Sunday, February 24, 2008

anime zines of the 80s

Lightweight posting continues here at LET'S ANIME as we recover from an epic journey across town and complete a few non-blog writing commitments and generally goof off. Anyhoo, here to take us on a trip down memory lane are some newsletters produced by local anime clubs in the 80s. That's right, these zines are old enough to drink and vote. Keep in mind that these are by no means the oldest anime fanzines, nor are they the only anime zines being published in the 80s. They just happen to be the ones closest to my scanner at the time. 

As the first club out of the gate in the 70s, the Cartoon/Fantasy Organization had a leg up on the rest of us who were busy surviving elementary school at the time, and their amazing adult powers of "having money" and "knowing what to do" meant the C/FO was producing anime zines way before the rest of us. 

The scene was small at the time and freely mixed with the SF fandom culture prevalent among nerds; that's why the C/FO's mascot is a furry character named "Fanta" who comes from his or her own planet, has a backstory, a stop motion animated film, etc., and also why the early fanzines were kind of insular, serving a club membership who already kind of knew each other and what they were getting into.

Later C/FO magazines were less chatty and more deliberate about delivering Japanese animation knowledge to the people who needed it the most, whether they were attending local meetings in LA or they were across the country. This 1983 magazine was produced by people on both coasts and really made use of the C/FO's Tatsunoko contacts. 

The early 1980s would also see non-local anime publications. The crew of Ardith Carlton, Steve Harrison, and Jerry Fellows would release Space Fanzine Yamato, the first American zine devoted to a specific Japanese animation series. Also in this time period, the Dallas Texas based Earth Defense Command was publishing the regular fanzine Nova, a yearly compilation of fan news, artwork, stories, and details of various anime series. 

As anime grew in popularity most cities grew their own clubs, and most clubs needed zines to serve as bulletins informing the membership of when and where the next meetings would be held, what was shown at the last meeting and what would be screened at the next meeting. These regular publications would also detail upcoming conventions and activities of note, and print fan art, fan fiction, translations, synopses, and whatever else would hold still long enough to be xeroxed. In the days before the internets, newsletters like this were vital links in the information chain keeping people apprised of the latest episodes of Dirty Pair or Zeta Gundam or what have you.

Pictured here is the first and perhaps only issue of the journal of the Super Dimensional Space Cavalry Of Eastern Massachusetts. This digest-sized zine appeared in December of 1986 and was mostly Harmony Gold promo pix, mecha details, a quiz, and a list of comic shops in the Eastern Mass area where one could purchase Robotech memorabilia. Its slick design and professional looking graphics put it a notch above other zines of the era. Apparently only one issue was produced, which takes it right back down to a notch BELOW other zines of the era.

The C/FO was not idle during this period and continued to gather local chapters, many of whom published their own regular newsletters. All members of the national C/FO continued to receive regular issues of the C/FO Magazine, which continued to be the best of the bunch. 

Over in my home town of Atlanta we had our own local C/FO chapter which started in 1985 and immediately began printing newsletters, some of which were clumsy punk rock affairs and others, such as this one, which had great graphic design and a swell cover by Marilyn Morey which I stil have the original artwork to for some reason.

Speaking of long running zines, here's the first issue of THE ROSE, the newsletter of the anime club Anime Hasshin, which ran for 64 issues over 14 years. Lorraine Savage spearheaded the club, one of the first independent national anime clubs to spring up out of frustration with those jerks in Texas and California. Over the years Lorraine would feature art and articles from hundreds of fans, connect tape traders to spread the anime wealth, and generally act as a merciless Godfather crushing all who stood in her path of anime domination. Just kidding about that last part. I produced lots of terrible fan art for The Rose.

Across the country out west in Phoenix the local anime club had its own newsletter, full of synopses of Crusher Joe and Maison Ikkoku and a list of what's going to be shown at the upcoming Leprecon and the upcoming club meeting - Dirty Pair, Fist Of The North Star, The Humanoid, Famous Detective Holmes, The Guyver, Giant Gorg, Urusei Yatsura (listed as "Those Obnoxious Aliens") and Leda, The Fantastic Adventure Of Yoko. A well-balanced anime diet!

And on the other end of the continent in Baltimore the JASFA newsletter was going strong. JASFA stood for Japanese Animation Science Fiction Association, and their newsletter ran for something like ten years, listing when and where the next meeting would be held, etc. JASFA ran a lot of episode title translations, which I found very handy later, as well as the occasional comedy bits. Fun fact: one JASFA member once posed as an FBI agent to phone-prank a member of Atlanta fandom. Oh the fun we had breaking federal laws.

Meanwhile, local C/FO chapters continued to publish their own zines, and in the New York area, some fans got it together enough to attempt to publish anime fan magazines semi-professionally. 

In Tampa, in San Antonio, and in Atlanta, the anime zines didn't stop. Until they eventually did.

As the 90s loomed the C/FO imploded and local clubs assumed more importance as the anime convention came into its own in Dallas and San Francisco. The desktop publishing revolution meant that newsletter copy would no longer have to be printed on tractor-feed dot-matrix printers, but could be laid out professionally and laser-printed to crisp perfection. A new era of zines loomed in the 90s, led modestly by myself and my zine LET'S ANIME, which this blog is named after!

Actually, I did as little graphic design as I possibly could, composited everything using glue-stick and scissors, and resisted the demon computer as long as I could. And now I write about this online and my readership has increased a thousandfold without me killing even ONE tree. The future is now!! More zines to come!!

-Dave Merrill

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Monday, February 11, 2008

the lost Yamato manga story

It's still hectic and crazy here at Let's Anime World Information Network Cohesive Dissemination & Fabrication Division, so to tide you over until I can get everything hooked back together, here's a post that is just to point you to another website that has some cool new old stuff.

Tim Eldred, formerly the webmaster over at, has, since Voyager's reorganization, moved his Star Blazers/Yamato fan website to, this Cosmo DNA website maintaining the web portal presence of the American version of one of Japan's anime classics, AND bring together a vast, scattered denomination of information about the movies, TV shows, videos, DVDs, comics, books, magazines, LPs and CDs, model kits, fanzines, toys, doujinshi, and assorted strangeness devoted to that red and blue space battleship. There are literally dozens of fascinating articles at the site that make for hours of entertaining reading for anyone interested in Star Blazers, including never-before-translated Japanese articles, brand new features on the American Star Blazers comics of the 80s and 90s, Japanese Space Battleship Yamato doujinshi, the galaxy of Yamato model kits... more byzantine pop culture trivia than you can fire a wave-motion gun at.

ANYWAY, one of the cooler things up at the site is a translation of "Eternal Story Of Jura"", one of Leiji Matsumoto's Space Battleship Yamato manga stories from the gory glory days of the 1970s. Three different outfits had the manga rights to Yamato, so at one point you had three different versions of the Yamato blasting its way to three different versions of Iscandar. Because Japanese cartoon continuity wasn't confusing enough, right? Those of us nutty enough to buy comics in languages we can't read feverishly purchased the SF COMICS editions of Matsumoto's Yamato manga when we could find them at comic shows or Japanese grocery stores. And while there are a few slight deviations from the TV storyline, it mostly made sense.

Except, of course, for one story about mysterious big-eared space women using telepathic powers to mess with the minds of the Yamato crew. So the anime fans of the 80s were mightily confused. Confused, that is, until now, because the entire story is now translated and online for your reading pleasure at!!

So quit listening to me and go read a classic Matsumoto Yamato manga story and spend a few hours immersed in the trivia of Space Battleship Yamato. You'll be glad you did.

Also, if you're like the guy who spoke to me at AWA last year wanting to know where he could get Star Blazers - well, you can order the DVDs right from the site. That's where you gets yer Star Blazers, pal. All of it.