What was your first anime? This is an interesting question that I see tossed around a lot when people are introducing themselves to other anime fans. While it seems simple, it’s actually quite interesting and encourages complex responses. A person’s first experience with anime not only instructs us about the decade they got into anime, but about the importance and place anime has in his life. It also says quite a bit about the different things anime means to every one of us.
I, for instance, must (shamefully) admit that my first anime was Sword Art Online. Or was it? I certainly watched more than my fair share of Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh and Dragonball when I was young. However, from my perspective, SAO was the first time that I sat down and said “Yeah! Let’s watch an anime!” In my case I think this speaks to how I’ve rediscovered the sort of “Japanese aesthetic” in storytelling that I loved as a child.
Considering the amount of localization classics like Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh and Sailor Moon went through (especially thanks to wonderful companies like 4Kids), I think that there are probably quite a few people my age with a similar experience. Lots of Americans don’t even recognize the Japanese origins of those shows. Of course, issues with localization are another issue entirely. My point is that it’s interesting to think what we actually classify as our “first” anime, especially when by definition the word just refers to anything animated.
The generation of otaku ahead of my own, on the other hand, is quite different. Where I was introduced through crunchyroll and funimation’s streaming services, they were introduced via things like Toonami and Saturday morning cartoons – an era that I only caught the tail end of. This is quite an interesting crowd to me because of the nostalgia they have for classic shows from the 90’s when anime was first starting to come to the west.
The generation before them is perhaps even more interesting. These are the people that were copying and fan subbing VHS tapes just to get the word out about these awesome new Japanese TV shows. These are the people that huddled around TVs to watch a copy of a copy of a copy of an episode of Ranma ½ .
Perhaps I’m romanticizing that “era” too much – in reality it’s not that different from what most of us do these days. However it’s fascinating to consider how the ways people are exposed to anime has changed over the years, and to wonder what implications that has on anime’s future as an artistic medium, and on our own future as a fandom. So, my question to the reader is what was your first anime? How did you find out about it? And, most importantly, what does it say about you as a fan? (Though given that my first anime was SAO, and that I loved it to death at first, perhaps I shouldn’t go asking questions I don’t want to answer!)