Shared interests and a love of things bring people together all the time. It was a shared love of anime and animation that put my next guest and I into each other’s orbits. Grant Jones is a wonderful individual, a respected voice in the online anime fandom, and part of some incredible podcasts. We talked about life, interests and obsessions, social media, and of course: cartoons.
Matt: Let’s jump right into it: anime. Pretend I’ve never seen anything before. What are three that you consider entry points into the medium? “Required viewing,” even. They can be series, movies, OVAs—doesn’t matter. And why those three?
Grant: Required viewing. I’ll hit the high notes, I suppose: Akira, Macross Plus, and Tale of Princess Kaguya. I think all three are to varying degrees high art, in the sense that it is even a real concept. I also think they are very accessible and showcase animation as a medium for telling stories and showing the possibilities therein.
M: Where did the obsession, the love for the medium, come from? Is there an origin, a root that you can trace it back to? And what has made the love of it last so long?
G: Like most people my age, from that very first glimpse. As soon as I caught part of (what I later found out was) Vampire Hunter D on a late night TV showing, I was immediately entranced. Animation that was taken seriously (at least in terms of the fidelity with which it was rendering imagined spaces) was like being struck by lightning. I have had my droughts but I’ll always love this stuff.
M: Like any fandom, the anime fanbase has certainly seen its ups and downs. Especially lately, there feels like there’s a rising tension in the community. Particularly online. Is it all just a difference of opinions, tastes, styles? Or could it be said the community is growing, I don’t want to say darker or more toxic, but maybe less welcoming? And with the advent of connectivity in the digital age, we seem to be finding out more and more there are monsters and predators in our midst. What can we do—in your opinion—as a community of fans, to be more aware?
G: I think fandom has always been good and bad and indifferent. It’s people. People have always been people. I think all the same elements—for good or for ill—have existed in fandom, and if we weren’t aware of them (“It never used to be this toxic!”) it is only because for whatever reason we were sheltered from the reality of it. What I think what the internet has changed is that, like with everything else, it magnifies our extremes. Our best qualities—inclusiveness, finding like-minded folks, sharing our love of this hobby—are greater than ever before. I get to meet wonderful people, interact with bright souls from across oceans and talk cartoons with them. Share my love for things I thought I was alone in enjoying. At the same time the internet magnifies our worst qualities: gatekeeping, aggression, a desire to eradicate others. And does it at the same speed and intensity. Someone who might have done you wrong in person in a comic shop 20 years ago can now do you just as wrong, if not worse, online from half a world away. Make threats that are as easy to send as the push of a button, organize hatred from across the globe, harass night and day over the tiniest slights. I wish I knew the solution. I think the best advice I can give is: if you are about to engage in a moment of anger or frustration, take time to step away and either reconsider, engage with that person in a lower-stress environment, or just walk away from it entirely. If you’re the target of this kind of stuff, take time to protect yourself first and foremost. No fandom is worth risking your life over if someone else is out to destroy you. And if you’re on the sidelines, try and step up and be part of the solution and protect vulnerable people where you can.
M: You’re passionate about storytelling, I’ve learned. I know you enjoy running and playing role-playing games and read a good deal of speculative fiction, sci-fi and fantasy. But you’re also writing a book? Is there anything you can say about that? Are you doing it just to prove to yourself you have it in you, or do you have a purpose? Or is it just a desire to get your stories out into the world?
G: Haha, funny you should ask. I’m always in various stages of writing books. It’s mostly for personal edification. Since we spoke, I have put one idea on the backburner and have another story idea coming to the fore. I think part of the problem is that when I am creating roleplaying content there’s an immediate audience so I have to stick to the story at hand and I get immediate feedback. Writing a novel is a much more singular process, much easier to drop entirely.
M: Which makes me wonder: where do you find the time, how do you do it? Near as I can tell you’re a pretty busy guy. Where does the drive come from, how do you keep yourself moving? I’m always interested in how creative folk keep it all together and moving.
G: Coffee. Coffee and the inability to turn my brain off. I am kind of like a magpie, always bouncing to the next thing. I find novelty exciting, and it gives me energy to engage with new things (even if I find comfort in routine/the known). I also love to start things but am incredibly bad at finishing them. So.
M: It’s the end of the world as we know it. The apocalypse is nigh, the world is ending. Right at the last minute a ship of friendly aliens passes by to save humanity. They say there’s room enough for everyone, but you only get to bring three personal items with you. What do you bring?
G: Only three? Oh dear. Hm. The picture of my wife and I when we first started dating that I keep in my wallet at all times. A set of RPG dice. My copy of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. I think I’d be set for a while with just those, covers my interests pretty succinctly.
M: Last bit, I promise. And it’s not even a question. This is your chance to do two things: plug something of your own, and something of someone else’s. Something you think folks should know about; a book, a show, a comic, a podcast. Up to you. Something that brings you a little joy, or something that you think people really know about.
G: I’ll say: my podcasts! Blade Licking Thieves and Super Senpai Podcast are both a lot of fun and I love love love making them. Honking about media is my eternal pastime. As far as someone else’s work? That’s harder, I love and respect a lot of the work going on in the various community bubbles I am a part of. I’ll keep it in the same realm though and say Dawn’s Anime Nostalgia podcast. I absolutely would not be doing what I’m doing now if it weren’t for her show (but don’t hold that against her), and I think she remains one of the most important voices in the community and is an outstanding and entertaining host.