(Contributed by Verity)
It’s been a while since anime and manga went mainstream in the US. It was not always that way, though.
Originally – before 2000 – you got most anime fan-subbed on VHS from Hong Kong. The English subs were laughably terrible. They would even mix up character names sometimes. It became an inside joke of anime fans. You could get SOME in the US professionally licensed, but these often cost twice as much as anything put out in the United States. They also came out very slowly. American fans couldn’t wait. They have a VORACIOUS appetite.
They started doing things themselves when the internet came out. Fan subs, fan scanlations of manga. American otaku take serious advantage of Japanese copyright laws. If it wasn’t licensed by an American company, it was free game to translate and spread to anyone and everyone. As fast as you could, in fact. Often, in the beginning, fans did it better than the professional companies. They understood you should keep honorifics, not ‘Americanize’ anything; they understood that flipping the comic so that you were reading right to left damaged the works integrity in a way that professional American companies did not.
There’s a weird mix of ethics in the American otaku world. We are FANS. Because of that, we want the manga and anime IMMEDIATELY. NOW. AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. And people aren’t very picky about how they get it, either. But ALSO because of that, we WANT the story to continue. We know that our money is not just buying a product, it’s also a thank you and a sign of appreciation to the creators and those that have worked hard to get the product to us. And oddly, it’s the generation that most had to break the rules to get manga and anime who fight loudest for the fact that if you read it and enjoy it – YOU BUY IT IF POSSIBLE.
For example: I like the anime Baccano. I saw it for free online. But I liked it. A lot. So I’ve bought it four times now. Individual dvds, a box set, the manga, and even sent to Japan for the light novels that are in Japanese that I can’t even read. Why? Not because I’m THAT crazy into it. But because fifteen years ago, it would not have been available to me. I may have missed the chance to experience. And so I need to nurture the industry and show them there is a market so that they’ll make the NEXT anime someone really loves online available to people easily.
More on how the industry became mainstream later.