EPISODE 3: Anime

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Welcome to one of the big two.

If you’ve read the K-Pop Self-Doc already, this is the other of the big two.

If you haven’t, congrats, you’ve been spoiled, this is one of the big two, and K-Pop is the other of the big two.

You will find this same intro in the K-Pop Self-Doc already because I am unoriginal and yet find humor in that.

 

Aiight, listen, I don’t even know how and where to start with anime [aka (usually) Japanese animation].

It's a beast.

I… Hmmm… I realized I’d watched anime before I even knew what it was. Afternoons at grandma and grandpa’s were spent watching Pokémon (yet I still have never played a single game), then Yu-Gi-Oh (Yami Yugi was my 3rd grade boyfriend ok), then a grab bag of some other random cartoons (shout out to Static Shock, that’s mi boye, and Xiaolin Showdown just because it was GREAT). Sneaky late night TV viewing included Toonami’s array of Yu Yu Hakusho (rediscovery shows the English dub sucked) the occasional Naruto, (aka Boruto's dad to some of you kids out there), and Code Lyoko (HERE WE ARE, GOING FAR, TO SAVE ALL THAT WE LOVE—).

So it was there, but not really. That’s how it goes, sometimes. A couple of my interviewees said similar things. That they didn’t really get into a fandom, but it was just kind of already there, and it took a while for it to really come to the foreground of their interests.

I guess that’s how it happened for me, just really delayed compared to my close school friends. I didn’t wholeheartedly get into anime until sophomore year of high school. It’s kind of a funny story, really. Cue my friend group, all into anime, being like, “You should check it out. You’ll definitely like it,” and I, a brat, being like, “NO. IDK JAPANESE. THIS IS DUMB.”

First of all, I was a dumbass child (and society had taught me to fear the unfamiliar). Second of all, there’s subtitles you little shi—

So after a bit of whining, I relented and started watching the English dub of Azumanga Daioh, a slice of life school comedy that would surely ease me in.

To this day I have not finished that series.

Another friend of mine prodded me into diving headfirst into Naruto (I'm linking it again, leave me alone) and, for some reason, I did. And it just... snowballed from there.

Death Note. Ouran High School Host Club. Black Butler/Kuroshitsuji. Hetalia. (Jesus Christ, Hetalia…) Code Geass. Soul Eater. No.6. Fractale. Romeo x Juliet. Shugo Chara! Bakuman. Durarara!! Fruits Basket. Angel Beats! Michiko to Hatchin. Fullmetal Alchemist (original series and Brotherhood). Ano Hana aka Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai (I can say the full title, proudly, pathetically). Blue Exorcist. Eden of the East/Higashi no Eden. Aoi Bungaku Series. Uta no Prince-sama. Free! Fairy Tail. Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt. Deadman Wonderland. Attack on Titan/Shingeki no Kyojin. Sword Art Online. Kill la Kill. Puella Magi/Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica. You and Me/Kimi to Boku. My Love Story!!/Ore Monogatari!! Space Dandy. Beyond the Boundary/Kyoukai no Kanata. Saint Young Men. Death Parade. Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun/Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun. My Little Monster/Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun. Haikyuu!! Yuri!!! on Ice. Food Wars/Shokugeki no Soma. Erased. Clannad. Elfen Lied. Hibike! Euphonium. Aggretsuko. Cowboy Bebop. Your Lie in April. Devilman Crybaby. One Punch Man. Demon Slayer/Kimetsu no Yaiba. My Hero Academia/Boku no Hero Academia. Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation/Mo Dao Zu Shi. Cannon Busters (eh). Given. Stars Align. Carole & Tuesday. Violet Evergarden. Beastars. Kakegurui: Compulsive Gambler. Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun/Jibaku Shounen Hanako-kun.

(I… Maybe I should’ve made this a bulleted list. Would the impact then be more or less pompous? Anyway, rec list!)

And that’s only bringing up shows. Movies are a whole other deal. Studio Ghibli is the shit, plain and simple. I’ve actually been going to see more anime movies in theaters lately. (Weathering With You, which is subjectively better than Your Name sorry not sorry. Ride Your Wave. I was supposed to see Promare... but then a pandemic hit... Here, take a trailer:

I'm putting it here to offset the bitterness in my soul. Don't judge me, it looks amazing and I'm Sad. MAN I HAD TICKETS AND EVERYTHING—wAIT. It's technically available digitally now. As of 4/21/20. Well jeez, Happy Earth Day.) ((4/26/20 Update: I [totally legally] finally watched it. Wow it lives up to the hype. I'm in Love. Now I'm leaving the trailer here to spread the good word of Promare.))

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

 

My descent into the anime fandom essentially became my descent into IRL and participatory fandom culture. By the former, I mean conventions. By the latter, I mean fanart and fanfiction.

Firstly: cons.

 

Sure, in the past, I had talked to and bonded with my friends about books and cartoons and such, but I’d never been to a full-scale, fandom-devoted space.

 

(The motorcycle conventions I went to with my parents don’t count. I was like 10 … I still want a bike, tho.)

 

AnimeNext 2011 was the wildest experience I had had in my 16 years of life. It was incredible to see so many people with the same general interest in one place. The panels, the concerts, the meet & greets, Dealer’s Room, Artist Alley, cosplay meetups…

 

Oh god, cosplay.

(Note: I've discovered that fanlore is the wikipedia of fandom terminology and I am but a fool to not have discovered this sooner.)

 

To keep this short and sweet, I’ve been in theatre and music productions (more the latter) on and off throughout most of my life. My theatre interest translated to this new-fangled thing I’d discovered called cosplay, a portmanteau of "costume" and "play" (for those who didn't click on that fancy lil link earlier). You dress up as your faves or characters you connect with in some way and—that’s it. You have a grand old time.

 

You do skits, take pics, talk to people, bond with people… You get 10-year-olds running up to you all excited saying you’re their fave character.

(Yes, it’s happened to me, and yES, MAYBE I CRIED—)

 

Just for funsies, lemme drop a vid of The Try Guys attempting cosplay. Why did I pick The Try Guys instead of Anyone Else? Because I've been on a Try Guys binge lately and they are a good bunch of dudes. Now this was before they left Buzzfeed, and while I'm not a big Buzzfeed fan, it is a Buzzfeed video. Anyway, support The Try Guys, they're cool.

I haven’t cosplayed a lot, but I want to do more. I’ve cosplayed characters mostly outside of anime, but it’s all the same game, as far as I know.

(Just as an aside, I’ve done Near from Death Note, Naruto from Naruto [lol], Matryoshka!Len of VOCALOIDs, Jane and Aradia from Homestuck, a humanized Notebook [the one on the left] from the first episode of YouTube series Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared, Alphys and Chara from Undertale, and Tsuyu from My Hero Academia.)

 

Now, cosplay just sounds like a hobby, like something fun to do, but… two things. 1) There are some dedicated people out there, as you can see in that Try Guys video. Half the fun of conventions is seeing the mastery and effort people put into their cosplays. People dedicate their whole lives to the craft, and it shows.

 

And??? The world’s started taking it seriously??? Love that for us. Shows like Heroes of Cosplay, Cosplay Melee… hell, even King of the Nerds. They bring these previously taboo aspects of nerd culture to light. Dramatized or not, I was hyped to watch King of the Nerds back in the day. Dreamt of being on there for a season before TBS cancelled it.

 

Anyway, 2) in November 2019, I attended a fan-run panel at AnimeNYC about cosplay and identity aptly named "Finding Yourself: How Cosplaying Forms Identities." The description currently on AnimeNYC's 2019 panel schedule has this for the panel's description:

 

"Over the past few years, conventions and cosplay have been fully inducted into the mainstream’s peripheral vision. With such a boom, we’ve seen a lot more cosplayers enter the scene and enjoy this hobby, in full! In this panel, we’re going to touch on how cosplaying has helped many of us break out of our shells and understand who we truly are, through wigs and makeup."

 

The panelists, Joeschmoe Cosplay, @rainbow_rex, and @sleepyheadcos—(all LGBT+)⁠—told their own stories of how they were able to explore their gender identities and/or sexual orientations through this creative medium. It was a beautiful thing, hearing how they (and attendees, once Q&A opened up) were able to discover parts of themselves they otherwise probably wouldn’t have been able to find, whether it was due to family situations or prejudices, stigma, self-consciousness, internal phobias, etc. One panelist was, in their words, able to “try on” new identities with each new cosplay, get a feel for it and think, “Huh. I like feeling this way. I like how people acknowledge me and refer to me.” And so it goes.

 

And that’s another thing! For the most part? Anime fans/cosplayers will go along with and are accepting of anything. By that I mean: You identify as a cisgender female but are cosplaying as a male and therefore go by he/him pronouns? Done. You, as a person, go by they/them pronouns regardless of who you’re cosplaying as? No problem.

 

And that’s just incredible to me.

 

Back in ye olden days of me going to AnimeNext, I recall a time waiting in a line (as one often does at cons…) and chatting with other attendees, when one of said attendees, in referring to me, said, “Oh, and they can… [turns to me] Sorry, what are your pronouns?” Admittedly I was caught off guard for a moment before replying, “She/her.” And the attendee goes, “Got it. So she can…” Just like that. Simple. And it was just… so damn heartwarming, man. I’m gonna remember that moment for the rest of my life, lemme tell ya. The lack of assumption, the non-judgment, the ease of acceptance. Ugh, I’m struggling finding the right word for it, but… that small interaction was so easily navigable that it really boggles my mind that the whole of society isn’t this way and probably won’t be for a long time.

 

Though, I have noticed that it’s becoming more of a thing to talk about preferred pronouns in the workplace—particularly in adding them to email signatures. Shit, I just got an email recently where it said right under the person’s name “Pronouns: she/her/hers,” and… [sigh] I love that. Normalize that.

 

THAT’S IT! THAT'S THE WORD I WAS LOOKING FOR. Normalization. God, I could go off about that in so many contexts. First that comes to mind: trans characters (really any LGBT+ characters) in works of fiction don’t need an explanation to exist. They don’t need drama or a tragic backstory to explain who, how, and why they are. Please, I’m tired of artists/writers being bogged down by commenters asking why why why why. They just are. Let them be. Normalize their existence. In fiction and IRL.

 

Alright! Now that I’m thoroughly a mix of emo and rAGE, let’s move on.

 

Love for the arts + new inspirational content led to cosplay interest, which in turn led to my eventual theatre minor, which reawakened (in part) my want to cosplay. Huzzah, the circle of stupidity has been completed like 1.5 times (I really thought this was a general meme thing but it's from Homestuck smh). And in all that stupidity (don’t take that literally, it’s just for the meme), I gained crafting experience, innovation, character and dialogue inspiration for my own writing, socializing skills…

 

Steps towards independence were even taken when I started attending those conventions overnight with friends. So overall, a nice medium to Grow Up through, which was fitting because most of the anime that I’ve come in contact with has some sort of “coming of age” theme or trope (TV Tropes, like UD and fanlore, is a pop culture/fandom bible. Study up.). And there is many a trope throughout the madness of a spectrum that is anime. Any genre you wanna watch, character dynamic, plot line, etc., it’s out there. (I don’t watch soap operas, but I think animes are my soap operas.)

 

Makes for great writing research.

Hence… my discovery of fanfiction.

 

That should be a whole entry on its own, to be honest. (Fanart was also present here, but not to the extent as fanfic, at least by way of me consuming and producing content.)

 

I’ve always had a love for storytelling, and once I heard that it was a Thing that people write stories based on published content For Fun… I started getting inspired. Wrote a bit in high school. One of them is unfinished to this day. I'd like to finish it one day but… life gets in the way, y'know?

 

There are whole communities for fanfiction—whole platforms, too—with a wild history to match the content these writers create. Which is absolutely not a bad thing. There's content there that you could never find in published works/novels—at least, not that I've seen. Explorations in plot, universe building, writing style, themes of sexuality, gender, mental health, etc. I could go on about fanfiction in its own entry, really, and how it's affected me as a writer and me as a person differently over the years. But! I'll reign it in.

Real talk, tho. Some fanfics are masterpieces. Novel worthy.

 

In the meantime, I've talked about elements and ethics of fanfic in past class blogs. One in particular comes to mind. Go forth if you're curious. (CTRL+F "Fanfiction" to skip through the class-related babble.)

(... God my writing was so 2017.)

 

Aside from development in my interaction with fandom spaces, jumping into anime also started me on The Path To Discovering How To Be A Fan Of Content From Cultures Other Than Yours.

 

I'm a white cisgender female from New Jersey, USA. I had a narrow range of cultural knowledge growing up (although I will say that the area in which I live is rather culturally diverse). But anyway, the way that I engage in this content can have an effect on how I present myself to the world, and I have a responsibility as the person that I am to respect whatever culture I have an interest in that is not mine.

 

At least, that’s my view. (And that explanation felt so clunky, forgive me. Maybe I'll be able to eloquently explain that mentality another time.) Anyway.

 

If only I knew of that mentality when I first got into anime. Sigh. There’d be a lot less botched Japanese interjections in my vocabulary with my friends.

 

God, I just cringed.

 

There's terms for this… enthusiastic level of involvement. Otaku was popular back when I was in high school, though it's a term one would roll their eyes at these days. Weeaboo was an insult back then, indicative that one (usually of non-Asian descent) is a fan of Japanese culture to an exploitative degree, a fetish degree. Nowadays, anime/manga fans my age have generally (generally) mellowed out, and we self-identify as a weeb, or, more likely, a f#^@in' weeb. Self-deprecating, but accepting. Pretty much sums up my friend circles. And millennials.

 

Long, excruciating story short, my (and usually all fans’) journey for the first time through a fandom of a culture that is not mine (can I make an acronym for this?) was one of learning, embarrassing myself (especially in hindsight) and refining/correcting behaviors that I realized, through my own realizations and the advice from others, was problematic and trivializing of a culture. I will admit that I was not a perfect fan (not that I am now or ever will be), but really… no one is. Everyone experiences this kind of thing differently, and may not grow out of that naivete into adulthood.

 

I’m not passing judgment on those people, but that’s how it is, and it can and probably will get them in trouble with certain people someday.

 

I, meanwhile, will not interact if I don’t know the particular problematic person (say that 5 times fast), but I will if I do know the person, just to inform how people could indeed have certain opinions about them.

 

This got really convoluted and cyclical, methinks. A couple of interviewees discussed this type of interaction and development of fans, particularly during the question: “Do you tell people inside of the fan community that you're in that fan community? Why or why not?” The answer was pretty split between “Yeah, why wouldn’t I?” and “Well, it depends on the fan.”

 

So……… yeah! Inter-fan relations and cultural sensitivity aside, from a personal perspective, getting into anime led to a deeper cultural openness in me. There’s a difference between wanting to learn more about a culture because you are genuinely interested in it and because “it’s cute/cool/niche and related to _____ so it’s clearly superior.” Nah. Nah, that ain’t it. 

 

Just… open-mindedness, sensitivity, understanding, gauging appropriate behavior so appropriation and exploitation doesn’t occur. 

 

I feel like I’m preaching again. Sigh.

 

I suppose I just want to be That Person for budding fans that tells them where the line is, y’know? I kind of had that for me when I started learning more about Japanese culture…

… and I definitely had that for me when I started learning more about Korean culture. And that will be covered in my K-Pop Self-Doc

BAM what a plug.

...

There’s so much more I would love to talk about with this topic… Subtitles v. English dubbed content—(PAUSE. I found a video that goes into the history and reasonings of that debate. CellSpex is cool, btw, check her out.)—introduction to music in other languages, fetishization, Vocaloids… (Jeez, I didn’t even mention AMVs, but I suppose I do talk about them in my YouTube entry. Shrug.)

Alas. Perhaps tis for another section or another day. Or another thesis.

Jeez...

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