I will try to be the brave one and make the first member post (other than you, oh wise anthropologist!). I by no means promise that any of this will make sense. When posed with questions, I tend to just ramble on in hopes that they are answered somewhere along the way. =)
...about culture - what do you think it is? What does it mean to be a member of a culture?
General idea of culture - the way you do things as you go about living your life, the things you use to accomplish things, the language you speak/hear from others, the entertainment you indulge yourself in, the beliefs you have, etc - most of which you learn from others in the same culture. Sometimes I just catch myself thinking, well culture is everything, other than your basic primal instincts of eating, drinking, sleeping. But yeah, I don't really know.
Just so I have a relative thread to follow as I'm rambling, I'm going to use the general anime fandom to answer the other part of the question, what it means to be a member of a culture. Or something, I dunno. ^_^;;
I consider myself an anime/manga fan because I enjoy watching/reading it, reading fanfiction about it, hearing others talk about the characters and plot. I consider it to be a big part of what I entertain myself with. I've spent money on things such as artbooks, doujinshi, and manga in japanese - mostly because I will start to love a particular artist's style. I enjoy sharing my anime/manga obsessions with others, so I can have someone else to fangirl with and in hopes of spreading the popularity of something so that it will perhaps be more easily available to fans in the United States.
So, I guess what being part of the 'anime fan culture' means to me is that you really enjoy it, you spend free time indulging in it, you buy things related to it, you communicate with others about it, and it might even affect decisions you make as you go about day to day.
Hmm yeah, did any of that make sense? Don't worry, cause it didn't to me either. =)
As for my history of being a fan. My earliest and biggest childhood obsession was when I was in the 1st grade. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. You have nooooooooo idea. I was completely obsessed with the characters, I knew everything about them, and all day long I would sit in class and just make up episodes in my head - my own stories of what they did, who they fought, and what happened to them. Being a fan when you're that young though gives you limitations. I was limited to watching it on tv during the weekends only and receiving action figures on my birthday and Christmas. Oh, and I got a flip-up Donatello watch. It was my most treasured posession. ^_^ Later on, the movies came out and I watched those millions of times. Still do, actually. I would still watch the old cartoon if it came on, too. I had a TMNT birthday cake when I was 7 or 8, and at one point we had the SNES game.
So yeah, that started it all. There are things about watching that show when I was little that changed the way I viewed certain things, it influenced small things about me here and there. So, you can definitely say that being a fan changed me and the way I grew up a little.
After that, I wasn't a big fan of anything until I started getting into shows like Sliders and SAAB. Sliders more so probably because of the simple fact that it lasted longer. That started around 6th grade I think..or 7th?
I didn't get into anime until after I graduated high school. My boyfriend had the first few tapes of Evangelion at his house, so we watched them for lack of anything better to do. Evangelion started it all and Gravitation introduced me to shounen-ai, but I can't say I really got seriously into fanfic/doujinshi/etc. until Weiß Kreuz. Oh boy.. Since then, Weiß has taken over my room, much of my spare time, and lots and lots of money. With WK, it wasn't so much about the art or plot that fascinated me like other shows I was into, but the characters and the actors who played them.
So, what appeals to me so much about being a fan of WK? Once again, I do the same things as any other anime fan - watching it, talking about it, covering my walls with posters. =P You could say my obsession goes a big leap further with: Ranken. Several people who know me are well aware that I go simply nuts over what used to be simply a slash pairing that I used to read about in good fanfics. The weird thing about Ran and Ken, though, was that I never got tired of them. I cannot really tell you why, but I have grown so attached to two fictional characters (and the "lives" they lead together), that I sometimes find myself going, "What the heck is wrong with you??? They're not real!"
I have never put this much thought into my Ranken tendencies, but you should have known better, Rachel, than to prompt me to question my own motives. So, aside from the fact they are just two really really good-looking characters, ^_~ Ran and Ken really do mean something to me. In the series, in fanfiction, and in my own head, they experience things that I never will. They hurt, they anguish, they murder, they save, they smile, they cry, they love. It is the same as getting really absorbed into a good book. Only, with characters that you become attached to (and that even have their own voices), the stories are all the more real and exhilirating.
I tend to stay away from deathfics because they depress me, I don't like stories where they cheat on each other, I don't like stories where they are evil and can never be themselves again. So, yes, you could say I fulfill my own needs as a fan. I read what makes me happy or makes me smile and walk around all fuzzy-feeling. ^_^ I buy Brat dollz and dye one's hair red and make them cuddle on my desk. I am also seriously contemplating putting 'ran ken' on my next license plate. EEE.
Loony? Maybe.. Obsessive? Most definitely. But I enjoy it, and it's something that prompts me to think about and somewhat experience things that I normally wouldn't in my otherwise dull life. So there you have it. ^_^
-Sooooooooo sorry, Rachel, told you I never make any sense. I don't know if I even answered any of your questions. =)