If You Haven’t Watched X…

You don’t have to look very far online to find a discussion about gate keeping an anime. Of course you also don’t have to look very far to find someone making a comment implying that if you haven’t watched whatever they’ve decided is the pinnacle masterpiece of anime then you aren’t an anime fan. And the entire situation baffles me even after all these years.

I’m not new to being a fan of anime having been a Sailor Moon fan in my early teens and ‘rediscovering’ a love of anime in my early twenties. Yet the number of times someone has started a conversation with me after knowing I liked anime, made a few references to One Piece and then realised pretty quick I don’t watch it and don’t really want to leading to them deciding I’m not actually a fan of anime.

Here’s the thing though, I don’t really need to defend my status as a fan. If they think my not watching One Piece, or the Monogatari series to completion, or anything else for that matter makes me not a fan, I’m more or less happy to walk away from the conversation.

But that’s probably because of my other great love growing up, fantasy novels. I devoured Eddings, Pratchett, Brooks, even classic sci-fi like Asimov and I loved it. There were very few books in the fantasy section of the local book shop that I hadn’t read and very few in my school library that I hadn’t borrowed out. Yet, I remember getting livid at someone one day after we started discussing fiction because of a comment they made.

You can’t be a fantasy fan if you haven’t read Tolkien.

As a teenager that was infuriating and I remember listing off all the books and authors I’d consumed and yet they sat their smugly with a know-it-all look on their face. Regardless of any point I raised they just repeated their declaration like it was an absolute statement of fact.

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Looking back on the situation, the person was arrogant beyond all measure and clearly just missed the point of sharing a love for something. See, they didn’t want to share a love of fantasy. They wanted to lord their knowledge and status of being a fan over all others. ‘Appreciate fantasy the way I do and only this way before I will deem you worthy of the title of fan’ is more or less the message they were sending.

But please, I’d really like to be considered a fan.

Note to that person if they ever come across my blog: I still hate Tolkien. His writing is tedious and I’ll pass.

As an adult, I’ve learned that sometimes I don’t need to convince the other person. They are allowed to hold onto their view even if I think it is ridiculous. Particularly when it comes to fiction fandoms. It really doesn’t matter if someone believes that you must watch the Legend of Galactic Heroes before you can receive the mantle of anime fan or not. You know you are a fan or that you like anime. If they can’t see that and enjoy being a fan with you, I’d count that as their loss.

Where it does become a problem is when new people try to enter the community. If they run into too many people slamming the door in their face or looking down their nose at them for being new and their knowledge limited to the five anime their friend recommended to them and they absolutely loved to pieces and now they’d like more, they are very likely to decide to walk away from the community.

And that is our loss as a community.

Reach out to someone.

You don’t have to agree with someone. You don’t have to have watched some super secret list of 100 anime before a halo appears above you, trumpets roar and you get your official fandom status. If you love anime, you love anime. While others want to stand at the gate and keep people out, just keep in mind that gate isn’t connected to a fence. You can ignore it and walk around.

What has been your experience entering the anime fandom? Did you, or do you, encounter gate keepers?


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Karandi James



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47 thoughts on “If You Haven’t Watched X…

  1. Your an anime fan if you’ve watched every single piece of animation in the last 20 years.

    Your an anime fan is the first thing you’ve watched is an episode of the MHA dub and that’s it.

    There is no more or less. We are all just the same.

  2. Personally, I haven’t encountered a whole lot of anime gate-keepers in real life (they’re rampant on the internet of course), but honestly I’m sort of glad I haven’t been ripped apart by many online communities either (although I stay away from the ones that are more likely to gate-keep).

    The encounters I’ve had had mostly been your standard fans that love shounen series (I’m not a huge fan, but I don’t hate those shows either), and it’s more of just ignorance of other varieties of shows more than gate-keeping. The sorts that say “Yeah, I’m not into that ‘moe’ show this season”, even when the show in question is something like Railgun or Madoka.

    That said, I’m probably a fringe example since I haven’t had a lot of anime fan encounters IRL, but it’s definitely a situation I’m bound to run into sooner than later with my tastes and the sorts of shows that I tend to avoid.

  3. I never experienced any gate keeping, but i’ve been watching anime since I was a kid so..

    But either way, if you like anime, you are part of the community. Doesn’t matter if you have only watched MHA, or Dragon Ball, or watch the most niche of niche stuff. You are part of the family.

    1. I recently was tweaking a few things on the blog and decided to try a new font. At least that change didn’t break anything. It may be a long time before I try and change anything on the blog again after I broke things on Friday.

  4. I’m a fan of fantasy stories and I’ve never read Lord of the Rings in my life. That doesn’t make me any less of a fan in my eyes. Heck, I didn’t start watching DBZ until years after it ended but I was still a fan of Shonen anime.

  5. I was wondering about this article from a social-skills perspective. I’m willing to hypothesise that most people who love anime like us do not find “growing up” or “maturing up” to be as timely as others. In short, we have children interacting with children.

    Especially if you’re an anime fan in this day and age. This means the era/ culture you started from may have impeded having healthy social skills. Nowadays, those who love anime nowadays don’t have those social/ cultural stigmas. We had to put our foot down in those days and profess to love anime no matter how much people tried to ‘baby-fy’ us. People like us tend to always have our heads in the clouds -thinking about anime lol … in our happy places.

    The reason I brought up the social skills perspective was to give these “If you haven’t watched X” people the benefit of the doubt. Wasn’t it that they were just playing/ joking. I know jokes have an element of truth to it … but as annoying as these “gatekeepers” are. We can appreciate them for their love of anime that they try to keep its sanctity and sacredness as top-notch as possible (even they too have never watched all animes in the world lol … you have to be an Anime-God to do that lol).

    But I’d normally shrug it off. I don’t need someone affirming my existence to be who I want to be. Anime people, from my opinionated perspective, are so niche that they don’t know how to be friends with anyone who doesn’t like anime. For example, how are you going to feel when you’re friends with me and you ask me out on a journey and I say, “I’m sorry, I’ve gotta finish watching this and that episode of anime”. You’d feel like insulting anime and wow! That’s like rule one of otaku-dom … you never insult anime … worst still, you never compare anime to cartoons.

    So I Just think that these gatekeepers can be made into the greatest allies/ friends if you know how to use the correct social skills on them.
    #RestHard

    1. I don’t think it is necessarily true that anime fans don’t know how to be friends with people who don’t like anime. For a lot of us, we’ve grown up in places where there aren’t anime fans in particularly high numbers and yet there are friends to be made bonding over other interests and shared ideas. I may secretly be working on all my IRL friends to convert them into anime fans but almost none of them came from a background of loving or even watching anime. And as much as I am working on them, they are working to get me to at least remember when the various sporting competitions they care about are on.

    1. me too. I started with anime when I was in Nigeria. Samurai X was my first. And seeing the live-action – almost made me cry since it was done so well. Yeah, they had the few changes here and there that deviated aways from my anime-imagination … but it was still awesome.

      Most people in Nigeria didn’t even know I was an otaku. Heck! I didn’t even know that I was one. I just I like this type of anime as opposed to the other styles of cartoon.

  6. Another hard agree Karandi. While I do believe that watching x or y will help bring context to discussion about the medium, I certainly wouldn’t scoff at somebody for not having done so. I’d maybe recommend it with my reasoning, but I wouldn’t be totally offended by their lack of interest. Anyway, great article 🙂

    1. Thanks Jon. And yes, it makes more sense to try to recommend something rather than mock someone for not having seen it or not liking it.

  7. I’m older than most other fans whom I encounter. And in rougher shape, after years in the Navy and then the Police Department. My experience with gatekeepers online has been me simply ignoring them. My experience with gatekeepers IRL has pretty much been the same as my experiences with most other anime fans IRL: they see me, get really fidgety, and suddenly remember somewhere else that they desperately want to be. . .

      1. Not all, but most. I’m old, I’m big, and a few of my scars show. (The last con I attended, an organization to which I belong brought me along as security for them and their guests. The con was short-staffed, and I ended up pitching in to their security when my group had no events. So, yeah, professionally scary.)

  8. Cool to see you love Brooks! I loved his Shannara book, and the later Word and the void series😊😊It’s been quite a while since I read his books. Might be time for a revisit some day.
    Well, as you know I’m a beginner when it comes to anime. While I have certainly seen more anime over the past few years, there are times when I still feel like a noob😅 But yeah, people keep recommending One Piece to me too. With now over a 1000 episodes I know that maybe even I would want to watch it, it’s just too daunting a prospect. But well…it’s always the age old personal feelings towards something. I would never say to someone: you haven’t watched this or that, so you are not a fan! That in my opinion is just complete and utter nonsense. I luckily havent’ yet encountered anyone like that here, so that’s a good thing. Loved this post about a very interesting topic! 😊

    1. You like the Word and the Void series? Yay! most people know the Shannara works, which I didn’t mind, but I really loved his Word and the Void books. I loved Nest, she was such a great character. I also really enjoyed The Magic Kingdom of Landover series. It was just fun to read.

      1. Haha…well, I don’t know how far you read those books, but eventually the word and the void tied in to his other series. And that was sooo cleverly done 😊😊
        Nest was awesome! This is so cool! Never knew you loved these books as well! 😊😊

  9. Cool to see you love Brooks! I loved his Shannara book, and the later Word and the void series😊😊It’s been quite a while since I read his books. Might be time for a revisit some day.
    Well, as you know I’m a beginner when it comes to anime. While I have certainly seen more anime over the past few years, there are times when I still feel like a noob😅 But yeah, people keep recommending One Piece to me too. With now over a 1000 episodes I know that maybe even I would want to watch it, it’s just too daunting a prospect. But well…it’s always the age old personal feelings towards something. I would never say to someone: you haven’t watched this or that, so you are not a fan! That in my opinion is just complete and utter nonsense. I luckily havent’ yet encountered anyone like that here, so that’s a good thing. Loved this post about a very interesting topic! 😊

  10. I feel like a lot of the ‘must watch’ shows that mark you as a ‘real’ anime fan also, coincidentally, happen to be shounen series, or series with a focus on fighting. One Piece, Bleach, Code Geass, DBZ, that kind of thing. And those shows just aren’t for me. I’ve not come across much outright disdain from individual fans, but it’s telling to look at which manga are always in stock at certain comic shops and which shows are easy to find merch for in the UK.

    1. Yes, mainstream certainly has a place but liking something else doesn’t make you not a fan. Still, it certainly is easy to get collectables from mainstream titles.

  11. I’ve never understood the mindset of gatekeepers, okay, sure, they have something that’s precious to them and in their eyes they’re only letting in people who will give it its proper due (which is nonsense, but I’m building up to a rant as it is), but if all you do is shoo people away then how does it grow? How does it evolve and reach new people? Because if only a select few people know about something, then it will die off as soon as they’re gone. It’s the optimity of killing something with toxic love.

    It reminds me of a Big Finish Doctor Who audio play, Time of the Daleks I think, were this one woman is trying to wipe Shakespeare from history so that only she will remember his works because only she can appreciate them, apparently. She ends up turning into a Dalek, which I feel is an apt metaphor.

    1. Yeah, assuming you are the only one who appreciates something or loves it is not a great mindset to get into. I agree that essentially it is a good way to kill off a fandom.

  12. I have had plenty of trouble with gate keepers, myself. It even ruined my fun in reading quite a bit, because I dont enjoy most classics. I loved reading but in a more popcorny genre, say harry potter and dan browns, I dont like Tolkiens and Charles Dickens… so I wasnt a reader. Each time I said I loved going to a pool with a nice book it was… thats not books. Eventually I stopped talking about it and my interest kinda died, cause I would not be able to tell about it.

    For anime, I had gate keepers when I said I disliked Code Geass, must mean I cant really appreciate anime. But I told them the following.
    If we all liked the exact same thing best.. if we delcare a thing like Geass to be our flawless pinacle you have to love or be gone? Why would people bother to make things other then Geass. When Tolkien is the factual master, I would not feel aspired to write because, my book will never master.. only tolkien will. If we all have to like Geass, my anime will never matter. It is because our difference in tastes that we inspire people to make content everyone, or maybe new people can enjoy.

    Even when we look at the same movie together we all see different things we enjoy. On a viewing of avengers, I’ll swoon over the music and humor, while my friend basicly only saw Chris Hemsworths abs. So even IF we would see Star Wars as our absolute sci fi pinacle, I might enjoy the ewoks, you might enjoy jedi philosphy and the third one will love Han’s Solo’s attitude.

    A fandom should be including, I dont like Lelouche,or Geass! Instead of hearing.. boo get out of here , people could just ask.. oh which anime do YOU like then. We start a conversation and will find our common ground. When you use your love for something to exclude someone, you dont actual love it, you just want to be right about it.

    Sorry for the long post! It’s a neat subject :$

    1. Thank you for your comment. And you are right, even if people do like the same thing they generally like different things about it. I do love that so many people in the wordpress ani-blogging community do seem to be open to including others and accepting different views on the thing we all love.

  13. Thank you, Karandi! That’s just a form of elitism and I dealt with that in so many fandoms in multiple fields. Music was a big one for me since I was treated that I wasn’t a real fan unless I listened to this band from this genre. Animation fans in general still give me crap for not liking Disney and that annoyed me for years.

    With all that said, I hoped I never came across that way whenever I cover obscure things in anime or live action films.

    1. Nobody bothers to give me crap about my choice in music because it is already well established my taste is terrible and of course I haven’t heard of X band or listened to such and such a song.
      And yes, while writing this post I wondered if any of my comments had ever felt like I was shutting people down and I really hoped that I didn’t subconsciously do this.

    2. In my country , at least my part they say if you go out , you have to listen to local/music in our language because as somebody told me “that is what youth listens to today” and that I need to adjust .
      But I realized how I am free to choose what I like. So I am with you on that one.

      1. Really? Wow, that’s rough. Good on you for trying to be you and liking what you like. I’ve been pressured into liking or not liking different things which has always frustrated me.

      1. Haha no way. That’s awesome. My real life name came from Sword (and is easily spotted in my username). I actually went and met him this year at ECCC. I love his stuff.

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