Anime fan: am I one? Am I a good fan? What makes me a fan? What level of effort should I put into this fandom thing? These are all questions I ask myself on a regular basis. Before I can answer these questions, though, let me give some background about myself.
I’m known online as Crimm, a father of 3 wonderful children, a dedicated husband, and an IT Director of a large 24x7x365 enterprise. As you can easily imagine my day-to-day life is a very busy one, but I strive nightly to ensure that I feed my addiction needs with at least 3-20(!) episodes of anime. I’ve been watching anime consistently for over 15 years, starting with dubbed Dragon Ball Z and Pokemon episodes in the afternoons after school. Little did I know that watching those 3 episode-long Saiyan power-ups would turn into the shonen obsession I have today (Fairy Tail, in particular).
I’ve also always watched anime alone until recently, which, as the reader, you will quickly find is a hidden pet peeve of mine. Well, that’s not exactly true, thanks to suggestions of friends; I’ve started involving my three children in watching/reading some age-appropriate Japanese entertainment material.
Reverting back to the original, self-absorbed question about being a fan or not: I can’t answer it. I never have been able to. I would like to consider myself an otaku. I buy anime and manga, I watch a lot of anime, I read manga, I collect figures, I eat Japanese delicacies, and I’m attempting to learn Japanese, so why can’t I answer that question?
It’s simple: Comparison. When I compare myself to the anime enthusiasts around me, I feel like a newbie. Even though I’ve watched (according to anime-planet.com) over 3 months’ worth of anime, there are times I can’t hold anime-related conversations with others that I would consider true otaku. Sure, one could argue that I have more important things to focus on, but even with that rationale I feel like I’m not fulfilling my fandom duties.
As I pseudo-stated before I’ve been watching anime alone for as long as I can remember. This brings me to a point that I want to discuss, but have never really brought up with anyone: Anime communities. Let’s take a step back almost 4 years ago where it all started.
There I was, searching for Windows Vista/7 anime widgets, when I ran across a site named Anime Planet. I had found three new things: an anime tracker, a recommendation engine, and a community. I immediately joined, with hopes of getting involved, finding friends, and learning new things. Anime Planet has been wonderful, because it has led me to find new anime, make some wonderful friends, and learn new things. Unfortunately, like most websites I have found, they have what feels like to me, an unwelcoming anime community.
From someone that still considers himself new to anime, anime lovers can come off very harsh and judgmental. I’ve never understood why. I consider myself very outgoing, I enjoy meeting new people, and experiencing new things, but I’ve never felt welcome in any anime community. If it wasn’t for twitter helping me find people like Charles, Patches, Dan, Cass, and many, many others (too many great friends to list), I might have given up on anime. That’s a sad fact, but a true one. I have now attended a few conventions, but due to the feeling just mentioned, I haven’t been able to venture into more cons without someone attending with me.
In my opinion, the fandom is growing, which is extremely evident to anyone, but what may or may not be evident is the negatives of that growth. The members of the communities need to learn to be more open. I’d feel much more inclined to participate in anime group events (online or off) if I didn’t feel like I’d be criticized for being ignorant about certain facts, terms, etc. All of these new people to anime need a home, a senpai, and, as shonen would put it, “the power of friendship” so they can be steered and coached in the right direction.
Please don’t misunderstand me: there have been a few people online that have really helped me grow as a wannabe otaku. (Special mention to Patches for dealing with me every day.) They’ve helped me learn terms, find anime, and teach me the ropes. To those people, you have my eternal gratitude, as I can probably never pay you back for your hours of persistence and teaching. That’s not where all of it came from though. A lot of my growth and learning came from making a public mistake, being (what seemed like) rudely corrected, then researching the correction to understand why I made the mistake. I especially have this one yokai memory that still haunts me.
It shouldn’t be that way. It should be that if a new person makes a mistake, or needs help, the community should be open, helpful, and/or comforting. The community members should always remember the fact that they were once new and timid. The community should remember that new people are expecting to be mocked and they should avoid that behavior. The community should welcome the new people into their fandom.
I can hear the arguments come rolling in now. “This/That community is always helping people!” Is it really though? Or is it like most communities that use racial or derogatory LBGT slang terms towards other people in the community? Do your community members constantly tell people to “Google it!”? Or do your members constantly correct someone for using a term incorrectly, with short sentences that don’t help a person learn? If your community truly is welcoming, please let me know about it, I’d be happy to join and give it a try.
I haven’t seen or been to every community out there, nor should you expect me to. It only takes one experience to ruin you from wanting to experience it again. Sure there may be communities out there that aren’t full of rotten apples, and yes I know the old saying that one bad apple can ruin the bunch, but I haven’t found a community that makes me feel at home. I’m still looking. It may be that I have thin skin, because I feel like an outcast or a newbie. It may be all me, that I have a fear of rejection, but why do I have that fear of rejection? I’ve been burned one too many times. There are only so many times you can ask me to stick my hand in a fire before I relate all fires to pain.
Let’s move forward to another topic, specifically about obtaining anime. Knowing that I’m still new to a few things I’ve been SHOCKED to find how hard it is to give the anime industry money. I don’t want to pirate, I don’t want to illegally download, and I don’t want to stream on illegal sites… I only want to buy my media, or pay for legal streaming services. I currently have the job, the money, and the means to buy anime and manga, so I want to make sure that I give back to the anime/manga industry while I can.
Unfortunately, I’ve found this extremely difficult in some cases. What shocks me the most is that sometimes the most popular series (Example: Steins;Gate) was almost impossible to find when I wanted to watch it. The anime industry needs to realize something. The world we are in today is one in which all data, video, and audio can be obtained at the flick of a finger. What has this caused? It has caused a society that has a need for instant gratification and impulse buying.
There are times that I want to watch a specific anime that I see everyone talking about, and guess what … they are all enjoying it via torrent. What the hell? I want to watch it. I want to buy it. Anime industry, I WANT to give you money. Therefore, I go searching for it. Is it for sale? Nope. Again, what the hell? Therefore, I say forget it. There are a ton of legal anime I can obtain quickly to fulfill my specific need on sites like Crunchyroll. That moment of wanting to watch that specific anime has now passed. Anime industry you just lost money. The anime industry is facing the same issues as the media industries of America. It’s time to get it together and realize what a powerful money-making tool the internet can be. Give me content and I’ll happily give you cash. Crunchyroll’s, Neflix’s, and Funimation’s success should be a clear indicator that it’ll work.
As I stated before, I’ve only been to a few cons. Specifically, I fly up to Otakon every year. I really enjoy cons. It gives me time to spend time with the ani-friends I have. Without them, I would have given up on being a fan of anime. I look forward to spending time with them every year. To get to see people displaying their love for a character in cosplay, to shop in the dealer’s room, to attend panels, and my favorite – group episode viewings. All of which makes me very happy. I feel like I’m with people with similar interests and unlike the unwelcoming feeling that I get in other communities, there’s a sense of camaraderie in conventions. The feeling like everyone is a friend.
At Otakon 2011 I ended up alone at one point. My phone was almost dead, and I was a stranger to the city of Baltimore. I decided to test that camaraderie, and sat down next to a couple that was cosplaying, of what I don’t remember, and asked to borrow an iphone charger so I could reconnect with my friends. Much to my amazement the gentleman scooted over, gave me his charger, and asked me to join them. It was pleasant. We had a nice talk about sentai anime while we waited for my phone to charge, and the panel to start.
My final thought on cons isn’t a pleasant one. It’s that I wish I could change one thing: Safety. With any large group there are certain unwanted people. I wish that I could bring my children to conventions, but I don’t feel safe doing so. That’s a shame.
I’m from a small town in the Southern US. People here don’t watch anime. It’s considered childish. I use my Senior Management position, my outgoing nature, and quirky attitude to educate people otherwise. When I first started my position, I hid my need to cover my surroundings with Japanese trinkets, wallpapers, and toys. After a short time of being here though I decided it was time to shine. Be proud of who I am. In my opinion, no one should EVER hide something that makes them happy. Share it with the world. Bring others in on it. You’d be surprised who else might have the same hobby.
I started slow by bringing my Clamp chess set to the office for display on my desk. Then I increased the amount of figures a little bit, and purchased a set of Fairy Tail nendroids. Now, my office and laptop are covered in Japanese paraphernalia. I’ve had people ask about it and I really enjoy explaining why I have them, who each character is, and why I enjoy anime. This behavior of welcoming others into your hobby is what I’m looking for in an anime community.
There it is. As you can tell the story comes full circle. Hobbies, like yourself, are defined by the company you keep. I want to surround myself with other anime enthusiast. I want to attend more conventions. I want to get involved in more group anime viewings or events. I want to become a better fan, an otaku. But, until I can learn to grow tougher skin to keep trying more anime communities – I’ll be doing this wannabe fandom thing solo; with the help of close online friends and my loving and accepting children. I’ll also keep asking myself: Am I a fan? Am I an otaku? I’ll be the only person able to ever answer that question.