Host: Doug Wilder

With fifteen years under its belt, Anime Boston has a lot of history behind it. From those humble beginnings at the Park Plaza, we’ve watched Anime Boston grow into a limitless celebration of all things anime.

And, as the convention has gone through countless changes, so also has the state of anime fandom. Usenet and tapes gave way to social media and the promise of anime anytime, anywhere. Streaming has become the new normal, and Anime Expo pulls in over one hundred thousand people.

Doug Wilder, Anime Boston’s Facilities Manager, decided to dig into the past, to look at the world of 2003, when Anime Boston first entered the scene. He began with the now-famous anecdote of the con’s formation. As the tale goes, Patrick Delahanty and Adam Ferraro sought to build a con that would best other events they’d attended. The two expected roughly a thousand attendees to their inaugural event, but easily broke that in pre-registrations (1,200). By the time the convention itself had concluded, the event had seen 4,110 warm bodies, and attendance was capped by the Boston Fire Marshall.

That said, Anime Boston still managed to become the seventh largest anime convention in North America.

Wilder used this tale as a springboard into a history lesson. From the convention, he began to take a closer look at other goings-on in (and around) 2003.

At the time, changes were hitting fast and hard for the anime industry. The Anime Network launched in 2002, Lupin III debuted on Adult Swim, and Toonami introduced the world to Evangelion with Giant Robot Week. Naruto was just starting its run, and fansubs were still a primary way of consuming anime.

And on these notes, Wilder pulled no punches. He spent a fair amount of time discussing 2003’s Gundam SEED fansub fiasco. At the time, fansubbers would translate shows as they aired. This was a bit of a grey area, as western distributors turned a blind eye until they had a licensing contract in hand. On license, the circles distributing the show would generally pull their episodes, to make way for the official release. Gundam SEED, though, was a somewhat unusual situation at the time. Bandai Entertainment had licensed the series late in its TV run. With just five episodes remaining, the studio sent cease-and-desist notices to fansub groups. This led to outrage, mixed with excitement as it was the first Gundam show to be licensed mid-run.

Through the presentation, Wilder supplemented his points with dozens of relics from the past. Magazine ads, TV spots, and even web ads from the time were all fair game. Using his sources, Wilder pointed out the origins of legal streaming anime (in Japan in 2002, no less!), and reminded the world of the scourge of singles.

Through it all, though, Wilder showed a real understanding of everything that made the pre-Facebook anime world tick. His playful sense of humor and many anecdotes helped transport fans back to the days of old, while maintaining a generally laid-back feel.

For many in the room, it was a chance to return to a simpler time. For that hour, as we heard tales of Marvel Mangaverse and AniPike, we were all united in our nostalgia.