Recently a friend dropped an interest factoid onto my Facebook page: Thirty years ago today on August 28th, 1982 as part of the Creation Summer Expo*NY comic book con there was a mini-convention held inside which was called the Star Blazers Mini Con. Up until that point there were gatherings of anime fans in New York City thanks to the local chapter of the Cartoon/Fantasy Organization, but this was the first time that anime fandom found a place inside of a larger convention. My memory is fuzzy but the event lasted two full days, had about 100 people hanging around at any time and featured a mix of videotapes being played along with panel discussions.
The thing I remember the most is being shocked at how many anime fans could gather in one location. Most of us kept in touch by writing letters and publishing fanzines, but it was a very isolated life for an anime fan back at the dawn of the 80s. Star Blazers was the most popular show at that moment and brought in quite a few fans who joined their older peers who grew up with the likes of Speed Racer and Astroboy. Keep in mind that when this convention took place the breakthrough show Robotech was still three years away in the future. And most fans got their anime via videotapes from friends of friends of friends who had pen-pals in Japan.
The video highlight of the convention was a showing of the film Arrivederci Yamato in Japanese (people would cheer each time a character was killed since you couldn’t see that on American TV). So you may ask how did we understand what was going on in the film? Well there was one fan who had the job of standing by the television set and giving a description of the critical dialog. But the thing I remember the most was seeing so many friends in person who I had only known by letters and phone calls. I didn’t realize it at the time but it was a real magical moment for me.
And whenever I go to an anime convention today, even a very small one — I’m always amazed that off to the side or hanging out in the lobby you’ll see at least hundred anime fans hanging out together as if that were nothing special. I have to tell you that if I had a time machine and any of us anime otaku from the early 80s could have seen anime fandom today we would have had our mind’s blown away.
My special thanks to James Kaposztas who reminded me of this anniversary. And not enough anime fans know this, but he is the guy who would go on to invent the anime music video just a few short years after Star Blazers Mini Con.
For more samples of The Star Blazers Fandom Report please visit this page at starblazers.com.