Talking Anime to the Normies

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while…. Wait that was even blunter than usual. I mean:

Hi Guys! How is everyone? Enjoying early spring? Montreal has never been a city you choose for the weather but the past few years have really been brutal. A little dose of sunshine is certainly welcomed!

anime snow

artist rendering on Montreal in July

So….if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you probably already know that I have very few “live action” friends who watch anime. I’ve decided to use “live action” instead of “real life” because you guys are very real to me. I hope to meet you at a con some day.

It’s not that I’m particularly shy about my love of anime, I’m just rather introverted and don’t tend to actively seek people out. As such if you don’t come to me, I probably don’t know you. Actually, let me take that back, I *do* get oddly shy about my love for anime. I just don’t want to be one of those guys that smothers you with their passion just because you asked a polite question or that goes on forever babbling about subjects no one cares about.

As a result, even when I do get asked about my hobby by well meaning friends and acquaintances, I end up giving short extremely superficial answers and brushing it off. It’s not that I don’t want to talk about the subject, I just want to talk about it so desperately I’m bound to scare/bore people off. Or at least, that’s what I thought.

anime bored and scared

a mix of boredom and fear is very difficult to convey

It’s been years since I’ve had an actual anime conversation with someone who isn’t already a devoted fan. In fact, I may never have had one. I know nothing of the assumptions and preconceptions of normies. Heck, I only know the word normie because if Steins;Gate and Twitter. I’m pretty sure no one uses it anymore, I mean it’s at least a decade old show and, you know…Twitter…

But all that changed ever so slightly last month. Work has been…the polite way to put it would be: challenging. My own position comes with a fair share of emotional management and political wrangling both of which I am, at best, serviceable at but by no means equipped to deal with in more challenging times. After an exhausting couple of days, a few of us were reaching the end of our rope and I decided to take the edge off just a little by sending them an anime meme (just a pic really). Nothing that special mind you. It was that scene from Humanity has Declined where the negotiator says: we must show that we took action even if those actions are meaningless… Wait, this blog has the ability to show pictures…Irina wins at blogging again!

Himanity has declined

this one!

As you can see, it’s not earth shattering or anything. But the immediate reaction I got was: “I’ve never seen a Japanese animation, I thought it was for children…”

Putting aside the fact that I don’t think I come off as particularly simple and therefore might not devote so much of my free time to something that was not at least slightly stimulating for an adult, I was struck by how quaint the reaction was. There have been animated works aimed at adults for a very long time now. I figured most people had put aside that particular notion, but no. When I actually ventured into the nonfan realm, I was met with the exact same assumptions that have been around for as long as I can remember.

But that’s not the really interesting part. The great part was the second sentence. The one that said: “maybe I should watch some!”.

anime excited

I may have a suggestion!

We sometimes have a tendency to be protective of our medium fandom. Heck we get hyper touchy about our respective anime fandoms with each other, and we’re supposed to be on the same manga page! As soon as someone starts with the old anime cliches, we get downright defensive. Easiest thing to do is to dismiss them offhand. I mean how can you even begin to explain an entire medium to someone who has such naive expectations.

**Dear unnamed friend, if you’re reading this, know that I’m writing this with love. Our little chat made my day in fact and led me to some introspection for which I thank you. You should come over for dinner and anime whenever you’re free***

It’s a bit similar to people who tell me they “don’t read” or that “books are boring”. I mean, there’s no response to that, is there? At least none that won’t take me months to put together. You have to build an entire information infrastructure from the ground up before you can even start a conversation. At least that’s what I have been telling myself. Politely smiling whenever I heard the old misconceptions, and deflecting the whole thing with an “it’s not for everyone….”

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is because I’m lazy and a bit of a jerk. As much as I assumed people were mindlessly judging me for my hobby, I was just as unfairly assuming they weren’t interested, wouldn’t get it, would be prejudiced… I judged them for no reason, so I never gave anyone the chance. I kept a hobby that has brought me delight, selfishly to myself on the off chance someone might silently scoff at me.

apology-anime-3
Well that’s not the best thing I’ve ever realized about myself. Not the worst, not by a long shot! Still not great. Good news is, it’s a pretty easy fix.

Next time someone tries to approach me about anime with an innocent but misguided comment, I’ll actually engage. I’ll talk to them with the assumption that they are open minded intelligent people who want to learn more on a subject they don’t have much information on. Instead of self-dismissing before anyone else has a chance to. I’ll let my passions flow out of me for everyone to share.

This got a little out of hand there. I’ll just stick with talking to them nicely. Maybe suggesting a couple of animes if anything comes to mind. Showing them your blogs! That should go a long way towards dispelling the occasionally less than stellar reputation anime fans have been saddled with (and sadly sometimes earned).

Because the gatekeepers are wrong. There’s enough space in our community for anyone that wants to be here. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to lend my friend my copy of Steins;Gate and see if they ever talk to me again after that! El psy congroo to all!

steins gate crossover

Irina

I'm much nicer than I seem, we should be friends!

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30 Responses

  1. We’re supposed to get snow here in Ottawa too -soft sobbing-.

    I really liked this post. I don’t really talk to anyone outside of people who I know already like anime about it and I’m the same with books. I don’t want to put that effort into turning people onto something they haven’t found yet – but maybe it’s worth it most of the time. In high school I was nowhere near as shy about my interests and it was so rewarding to get people into the things I loved. It just feels harder as an adult.

    • Irina says:

      I know! And yet I can’t explain why!. Also great…if it’s hitting Ottawa it’s bound to get here next. At this point I just hope it’s not an ice storm.

  2. This really is the core of why I made Anime Podcast of Some Sort the way that it is. I want to be a bridge between the shelves-of-anime-die-hards and the normies. I have been fortunate enough over my life to have many friends who are into anime, through growing up, going to conventions and just living life.

    Strangely enough, I’ve also found myself often times to be on the more outgoing and extroverted side of the geeky spectrum. That’s not in comparison to the rest of the world.

    If I’m able to give some IRL friends, or anime-curious types out there their first hit of the good stuff, that’s what it’s all about for me. And if my introverted anime friends can come back and say “I had a really good time” stepping out of their own comfort zones, that’s what it’s all about. 🙂

  3. Hello, I am said “normie”. I kind of get the “anime for kids” assumption and I think it’s kind of interesting how the times are changing. At least from an American perspective, the old not so long ago way to get interested in anime was to borrow some bootleg VHS of Akira that some guy at your college dorm had. The perception that anime is for kids just comes largely in most cases with television being your primary means of watching shows the only channel that really played anime was the Toonami block on children’s channel Cartoon Network. Toonami for the most part played younger demographic shows like Dragon Ball Z and Naruto and outside of it the only anime to hit mainstream was arguably Pokemon and Studio Ghibli. I just think streaming has changed the game in terms of accessibility, now anyone interested has a library of a ton of shows and can find one that hopefully aligns with their interests. End of the day you can’t win them all I’m sure the other issues that prevent people from the perception that animation in general is childish, the language barrier, or cultural differences will deter some but it’s fascinating that we’re living at a time that those who do want to explore all sorts of media now have much better means to do so.

    • Irina says:

      I also get it. For people that grew up before Simpsons, Family Guy, Rick and Morty ect… And it’s a very innocent and common belief. It’s also the mild attack of choice aimed at anime lovers which is why it was so weird to hear it from a contemporary. Although,, all things considered, stuff made for kids isn’t bad either so….

  4. tanteikid94 says:

    Ah starting with SG. Good choice

  5. DerekL says:

    I have a number of anime fans among my “live action” friends… We don’t get to talk all that often, but it’s fun when we do! (Was geeking out about Endgame with one of them earlier this evening FWIW.) But then most of my “live action” friends are SCAdians, which is a haven for all kinds of nerdery and geekery.

    I don’t mention all that often on FB, because many of my friends there are family, former shipmates and the like… so the nerd/geek level is much lower.

  6. Lumi says:

    I’m honestly really lucky to be in a country that just lives and breathes anime to the point that it’s not even considered a “nerd” thing anymore (well, to an extent). I am very open about my love of anime, but one thing I punch myself for is how I didn’t get into anime until I was already 17 years old. That was a whole childhood of nostalgia missed (so yes, I have not watched Code Geass, Inuyasha, Shippuden, etc.)

  7. I’m now adopting your ‘live action’ term, as you are right, ‘real life’ / ‘RL’ friends can also be online, you just don’t get to fist bump them. Not yet anyway, VR is taking some great leaps at the moment though, so who knows.

  8. Dawnstorm says:

    I hardly ever talk about anime in real life, but I also don’t make a secret of my hobby. For example, in of those secret Christmas gift exchange games at a company party I once gave away a copy of Wolf Children, because it’s both awesome and fairly safe. Since I really never see most of those people, I don’t know if the film was liked (or even watched), but at least I boosted the sales numbers for a good title.

    I’ve been watching anime for as long as I can remember; I’ve been watching anime when they were just Japanese cartoons (I don’t think I’ve heard the term until the early 90ies). I didn’t loiter around the margins of fandom until my 40ies, so there’s that. The internet has given me a chance for obsession.

  9. ospreyshire says:

    That is something I’ve wondered about for the longest time. When I was in high school, I was a hardcore otaku. I did get some people into some anime series like Gankutsuou and Yugo the Negotiator at the time which made me proud. Obviously, I was bullied partially because I liked anime and I was on a fandom hiatus when I was in college up into about a couple of years ago. I also hated the double standards with fandoms like how watching some American cartoons is okay, but watching anime makes you weird in some way. There have been times I wanted to shame people for what they like whenever what they enjoy does the same things or worse than my fandom. I even pulled the film plagiarism card when dealing with liking Paprika and Kimba (“That [Hollywood] movie literally wouldn’t exist without this anime!”) when it came to those who only watched mainstream movies when I was angry. Part of me wants to treat others like how I was treated as a form of counter-bullying and making them feel how I felt, but I feel that I hold back a lot of those feelings more often than not.

    • Irina says:

      When I was in school, I was not cool enough to hang out with the kids that watched anime. Part of the reason I started watching it was to fit in a bit better. Make of that what you will.

      • ospreyshire says:

        Really? That’s so surprising and I’m sorry to hear that about your life. It almost sounds like the opposite of when I was starting out in anime fandom when I was in school.

  10. AK says:

    I feel the same way. Most of my friends are not into the series I watch or games I play. Games of Thrones is that sliver in the middle of the Venn diagram between us right now but soon that will be gone.

    The gatekeepers are annoying. I partly get where they’re coming from – you get made fun of in school for your weird interests and you might not be too nice about it later on when those interests get a little more mainstream. But it’s all about entertainment, and these forms of media are big enough to accommodate everyone, normies and misfits alike. It would be great if everyone would understand that and take it easy about new fans they find annoying or aspects of certain series they don’t like.

  11. matija says:

    Very relatable. I guess this doesnt count as “live action” people, but when I linked my blog to the main croatian subreddit, the comments were not good, involving words like “pedophile” and “degenerate”. Somehow I still feel like the majority feels that way around here.
    But luckily at college I met a few people that actually do watch anime and don’t judge me for it. In the last few months this led me to be much more open about it. I still don’t go into full details or link them my blog, but it’s progress compared to where I used to be. It’s a beautiful feeling talking about it with “live action” people and it’s also beautiful when you have people which you don’t feel the need to hide your love for anime around.

    • Irina says:

      It is so oddly empowering. Such a little thing but it’s nice to be able to share what makes you happy, you know.

  12. I never actually go out of my way to talk about any of my hobbies at all, let alone be anime. But back when in 9th grade, when I was still new to the whole fandom, I somehow managed to leak this little info to my best friend, who in turn asked me for suggestions.

    Well at that time I was at cloud nine, since I never thought I would have someone to talk about anime in the “live action” world. But things didn’t go that well as after the first few series he started getting bored of it and said that he prefers the western series instead, those involving live humans. Sadness.

    BUT! It ain’t a sad story~
    As 2 years later, he comes to me asking for some anime yet again; And me, being the awesome friend I am, gave him at least 230 GB worth of series to help himself with

    Today, I think it’s safe to say that he’s a full fledged otaku, who is now exploring the underrated realm with me

    So the point of this little story: Even if ur colleague doesn’t seem to appreciate Steins;gate at first, don’t worry, try to engage with him about it more and open up about your vast knowledge little by little.

    They come back, they all do.

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