These days it seems most of my anime-related interactions on social media can be divided into 4 general categories. Strangers telling me they are sexually attracted to drawings. Which is fine but you gotta be in the mood for that sort of thing. Strangers and sometimes acquaintances generally proclaiming that so and so anime is the worst! Various people saying there is something personally wrong with me if I enjoy – insert anime name here-. Or various people saying there is something personally wrong with me if I don’t enjoy – insert anime name here-.
Basically, there’s been a bit of a negative trend lately (I’m writing this late November. Things might have gotten wonderful again by the time this publishes) So I figured it was a good time to dust off this post I once wrote for 100-word anime. It has aged a bit but I think it largely still applies.
I often explore “why” people start blogging on anime. I collect those origin stories like a treasure. For some reason, they are very interesting to me even though they also tend to be very similar. The top reason by a mile is usually some variation of: “I love anime and I wanted to find people to discuss it with”. It seems a majority of us were looking for an outlet for our random and a sense of community. I was as well.
However, that bright-eyed enthusiasm also tends to turn to bitter disillusionment when the community we discover isn’t quite what we expected.
A lot of bloggers have some drive to make their blogs better, which for some means more popular. I figure that’s fair enough. After all, that’s the community we were seeking in the first place. So for a lot of people that will mean opening up comments, seeking out other blogs venturing off-platform to Twitter, YouTube or Reddit in a bid to share our blogs or at least our thoughts with more people.
I’ve noticed that this is where the trouble starts.
I’ve spoken to a lot, and I mean A LOT of fellow bloggers and more involved anime fans that grow exhausted from seeing series they love get “attacked” by other fans. I also know a few bloggers and anime fans that actively have fun mocking or trolling other fans so I can’t deny that it happens. Often, these fans take criticism of beloved shows quite personally. Not in the way that saying something negative about the show is like saying something negative about them but more in the way that it bothers and even hurts them. If you’ve ever felt that way you are most definitely not alone! And unfortunately, a lot of people end up retreating and shutting off interaction with other fans to avoid those unpleasant situations.
For some reason, people think I’m immune to this. Thick-skinned and indifferent. I’m not. I once read an innocent remark that Natsume was a fine show but boring and it’s time we invested in a different series. That bothers me to this day. I think about it embarrassingly often. It was over a year ago! I think part of the reason why I personally don’t seem to be as bothered is that in my experience, people rarely insult the shows I like (well they might at first but they quickly move on), instead they tend to insult me personally. And that does in fact not bother me much coming from strangers. From friends, it’s another story.
This said I did have a friend who, while saying they wanted to disengage from the anime community because of all the negativity, also publicly said they didn’t understand how anyone could possibly enjoy one of my favourite shows. So that sort of falls into all the categories. I got over it but it did sting a bit.
However, when the criticism stays clearly levelled at an anime, or at fans of the anime, then I have to carefully remind myself to take a deep breath and listen (read) instead of going on the defensive. Sometimes, I forget. And yes, at those times I also wonder if having a blog is worth it…
And then we have issues of fans spiralling out of control, levelling serious accusations at one another or throwing hurtful insults around over something that really should only be meant for enjoyment. I guess I have issues with insults against anything other than myself. That sounds a bit unhealthy… I should probably look into that. This aspect of the anime community has kept me largely off platforms other than WordPress and has made me actively avoid certain anime topics altogether. (In general, I do have a little update on this at the end) And I am by no means particularly sensitive so I can only imagine how bad it can get for those that are.
But it has had another effect on me. I’m not quite sure how to put it, but it’s made me duller. You see, I really don’t want to ruin someone else’s anime experience. If anything I’m a huge cheerleader of the medium at large and I would feel bad if I made it less enjoyable for someone. That’s sort of antithesis to my whole deal. So I pretty quickly started self-censoring. And I had gotten to a point where I’m not that happy with it.
In order to avoid making someone else feel bad, I over sanitize any negative impression I may have about a show. I use very soft and subjective language constantly trying to make sure people know that it’s just my personal opinion and not an absolute or objective value judgment. I am a silly writer for the most part and my humour occasionally skews towards more black or blue jokes but I edit those out when I catch them. As a result, I sometimes end up with some very bland or just very superficial posts hoping to not upset anyone and I still do occasionally.
What’s the point of reviewing anything if all my reviews as just a uniform mass of mildly positive reactions.
As you may know, I often collab with other bloggers. And for the most part, we disagree. I think Karandi and I have opposite reactions to about 80% of the shows we watch. And those “debates” are some of the most interesting and rewarding anime discussions I have. Although it is, of course, possible to have fantastic discourse where everyone agrees as well. This said, I personally get smarter when I m challenged. Otherwise, I tend to get a bit intellectually lazy and just assume there’s nothing more to think about.
And I’ve been denying myself these experiences on purpose. Because…well I’m not entirely sure anymore. I know that even fairly mild and respectful criticism has occasionally made some readers unhappy. To be clear, it’s not that I need to make everyone happy, that’s impossible. It’s just that I need to find a way to write something negative with the community reaction pilling on into something worse.
So far I haven’t found exactly how to go about it. Disclaimers break up the flow of an article and don’t actually work anyways. Most people are well aware that negative talk about a show they love isn’t about them directly and that’s not what’s upsetting them. So just a paragraph telling them it’s my opinion isn’t likely to change much.
At the end of the day, as long as it remains respectful, maybe the best way to go is to just be honest. People don’t need to agree with each other on everything. Maybe I can inspire some bloggers to write rebuttal posts. Maybe I can even get someone to start a blog to tell me I’m wrong. Then we all have a great new blog to read. Everyone wins!
To sum it all up. Most people get upset when their favourite shows are spoken of negatively. If it happens to you, you’re not alone. But that shouldn’t stop us from having discussions.
(ED. As I mentioned in the first paragraphs, social media has been bumming me out a bit lately. Usually, I simply disengage in those times. I mean it’s only strangers talking about anime, nothing to get worked up about. But lately, I’ve started a little experiment. Whenever I come across some just bluntly negative statement about anime on Twitter or Discord instead of ignoring it, I answer with a positive one. If someone is insulting a show or the fans of a show, I will just reply with whatever aspects I’m enjoying or just elements I think are good even if I might not like a series. I make sure I don’t insult the person making the statement or even discredit their statement. I just sort of even it out with another perspective.
It’s actually really cheered me up. I doubt it will have any huge impact in general but it’s made me want to interact with other fans more. If ever you find yourself burned out on just aimless negativity that can arise in our community from time to time, I do recommend you give this trick a try. And let me know if it worked for you. Maybe we can start a trend.