The Anime Fan’s Dilemma?

DON’T OPEN THE CLOSET DOOR!

It’s where I hide my anime…

DAMMIT, WORDPRESS, YOU ATE MY FUCKING POST.

I had a good post written, a solid piece. But WordPress ate the whole damn thing, leaving me with merely eleven words that I’d written as the intro! Fucking hell!

So, now you’re going to get the bastardized version instead.

OreImo and Kuragehime represent opposite ends of the otaku spectrum, in that OreImo is about someone who desperately tries to hide her otakudom whereas Kuragehime is about a bunch of women who embrace it whole-heartedly and openly – or as openly as anyone who is afraid of going out in public can. Its actually an interesting contrast, and I’m glad they are airing in the same season, honestly, even if I’m not really watch OreImo. And I also enjoy having them airing simultaneously given the recent trend toward having more otaku-centric shows out there. I enjoy contrasts.

But I also find myself curiously unable to relate to either model, something I realized the other day when it occurred to me that I was unsure whether most of my friends are aware or not of my mad love for anime, in particular those I attended college with.

My room at home has a Jigoku Shoujo poster on the door, shelves of anime and manga, several anime-related alarm clocks, and a few figurines sitting about. I make no bones about the fact that I like anime. At school, the presence was much more muted, although this was due to space constraints in terms of both how small my dorm room was and how limited the space in my luggage was as well. I had a lone figurine, and the only anime on my shelf were the half-season-style sets of Fullmetal Alchemist I bought while I was at school. A few volumes of manga sat amongst my other non-academic books on the top shelf, but the only constant was my copy of Aquarium. My DVD travel-case-thing was mainly crammed with anime DVD’s, and only contained four DVD’s that were not anime (The Departed, the original version of The Fog, Hott Fuzz, and 8 Mile), so there really was never any occasion to take it out in front of others. Anime fans in America are, in general, pretty rare, and the only one I knew of at my school was allergic to laundry detergent and thus never did his laundry.

On the other hand, did I actively seek out other fans? No. But I never really felt any need to; I had friends who were obsessive about America’s Next Top Model and professional soccer, neither of which I’ve ever had any interest in, but that didn’t make any difference in our friendships. Which either speaks to the fact that I am, ultimately, a loner by nature (something I slowly realized over the past four years or so, and which I also realized doesn’t mean that one possesses no relationships with others, but actually simply means I am pretty happy to be by myself), or that I… I don’t know. Can talk about something other than my number one hobby, I guess? Can look beyond superficial qualifiers to see the awesome human beneath?

Yeah, I almost choked in disbelief when I wrote that sentence. That is a truly awful sentence.

Moving along.

Friends have been in and out of both my college dorm room and my regular bedroom at home. No one has ever commented on any anime-related stuff present, and I have only commented on it once – a male friend was staying with me, and I had told him to feel free to peruse my bookshelf, but cautioned him against cracking open any of the manga. About half my collection is BL, and I figured he’d just rather not see it.

And I find all of this very funny in light of anime characters who scramble around madly, desperately trying to hide the fact that they are actually crazy, crazy fans of things that society generally casts aspersions upon. Granted, it obviously wouldn’t be as funny if they were just regular people who were well-adjusted and didn’t have self-esteem issues. But I do find it amusing given that these anime do that, and that this is also the general message sent to fans at large – that your hobby is something that others will look upon as being childish and stupid, so you’d better keep that under wraps, or you’d better embrace it whole-heartedly and get ready to occupy the land of the ugly, the unwashed, and the un-socialized.

Now, do I consider myself an otaku? Not really. I’m a huge fan, but I just don’t identify with the term.

(Aside time! The furor that can be generated by the term ‘otaku’ to me is pretty fucking stupid. Yes, people use it differently in non-Japanese fandom than Japanese people use it. Big deal. Or should I bet getting on a high-horse and starting a crusade over the Japanese usage of the English-language ‘mansion’? And does this mean I somehow managed to miss the huge battles over the use of the terms ‘shounen-ai’ and ‘shoujo-ai’ in American fandom to denote light homosexual content although they are used in Japan to indicate that something is pedophilic in terms of content? Language isn’t dead, morons – get over it.)

Anyway, yes, I’m a big fan. A huge fan. I have a freaking anime blog, for crying out loud. I write posts dissecting orientalism in shows no one cares about and which no one will ever read. My homepage on my web browser is RightStuf – just so I can keep up-to-date on their sales. I can babble incessantly about the market forces and economics of anime both in Japan and in America. I’ve seen hundreds of shows, read literally thousands of manga. I have subscriptions to Crunchyroll and the Anime Network (online version). The only movies I’ll go watch sight-unseen are Hayao Miyazaki films. I spend more money on anime than anything else (yes, even alcohol! very shocking, I know). I cannot even fathom the idea of ‘growing out of’ it. I love the damn thing, heart and soul.

And yet it appears that most people I’m friends with aren’t particularly aware of it. From which we can further extrapolate that most people just don’t care that I happen to be a lover of kiddy stuff and cartoon porn. AMAZING.

And, ZOMG I JUST MANAGED TO FINISH THIS IN TIME FOR THE NEWEST EPISODE OF SHIKI TO APPEAR ON HULU ZOMGGGGGGGG *dies*

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17 Responses to The Anime Fan’s Dilemma?

  1. At this point nobody really gives much of a reaction when I tell them I like anime and have an anime blog. I don’t shout it to the world but I don’t hide it either. My wife however, does go to work in Ah! My Goddess T-shirts and her office has figs and a huge Prince of Tennis calendar (she practices law for the government and the Judge Advocate General).

    • adaywithoutme says:

      Man, your wife just sounds so cool.

      I am actually pretty sure that none of my friends know I have an anime blog. But it just honestly would never come up in conversation anyway.

  2. Caddy C says:

    My best friend and I are pretty huge anime fans, although she has been into it since Sailor Moon and was drawing fanart long before I even knew what this new-fangled “Japanimation” stuff was. But when I got into it, we shared our love of anime and forged a pretty close bond because of it – neither of us could really share our yaoi tastes with anyone else. 😛

    When she went to Japan and a group went to visit her, she was ecstatic to show me all the doujin she had bought (and kept in the closet, lol). But, she told me in no uncertain terms that she avoided letting the people she interacted with at her job and in her very small town know that she was anything beyond a casual fan. Her students found out that she liked Sasuke from Naruto, and had seen the band Psycho le Cemu, and she was mortified when they found that out! It seems that being an otaku is so much more of a big deal in Japan – even if it is stigmatized here, it doesn’t seem to be the same. Now, she was also a white gaijin, so that may have also had something to do with the pressure she felt.

    My walls are covered in Saiyuki & Gintama posters 🙂 My friends are all geeks of one kind or another, and we share that part of our lives – I’m glad for it, too.

    • adaywithoutme says:

      Oh man, yeah, I’d think especially for a gaijin it would look bad to be really into anime. Because then it gets assumed that you have gone to Japan solely because you are this crazy, crazy person who is in love with anime, which is worse than just being a crazy, crazy person who has lived in Japan their whole life and is in love with anime.

      I had a few Japanese room-mates when I was in school, and I consciously never brought up anime with them because there were classmates of mine who just assumed that all Japanese people love anime. I only talked anime with one of the girls once, and she had brought it up herself. She liked the dramas more, though.

      • Caddy C says:

        Yeah, I gather that it wasn’t especially easy being a gaijin in a really, really small town in rural Japan – especially an anime fan. When we went to an anime store in Sendai with our friends who had come along, there were a couple of guys outside the store hanging out who very clearly made fun of us in Japanese when we left. I don’t really think my other friends noticed, but the one who was teaching there did and was pretty embarrassed.

        Then again, I also think it would probably be pretty tough for a Japanese anime fan to live in a small town in rural America, honestly. Just thinking of the small town I grew up in – there was one small comic book shop, and believe you me, you didn’t want other people seeing you go in there.

        When we were in college here, it was a lot easier for us to find people who had similar interests. I actually think it’s unfortunate that some people feel they have to hide their anime fandom from their friends. I hide my fandom from my coworkers, but then again, I don’t really get that close to my coworkers in general. If you want to keep it to yourself, that’s a totally different thing, of course.

  3. doriinatrix says:

    Great post, I can relate a lot to it. Since I’m not in college *yet*, I still have anime crap everywhere, but my friends (bless their hearts) don’t say anything. I’m going to miss having all my figures with me in college though.

    • adaywithoutme says:

      Yeah, you really gotta pick and choose carefully on the stuff you bring to college since there just really isn’t a ton of space – and in my case I had more space than most since I lived in a single. I only had two figures with me in college, and one wasn’t even an anime figure – it was Captain Jack Harkness from Torchwood.

  4. Scamp says:

    Yeah this does strike me as a Japanese phenomenon because of all the otaku shit on the news. I can’t think of an equal version in the western world. Tabletop gaming? Probably not. Twilight fan? Closer but not quite the same

    • adaywithoutme says:

      I suppose the nearest Western equivalent is just the generalized stereotype about computer and video game nerds. But even that is getting fairly diffuse at this point since so many people now play video games – I mean, hell, physical therapy at many hospitals and outpatient clinics now utilizes the Wii to help patients regain their motor skills.

      I think stigma about tabletop gaming folks was much stronger in the 80’s and the early to mid-90’s.

      Honestly, the only extremely visible obsessive fans in America are sports fans, and that is largely considered completely acceptable by society. My mother is a sports otaku.

  5. Shance says:

    Otakuism is a varying aesthetic, just like moe. It is different from person to person. What is not otakuism for you may be otakuism for others, Japanese or otherwise. Aside from that note, I think you’re good, since at least you know where your fandom stands, and you’re firm with it.

    Nice post!

    • adaywithoutme says:

      Thanks =) I think the closest I get to ever considering myself an otaku is when it comes to BL, although I really don’t like the term ‘fujoshi’. I prefer to go for ‘BL loser’, which while certainly not an attractive term doesn’t have the gendered aspect of ‘fujoshi’.

      I find your take on ‘otaku’ and ‘moe’ interesting, although definitely ‘moe’ moreso. Have you ever done a post on that? Maybe you should.

  6. Baka-Raptor says:

    It’s pretty easy for me to hide my anime stuff from my friends. I don’t buy any anime stuff, and I don’t have any friends.

  7. glothelegend says:

    I just finished up a post kind of similar to this. Kind of….not really….

    Shiki is on Hulu? I’m so far behind in that show it’s not even real. It’s a pity too because it looks fucking great.

    • adaywithoutme says:

      Hop on it and watch the damn thing! And, yes, it is on Hulu. It seems that Funi has built a strong enough relationship with the noitaminA block to make it a virtual guarantee that they will simulcast noitaminA shows on Hulu each new season.

  8. Crusader says:

    Well for me it’s out in the open but I don’t go out of my way to point it out. Besides it’s different here in the US, and now that you are in the military you will find that with the near zero level of privacy that the enlisted get you will meet people with seemingly strange hobbies, and no one really cares unless it is CP. You see on weird hobby you think you have seen them all.

    Also in the case of anime fan we got rolled up with the general nerd term and for the most part nerds are generally accepted since video gaming has gotten much larger and the anime aesthetic is less of a strange thing given how wildly popular FFVII got and how JRPGs are all over Gamestop shelves and litter the video game sections of Targets and Best Buys. Nerds are a commercial commodity now even if the Best Buy Geek Squad aren’t all that more intelligent than the average person. Within the military at least people are aware of Robotech for the older crowd so they think that’s all there is to it. For the under thirty there was Sailor Moon and that pretty much imparted passing knowledge of it. For every parent there is still Pokemon… Lastly there is always at least one anime shop in every Chinatown and a lot of cities have those.

    If you go to Japan you will not be there because you love animu and mango you will be there because you are the mean American occupier. Also Navy released Mango to try and reduce the flak from having a nuclear carrier stationed in a Japanese port. For the most part enlisted side we try not to put our finger in someone else’s pie. Different for officers vs enlisted though. Your still a butter bar so we try to ignore you as best we can and mock you behind your back when you give us lame tasks, it will change when you make 1LT though, maybe.

    • adaywithoutme says:

      Actually, I read that manga that the Navy released, although it was a bit of time ago, so I don’t remember it too well.

      Anyway, I’m not active for the time being anyway. They need reservists more right now ’cause more people wanna be active duty folks. Even so, the chances of me getting stationed at Okinawa are pretty remote. Most of the stuff I’d qualify for is further north and there is less animosity in those areas since the presence is much lower. I think going to South Korea is much worse – I’ve known people stationed there, and they had very bad experiences with the Korean civilians, people being very rude and throwing rocks, etc.

      Earlier up in the comments, Scamp and I were trying to think if there really is a Western equivalent of the otaku, or, rather, the stigma attached to it, these days. I think this relates to what you said about the term ‘nerd’. Gaming has become so mainstream that I’m not convinced that the terms ‘nerd’ and ‘geek’ really mean much any more – at least, they don’t really have any meaning outside of middle schools, but that’s to be expected (middle school was also basically the only time when people were cruel to me for liking anime, but, hell, they would’ve been cruel to me even if I didn’t like anime).

      As for nerds as a commercial commodity… the fact that there is now this concept of ‘nerd chic’ kind of says it all, doesn’t it?

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