About a week ago, I asked readers: “How has anime enriched your world?”
I got many great replies, and it was hard to narrow them down to just five. But here they are.
This is the final entry on the blog. Enjoy.
Anime didn’t enrich my view of the world.
It became my view of the world.
There are things that I only understand by way of anime. There are things that I can only express in Japanese; but it’s not “real” Japanese—it’s “anime Japanese.” Like an avid internet user who can’t help but use memes in daily speech, I have to stop myself in conversations to find a word that the listener can understand, because the one in my head is something only a certain kind of anime fan would know.
Language is how I define the world. It is the means by which I understand and can communicate anything. If I can only express my reaction to a thing as “UGUU~” then my entire understanding of that thing is filtered through anime.
This has gone overboard. I’ve grown distant from understanding a world outside of what anime teaches me about it. It became true that the personalities and appearances of anime characters; the way that they speak, the powers they have, and the things they say when they’re having sex were all things which were real. Reality became altered.
It was hard for me to accept. I understood reality too well. I couldn’t stop believing that the world I’d been fabricating was a separate thing from the real world. And then I realized:
I love the world that I’ve fabricated more than the world in which I’ve supposedly existed.
Now, I live in an anime world. I’m married to a five hundred year-old pink-haired woman immortalized in the body of a young girl. When we aren’t indulging in sado-masochistic fetish sex, we defend the city from supernatural creatures and team up with a child assassin and a kickboxing trap, who come over every once in a while to have action-line-intensive orgies. Every night, my wife and I watch episodes of Hidamari Sketch and K-On!!.
As we kiss, she whispers, “lycopene.” As I turn off the lights, I whisper, “sharekoube.” We stifle a laugh.
Sasebo, Japan. I can’t believe I’ve been here for 2 years now. I don’t get to see it 75-90% of the year, but it’s “home.” I don’t think you could tell me in middle school I’d be here, but I am. I didn’t realize it then, but the stuff I watched would have an enormous impact on where I am today. I wouldn’t have the same friends, nor be where I’m at without anime.
I definitely wouldn’t have the friends I have today without anime. Videogames and books haven’t netted me as an interesting and diverse group as anime has. Even if I am fearful of the majority of con-goers, when I went to Anime Detour and Anime Expo, I still met and interacted with quite a few people I wouldn’t have met elsewhere. Twitter has been a godsend for discovering a multitude of people who I can discuss and enjoy anime with as it airs. For an introvert like me, this is a blessing. I’m able to break out of my shell and express myself to others in lovely 140 character thoughts.
It came to a shock to my high school classmates when I decided to join the military. I’m still in shock, myself. I really don’t look like the type that would pledge an oath and find myself whisked away to some distant land, but I did. I still question whether I made the right choice, but at the time, I had nowhere else to go. I lacked direction in my life, and my grades in senior year were garbage. I didn’t want to work at my parents’ store day in and day out, or so I’d convince myself. A Navy recruiter called me right around my 18th birthday. We talked a bit about video games, but guess what got my attention? He liked anime! So eventually I went down to the recruiting office and started talking about my future. What did I want to do? See the world, pay for college, and help people. Not soon after that…
It’s been 3 years in the Navy. 2 years in Japan. Do I have my days where I wish I weren’t in the military? Yeah. Do I regret being here in Japan? Well… come see me when I’m in Club Mogra on Anison night. I’ll tell you then.
I’ve been around the block too many times to say that any individual anime has changed my world view. Anime no longer inspires me. I don’t watch Steins;Gate or Penguindrum and think to myself, “Aha! There’s something to be learned here.” Sure, there was a time when I looked up to characters in anime as role models— back when I was in 8th grade. I’ve long since stopped doing that. The worlds that anime characters inhabit are too rarefied, too essentialized, too fake for me to truly learn anything useful from their actions.
I’ve watched many, many series in my time. Many of them are lost to me. I struggle to name the series that I’ve watched last season— ask me what I watched three or five years ago, and nothing comes to mind. But what I do remember, very vividly, is every single experience I’ve had with other anime fans. I’ve met more than 200 people through my anime-watching. I’ve met five or six of my closest friends this way. We laugh together, drink together, brave Comiket together and create together. When I look back on my teenage years, I have no doubt that it is my “otaku” friends, and not the bullshit I did in middle school or high school, that I will remember.
For, you see, being passionate about anime shows themselves isn’t enough for me. As I grow older, my tastes will change and some of the shows I previously found enjoyable, I no longer will. At some point, I will reach an age at which I’ll find 99% of all shows boring and vapid. What then? I’d quit watching anime. I haven’t quit watching because I’m fundamentally interested in the people of anime, and as long as I continue to watch anime, I can continue to interact with others who watch anime. Otakudom is a spectacle. From avid figurine collectors to people who marry their dakimakura, from overly-friendly cosplayers to sweaty, maladjusted, mouth-breathing nerds with lisps, from belligerent, psychopathic yaoi peddlers to you and me (the everyman), otakudom contains every kind of personality imaginable. I loveinteracting with these personalities, engaging them, ridiculing them and participating in the creation of otakudom. That is my true passion.
So how has anime changed my life? It’s given me entertainment, friends, memories and much, much more. It’s opened my eyes to a whole new, insane world out there. It’s given me a platform to rant and rave about the things I find important (Hoshii Miki, etc). Otakudom is a place where it’s okay to be a little crazy. Otakudom has made me a little crazy. And that’s alright with me.
How has being an anime fan enriched my view of the world? I can point to specific examples. Seeing FLCL as an adolescent gave me a new, I think more useful, perspective on the stage of growing up. Seeing The Tatami Galaxy as a young adult did the same kind of thing, but for a different stage of life.
But I get the sense that such specifics aren’t what you’re looking for. The most important way anime has enriched my view of the world is by exposing me to different subcultures and teaching me to accept all of them. It’s no secret that anime is a stigmatized medium, in no small part due to the many perversions that get associated with it. Guro, NTR, yaoi (heck, just plain old hentai), panty shots, to name a few of the tamer issues. I remember in high school and college thumbing my nose at even basic fanservice. But the more I got exposed to anime and interacted with its fans, the more I learned about appreciating such things for the variety they provide, regardless of their appeal to me. No matter how dirty, crass, or obscene, there is definitely SOMETHING there that makes them meaningful for someone else, and that’s great.
Maybe it’s what you call desensitization; when I hear of fetishes or subcultures that perplex or offend my peers, I just think, “huh, more power to them if that’s what they’re into.” And this extends to almost everything in life: Justin Bieber fans, Bronies, chubby chasers, gay men who want to get AIDS, a coworker who’s afraid of answering the phone, etc. I feel that I can appreciate these quirks without judgment, that I’m a more open, accepting person that before because of the anime I’ve watched and the fandom to which I’ve been exposed. Maybe this isn’t specific to anime, but to any similarly stigmatized fandom. That’s how anime has enriched my view of the world.
Two years prior, I wasn’t big on online. AIM? Call me, please. Facebook? Popularity contest. Twitter? For celebrity stalkers. Lolcats? Lolwut? Not that I could have phrased it like that back then. With regards to the web, I was out of the loop.
But anime thrives on the internet. After some friends got me hooked on the medium, the web was the logical next step. There, I learned about anime streaming, downloads, screencaps, preview clips, forums, and memes.
I thought the web was for weirdos; I was right. I just didn’t realize I was one. Because the biggest draw for me wasn’t anime watching. It was anime blogs. On blogs, I saw people much smarter and more impressive than me obsessing over these crazy cartoons. I saw people all over the world who loved, to the same extent, the same things I loved.
I had to participate on the blogs. I wanted to talk about anime. But to participate and be heard means more than just writing and streaming anime. It means learning the basics of html. It means Twitter and Instant Messenger. It means web words like “orz” are part of your lexicon. Anime was not just my key to the web. It was the pry that forced me out of my technophobe stuffiness and launched me into the modern era.
That’s not entirely a good thing. I’ve spent too many late nights gobbling blog archives and tweet logs. It’s a junk food hangover in the morning, but without the sleep involved. But I know it’s a good thing overall. I still have a lot to learn, but knowledge of social media is a necessity for today’s job market. Doesn’t hurt to have blogging on your resume these days.
And more importantly, it’s made me really happy. I’ll never neglect real life, but it’s fun to flail over hobbies online and not be judged (too harshly). It’s fun to connect with people all around world over something as simple as a late-night, Japanese cartoon.
So, how has anime enriched my life? Got me onto the Internet. Got me onto 2DT’s blog. Doesn’t get much better than that.
A final word, before I close the doors.
Anime can be a second reality. It can be an escape, a reprieve, a haven away; Door Number One is the geeky stuff, Door Number Two is everything else, and ne’er the twain shall meet. I think that’s easy enough to do. It’s much more difficult to live in both worlds at once.
But that’s the ideal, at least for me. Visual culture – anime, manga, visual novels, everything we enjoy – can be a lens that helps us love the here and now. Of course, it isn’t easy. It takes thought, and perspective, and a willingness to shed cynicism. But we should strive for this. It’s worth striving for.
And how wonderful reality becomes then! Hobbies, entire lifestyles, friends, lovers, the precious understanding between one human being and another: All of these and more, right at our fingertips, all because we share a love for this stuff from Japan.
Our world, plus this, is beautiful, prismatic and complex: A perfect 2-D teleidoscope.
Thanks for reading.