I’ve been going to Anime North every year for the past 10 or so years. In that time, I’ve seen anime fandom in Canada shift a considerable amount and I’ve observed three distinct “generations” of anime fan. These generations are delineated by major paradigm shifts in the fandom.

For today’s post, I’m going to describe these three generations that I’ve observed and explain their characteristics and the gaps that exist between them. This is not to say that these are clear-cut categories and there may be some people who fall between them. They are also based on nothing more reliable than my own observations as a fan of anime for over a decade.

The Old School

These guys first saw anime in the 70’s or 80’s (possibly earlier!) when it was either in the high culture domain of independent/foreign films or on television where every effort was made to mask its origin. These guys remember the crazy days of fansubbing on VHS, where you had to take care not to buy a tape that had been copied too many times because a little quality was lost with each copy. Digital fansubbing simply didn’t exist in this generation and some probably see the newer generations as either spoiled or unwashed.

Shows that this generation loves: Astro Boy, Speed Racer, Mobile Suit Gundam (the classic series), Mazinger Z, Space Battleship Yamato, Macross (the classic series), Wings of Honneamise, Galaxy Express 999, Sailor Moon (early seasons), and many of Hayao Miyazaki’s earlier works.

How you’ll spot them: They’re hard not to spot these days. If you see a person aged in the 40’s or 50’s who isn’t attending just to chaperone their children, you’ve probably bumped into The Old School. This generation is usually running conventions because they have been since there was an anime fandom in North America.

The Digital Generation

I will refer to this generation as “we” because I consider myself to be part of this generation. We may vaguely remember fansubs on VHS but probably don’t own any, because the major paradigm shift that defines our generation of fandom is digital fansubbing and scanlation and the rise of BitTorrent. This breakthrough in fan translation and distribution ultimately made it possible to follow anime and manga as they were released in Japan, and many of our generation are fans of Japanese rather than North American ones.

We’re also the first generation to see official releases of anime on DVD, putting the “dubs vs. subs” quandary to rest by allowing us to buy both in the same package. During our time, more shows have aired on TV as well, though we might not have watched them. We may have looked at some of those broadcasts in disgust (*coughCardCaptorscough*).

We may or may not be fans of some of the shows that the current generation is currently obsessed with, such as Naruto and Bleach. Those of us who aren’t snub our noses at them while buying up merchandise for our favourite shows from the 90’s and early 2000’s.

Shows we love: Neon Genesis Evangelion, Ranma 1/2 (and Maison Ikkoku?), Fushigi Yuugi, Ghost in the Shell, Akira, Slayers, most Gundam series, most Macross series, Irresponsible Captain Taylor, Bubblegum Crisis, Serial Experiments Lain, Cowboy Bebop, Card Captor Sakura, most Miyazaki and Tezuka works. Honestly, one of you will probably kill me for leaving your favourite show off the list. Know this: I did my best. We experienced a “boom” of anime production and our tastes are all over the place.

How you’ll spot us: We’re young, but still old enough to drink. We’re probably not running conventions but chances are you’ll find us in the volunteer staff. Rather than stalking down North American voices for their autographs, we’re more inclined to check out the Japanese guests or to be milling about the dealers and fan artists who are selling their illustrations. Many of us are dedicated cosplayers.

The Kids

I apologize if this label seems derogatory, but to the rest of us that’s what you are.

This generation is in their teens or even tweens. Most of their exposure to anime has happened within the last 5 or so years via TV and official DVD/Blu-ray releases. This generation’s exposure to manga is probably largely from the shelves of major bookstores though some may also be following their favourites via the Internet.

This generation is growing; in fact, they are quickly becoming the majority at Anime North, much to the chagrin of some young men from our generation who wish they could talk to the cute girl dressed up as Saber from Fate/Stay Night without having to worry about getting apprehended by security and possibly charged with a felony. These kids aren’t always with their parents.  =P

While we experienced a boom in fan distribution of Japanese releases, this generation has experienced a boom in official North American releases, many of which now come very close on the heels of the original Japanese. That’s not to say that this generation doesn’t follow anime/manga via the Internet and BitTorrent but that may be the exception rather than the norm.

Shows that this generation loves: Naruto, Bleach, Dragonball Z, Pokemon, When They Cry (or as we may know it, Higurashi ga Naku Koro Ni), The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Fate/Stay Night, Code Geass, Ergo Proxy, and many more shows from the early-to-late 2000’s.

How you’ll spot them: Sometimes with their parents. If not, exercise caution when flirting with girls at anime conventions as they may not be as mature as they look. You may find some of them offering free hugs or yelling/cheering at cars passing by out of mischief and/or boredom. The easier-to-spot of this generation are much more engaged with the North American side of the industry, so they’ll be chasing the voice actor/actress guests. The really-easy-to-spot members of this generation have tastes that don’t extend very much beyond the first three or four titles in the list above.


And there you have it, my analysis of the three distinct generations of anime fandom. Again, I apologize if the stereotypes are laid on thick but I assure you that they are for illustrative purposes only.  =)