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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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…