It seems like I can’t go a week without seeing a debate on Gatekeeping in the anime community. I never participate in those debates. Partly because I’m behind on everything and by the time these come to my attention they are already pretty much done. No need to stir a fresh pot. And partly because the arguments go off in some odd directions and it no longer applies to what I want to say.

Lately I read a tweet basically stating that the rise in popularity has had a negative effect on anime. That the quality of it and the community around it was better with a more exclusive fanbase and in essence Gatekeeping is a good thing. (I’m paraphrasing and interpreting – it said anime was better before it became mainstream and all these new people are ruining it. It also said wake up people, Gatekeeping is a good thing) I think the underlying thesis was that Gatekeeping could be considered a form of quality control. This isn’t an isolated sentiment, people do have a tendency to rebel against whatever is most popular but I was still surprised by how many people echoed and embraced the sentiment often taking it much further.

Regardless of general views on Gatekeeping as a concept, it’s not really for me personally. So I figured I would share 5 reasons that explain that.

sure I want to be Mikasa, but I’m not…

5) it’s a position that’s too difficult to defend

When you essentially propose that a person or group of people is somehow unfit to be part of a community, like the anime fan community, you usually have to base it on something. I’ve noticed that the classic anime gatekeeper trope usually uses number of anime seen as a measure of worth.

The problem is that I’ve watched a decent number of anime but there are way way more I have not watched. You can probably name 10 shows I have never seen right now without much effort. So by that measure, I would end up throwing myself out of the community. I would be a keyless gatekeeper. That doesn’t sound like fun…

lots of Rei
when you try to go against yourself


4) It goes against my reasons for being here in the first place

Like a lot of anime bloggers, one of my driving motivations to start a blog in the first place was to find a community to discuss anime with. I think that’s something I have in common with the majority of anime bloggers out there.

It would be silly of me to actively stifle the growth of this community over something random. I’m no angel and certainly there are people I don’t get along with and might interact less with them but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be there. Besides, that has nothing to do with their views or knowledge of anime. If I were to chose my friends that way, I would be mighty lonely.

tanaka kun lazy

3) I’m lazy

Gatekeeping requires a whole lot of energy! If you want to go targeted, you have to identify the people that don’t make the cut, a challenge in and of itself, then spend a good deal of time bullying them away. And it can take forever! Some people are stubborn.

If you prefer a general approach. I.e. “we hate mainstream” or “we hate elites” or whatever vague group you decided should be cut. Then you have to put on an actual campaign, shouting your slogans on every platform available in order to sway public opinion.

Those are full time jobs! If I’m not getting paid for it, I just can’t muster that type of investment!

wait, did I just use the same point twice? oh well…

2) I’m too lackadaisical

This goes hand in hand with my previous point but in order to keep your Gatekeeping motivation up and be a convincing while you’re at it, you have to actually care on some level. And boy do I find it hard to care about people’s hyper specific views on entertainment for any extended period of time.

And I’m just no good at taking it either. I lose interest in this type of stuff two tweets in, there’s no way I could keep arguing about who is or isn’t a real fan for **multiple days***. I gotta say, even if most of these people are just teenage trolls trying to kill some of the huge excess of time they have by spreading some minor chaos, it still amazes me that they can have the attention span for it. I clearly do not.

FMA Greed Ling

1) I want more anime

The issue with doing something “on principle” or even “just for laughs” is that you might accidentally accomplish something. In the case of Gatekeeping, that something is reducing anime’s overall audience. I don’t think it’s really necessary for me to spell out why this might not be something I want to accomplish. I really enjoy anime. I love how accessible and available it is. I love that the diversity of the audience has made it possible to watch so many different series in so many different genres. This was not the case not so long ago.

And it’s not like the big mainstream popular shows are likely to disappear with a reduced market. It’s gonna be the weird ish I like!  Because my tastes tend to be different from popular opinion, I would be really shooting myself in the foot by Gatekeeping!

This was a bit of a useless list. It applies only to me. I wanted to explore the practical reasons that shape my views on Gatekeeping. I would actually love to see the opposite. What are the practical reasons for Gatekeeping. One I can think of is keeping fandoms from getting out of hand? Maybe I’ll try putting a post together as a thought experiment.

In the meantime, do you have any views on Gatekeeping in general? What are your practical motivations?

Backstab Rini
there we go – fan base reduced!

28 thoughts

  1. I hate gatekeeping, not just in the anime community but in general. In my eyes, the thing that is great about the anime community is that it welcomes people who are ignored or stigmatized by the rest of society. It’s a safe haven for people who are socially awkward or don’t fit in. People from all over the world, of all different races, gender identities, and neurotypes can come together and bond over their love of anime. Gatekeeping goes completely against all of that and only serves to make the community more divisive and hostile for no good reason. It really shouldn’t matter if you’re a hardcore otaku who has 500+ shows on their MAL or if you watched Attack on Titan a couple times on Netflix and think Mikasa is rad. We should all focus on the great anime that brings us together, not draw arbitrary lines in the sand that only bring us apart.

  2. I will never understand gatekeeping. If there is more people doing whatever, then there is a larger market and, therefore, more investment from companies. In other words, there will be more of whatever you love so much that you want to gatekeep it. Basically, it’s just counterproductive.

    Second, it’s a freaking free world, so let people watch whatever they want and have the opinion they want. It’s just stupid to try to make someone to not do something because of selfishness… Like, should we go back to the times where LGBT couldn’t marry, women couldn’t vote, and so on? Of course not! So, why should we say that some people are not worth it of enjoying Anime? Moreover, watching more Anime doesn’t necessarily mean knowing more… So many people I’ve worked with that did what I was doing way more time than I am and were failing in the most basic things.

    Lastly, more people enjoying Anime means more people I can discuss Anime with. Am I going to love them all? Not really, probably I won’t even like half of them. However, it’s probably that I’ll love a few of them, so it’s more than worth it!

  3. In my experience, these tendencies come from people who’s personal identity is contingent on their community identity. My old-school cosplay friends got really bent out of shape when attractive women started doing cosplay because ‘it stole’ what felt like the old-school safe space. My scifi friends felt the same way years earlier when twilight brought ‘know nothingers’ into the sci/fantasy convention scene. The comic scene (and anime too) has butted heads over greater participation from african americans and lgbtq fans. While resistance to change and sharing what used to be a cliquish affair is understandable, it’s also… well… silly to ground personal identity (and the value of that identity) on consumer goods and who else buys them?

    But fuck all you posers for eating Boo-Berry cereal! That shit’s all mine and mine along 😛

  4. Number of anime watched is a lousy criterium. I mean, if people who start out watching anime have one thing in common, it’s that they’ve watched none before. And everyone started out at one point.

    Also, unless you live in Japan, what you watch has negligible influence on the quality of anime. Western sales probably have become more important in the last few years, but that’s a difference from “none at all” to minimal, I think.

    Finally, I don’t agree that anime has gotten worse. One thing that did happen is that the number of anime produced has increased; I don’t think (but I’m no expert) that the number of animators has increased to the same degree. Maybe there’s more outsourcing to Korea and China? There’s definitely been an increase in Japanese/Chinese co-productions. If I could change one thing about the industry, it’s not the quality of the product – it’s the quality of the work conditions, so that people can actually afford to make anime without burning themselves out.

    Finally, gatekeeping is a fool’s errand, since people are just going to tunnel under the walls. And Netflix & co. are just going to fly people in, not even bothering to laugh at your puny little gate.

    But, personally, the most devastating asepct of gatekeeping is that you deprive yourself of fun new perspectives that invigorate your watching experience. Every now and that someone who doesn’t know all the tropes yet points something out that my habit-worn mind didn’t pick up on at all. I can’t tell you how much fun it is to be able to see old favourites with a new perspective. You won’t get that if you make people afraid to express themselves.

    1. I completely agree. Except perhaps on how negligible the international market is. The growth is rather astonishing

      1. I’m absolutely not confident on that point. The growth is definitely there. And there are English twitter accounts for some anime. And every now and then people in the industry say they’re trying to appeal to foreigners (e.g. Yamakan trying to safe anime with Fractale), though that’s mostly creators rather than investors. With the exception of Crunchyroll, foreign investors tend not to be that in tune with the anime fandom (especially obvious with Netflix and Amazon). It feels a bit like people are turning other people away from their speciality store, while most of the sales come from big chain stores anyway. But I could be wrong.

    2. The money from Blue-rays ran out that’s why the anime industry can’t afford good working conditions that is also why a lot of animation work is done in Korean and china.

  5. OK, these discussions we’ve had before–but that closing pic! Pure, evil genius!!!

  6. I only gatekeep ONE thing, and that’s moe anime. What I like to do is bombard them with all the political intrigue/brutal violence/hyper action they want at first until they’re begging me to make them watch K-ON! YOU WILL ALL REALIZE THE POWER OF SLICE OF LIFE HOW I EXPERIENCED IT: THROUGH A CRUCIBLE OF EDGY ANIME.

    1. is that gatekeeping. Seems like your forcefully shoving folks through the gate. What’s the opposite of gatekeeping?

      1. It’s more like I’m keeping the door closed and when they finally get fed up and decide to kick it open, I open the door so they fall headfirst into the fluff.

        I cannot find a word for it that doesn’t have too many syllables

  7. I try and avoid it, too, as the more people interested in things the more people you have to talk to about them, which is a good thing!

    My only exception to this is people obviously coming into a particular medium, fandom, whatever in clear bad faith. The people who come in and immediately start complaining, demanding change, that sort of thing. Although now that I say that, I realise there’s probably an argument to be made that those people aren’t really trying to come “into” that fandom at all; they’re more likely trying to heap scorn on it from outside.

    If I criticise someone who puts no effort into an obnoxious, insulting review of something they clearly had no interest in in the first place, I don’t *think* I’m gatekeeping, because that person didn’t want to come through the gate at all.

    I guess what I do is let people through the gate if they want to come in, but I get the sledgehammer out if anyone shows up trying to stick posters saying “AWFUL PERSON LIVES HERE” on it. Or something.

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