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?

undefined
Contributed by Irina
from I Drink And Watch Anime!

Advertisements

Do Blogging Breaks Work?

There’s really only on gif to use for this occasion, isn’t there?

You know guys, when you’ve been around the blogosphere for a while, you start to recognize certain patterns. Signs if you will. When you pay attention, you can sort of tell when a blogger is no longer as excited by their blog as they use to be. Then again, some bloggers really manage to take us by surprise. One day everything is business as usual, next thing you know, they haven’t posted in a month and you have no clue why!

I’ve been reading a lot of “how to blog” posts from my esteemed colleagues(?)… fellow anibloggers, as of late and I noticed that quite a few recommend taking breaks to avoid burnout. On paper, this makes perfect sense. I cannot think of a single reason why this wouldn’t be great advice and in fact, it may be great advice.

In practice, however, every time I’ve seen a blogger announce a hiatus it’s usually followed by another, then another until they become indefinite, if the blogger comes back at all. As if once the momentum is broken, it becomes exponentially more difficult to get it back.

Since the anime blogging community is quite dear to me, this state of affairs makes me a little sad. And I do understand that blogging burnout is definitely a problem for us. As such it would be great to have a solution. But if taking a step back from your blog isn’t it, then what is it?

Inquire 3
accurate depiction of how I feel 70% of the time

Again, I’m not saying a break isn’t a good idea, I just think there’s just a bit more to it.

I can’t and shouldn’t speak from personal experience here. I’ve always been a give it your all sort of person and never look back. If I stop blogging for any span of time, I’m much more likely to just pick up a new hobby than come back to this one. For people like me “break” might as well mean ending. And that gets exhausting.

I have found a few tricks that work for me. Instead of slowing down on posts I might pick up some collabs. I find collaborations very motivating and I have been lucky in that the bloggers I’ve worked with are a great source of inspiration. I’ll also take a step back from all the extra blogging stuff. I won’t get involved in debates and maybe ignore twitter for a bit. I’ll read posts but if I disagree, I’ll keep it to myself instead of trying to start a discussion because I know I’m not in the best headspace for it. Things like that. I’ll also write “just for me” posts. The posts I personally want to write because I find interesting, but I know will be ignored by everyone else. They don’t require much aftercare but make me happy and remind me what I like about blogging even when I feel like I’m just talking to myself.

However, these strategies aren’t going to work for everyone. In fact, they might not work for most people.

Kaguya-Sama Episode 12 - Shinomiya crying
wait, we’ll figure this out

Whem thinking about it carefully, the taking a break from the blog approach does seem to work much better under certain circumstances. One of these is the “planned break”. I read Bliblionyan’s post on the subject (I had seen this advice before as well but sadly I couldn’t find the links again. Please feel free to let me know in the comments and I’ll gladly add the link), and I really liked this idea. Basically, instead of a loosely structured “break” until you feel like coming back to your blog, you can take blogging vacations. Like a week out of every month or a specific month off that you can announce ahead of time. I’m a strong believer in sharing my schedule with my readers, it makes me feel like we’re part of a team and holds me a little accountable. I have a reason to come back, people are waiting for me (even if it’s just in my head).

Another way I have seen that makes breaks more viable is to pepper them with regular check-ins. If you’re studying for exams or changing jobs and you simply no longer have time for your regular blog posts, you can replace those by short diary style posts. Like little emails to tell your readers what’s up. It’s a lot less time consuming and makes you feel like you’re still part of the community. Plus, it lets readers know what you’re up to. Like dropping a text to friends you don’t have time to see as much anymore.

I send my friends super cheesy pick-up lines like “Baby, if you were words on a page, you’d be fine print.” Out of the blue and without context or explanation. I have gotten a few in a bit of trouble that way… But I always like seeing one of those pop up a Tuesday at 3pm on my phone for no reason.

In a way, a blogging burnout isn’t always about the workload. Sure, you may just be too busy to actually post but if you still enjoy doing it, you’ll probably come back to it. Burning out can often come about because you’re just not having as much fun as you use to. Whether it’s because you feel like you’re not achieving the goals you set for yourself and are “wasting your time” or because the feedback you’re getting isn’t what you need right now. In those cases, just going away for a little while probably won’t change the core problem. It may make the experience less frustrating if you’re not putting as much effort into it, but it might also make it feel less rewarding.

Run With The Wind Episode 14 Fireworks
so how do we change that?

So these are my general suggestions, take them with a huge grain of salt:

  • As I mentioned, plan vacations instead of spontaneously going on hiatus.
  • Keep in touch if you can¸.
  • If you start to feel burnt, try figuring out why:

o   Not enough connection to the community? Maybe try doing a collaboration with a fellow blogger, starting your own tag, joining a blogging group or doing a community project;

o   Not enough views? How about brushing up on SEO and divide your time between creating content and advertising your blog (as in create half the content then advertise it in the time you would have spent creating more), learn about different platforms;

o   Not enough feedback? Make sure you interact with other bloggers, comment on their posts and talk to them in discord or twitter. People are much more likely to talk to you once they get to know you a bit. It’s always awkward to just leave a comment to someone you’ve never talked before out of the blue so forming a connection can really encourage others to interact;

o   No inspiration? This one is a tough one. This is where I get my inspiration, the comments are also great on there;

  • And just remember that breaks don’t have to be all or nothing. You can add shorter sillier posts to your roster. Mix in picture posts if those are easier for you.

This is really all the advice I can think off. I hope some of it is useful. And please, if you have any other suggestions, leave them in the comments. I’m sure it will be a great help to your fellow bloggers.

Amazing7b

undefined
Contributed by Irina
from I Drink And Watch Anime!

You can also check out Karandi’s follow up post on Blogging Habits and Losing Momentum.

Foreigners in Anime

I have always been the weird foreign kid. When I was younger we moved around so much that I never got to know what it’s like not to be the outsider. I have no innate appreciation for feeling like I thoroughly belong somewhere and that somewhere truly belongs to me. My home is where the things and people I love are.

*****It should be noted that by foreign character here I’m sticking to non-Japanese characters that are presented in a Japanese setting and need to interact with Japanese culture and society. There are of course tons of anime set outside of Japan that feature entirely “foreign” casts****

This said I can tell through anime that there’s a certain cultural attachment between the Japanese people and their homeland. Markers of traditional Japanese culture and values are usually shown with respect and in a positive light. On the other hand depictions of foreigners are well, rare. To be fair they are getting more common and more diverse, probably to show the growing diversity of the general Japanese population. However, there are still some tropes or at least trends that persist when portraying non-Japanese characters in anime.

traditoinal japanese clothig
I get it, traditional Japanese aesthetic is beautiful

I think these trends are interesting to look at. They shouldn’t be taken to seriously though. Every nation has both positive and negative biases of those they consider outsiders and these get exaggerated for effect in our fiction. But occasionally these hold a kernel of truth about how we see others, or at least how we once saw them and can be a clue to how others see us. Like I said, I’m using a huge grain of salt here. Sometimes tropes are just a random trait an author thought would be cool that got copied over and over again because it was, in fact, cool, or funny or simply popular. Basically, sometimes tropes don’t actually come from anywhere meaningful at all.

With that out of the way, let’s take a quick look at foreigners in anime. One thing you may have noticed is that for a long time, main cast foreigners tended to be very often blonde and usually half Japanese.

Being an island (well a whole bunch of islands) Japan was more isolated than mainland countries to the influence and influx of other nations. As such, people from other lands, especially those that were visibly different, tended to be viewed as even more exotic and just plain alien than in most places. And like just about everyone else in the world, exotic things tend to be both fetishized as exciting and attractive and feared as dangerous. Did it seem like I hit my head and went on a tangent out of the blue? Don’t worry, this paragraph has a point, and my head doesn’t hurt that much anymore!

Tamaki
oh good

By making characters half Japanese you get the best of both worlds. You can make them look different and striking (blonde) while still maintaining some comforting familiar. Sure they may speak a different language but they also speak Japanese fluidly. No need to worry about scary language barriers. As a side note, I recently read an article that said that Japan was the least English literate nation in Asia. I found this incredibly surprising but it does explain why they would have discomfort with non-Japanese speakers. This isn’t a judgement call by any means. I’m certain that there are still way more English speaking Japanese than Japanese speaking North Americans.

By contrast though, whenever it is much more frequent that foreigners that serve as antagonists have no Japanese background at all. In this case, their “otherness” is what’s emphasized. Not that foreigners are vilified in general. It’s simply a way to make the difference between characters even more pronounced.

Another classic foreigner archetype is the lovable foot, used as comedic relief. These are not presented as openly stupid characters but there is an assumption that Japanese society and cultural norms are particularly difficult to assimilate for outsiders. As such you have a bevy of well-meaning but slightly clueless gaijin getting into all sorts of hijinks over simple misunderstandings.   This hapless visitor trope is widely used in fiction around the world and by no means unique to anime. It was, however, one of the most common representations of non-Japanese until fairly recently.

One of the archetypes that I’ve personally come across less often in anime than in western works is the mystic or magical foreigner. One of the reasons may be That in western works the wise old mystic trope is very often used with Asin characters so it might not translate that well. Rather than secret knowledge or ancient traditions, foreigners in anime often come with notions of wealth or power. They are also commonly depicted as more carefree than the rest of the cast and bafflingly beautiful. I say bafflingly because I’m not sure this translates at all to real life biases. This is an interesting glimpse of the different perceptions we hold.

sakamoto
I was tempted to use the other yuri but this guy is good too

Slowly though, I can see how current trends starting to show up in shows. Foreigners may occasionally use expressions or words in their own language but we see characters that are otherwise perfectly at home working or studying alongside native Japanese. A blonde character has just as much chance of being a delinquent or Yankee as a European. In fact, we see their size (foreigners are still often considered tall and imposing, especially if they are men) rather than hair colour being used as a physical marker for people of different nationalities.

I’ve also noticed that the clueless visitor is slowly getting replaced by a very Japan-specific, foreign Otaku trope. You have characters speaking broken Japanese so thoroughly obsessed with the culture and history that they tend to be more insistent on tradition than their Japanese counterparts.

Even though it’s a bit of a caricature and a way to poke gentle fun at people who are basically…well, me, I really like this new trope. Anime as a medium is responding to and incorporating its own international fan base into the narrative. We get to be a part of the stories we love so much. It shows a willingness for anime to grow alongside its audience. And what I have found particularly nice is that the depictions of foreign Otaku in anime are pretty much the same as the ones of Japanese Otaku. We are united in our neediness. And it’s sweet.

Because both manga and anime are still overwhelmingly written by Japanese authors we still don’t have much foreign point of view characters. Either they are half Japanese as mentioned above or the story takes place in a different country and as such, they are not in fact foreigners. I’m sure this is going to change very soon though and I am looking forward to seeing that.

Have you noticed any trends in the way foreigners are portrayed in anime?
Title

undefined
Contributed by Irina
from I Drink And Watch Anime!

Demon Slayer’s Wisteria Hysteria

In a recentish episode of Demon Slayer (not sure when this will be published), we found out that wisteria keeps demons away. This caught my attention. I was familiar with the name of course, but I realized through the episode that I didn’t actually know what wisteria is. Let alone why they would be a good holistic defence. So I did what I usually do and asked my good friend google.

First thing I found that is that wisteria are really beautiful:

Tennogawa Park, Tsushima, Aichi, Japan

I don’t think we see the flower much in Quebec, our weather is quite finicky and only the hardiest plants can survive. Then again that may not be the issue as I will go into a bit later. The second thing I found out, by combining the words “wisteria” and “demon” in the search field, is that there is no obvious correlation between the two. A bit more digging was necessary!

Wisteria is in fact in the pea family and is an Asian plant species. It seems to be originally native in China and Japan, although I figure it probably spreads to the surrounding regions as well. It was brought to Europe and America some time ago and several American variations now thrive in the United States as well.

Classically, the plant, therefore, derives its meaning from Chinese and Japanese cultures. The flower is more commonly associated with luck, youth and births but has also been used in Kabuki theatre as a symbol of Love, Sensuality, Support, Sensitivity, Bliss and Tenderness. I guess all these caring and tender associations could be considered antithesis to demons but I’m not sure that’s all there is to it.

kimetsu-no-yaiba-04-large-13
more than meets the eye

The flower is in fact quite hardy with single specimens being able to live in the hundreds of years. Apparently, the oldest living one is currently in Japan and has been around for over 1200 years. It’s not surprising that it is therefore also associated with immortality. Sure there are trees that dwarf that lifespan but for a flower, it’s pretty amazing longevity.

Here we have a bit of a parallel with the Demons. I haven’t read the manga and so far that anime hasn’t given us too many details on the Demon lore but I’m treating them as vampires essentially. Mostly because the sun kills them which is generally associated with vampires although their behaviour is a lot like zombies as well. Basically, I’m assuming Demons do not age and die naturally but the anime has yet to specifically confirm that.

Moreover, Wisteria is a rather aggressive plant. When introduced to new environments, you have to cut them back regularly or else they are likely to take over and smother the other plants around.

So rather than being opposed to Demons, in many ways they are similar to them. A potentially lethal presence that encroaches on other living organisms and lats forever!

screenshot_20190427-213231_vrv
terrifying

The fact is there is a simple canon explanation for Demons’ fear of the flower. A poison can be made from the plant which is deadly to them and you could simply take that as the reason why Demons want to avoid them so badly. Badly enough that they are willing to starve themselves on an isolated mountain rather than cross the grove. I’m not sure there’s any more to it in the actual story.

But because we like to see significance where there isn’t necessarily any, I want to add my headcanon to it. Find an extra little reason why the author would have chosen that specific flower over the dozens of other poisonous plants that could have been used. And I don’t think the traditional meanings are enough to go by. Rather a combination of those symbols and the natural behaviour of the plant.

If you think of Wisteria as an emblem of birth and immortality and combine it with their long lives and predatory behaviour, they become a mirror image of the demons. Both preying on others for their immortality but where one is a harbinger of death, the other is the idea of new life. One brings images of decay, rot and darkness while the other represents our ideal of freshness and beauty while being associated with sunshine. They are like funhouse mirror images of each other in concept.

Ok, this one may be pushing it a bit far but I like this reading of Wisteria’s place in the Demon Slayer lore. If you guys are watching the series, what do you think of it? Do I sound crazy here? Maybe I missed some clues in the show (or plain statement – I’m slow sometimes) that would lead us to believe the complete opposite. If you have your own conspiracy theories, I would love to know!

D52CuFYUcAAOeD5
are you sure?

undefined
Contributed by Irina
from I Drink And Watch Anime!