If you were to ask me how long I’ve been a fan of anime, I could honestly and unhyperbolically answer, “For as long as I can remember.” Many of my earliest memories of watching TV came from early-to-mid eighties fare, including He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Thundercats, Transformers, G.I. Joe, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and of course, Robotech and Voltron. Of course, at the time, I couldn’t make out any distinction between the latter two shows and the others I just mentioned, but they did effectively serve as my initial indoctrination into the world of anime.
I think, however, the question of “When did you know you were a fan of anime?” yields a somewhat more interesting answer. I recall one Saturday in the early nineties (1993, I think, but there doesn’t seem to be any way for me to verify this) when TNT, still in its infancy, ran a Halloween movie marathon. I managed to flip through the channels in time to catch them running an animated film I’d never seen before. The film, I would later go on to learn, was a highly-edited broadcast of Vampire Hunter D, an unlikely event that even predates the later broadcasts that the Sci-Fi Channel (now the ridiculously-named SyFy) would have as part of their Saturday morning anime block.
As chance would have it, I would catch Vampire Hunter D at the halfway point, during the scene where D infiltrates Count Magnus Lee’s castle successfully and returns Doris to her home. It’s a rather rousing scene, with D dispatching of several of the Count’s super creepy minions before making his escape. By the time the scene had ended, I was hooked. I didn’t just want to watch the entire thing from the beginning, but I wanted to know if there was anything else out there that was like it. That, ladies and gentlemen, was the moment that I knew I was an anime fan, even if I didn’t fully know what it meant at the time.
I’d later go on to look for Vampire Hunter D on VHS, which I would eventually acquire, but it was that search that led me to discover the wonderful and bizarre section that served as a buffer between the “Disney/Family” section and the “Adult” section in Camelot (remember those?) called “Japanimation”. For my 13th birthday, I bought the first volume of Blue Seed, and later I’d purchase a dubbed copy of the Fatal Fury OVA I read about in Electronic Gaming Monthly. I’d even look curiously at a few copies of some show called Neon Genesis Evangelion during those times, but there was a long list of tapes I wanted to buy, and considering how outrageously overpriced those tapes were, even by today’s standards, I had to pick and choose my battles until the anime boom of the 2000’s made it possible for me to restart a disc-based anime collection in earnest.
While that TNT broadcast was a formative event in my anime fandom, it wasn’t the only time that Vampire Hunter D was involved in a profound event in my life. One of the strangest, most frustrating, and most beautiful times of my life was my involvement in 2011’s Anime Fans Give Back to Japan fundraiser. Along with the One Piece Podcast, Konoha Corner, and the Ass-Backwards Anime Podcast, I had the privilege of helping out behind the scenes, mostly by contacting potential guests and serving as a liaison. Our goals were a bit lofty, but since we were raising money for an earthquake-ravaged Japan, I was particularly aggressive in how I went about contacting a number of high-profile voice actors. This “Screw it, why not?” mentality resulted in me contacting someone I never expected to hear back from, but who ended up being one of the event’s biggest supporters: Wendee Lee.
In the hours and days that followed, something truly magical happened: I started to receive e-mails (and phone calls!) from actors throughout the voice-over industry that none of us contacted, or even knew how to get in touch with. We soon had an embarrassment of riches in terms of people wanting to come on during the event and help raise money, which would lead to numerous hair-pulling instances of scheduling problems and receiving information faster than I could pass it along. What a wonderful, terrible problem to have! I would eventually find out that the reason for this sudden influx of interest from the voice-over community had originated from Wendee Lee (and others) spreading news of the upcoming event to everyone they could.
One such phone call came out of the blue, with a number I didn’t recognize. After answering with a somewhat uncertain, “Hello?”, the voice on the other end replied, “Hello, is this John? This is Michael McConnohie.” Though it’s only proper etiquette to do so, he really didn’t have to introduce himself. I knew exactly who he was from the very first syllable. After all, how could I not recognize the voice that helped solidify my love for anime? I don’t remember everything that was said, though I did end up helping interview him during the live stream (along with the lovely Melodee Spevack). On top of that, I also ended up getting contacted by his co-star from that seminal film, Barbara Goodson, who played Doris and would later go on to join the podcast during our “Voices for Japan” series.
There are at least a dozen such stories from AFGBTJ I could tell, some of which I already have, and some I may tell some time when I feel its particularly poignant. But, on Halloween, almost 20 years to the day since I first saw D carrying Doris over his shoulder, it seemed as good a time as any to share my tale of an animated film TNT probably never should have aired and a phone call I never expected to receive. Happy Halloween, everyone!