I’ve written comedic posts about forcing everyone you know to watch anime. In real life, I no longer try to introduce my friends to the medium. If they don’t come to it independently, I simply won’t mention it. However, it has happened a few times that people without any anime knowledge showed an interest in the medium and asked me to essentially ease them into it.
This is an exciting opportunity to make someone I like, discover something I love. My priorities may be a bit screwy… It’s always an exhilarating occasiona and would potentially yield someone I could discuss anime with, in real life. A huge reward indeed! Let me tell you, I have cherished each of those opportunities and bungled pretty much all of them!
Dear friends, please learn from my mistakes!
First and very important, a convention is not the way to go for a first experience with anime. It’s simply not an accurate representation. Either the experience will be an exhausting sensory overload for your poor friend, and they will likely be put off the medium for some time. Or they will fall in love with the convention experience and be disappointed that actually watching and chatting about anime is very different. Both things have happened to me and it was the only two times I had gone to anime conventions with people new to the medium. In the latter case, the person still goes to conventions (more often than me) but doesn’t really watch/like anime.
I actually wrote about this not long ago on Karandi’s blog. Fact is, no matter how you think people *should* react to fanservice, most western audiences are used to reacting a certain way to overt sexualization of underage characters. Also underage can be anywhere between under 13 to under 25… It’s a clash in cultural biases that hasn’t quite been smoothed out yet.
For long-time fans, it can become so common that it’s background noise but when you aren’t used to it yet, it’s occasionally jarring. For example, I finally convinced a friend after a year and a half of nagging, to play Steins;Gate. Actually, I didn’t, their brother played it and said it was great so that’s when they tried… Long story medium length, they adored the game except for the few very sexualized scenes that they thought felt out of place and creepy. Another friend had a similar reaction to the anime, to the point of actually not enjoying that much. The scary thing is, I didn’t even notice it myself.
Violence is common enough in all entertainment that audiences are pretty desensitized to it but sexualization remains taboo. And rather than sexualization per see, or all forms of it, each audience has their own cultural hang-ups to deal with. And these can be a barrier for new viewers. I failed to properly recognize that and may have scared some people off.
Anime is a particularly trope-heavy medium. I personally love that about it! There are tons of conventions, expressions and visual shorthand thrown around. Not to mention baffling character traits and reactions that have more to do with the history and conventions of anime than the narrative in which they exist. There’s essentially a learning curve to the enjoyment of anime. This is true up to a certain point for any form of entertainment, but in my experience, it’s even more true for anime.
For experienced viewers, it can be fun. You pick up on little things you’ve seen before or make the connections to the greater meaning. It’s a secret language only you, *real* anime fan can understand. But for new viewers, it can be very confusing and a little boring. In fact, I still stumble across new tropes I have to learn and occasionally, it can still be a little confusing.
I’ve noticed that anime that are considered most accessible, or often suggested as a good place to start watching anime, tend to do away with most standard tropes or have enough exposition to actually explain them in the show itself.
2. Production value is relative
I think that most anime fans do like the appearance of anime. That is a plus in itself for them. But that isn’t always the case for new fans. Although they probably don’t openly dislike it, simply seeing a show or movie because it is “beautiful” or an incredible production is difficult to appreciate when you don’t have much to compare it to.
I have more than once gushed over how technically amazing a series was just to have someone tersely respond that it “wasn’t their style”, or they didn’t notice the camera angles, or “you’re kind of weird about colours, is that like a serial killer thing?”. It’s NOT. Colours are just awesome!!
Point being, if you’re trying to convince someone to give anime a chance, you should start out with a series that has a solid story and/or characters rather than a visually impressive show.
In desperation, I have introduced some people to specific fandoms which I thought would suit them. Let someone else do the work! Who better to share the passion of the medium than the most passionate among us. BIG mistake. I am just not smurt.
I was probably unlucky, but this girl had shown an interest in Yuri on Ice. So, I pointed her to a few online places where she could talk with die-hard fans and get her giggles on. I liked Yuri on Ice but I’m not exactly a die-hard fan. Also, what I really loved about it was the clothes physics. The way the looser training clothes would fold and stretch during routines which were very different from the tighter performance outfits. It was a small visual detail but it spoke volumes and I really loved it. No one else cares. I already know that. Back to my story.
So I send my beautiful, innocent Bambie friend into the wild digital forest and they tore her to shreds! I mean she was downright uncomfortable. She told me people made fun of her for even the most innocuous comments or started raging arguments over elements she hadn’t even realized one *could* argue about. The girl still loved the show but the experience was genuinely upsetting and definitely cooled her enthusiasm for any future show and moreso any future anime discussion.
Booh ☹ I’m a bad anime tour guide.
You have been warned now! You can do better than me! Let’s face it, it would be difficult to do worse!
Do you have any blunders to share when trying to introduce friends to anime? Please let me know. Your failures will make me feel better!