The internet in this day in age is the to-be-all way of getting any information that one could ask for, even for questions no one wanted the answers too. The digital realm of information has taken hold of nearly every hobby and activity, kind of like how this website your reading this article is how you, the reader, are getting to know more about anime. There was a period for a long time that still exists today in brick and mortar buildings, that people wanted their information about anime in print form through magazines, news articles, and through “fanzines.” For the longest time, that was the only viable way of getting information, and there is a long history of anime publications in the western world.
I happen to be one such person that still enjoys print material, especially when it comes to collecting older magazines about anime. It’s one of my hobbies that currently take up a portion of my storage, and closet space is collecting older anime magazines going back roughly 40 years at this point. I host my own blog at Anime of Yesteryear that I will showcase from time to time scans of what I have collected to have an archived look at what anime fandom was like during those years. This will count as my 9th year running that site (however last year I neglected to post anything because I’m a lazy/bad person). There are many others like me online that want to share their collections in the digital realm, as yet one more reason to preserve that part of anime fandom. To figure out how anime information got to print that helped create the fandom we have today, we need to go back in time just by a few decades to see how it originally began.
Fandom began from passionate fans at the time that only had minimal information on anime that had the desire to share their knowledge to whoever would want to hear the gospel of cartoons from across the Pacific, and how they will knock the socks off anything, Filmation or Hanna Barbera were shoving down poor kids throats in the ’70s on Saturday mornings. It was a breath of fresh air when Star Blazers (Space Battleship Yamato) and Battle of the Planets (Science Team Gatchaman) hit TV stations in the afternoon cartoon blocks for school kids to trample over each other off the school buses in order too race home to their living room TV sets to keep up with the story of Derek Wildstar fighting the evil Gamalons on Star Blazers. Mothers needed to get the hell away from the tube when little Timmy came storming in because Young and the Restless paled in comparison to Star Blazers only for the hard truth that it lacked having giant battleships blowing stuff up in space! Sadly, parents just don’t understand!
Star Blazers and Gatchaman weren’t the only anime to start on TV in America that came a decade earlier with Astro Boy, Prince Planet, Speed Racer and Gigantor coming over thanks to Fred Ladd. But it was Star Blazers that began to kick off anime fandom as the early settlers in local comic and science fiction cons preached to the masses that Japanese cartoons were king compared to American animation. From these passionate groups grew into more groups and from more groups forming into organizations like the C/FO, and from there, the desire to take their passions to local print shops to make their own “fanzines” dedicated to anything and everything related to this “anime” craze.
Anime Fanzines were the first attempt to connect and gather more fans to a larger group, by promoting their zines at local comic book shops by mail-orders, word of mouth and at local comic/sci-fi conventions. There were as many fanzines as there were organizations/clubs across America in the late ’70s and throughout the ’90s onward. Each of them began making their own fanzines and reviews on series that they tried to make sense of off 8th generation copies of TV recordings of Urusei Yatsura, or the best attempts they could do at early subtitling on tape. In the ’80s, anime fandom began to take notice, especially amongst the comic book and science fiction communities that, to them, these obnoxiously loud, annoying, uber-geeks about Japanese cartoons need to do their own thing elsewhere. So anime fandom did its own thing and got mostly away from those groups, and took their clubs and fanzines with them. To discuss in detail on how anime fandom got to that point is an entirely long story, that might show up in an article someday.
Eventually, anime fans decided to go legit with turning their fanzines into real commercial magazines, being one of the first successful attempts was ANIMAG in the late 1980s. The magazine was headed up by Matthew Anacleto, Ann Schubert, and Dana Fong as the original magazine founders based out of San Francisco, CA. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting other contributors of that magazine at cons over the years by conversing with Trish Ledoux and Toshifumi Yoshida. ANIMAG eventually became another well-known publication spanning over 15 or so years, which was Animerica, which everything and everyone would be tied to a known anime localization company we all know of today, VIZ. Protoculture Addicts came out around the same time, which evolved from looking as a Robotech fanzine to a legitimate commercial magazine in a matter of years.
Animerica and Protoculture Addicts wouldn’t be the only anime magazines on the block, not when Wizard Entertainment decided in 2001 to publish their anime magazine Anime Insider. No sooner did time pass in 2003 when Newtype USA became another leading magazine for anime reviews and news by anime distributor ADV, and shortly later, Otaku USA in 2007. Otaku USA is currently the main anime magazine that can still be found in bookstores and local libraries, while the others have fallen away through time. You would think that because of how the digital age has affected fandom, there would be no use for zines or print media, but that could be further from the assumption.
There are still fans to this day that love print media, and even want to make their own zines. I happened to get into recent zine collecting in this last decade when online blog Colony Drop decided to do three throughout the 2010s, which happens to be a collection of articles by people in anime fandom to talk about anime fandom and zine history, in a zine. Zines don’t stick to just one type of talking point, not when you can do a whole zine about Neon Genesis Evangelion titled Rebirth Dilemma, which discusses views on the series through artistic expression and series deconstruction of the show’s themes. With zines giving that outlet of having joe shmo anime fan a voice in the community, along with money to be made, you can bet that zines will not go out of style. There’s been this craze the past few years that everything from the ’80s was the coolest thing ever, and they decided that zines were one of those things to bring back.
Every anime zine has an incredible backstory by the people who produced them and lead to others to showcase those on their own sites to know more about that part of anime fandoms past. Dave Merrill runs Let’s Anime, a blog that lets him tell story after story of anime fandom past since he was in the thick of it from the beginning, and each article has more to say on the people behind fanzines and print media. Let’s Anime is one example of a site that is a plethora of knowledge for anyone who wants to know about the early years of anime fandom, which may in itself become a best selling novel to the upcoming anime generation if they still believe print is a viable commodity to them. I mean, if you can’t cram a book in your smartphone, then to heck with that medium, right?