Being an anime fan back in the day was a STRUGGLE

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.

Eager gif

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!

Thank you for reading and supporting Blerdy Otome!🙂

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44 thoughts on “Being an anime fan back in the day was a STRUGGLE

  1. From context clues, I think we’re pretty close in age if not the same age, so damn does this sum up my whole late aughts/early 2010s existence. Part three of something on YouTube was ALWAYS missing and a lot of the time I had to make do with Portuguese subtitles, et cetera.

    I used to know at least five different bootleg sites off the top of my head to get fansubs of stuff as they came out… I remember doing that with Hetalia in early high school and Nichijou and Kimi to Boku right at the end of high school in particular. Good times, but definitely risking a computer virus every damn second. Them OVAs, too… jeez. Really takes me back.

    I do always try to remember the fujos and weebs who walked even earlier in the late 90s and early to mid aughts so that I could lightly jog later. They really got the war flashbacks for sure. But for sure the kids these days really be at a full sprint. I remember waiting 3 years for the hottest BL to get licensed over here and now I’m drowning in new BL daily. It’s WILD.

    1. LOL I’m a 90’s kid and it was crazy thinking back on all the hoops we had to jump through back then to get anime.

      OH MY GOD, YES! Pt 3 was ALWAYS missing! My HS level Latin never got more use than when I was trying to read those Portuguese/Italian subs!

      Ah, yes, the viruses… my dad’s poor computer had it rough all in the name of anime.

      Our fujo and weeb forerunners–they had the real struggle. But, man, I am tripping over all my BL manga now, but I remember it was IMPOSSIBLE to find back in the day

  2. I remember watching Naruto and Yugioh as well on certain TV channels, but like you they were never more than just cartoon to me. I could never catch up on the series because I didn’t know how! Eventually in the late 2000s, I began discovering titles like Evangelion and I never turned back. When Crunchyroll first came out, I finally fully entered the world of anime by watching shows like eyeshield 21 and this other one (can’t remember the title!) about magic and.. fairies in eggs..? Kinda nice to look back at how anime first introduced itself to me 😛

    1. Oh man, me and my brothers would watch Yugioh on the WB EVERY saturday morning without fail! And I never missed a Naruto episode on CN.

      It seems like we had very similar experiences and it’s nice to talk to folks about their first anime experiences. It makes us feel more connected, so thank you for sharing!

  3. Very similar to your story. Started with Sailor Moon and Pokemon, can’t remember which came first. I think Sailor Moon after seeing ads on Cartoon Network. Rented the first couple of episodes at Blockbuster and became addicted. Either way, I remember the other one I didn’t start with first having some similar stuff (like sweatdrops) but also just considered them cartoons.

    1. Blockbuster, now THAT takes me back! I never got any anime VHS’s but I do remember begging my mom to take me to see Pokemon 2000… she did not

  4. I know Go Nagai best from Mazinger Z. We are certainly spoiled for anime these days. In the UK the selection was very poor twenty years ago, but has gotten better over time. Youtube was certainly an option for watching shows. I saw the whole of Lucky Star on that site. It’s funny what goes up there and doesn’t get taken down for copyright. Torrents were also a thing, but I rarely used them as internet speeds were so slow in my area.

    1. Mazinger Z, just yes! I don’t know what it is about his series, but I really love them!

      Videos were constantly getting pulled on YT (I’m convinced they specifically targeted pt 3’s) and Torrents… man before they started policing them, they were the way to go. May have took 2 months to download, but once it was done it was yours forever

  5. I watched Yugioh and Pokemon as well.
    Sailor Moon was airing on our TV when I was too little to watch it , that is one of my regrets that I never saw it dubbed in our language.
    There was also Captain Tsubasa airing which I loved.
    Younger ones have it easy these days with all of these streaming services.
    Anyway this was a really nostalgic post !

    1. Captain Tsubasaaaaaaaa!!! MEMORIES! Right?! I was in a nostalgic mood after watching Demon Lord Dante (tho, I kinda think it’s cus my 30th BD is coming up).

  6. There was a video-rental store in town that had a good anime selection, so I used to rent a a lot of series. My friends and I would also buy and share our favourite series, but the DVD’s used to be so expensive! It took forever to collect a whole series as a teen.

  7. I used to just watch on TV whenever stuff was available – like Pokemon, Digimon, Sailor Moon, etc. What really blew me away was how much the shows were changed/censored for North American kids (like Cardcaptors for instance). Now that platforms are available to watch these shows it’s crazy to go back and watch the “real” versions to see how different they are!

    1. The 4Kids dubs were the absolute WORST! They sucked the soul out of everything they touched and it’s hard to go back and revisit those now that I’ve seen the unedited versions…

  8. Haha! Old fart… there was no internet back when I started watching anime. I had a collection of VHS cassettes and they cost me a fortune. £5 for one 30 minute episode of the Guyver. The world was a different place before the internet. My first was Akira which was on the TV around midnight not long after it was originally released.

      1. The first thing you’ll is patience. You can forget watching an episode a week. Monthly is the way to go and then there’s absolutely no guarantee that the series will end. Streaming is the best thing to happen to anime in my opinion.

  9. Started with either Pokemon or Laputa, with Sailor Moon not long afterwards (not sure of the exact order). Everything was on disc and had to be chased up through libraries or other methods, plus it had a high chance of having a dub…*sigh* Oh, those dubs…

    There was also the option of catching dubbed stuff on TV at early hours, which I did do at some points…mostly Pokemon.

    I missed the entire YouTube era because of a computer virus, though.

    1. Laputa is one I haven’t seen come up often, but it’s definitely a great film. I’m surprised your library had a copy of it.

      Oh, those dubs… we don’t speak of that evil LOL

      Computer viruses were the norm back then, computers were so finicky

      1. In fact, it wasn’t from the library…It was a Cantonese disc my parents had lying around…Pokemon was also, to my memory, experienced in Cantonese dub first with the Japanese OP and ED, so I still remember lyrics about looking for Pokemon under a girl’s skirt from well before I even started learning Japanese…*sighs and shakes head*

  10. I hear you! I have been into anime for most of my life, but it’s only now that I had the courage to express it. I stopped watching anime for a while thinking I should have outgrown it by now, but having a lot of time now due to this pandemic, I got to reignite my passion and started getting back into it. And there’s really no age for anime! I am very hapy reading through your blogs!

    1. Oh! Thank you for stopping by and reading this post!

      I took a break from anime every once and awhile and when I come back it’s always so refreshing! LOL you’d think that I’d be using this time to watch more anime, but I’ve just been buying up a ton of manga.

  11. I definitely remember Anime on Demand. I had drifted away from the medium and that was my way back in. It exposed me to so many series, including Kanon, which remains a favorite.

    Before that, I was accessing anime through two primarily means: Cartoon Network and illegal downloads. Through Toonami and Adult Swim, I got my first heavy dose of anime—Tenchi Muyo, Cardcaptor Sakura, and later, Cowboy Bebop, among others. The latter, along with DVD purchase, was how I watched the rest of the most beloved series among otaku in the day. We had a common language of anime since our choices were far more limited.

    I can move backwards from there all the way back to Speed Racer, but those were my primary means of finding anime when I was looking specifically for it.

    Thanks for the post—always fun to relive anime memories with other fans and bloggers!

    1. Ahhh!! Another old head anime fan!! Anime on Demand was such a great thing, there was such a great variety. It helped me really get my feet wet in the beginning.

      It sounds like we had a very similar anime journey and I really loved reading about your experiences!

      1. I remember discovering that I had AOD…it was a shock haha. Like…wha? I can watch this anime anytime? This isn’t some premium service? 😆

        And thank you! If you ever want to share about your anime experiences or journey, please feel free to!

      2. EXACTLY!! AOD was a godsend really, but I guess with the availability of streaming there just isn’t a place for it anymore.

  12. I couldn’t relate to this more! I’m thankful you included Zatch Bell, because it’s one of those older series that doesn’t get as much recognition as I think it deserves!

      1. YES! I cannot remember how the anime ended ( it has been ages) but I do remember the manga ending and it really had me in tears. I didn’t think I would be so sentimental over a series.

  13. I watched the Dante anime on an Italian dubbed DVD. Man those DVDs were so expensive. Also I remember more than a hint of incest but my memory is hazy. Other stuff I watched in Italian were the Lupin III green jacket series, a crapton of red jacket stuff too, I Cieli di Escaflowne, Angel Sanctuary(that genderbender Angel incest ova), Gear Fighter Dendoh(my favourite mecha series for children), Zone of the Enders(best mecha design and a cockpit worth the name) movie, You’re under arrest the movie, Detective Conan(the Italian comic book covers are the best even though they come apart easily), Daltanius(my childhood mecha series), Generator Gawl(awesome opening, biological mecha, more like monsters, some time travel, sweet ending theme will hit in you the kokoro and make you feel nostalgia), Ranks1/2, Kuro-cha, Beyblade. Also had a bunch of anime on VHS but these were easily damaged, expensive and took a whole lot of space. Man I literally spent all my childhood money on DVDs. I had no toys but it was worth it. I didn’t know which anime was good or bad from the DVD or VHS covers, there was no internet so I couldn’t read reviews. Every anime was a surprise. I used to watch and rewatch the trailers for other anime included in the DVDs I had and I wondered what those stories were about. Now if I want to know about an anime I can just Google it and my excitement levels are just extremely more low when I start watching an anime because I can’t help reading reviews because I am afraid I will waste twenty minutes on a bad anime when I could be watching the next anime masterpiece which never comes. Even though I will waste so much more time on YouTube or social media. Social Media has kind of destroyed anime for me lol. Also time seems to flow much faster now that I am old.

    1. WOW! You’ve watched a lot of anime! Do you still have all the DVDs and VHSs from back then?

      Yeah, back in the day, it was kind of luck of the draw with anime, since it was pretty much word of mouth. I ended up watching some pretty out there anime back in the day, so now I WELCOME reviews. LOL

  14. The first anime I watched when I was a kid was pokemon and then I was more interested in romantic series. My favorites are your name, noragami, diabolic lovers,code breaker 💜

Gush about cute otome boys~