Why it’s Hard to Admit I Love Anime (at least where I live)

I just saw that otaku run past here, let's split up and find that #^%^&!

We all have a pre-disposition as to whether or not, and how soon, we confess our obsessions to normal people in society.  That’s not to say anime/manga/VN is bad, I’m just saying it’s not the FIRST thing I tell someone (I like to make them think I’m sane before I show them the dark, twisted abyss that is my inner-mind).   But why is it so hard to get someone to take you seriously when you do serious things involving anime? I personally can’t get any serious responses from advisors at school when I tell them “animation” as a career, and that’s not even bringing up anime.

Oh? Anime? That's...uh...interesting...

In my experience, there are two general responses another person will have when you tell them you’re into anime/manga/VN (assuming they aren’t as well): the first being the playfully dodging response of “Oh, that’s neat” or “Really?”. No offenses intended, but at the same time they’d rather not get into it. They (at least somewhat) respect your hobby and respectfully wish to not discuss it, as they probably have no interest in it themselves. The second being more annoying, the condescending “What? Really!?”, “Oh mah god, that’s soooo middle school”, or “Whatever, nerd”.  While, admittedly in context, these are rational responses, I still wonder why is there such negative connotation towards something that really shouldn’t garner that kind of bad press (aside from the obvious darker side, but it’s not like mainstream media/hobbies aren’t R-rated in some ways and fashions as well).

For the (what I’m calling) “average” otaku/anime fan/manga reader/VN enthusiast, we typically keep to ourselves, occasionally sharing our pass times with others like-minded. So it would seem we shouldn’t attract such degrading responses.  But a large part of the not-so-hospitable comebacks to our hobbies, I feel, lies in the more spotlight-attracting fans of the genre.  Most often referred to as “weeaboos”, they are usually seen as the “scum of the non-Japanese, Japanese-enthusiasts”, or anyone of non-Japanese descent (i.e., European, African, Latino, etc.) who is overly obsessed with the culture of Japan, to the point where they play ignorance towards their own. I like this definition from Urban Dictionary: A non-Japanese person that either considers themselves Japanese, or wishes they were. Often confused with the word otaku which in Japanese is usually referring to a geek, while in English it usually means someone is obsessed with anime, unlike a weeaboo, who is not only obsessed with anime, but the whole entire culture. They are known to use Japanese words in the middle of English sentences, and they are hated by society. (source)

-BeldenOtaku :3

In case you’ve never read my pen-name at the bottom of each post, I go by the username “BeldenOtaku”, “Belden” being a reference to where I once lived, and “Otaku” being an obvious reference to the japanese word for “geek” (specifically, and often derogatorily aimed at, geeks obsessed with anime/manga/VN). While “otaku” carries some negative connotation in itself (and I understand why some prefer not to use it), I see it more in the way “nerd” or “geek” is used today. Only hurtful if you don’t embrace it is as a title befitting your obsession, I reference a phrase I’ve heard a bit: “Nerd and Proud”, and it seems “otaku” is the only word I can fittingly use to describe myself. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had “otaku” thrown at me in negative fashions before, but, as stated, if you take it as your own, you become what defines it, not letting others use it to wrongly define you.

Shirt should say "Not a Weeaboos, and Proud!"

This brings me back to the original point, why can it be so hard to admit to others I spent more time writing anime reviews than I do on an average school assignment? Maybe it comes down to the terrible nuisance that is the “weeaboos”, who give off an air of petty, narrow-minded obsession whereas I’m more centrist, understanding why people do and do not like anime/manga/VN.  Or maybe it’s just a simple culture shock, seen as unnatural to be interested in something that isn’t homegrown and socially accepted in the mainstream.  To be wrongly pre-defined is injustice and ignorant, but I’m worried if we, the rational fans and readers, are in some way partly to blame, or is there something we can do to fix this? Right now, I still don’t spend too long in the manga section of my bookstore, or openly engage anyone with Americanized anime/manga in public, for fear of being associated with someone who tarnishes what I strive to be a respectable pass-time (it may also be the social anxiety, but mostly the first thing)

What are your thoughts? It does no good for one person to ramble about it if it isn’t shared in the hearts and minds of other fans….

Until next time,
– BeldenOtaku

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29 thoughts on “Why it’s Hard to Admit I Love Anime (at least where I live)

  1. Good post.

    I’ve only been insulted for being a ‘nerd’ once and to be honest since I have the emotions of a rock when it comes to insults I took it pretty well. That being said I avoid bringing up the topic of anime in conversation with people who aren’t into anime because most of the them react with the “Oh, that’s neat” and avoid the topic. Plus there is a chance you get the “What? Really!?” and although I can handle that I normally prefer not to put myself into that situation to start with.

    I say be a nerd and be proud. If someone asks me about anime of coarse I’ll going to rant on about my favorite anime and why it’s so great.

    People trying to be “Japanese” when they aren’t is another story all together.

  2. Good post, I tend to have the same problem of not wanting to talk about it unless I know someone else is into anime as well. The responses tend to range from “You still watch cartoons?” to an awkward change of topic to an hour long discourse on how Naruto is the greatest anime of all time. Once I had someone assume I did sing along to anime songs. Someone else automatically assumed that I did cosplay. I’m pretty sure if I told some people they would assume I was a sex offender. *sigh*

    And I only tell people that I know very well, like anime and that I trust to keep a low profile on my behalf that I run a blog. Do not want this to become known to my parents or common knowledge where I work for fear that people will actually read it. Sad but true. 😦

    • Same here, most people IRL have no clue this is why I’m in my room 12 hours a day :3 (if not more).
      I chose to not delve into the…darker…sides and assumptions that accompany being an otaku, but they’re there nonetheless. Again, it’s the curse of association that causes these false assumptions to fall upon the average fan. Not to say I’m not into cosplay, but to hear someone say “Oh..so you…cosplay?” is kind of insulting that not only they assume I do it, but they also seem to look down on it (meaning they look down on me for something they assume I do).
      And that’s not even touching things like hentai, yaoi, etc…

  3. I cannot really approve of the argument that the hate is understandable, only “misdirected”. I have never met a “weaboo” in my life, or rather I choose not to pigeonhole others just because what they love doing seems childish/stupid/unworthy/whatever to me.

    Ultimately, you’re looking down on somebody because of their interests and how they express them, which is the same treatment you get from people who “don’t understand” anime. Good job propagating the attitude you hate so much.

    I know the above sounds harsh, and I can only apologize. But unless we learn to hate certain disruptive behavior instead of whole groups of “scapegoat” people, we’re never getting out of this vicious circle.

    • I apologize if I gave the wrong impression, of course I’m not asking to hate those who play the part of “weeaboo”, but I can see how, in my attempt to understand why anime fans get the negative connotation, it would seem I’m “passing the buck”, so to speak, to those who are found to be annoying to some.
      I’m sure they probably don’t see the harm in what they’re doing, and I hope people realize the bad stereotypes they may be spreading. In whatever you do, keep in mind to respect those around you, even if it’s just fun to you, you may be disturbing others or hurting the reputations of others who simply become associated (sometimes, wrongly so) with you or others who do so.
      (This is not targeted at any one, it’s a very general call to respect those around you. The above editorial contains opinions and deviated opinions as they pertain to, but are not exclusive to, otaku/anime fans/manga readers/VN fans who find themselves targeted for untrue assumptions, that are sometimes true of a different demographic.)
      Please, just be nice to other people :3

  4. Although I would never consider myself an Otaku for reasons everyone know (just search for Otaku Elimination Game and you see why). Still, I don’t hide it at all (I have an anime background set on my laptop and iPhone). I don’t really get shunned on since I’m Asian myself (American Born Chinese) and that my parents don’t mind at all… as long my grades are good.

    Aside from that, I agree that being an Anime fan is difficult, mostly because of the cultural differences. I understand this already because of my family and my heritage. Still, the people who pretend to being Japanese still offend me, especially because I’m asian and all and we are definitely not like that.

    • I personally can’t speak to the insult, but I do have (Indian, Japanese, and Korean) friends I can’t go to bookstores with in my town because they refuse to chance a run-in with (what they call) “Asian-wannabe douches” (their words, not mine).
      So I have seen first-hand the trouble these people can cause.
      And again, this isn’t an attack on the people, but the general disrespect some people may be unintentionally incurring onto other people. This isn’t a secret phenomenon, I’ve seen it in several cities.
      Consider this a call to just think before you act, what may just be fun to you, can be very insulting, or disrespectful to others.
      Thanks for sharing (at the risk of sounding like a support group :3)

  5. Personally, for myself, I don’t like identifying as an “otaku” since it is just a word I am not conformable with using all that much and don’t necessarily fit the same bill of flack they get. Would more consider myself a normal fan.

    Mainly, I tend to keep to myself about what I like, do, etc. Unless the person is somewhat well-acquainted with the material and knows what about well enough, only will consider talking about it, but rarely at all will I just reveal that I like it. It is not out embarrassment or insecurity that I do not disclose my interest, but more like people naturally do not understand to being with or have some VERY negative preconceived notations about Anime. My favorite ones: “Isn’t that for kids”, ” ‘Oh, cartoons”, and..well I forgot the other ones, but I heard a lot of it before out and about. Although to be fair, those fans that do wave the PRIDE flag around a little TOO heavily with obsessively trying to act Japanese, etc do tend not to help. Sometimes being too passionate is a bad thing. Well, anyway, I do not let that stuff get to me, since I pretty much don’t apply labels to myself and do not care – so that is just my rushed two cents worth.

    • And a very good two cents at that, I agree, another reason to not just come out with it is that there really is a limited pre-understanding of the obsession/pass-time, while at the same time, smothering people in your Pride Flag gives the absolutely wrong impression.
      “Keeping to yourself” is common personality trait among the fanbase (judging solely from responses to this post), so maybe we’re not all too socially skilled to start with (I know I’m not, especially with new people).
      Defining yourself seems to be a reoccurring key to dealing with peoples’ reactions to our hobbies, and not letting others pigeon-hole or define you.
      (Personal note, I fully understood the implications of “otaku” when I chose the name nearly 6 months ago, and I decided it was the one word that I could use to clearly define what I do. If someone tries using it against me, the best defense to own up to it, own the word, let yourself define it, and not to let someone else use the word to define you.)

      • Right. Admittedly, it does piss me off how people do get the wrong impression of Anime and what not, but the only correct thing to do this to correct them without coming off as an insane fan. On the other hand, I say “Why do I have to explain what I like to others that don’t understand it?” It is sort of a “What to do” dilemma, but I try to keep away from those type of things. I choose to keep to myself, because it is what I choose to do. (I do try to be a little social, despite not being too socially inclined. A little)

        As for defining myself, I just do not see it necessary. If I like something, I can just say I like it and leave it at that for myself. Sorry if sounded like I directed the comment on the whole “otaku” thing. Just another way of me saying (like you) that I do not let labels and others define me or care exactly to use them to tact that on.

        • Exactly, it’s not that I want to label myself, or anyone else, I’ve simply chosen to give myself the title “otaku”, not out of anything prideful, but just as a sign that I am this fan of this genre.
          I also understand the feeling of not needing to explain why I like the things I like and why I do the things I do, but, at the same time, there’s this nagging feeling that if I don’t, I’m just letting someone perpetuate untrue stereotypes about ALL the fans, and that really gets me emotional. Luckily, I’m quite good at making logical defenses for my passions :3 but sometimes it IS in vain, and I have to cut my losses and just regret that there’s a person out there who is gonna miss out on all the fun :3

          • I understand ^^

            Does sort of make me feel guilty that I do let the perpetuation of stereotypes go on without doing trying to at least help to explain it, but sometimes it would help if people actually did the research (the right kind) and be more open-minded. Getting into Anime and finding it is possibly one of the best hobbies I found for myself I should say. Sometimes you can not persuade people to be open-minded about something and have to let them experience it on their own. If they don’t, as you said, they will miss the fun and more of it for those that understand it or willing to try.

            • Here here, just never judge a book by it’s cover and keep an open mind (not too open that your brains fall out, though) :3
              Though some people will always just be stubborn and choose to hate on anime, probably to validate their own interests (when really they’re just showing how ugly they are on the inside), it’s always helpful to try to let people understand why we do such “weird” things (I use “weird” in a good way, if you don’t know, it’s “weird” people that change the world, “weird” ideas that move society forward). And there’s no shame in cutting a lose because someone chooses ignorance over understanding, which is the real crime.

  6. Honestly, whatever people want to call me is their preference. I’ve always been pretty willing to say I like to watch anime a lot to anyone who asks. It’s not like I go out and pronounce it to the world or anything. For the most part, the people I hung out with were equally indifferent about it. When I hit college, I joined the anime club, and I didn’t really have to worry so much about being insulted for liking anime. Honestly, stereotyping is a part of life…I’m sure it happens to everyone. If I can handle Asian stereotypes, anime stereotypes shouldn’t be a big deal.

    • You seem stronger than most, but stereotypes (particularly, untrue stereotypes) can be very harmful to a group as a whole. (Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to sound preachy here)
      Anime clubs or a close group of similarly-interested friends is a great way to enjoy a hobby (even though I personally don’t want to join my local Anime Club because they’ve ruined every series I’ve agreed to watch with them).
      You should never be ashamed of who you are, but it can be hard sometimes when people have incorrect, preconceived notions concerning your hobbies.

  7. All the friend I hang out mostly like watching anime. They don’t have a high interest in anime like I do but I’m able to talk to most of my friends about anime. They would respond and talk about it all day if they watch a particular anime. For an example I told about naruto most of the people there loves naruto so there is really no problem with it. Of course in my group of friends there is some who doesn’t like this stuff but they don’t really do anything about it. They don’t even insult me and take it in a positive way.

    Of course there are some who doesn’t really wanna talk about anime, so of course i’ll talk about some other stuff like gadgets, video games and shit. So yeah I don’t really mind if someone said something like ‘Wait isn’t anime for kids” because I know they don’t really watch them, so they won’t really know. Usually when people say, isn’t anime for kids i’ll say this,”It’s the same shit you watch man, it is just that it is animated. Think it this way, the Korea drama that you have always watch being animated. It’s the same shit bro” So yeah my point is when people say that anime is for kids i’ll just shoot them back back that way. I have no other way to explain it but yeah most of the time i’ll explain them that way.

    People haven’t really called me a nerd before for liking anime. I have a lot of interest as well other than anime like gaming, sports, gadget stuff, fashion and shit. So yeah they can’t really call me a nerd for liking a particular thing. All on all, life have been good for me. God never really make me wanna kill someone for not liking what I like.

  8. I have to be honest and say that at the beginning I was a bit wary as well to admit my love for anime, but after going through the first time I just stopped caring about it. 🙂

    Nice post by the way, I’m looking forward new editorials! 😛

    • Thanks, and I can see what you’re saying reciprocated in a lot of people. Sometimes we can assume the worst when it comes to other people, and we’ll even assume they think the worst of us. So, with confidence, it gets easier to take pride in what you love.

  9. Pingback: BeldenOtaku’s Best: A Sampling of NewAnimeThursday’s Finest | NewAnimeThursday

  10. This is probably a bit to old for me to reply to but hey I saw it and wanted to say something. Personally I don’t say anything about it unless asked. Not because I’m embarrassed or worried about what others might think/say. But because they didn’t ask, because when you hit the real world and get out of school, even when you get into college. The most people are gonna do is shrug. I’ve found that 99% of people just don’t care that you like anime or are even Japanese obsessed. Yeah you get those few people that like to try to make it a bigger deal than it is. But most just honestly have to much else to worry about that they don’t care.

    I also don’t agree with the stereotype that all otaku’s are reclusive or socially inept. Yeah I was shy in high school up to about senior year. But since then I’ve broken out of the shell and have friends from many different circles. Something that actually made me see that there are more people than you think that actually like anime. For the most part though I tend to just discuss the anime things with my anime friends. I guess what I’m trying to say is that yeah anime is a bit different than the norm, but well it’s quickly becoming standard, and honestly once you get into college and out in real life you find that no one really cares. And the people that do usually are the people that like it and want to talk to you about it. So don’t try to hide it, I’m not saying to buy a ‘I love anime shirt’ and wave a around an otaku for life flag. But if asked do you like anime just say you do no big deal everyone has their own interests.

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