Anime Fandom: The City of Amnesia

Posted by Michael Pinto on Oct 20, 2009 in Fandom |

The Big O

As an old time anime fanboy one of the greatest pleasures I take is in seeing just how far anime fandom has come in the United States from the 70s when it first started. Back then anime fans would meet up at local clubs or science fiction conventions and if 100 people showed up you were blown away. So when I look around at cons today I love the fact that there might be 100 fans standing in line waiting to get badges at a convention. But one thing breaks my heart: The fact that those who killed themselves with little reward to help popularize the medium can too easily be forgotten.

New York Anime Festival 2009: The place was packed...

The ranks of anime first fandom are small indeed, but no matter how famous or low said fans are you have to owe them a bit of respect for raving about cartoons when such things were thought of as strictly for kids. But even in these ranks of the brave few there are certain people who are heroes to me — people who I can say thirty years later made a difference. And when I say a “made a difference” I mean that person changed what anime fans experience today.

K-On: Would this show exist if it weren't for anime music videos?

Recently one such person sent me an email that disappointed me greatly. And quite frankly when he reads this he’ll to be pissed off at this article, but screw it — I’m outraged. This fanboy-gone-gray is Jim Kaposztas, and in 1982 he changed the world forever when he invented what would be called the medium of Anime Music Videos. Inspired by the then new channel MTV Kaposztas hooked together two VHS decks and edited the most violent scenes from Star Blazers to the Beatles tune All You Need is Love.

MTV in the 80s

Up until this point fans could only express themselves by writing fanzines, exchanging letters and trading VHS tapes. In one fell swoop Kaposztas allowed fans to showcase what made anime unique — the fact that it was for grownups. And while he was very much the geeky type what Jim did was in fact pure punk rock in attitude: He was making a statement making fun of the peace-and-love of the 60s with a spirit of rebellious DIY. Jim may not have hung out at CGBGs but by that one act he was a peer of the folks who played there just a few years before.

Talking Heads live at CBGB, 1977.

And in those early days Anime Music Videos acted as trailers for the genre. The result was that it allowed casual fans who might be slightly interested in anime to sit down and watch an episode because their favorite song hooked them in. In fact that combination of pop music and anime allowed fans to feel at home watching shows that didn’t even feature English subtitles. It should also be noted that this form of anime fandom started in the United States and then traveled back to Japan. Simply put: Kaposztas may be one of the few Americans that the Japanese owe something to.

Philip Jose Farmer, his wife Bette, Isaac Asimov and Randall Garrett in 1954.

So why am I upset? Well Jim wrote me a note that a convention (which I won’t name) had turned him down for some official staff position at an upcoming con. This made me sad because he shouldn’t be some staffer but a guest of honor at the show. One tradition I always loved about science fiction fandom was that they had a club called First Fandom. These were the fanboys (and a few fangurls too) who back in the 1930s and 40s took science fiction from being a genre to a subculture. Back in the day I met a few of these guys, some of them had names like Isaac Asimov but many didn’t. But there was always that tradition of taking these old timers and inviting them to be the Fan Guest of Honor at a convention. It was the little bit of loving light some of these folks would get, it was a subcultures way of saying “thank you for writing that fanzine that I read when I was a teen and thought that I was the only science fiction fan in the universe”.

VHS Deck: The JVC HR3660-EK

Frankly to me what Jim Kaposztas did back in 1982 was a cornerstone of anime fandom today. And to make him write a “resume of his achievements” to get some con position is insulting, the man not only has paid his damn dues to the club — without him the club may not have started when it did. If anything this con should be inviting him to be a Fan Guest of Honor. Now I know that Jim isn’t as sexy looking at one of the members of AKB48, but frankly before any team member of AKB48 was born Jim was winning fans over to anime. Jim will never be flown across the world and put up in a luxury hotel, but give the guy a damn guest badge, buy him a fucking beer and say “thank you” — he more than earned it.

AKB48 endorses Jim Kaposztas

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