The Reverse Thieves have their fifth Otaku Diaries entry up, leading off with a beautiful poem by Hisui. Aside from the poem though, I recommend you check it out and the rest of the Otaku Diaries entries, as I’m a fan of fan analysis (no pun intended), and even with the limited sample size I still think it provides a lot of interesting windows into trends and behaviors among otaku.
Two things jumped out at me in particular with this entry, the change in trends from mostly people interested in computers being into anime to anime reaching a wider demographic, as well as the concept of anime used as an escape.
As someone who went through an arts program in college, what I noticed is that among my peers few were into anime to the extent that I was. You could still find people who enjoyed anime to be sure (some of my art school friends and I decided to marathon all of Evangelion in one day Freshman year) but most of my classmates did not treat anime as something worth looking at for any extended period. When I remembered that the same classmates for the most part had never even watched The Simpsons, I began to see the extent to which those who had chosen this path had dedicated themselves to it at the expense of other things. That’s not to say they were mistaken in their decision, but the idea that they had almost no exposure to things which I considered to be common knowledge made me sense a palpable difference in mindset and what we valued. A lot of times it didn’t even occur to them to take a look at anime at all. I was also the only art student I knew of who even attended the school’s anime club at all (though I had to stop going after sophomore year to give myself more time to get work done).
Contrast this with my friends in college who were mostly computer science majors (with some chemistry, business, and other types mixed in), and I would have to say that the majority of them enjoyed anime, video games, things which tended towards the nerdish side. They weren’t solely into nerd hobbies, as some enjoyed sports and weightlifting and playing guitar and such, but they always seemed more ready to accept anime, even if I couldn’t necessarily convince them to watch Cardcaptor Sakura. Why the stark difference between the two groups?
“Fine Artist” and “Geek” do not stereotypically cross over much, and I think it has to do with the idea of right brain vs left brain, and that what brings enjoyment to one type does not apply to the other. All the more interesting then that there were a handful of people I knew who were actually Art/Computer Science double majors, and that out of all of them though, I felt that they more often than not tended towards their Computer Science side. I wonder if it’s impossible to be both in even ratios, and I have to also wonder where I myself fit, because even though I was not a computer science major I did not fit the Fine Arts mold entirely either. Another thing to note was that Geek and Illustrator tend to have much more crossover than Geek and Fine Artist, and the reason behind that lies in the concept that Fine Artists’s sense of aesthetics supposedly exists in a world different from that of the Illustrator, which is such a complex topic I’m gonna have to save it for another day.
Now with escapism via anime, and the active denial of using anime as such, I think it has to do very much with otaku trying to defend their shows or their status as otaku. It’s the idea that anime fans are using anime to avoid reality, whether it’s by moe shows, science fiction, pornography, whatever, no one wants to be told that they’re not living in the real world. In some cases, people will deny outright that anime is an escape, and in other cases they will talk about how escape isn’t that bad of a thing and more people should do it. Either way though, it does have this tinge of defensiveness, even if it’s completely valid to be defensive. After all, what else would you expect people to do if they’re perceiving someone’s outside comment as an attack?