Then and Now: My How Time Flies!

Gone are tenth-generation VHS tapes. Now we have bittorent files bringing in the latest fansubbed anime and manga. The world is a much better place, oh yes.

by Janet Crocker and Joe Luscik with photography by Adam Arnold

It's been five years since Animefringe opened our online magazine pages to the world. During that time, the anime scene has gone through a lot of changes, more of them for the good. Join us as we remember the pale world of US anime that existed five years ago, and the abundance that we have today as anime rose to become pop culture!

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Then - VHS
Now - DVD

It seems fairly recent that every movie we bought or rented was on VHS, but oh, how this has changed. A few years ago, if you wanted to buy a series, you'd get only a handful of episodes on one VHS tape, and that was it. The amount of shelf space that would be taken up by Ranma 1/2 alone was enough to drive someone crazy. Now we live in the great generation of DVDs. DVDs make it easy to collect box sets of entire series, and with the push of a button, you can get to the exact episode you want, instead of playing the fast forward/rewind guessing game. Another great thing that came along with the advent of DVDs was the inclusion of special features. Now you can be convinced to buy a series based purely on its special features. You just don't watch five episodes in a row; now you get to watch five episodes, the clean opening and ending credits, voice actors talking about nothing, previews of other series that you might want to buy, art galleries, and more. And what a wonderful world of 5.1 surround sound that we live in now!

DVDs also led to a drastic price drop, as DVDs are ridiculously cheap to manufacture. Now collecting anime was a realistic option for fans, with complete boxsets available for around a hundred dollars. Video stores and people were more willing to purchase these cheaper DVDs, thus exposing more people to anime.

DVDs also gave the viewer the option of dubbed dialogue or subtitled versions. Some could argue that DVDs led to the rise of subtitles in the age-old dubbed versus subbed argument, and the need for improved voice acting in dubs as anime popularity grew. People just weren't willing to endure the bad dubs found on the old VCR tapes.

Then - Anime and Manga in the Porn or Children's Section
Now - Anime and Manga Aisle Near the Front of the Store

It seems not so long ago that someone would walk into a popular video or book store, go to the back, just past the porn shelf, and you would find a single shelf of the most common anime titles, and that was it. Or conversely, the anime and manga would be mixed in with the children's section of the store. The selection wasn't good to say the least, and the location in the store certainly lacked a little, making you feel either like a pervert or a really hentai pervert. Now you can walk into any video or book store, go to the front and find aisles of anime and manga that take up just as much room as the comedy or fiction sections. The vast number of titles available for purchase or rental now seems almost countless, and it doesn't look like you're trying to buy pornography when looking for the latest volume of Full Metal Alchemist.

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Then - Cult Comic Books
Now - Mainstream Manga

When someone mentioned a graphic novel in 1999, most people would think of a collection of comic book issues, mainly the timeless classics of Batman, Superman, and X-Men. These superheroes use to reign supreme when it came to successful graphic novels; the only problem was that they didn't have much success outside of the comic book store and its clientele. Now if someone mentions a graphic novel, you'll probably ask if they're talking about a manga volume. Recently, volumes of Naruto and Kenshin became the first graphic novels ever to hit the USA Today Top 150 Bestsellers List. A comic book has never achieved this feat, yet two mangas have. Manga is succeeding where the comic book fails: the mainstream market of your local bookstore and supermarket.

Then - Left-to-Right Manga
Now - Right-to-Left Manga

No one could have predicted how well Americans have adapted to reading manga "backwards". TOKYOPOP started the successful trend towards unflipped manga with the introduction of the 100% Authentic line of titles. Now the majority of manga is in the right-to-left format.

Then - From Serialized Anthologies to Graphic Novels
Now - From Graphic Novels to Serialized Anthologies

1999 marked the beginning of the movement from serialized anthologies (such as Animerica) into collected graphic novels. Now the serialized anthologies are back with a vengeance, with the success of Shonen Jump and rumors of a new Viz shojo magazine. Simply put, they're cost effective and can be found in grocery stores and bookstores everywhere. Manga graphic novels can be a little harder to find.

Then - Imported Manga
Now - Growth of World Manga

Most manga comes from Japan, then and now. Only now much more of it is translated and World Manga (a term coined by to mean manga produced in countries other than Japan) is a rapidly growing trend in the comic book industry. It seems that every classic comic book character has received a manga re-invention. However, original World Manga is also booming, with titles such as MegaTokyo and Ninja High School.

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Then - Hand-drawn Animation
Now - CG is The Word

Five years ago, CG animation, or what little there was in anime, was blatantly obvious and stood out among the hand-drawn, or what we now popularly call "traditional", animation. Now almost all animation is done on computers, and animation has reached the point of mimicking the traditional style so well that the two are almost interchangeable. Animation is cleaner, brighter and just plain prettier now.

Then - Anime: Cartoons
Now - Anime: Art Style

When people would talk about the masterpieces of cartooning cinema, Disney was the name that immediately came to mind. Recently, this had changed. In 2002, Spirited Away won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, a full-length anime movie from the mind of Hayao Miyazaki. This was a huge step for anime in America and anime in general. With one of Miyazaki's masterpieces winning an Oscar, anime has become better known and respected by Hollywood and by people in general. The Oscar proved that anime is more then just perverted cartoons, but that it can also be theatrical marvels and works of art.

Then - Anime for Japanese Viewers
Now - Anime for American Viewers

Admittedly, that has not changed much, but then again, that's why it's anime, not cartoons. Yet there is something to be said when American demand justifies the creation of a new season of The Big O.

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Then - Dragonball Z
Now - Inu-Yasha

The gateway anime for newcomers has changed for the new century. Dragonball Z, the staple anime for afterschool and Saturday morning TV where nothing happens except weird guys charging up for multi-episode battles, has switched to Inu-Yasha, a romantic comedy about a girl and her half-demon. With the second movie just released in the US, Inu-Yasha will probably keep its title for a long time. Hell, Dragonball Z is still hanging on through Dragonball GT. Yet this change does reflect a changing mood in America of viewing anime not as just plotless exotic cartoons, but also cartoons with a story and appealing characters that can exist beyond the TV.

Then - Pokemon and The Fox Box
Now - Adult Swim, Anime Unleased, The Anime Network

Before 2001, when people wanted to watch anime, they wouldn't think about checking the TV listings, especially if they were over the age of ten. The anime selections were something on The Fox Box or YTV, maybe a random show on a satellite network that you didn't get, or Pokemon. Things have certainly changed though. Now the TV is one of the best places to look for an anime fix. With The Cartoon Network's Adult Swim block of programming leading the way, fans of anime just need to go as far as picking up the remote to see some great shows, such as Cowboy Bebop, Hellsing and Witch Hunter Robin, making anime accessible to people who would never see these shows elsewhere. As well as Adult Swim, you can now watch G4TechTV's Anime Unleashed as well, featuring recently a Last Exile marathon. When it comes to anime on TV, the last five years has seen a drastic improvement. Anime has even taken over Saturday morning programming, with Yu-Gi-Oh!, Pokemon, Sonic X, Shaman King and One Piece.

Then - Baseball Cards for Kids
Now - Yu-Gi-Oh! Cards for Kids

This could be one of the biggest changes. The "Then" here goes back as far as everyone's grandparents and as recent as a couple of years ago: collecting sports cards. Now one of the largest crazes for kids is Yu-Gi-Oh! cards. From personal experience in working with children about seventy-five percent of children are in love with the Yu-Gi-Oh! card game and it's all that they would want to play. You can't walk into a store and not see a huge display of Yu-Gi-Oh! cards right next to the candy at the check-out.

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Then - The Matrix
Now - The Animatrix

People were still buzzing over The Matrix, which popularized wire-fu for much of the Western audience. It also introduced CG effects, such as bullet-time, that have now become part of the standard animation repertoire. When the sequels were announced, The Animatrix began to unfold online, one episode after another. Now The Animatrix is necessary viewing for understanding The Matrix Trilogy. Unfortunately, so is the cringe-inducing Enter The Matrix video game.

Then - Japanese Food in America: Ramen Noodles
Now - Japanese Food in America: Sushi

Most college students know their ramen well, and ramen noodles will probably always remain as a cheap food staple. Besides their precious emergency ramen, people really didn't eat Japanese food regularly in 1999. Sushi was still an expensive and exotic ethnic food. Now you can buy decent and food poisoning-safe pre-made sushi at local grocery stores everywhere.

Then - Imported Anime OSTs
Now - Domestic Anime OSTs

In 1999, you could count the number of domestic anime soundtracks on your fingers, and you would need to import CDs from Japan if you wanted anything outside of Akira or Ghost in the Shell. Now the OST scene has exploded, with domestic soundtracks available alongside the anime on DVD. The selection has also widened dramatically, from old Final Fantasy remixes to the most recent anime releases.

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Then - Sega Dreamcast
Now - What's Sega? What's a Dreamcast?

The Sega Dreamcast holds a special place in many gamers' hearts, particularly for those who import Japanese games. In 1999, it seemed that the Dreamcast would go on forever. Now the Dreamcast is long gone to Console Heaven and Sega is merely a video game software developer.

Then - Mario on Gameboy
Now - Pokemon on the DS

Five years ago, Nintendo's moneymaker had a mustache and wore overalls. The Mario Brothers were on your Gameboy, in various titles, ranging from RPGs to traditional platform games to cart racing. Now when someone turns on their Nintendo DS or Gameboy SP, they are more concerned about collecting badges than coins, and Nintendo is guaranteed to make money now because of a yellow fuzzy monster called Pikachu.

Then - Imported Anime Video Games
Now - Domestic Anime Video Games

You only have to look at a list of best-selling video game titles to see how popular anime-inspired video games are, from Dragonball-inspired fighter games to Pokemon's monster training. There is also a growing market for uniquely Japanese games, such as Dance Dance Revolution and Katamari Damacy, games that no one could have predicted to have domestic releases back in 1999.

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Then - Shonen, Manly-Man Anime
Now - Shojo Anime

Early anime successes in North America include Akira, Ghost in the Shell, Ninja Scroll, and Neon Genesis Evangelion. Can you feel the missing romantic elements, the over-emphasis on action? The shojo fanbase has been growing by leaps and bounds since 1999, in particular over the last two years. There was a time where Fruits Basket would have never been released and translated domestically, only a few short years ago. Now we have animation for all tastes!

Then - Very Limited Theatrical Release of Anime Movies
Now - Limited Theatrical Release of Anime Movies

Sure, Akira and Ghost in the Shell were released on the big screen in the US, but how many people actually got to see it in theatres? Over the last few years, Cowboy Bebop: Knocking on Heaven's Door and Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence have gotten theatrical releases outside of New York City and LA, not to mention the latest releases from Studio Ghibli. We may not have reached the amount of screen time that your average Hollywood blockbuster gets, but we sure have grown in popularity!

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Then - Struggling to figure out Neon Genesis Evangelion
Now - Struggling to figure out Neon Genesis Evangelion
25 Years From Now - Struggling to figure out Neon Genesis Evangelion

RahXephon helped us to get closer to finding an answer though.

Then - Floppy Socks
Now - Short Skirts

A personal story with everyone out there that will touch upon Japanese pop culture. My brother was on a plane coming back from an extended stay in Japan this summer and he got into a good conversation with a business man from Japan. Apparently the "Then and Now" of Japan is this: "School girls used to wear loose, floppy socks; now short, short skirts are in. I like that much better."

So here's to a happy New Year and another five years of Animefringe bringing you the latest in trends, gadgets, music, video games, anime and manga!

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