Musings: the Quandary of an Anime Fan and Society’s Viewpoint

Not too long ago, I was walking through a shopping mall named Funan Digitallife Mall, a place stocked from head to toe with gaming stores, anime merchandise stores, and electronics. In my small country, it is also well known as an area where many smaller-sized anime conventions, cosplay events were held. In other words, it is similar to a mini-heaven for anime fans, for every shop I pass there is inevitably some anime-related posters stuck in shop windows or at shop entrances, intent on strongly appealing to the like-minded.

Anyway, on that day, there happened to be a convention of sorts on the ground floor selling all sorts of anime merchandise, together with cosplaying competitions and a large anime-screening theater. I believe it was showing an episode of ‘Date A Live’, or some other anime clearly belonging to the harem comedy genre, which I wouldn’t be familiar with, because I watch very little of those anime.

My friend and I were walking past all these stalls, where there was a good crowd of clear anime fans. My friend was clearly curious, pausing a little in his steps to peer at the merchandise they were selling. I maintained a steady pace, letting my eyes slide over figurines of Kirito, Asuna, Saber, and Archer.

“What are these?”

“Figurines from different anime.”

“Wow, so ex!” He replies. I squint a little at the price tags on the figurine boxes. Expensive, yes, but merchandise always cost a bomb for what it looked like it was worth.

“These things are always expensive,” I tell him the truth.

“Huh …” his voice trailed off, before he realised with a start that we had stopped beside a group of guys proudly wearing anime-themed shirts and chattering excitedly with the booth owner. “Let’s go,” his voice took on a hint of anxiety, “Let’s move away before they talk to us.” I turned sharply towards him, but he was already shushing me away from the booth and increasing his pace.

That incident was but a small fragment of how the perennial world-view towards anime fans and anime lovers has not changed. Modern society has always viewed the concept of ‘otaku’ in a negative light. This applies not only to countries with fear-mongering online communities which harbour a deep-seated bias against Japan’s ability to manipulate the subconscious through the attractiveness of its soft power i.e. culture, but also even within Japan itself, where the term was born. Strictly speaking, ‘otaku’ does not mean anything more than a person who is a zealous fan of an area of interest, and becomes so well-versed and obsessed with it to the point of doing away with most or all forms of human interaction just to spend more time in indulgence in this activity. However, the term is more commonly associated with fervent manga and anime fans. How this has only come to stick with manga and anime is a question that cannot be answered simply. Historical factors, the values that anime is seen to promote, and the stereotypical personality as one that is not desired nor productive for society all have some role to play.

Given that my foray into anime has not been for quite a long time, I may not be the person most suited to state what my society’s reaction towards otaku are. However, I believe that any person who is born and bred in my society and is thoroughly steeped in it would be able to get a roughly accurate sense of what my society generally thinks.

In my country, anime lovers are actually not all that uncommon. Look at the throngs of people who visit Anime Festival Asia, an annual festival that is held annually and is a possibly substantial source of tourist revenue, that is sufficient to deter anime lovers who hate crowds. Most people wouldn’t even blink an eyelid if you say you watch anime. In fact, most young children in the country have played Pokemon on the Gameboy or Nintendo DS. Some university professors draw analogies from the Law of Equivalent Exchange from Fullmetal Alchemist, simply to bring across a learning point more clearly. In lectures, the dude in front has apparently acquired the fastest skill of tab-switching, such that with a swipe on the keypad on his Macbook, he can switch between his notes and a browser window of the latest chapter of Naruto manga. On public transport, the bespectacled guy in a suit sniggers as Eyeshield 21 runs at exaggerated lightspeed to touchdown on his phone screen. Anime is insidiously ubiquitous, though it is never a topic that is brought up to daylight or in normal, polite conversation.

One only truly generates a larger reaction when one states that he or she watches ‘mostly’ anime in his or her free time. Such reactions are mostly unconscious as most people try to appear to be non-judgmental and open-minded, an impression that is apparently more important to bring across than ridiculing or letting the expressions of distaste play across one’s facial features. But, these are not sufficient to hide their true feelings, as they are betrayed by how their eyes change or by the flitting expression which are picked up by the anime fan due to their more sensitive nature.

Part of the controversy and disgust directed at the anime otaku community is no doubt generated by the negative impressions at the demographic that it seems to be largely aimed at and the nature of the content that the rest of society is exposed to. For starters, the amount of male anime and manga fans vastly outnumber females. This overwhelmingly slanted ratio is seemingly explained by the kawaii or moe phenomenon that has translated into images of cutesy young girls in skimpy outfits or noticeably larger boobs, sometimes in suggestive positions, that seem outrageous to the larger society. The fact that this is clearly a product of hand-drawn and digitalised animation further augments the mentality that it is all an elaborate attempt to blur the lines between reality and fantasy. It certainly does not help that the hentai is seen as equivalent to anime, especially when genres like ecchi and harem do exist, and which constitute the bulk of the negativity associated with anime. People take a look at the fan demographic, look at Miku Hatsune or basically any anime girl poster, put two and two together and come to the conclusion that anime is but a farce to put ideas of child sexualisation or even child pornography into the heads of young, hot-blooded males. Couple that with the fact that anime tends to appeal to the shyer, introverted group of males, and voila! We have a force akin to terrorism to fear.

Now, that last sentence may have been a logical leap or a slight exaggeration of sorts, but these are the fundamental concerns of any other individual who is not an anime fan, when they regard any individual that proclaims to be one. The more intellectual ones, understanding that anime is more than hentai, see anime as just yet another area of interest and on par with say, watching American TV series or movies. But these are few and far between.

On the most basic level, obsession scares people. This rings true in my society which is a largely pragmatic and conservative one, so unless one is obsessed with anything that is considered a ‘legitimate’ field of study (for example, anything that is a university major), one has to tread carefully to not let his or her interest fall into the ‘obsession’ category for fear of neglecting ‘real-life concerns’. Especially when that area of interest is already disadvantaged by predominantly negative impressions.

The next time any topic related to hobbies or interest crops up with my friend, I suppose would still tell him that I watch some anime in my free time. After all, that would be nothing short of the truth.

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30 thoughts on “Musings: the Quandary of an Anime Fan and Society’s Viewpoint

  1. As always, I enjoyed reading your post a lot 🙂
    This can just be a difference in my society to yours, but I had no idea that young people can still see stuff like anime culture in such a negative light. Where I live, there is almost no difference between watching TV series and anime obsessively, at least from a social perspective.
    Saying that I went to an anime convention renders the same reaction from young people as saying that I went to a comics convention or fim festival: “Really? How was it?” or even “I heard about that! I even thought about going…” That can just be because Brazilian people have always been pretty accepting of other people’s culture.
    Seriuosly, I had no idea this type of thing still happened.
    Well, that is something new I learned today…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You are entirely right that from the outside looking in, the anime community and the media we consume can look extremely foreign, strange and sometimes incomprehensible at times. Where I live, Canada, anime is popular enough, but only as another form of ‘nerdom’ along with star wars fans, trekies, and comic book fans. the problem lays in the fact the in the west (Canada and the US at least) anime has a cultural stigma and is a form of media that is easily understood upon introduction just because of how different it is. (I in fact don’t believe this to be at all true, but it’s the popular perception)

    People are not as open about their love for the medium because of the stigma which persists that anime is weird, perverted and incomprehensible. However, I find it interesting that whenever I attend anime conventions, the attendance is an impressively even cross section of society. Food for thought.

    I believe that as the years go on, the stigma around anime will begin to fade, just as it began to do so with my generation which was introduced to Pokemon, Dragon Ball, and Sailor Moon nearly 20 years ago. Oh gosh, I’m so old. hehe.

    Great post! Keep up the great work!

    Liked by 1 person

    • In fact, the situation is made worse with the predominant impression of anime = anime girl in skimpy outfit; with least regard to the possibility of other types of anime in existence. Ah, I see where the difference lies now; in my society the only predominant ‘nerd-dom’ exists in manga/anime – we scarcely have star wars or comic book fans here – so manga/anime has borne rather a rather disproportionate part of the brunt. I am not entirely sure about things in Canada or the US, but does the cultural stigma have anything to do with xenophobic sentiments or simply a fear of foreign culture eroding home-grown culture? That was what I always wanted to find out, because I feel the stigma may be of a different type across different societies after all.
      I would say people are only open about their love for it only if they are sure the other party is receptive to it. Even so, many stop at casual anime conversations, and very few would go on to show how exactly much they watch anime.
      That is pretty interesting. Here I believe the attendance at anime conventions are mostly guys below the age of 30, thereabouts. I personally have never met a female local anime fan.
      Haha, the stigma is actually not as strong for those series simply because they were termed as ‘cartoons for kids’.
      Thank you! Your comment has actually made me realise there is more to dig in this area which I haven’t really touched upon, perhaps I would have to do a follow-up post to cover those areas 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      • In north america, the predominant ‘ner-doms’ or things like comic books, gamers and sci-fi fans. The otaku community is actually of the smallest.

        As for xenophobia, there is no sentiment that Japanese culture will erode the culture here in north america. In fact, I would argue that the opposite is true. Much of the world believes that the North american way of life is pushing itself onto other cultures!

        I have met plenty of anime loving girls. But it is true that there are not as many when you compare them to their male counterparts.

        And yes, it is 100% true that fandoms are different depending on where you are in the world.

        I would love to read a follow-up post on the matter! 🙂

        Like

      • Hmm i see. So ultimately the reason why there is a general negative impression of anime/manga fandom may not actually differ too much across cultures after all, though there’s still room to explore the intricacies. (Gonna address that point of yours in the next post!)
        I also believe that there are more anime-loving females in the international community, just not too much in my country unfortunately. ><
        Hehe great to know that 🙂 knowing someone wants to read something always gives me a lot more motivation to write it 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Despite the negative perception, I’ve found most anime fans to be generous, wonderful people. So what if we still indulge in what the world views as cartoons? I’ve enjoyed and been more connected with these “cartoons” than I have most live action series/movies/programs. Judge me if you must, but you’ll never take my anime away!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Are you always with this close guy friend? hahaha… Shopping together might look like you are an otaku couple.. I find it cute.. haha ❤ well, It's good to read your musings about anime fanatico shops in Singapore.. Also, you awas able to relate something about hentai as I remember it as my suggestion to you.. Nice one! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Firstly, this post is beautifully written!!!

    Secondly, I was really pleased when I saw you’d written about this, especially given our previous conversations about it. Though I find that it is not all that uncommon over here to be obsessed with something ‘geeky’, there is, and probably always will be a stigma attached to it which is unfortunate. It’s mostly in a professional sense but, even with some of my friends I won’t quite reveal the extent of my obsessions which are considered, frankly, childish. If I was still under the age of 16 it might be considered okay but, as a grown woman with a profession and rent to pay, it is considered out of the question for me to still be interested in this stuff to the extent that I am. Why should the things that make me happy change so drastically just cause I have aged a year? When is the cut off point where these things stop being okay?

    As a regular convention goer, I can attest to the poor attitude towards the ‘otaku’, ‘geek’ or ‘nerd’ in my country and I can also attest to the fact that this negative attitude doesn’t just originate from outsiders. It is also very much present within the community itself, especially towards women.

    It is very unfortunate and can be upsetting and, whilst sometimes it feels good to let your ‘geek flag fly’, it can deter people from talking about the things they love for fear of feeling like an animal in a zoo.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much ^^ Compliments from fellow writers with so much to offer like you are the best for me (:

      You are right; I actually think we face this problem together as we grow older – it becomes less and less easy to let other people know how obsessed we are with what we love. Somehow when we are an adult we are expected to be more rational and have lesser ‘irrational’ feelings like love and obsession towards non-living things ><
      Sigh, I admit I sometimes still fear about talking about anime with people I know. That upsets me at times mainly because I know I don't have to feel this way but somehow its still somewhat of a knee-jerk reaction. I hope this changes with time, though!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ahhhhh, You’re going to make me blush *hides*

        I genuinely have a lot of respect for your writing 🙂

        It’s strangely counter-intuitive, isn’t it? We become older so we become more and more aware of who we are as people but at the same time we show less and less of our true selves to those around us.

        When I was younger I was more than happy to run around telling people that “I am Hermione Granger and one day I will marry Ron Weasley” now I am more inclined to say, in my most self-depreciating voice “I don’t know what it is I adore so much about pixelated people, but…” however I DO know what it is I love. I know myself very well and I know for a fact that it is Natsu’s infallible smile that makes me adore him and Hinata’s boundless energy that makes me grin like an idiot every time I see him, so why do I lie? Because every little white lie hides a part of myself that I have become inexplicably terrified of letting the world see. It is so incredibly illogical. You could actually call it an irrational decision to hide all things which are widely considered irrational.

        I would love to say that I love being different and unique but for some reason there is this weird ‘adult’ part of me that is determined to be as ‘normal’ and ‘non-descript’ as possible, except on WordPress, where I am within my rights to be as downright ‘peculiar’ as I feel like because only like-minded people are watching ^.^

        Liked by 1 person

      • Its really unfortunate that it should turn out this way, don’t you think? Yet, society’s views weigh so much on us that it isn’t us having low self-esteem about what we love, but in many ways because of the responsibilities that come with age we no longer are so carefree in showing other people that irrational side of us. It is indeed irrational, and yet, it kind of makes perfect sense :/
        Its exactly the same for me, I think in real life I even bore myself because of that anxiety to be as ‘non-descript’ as possible and ‘normal’, and its also really through online platforms like WordPress where the rest of the weirdness shows. Its hard to strike that balance and I am still finding a way around it by also trying to find other interests in the ‘normal’ so that it counterbalances the ‘irrational’, but sometimes I just want to soak in the ‘irrational’, haha!

        Liked by 1 person

      • It’s very unfortunate. Imagine how much more passionately you’d look at the world if you could live each day, unashamedly loving what you love without any fear of retaliation or ‘labelling’? It does make perfect sense in the most horribly true way. It is for this reason that I have made it my mission to inject a little more of ‘Me’ into my everyday life. I now sport a Murasakibara keyring on my work bag and own various necklaces with vaguely disguised geeky references which I wear to work on days that I think I can get away with it. Wearing soot sprites on my thumb nails for a week served to give me most wicked anxiety but also made me feel quite liberated, a part of me was looking around excitably for that one person who’d get the reference. I’m trying to make it into a game.

        I am useless at trying to find ‘normal’ hobbies. I took up crochet and sewing because everyone around me was crafting. Whilst they made pretty blankets I learnt to produce amigurumi and felted Ghibli references. I decided to immerse myself in books much like I did as a child but I can’t focus on the ‘read of the month’ books, instead I spent 6 months religiously obsessing over Game Of Thrones. I even suck at those typical ‘girl’ things because, to be frank, shopping isn’t going to interest me unless I am in a shop that a) Stocks my size and b) has at least one action figure. I have come to terms with one fact over my years of trying to be normal:

        I am GEEK! Hear me roar!! Haha!!

        Like

      • Ah, I actually get that feeling of putting subtle references all over whatever I use daily, including phone screens etc.and putting badges on my pencil case. However, because there is still a lot to worry about especially when I accidentally bring it to a place where it is inappropriate to show such things (unfortunately), I have decided to lessen such influences. I have thought of another idea though: playing anime songs whenever I get on the piano, because sound travels far and its like an SOS signal to fellow anime fans, literally ^^
        I don’t quite get why Game of Thrones isn’t a normal hobby, because part of the reason why I picked it up in the first place was because a lot of people were watching it over here ^^ though I would say, the ‘normal’ hobbies that I have tried to acquire is an interest in current affairs, though I have problems sustaining that daily. Haha, I can’t be bothered about the ‘girl’ things either (as you know), I consider those quite a waste of my time ><
        Haha absolutely, let yourself roar!!! (:

        Like

  6. You know, this was pretty interesting, for some reason I never really think about why anime is a ‘bad thing’ I just figured people didn’t like it because it’s childish (cartoons = for little kids) never really thought people associated anime with ecchi-like qualities (at least not here in NA). where have i been living xD

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have actually thought a lot about this because I realise I need to think about it if I want to convince or persuade people into trying anime xD
      You’re right in that some people think its childish but also the other ‘ecchi’ side is also pretty known – especially in Japan and in Asian countries >< perhaps its because Asian cultures historically have had more exposure to Japanese culture as a whole!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I recently started reading a bit about anime and its history so I’ve heard about that, not to mention that some manga with otaku show them being isolated because they’re so obsessed with figures and cute girls haha

        How has that gone? I don’t usually try to persuade/convince people to try anime unless I know they have an interest, since I don’t usually succeed. then again I talk with older and busier people so that can be why I don’t have positive results xD

        Liked by 1 person

      • Haha so far, I haven’t really been successful at all and not even once. There is some hope though, with Attack on Titan Live Action hitting the big screens and being well known enough to get people curious about the source material, so I am gonna work on that!
        Yep, I encounter the same problem in that I often also talk to a lot of busy people, so the chances of success are even lower xD

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I don’t know if this kind of negativity exists in my country, because I hardly know any anime fans. The only major event that unites anime fans is the Comic Con that is held every year.
    It’s kind of sad that people who are going to watch anime are left astray by hentai/ecchi/harem. I had two people in my class who wanted to try watching anime but their friends (who watched anime) suggested hentai/ecchi/harem. I don’t know why they do this, it really discourages people and gives them a negative impression of anime. Why do they do this? 😬

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, I really agree with you there! Those genres are definitely probably the worst ones to recommend to a beginner in anime, and it certainly doesn’t do well to perpetuate the not-so-good perception that anime has already garnered. My guess is that perhaps it is a case of them genuinely being introduced to anime by these genres, or just recommending something they think these people may like?
      Thanks for the comment btw even though this post was quite some time ago, really appreciate it! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: Why are anime fans weird? | Jeffrey's blog

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