I had a very difficult time coming up with a title for this post. Let me start off by saying I don’t think anime fans are murderers. So I click baited you. Sorry about that. But I am going to talk to you about the fact that I heard someone imply that anime fans are murderers not too long ago and I can’t quite get it out of my mind.

maybe I’m thinking too hard about this…

A while ago I wrote a post discussing how anime fans are seen out in society. Taking into account the explosion in popularity of anime, I don’t think anyone really still considers anime fans lonely overweight uber-nerds who are scared of sunlight and girls. Maybe they should. Girls and sunlight are both terrifying! This said, I’m not sure our reputation is all that great and I wonder why.

In that post I linked to, I was referencing a YouTuber who discusses TV shows and how he basically admits that he stays away from commenting on anime in any respect because anime fans are just way too intense. basically, he felt that not only would he get attacked no matter what he said, but he would get way more negative backlash than if he stuck to other types of media.

The nice way of saying it is that anime fans are passionate. Or wackos…

I tried my best to look at the issue but since I wrote that post a few things have happened. For one, anime has continued to grow in popularity and increasingly become part of mainstream culture. And two, the reputation of anime fans remains rather dubious.

give us a chance!

I often see anime associated with incel culture and not in a positive way. When the US was politicizing everything for a while, anime was often lumped in with conservative idealism while simultaneously being called inappropriate smut which was a bit confusing to watch from an outsider’s perspective.

And a few weeks ago (months by the time I publish this) I was watching a Youtuber that I really enjoy who discusses true crime, go over a couple of mass shooters from recent history. She mentioned that one of them had a lot of anime-related stuff on their social media. She then went on to comment that she’s not saying anything but it seems to her that all these troubled young men that go on to kill a bunch of innocent people are anime fans…

I really like this Youtuber but yeah, that’s not the brightest comment.

It would be fairly easy to dismantle that statement. First of all, it’s simply demonstratively not true. There are plenty of recent mass shooters that have shown no particular interest in anime. Just think of all the politically motivated killings in the past few years. Second, as I have mentioned, anime has exploded in popularity and there are simply a very large number of people that have anime-related stuff in their social media. It’s a bit like saying, isn’t it weird that all these mass shooters use the internet?.. But you know, that’s not really the point.

now that I think of it, criminals do often use computers. Coincidence??

I’m pretty sure even that content creator knows that there is no actual correlation and they were just adding some banter to fill the silence. I would imagine that creating those videos where you monologue for almost an hour is a difficult task and a person is likely to find themselves just mindlessly babbling now and then.

However, what struck me, a week later when I actually thought about it, is that no one in the comments really mentioned this moment. Heck, when I heard it at the time, it didn’t even really register and it’s only later on when I was thinking of anime fans and how society views us for the blog, that I actually properly remembered this moment.

It seems that I’m just so used to the negative view of anime fans that I didn’t even consider it. I certainly would have picked up on it if she had said, is it just me or do a lot of mass killers really love dolphins. I’m just saying… That would have immediately hit my radar. But when she basically suggested that anime fans are murderers, I was like, yeah, that figures.

So why is that? I certainly don’t believe it. A lot of people I really like love anime. I’ve certainly met some aggressive and unpleasant fans but I’ve met aggressive and unpleasant people with all sorts of interests. Some of them may even like dolphins. Yet, I’m not expecting these different social groups to have the same toxic reputation that anime fans have. Or gamers, we kind of get lumped together a lot.

and 98% of the population plays video games…

So why is it that in the past few years the industry has grown drastically, celebrities and everyday people have slowly been discovering anime and finding their favourite shows, cosplay has become an art form rather than a fetish… And yet, the reputation of fans hasn’t improved even with other fans?

And the thing is, I don’t have an answer for this one. I’m not sure. From what I have seen, anime fans just don’t do much. I mean we have our little conventions. There’s this loud vocal minority that can be racist, sexist, phobic jerks but like I said, there are very few subgroups that don’t have that. But to my knowledge, there haven’t been any huge scandals related to the community, no “gates”, no sweeping embarrassing ideological statements… and no mass shootings.

The worst that I can say is that people with anime avatars on Twitter can be arses. So what? Anime avatars are adorable… That’s not the point. The point is that in the years since I wrote that last post of mine, I went from thinking that the passion of anime fans was occasionally obstructive that was giving us a bit of a bad reputation, to wondering whether people actually thought we were murderers. How did we get here? Why?

it’s because of yandere memes, isn’t it?

I closed my last post with a question to the audience: What do you think? Is our reputation for aggressive lashing out and gatekeeping justified? Can we fix it? Will we? I think that question is still valid but we also have a bit of an answer. We didn’t fix our reputation.

Now I’m not sure about lashing out and aggressive gatekeeping, but I certainly don’t think a reputation for violence in the anime community is justified. But maybe I’m wrong. There may be things I simply don’t know about. That would make me very sad, so I hope I’m right on this one. I hope it’s just a case of a community being scapegoated out of force of habit and convenience.

It’s something that tends to happen when communities grow and start to become very mainstream in a short amount of time. That’s why there were serious articles about how violent video games could bring about real-world violence until like 98% of the population was playing violent video games and it started to sound a little ridiculous that we would literally all go feral.

So maybe the reputation of anime fans will sort itself out in a few years, once the industry has completely saturated the market and it becomes harder to find someone who doesn’t watch anime than someone who does. Still, it would be nice to do something in the meantime. Maybe we need more anime charities? Let’s teach kids to read through subs…

34 thoughts

  1. I find most “sociological” explanations for crime – especially serious, violent crime – especially tedious. The stereotype of the serial/spree killer as a self-pitying, embittered loner addicted to violent porn/video games/anime is so hackneyed as to be worthless. And yet it continues to be trotted out as a serious “explanation” for criminal behaviour even by those authors/journalists/ academicians who are trying to avoid a tabloid treatment of the subject.

    I suspect the dubious reputation of anime fans is largely a hangover from its initial perception as a “niche” activity/interest – even though anime itself, as you say, has become increasingly mainstream. This status as “niche” also carries with it the connotation of “loser” – remember how Comic Book Guy was depicted in The Simpsons? You’re only into this “niche” activity because you’re the kind of sad, lonely loser who can’t integrate into the “mainstream”.

    This probably isn’t helped by the fact that many – though by no means most or even a majority of – anime lovers are indubitably members of the classification “nerd”: bookish, intelligent, introverted types who also have a tendency to do things like blog/vlog about anime/manga (instead of using social media for the purpose for which it was clearly created, ie: posting cat memes). I include myself in the categorisation, btw. Such folk are always likely to be regarded as suspect by wider society; and even those who don’t regard them as weirdos will wonder why such otherwise intelligent people are into “cartoons” as adults (the implication being that we are probably paedophiles or something equally sinister).

    In other words, it’s just a lazy, shorthand way to not think about the lovers of anime as a community (with all the diversity that implies) and to instead stereotype them en masse as “losers”, “weirdos”, “loners”, etc etc. It’s probably not a reputation we’ll shake for quite some time, no matter how mainstream anime becomes. For while watching (and even enjoying) anime might be fine, public enthusiasm about it will probably still be regarded as rather infra dig for a while to come.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some bodies to bury in my back yard… ⛏

      1. Agreed. Less defensive self-consciousness and more reflective self-awareness is always to be welcomed.

  2. You’ve generated some interesting comments here!

    Mari’s football comparison, Dawnstorm’s bread observation, and foovay’s insights about the advent of social media and the influence of uncharitable Xtian groups are my favorites (though all of the comments made me think).

    I’ve tried thinking about this, too, and I’m not sure how far I’ve gotten. But it reminds me of the Comics Code Authority. Do you remember that? I _think_ it’s still around. In the 1950s, comics were viewed a lot like anime’s viewed today: subversive, sketchy; a lot of the things Fred mentioned in his comment.

    The comics industry wanted to avoid a show-down with the government, so they came up with the CCA. The CCA basically self-censored material. I became aware of it for the first time when the X-Men published the climax of the Dark Phoenix in the early 1980s. It was too intense to pass CCA’s requirements, so they published without the CCA’s approval. Quite the controversy at the time.

    I think anime has provoked a similar reaction. I suspect, but I don’t have any evidence to prove, that since it’s from an Asian country, it is even more dangerous. Which I would think is strange until I reflect that some Americans still hate the Toyota Tundra as a “foreign” truck when it’s designed and manufactured in Texas.

    No one every said prejudice was rational!

    This is a tough topic. I like how you’ve framed it in your post. I’m still thinking about it…

    1. With Marvel dominating the world it’s easy to forget that comic books where once frowned upon. I do hope anime eventually gets the same recognition. Personally, there are some anime movies that I find way more impressive but that is a matter of taste.

  3. I mean… most anime fans I know aren’t killers. Some might make an out of touch joke about a character killing another character in an anime, but I don’t think there’s any correlational equaling causation here. So that specific true crime youtuber probably was talking to fill space, verses any true commentary like you said. I think that sort of filler speech does highlight the issue of terminology in Japan, verses how it’s being expressed in non-Japanese countries.

    What doesn’t help is that True Crime has rocketed in popularity lately. I’d argue almost as much as anime, and within a similar timeframe. There are people who actually do the research into cases to understand cultural context as to why and how this stuff happens… and then everyone else who just does ‘Lol, OMG did you hear about this wacky weird Japanese killer?!’ for clicks. That’s a while different can of worms though.

    Back to your point, there are precedents to otaku or just anime fans in this case and being killers at least in Japan. Yuka Takaoka, and Tsutomu Miyazaki being two of the more notorious ones. They’re also usually the only two True Crime Youtubers cover because gotta get them clicks. I think the larger problem lies with people only reading those titles and then painting the whole anime community with that brush. I would think, given how popular anime is these days, most people know there’s only a few bad actors. Then again, there’s plently of people where two badly titled videos is all the proof they need.

  4. That is such a ridiculous statement and I’m glad you called it out. I always noticed that double standard with anime fans getting the side-eye, but other fandoms don’t get the same treatment. The football example that Mari gave was SO spot on and I remember when Philadelphia got wrecked after the Eagles won the Super Bowl a few years ago, yet barely anyone got in trouble despite destroying property, tipping over cars, or even eating horse excrement (I can’t make this up to save my life), yet football fans NEVER get that kind of scrutiny. Don’t even get me started how others get assaulted and arrested for far less than fans celebrating their team winning or rioting while losing. If otakus did the exact same thing, then this would be international news. I’ve even talked about how other fandoms get away with things no one else does like sports fans and Disney fans to name a few. It’s just stupid how anime fans despite their hobby becoming more mainstream in the West still are looked at as weird at best or deviants at worst. Part of me wants to judge other “acceptable” fandoms the same way nerdy fandoms get crapped on to hold a mirror to their blatant hypocrisy. Thank you for making this post as you brought so many great points.

  5. What I have seen is an assumption that adult anime fans are social misfits. Since all the school shooters are social misfits there is a kind of transitive property that gets applied. Social misfits are always scary and they are one of the last social groups it is perfectly acceptable to belittle.

    Or you take the stereotypical incel (NEET, if not full on hikikomori) living in their parents’ basement, playing games and watching anime all night and sleeping all day, and you apply it to everyone so as to feel a sense of smug superiority.

    Or because anime deals in very young characters – especially when it is loli or shouta – they claim that anime fans are all closet pedophiles. Every time an anime creator gets busted for kiddie porn this just reinforces the idea. Any kind of ecchi is beyond the moral pale. Children should not be doing such things!

    Or because all the emphasis on magic, anime is really Satanically inspired. In some circles you’ll hear that a lot. Mostly people who voted for Trump and refuse to get vaccinated.

    Anime is still dealing with the stereotypes that developed when it was only in its infancy here.

    1. I get that the loli and shota isssue can be hard to swallow but the rest seems fairly common. Tons of americain sitcomes in the last few years focuse on high school sstudents and they are real-life people, I see magic and specifically satanism represented more commonly in western media and there is a lot of violence as well. A LOT of anime iss moe or cute slice of life which is way too whoolesome for mos US producers to even consider putting on the aire becase it’s “too boring”.

      I don’t disagree with you that it might be the perception. But it’s really not based on much…

  6. I don’t so much hear that anime fans are murderers so much as sexually deviant but honestly this really is the same as the video games cause violence argument in that it is clearly just another easy throw-away line and target for those that don’t want to deal with the real underlying social issues such as mental health, poverty, inequality, etc.

    1. Sexual deviants is a bit more fun. Depending on what type of deviant. I’m pretty ok with being caled a fun-loving pansexual open to conentual exploration…

  7. What really makes me sad is a billion light years ago when I was personally dragged kicking and screaming into the Internet world I found to my astonishment a beautiful, caring community of like minded (Pagan) people I could really talk to. At that point in time I lived in a really toxic real life community which basically is the very embodiment of the whacked out religious right in the U.S. As I surfed and explored the Internet I found my heart blossuming full of hope that at last the community of humankind would discover that we are all more alike than we are different, as we all came together in various chat rooms and websites and blogs across the Internet and found common ground in cute kitten videos. Now, I’m not saying this is the cause but… it seems like about the time the corporations invaded with MySpace and Facebook, and created gatekeeping through search engines that was the end of personal websites for fun and sharing and made everything a for profit entity…right about that time the whole environment went toxic. And it just keeps getting more so. Is it me, or do toxic entities seem to have a LOT more time to infect every single conversation, from blogs, social media, shit even the chat room for your clan on RAID or a Pokemon streamer on Twitch until you reach the point I’m currently at where I barely use the Internet anymore, I won’t go near Facebook or Twitter or Instagram (sorry friends I love you but I just can’t) and I still watch cute kitten videos, but I avoid the comments below like the black plague they are… there is even controversy and lies and some very nasty things going on among the animal rescue community. Okay, I’m off topic, really. And I have no point, other than … WTF?

    Anime fans = murderers? Well, to be fair, there have been a couple of fairly high profile weirdos – the fellow who tried to burn down an anime studio comes to mind. But the religious right has had a few pretty high profile weirdos, too. The kid who drove cross country to get a chance to shoot rioters (and then shot a couple) comes to mind. I think everyone is afraid to point a finger at the Xtians because that will get you shut down in the USA. You are probably right that it was a throw away comment that only sticks with us because it’s sort of a personal insult if you ARE an anime fan who would never actually murder someone. There ARE characteristics that seem to be shared among most mass shooters but anime watching isn’t one of them. Or maybe the YouTuber was even hoping that would start a shitstorm in the comments and up his views.

    On a related topic – I was listening to a very interesting podcast the other day (Ologies) interviewing a scientist who studies games and one of the question was, of course, do violent games create mass shootings. First, the scientist corrected the phrasing – because (as she very correctly pointed out) the most violent game we let – even encourage – our children to play is U.S. football in which you TRY to hit other people hard enough to cause brain damage. So she made it “video games with violent content” and then specified a large group of people – young men ages 18 to 30s – well known here as the group most often involved in violent crimes – and now also the largest contingent of gamers. In this group over the last 20 years or so, gaming participation has incrested exponentially, and during that same period of time the rate of violent crime has dropped significantly and continues to do so. This is me speaking now – I know that when I’m furious at some entity I can’t legally kill, no matter how much I think they need killin I tend to go home and shoot zombies in a video game or something until I’m not so angry any more. So if anything, I think that’s whats happening – and isn’t that a good thing? (Maybe not – maybe if I finally go off the deep end and kill a few hundred of the people I think need killing, the world would be a better place – Good lord now the FBI will be at my door)

    1. I do think that ficction affects us and does change our perceptions which also drive our actions. But it’s not a simple one to one correlation. Most people that I know wo love violent video games and very gore filled horror tend to be the sweetest and gentlest of my friends. Oddly, in particular case, I think the more aggressive and violent people I know really like documentaries….

  8. I’m pretty sure more murderers eat bread than watch anime, and even more breathe air. The question here is about the proportion of murderers among anime fans as opposed to the proportion of murderers among everyone. Or: the proportion of anime fans among murderers vs. the proportion of other groups you find relevant. It’s possible that the proportion of murderers among anime fans is higher than the proportion of murderers among everyone. Or the impression is an artefact of selective attention. I simply don’t know. The fun thing is this: even if that were the case, I can easily interpret the numbers (which I don’t have in the first place) in a way that’s convenient:

    Yeah, troubled young men turn towards anime. Anime is soothing and cathartic. Those who go on to kill people would have done so much earlier, if they didn’t find release in anime. See? I can counter an unfounded perception with an unfounded interpretation. It’s a silly game, and it’s fairly common, and people take it far too seriously.

    Life is messy and sometimes the truth is uncomfortable, and reality doesn’t care which side of the (non-existant) fence you fall. I’ll close with this question: if anime fans watch anime all day within their own four walls, when do they have time to plan a killing spree? I mean that’s a lot of effort, at the end of which you don’t even get to watch anime. It makes no sense.

    1. I don’t know how many spree killers don’t ea gluten… That might make you grumpy enough to consider murder.

      The murders and the anime are obviously not linked. But I do wonder about the reputation our community gets. At leas in North America. It might all be growing pains of a new community taking its place but there’s no harm in asking if there’s another reason.

  9. To be fair, every person I’ve ever met who was really big into Dolphins was a total asshole. 😂

    I feel like in response to all things, “nerd culture” (anime, comics, video games, manga ect) going mainstream – the level of gate keeping has gone through the roof and that’s always a weird, toxic situation that only hurts the craft and deters people who are curious.

    With that said, anime is the new, first person shooters and metal music they blamed for tragedies like Columbine.

    Pretty sure a lot of us reading your blog have all listened to metal, played plenty of violent video games and (now) watched anime and never decided to hurt anyone lol.

    1. Totally agree with your comment! Anime is just the flavor of the month for main stream media to pick on, but it will be temporary. And just asking for a friend of a friend, people who like dolphins might be a$$holes, but people who like sea otters are perfectly nice people right? . . . . right?

    2. I’ll be honest, I have no clue why I chose dolphins. Maybe subconciously I knew they attracted jerks…

      You’re probably right.

  10. Irina? Of course Anime Fans are not murderers. While technically speaking people who murdered can become anime fans or be anime fans? They can also be fans of the MCU, pro wrestling, the NFL, religion, My Little Pony, and food. Fandoms and full of Randoms of all walks of life. But I have a feeling you have been exposed to Cancel Culture slash Puritan Culture on Twitter or Social Media in general to inspire this.

    Or maybe you’ve seen western media demonizing Anime because they’re tired of Anime constantly outperforming them. Because they can’t stop making everything political or WOKE in their products, driving customers away towards Anime. This is nothing more than these people demonizing Anime, and this is as old and sad an argument as anytime the Religious Wrong goes on the pulpit of Social Media, and claims that everything they hate is the will of the devil. (But that fancy Prosperity Preacher? And his/her giant mansion and private jets? Well that’s the will of God! After all, when Jesus returns? He’ll get himself a few jets and a mansion and… Sigh.

    According to my doctor? There is not enough anti depressants in the world to fix what Social Media continuously breaks when they let yahoos Luke this speak. So it’s best to ignore them. When you see these fools babble on things from ignorance or hate? It’s time to go to a better, furrier place… No no we are not playing a drinking game. I mean litterly seek out fur for comfort.

    (Holds up giant plush wolf) See this? This is Rachel, and this is my conscious. She often scolds me when I have negative feelings, and keeps me behaved. But she’s also great fur therapy for when you witness the sad behaviors of humans on Social Media. I recommend finding your fur, real or plush, and using it or him or her to offset the negativity of the deranged with an agenda.

    Remember. Humans can’t live sometimes without dragging others down and ruining their days. But furs? They live to lift you up, and make your day better. All you have to do is return the favor, and make their days better in turn. Naysayers and Cancel Culture can never cancel Furs..

    Now if uou’ll excuse me, there’s a furry binge watching of the rabbits Popo and Mugi waiting for me on YouTube. That and going back to sleep. Either somebody broke the sun, or its too early to talk about stupid humans and their fear mongering hatred of Anime Fans. Bye!

  11. Anime has blown up in the last few years due to the internet, but unfortunately, it’s uniqueness and erm… “foreign-ness” (for lack of a better word) make it an easy scapegoat in mainstream culture. There are obnoxious people on Twitter with anime avatars who give the rest of the community a bad rap, but that goes for basically every subculture out there. (Twitter kinda makes everyone look bad, honestly…)

    It’s kind of an unfair double standard in my opinion. You don’t see the same vitriol directed at more “mainstream” hobbies. Some people riot after sports games and wreck their own cities, but you don’t see news anchors saying all Philadelphia Phillies fans are violent thugs or whatever.

    And idk, maybe this is just selective bias talking here, but my experience with the anime fandom overall has been fairly chill. There are other fandoms where I enjoy the source material, but don’t like talking about it because the community can be so toxic (Star Wars and Doctor Who mainly…)

      1. Yeah, a bunch of people lost it when Jodie Whitaker was cast as the 13th Doctor, and basically think she ruined the show for being a woman. Even in the context of the show it’s ridiculous, since Time Lords can regenerate into pretty much any form they want and the Master had already been played by a woman in the previous seasons.

        1. Oh yeah, I do remeber that… Women run everything! amirite?

          For those new here: women do not ruin everything… Sometimes I’m not sure how my humour translates online

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