Most anime fans get asked sooner or later how they got into their hobby and for me, it was like smoking…I wanted to fit in with the cool kids. I’m not kidding.
Whenever I give my very honest answer, people usually giggle at what they think is an obvious joke or give me those short polite responses you reserve for people that may be a few donuts short of a dozen. You know those answers: “Oh is that so…” polite smile, “sorry I have to go….”.
That’s probably because of a few things. First, everyone claims to be a nerd but there are degrees. A nerd like me didn’t even have a grasp of what was cool in school. Accidental rhyme! I still don’t, to be honest. I try things out because they capture my imagination and spark my interest, sometimes for very random reasons, and by the time I actually catch up with popular perception, I’m in too deep. That’s what happened with anime.
In my tiny brain, all that reputation for violence and sex made it “bad”. As in baddie. Which was bound to be cool, like smoking? Smoking isn’t cool kids, I was a particularly stupid child. However, anime was still a cartoon so adults wouldn’t like it. Cause adults are the least cool thing in the world, right,? I cannot stress enough how shortsighted and dimwitted I use to be in all manners of coolness. Some adults are most definitely the coolest.
Point is, I figured I would watch and borderline memorize a bunch of those freaky Japanese cartoons then wow the kids at school with all the little details I noticed and I would have a million friends. It didn’t quite work out that way. I soon realized that sharing my newfound super cool knowledge would mean talking to other people and the plan broke down.
But even without me being sociable, it did attract a lot of attention from boys. For some reason, at the time the fan demographic seemed to be skewed heavily towards men in general and I was a bit of a novelty. I made a few friends, then went right back to my cave completely isolated from anyone that I could actually engage with on all things anime.
Over the years I dipped my toe into anime community waters. Now and then I would participate in online discussions on various forums. I would read reviews on sites like MAL occasionally go down to Reddit. I never found my place though. Sometimes it seemed like anime was the one and only thing I had in common with other fans. I still wasn’t cool. It had long stopped being a concern but, as much as I hate to admit it, it still made me a little sad. These were supposed to be my people but half of them were telling me I’m not a real fan. And I didn’t even know what that meant exactly.
I’m coming off much gentler than I am. I wasn’t heartbroken or anything. If you’re picturing a fragile Moe girl throwing herself on her mattress holding back tears of exasperated angst. Keep picturing in it, sounds cute. For me, it was more of a mild bummer. It did make me think for a second that maybe some other form of entertainment would be better suited for me. Or rather that I would enjoy it more because it was aimed at people with similar tastes and ways of thinking. Then I watched Psycho Pass and threw that idea away, forever.
I didn’t quite give up on the community either, although I took a step back from the online one. I still went to cons and local events. So a few times a year I got to have some superficial contact with other fans. Things I found out were that 1) I watch a lot of anime. Even among self-declared Otaku, I tend to spend a lot of time watching. I was surprised as my online experience led me to believe the opposite. And 2) I’m too scattered. Apparently, most fans are much more likely to stick to a few general genres of anime and the fact that I divide my attention so much makes anime conversations a little more awkward. I tend to do a lot of cross-genre comparisons and examples that don’t mean much to many people. Also, folks are weirdly attached to genres, I’ve occasionally gotten funny looks when a mention certain animes in certain company.
I was still not cool by any means, but I faked it much better in real life. Or maybe people were just too polite to call me a loser to my face. In any case, I started to get back some of that initial conviction that anime was for cool people. People that could pull off insane intricate costumes in public. That takes gusto and confidence. Both trademarks of the cool folks. And conventions are expensive, you wouldn’t have them for just anyone. Slowly, in the back of my head, I started wanting to be a part of the community again.
But not too much. Because going outside and talking to people is exhausting. Right?!?. Also, 95% of anime conventions don’t have bars. Someone should really look into fixing that.
And then, on a whim, I started a blog. I won’t bore you yet again with the same old rhetoric. Yada yada, wonderful welcoming community, blah blah blah, full of intelligent insightful people who teach me things every day. You know the spiel. It took over a decade but this was it. This was what I had imagined as a kid. A relaxed and supportive community, always ready with fascinating bits of knowledge and strong but respectful opinions. You know…cool kids. A group I want to belong to.
And here I am full circle. I started watching anime to be cool and discovered a rich medium I still thoroughly enjoy on so many levels. And as a part of the anime blogging community, I can finally say I fit I’m a part of a group that I consider cool. I still don’t feel cool mind you, but that’s ok. The nerdy sidekick is lovable too.