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….****

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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?

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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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