So, this part is trickier, which is why it’s taken me a lot longer to write it. I want to talk about just some general vibes of the fandom. Where applicable I cite specific sources, but otherwise a lot of it is based on my own anecdotal info…because some periods of fandom are better-documented than others 😉
Where do fans meet up online?
1999: In the olden days, IRC— Internet Relay Chat —was the primary hub. Websites weren’t generally very social…you had some with forums, but that was about as far as it got. No, if you wanted to chat with other anime fans, you were either on IRC, or usenet newsgroups (think group texts, except they were emails)…though even by 1999 these were relatively oldschool. (If you really wanna impress someone with your old-timey internet knowledge, mention forums on ISPs like CompuServe and AOL chat rooms, or better yet, talk about BBSes!) Interestingly, in late 1999 came LiveJournal, one of the first social blogging platforms out there. It exploded in a huge way for the fandom in the early ’00s, with communities devoted to anime topics and series, roleplay groups, and most notably thriving fan creation communities (especially fanfiction).
2009: Ten years later, LiveJournal was going the way of the dodo— it had been sold off to a Russian company. It’s still a significant hub today for certain niche fandoms that kinda never left it, but by and large fans moved on. MySpace blitzed onto the scene in ’04 or so, but was already on its way out by 2009 also. Instead, everyone was on the nascent social media outlets that now consume our waking days: Twitter and Facebook. Facebook was great for keeping up with people you already knew, and so-so for connecting with others— honestly, I don’t think it’s ever been awesome for community building in the way LiveJournal succeeded at —but overlapping and expanding circles on Twitter became the “AniTwitter” powerhouse that remains today…albeit the term’s a bit more pejorative now than it was ten years ago! 😉 Meanwhile, another outlet was growing steadily and getting ready to subsume the fandom corners of the Internet…
2019: …And that site, of course, was Reddit dot com, the #6 most visited website in the US (#21 worldwide), so sayeth wikipedia. Also taking the nerd world by storm is Discord, which cracks me up because Discord (and its yuppy cousin Slack) are virtually identical to IRC: servers, each with their own channels. The main difference is that Discord and Slack are focused on private servers, and folks on IRC tended to cluster on big public servers like EFnet, Undernet, DalNet (I was a DalNet girl myself). Also you couldn’t share gifs in-line, and there weren’t so many GIFs either. Anyway, obviously there are TONS of other sites people spend a lot of time in, but as far as the big’uns, these are them— along with Twitter, which is still going strong despite the fact that everyone on there is miserable.
Where do fans meet up in person?
This…hasn’t actually changed so much! In 1999 your best bets for meeting anime nerds in person were anime clubs at your school or library, at anime cons, or if you were gutsy you could try to meet up with people you met online.
That was true in 2009 and in 2019, I think the main difference is that you’re more likely to run into people willing to identify as anime fans randomly in other places (work, class, friend of a friend, guy on the bus with a DBZ tattoo, etc).
What about cons?
Cons change all the time, there are tons of trends that come and go…and I haven’t been going to cons much in the last few years so I don’t think I can speak very well to 2019! Obviously since 1999 the size of cons has grown immensely. In 1999 you could go to Anime Expo (I did, in fact; my first con was AX ’99 at the age of 14!) and if you were in costume, there were a couple of folks there who would take your picture…because they took every cosplayer’s photo, period, end of story, no matter how good or bad your costume was. Bear in mind, in 1999 AX’s attendance was around 6,400 and I suspect a smaller portion of the attendees cosplayed (and it wasn’t easy to just buy a costume online from China either). By 2009, AX was 44,000 attendees strong and it felt like everyone cosplayed— there was no way someone could try to photograph every cosplayer! Now AX boasts 110k attendees and I can’t even. (The last time I went would have been something like 2010 or 2011, when it was still sub-50k attendees.)
There was a lot of discussion in the mid/late ’00s, as nerd culture was really starting to explode in a big way, over whether anime cons should stay focused on anime (e.g. reject non-anime/manga/Japan-related content). People would even try and gripe at people who dared attend an event about Japanese cartoons in a Harry Potter costume— how gauche! I don’t know if that’s still a big topic today; it seems to me most cons have found the balance that’s right for them. For most cons, especially the more local-audience focused ones, I think it tends to make more sense to open up to the content your audience wants, even if it means My Little Pony and Harry Potter panels. For the bigger, more industry-focused cons like AX and Otakon, there’s plenty of content without touching on those topics, and people fly in from all over the place to attend an anime event specifically, so I’m not surprised that they don’t seem to do as much general pop culture stuff.
What are the hot topics people talked about?
And I think that brings me to the end of part 3…thanks for sticking with this little series! ♥ It’s been fun to write and I hope it’s been useful!