The History of Northern Virginia Animé Anonymous
A long time ago, in a galax…..well, since I don’t feel like writing two trilogies (one of them being really bad), I’ll stop it at that. Hello, my name is Marc, your host. Welcome to Fantas….and since I also don’t have a suicidal, wife-beating dwarf for a sidekick, I won’t go that route, either - although Mr. Belvedere was awfully cute there at the end. Let me just start by saying that back in the day, I used to watch Marine Boy, Kimba (an obvious rip-off of Disney), Speed Racer, Star Blazers, Battle of the Planets, Voltron, and Robotech. I loved the continuing, intricate story lines that they offered. I even wrote a paper about Robotech in my AP English class (yeah, I’m a geek). But that was long ago in the 1970’s and 80’s when I was growing up and I left those things behind as I left for college.
Fast forward about 10 years to June of 1998. I was sitting at home one Saturday morning doing absolutely nothing when a show called “Casshan, Robot Hunter” suddenly appeared on the Sci-Fi channel. It was kinda neat as I hadn’t watched much animé since my old Robotech days. As the show ended, I thought how cool it would be to watch some more animé. Scanning the TV Guide, it came as a shock to me that the Cartoon Network was showing - GASP - Robotech every weekday afternoon! So, I ran home from MCI/Worldcom (insert snide remark here) every day to catch Sailor Moon at 4 p.m. (insert snide laughter here) and Robotech at 4:30 p.m. It was too cool.
After a few weeks of watching animé on the Cartoon Network, the Sci-Fi channel ran a special week-long tribute to animé, with an animé movie being shown every night of the week. One of the movies was called Galaxy Express 999, which was so mesmerizing, I decided to surf the Internet to find out more information about this show. The more I looked, the more I liked. There just tons of pages out there. It was then I found the “Animé Turnpike”, a site listing various anime web pages. And whoa - there was a listing of animé conventions that were held throughout the country. With a 3-day convention called Otakon being held in August at Crystal City, right across the street from where I worked!
I won’t go into detail of what I did at Otakon (legal or otherwise), but what I will tell you is that I saw a lot of new shows I wasn’t aware of that I really enjoyed. I realized at the animé convention that the storytelling aspect of animé was still unsurpassed, especially when compared to American television programming. So, once I was back home, I hurriedly connected to the Internet and started searching for animé clubs in my area.
Unfortunately, that search turned out to be fruitless. There were a few clubs listed on the Animé Turnpike and various others I found through search engines, but whenever I emailed or called the contact information, the email either bounced or the number was disconnected. For a couple of frustrating weeks, I searched high and low for any active animé club, but I couldn’t find even any college clubs in the area (which I later discovered actually did exist, but I digress). So, being the idiot that I am, I decided I should start a club. All by myself. Stupid, stupid, stupid….
The first thing I had to figure out was where to meet. Since I had recently purchased a Dolby Digital 5.1 DVD home theater complete with a 32 inch television, my house seemed a good a place as any. Now the next question was, “What do I show?” It was at about this time I started contributing articles to a relatively new site called AnimeonDVD.com. I had ordered through the Internet some animé on DVD, such as Ghost in the Shell and Ninja Scroll, and made some observations on their content, the equipment used to show them, and the anime DVD market in general. After watching anime on DVD, I knew the unsurpassed picture and audio quality that this shiny new disc technology brought would be the centerpiece of what would be shown. However, I still needed a name for this club I had created. Whatever it would be, I wanted a name that had “Northern Virginia” in it because I wanted people to know by the name of the club that it was a club in…Northern Virginia. Then, I thought how it was kind of embarassing for me to admit to people that I, an adult, liked watching Japanese animation, especially since they didn’t understand what was so good about it (poor saps). I wanted to stay anonymous. Wait - there it was. Northern Virginia Anime Anonymous. The name for the club had been decided. Now, all I had to find was some people to actually attend a meeting.
Working with almost no information and no support base, I decided my best course of action would be to first put up a web site with the then-free web site provider, Hypermart. I got 3 hits the very first week! Of course, 2 of those hits was me testing the counter to make sure it worked. Considering how successful this was turning out, I realized I needed to do some legwork. Because I have absolutely no artistic talent, I designed a simple flyer with something like “Free Anime on DVD! 32 inch TV! Dolby Digital 5.1!” and listed my home, web, and email address. I found a local comic shop, Burke Center Comics, and an anime store, Anime FX in Springfield Mall, which allowed me to place flyers in their stores. For almost a month, I went to each store almost daily to talk shop and pass out flyers. Web site hits reached almost 10 per day! On the seocnd Saturday of October 1998, the very first meeting of Northern Virginia Anime Anonymous was held. The doors opened and a flood of 3 people showed up: Chip Jansen, Jake Mayes, and Josh Chavez. Hence, the nightm….dream began.