Thursday, July 19, 2012

five years of let's anime

Wow, has it really been five years since I started this blog? I guess it has. How time flies.

 note #1's cover, it's the first and last time I'd draw many of those characters.

Let's Anime started off as a print zine in 1991 - we'd just inaugurated the latest incarnation of our local anime club and it needed a fanzine because it was the 90s and fanzines were "in". I cobbled together a package of leftover fan art from previous anime newsletters and articles from anywhere I could find them, tied it all together with a completely bogus synopsis of Nadia Secret Of Blue Water, and before I knew it, there I was, back in Kinkos again. 

#3 had a great Mazinger Z article, #4 had that swell Prince Planet cover

The fanzine lasted 12 issues right through the 90s, from magazine-size to folded half-page size, from cut and paste with scissors to PageMaker and Photoshop. As the new millennium dawned, both my personal exhaustion and the advent of new digital networks of anime-news-delivery-systems combined to render Let's Anime more trouble than it was worth. I enjoyed producing it at the time, but there are many things about the fanzine days I do not miss, like selling the things from behind tables at anime cons, copy-editing submissions delivered in teeny tiny handwriting on blue-lined notebook paper, the physical production of the zines themselves made even more difficult by the lack of anything resembling a budget. I don't miss any of those things.

Let's Anime wasn't always "classic" - Tekkaman Blade was new when Steve Harrison wrote about it. Kinda new, anyway. #6 was a big Matsumoto issue!

A few years later, there it was again, that old "let's write about Japanese cartoons" itch.  Mike Toole's Anime Jump site, which had been the outlet for most of my anime writing for most of the 00s, was in hibernation. I'd retired from chairing Anime Weekend Atlanta and had a bit more free time. And of course I still had the impulse that all fans share to some degree, the desire to share this crazy cool stuff with the rest of the world. Good writing about the classic Japanese animation -you know, the stuff from the 60s to the 80s that inspired fans to start anime fandom in the first place - was thin on the ground. In fact it may very well still be thin on the ground. My writing isn't so good sometimes. But anyway, that was my angle and I'm stickin' with it. 

#7 might be my favorite cover. #8 flirts with modernity via Dragonball and Sailor Moon!

So here we are now, five years since that first, tentative blog post in July of 2007. I don't know about you guys, but for me it's been a definite learning experience.  Learning all the basic blog things like uploading photos, linking, templates, hosting sites, sidebars, and then learning it all over again every time somebody updates their software, that's a given. But the immediacy of blogging to an audience of untold thousands has been, uh, stimulating in ways I never expected. Quick on the trigger my audience is, ready with corrections if I ever get a name or a release date wrong or fudge the title of a publisher. And as annoying as it can be, the scrutiny has taught dumb ol' me to do the basic research, to double check my work, to make sure it's right before it is sent off into the wider world.  

Naturally, issue 9 featured a big Cyborg 009 article.

It might be a cliche to say "the more you learn, the more you realize how much more there is to learn", but it's true - the smarty-pants know-it-all assurance I had earlier has been replaced by the awe, if not the naked fear, of the vast universe of knowledge still lying untouched by me, even in a field as narrow and seemingly inconsequential as thirty-year old cartoons from Japan.  There is so much I don't know, so many people out there with more data and better language skills and cooler toys (and more free time). It's humbling.

#10 was our first half-size issue, with a grab-bag of articles and a weird Devilman collage on the back.

However, as unworthy or irked as I sometimes feel, I'm still constantly impressed at the reach a simple blog can get, at how much more powerful a tool this is. A single issue of the print Let's Anime never had a press run of more than a couple hundred, but thousands and thousands of people around the world have read this blog, and in the future will continue to be sent this way via search engines and links. A piece I wrote on, say, Honey Honey or Devilman will be read and enjoyed years after the fact, instead of lying in a box in the closet waiting for the inevitable rendezvous with the recycle bin.

Forward into the past with #11's look at 1960s anime and #12's focus on Space Giants and more than a year between issues. Ugh.

Writing this blog has put me in touch with a whole circle of anime fans that otherwise I'd never have met - you can see some of them in the links on the side there - and it's also put me back in touch with friends from years ago. The community we have now is bigger, stronger, and faster than anything we had back in the 90s, with the exception of two or three days there when we were all trapped in the same hotel in Dallas during a power outage.  The print days sometimes felt like isolated wilderness outposts swapping smoke signals - today's anime community is almost the opposite, a noisy neighborhood full of all kinds of characters, all expressing themselves, sometimes loudly. If I can add to the din every once in a while, that's all I ask. 

We're off for a little vacation for the next couple of weeks, but Let's Anime will return! Stay tuned!