I was browsing Crunchyroll and I ran across the anime Demon Lord Dante and man did it trigger some serious nostalgia. For those of you that don’t know—Demon Lord Dante is a supernatural horror series by Go Nagai, the man behind Devilman and Cutie Honey. The 2018 ONA, Devil Man Crybaby is based on Nagai’s Devilman series and if you thought that was trippy, you NEED to check out Demon Lord Dante, because MAN IS IT WILD—religious allegory, satanists, demons, monsters, naked women being sacrificed, and just a hint of incest to top it all off…and it’s AWESOME (and terrible). Just watch it (dubbed) and see what I’m talking about.
Now, technically, Sailor Moon, Pokemon, and Yu-Gi-Oh were my first “official” anime watches, but back then we had no clue that what we were watching was anything other than cartoons. So, in my head I have a hard time thinking of those series as anime, because growing up they were just “cartoons”. It wasn’t until I was well into my teens that I realized there was a difference and began actively seeking out anime.
Looking back, I guess you’d say I was an “angsty” teen, so I suppose there was something about the characters and the stories that spoke to me, because it was the only thing that I can remember really being passionate about. Anime was a way to escape from the frustrations in life—which in hindsight weren’t really all that bad. But at the time anime was like this whole new world and I threw myself into my new passion, watching everything and anything I could get my hands on. Streaming wasn’t a big thing back in the early 2000’s so I had to get my fix any way I could. Anime blocks like SyFy’s Ani-Mondays and Cartoon Network’s Toonami were definitely a must. I watched Toppa Tengan Gurren Lagann and Samurai 7 thanks to that Ani-Monday block and if it weren’t for Toonami and Adult Swim I never would have experienced Prince of Tennis, YuYu Hakusho, Zatch Bell or Bleach.
Anime Network even had an anime on demand deal with Comcast and they had some cool stuff too—Red Garden, Gravitation, Descendants of Darkness, Jubei-chan, Boogiepop Phantom, Jing Bandit King—the kind of stuff you’d never see on mainstream networks. But, those episodes were updated weekly, so if you missed a week, those episodes were gone! I messed up and missed the first 6 episodes of Gravitation and man were those episodes important.
But there were times when I had to rely on unconventional methods—YouTube, questionable sites, and bootleg DVD’s. There was this girl in my class who would burn you a CD with any anime series you wanted for just 2 bucks a pop—which was a steal! And if you wanted to watch anything boys love, the ONLY place to watch it was on YouTube, OVAs like Tight Rope, My Sexual Harassment, I Shall Never Return, KirePapa and more… But, YouTube wasn’t just for niche genres either, I remember having to watch and episode of Blood+ subbed in Italian on YouTube because the site I was using to watch it on was shutdown during one of the many pirating sweeps. Hell, I remember there used to be a time limit on YouTube videos so some episodes had to be split into multiple parts—and there is no pain like not being able to track down every part of an episode. I know I don’t talk about anime too much here, but it’s crazy to imagine doing all of that now, when there are so many legal ways to watch anime.
I hate to sound like an old fart, but you youngins don’t know how good ya’ll got it right now! Being an anime fan back in the day was a struggle! And don’t worry this isn’t gonna turn into one of those preachy posts where I talk about the evils of pirating anime, because trust me, I’ve been there. But, man if anime was as readily available back then as it is now, that would have been a game changer for me and my dad’s poor desktop.
So, now that I’ve shown my age, I wanna hear from you guys! How did you watch anime back in the day? What were some of your first anime? Let’s swap anime war stories!
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