’s always nice to meet a fan. ^_^ My first downloaded song ever was Kindan No Pensee from Silent Mobius. I still love it.

        Liked by 1 person

    • The same could be said about Little Women or all the Grimm Fairy Tales, but they still had those anime sensibilities attached to them. Animation timing, the way they were shot. But all good stuff. I didn’t know it was a book. Thanks for reading!


  10. I consider myself a hybrid of both fandoms, I grew with Pokémon and related stuff, but as I got older, I learned about older and/or obscure stuff. Heck, Flame of Recca is one of my top 10 favorites!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Despite being in the UK I had some very similar experiences though it was the early 90’s for me around 1993 I think. Thankfully my first awkward viewings of sex in anime were by myself though 🙂 A friend brought round some anime Videos he borrowed from his older brother over the course of a few weekends including Fist Of The North Star and Doomed Megalopolis and they blew my mind. Soon after I discovered the magazines “Manga Mania” and “Anime UK” that taught me more about Anime, manga and Japanese cinema and not long after I was saving up whatever pocket money I had to buy all the anime VHS tapes I could from my local stockist (Volume video and records in Durham City). I even got a part time job at 14 glass collecting at my local workmans club to fund my habit! 🙂
    I plan to write a more in-depth article about all of this but I do touch on it in one called “Anime in the UK” which is about an old documentary from BBC about the rise of anime and manga fandom in Britain.

    Liked by 1 person

      • I certainly do. The term was more often used in the US than here but I still saw it in the magazines I read. Because Manga Video dominated the UK market lots of people here tended to refer to anime as “manga”. This was probably made worse by the fact that Manga Video UK would narrate trailers with daft phrases like “it’s classic manga action all the way” or “Manga: takes you to the edge….and then some”. The UK market was kinda weird though, because Manga UK advertised a lot more and seemed to sell a lot more tapes and they did mostly dubs on VHS (with a few exceptions like Akira, the patlabor movies and Ghost In The Shell) I’d meet fans at the time who had only ever seen dubs since some of them hadn’t done much research and stuck with one company! Thankfully i knew about companies like Anime Projects (the UK wing of Animeigo), East2West, Pioneer Video and Kiseki so I had access to plenty of subs.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. This is amazing, and perfectly captures my entire anime experience to a T. 😀 I’m still using WinAMP as my preferred media player, and rotate out the skins from Gundam Wing and Lunar: Eternal Blue. The prices for VHS tapes brings back all the unhappy memories…I spent over $300 on subbed Fushigi Yugi tapes, and another..$80? on the first two OVAs on DVD.

    I didn’t have Blockbuster, but a “Movie Gallery,” which had all the anime listed as Unrated, often without a front/back cover to let me know what I was about to rent! Just a title. So much fun watching terrible/amazing shows such as – Lensman, Project A-ko, Rhea Gall Force, and as much Gundam as I could find. Of course, Legend of the Overfiend ended up being one of those I rented that came without the benefit of a back cover to read.

    On one hand, I really miss the wonder of reading about shows that were never coming here, or would take years to be licensed. On the other hand, younger me wouldn’t be able to comprehend the ease and convenience of viewing anime now. But I sure would’ve tried my best to consume as much as humanly possible. A few years back, I won an auction on a load of English language anime magazines from the 80s and early 90s. All the Animerica!

    Thank you so much for sharing this. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank YOU for this amazing comment! I’m so humbled and touched. Thank you for sharing your experience with me. I agree, being an anime fan back then was an exciting scavenger hunt. Like a trip down a rabbit hole where you knew all the titles and wondered what it was about them that they never made it here. The search for merch was amazing. I still can’t believe I can walk into a bookstore now and buy a gorgeous Sailor Moon figurine for under $20. Not the junky old American toys, but legit collectors’ pieces. Amazing.


  13. I feel this whole blog so hard. I also was born in 85 so we had the same exposure. Kids these days just don’t know what it used to be like. I used to spend all my money at Suncoast for a few measley VHS tapes. Nice piece.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. This is funny reading this – as someone else commented above, I’m one of the people that was a teen during the 80s. My initial exposure was to Voltron and (especially) Robotech, as well as the MechWarrior RPG game. I still regret destroying my old ‘Matchbox’ ‘Robotech’ models (basically, a mish-mash of various anime robots to that time) when I had to downsize…

    I didn’t even know it was ‘anime’ at the time, so I didn’t get back into it until the late 90s when it started exploding everywhere. My favorites are Bubblegum Crisis, Ah! My Goddess! and Ghost in the Shell (almost all versions…), but this article really brought back other memories of ones I haven’t seen for years (Dominion Tank Police!).

    I also have an embarrassing ‘the parents’ story – my mother-in-law wanted to get me a birthday present, and my wife wasn’t into anime at this point. So, they went together to a video store and found the anime section (in back, of course, next to the ‘adult’ video section), and got me a video that was so ridiculously hentai that I don’t even remember the name of it. Fortunately, I read the back so we didn’t even start watching it…

    DVD’s made life so much easier, no longer having to decide between sub and dub.

    Thanks for the memories!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Man, so much of this rings true for me. I watched a ton of the SciFi channel Saturday morning anime movies, it’s where I was first introduced to Tenchi Muyo! and GitS and the Project A-ko OVAs. I’m also one of those that watched Sailor Moon and DB/Z at god awful hours before it hit Cartoon Network. There was also this series called “Teknoman” which was chop of Tekkaman Blade. It’s a great series but the Western airing chopped up and mixed and mashed episodes up real bad. Like later episode clips being aired near the beginning and stuff. The 90s anime scene was a mess from chops, to shitty dubs, to ridiculous pricing, to just plain ol’ bad anime being shoveled out to Western audiences. I too remember the “Japanimation” rack at Blockbuster letting kids rent ultra violent and sexual anime movies because they had no rating.

    Liked by 1 person

      • I distinctly remember it starting out as Japanimation, then Japanime, and then just anime as the 90s progressed. Renting Golgo 13, Dirty Pair, and other graphic anime at the ripe old age of 12 was amazing but also probably not OK haha! You’d think the store clerks would look at the VHS covers and go “mmmm nah” but they didn’t care probably because it was just a cartoon to them. I was also lucky enough to be able to see Princess Mononoke in a theater back then as well.

        Teknoman was another 90s mecha anime with a dramatic, edgy, pretty boy pilot tasked with saving humanity that was vaguely not Robotech. Was on the UPN network in the mid-90s where I lived (along with Samurai Pizza Cats). It’s worth a look up! Record of Lodoss War is another gem of the 90s that kinda holds up, mainly due to Satoshi Urushihara’s amazing artwork for the series.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I got to see Mononoke in the theaters too! It was so cool. I saw the Bebop movie in theaters, but hadn’t seen the show yet.
        “90s mecha anime with a dramatic pretty boy pilot tasked with saving humanity.” I’m dying. I’m dying. I can’t stop laughing. Please tell me you’re on Twitter so we can be friends.


  16. I’m a bit older. By about 12 years. My first anime was Starblazers, followed by G-Force, original Voltron, and a few other series that i can’t remember off the top of my head. I remember the first time I saw Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. We were supposed to be swimming, I went into the room to get something to drink, turned the TV on and didn’t move until it was over. I didn’t really know it was ‘anime’ though for a few years more. I just thought they were really awesome cartoons with actual stories.

    Went to my first convention, DragonCon, mid 90s, back when it was only at one hotel and not spread out over half of Atlanta. Spent 90% of my weekend in the anime room. Saw Ninja Scrolls there, bought a most likely pirated VHS in the dealers room immediately after. Never watched it with a parent at least.

    Then I became a parent with a nerdy spouse((he’s more of a Fist of the North Star fan)). The toonami block was daily TV for us. And when we could afford it I got DVD’s of things like Rurouni Kenshin and anything by Studio Ghibli. My kids have grown up on anime to the point where they were probably more familiar with Studio Ghibli than Disney movies. Now my eldest is the one recommending anime to me and my youngest when not devouring manga is reading light novels constantly.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. “Because as we know from internet reality, the best you that you can be is the one that keeps those nostalgia goggles firmly glued to your head. So don’t throw out those out-of-print VHS and Fan Subs quite yet. You never know when they’re going to come in handy.”

    Hey, that’s my & my blog in a nutshell! (minus the “nostalgia goggles”, for the most part) Have to use those old fansubs one way or another, right?

    Anyway, it’s always fun to see the “evolution” of anime’s market penetration here in North America. I didn’t become a full-blown anime fan until 2004, but before that I was a minor fan because of stuff like Fox Kids & after-school Toonami. As for the rumors of what would air next on Toonami, I can only guess that Evangelion became one because it did technically air on the block a single time during the infamous “Giant Robot Week” promotion, though it would eventually get a proper full run on Adult Swim about a decade ago.

    Great piece overall, though.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for reading! Yes, it was pointed out to me later that Evangelion did eventually pop on for Giant Robot Week. Totally not discounting that. It’s just we used to hear rumors that it was coming in like, 2001-2002. That’s all. But I’m so happy you like the article!


  18. Thank you for speaking to my soul. Thank you understanding me. Especially about interests in new shows waning. For me it’s because I don’t have a lot of friends that love Anime like me. When I was younger I had that community online and some at school. Loryn you put a smile on this aging Otakus heart. I had 12 tapes of Hana Yori Dango fansubs!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Omg this was my childhood. Never watched the Nick jr stuff, but i remember when toonami kicked it off, then when i was watching SciFi and saw commercials for things like Blue Gender and the others they played at midnight. I instantly set up my VHS recorder and taped every night. Oh, and Betterman! I’d wake up and watch them even though it was like 1am and it was a little 12″ tv/vcr combo!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. I am beyond happy that I’m not the only anime nut who kept all my recorded VHS tapes! My best friend went through some shady stuff to get her Utena Black Rose Sage bootlegged from some guy in Atlanta who got it from some guy in Cali who knows someone in Japan who managed to get it somehow…well before we had reliable internet. I must say it was impressive and I was proud of the sketchiness.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Your article “4 Reasons Anime Fans Have It WAY BEtter Nowadays” at Cracked led me here.
    Both were quite a good read.
    Luckily my experience in Germany was not as traumatic like yours in the US (emphasis on the as), and we had somewhat decent dubs and translations (but I belive the voice directing in the US is starting to get better). Dragon Ball is still a bit weird though since they tried to reinterpret and cut the dialog betwen Bulma and Master Roshi, so they could air it in the kids segment.
    And thanks to your arcticle now I know, that Maya the Bee was my first anime, which never occurred to me…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! You know what, I agree with you. German dubs were great from my experience. I love the German Sailor Moon dub, and I remember seeing the old 70s anime version of Alice in Wonderland in both Hebrew and German and really liking it. Thank you for your support!


      • The german dub of Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood is extraordinary good.
        They got some of the best german voice actors for that dub.

        I just don’t get it, why american cartoons have better voice directing (and acting), than anime. ProZD has a podcast episode with Kira Buckland, where they, amongst other topics, talk about voice acting. She said, that she was doing some lines a certain way and the director went “No! Do it like this!” and she had to do that cliché indifferent anime voice without any emotions. But as I said, it appears to change for the better.

        The Alice in Wonderland Anime was my first exposure to the Story of Alice in Wonderland. As a kid I was totaly weirded out by the stroy and rather stuck to crap like Biker Mice From Mars and Street Sharks…

        Liked by 2 people

  22. […] As a teenager in the early 2000s, I was constantly looking for ways to have the things I loved. I rationed gas money so that I could buy branded lunch boxes, t-shirts, trade paperbacks, and graphic novels. I sought recognition from my parents for the smallest achievements in the hopes of monetizing them. When that failed, Napster, Morpheus, and Kazaa introduced me to more anime albums than I even knew existed. My school binder was lovingly plastered with home-printed images of my Marvel and DC heroes like Rogue and Harley Quinn, SO MUCH Tim Burton crap, and a well-placed Shinzon from Star Trek: Nemesis (don’t judge, Tom Hardy was hot even with a prosthetic nose). My best friend introduced me to series after series of anime with bootleg VHS that she had likewise scrimped and saved and found all manner of creative ways to acquire. […]

    Liked by 1 person

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