We're still livin'. Livin' in the eighties! We still fight! Fight in the eighties!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Texas Invades the Fifth Radish! Old Fans Find Funny Clothes!

"A scanner. A scanner.  My kingdom for a scanner."

Sometime in late 1984 or early '85, the Daicon III&IV anime shorts started making the American fannish rounds and the result was, in the words of a fellow C/FO-San Antonio member who will remain nameless, a "giant fanboy orgasm" that went up one side of the US and down the other. Seriously, there was so much sweaty goodness concentrated in that seven plus minutes of freeze-frame bait that I made a whole seperate tape (at two-hour speed no less!) of it in order to make copies from so I wouldn't screw up my own.  Yeah, I think I might have made 10 or so copies just for local SA types, some of whom were barely interested in anime.  That's just the kind of magic it held - something for just about everyone, provided they looked hard enough.

Better people than me have done articles on the anime itself, as well as the history both behind it and of the resulting formation of Studio Gainax, so I won't go into it here except to say that it just fucking rocked.

Cute girl with deadly backpack destroying every sf/fantasy vehicle ever put on film or video.  You'd think there'd be screenshots all over the net, eh?

Being the kind of curious critter I was back then, I started asking around about the origin of the thing (all we knew is that it was from some convention in Japan named after a radish) and was informed that the Japanese science fiction community had - and, actually, still has - a national sf convention that moves around the country each year. The con isn't actually called "Daicon" except in the years it's held in Osaka. Strangely enough, I also found that the 1986 version of the convention was also going to be held in Osaka. Which, coincidently, is where my new Japanese friend Mitsuyoshi lived...

Robotech hit the airwaves, the Shonen Jump manga spin-offs and Nippon Sunrise mecha shows were dominating the anime TV schedules in Japan, VCRs were getting cheaper, and new anime fan clubs were popping up all over the country.  Basically, it was a pretty good time to be getting into the fandom - something which was not lost on certain creative business types on this side of the pond hoping to take advantage of the expanding market.  One of these was a California-based travel agency called Ladera Travel.  They organized several fan tours of Japan, mostly using the C/FO and other networks to get the word out.  One of the events on the tour was the upcoming 1986 Daicon 5 in Osaka.

Now, word of the tour spread down to us in San Antonio, but there wasn't a whole lot of interest because, well, because even organized through a travel agency, a trip to Japan was pretty expensive.  Of our group of 20 or so regular attendees, only Ray Elliot and Jack Thielepape showed both the interest and had enough moola to make the trip. Ray was a friend of Randy Stukey and Shon Howell and one of the founding members of C/FO-San Antonio, a military type who joined a lot of his servicemen in deciding to retire in the great town of San Antone.  Jack actually lived in Austin, but made the trip down to SA just about every month for our meetings, a camera around his neck like it was part of his character design or somethin'.  He's since been a fixture at the convention scene in Texas and I think he's still the official photo go-to guy at Project A-Kon.

When I found they were planning to attend, I dropped Mitsuyoshi a letter explaining the tour and he ended up meeting them in Osaka in August of '86 - seems he'd really gotten into the whole fandom thing.  Luckily, he remembered to bring his camera...

An auditorium of Japanese fans all studiously studying...something.

I dunno exactly what's going on here, but I'm guessing a re-enactment of that classic Lost in Space episode?

Jack, on the other side of the camera for a change, showing off a poster to a movie no one saw.

Ray, checking out animation cels.

That's either supposed to be Black Jack in the back or Japanese conventions don't smell a whole lot better than ours.


  1. aiiieee...talk about pimping the gaijin fanboy look, circa 1986! ^^;;

    I almost forgot about taking that poster along to Japan, and then giving it to the shop there! thanks for resurrecting these pics and i'll have to get my negatives from the trip reprocessed for uploading eventually...heh! It's great to hear from you again after all this time, Robert!


  2. Good to hear from you too. I was thinking about starting an American anime fandom "milk carton" feature with pictures of old fans, with the hope that people out there can tell me what's going on with them :-)

    It would be really cool to see some of those pics again. Every once in a while, I hear rumors of someone doing a project or article or paper on the history of American anime/manga fandom and I think they'd be a really big help. If anyone contacts me about something like that, I'll be sure to send out a lot of contacts. The articles can be scanned from fanzines, etc, but there's absolutely no pictures online from that time so far as I can tell.

    RWG (it's a lot of work, no doubt)

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  4. Hey, I wanted to tell you that I really enjoyed seeing these. I'm 30 years old and I only started going to anime conventions in the late 90s, but I'm a fan of 80s anime aesthetics and I've always been curious about what retro anime cons were like. It's especially cool to be able to see a few images of Daicon itself... It looks a lot how I imagined it would.

    It seems like you don't write on this blog any more, but I enjoyed reading through it and seeing your other pictures of old anime schwag. Cheers to you!