On Fandom and the Evolution of Being a Fan

anime-boston

Things I took with me from Anime Boston: DVD’s, a new appreciation for having graduated high school, lots of pictures of cosplayers, the flu…

Yeah, I’m sick, and I’m willing to bet that I caught some nasty germs at the con. So it goes.

I had wished to do this sooner, but spent the past few days blasting through Blue Seed and Gundam X, along with tossing a few episodes of Rose of Versailles in for extra measure, all while not getting further from my room than the bathroom down the hall to blow my nose.

Anyway, along with the garden variety things learned from a con (gee, a lot of people like Bleach!), I did come away with some more instructive observations and lessons. One which was probably the most important discovery of the weekend was the simple fact that I do not exist within the “mainstream” anime community in this country, something I realized in a. the fact that I saw two Clannad cosplayers TOTAL at the con, and b. how many people I spoke with who had never heard of Kanon, including a friend of mine who I’ve always thought was fairly knowledgeable upon the topic.

Honestly, this really shouldn’t come as a shock – in a sense, bloggers occupy pseudo-ivory towers in relation to the rest of anime fandom, pontificating on the fine points of shows such as Aria or Maria-sama ga Miteru while the vast majority simply takes delight in the antics of Naruto and his friends or the protracted sword battles of Bleach. Which isn’t to say one isn’t superior to the other, but simply a statement of the fact that we take different approaches to being a fan. And although I’ve been aware of that divide to an extent, I think I still very easily bought into the notion that if the aniblogosphere (there’s that pesky portmanteau again!) talks a show up, then everyone must love it – particularly if it was a show that had “wide” appeal, so we’re talking the Kanons of anime, not the Arias.

It was a bit weird to suddenly be faced with the fact that I am part of that potentially-snobby segment of domestic (America and Canada) anime fandom. It was very bizarre to casually mention shows I thought most people had heard of and have been met with blank stares. I suppose I could take it as somewhat disheartening that this means that so many truly enjoyable shows get overlooked, but at the same time I can’t say I begrudge the fun many derive from more popular franchises (even if I still find many of those shounen juggernauts to be pretty boring myself – but, hey, I’m pretty sure most of them would say the same about Jigoku Shoujo).

Of course, this wasn’t just a case of “I like to watch Mouryou no Hako (seriously, can someone finish subbing this? please?), you like to watch Dragonball Z.” Or, rather, it didn’t just tell me something I knew already, which is that people have differing tastes. It also made me realize that I’ve really changed as a fan over the years, back from those first days when I’d scramble down the the television at the crack of dawn to get to see some Sailor Moon before I trundled off to school. I’ve matured as a fan, going from what could’ve easily been a temporary time as an anime fan to a lifelong fan.

Looking around the con at all the kids dressed up as shinigami and ninjas, I thought about the people I’d spent my first few years as a fan with, people who are simply not fans any longer. One of them told me their interest in anime simply evaporated as they got older, and another similarly packed away their old tapes as another relic from childhood to be tucked away in the attic. They really loved anime for a while, but it was something they grew out of as they became young adults. By comparison, I seemed a bit mired in my youth, although it was never explicitly stated to me that way.

I don’t think that in sticking with anime as an adult versus giving it up as something of one’s childhood one is making a better choice; really, all that matters is that the choice is one’s own and that they’re happy with the outcome. But I am pretty happy with my own path, as I think my love for anime has only grown over the years, even as I’ve come to realize how much of anime is pure crap. I enjoy the anticipation prior to new seasons as I pick through the listings and choose which shows I want to check out. I love the thrill of cutting the plastic wrap off of new anime DVD’s (even as I shudder about the wastefulness of such packaging!). And one of the things I’ve really come to love in the past year has been the fun of getting to read what other fans think via the blogosphere.

I suppose what it all boils down to is that I’ve come to believe that I am a lifelong fan, and will continue to blow money on anime for the next however many years. And you know what? I couldn’t be happier – I love my hobby, and I’m thrilled that it has become such a key part of the backdrop of my life.

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8 Responses to On Fandom and the Evolution of Being a Fan

  1. Baka-Raptor says:

    Think of the number of people who read your blog. Now think of the number of people at the convention. Then multiply that by 100 for all the conventions out there. Multiply that by another 100 for all the anime fans who don’t go to conventions. Long story short, we’re nothing.

  2. Shadro says:

    I might be going a bit off topic with this, but I did not really notice the huge group of mainstream of people. It could be I went into my con (ACen) with a different mind set, but I can only recall a few Bleach people. I still did find that area of, I’m one of about 3 people who are going to understand this. Again though kinda saw this coming. At least there are the other 2 people that are there and I might meet. Though I think Baka-Raptor said it quite well too.

  3. IcyStorm says:

    Well it depends. I think con attendance (and maybe even the anime fandom in U.S. in general) goes something like… 50% who only know “mainstream” stuff like your shounen and maybe stuff like Ouran High School Host Club. Then you have the 30% that know some more, watch fansubs, but aren’t usually THAT much different from your mainstream fans. Then you have 15% that know a ton more, watch currently airing shows and obscure shows like Aria. Then you have the remaining 5% that are even deeper into the visual culture with doujinshi, visual novels, Touhou, etc.

  4. ria says:

    I’m not sure if anime is just a phase for me, especially since I’m older than the average fan. I got into anime because of my daughter, and I absolutely love it. I like mainstream shows like naruto, but I like more obscure shows as well. I’m sure one day I’ll get tired of it and go on to something else, like going to opera concerts 3x a week, but for now, it’s all anime, and I’m not ashamed LOL.

  5. omisyth says:

    I think we just ended up getting more exposed through blogging anyway. The internet means that we have more access to a variety of anime as well as the community, so if you love the medium more than specific shows, then you’ll probably gain a wider taste in anime.

  6. jpmeyer says:

    Meanwhile, when I was that age and all I saw was DBZ/Gundam Wing/etc., I was like “shitsuxktksbye” and didn’t start to like it until I became older and could see more.

  7. ghostlightning says:

    While reading this, I thought about the (western) music I listened to when I was a kid to present (an incomplete list):

    Age 3-7: Barry Manilow, Menudo
    Ages 8-12: Madonna, Spandau Ballet, Duran Duran, The Style Council, Tears for Fears, The New Kids on the Block, Debbie Gibson, The Beatles
    Ages 13-14: Bon Jovi, Skid Row, Guns N’ Roses, The Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Ramones, Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Anthrax
    Ages 15-20: (The metal bands above, but now also) Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, White Zombie, Rage Against the Machine
    Ages 21-23: Electronic Music Acts that I no longer remember the names, Madonna (again), Chick Corea, Pat Metheny, Dave Grusin, Deodato, Astrud & Joao Gilberto
    Ages 23-25: Steely Dan
    26-PRESENT: Bach, Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, ANISONG

    Point is I didn’t outgrow music, only Menudo (but not Madonna). There’s no reason to outgrow a medium in its entirety. To do so indicates a limitation of exposure to the different genres or even ignorance of superlative mature works.

    If all I knew about anime were super robot shows (having seen them from age 3 onwards), then I may have quit it as a teenager since I was hardcore metal guitar person (I saw very few shows then). But had I met Johannes Krauser II at the time I would’ve looked out for more shows. Nonetheless, it’s great that there’s a new Mazinger show kekekekekeke

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