When having a clear-out this week I was reminded that it is now 18 years since I became an anime fan. In 1990, Liverpool, England, there was a SF convention where a substantial amount of Japanese animation (sent over as a box-full of tapes by American anime fans) was shown. Ranging from Studio Ghibli to tentacle porn, it made quite an impression. After seeing anime like Nausicaa for the first time, I was converted. As much as anything, this event kick-started the creation of a British anime fandom, and in the months and years following, there arose magazines such as Anime UK, anime conventions devoted (unlike current US conventions) to the screening of raw tapes and fansubs, and various clubs.
Those bitten by the bug were prepared to seek out their anime from anywhere, at any price, and at any tape quality, with or without subtitles. I’ve just thrown out scores of sheets of distribution lists of tapes once held by other fans – this is how one got most of one’s anime tapes in those days. Strange as it may seem today, I once paid good money for some obvious bootlegs, and once paid over £30 for a half-hour retail tape. Quite a lot of my earliest fan tapes were without subtitles, and despite this got played over and over.
Once commercial releases started to appear, there was criticism of the quality of dubs and the choice of releases. Manga Video got the kind of bashing earlier directed at Carl Macek’s Streamline in the USA. The argument over subs vs. dubs ran and ran, dying down only with the advent of the multi-lingual DVD
Being an anime fan seems less social these days – no need to write to anybody for fansubs, and no particular need to attend a convention in order to buy stuff or keep up with what’s new. The biggest change is in the volume of video which can be acquired with little cost or effort.