The End of the Otaku Diaries, the Beginning of More?

In their concluding post of the Otaku Diaries, Hisui and Narutaki of the Reverse Thieves reflect back on their experiment: the ups, the downs, what could have been done differently, what they learned, and what they’d hope to learn in the future should they take up the task again. I hope to see them take a swing at it at least one more time, but that’s up to them.

One of the really remarkable things about the Otaku Diaries was that it was a concerted effort by the Reverse Thieves to learn about their fellow fans, and to do so by collecting information in a structured manner. With anime blogging (or hell, writing blogging in general), it’s very easy to play fast and loose with facts and data, and to write based primarily on feel (I am guilty of doing both), so it gives me a degree of joy to see bloggers who actually want to discover more about their peers instead of pigeon-holing them in stereotypes or talking in too-broad strokes. The project wasn’t perfect, as they’d themselved admit, but it opened up new possibilities.

Obviously I’m not telling people they can only write about anime and fandom once they’ve gathered enough information on the subject, but I’d like to see others encouraged to try similar endeavors, to really reach out and try to learn about your comrades-in-arms. I could stand to do more of that myself.

On a final note, I think they’re onto something with the idea of interviewing people over Skype instead of simply writing surveys. Provided they can make the conversation easy-going (and I know they can), it would allow a lot more otaku to open up, and would also make the conversation more free-flowing.

The Otaku Diaries Hint at the Secretive Triumvirate of Hugpillow Enthusiasts

Now that the Otaku Diaries main events are over, the Reverse Thieves have seen it fit to hit us with all sorts of tidbits, from the number of people who were officers in anime clubs (13) to the number of man-crushes on Daryl Surat (greater than 0) to the number of people who own hugpillows.

Some of the trivia also sounds like it came straight out of anime. And assuming that everyone told the truth as they were expected to, that’s amazing. For example, the person who broke up with his girlfriend after canceling a date to watch Yu Yu Hakusho reminds me of a manga, Fujoshi no Honkai, where a closet fujoshi breaks up with her boyfriend by telling him that she’s “spending time with another man,” when in reality she bought a cake to celebrate the birthday of her favorite character. And when you realize that something like a manga based on the daily lives of otaku is trying to mirror the reality of the fandom, it’s almost like the beast feeding itself.

But really, looking at this trivia hodgepodge, I think it hits me harder than any of the previous Otaku Diaries posts just how similar/dissimilar we all are as fans of anime and manga. We are all united under the banner of Japanese comics and cartoons, but that sturdy felt cloth hanging high above us belies the sheer variety of places we come from. Gone are the days that anime fans all came from a single nerdy source of science fiction fandom or from watching the Pokemon on the TV. And though I use the term “anime fan” to encompass both those who watch anime and those who read manga, there are even people who almost exclusively focus on one or the other. All of it is surprising and yet none of it is.

The Otaku Diaries Look at the FUTURE OF ANIME!!!

In what is going to be (at least for now) the last major article of the Otaku Diaries, the Reverse Thieves reveal how at least some fans view the future of Japanese Animation.

When it comes to understanding the path anime will take, I think it’s important to look back at its past, though without being confined by it. But then I’ve already addressed that to a large extent through my 2000-2009 series, where I first looked at the past decade and then gave some ideas of where I think anime will go and where I want it to go.

Instead, what really fascinated me about this Otaku Diaries post was the fundamental idea of how your current mindset about anime goes a long way in determining how you regard its future well-being. Do you think anime is “dying?” If so, are you still optimistic about its future? The sample size, as they’re quick to admit, is not a particularly huge one, but it still provides an interesting variety, and it doesn’t make the fact that every single person said that they’d still be watching anime in 10 years, or at least hoped they’d be able to.

Another area of interest that comes out of all of this is the idea that a lot of relatively newer fans don’t mature their anime fandom but simply grow out of it. I have no idea how prevalent this actually is, but the idea is that once they leave high school or college, they leave behind all the shows they watched and move onto other media. I’ve seen it happen on occasion; the person who once loved anime has moved onto live action shows a la House and Heroes, as they offer something “more” than what anime has, or at least what they perceive anime as having.

Anime and especially manga have a fantastic range of stories to tell and decades of history. They can be mature, they can be childish, they can be sexually offensive, they can be enlightening, and sometimes they can be all of those things at once. If you’re a regular reader of Ogiue Maniax, then I hope that I’ve been able to convey that idea to you. But apparently this idea doesn’t reach everyone. Sure, it’s obvious why it doesn’t reach the people who see anime as nothing but tits and/or toons and who don’t understand why we take our hobby seriously, but it does seem somewhat odd that the people who get into anime are able to shed it just as easily.

Or maybe it isn’t odd at all. Maybe, as anime has become more well-known to people and as kids have grown up on the stuff, it just becomes yet another thing they feel they have to shed as they grow older and more “mature,” the process we all go through when we’re trying to reach that realm we call adulthood. In that respect, it is us nerds who are the real anomalies, those of us who can loyally stick to our beloved medium and have enough passion to defend it or decry its flaws.

The Otaku Diaries and the Social Otaku

February’s Otaku Diaries entry over at Reverse Thieves explores otaku and socialization in all its forms, whether it be hanging with friends after school or work, or chatting with them online. It should be no surprise that the friends otaku tend to find online are fellow otaku; after all, you don’t “bump into” people on the internet, but rather typically seek out like-minded people, or at the very least ones who can understand your interests.

I still remember the first time I had access to real (non-AOL) internet. The first thing I did? Look for websites about my favorite video game, NiGHTS into dreams… I always figured that I was the one and only fan of SEGA’s greatest game, so imagine my pleasant surprise when I found out there was an entire online community devoted to NiGHTS. Of course I joined, and it provided me some great memories (as well as some drama, which was perhaps inevitable). Memories are mainly what they are though, as I don’t really keep up with anyone from that period in my internet life. Still, I remember the joy of being able to actually talk to fellow fans from all around the world and revel in our mutual love of purple flying jesters. It reminds me of when I first started using e-mail, when I was so excited to use it that every night I would write up a bunch of thoughts and send them to friends and acquaintances and classmates.

Some might argue that the fact that online friendships tend to start from just liking the same thing makes them particularly flimsy , while others might give the counterpoint that sharing that common ground can make online friends as close if not closer than “real world” friends, especially if those internet buddies are more comfortable opening themselves up through chatting than through speaking. Of course, the line blurs when online friends meet in real life, or close real life friends interact mainly online, and evidently blurring lines are getting more and more commonplace. Personally, I’ve met some of my closest friends from online, and I have friends dear to me that I’ve met in the real world too. At that point, the internet is mainly a tool and it’s up to the person how they use it, whether it becomes a way of connecting with others, or a method of disguise and insulation.

I’d like to make an aside at this point and clarify something I said in the Otaku Diaries response I made about relationships. There I said that sharing a hobby makes for a “weak and flimsy foundation” for a relationship, and some took it as me saying that finding someone because you both like anime is no good. What I really meant was that I think sharing a hobby makes for an excellent starting point, and even provides some mutual understanding, but that it cannot be the cornerstone of a relationship, which is instead built on trust and compassion for each other. I hope that clears everything up.

Now another interesting point that came up is the question of whether or not the participants had ever tried to bring others into anime, and the response was for the most part a resounding “yes.” This I think links directly into that desire of wanting people with whom you can share your hobby. What’s more intriguing, however, is a comment someone made.

Is it really right to assume that 75% of respondents actively trying to draw in new anime viewers is a good thing?

What we have here is the idea that bringing in new anime fans to the fold might be a mistake. Think about that: once upon a time everyone would have agreed that trying to draw in new anime viewers was a good thing, even if fans might not agree on who they thought was good to draw in. I think that the very idea that the desire to introduce others to anime might somehow  be detrimental to anime and its fandom speaks volumes about where we are at the moment, this state of being more widely accepted and yet still very much niche, even if it’s just one person’s opinion.

Is it really right to assume that 75% of respondents actively trying to draw in new anime viewers is a good thing?

“Otaku Couples: Threat or Menace?” The Otaku Diaries and Relationships

In Part 7 of the Otaku Diaries, the Reverse Thieves tackle dating and relationships, topics that are stereotypically divorced from anime fandom and geekdom in general.

One of the questions asked of its participants was how necessary it was for the people they date to like anime, and the majority said that they would at least see it as a plus, while no one said it would detract from the dating experience. I’ve seen anime fans online talk about how they would never date another anime fan, that stance is usually born out of the idea that being an anime fan entails being host to a variety of negative traits that don’t necessarily have to do with anime. They’ve just created an image in their heads that otaku are physically unappealing, loud, obnoxious, and simply unattractive. However, rarely does it have to do with the actual love of anime. In the end, who wouldn’t a companion with whom you could comfortably share your hobbies and passions if even a little? Japanese has a term for an otaku relationship: “otaple,” or “otaku couple.”

One thing that I want to take into consideration is the history of anime fandom in the west, particularly the fact that in the earlier days of anime fandom in the US, anime was primarily a men’s club, and the idea of girls being into anime and manga in large enough amounts that guys could find a girl to share in their love of anime was a far-off dream. This is a typical scenario for pretty much any sort of geekish hobby. And then people discovered that girls were capable of enjoying comics, and we got to see the reaction that happens any time a new group enters an existing fandom, whether it’s girls coming into anime, new people on an internet forum, or those rascally Star Wars fans entering the established world of science fiction: “They’re liking my hobby, but not the way I expected/wanted them to!” It’s possible at that point to wake up from the dream disgusted, but it’s also possible to see opportunity. Of course we are about a decade removed from that initial occurrence, but it still happens time after time, when the image we’ve built up in our heads does not match the reality.

In the eyes of anime fans the otaple status can be considered a Holy Grail or a Pandora’s Box, and from what I’ve seen it largely has to do with how they view the concept of the otaku relationship. Getting together with someone just because you share a hobby makes for a weak and flimsy foundation for a relationship. This is the source of the more negative view of otaku relationships, the idea that you ignore the flaws of the other just because they “like anime,” even when you are not actually happy about it. But when mutual love of anime is a vehicle for connecting on a deeper level, when it is used to support the foundation without being the foundation, that is when the otaple succeeds.

Otaku Diaries and Fans on Fans

This month, the Otaku Diaries look at possibly their most interesting topics yet: how anime fans perceive anime fans, the idea of fandom as a community, and our terrible/awesome sexual fetishes manifested in 2-d form. Have you ever been ashamed of other anime fans? Well you’re not alone, as the majority of the people surveyed by the Otaku Diaries believed the same thing. Check it out, and tell them what you think.

Hisui and Narutaki bring up an excellent point in that it seems as if fans (and people at large) are quick to point fingers and acknowledge the flaws of others without taking a good long look at themselves. Personally speaking, I can be just as guilty of this as anyone else.

While open-mindedness is certainly a noble trait I try to maintain and promote in others, I’m also aware that it’s extremely difficult for anyone to remain so all the time. We all have our values, and values have limits that can be crossed. When you look at the fandom, it’s easy to remember only the “yaoi paddles,” the “black-ups,” the actions that seem born out the desire to fit in and stand out simultaneously, and then lament that you are being associated with these people. You do not want shame by association.

The desire to not seem inferior in the eyes of others is not exclusive to otaku or geeks, but I think it’s particularly interesting among nerdish hobbyists because of how those who have been shunned tend to turn around and draw their own lines in the sand. Whether it’s gamers at WCG USA 2009 refusing to acknowledge that their national finals took place at an anime convention, or a fan’s desire to not be associated with lolicon getting so extreme that they lash out at any modicum of fanservice real or otherwise, we get to see nerds condemn other nerds for the sake of appearing more legitimate. Even the fact that the definitions of nerd, geek, and otaku are argued about with some regularity are indicative of this tendency to want to stand out while also fitting in. Is any of this all that different from the glompers and /b/tards?

The reason that we as fans can get so incensed about our fandom is that we place so much of our emotions into our hobby. Whether we’re overly cynical or too forgiving, we at some point decided that discussing and arguing about anime, manga, and the people who love them has been a fight worth fighting. Those who actively try to separate themselves from the riff-raff are perhaps the most guilty of all.

I think the most important realization to make is that we’re all works in progress, we can all stand for some improvement, and we all often confuse “improvement” with “further mistakes.” Do not condemn the fandom as a whole, but do not go against your own values. Do not ignore your own mistakes, but do not look down upon yourself for being flawed.

Through all this, one thing remains true: No one wants to be truly alone. Even the most arrogant, the most self-centered, and the most unsociable people in the world would still jump at the chance to have someone out there who truly understands them and makes them feel good to be themselves.

The Otaku Diaries Take a Look at Careers, Escapism, Hobbies

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?