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.
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)
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.
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,