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Anime History 101: How fan clubs obtained anime in the 80s...

Discussion in 'Review District' started by Walkurefan46, Aug 5, 2017.

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  1. Walkurefan46

    Walkurefan46 New Member

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    Today, with the internet and torrent sites and youtube, obtaining anime for your fan club is pretty damn easy. But getting your hands on it back in the 80s was not easy at all.

    First, there was your club's overall budget. If you didn't have the cash to spare for blank VHS tapes, you were doomed from the start, as every club's lifeblood was magnetically encoded onto those tapes. I know of fans who blew their club's entire budget on wall hangings, or posters, or soundtracks, not realizing the fact that without VHS to trade, there would be no new anime to show at meetings.

    Second, it was all down to contacts outside your area. The more, the better. If your club had contacts in Japan, your club did exceedingly well. My club was one of these. Tapes moved back and forth from our base of operations to various otaku in Nihon, and we recieved a LOT of material that no one here had seen before (We got a bootleg copy of the film "Akira" TWO YEARS before it made its debut here).

    Third, get ready for chaos. The content of the tapes we would receive never were what one would consider structured in any way, it was mostly random episodes of different series, or what I liked to call "Clip Tapes". Clip Tapes were really hard to categorize, as they might contain one or two complete episodes of different shows, with a whole lot of commercials or OP/ED sequences. As I was the archivist and Vice President of my local anime club, I had a hard time with these.

    Fourth, Con isn't always a good time. Conventions in the 80s weren't anime-centric, until maybe around 1989. Up until then, otaku were forced to navigate the crowded halls of Sci-Fi conventions, trying to weed out anime from the rest. That took a lot of time, so much so that I wasn't able to have a good time. The merchandise halls were a particularly bad experience, with cosplaying Trekkies EVERYWHERE, and maybe one or two toy vendors who carried scale plamodels of Macross Valkyrie Fighters or Gundam mecha. These were few and far between, and most of my time was spent scouring the vendor stalls for posters or cel art. I would start around 8:30am, and drag myself back to my hotel room sometime after midnight.

    Fifth, Hentai is where you LEAST expect it. Sometimes we would get a "surprise" package from one of our Japanese contacts, basically an unmarked VHS tape that we THOUGHT contained straight-up anime. We were completely gob-smacked when tentacles started raping and pillaging Tokyo, and people began exploding. Practical joke on the part of our fellow otaku in Japan? Maybe. But as I'm not too fond of hentai stuff (it nearly ruined anime's reputation here in the 90s), I wasn't too amused.

    So living the otaku life back during the "Golden Age" of anime in the USA wasn't easy for fans. Like I mentioned before, the lack of an internet not only meant that tapes had to be circulated the hard way (air mail), but getting info about new series coming out in Japan was almost a no-go... Unless you had a comic book store that sold a fanzine from Canada, called "Protoculture Addicts". This was my club's regular source of anime info. Every now and again we might be able to scrape up enough petty cash to order a Japanese copy of Newtype or Hobby Japan from Books Nippan, but as those were imported, the cost was prohibitive for us.

    Today, it's a lot easier to distribute anime between otaku, but to truly appreciate the lengths a true otaku will go to in order to score more video, one need only look back at what fans had to deal with back in the 80s.