Are Otaku The Worst?

Hello everyone, welcome to my story time!

A few months ago I watched a youtube video by this guy who has a comedy tv show review/commentary channel. He basically picks a show, watches a bit and pokes lighthearted fun at it with these little cartoon avatars. It’s a cute channel and I enjoy it as an occasional distraction even though I don’t think I’ve seen any of the series he talks about.

Anyways, he recently made a sort of behind the scenes video where he talked about navigating international copyright laws. How different large distribution companies tend to deal with fair use and why he avoided certain shows despite frequent requests. It should be said that this guy is American born but lives in Japan.

As such, the subject turned to anime and why he never reviewed *any* even though it was the single most requested topic from viewers by far. At this point I was expecting some specific limitations of Japanese Intellectual Property laws which would apply to Japanese creators and this being somewhat connected to my work, I was very interested.

Instead, he found a polite way to say, anime fans are the worst! What he said was that the anime kids are “next level”, which was indeed a very nice way to put it. He then explained that he had done a very short essay video a long time ago, when his channel was tiny, going over some of the history of Anime and stating that it was his belief that modern Anime simply doesn’t live up to the shows from the late 80s and 90s.

**** Just a small personal aside here. He also stated that this was a common belief among anime essayist and reviewers and I have indeed seen it expressed a lot. However, despite the fact that I think this guy and I are similar in age and have had similar anime experiences, I strongly disagree with this. I believe every era has had its share of strong and weak shows. This said, just by virtue of increased output, there is more variety and I find contemporary works tend to buck some traditional tropes and try things I had not seen before. Kill la Kill, for instance, came out in 2013/2014, just off the top of my head, and is generally well-liked and not considered appallingly derivative… I went on a big tangent here. If you actually want to know my views on this subject, let me know. I get pretty passionate when people dismiss art based on age. It’s just a number man….****

1532967138690-nana
Nana is a classic anime, beloved by many, which came out in 2007…

Back to the subject at hand. Even though I may not share that opinion, it’s both pretty common and pretty tame. However, it seems the poor guy received a deluge of hate, all the way to death threats based on that only. He mentioned not having gotten such a negative reaction before or since, despite his channel having gotten pretty big in the meantime.

We hear these types of stories all the time. Otaku act all meek and wounded but they bite! They play the victim but they will rip into you at the drop of a hat. I have an occasionally confrontational job with a huge amount of delicate politics to take into account but I never watch my words as carefully as when I interact with anime fans. I consider my blog a bit of a safe haven (within reason) but whenever I stray elsewhere I walk on the most fragile of eggshells.

So are we really the worst? I should include myself. You saw that paragraph up there being all grumpy about the old versus new anime debate. And I’m milktoast. I can just imagine how a more passionate person would react! And if we are, is it ok to be the worst?

The short answer is no. Death threats immediately invalidate your opinion. If a fascist dictator can advocate for genocide more calmly and eloquently than you discuss your entertainment preferences, something went wrong. Time to take a deep breath and try again.

But being particularly passionate and protective of a medium you enjoy shouldn’t be a bad thing by default. Heck, it’s one of the things I like about anime fans! So how did it go from, look at all the pretty colours to all those that disagree shall fertilize my garden?

snow-white-with-the-red-hair-garden
this image may be from Karandi’s top anime gardens post

I’ve always thought that part of it is due to the fact that anime is an emergent market. It’s still a little fringe. The world seems to be absolutely set on convincing me that anime is just not very popular in Japan and is actually more widespread outside the country, which means it’s not that popular anywhere. And it never was, so there’s no respectable history to fall back on, like theatre or opera. My theory is that anime fans get so overzealous when protecting anime because they feel like no one else will.

That’s just a personal theory though and it still doesn’t make the behaviour any more acceptable.

I’m always very skeptical when people single out anime fans as the worst. Yes, I’ve had a few unpleasant experiences with people that were aggressive in their fandoms and that was frightening. For the most part, it’s just the usual mix of low-grade misogyny, insecure people being gatekeepers to show they are better smarter fans and just harmless excessive enthusiasm for favourite franchises. That’s the sort of thing you see in just about every community.

Just ask anybody that has any sort of public presence!

So why does our bad reputation persist? We’re a bunch of self-identifying nerds and dorks who have a soft spot for cute things! I understand that in the specific case of the video commentator I mentioned it may simply have been a mix of unique circumstances and perceptions.

The video came out when he was a much much smaller channel so bad comments are bound to stick out more. Being a Japan-based creator who does blogs on the country he probably did attract some hardcore anime fans but since he doesn’t talk about it often, the only ones that would have stuck around on that basis were the extremely passionate ones with enough free time to do so. You get what I’m saying. There are a few annitubers, some of which have pretty controversial views and their comments section are…I was going to say fine but let’s go with completely normal for the platform.

However, whether earned or not our reputation cannot be denied and that’s not great. Maybe we should get an anime ambassador to rehab our image. Maybe we could all be anime embassadors, I know a lot of people around here that don’t fall into the “worst” category.

What do you think, is our reputation for aggressive lashing out and gatekeeping justified? Can we fix it? Will we?

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Contributed by Irina
from I Drink And Watch Anime!

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43 thoughts on “Are Otaku The Worst?

  1. I’m sorry it took so damn long, but I finally got around to reading this article in full, with super ADHD hyperfocus no less. It was well-written and very well thought out. The topic and discussion you handled so expertly strikes me as a very difficult and dangerous one in the world of anime fans and bloggers. So, kudos to you. As for my opinion, I don’t think I have enough experience with people off the internet, or enough experience with social presence online, to give a reliable answer. I can tell you what my vague intuition and emotion-riddled impressions are, though. A lot of anime fans ARE “the worst,” but a lot of other anime fans are “the best” kind of people. Even more of them are somewhere between. The thing that bothers me most in the anime fan community is the casual acceptance and spreading of misogyny. I’ve never had much any problematic experiences with gatekeeping. And I think my rant is over. Very good and thought-provoking post, Irina. 🙂

  2. I’m of the mind that opinions are merely thus, and that folks should be allowed to express their thoughts as they see fit. With this being said, I feel that anime fans in particular can be rather defensive about the shows they watch (and gamers, the games they play) precisely because this hobby is still quite niche compared to something like golf or fishing. As such, when challenged for what they like, some people will justify their interests perhaps a little more vociferously than would be considered polite, whether it be through straight-up aggression, complete with insults, or more veiled efforts, such as attempting to hide their hobby behind a veneer of intellectualism. This sort of behaviour isn’t justified, and in fact, solidifies the impression that anime fans are immature and insecure, whereas in reality, a large majority of folks simply enjoy the hobby and are not particularly worried about what the rest of the world may think.

    As it stands, this is precisely why I’m an advocate of positivity and open-mindedness, as well as why I frown so heavily upon gate-keeping (which takes many forms, although the form I dislike the most are those who fly over to Japan and then write about a film the rest of the world won’t be seeing with the aim of saying they are a more dedicated fan than anyone else). Overall, the unique combination of a community whose hobby is not widely understood and whose members are typically above average as far as intellectual prowess can give the impression that we are an unsociable bunch with a love for big words to scare others off; while certainly not true for all of us, I find that yes, this is something the community should be mindful of and work towards improving!

    1. I never really understood gate keeping and why you would want to scare someone away from or prevent them from enjoying something you enjoy. It makes very little sense.

  3. Social Media has allowed the bad faith actors to dominate the discourse, which has done damage to all fandoms, not just anime.

    I am an anime fan, I run a blog for Christ sake, but I have always made sure that I “handle my fandom” correctly, and that I don’t let it try to define me, or become part of my identity, because at the end of the day they are just cartoons and comic books, as much as I love them, they’ll never love me back, and accepting that sometimes things don’t go your way helps you cope with that.

    As Pete said, I too have had moments where I’ve wanted to “pile on” someone for something they said, but I stopped myself, because that is becoming what I hate, and the inability to have a good faith conversation or see things from “their point of view” is what cripples a lot of discourse. I may disagree with someone’s take on a series, sometimes vehemently, but it is also to remember that that persons life experiences are different than yours, and they’ll consume something in a way you’ll never be fully able to understand. Empathy, compassion, understanding, and respect for different tastes are something you need to have to have a healthy relationship with the things that you love.

    This is a conversation people need to start getting used to as Anime rockets towards the cultural mainstream.

  4. Honestly, it was a frightening thing to realize as I started blogging my opinions about the anime I was watching. I tried my best to mark everything as opinion and personal in descriptions and taglines. I’ve only been watching for about a year, so the possibility of some aggressive longtime anime fan coming across my blog and ripping into me for how wrong I was was scary. I mean, being as new as I am, there isn’t a lot I can do to defend my opinions beyond a simple “that’s just how I feel about it.” It’s still something I’m figuring out.

    And I swing the other way too; I do my best to avoid being overly critical of anything I write about because I also don’t want to be that guy (it’s the reason that most of the stuff I’ve written is still scored fairly highly; well that and I’ve been lucky and liked most of what I’ve watched).

    I think the key is everyone realizing that, while yes, there will be things that objectively make a medium like anime more enjoyable, in the end, that won’t apply to absolutely everyone; entertainment is very subjective. We should be able to respect one another without necessarily agreeing with them (and that can apply to everything, not just anime).

  5. Otaku fans are not the worst; it is actually the bad things they do that makes them the hated scum of the planet. Hating otaku is just a generic stereotypical form of discrimination that has been tiredly repeated through and through that I can say it is now a cliche that won’t die. I’am sure the people who made anime and manga before it became popular to the way it is now being recognized never imagined nor planed to have people to be overly-obsessed to this form of entertainment in which they will just seclude themselves from the rest of the world.

  6. At this point, I’m starting to think we’ve been trained to react like that like in everything. Favorite boy bands, favorite football teams, superheroes, Marvel or DC, politics… every time we offer a differing opinion/perspective on pretty much anything, this is how people react.

    Heck, just a little bit ago I offered my opinion on an important, sensitive subject. I didn’t really disagree with anything that these other people were saying, people who I am actually friends with on Facebook because we have such shared views on most things. I just made a small emphasis on a particular aspect of responsibility… and suddenly all these people are jumping down my throat, daring me to say that to someone in distress because of this particular issue, dismissing me entirely despite how we’ve agreed on everything 95% of the time, attacking my character, and screaming that I’m going to Hell.

    Yeah, it’s not just anime otaku.

    1. There’s definitely a mentality out there that screaming louder somehow makes you right. I’m not sure why or when it stopped being okay to just have different opinions on things, but there’s definitely people out there who seem to feel that their opinion is more valid and will be validated by tearing down others.

  7. I had one strong reaction to reading this post:

    “If a fascist dictator can advocate for genocide more calmly and eloquently than you discuss your entertainment preferences, something went wrong. Time to take a deep breath and try again.”

    oh my GOD IRINA WOW THAT WAS AMAZING 10/10

  8. Irina watches Alex Meyers, neat. (I’m not sure if the fact that I was able to figure that out based on the first paragraph alone is credit to your vague yet effective description writing… or a sign I need to watch less YouTube.)

  9. I think more anime being on more streaming platforms like Netflix actually helps limit gatekeeping in the community. People are starting to understand how we work (fortunately or unfortunately), but they probably care less since anime isn’t just on “anime streaming services” anymore. But hey, who knows. What I do know is exactly the video you’re talking about though!

  10. The thing with this is, obviously, not everyone falls into that worst category. We actually have a fair bit fo gatekeeping in the furry fandom too. The problem is, for every reasonable fan of something, there’s at least one that takes things to an extreme and is really loud in doing so. Reputations change over time though, so I expect that anime fans will eventually be labeled as just nerds with specific interests. There will still the stereotyping because there will still be the loud aggressive types, but most will see through it in the end.

  11. I’m simply not a big fan of essentially “le old generation was better” culture. The medium that he feels is “saturated” now was ALWAYS saturated. It’s just that time has buried all those forgettable and mediocre anime, leaving only the greats for anime fans to put on pedestals and wank to. There are actually people claiming that the early 2000s were the best years of anime (i.e. Naruto, Card Captor Sakura, One Piece), and it’s simply by virtue of them growing up with it. I bet you a year from now, people will be saying “I miss the anime of 2010, those were the days!”

    That’s literally all it is.

    1. Yes, in twenty years time anime such as King’s Game and Grimms Notes will have been forgotten and people with remember only My Hero Academia and the rebooted Fruits Basket.

  12. Interesting post. I think it comes down to simply one thing, and something I have said here often: respect. If people are very passionate about something they can ocassionally try to defend that passion to the extreme. There is nothing wrong with that, as long as you also respect the opinion of someone else. And that’s where I think lies the problem. But if that is specifically a problem for anime fans, I don’t think so. Take Star Wars for instance. Ever since The Last Jedi there has been a rift between the fans of that franchise. I have seen people ripping other people apart that liked that movie. Even though I hated the film myself as well, I never would lash out against someone who likes it. Why would I? In the end it comes down to personal opinions, and as long as we keep respecting other points of view, we will have no problem. Which is the same with anime fans I believe. Great post Irina!
    Ps…Holy Moly….you almost have 3000 wordpress followers now Karandi? That is seriously impressive indeed 😮😮

    1. Well 3000 people who have hit follow. Not entirely sure how many of those actually follow at this point, but I’m kind of excited to hit 3000.
      Star Wars is an excellent example of a fandom tearing itself apart. Those new movies have really divided the fandom and it has gotten really intense. It kind of takes a lot of the fun of being a fan away.

      1. It’s amazing…that is really one heck of an achievement indeed😊😊 (Then again…why am I not even surprised: even though I have been away quite a while, your blog has always been amazing, and I can’t wait to really be back fully next week, and read all the cool posts again😊).
        Yeah…it really does. Then again… I don’t let it bother me too much. Yes, there was one bad movie that kind of took the fun out of it, but there is also enough cool stuff that still makes Star Wars cool 😊

  13. I didn’t think anime fans were savages until I went on Twitter and saw them ripping some anituber apart. I mean they HATE that guy. But it wasn’t death threat bad. The internet gives people the courage they wouldn’t have in real life. “I can wish death on someone that disagrees with me and I can’t get punched in the face”. It’s just like people that won’t fight unless until they’ve had a few drinks. The internet is electronic “liquid courage”. It’s an odd sentiment: If you don’t like what I like then I can be disrespectful and it’s okay because other anonymous people will like me. I see it more in these pop star fandoms. I mean they call themselves “stans”…like the crazy guy who killed himself in the Eminem song.

    It also doesn’t help that these disrespectful anime fans are probably really young. They probably lack the emotional and intellectual bandwidth to be passionate about anime without taking it to the next level. Or they’re older and still lack said bandwidth.

    With all that being said…I do not think that it should’ve stopped him from talking about what he wants to talk about on his channel. A lot of these trolls want to run you off like they own the internet. The take delight in knowing they have successfully squashed your contrary opinion of their favorite anime. Do you know what else they did? Boosted your analytics.

    1. I’ve never understood why people feel that just because someone is expressing a different opinion about something that they should be censored. Admittedly, if their opinion is toxic or actually objectionable, you are a reader/viewer have the choice to not read/view it or follow their channel etc. But insulting them probably isn’t going to change their view.

    2. Electronic liquid courage is brilliant. I’m stealing that.

      I understand wanting to avoid controversy over something that you consider ultimately trivial. I have the same instinct

  14. Very good article. When I was a huge anime fan back in high school I got irrational hate from some people, but no one bashes their fandoms. Take sports fans. They can wreck cities, topple police cars, and do other damage whenever a team wins or loses a major game. Just look at the Vancouver riots earlier this decade or Philadelphia Eagles fans after last year’s Super Bowl.

    There are times where I expect to get backlash, yet it surprisingly doesn’t happen for my thoughts and opinions on various issues. I guess people are really that civil on WordPress. About that comment of genocidal dictators being calmer than those people who make death threats, the sad part is that it’s actually happened, but I won’t name specific examples. Shoot, I’m still shocked to this day that I’ve never gotten death threats for my Kimba posts on Iridium Eye or that opinion piece on my main blog. Seriously, people need to calm down.

  15. Aggressive arguing, personal attacks and various other bits of unpleasantness are, unfortunately, fairly common online these days in a wide variety of communities — not just anime, by any means.

    Part of the problem is that certain forms of media get attacked by people who show no evidence that they’ve even attempted to engage with it in good faith — perhaps insulting the fans of it in the process. The fans, consequently, get riled up and things just escalate. With the anonymity of the Internet, it’s easy to get carried away and say things you probably shouldn’t. (Most of us have enough self-control not to actually follow through with this, but we’ve all probably at least *thought* something we shouldn’t have at one time or another!)

    Unfortunately, the bad actors subsequently get the bulk of the attention, so when someone comes along and attempts to more rationally explain why the person who started the fracas in the first place should maybe look into things a bit more deeply before attempting to comment, they get lumped in with the ones who have been telling him to jump off a cliff into a pit of fire.

    I know; I’ve been there. I’ve made a point of staying out of most of the major Internet slapfights surrounding gaming — and particularly the games I’m into — over the last few years, but I still occasionally get lumped in with the less salubrious corners of the community, because I care about many of the same things as them. This is, of course, a silly way of doing things; just because some idiots have told a writer to “die” because he said a game he played for ten minutes was “for paedophiles”, that shouldn’t preclude me, someone completely different, from explaining rationally to that writer why this is an unreasonable and extremely unpleasant thing to say. Unfortunately, that is what happens.

    For all the good the Internet has done in allowing everyone to have a voice, one thing society has gotten far worse at over the last few years is accepting differences of opinion, even embracing them. You can learn a lot from someone who feels differently to you, so it’s often worth listening to them; unfortunately, no-one will listen to you if you insult someone as part of that difference of opinion!

    This goes for *all* “sides” — not just fans. So far as I’m concerned, the media is just as much to blame as the fans, what with the rise in “hatebait” as the new clickbait.

    1. I do feel that a lot of the ‘bad’ comments do get more attention even when there are perfectly reasonable conversations going on underneath those.

    2. I also think it’s a pretty omnipresent if unfortunate element of online culture but otakus and gamers get singled out a lot

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