Courtesy of Dorkly Media

April 25, 2016

MANGA MONDAYS | What Was Your First Anime?

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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!)


  • What a great article. Never really took the time to consider the different eras of how anime has navigated its way West. I guess as I got older, I lost touch with what was current. I know my first anime–unbeknownst to me–was Speed Racer. Then came G-Force, Galaxy Express, Vampire Hunter D, and Tenchi Muyo. Armitage as well. But it wasn’t until the original Project A-Ko movie that I realized the genre, and exactly why it appealed to me so much. And yes. Back then we did have to record our anime off TV and trade tapes. The Sci-Fi Channel used to play them either Friday or Saturday nights before Toonami came about with serials. In retrospect, you had to keep up with what was current through subscriptions to catalogs and magazines tucked in your mail box. While I don’t know a whole lot about this era of anime, I can say I watched all of Attack on Titian and absolutely loved it!

  • Irvin

    First anime was also (shamefully) SAO; glad to see this column!

  • Oh wow, this is a really good article. I’ve always hated fighting and violence, so that meant I’ve always avoided most cartoons when I was a kid. I only really watched things like Flintstones and Jetsons, but avoided things like Superman and Batman like the plague. It was nothing for me to flip through every channel and after finding nothing where no one’s fighting, turning it off and concluding that there’s nothing to watch. But after it got boring watching the same thing over and over, I eventually started to see the tv as just another video game accessory.

    Until one day, my grandmother insisted that I look for something to watch on tv after I’d given up on doing anything with the tv other than video games. So I went flipping through every channel again, but this time I found something brand new. After watching this blonde girl get a bad grade on her test and getting into trouble with her parents, a talking cat appeared and told her she could transform with these three magic words, and I had no idea that my whole life would also be transformed. Moon Prism Power!

    Afterwards I was about to change the channel after they got to talking about all this fighting she had to do, and I still can’t tell you after all these years why I hesitated rather than changing it right away like I’d normally do. My best guess is that they were just talking about it, no one had actually punched anyone yet. And the so called fight was so wierd and cooky, it looked more like they were playing Tag. But when Sailor Moon got hurt and threw one of her crying fits, she said the very words that got my attention. I don’t want to fight. And sure enough, episode after episode they have to almost drag her to the bad guy to make her fight. But then the channel that was showing it took Sailor Moon off.

    But by now I was curious. I wanted to know what was going to happen to her. How was she going to get out of this mess? Will they find someone else to be Sailor Moon so she don’t have to anymore? How are things going to turn out for her? So I began searching anything I could find for more Sailor Moon, and I soon found there were these Sailor Moon books at my local Waldenbooks store called Manga. So the next time my parents took me to the book store, I was still in grade school at the time, I went looking all over the store for Manga. As soon as I found it and saw that they were alphabetized, I searched under S until I found Usagi’s smiling face on the front cover. This was how I discovered the world of Manga, and eventually Anime.

    I also realized something else, I had no problem with Sailor Moon despite it being a fighting show. So that got me to thinking that maybe other fighting shows aren’t so bad after all as long as I never look at the fighting. And it was this thought that was the sole reason why I even gave DBZ the time of day when it came along a few years later.

  • Exit Pursued by a Bearit Pursued by a Bear

    Hahaha as a grad student who grew up on DBZ and Gundam (by way of Toonami) that Steve Buscemi meme is spot on. Great article Mauer.