Monday, August 16, 2010

spreading the japanimation gospel

In the days before "anime cons", we had to express our enthusiasms for Japanese cartoons in different venues. This meant hurling ourselves at the gates of the local comic book, Star Trek, Dr. Who, gaming, fantasy, and sci-fi conventions. But could the world of anime succeed in a head-to-head battle with Mr. Spock and/or Darth Vader? Yes it could and it did, and we have the con publications to prove it.

I know nothing about the Kansas convention advertised here, other than that it featured fanart of Grandizer and therefore caught my eye. But soon, the spectre of Japanimation found its way to my home town in the form of the Atlanta Fantasy Fair.

At the time Atlanta's largest fandom convention, the AFF started in 1975 and by the mid 1980s had realized these big-eye cartoons from Japan could very well be an attractive inducement to potential Fantasy Fairers, as seen in these clip art images from the Atlanta Fantasy Fair 1986 promotional brochure.


Not to be outdone, other Atlanta SF cons also jumped onto the Japanimation bandwagon with both Starfleet-booted feet. This image is from a Dixie-Trek promotional piece from around the same time. And let's be clear - these local conventions shared a lot of staff and probably the same people were screening the same VHS tapes at different shows across the region.


You'd think a convention called Dixie-Trek would be strictly Trekariffic, but they embraced the philosophy of "IDIC" and expanded their worldview to include Dr. Who, Blake's 7, Superman, Lost In Space, Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea, comic artists, and eternal con guest Brad Strickland. And of course, Japanese animation.


By 1988 the anime fan community in Atlanta was secure enough in its masculinity to break down the walls of tradition, smash the prejudicial, provincial attitudes of the bourgeouis, and run the darn anime rooms themselves. And when the convention wouldn't give us a room to show anime, we would just rent a guest room and bring a few VCRs and throw a TV Party. See you in room 323!


By the early 1990s the march of technology was unstoppable and new video formats were making the old fashioned VHS tape a thing of the past. The 1990 AFF promised new and improved LASERDISC excitement!

I had been staffing AFF for a few years by 1990, and had chiselled my way into running the anime room, the schedule of which is an informative document showing exactly what people wanted to see in 1990. Or at least what *I* thought people wanted to see. And no, I am not responsible for the typos, as amusing as it might be to contemplate watching something called "Riding Beam."


By 1991's AFF I was running both video rooms, as evidenced by the trend towards Godzilla films, Twin Peaks, SubGenius propaganda, and my very favorite Star Trek episode.


Here's a tip for time-travelling anime room programmers - as much as you like Future Boy Conan, nobody wants to watch thirteen (13!) un-subtitled episodes of it, in a row, starting at 2:30am. Take my word for it.

By a strange coincidence the last year for the AFF was also the first year for our local anime convention AWA and our energies became focused on our own convention world, leaving the comic book and Star Trek conventions to wither away, deprived of the life-giving force of Japanese cartoons. Don't let your convention die - show some anime already! Preferably RIDING BEAM or ORNGE ROAD. 
-Dave Merrill

(thanks to Devlin Thompson for much of this archival material)
Thanks for reading Let's Anime! If you enjoyed it and want to show your appreciation for what we do here as part of the Mister Kitty Dot Net world, please consider joining our Patreon!