Origin Stories

Forward to the Past: An Anime Origin Story

Before I begin, I promise that these won’t all be self-serving, gloat-y things where I talk about me and only me. I really just want to give some form of baseline, to explain where I’m coming from, and why this is something I feel so passionately about. So, apologies in advance – I promise I’m working on some really fun stuff!

In the anime world, I’m considered by many to be an old fart. I’ve been a fan since 1992, and an anime journalist since about 2002… I’ve been yelling for those blasted kids to get off my lawn since 2010.

Screenshot from The Simpsons - Newsclipping of Grampa Simpson shaking his fist at the sky. The headline reads "OLD MAN YELLS AT CLOUD."

I’ve seen a humble cottage industry industry grow into become a seemingly unbeatable behemoth, only to have crisis lead many to question its very ability to survive. I’ve seen fans rally, and I’ve seen former rivals join forces in unlikely alliances as the industry grew into a massive behemoth that’s garnered the attention of Netflix and Amazon.

And, well, it’s been a heck of a ride getting here.

I grew up as a child of the ‘80s. And, really, I was the typical child of the times. I played Atari with my family, loved cartoons, and just did, well, kid stuff! In particular, though, I had a specific adoration of shows like Transformers, Voltron, and Robotech… basically, any of those shows that had that fun, futuristic vibe.

Robotech - Rick Hunter sits in the cockpit of his Veritech

Now, I should note that this was a time when anime was pretty regularly chopped up for children’s programming. In addition to the aforementioned Robotech and Voltron, it seemed like you couldn’t throw a rock without running into an anime series that was repurposed for a kids’ show. Off the top of my head, I can think of:

  • Noozles (Fushigina Koala Blinky, 1988)
  • Adventures of the Little Koala (Koala Boy Kokki, 1987)
  • Tranzor Z (Mazinger Z, 1985)
  • Mysterious Cities of Gold (1986)
  • Dragon Ball (1989 – Test Market)

Anyway, one of my uncles clued into this pretty quickly. In 1992, my family was visiting my grandmother in Bristol, RI. During the visit he invited me to check out a new cartoon. Being about eight years old, I was more than happy to oblige.

In his room, my uncle popped a VHS tape into the VCR, and we started watching together. From the outset, I knew something was up – the video was grainy and warped, like it had been transferred to other tapes a bunch of times. Still,  I was intrigued.

Within a few moments, the C6250’s whistle blared through the TV’s mono speakers, as the wheels of a massive locomotive began to turn and the camera shifted to a view of train tracks stretching into an endless blackness.

Then the logo appeared: “Galaxy Express 999.” Well – “銀河鉄道999” – I just called it “Space Train” at first, but anyway!

Galaxy Express 999 Title Card

At the time, I had no clue as to what I was getting into. The cast didn’t speak English, and may as well have been gibberish for my eight-year-old mind. Within moments, though, subtitles began to pop up. they were hastily-written, rife with misspellings, and flashed by so fast. Still I was able to get the gist of things.

I quickly realized that the words weren’t the important part, though. The characters spoke volumes through their tone and visual language. Maetel’s distinct knowing sadness, Tetsuro’s desperation to abandon everything… it said far more than what the character themselves could with words alone.

After that, it basically became a monthly thing for us. I’d visit my uncle, and we’d watch more Galaxy Express 999. By the time we finished the show, I was pretty much hooked on anime for life.

It was during the summer of that year that my uncle introduced me to the club – a small group twenty-somethings who would gather to watch anime and talk about it. It was here that I really started to expand my horizons. That summer, we watched Sailor Moon. That winter, Patlabor.

Sailor Moon - the five inner Guardians pose in front of a city.

And so on.

I won’t go too far into detail here, but I ended up leaving the club in 1994. From what I heard, it fell apart not long after that, so hooray for good timing?

But I digress.

In 1996, I picked up my first tape, which contained two whole Dubbed episodes of Ranma ½ and cost $25 (this was a bargain considering they retailed for $29.95!), at the Taunton flea market. From that point on, I just started collecting and compiling.

By the time I turned 14, I started writing about games, with some dabbling in anime. After a few stints with indie gaming sites like Console Nation and The Nth Dimension, I kind of grew jaded with the grind of gaming journalism, and focused my attention strictly to anime.  By 2001, I had my own small-time anime website. It was ugly, it was poorly coded, but it was mine, darn it!

Yeah, that didn’t last very long at all.

Anime Dream logo, along with the text "2000 - 2012"
Rest in peace, you lovely, lovely site.

In 2003, I was hired on to work for Anime Dream as a reviewer. Two years later, I moved to the news desk and PR positions, where I served dutifully until the site shut down in 2012. From that position, I was able to meet so many amazing people, and see such incredible events. (I have one anecdote that will come up soon for our Patreon lovelies that’s well worth talking about!)

On the news desk, I tirelessly chronicled the industry’s immense rise, during the early oughts. It was a time that was flush with Pokemon money, when every show seemed to be made of gold, and ADV Films reigned as an unstoppable juggernaut. I was there in the trenches covering the great declines of the bubble’s bursting in ‘08, and the ruin that befell the industry. I typed endlessly as the former kings of the market were decimated, and new rulers began to bring some stability to a changing anime world.

Likewise, I was right there to cheer  on the industry, when players like Sentai Filmworks and Funimation began to make those small, shaky steps toward stability anew.

To be honest, it was, well… kind of breathtaking, now that I look back.

In 2010, I began a small site, Anime Herald. At the time, it was to be an experimental place – a testing ground for new ideas, and new article formats. I wasn’t sure where to go, or how to even run a website of its nature, so I just did what I do best, and dove right in. I was fearless, back then. I was that intrepid girl, standing in front of the bull as she cast a flag out. The rhetoric was bold and brash: We would be on top. We would conquer the anime world!

But, well… time makes fools of us all, doesn’t it? ???? Still, it became my passion, my drive… and a place to just escape when the weight of the world grew too heavy. I made some wonderful friends over those eight years. Lydia, Seth, Anthony, Dorian, MJ… and I’ve shared good times and bad right along with them.

So, yeah. It’s been one heck of a ride. And, really, I want to start sharing some of that with everybody. Through Forward to the Past, I hope to really just tap into those 26 years of life in the anime world, and pull back the curtain on so many of these things that made the hobby special for so many of us over the years. Things like anime clubs, the fansub trades, the industry bubbles, and those unmistakable moments that kind of defined the hobby in the early days.

In the coming weeks, months, or even years, I’ll be publishing a series of articles, talking up those fallen corps of yesteryear, and discussing those unmistakable moments that were uniquely us. I’m not sure how long this will go on, but I have stories to tell, and there are people whom I’d love to bring their stories to life.

A lot has happened over the past years… a lot has grown, and changed, and even more has been forgotten. And, really, I’d like to help bring those faded memories back, even if it’s just for a short while.

About the author

Samantha Ferreira

Samantha Ferreira is Anime Herald’s founder and editor-in-chief. A Rhode Island native, Samantha has been an anime fan since 1992, and an active member of the anime press since 2002, when she began working as a reviewer for Anime Dream. She launched Anime Herald in 2010, and continues to oversee its operations to this day. Outside of journalism, Samantha actively studies the history of the North American anime fandom and industry, with a particular focus on the 2000s anime boom and bust. She’s a huge fan of all things Sakura Wars, and maintains series fansite Combat Revue Review when she has free time available. When not in the Anime Herald Discord, Samantha can typically be found on Bluesky.

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