Let’s Read Animerica, January 1999!

Animerica ran from 1992 to 2005 and was one of the most popular anime and manga magazines of its time, running in hard competition with the ultimately more successful Newtype USA as one of the few Japanese animation and pop culture magazines that could be found at your typical North American bookstore, electronics store, or even music store. Published by Viz Media, the distribution company that owned the North American rights to some of the best known anime and manga including Pokemon (you don’t say), the magazine eventually underwent several format changes, spinoffs, and complicated store-exclusive versions before going under.

Full disclosure: I wrote this entire feature this week with Revolutionary Girl Utena on in the background, and I am pleased to report that I still know all of the words to all the songs in Japanese, which I regularly took breaks to dance to. Take my revolution!

This cover clearly says “You may not care about Leiji Matsumoto, but we certainly do! Also here’s this anime you’ve never heard of and will probably never bother to watch.” At this point in the western anime world, anime distributors like Viz, ADV, and Manga Entertainment had begun to make a concerted difference in what was the burgeoning mainstream of accessibility to mainstream audiences. Sailor Moon had been on TV for a while in all of its chopped and edited majesty, and the Toonami program on Cartoon Network had premiered two years earlier to bring Dragonball Z and Gundam Wing in the very lucrative after school time block.  This issue in particular really shows the struggle between the “I only watch anime at college film festivals” audience and the “I am a 12 year old girl who spends her allowance on everything I can find in the animation section at Sam Goody, including this magazine” audience.

I vaguely remember Birdy the Mighty as a title that I snubbed at Blockbuster because I only had room in my life for one girl-in-boy-body anime at the time and that was Ranma 1/2. There was a reboot of it in 2008. Nobody cared. Sorry Birdy.

Yes it’s true, you had to pay more for subtitles. This ensured your cred as a Serious Animation Connoisseur and made you insufferable.

You’ll catch on quickly that there’s a ton of anime in here that you’ve never heard of (with the exception of The Slayers in this example). This was definitely an era of “let’s buy whatever cheapass barrel-scraping titles we can get and see what sticks”. Man I miss Suncoast. I guess the closest equivalent to it now is Box Lunch or like 80% of GameStop. I dunno, there’s just something exciting about buying movies, and it feels like the only place where you can just walk in and buy a movie these days is Target or Best Buy and those aren’t really things that lend themselves naturally to malls. I don’t miss the absurdity of paying out the nose for a VHS that only had a few episodes.

Oh no you guys…the children found out about a show written for children! What’s gonna happen to our naked women with physics-defying breasts? Are we going to have to stop endlessly talking about tentacle rape?!

So it sounds like contributor *pause for muffed snort* Kit Fox was eagerly awaiting a fansubbed (if he was lucky) bootleg VHS copy of the first episode of Cowboy Bebop, which had aired two months earlier in Japan. 1999 was a very different time.


I feel like over the next 20 years anime fans just kind of gave in to the resistance over Pokemon. It was too powerful. It’s all just part of us now.


I remember around this time that people (and by people, I mean 14 year olds on the Internet) were just SO bitter that Pokemon was the breakthrough anime property that was getting toys you could buy at K-Mart and tv coverage when there was any number of anime shows that deserved it more, MORE I SAY! WHERE’S MY TENCHI MUYO LUNCHBOX?! One that I don’t have to import from Japan for $75?? PEOPLE AT SCHOOL KNOW WHAT POKEMON IS BECAUSE THEIR LITTLE BROTHERS LIKE IT, AND NOW THEY THINK *I* WATCH IT! EVEN THOUGH I DO! BECAUSE THERE’S NOTHING ELSE AND I NEED ANIME LIKE I NEED HEROIN! Anyway, that about sums it up.

I can’t remember the name of the anime/game that this pointy-boobied lady with a sentient creature living in her ponytail was featured in, as much as the ad certainly assumes that I do. Tokyo Police something. Tokyo Pointy Boob Police? Sounds right. Geez, they didn’t even try to crop out the girl standing behind her. Gamer’s Republic ran for 35 issues and went under in 2001.

The Rayearth article name drops Mixxine (which later became Tokyopop) and was probably more instrumental than anything else in getting me into manga at a young age. I have a vague memory of picking up an issue of Mixxine from some random kiosk at a mall and buying it immediately. Girls in comics! Comics in which teenage girls with mundane schoolgirl lives had epic fantasy destinies and beat up bad guys! Whaaat? It was a big deal. Too bad Rayearth, like much of the anime of the time, was kind of a hot mess and just wandered off into obscurity without a proper ending.

I hate to admit it, but that Kusanagi-wires-pinup statuette is still pretty cool and I still kinda want it.

I never watched Corrector Yui, but get a load of how bizarre the theme song is for the kind of generic magical girl anime that they’re trying to sling:

I certainly was not expecting “whiskey-throated world weary woman singing Abbey Road-era Beatles chords about days gone past”.

Final Fantasy: The Movie 2001 eh? Golly, it’s such a shame that never happened. I bet it would have been super cool, and maybe it would have had a plot that made a tiny resemblance of sense, and maybe it wouldn’t ruin every association with the Final Fantasy franchise for the next 20 years in the mainstream media consciousness. Nope, instead we got Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.

Most of this seems all in order. Except Thundercats. I will buy Speed Racer in this category, but how the hell does Thundercats count as anime? A Japanese production studio being involved in the making of the show does not an anime make!

Shout out to local PBS affiliate KTEH in San Jose for airing Urusei Yatsura with subtitles and, well, basically changing my life forever.

There seems to have been a market for anime in the 90s where you could just say the magic word urotsukidoji and people (and by that I mean males, gross gross males) would just materialize to throw money at you and your merchandise.

I find the hand-drawn original character for Luthien Enterprises to be very charming. That url though, oof. You saved money by clearly not hiring a graphic designer for your ad, so maybe shell out for a real domain name?

Anime Central is still going! Good for them. Looking at the guest list gave me pause over Jason Lee, but apparently this particular Jason Lee now goes by Jaxon Lee in order to avoid confusion with the other and far more bookable Jason Lee. Showbiz, right?

Snippets from this month’s installation of Galaxy Express 999, a Leiji Matsumoto joint that ran from 1977-81. I don’t want to come down hard on Matsumoto because obviously he’s a legend and he still resonates strongly in pop culture today. It’s just that the manga had a really understated style and slow pacing that didn’t work at all with the manga that was hip in the late 90s. So this seems to me like a concession to the readers who are still getting their anime from film festivals and taking things like Wings of Honneamise way too seriously – thank you for still hanging in and buying our magazine, we’ll get through the age of Card Captor Sakura together, sempai.

This series is at least known for giving the world Captain Harlock, who is a space pirate and is generally one of the coolest characters. Leiji Matsumoto doesn’t really make characters that are terribly interesting or complicated, but he sure makes them cool.

I ran into Crispin Freeman at a hotel while at Anime Expo 2004. He had a small entourage of adoring teenage girls around him at all times. I really didn’t care about who he was because I, being insufferable, didn’t *watch* dubbed anime. But he seems popular and he was probably one of the few early English dub voice actors who wasn’t absolutely terrible at it (I’ve since heard that English dubbing has gotten way better in quality over the years). I love that he joined online fan communities to better get into his roles.

Wow, ok, this was also an age where you could go down in print saying things like “I really disagreed with [the actor I replaced]’s characterization” and it wouldn’t result in an instant publicity firestorm that would inevitably lead to the destruction of a career. Lucky you, Crispin Freeman!


Someone was (probably) paid (not a lot) to write this, and it was published in a real magazine!

I regret to tell the good folks of 1999 that Buffy the Anime is still yet to happen by 2019.

So, like, there were actual known and acclaimed actors that anyone would recognize who were cast for the English dub of Kiki’s Delivery Service and literally no one had a problem with it BUT DON’T WORRY because now you can get it with subtitles and the world will be right again.

I’ve never played this game but I remember that it was popular. I’m all for a game that allows you to explore the golden halls of the Chrysler building.

Please note that literally nobody in the reader mail is saying how much they adore Leiji Matsumoto and Galaxy Express 999. They want to talk about things like Dragonball Z and Nadesico and Sailor Moon. The heart, it breaks. And most of them are nerdy but measured (side-eye to that one guy who basically asks why they hired a woman to be a critic), and THEN THERE’S ELISABETH.

You probably went to high school with someone like Elisabeth, and she probably made you hate anime. On behalf of all Elisabeths, I’m sorry. I like that the response from the magazine editors was basically to tell her to calm down, but they at least do acknowledge that paying today’s equivalent of $56 for Maison Ikkoku is crazypants.

I’m bewildered as always by the decision to include everyone’s contact information in these reader mail columns. That…that is just not a good idea, I don’t care if this is the era where the only other people on the internet are nerds!

Amazingly, these cons are all still around in some form or another (Baka-Con is now Sakura-Con).

Don’t try to cheat in the contest, and if you already work for Viz – well, you already have the gift of working for Viz, and isn’t that enough?

I would like to die watching badly dubbed anime that I purchased from AnimeNation, I guess!

Is that a – a – GIRL at one of the computers? THERE’S GIRL AT MEGACON!

The more I try to remember about Magical Project S and Pretty Sammy, the more my brain desperately tries to hurt me for doing so, so I’m just leaving this here without comment.


Thanks for reading! I hope this all made a marginal amount of sense and wasn’t just 13 year old me foaming at the mouth about 90s anime in America. Next time we’re going with something that I am once again totally out of my league over – it’s classic kid’s magazine Dynamite, April 1979!