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….”.

you’re missing out

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.

home sweet home

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.

soup face
not exactly the look I meant

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.


21 thoughts

  1. I started watching anime as a kid on TV. I knew they were Japanese cartoons, because my father continually expressed his surprise about the large eyes. By the time I was a teen I actively sought out Japanese cartoons. It was impossible, though, to do so in order to be cool, because they were just cartoons and cartoons were for kids. The pervy stuff wouldn’t arrive on TV until the early nineties. I knew about it, but the first I saw was still a culture shock: Agent Aika, a weapon of mass panty exposure. At first I thought that was a rather silly and innocent way to perverted, you know ersatz nudity, but it quickly became apparent that the show wasn’t afraid of nudity at all. I was mostly confused by the panty obsession. I’ve learned a lot in the ~25 years since.

    Until the early nineties, anime was mostly World Masterpiece Theatre, adventure shows like Sindbad or animal stuff like Kimba the White Lion, and SF stuff like Captain Future. There was a transitional period around the time Akira was released in cinemas (but none near me – I didn’t see it until much later, but it was making waves at the time) – which was the first anime available with a Japanese setting I remember.

    As for being cool, I tried that as a kid but only attracted bullies, so by the time I turned a teen I was just trying to avoid drawing attention at all. I have no sentimental memories of the time and the less I talk about it, the better. Anime had nothing whatsoever to do with any of it.

  2. I got into anime for real around a year before I started the blog. Funny enough, you know what sold me?

    Dragon Maid, of all things. That was the first seasonal anime I ever followed as it came out.

    Idk, I can’t explain it. I watched anime because I suddenly felt like I wanted to.

  3. That was a very interesting story. I think you had the opposite approach to me when I first watched anime. Going back to when I was a little kid, I was exposed to the English edited dub of Teknoman/Tekkaman Blade and thought it looked cool, but I didn’t make the connection of it being Japanese. I eventually saw other shows like DBZ, Sailor Moon, Samurai Pizza Cats, Pokemon, and Digimon to name a few and “graduated” to other series as I got older. Once I was in high school, I was bullied for liking it even when I had friends who also shared the same passion. I didn’t do it because it was cool, but it felt great seeing these shows that not many others had heard of. I thought those series and movies were much better than what Hollywood churned out and that was before I got into indie cinema, too.

  4. I’m glad you found an anime that you connected with and like how you expanded your viewing to cross several genres. I got into anime first through a kid I babysat, then my brother and I found a bunch of shows on TV that started our crave. For me, anime introduced a whole new line of storytelling, culture, artful imaginations and designs. I’m never in the current stages of what is ‘hot’ in anime, but I do try to expand and watch different genres, movies and styles with what is available to me in Canada. Because of my life, and time available I doubt i’ll ever be able to catch up. It’s why i’m thankful to blogs like yours it helps me find a few hidden gems sometimes. Keep up the good work!

    1. For some reason I find the idea if discovering anime through a kid you babysat just utterly charming. I love that origin story. I’m in Quebec myself so I know the struggles of finding anime up north!

  5. First I’ve actually been to an anime convention that had an anime bar and it was pretty cool. Less from the availablity of alcohol and more from the fact that that we were all adults. As to how I got into anime I grew up watching Voltron and Transformers. Then in College I found Gundam and it was one of the few good sci fi shows on at the time.

  6. I have never, ever been cool. Growing up, I played computer games (in the age where computers games weren’t yet cool — the PlayStation was a long way off!) and was a classically trained musician. I had stupid hair that had no style beyond “mess”. As time went on, I became interested in a variety of things that still weren’t cool — role-playing games, fantasy fiction, anime. It was hard to find anyone to talk to about these things… and near-impossible to find anyone who was also into ALL of those things like I was!

    At some point in my adulthood, I pretty much just said “fuck it” and decided to embrace who I am without worrying about being cool. I like anime, and colourful video games with pretty girls in, and animated pornography. I listen to video game soundtracks in preference to pretty much any type of music. I read visual novels with explicit erotic content and more words than the Lord of the Rings cycle. I write thousands of words at a time about things that I’ve enjoyed, but couldn’t name anyone who is currently “famous” in popular music. I haven’t watched a movie (either at the cinema or at home) since “Bridesmaids”, but I’ll talk your ear off about the lesbian subtexts of the Hyperdimension Neptunia series.

    I’m pretty sure I’m still not cool. The difference now is that I’m cool with not being cool. And I’m more than happy to welcome anyone into my uncool little world if they’re interested in joining me!

  7. So at first I watched it as a kid because it was on TV and I liked it. I started watching it again as an adult in college after my friend recommended Guilty Crown which made me love anime again and got me back into watching it!

    1. I think a lot of people did that sort of thing. I actually had seen shows as a kid without knowing they were anime

  8. I got into anime without realising it, as far as the tiny me of yesteryear was concerned One Piece, Dragonball, Gundam and Cardcaptors were all cartoons, then by the time I started college I learnt what manga was and from there what anime was. Never looked back since.

    1. Sweet and that’s a pretty cool introduction to the medium… Sheesh, I’m really stuck on the word cool today

  9. I blame my brother for getting into anime lol. I think in a way, I’m a lot like you in the sense I wanted to fit in the cool kids. My bro and his friends were really into anime and racing. Racing bit I did and loved, but I felt disconnected because I never got into anime, mostly because they’d have these long chats about it and I was too antsy to pay attention to it, oops. It wasn’t until much later after we lost touch, and when I finally understood what anime was and got into it on my own, that I realised they were big ol’ nerds and it made me love them more. It also helped me re-connect with a lot of my friends after that losing touch bit.

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