In 2006, I made a choice that would change the course of my life. I joined the website Gendou.com.
For those who don’t know what Gendou is, it’s a website that was at its height, the premiere place to find music from anime. Anime has always tended towards having fantastic music and unless you’re in Japan or had friends in Japan, during the early 2000s, it was nearly impossible to find this kind of stuff. Gendou was a site that allowed users to upload music, add lyrics and organize music files.
Gendou has two features outside of the huge library of music and that was radio: a radio station hosted by different DJs and a chatroom.
I don’t think I entered the chatroom until 2007. And when I was I was suddenly no longer alone. Let me give you a little primer on what it meant to be an anime fan back then. Sure, there were fans everywhere but it certainly was not popular. I had my anime club, sure, but I knew very few people in the real world that loved anime as much as I did. Gendou was full of people who loved anime just as much as I did. And more importantly, I could be myself, a truer version of myself. It was on Gendou that I got comfortable working through male pronouns and nouns, something that’s stuck around with me. Gendou helped me form better arguments when it came to anime as far as what I liked and what I didn’t like. Gendou also gave me a place to go that was relatively safe. My home life was a little less than ideal back then and thus I was able to be myself in a safe space surrounded by people who knew what I liked.
The chatroom was diverse, I cannot impress that upon you all enough. We regularly had dozens of chat regulars from all over the world: we learned each others time zones, we learned each others languages. I became a chat regular along with names that are still etched into my memory: Chaotic, HT, Holkers, Eng, Emi, Kiba, Lat, Yat, Stel, Risa and so so many more. In time, I became a moderator for the chat, keeping away the dreaded all caps and preventing things from becoming a massive cesspool and with more devotion I became a DJ. Being a DJ brings us to the radio station part of Gendou. DJs could host radio which was often a mix of music they were listening to. The few times I ran music radio was a good mix of what I was into at the time so pretty much any big shonen anime and probably half of the Gravitation OST. But not all DJs did radio. For a while, I did talk radio which lead to one of the most infamous moments of my life. I had returned to my dorm room in college and I had consumed entirely too many Monster Energy Drinks as I celebrated Fiesta with the rest of San Antonio. I started hosting radio and hosted with one friend: Lat for about two hours before another friend, HT tagged in. HT and I are in the same time zone and we just started talking. We answered questions, talked about what we were watching, gave advice about long-distance relationships and before I knew it, I looked out of my dorm room window and asked: “Is that the sun?” HT replied: “Yes, yes it is.” I remember blinking and looking to my Skype call window that had been open for hours now and asked “Have we been hosting radio all night?” to which my co-host replied. “Yes, we’ve been hosting radio all night.” I told my co-host that I was going to bed and he said that sleep was a good idea. That’s how effortless radio felt.
And chat remained that effortless for years. When my beloved fish of twenty-four hours, Szayel, passed away, the chat header was changed to reflect my loss. We rallied around each other, supported each other. The girls insulated each other from the advances of creepy boys: it’s why so many of the girls with accounts had gender neutral or even male presenting names.
And we didn’t stop there, many of us had become friends for decades and some of us even decided to meet. It met with a friend Wurm who I now know as Carlos. We met online years ago and in 2010 decided to meet in real life. We’ve been friends ever since. We took our friendship offline and moved into a real friendship and he is now one of the most important people in my life. That can be said for Risa, for Kiba, for Eng, for HT, for Chao and Stel and Flora and Lo and Zuru. In fact, last year a lot of us met up because you should never give up on your dreams of meeting your online friends.
When I met Risa in real life for the first time, we naturally picked up a conversation that we had just started online while she was traveling. I’m not sure which one of us said it but the comment was thrown out “It’s like we’ve known each other for years.” and one of us did reply “Well, we have.” Many of us have grown up together, many of us have now been friends for easily over ten years. Gendou was my safe place, my family, my community, my people. They were family when I needed it, friends when I felt alone and support when I was scared. And all from a website built to house anime music.
Now, Gendou is not what it used to be. The chat always had some in fighting and recent mod changes have left the community fractured. There’s really three phases of Gendou and I was part of the Gloriana phase unto really its functional end. As the software that kept the chat going phased out, so did the chat. Eventually, the place that became a home for so many became empty. Though there’s one host who still does radio regularly (Shin) and one day I plan to join Shin and host radio at least one more time.
Fortunately, many of us had found ways to reach other outside of Gendou be it Facebook or Twitter or Skype. I don’t think I’ve lost many people from Gendou’s decline that I would truly miss having in my life. I think that speaks to the strength of the bonds made there.
And now with these people I met on the internet, we no longer use screen names but human names. We talk about our problems, our successes, our hopes and dreams: just like we always have. We’ve all matured together, grown together, been there for each other and I know I have been changed for the better because I knew them.
It warms my heart when I still get called by my old SN or and now we do regular calls when we can and sometimes it almost matches the frantic energy of a busy chat room. We’re all older now. Some have families now. Most of us have office jobs now but there’s one thing that connects us all: we’re all Gendounians; now and forever.