Where you intrigued by that title? Or did you think it was gibberish and are only reading this because you accidentally clicked ‘cause it was just under the post you were actually interested in….and you’re gone.
For those brave souls that persevered and are still here, let me at least explain what I mean by outsider fan. I am an outsider fan. Less so now than I was a year ago, but I still count myself as such. What is an outsider fan you may ask? Is it a fan of the outdoors? On my, goodness no. You do not get this particular shade of grey-green tan by setting foot outside! An outsider fan is a fan that is generally isolated from the greater anime fan community.
Until I started this blog, my interaction with anime fans was to chat with one of my friends’ boyfriends once every other month at parties and talk to my other 3 friends that use to watch anime. That’s it. In fact, that’s part of the reason why I started the blog in the first place.
I know I’m grossly generalizing here but at the time, forums and reddit seemed annoying and unpleasant. I didn’t have the patience to wade through the angry trolls to find a community suited for me. The blogs I did read were professional and only had small sections dedicated to anime that had very proforma copy-paste type posts which rarely interested me. While I would occasionally fall on an interesting video, by and large, anime YouTubers also did not create content that spoke to me.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to imply that it doesn’t exist. I’m just saying that I never bothered to seek it out. I had no issue enjoying anime as a solitary and independent experience. This has changed quite a bit over the last year mind you. Interreacting with other bloggers has taught me a lot. I now have a much better appreciation of the difference between both approaches.
One thing I miss a little is the bliss of ignorance. Up until recently, I went into animes knowing next to nothing about them and expecting very little in return. It’s not only that I had no idea of the storylines. I had no conception of the hype or popularity of any given show. For example, I randomly picked up Fairy Tail a few years ago not knowing that it had already been running for quite a few years and was at the height of its popularity. At the time, I had no clue that just like most long-running and very popular series it had a devoted following and an almost as equally devoted group of detractors. Heck – I didn’t even know any of the prejudices associated with the shonen genre in general.
I liked it well enough. Eventually, I just sort of lost interest and started watching something else but I hung in there for 60 episodes or so. I was genuinely surprised my friends had heard of it.
I was also very surprised to find out years down the line that, not only was I not the only person to have ever seen Psycho Pass, I was not even the only person to have liked it. Go figure.
As such, I was almost never disappointed. I only ever watched shows that seemed appealing to me on some level. I didn’t feel the need to watch anything because everyone said it was great. And when I did stumble on something I considered exceptional, it was like Christmas in July! I probably missed out on a lot of great shows. In fact, I know I did. But I also never finished a series and thought: is that it?
I never got exposed to the unpleasant side of anime. There were no unsavoury scandals to make me question my favourite shows. No fandoms that made me ashamed of liking any peculiar series. I never felt compelled to defend beloved shows or myself. There was no one to defend from.
It was a very fun and carefree time. I was an anime Cassanova. Love ‘em and leave em. No pressure, no consequences, no expectations. But it was also a little shallow. Obviously, I wanted a bit more out of my hobby. I am here after all.
So I traded in my anime independence, and shackled myself down to the currents of the greater anime fandom. Started anticipating shows from the buzz going around. Learned about genres and demographics. I was always fascinated by tropes but now I was privy to the general perceptions of these tropes. For better or for worse, I started having those expectations.
All this info has helped me make better-informed decisions. I say that but I’m not so sure. A lot of my favourite shows are still ones that I stumbled on blindly. Wait, there is one title. My Hero Academia. I like that show a lot – I’m very unique in that way. But I probably wouldn’t have watched it if it wasn’t for all the hype season 1 generated. For some reason, nothing about it had caught my eye.
Rather than guide me towards shows I like, I think all this extra information has steered me away from shows I *think* I wouldn’t like. Your mileage may vary on this perk. I probably missed out on some great stuff too. Bah, you know what, you’re gonna miss out on some anime no matter what you do. It’s not even worth fretting about.
The undeniable upside of engaging with other anime fans, in my experience, hasn’t so much been about discovering or avoiding anime, rather than enhancing the anime I watch anyways. Yes, occasionally I do find out some unfortunate details about shows I love, but more often than not, I get awesome pieces of trivia to add entirely new layers to the experience. Other fans have opened my eyes to delightful aspects of Japanese culture that are illustrated in the anime I watch or introduced me to entirely new concepts I would never have imagined. This has deepened my appreciation quite a bit.
Of course, there’s also the sense of camaraderie. I discovered Natsume’s Book of Friends quite accidentally and fell deeply in love with it. For some reason though, I never felt I could readily recommend it to anyone I know even though I do think most people would enjoy it. So instead I wrote about it on my blog, which was tenny weensy at the time. Karandi was one of the 3 people that did read it and left such an enthusiastic comment proclaiming her own love for the series and suddenly my tiny little world became that much wider. Someone else had been touched by these stories like me. How wonderful and magical is that?
When I watched the next season, a tiny little part of me thought about those other fans that also loved this show and it was a comforting and sweet feeling. Natsume is all about creating those comforting and sweet feelings!
This happens all the time now. I watch series recommended by people and it’s like part of them are watching along. Alternatively, I review something like ACCA and figure no one will care only to discover so many other people noticed its greatness and it makes me happy.
Because other fans introduced me to them, I discovered a new taste for light novels and merch. It sounds silly but as I’m writing this in my beloved oversized Nyanko t-shirt, I’m jus plain happy to be a part of it all.
Have you noticed how I turn every post into either Natsume, Steins;Gate or Psycho Pass? Is it annoying? I’m really starting to feel like a one-trick (three-trick) pony.
Ok let’s bring this one home. There are definitely some benefits to disconnecting from the larger anime fanbase but for my money, the upsides of being part of the group make up for it. You just have to find the right spot. I’m still not going to get into forum debates or pour over anitube vids (at least not for now), but I would never give you guys up!