If this seems like only a minor problem, understand that my beloved Sailor Moon had 200 episodes, and 101 were filler. So 51 percent of the show that defined my formative years was dedicated to plots that, in the long run, didn't matter at all. And I watched every single one of them, over and over.
Collecting Merchandise Was Confusing, Sad And Dangerous
Sure, today you can go into freaking Barnes & Noble and not only see rows and rows of manga, but also anime action figures and toys. The average person doesn't need to discover different manga series through getting a virus at robotechfan666.tripod.com. Teenage Me, on the other hand, mostly collected $3 bootleg posters and sticker cards (which to this day are in a binder, stored in my bedside drawer next to my grown-up lady toys). For figurines, we had two options: Chinatown bootlegs, which were cheap, unlicensed, and hideous (though I still bought them aplenty) ...
... and officially licensed figurines which usually ran $100 or more, which you also had to paint yourself. So not only did early anime collecting demand that you go out of your way for it, but also that you be capable with a tiny brush and hobby paints. Otherwise, you were stuck looking at a Cowboy Bebop figurine frozen in futile, deathly grey.
Meanwhile, through sketchy Geocities sites, I had discovered that a guy in Canada had the best-quality bootleg videos. And because that guy only accepted cash payments, I also discovered the dread of spending the time between order and arrival wondering if this guy wasn't just rolling in a pile of cash he'd collected from other naive nerds. And before the bootleg anime jewelry craze hit eBay ...
... I used to buy those shitty metal and enamel pins and stick those filthy beasts through my ears. It was like I was begging for a more isolated friend group AND tetanus.
Loryn StoneThat. Was in. My earlobe.
One time, I dug through the garbage of my mall's hobby shop because I saw a broken bootleg Sailor Mars' red high heel and needed to reconstruct the doll's corpse, which was presumably also somewhere in the trash. After mending her various wounds, the completed abomination sat on my dresser until it fell apart. That was old-school anime fandom in a nutshell: digging through the mess, piecing together what we could, and loving it all.
Loryn Stone is probably watching anime right now. Like, there's a really good chance of that. She also manages her own pop-culture website PopLurker. Check her out on Twitter.
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