Fear and Loathing In Anime Fandom

This piece is dedicated to Fred Patten, a personal hero and inspiration who passed late last year. Arguably the first Western anime journalist, his writing on the medium and the culture that surrounded it had a profound impact on the way I approached my own fandom. When I shared a correspondence with him, in around 2011 or so, he expressed an anxiety about the direction modern fandom was taking. Now, I feel like I can see the end result of that direction. If you haven’t, I would highly recommend reading Patten’s stellar Watching Anime, Reading Mangaone of the very best books on the medium.

I would also like to issue a content warning, as this piece talks candidly about sexual assault.

Preamble To My Rambles

In 2006, I went to my first anime convention with my dad – Anime Weekend Atlanta. This was something that I’d wanted since 2003 or so, in the days where magazines like Newtype USA and Anime Insider made cons look like meccas of fandom. After a few hours, we left – my eyes starry and my dad furious. He was completely put off and upset by grown adults being into cartoons, while I was lovestruck with the sense of comaraderie I felt between everybody there. People carrying around body pillows adorned with their favorite characters, people putting their all into elaborate cosplays, people selling expensive pieces of plastic I’d only ever seen in magazine pages… I was smitten.

I knew this was where I belonged. I knew these were my people.

This love affair continued for years, and I can firmly say that some of the best moments of my life took place at anime conventions. Late nights behind hotels with my ex-partner, where a middle-aged Daisuke Jigen cosplayer waxed poetic about sadism, completely in character. Long days where my friends and I would collapse together in a heap in a dirty corner of a convention center, taking a small power nap from being on our feet all day. Hosting a slapdash panel on Macross while the love of my life and one of my best friends watched from the front row. Standing in line at the buttcrack of dawn to get a ticket for an autograph from Go Nagai. Meeting friends who I still stay in touch with from time to time, based on purely nothing but our love for the medium.

Anime conventions made me who I am, and in turn, made me love the community behind them.

But last year, my faith wavered. It happened at Anime Expo 2018. Despite experiencing some of the same joy, I couldn’t help but to start noticing the rats behind the wainscoting, as Raymond Chandler would put it; that is to say, the underlying badness that I hadn’t noticed for all those years in all my wide-eyed naivete. Or maybe it was new – a recent change in the community that felt bad. I wasn’t sure. Whatever it was, however, it dampened my enthusiasm for the enterprise as a whole. And while I figured that a year between cons would help recharge my batteries, the opposite has happened.

For the first time in thirteen straight years, 2019 will be a year without an anime convention in my schedule – perhaps the first of several. This isn’t because my love for the medium and the industry that surrounds it is any weaker, as I’m actually more in love with it than I’ve ever been. Instead, I’ve come to the conclusion that the Western anime fanbase has become a toxic stew of half-cocked agendas on both sides of the political spectrum, noxious harassment, predatory behavior, and childish pedantry that’s frankly embarrassing to witness as a grown adult. I’m struck by the feeling that Western anime fandom, as a collective, as a whole, has ceased to be the community that I once felt welcome in and proud of.

In this piece, I’m going to go through some reasons for this change in opinion. I don’t expect to sway anyone one way or another, because I recognize that there are bright spots in the community, and that for some, it’s still a safe space to be yourself. That’s cool! I’m happy for you! Stop reading here! This is a personal essay in the strictest sense of the term.

 

It’s Woke To Be Horny

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It’s perhaps best to start at a ground level.

As a child, I knew there was something a bit different about the manga that I gravitated towards. The first two series I really got into, as a ten or eleven-year-old, were Chobits and Ranma 1/2. I raided my local used book store in Winder, Georgia for any secondhand volumes I could get my hands on, and when my parents actually flipped through them one day, a strict “we have to read this first” policy was enforced for a year or two. That’s because those two series, along with several others that I was into, were horny as all get-out.

Horniness has been an intrinsic part of the anime community since Cutie Honey burst onto the scene. A personal favorite of mine, Go Nagai’s seminal work of magical girl fluff married the idea of childish, formulaic action with full-frontal nudity in a way that hadn’t really been done before. While Nagai had other series with similar sexual content, they didn’t necessarily resonate with the Japanese consciousness, from my understanding, in quite the way this one did. It took off in a major way, and the idea of a general appeal anime franchise that also happened to be for perverts continued to be capitalized on for decades to come. From Gainax introducing breast jiggle to The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya ushering in a boom of anime about demure girls doing everyday things in arguably sexual ways, and everything in between, anime and manga are mediums in which sexuality kind of just comes with the territory. Even childhood staples like Dragon Ball and its modern-day rehashing, My Hero Academia, are full of heaving bosoms and pert butts.

Personally, this hasn’t ever really bothered me. It’s pretty rare to have popular animation deal with sexuality in any way, shape, or form, and frankly, I think anime can do a great job of using it to say things about the society that we live in. Look at the way Prison School frames society as a complete mess run by inept men beholden to their basest instincts, for example, or how B Gata H Kei gives credence to confused adolescent female sexuality in a deeply humorous way. Sure, there’s a lot of silly trash out there, from your Heaven’s Lost Properties to your Sekireis to your Queen’s Blades, but frankly, I’ll take the trash to sift through if it means getting to other experiences that are unique to this medium. Also, some of that silly trash is fun – those three shows are all ones that I enjoy in varying capacities, even if I know they’re not great.

However, there’s become an increasingly different way that Western anime fandom approaches this sexuality in recent years. From my past experiences, the sexual nature of many anime was accepted as something to make fun of and have fun with. There used to be a silly irreverence and casual acceptance to the way that fan service was discussed, and I was fine with that. But in 2019, things have changed. Now, fan service is serious business. It’s either part of The Discourse or a hill to die on, with no in-between. When it comes to discussing anime on the internet, you’re either defending fan service like it’s a life or death censorship issue, or you’re trying to find a way to work it into your bloated thread with some vague meandering point about socialist politics or something. Balloon bosoms aren’t just balloon bosoms anymore – they’re talking points, and nine times out of ten, they’re bad ones.

I’m neither here nor there on fan service, other than that I don’t really care about it one way or another. What I do care about is the crossfire that’s occurred between both “sides” of what I perceive to be as a pointless squabble. That crossfire is a smoldering crater is the idea of being “woke horny,” as I’ll call it out of sheer laziness. At the intersection of intelligent discussion and impassioned defense lies a middle ground – one where somebody both likes being horny for anime and also fancies themselves an intellectual over it, while gussying themselves up in a thick layer of millennial irony. When people who engage in this behavior reach positions of status, it influences the rest of the community to emulate their behavior – to have a simultaneous pride and deflection in their love of anime tits.

For a great example of this, take a look at known predator Nick Robinson, a former Polygon writer who still somehow has a career despite abusing his position to sexually harass women. Robinson represents this behavior to a T, openly waxing poetic about wanting to fuck Krystal from Star Fox Adventures and hanging out at Fakku parties while positioning himself as some kind of hip, quirky, smart liberal soft boy. After he became a more prevalent figure on the internet, thanks in no small part to him leaching off the house that the McElroys built, I noticed an uptick in people who began to emulate his behavior. This half-ironic, half-serious appreciation of pervy anime content – horny for cartoons and proud of it, while having some pseudo-intellectual defense of it in their back pockets to deflect criticism.

The effect this has had on the anime fandom at large is caustic. Walking around in ahegao shirts is no longer supposed to be treated as a red flag, but a hip, fun meme for cool kids. The line between predatory behavior and “just for fun lol” is more blurred in this fandom than it’s ever been, and that’s disheartening. I felt safer, as a teen, sitting in room full of people chortling and laughing at Queen’s Blade and Qwaser of Stigmata than I do being around most people in a dealer’s room now.

Why is that? Because look at Robinson and all his grossness. Hell, Look at Dylan “Hazukari” Keilman, a borderline child molester who chased trans people and bragged about the size of his cock in DMs. Oh and, you know, drugged women and raped them in hotel rooms. Him loving manga by Asanagi and openly posting about it is, by all means, basement dweller territory, but because he posited himself as a woke bae, the community overlooked it as a fun character quirk. “It’s okay if he likes manga with craven misogynistic overtones and morals, because he says being trans is good” – which makes sense, considering trans teens were some of his primary targets. People, collectively, accepted this behavior. Because the hot new liberal craze is to openly talk about being horny on main, with this going so far as to have noted gaming luminary Austin Walker follow and interact with an artist who retweets porno of underage anime characters, the water is muddied. It’s no longer clear who’s just funning around and who might actually be a complete creep.

I have my own thoughts on the new internet craze of being horny for anime as activism, and they’re too long and complicated to talk about here. The point I’m trying to suss out here is that the overt sexuality present in the medium of anime has now been teased out and weaponized by predators, and the result is that we’re now a collective of people completely unashamed by wearing shirts of girls getting fucked silly around polite company. Personally, I’m all about letting your freak flag fly (I used to be a furry, for god’s sake,) and I have whatever the opposite of a problem is with hentai. But it gets to a point where I feel that grown adults need to act like grown adults and not edgy, horny teenagers who wear their fetishes on their sleeves.

Because if we keep acting like that, and we keep refusing to call this behavior for what it is, we’re going to let more and more people infiltrate this community with the intent of exploiting its young. Oh, and speaking of exploiting the young…

 

Humbert Humbert-sama

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Kodomo no Jikan (2007)

Is lolicon harmful to real children? Should it be illegal? That’s a debate we’ve been having since time immemorial in this fanbase, and it’s never been one that I like to engage in. But hey, this is going to get me harassed anyway, so let’s get into my mixed feelings on it!

On the one hand, the side screaming from the rooftops, “it’s just cartoons!” is failing to understand the slippage present in that statement. Yes, it’s just a bunch of illustrations, but illustrations suggest things, and the things that lolicon material suggests and depicts are morally reprehensible and downright disgusting. Whether it’s a “vanilla” story about an older brother and his little sister, or a psychopathic fantasy about horny adolescents, the fact remains that all lolicon (and shotacon, for that matter) material is based on the fantasy of statutory rape. Not “age play.” Not “consenting underage intercourse.” It’s rape.

Despite what alleged experts in comment threads suggest, the age of consent in Japan is not only very close to what we have in America, but it’s actually more stringent in some prefectures. See, yes, while on paper, it’s thirteen, there are amendments in the country that further specify and criminalize any sexual interaction with people below the age of eighteen. Different prefectures have different laws about “corruption of minors,” but most of them all say the same thing, very explicitly: “don’t diddle kids.”

In all of Japan, there are only two areas where the 13-year-old age of consent laws still apply Okinotorishima and Minami-Tori-shima. The former is a coral reef with only one address and a radar system; the latter is an atoll with a radio station and an airstrip. That is to say – neither location is actually a place where people live full-time, meaning that in literally every civilized portion of Japan, there are localized laws to prevent children from being taken advantage of. Ergo, the idea that lolicon is somehow more acceptable in Japan is laughable, and based on a complete misunderstanding of how age of consent laws work there. Lolicon, whether the acts it presents are consenting or not, not only depicts statutory rape in America, but in the country where it’s created.

Unless, you know, every single loli artist lives on an atoll or reef.

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Lolicon doujinshi capital of the world, baby!

On the other hand, though? I have issues with sweeping government regulation when it comes to art. Because who’s to say the same judge who looks at a nasty doujin and decides it should be illegal doesn’t also look at the episode of Stardust Crusaders in which Polnereff turns into a kid, or the parts of Dragon Ball or My Neighbor Totoro which feature nudity, and decide they’re of the same ilk? I do genuinely think that pornographic illustrated depictions of minors should be regulated, and mostly agree with the potential UN decision to crack down on it. However, government regulation of art is a slippery slope, and if there isn’t a distinction made between pornography and non-pornography, things could get dicey. I mean, I guess the real answer is, “stop drawing naked kids, it’s not that hard,” but apparently that’s never going to happen, and it doesn’t change the media that’s already been produced. However, the argument that regulating this stuff is somehow tantamount to fascism is patently childish and shows a complete misunderstanding of what fascism actually is.

People making that claim wouldn’t last a day in the gulag, honestly.

However, lolicon has always been part of the seedy underbelly of anime fandom. The very first hentai OVA, in fact, was a depressing murder-rape yarn revolving around a child that gave rise to a series of increasingly bizarre OVAs. Point being, this stuff has always existed, and the debate around it will likely never end in my life time. My personal stance is that I think the stuff is, and pardon my French, fucking gross as all hell and please keep it away from me, thanks, but it’s never going to go away entirely unless it does become strictly illegal. However, a real problem has arisen in the industry in which there are an increasing number of mainstream shows that make its existence less niche and more widespread.

See, lolicon content is no longer restricted to strictly pornography. Nowadays, it’s really easy to just stumble onto a show and find a child in a state of sexualized undress. A show that I particularly like, No Game No Life, is often marketed by depicting its eleven-year-old protagonist in various states of undress, and the show itself even has crotch shots of said character in the early episodes. Which I think is pretty goddamned not great, honestly, and is incredibly disheartening that it’s honestly some of the less extreme loli fan service I can think of. Kodomo no Jikan, one of the worst things I’ve ever had the displeasure of watching, set a bad precedent that the industry has normalized in the decade since.

“It’s okay to have sexual kids in normal shows, because that’s a good, normal thing that good, normal people are into.”

Cue a nonstop barrage of shows that have a “token loli,” which is a phrase that exists because we secretly live in The Bad Place. And while, personally, I think that there’s been at least a marginal push in the direction of, “hey, let’s maybe not have naked kids everywhere” in recent years, the dirty, grubby remnant is that there’s a cute, promiscuous child in the casts of many harem or isekai shows. The result of this is similar to Robinson or Keilman normalizing their behavior – it’s desensitized viewers to the presence of a child cast member that’s there purely to appeal to people have a mental illness when it comes to how they perceive children. The consequence of this normalization is that it, on some level, legitimizes the existence of those types in the minds of many, and therefore gives fruit to an unconscious acceptance of what are, make no mistake, criminal modes of thought.

And it’s because of this normalization that things like this charming little skateboard deck can be sold on the main dealer’s floor of Anime Expo, and nobody bats an eye.

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“I swear she’s thirteen, officer!”

It’s gotten to a point where we, collectively, are starting to be unashamed of advertising that we’re into some truly unsavory shit. And, look – lolicon porn sicks me out, but if it’s not illegal where you are, go nuts, I guess. Fill up your hard drives. Be like that dude from Switzerland who almost got sent to prison for smuggling in several dozen pounds worth of the stuff. But unlike that dude, don’t wear it on your sleeves. Don’t put it on your skate deck or t-shirt. Don’t make the existence of this shit known to actual children, and for Christ’s sake, don’t refer to actual kids as “lolis” – a behavior that I’ve witnessed more than a few times.

My problem lies not entirely with what anime fans are doing in the privacy of their own homes, but the behavior they’re emulating and bringing out into their everyday lives. Because the more widespread acceptance of sexual depictions of minors becomes, the harder it’s going to become to tell who’s joining this community in good faith and who is joining it because they see a smokescreen for their own predatory behavior.

Remember the end of V For Vendetta, when nobody knows who V is because everybody wears that Guy Fawkes mask? Imagine that, but with a molester and an army of people in lolicon t-shirts.

 

Highlander II: The Vickening

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Vic Mignogna used to mean a lot to me as a human being. When I was a teenager, I looked up to and admired him. When I think of Edward Elric, Yukito Kunisagi, and Tamaki Suoh, I think of his voice. In fact, throughout all of high school, I took acting classes, went to an acting program in New York, and appeared in all of my school’s plays because of advice he gave me in an email. He told me that if I wanted to be a voice actor, I needed to get actual acting training, and that would help me. I took that advice to heart and followed it throughout a good portion of my life. Of course, as I got older, I started to see the cracks in that advice, and over time I became less and less impressed with Mignogna’s performances as I branched out into watching Japanese VAs over dubs. But the fact remains that a whole portion of my life was built around advice he gave me, personally, and advice that I sought because I looked up to the guy.

A few weeks ago, all those feelings became poisoned in the wake of a series of major allegations.

As it turns out, Mignogna is a predator who’s abused his position for decades to take advantage of not only vulnerable teenagers, but his coworkers. There are numerous documented instances of this, along with several well-researched pieces with corroborating evidence with signs that point to Mignogna being a craven criminal. One would figure this would be red meat for the hardcore Western anime fanbase. A dub actor is taking advantage of the fandom in order to further his growing list of predatory crimes? You would think that the “dubs are murder” crowd would go nuts over this. You would think that people who care about the community would shun this kind of behavior.

You would think, wouldn’t you?

Nope! Instead, the conversation surrounding Mignogna and his behavior has turned into a fever-pitch argument which has resulted in harassment, death threats, doxxing, and attacks on people’s private residences. Mignogna orchestrated, on his private Discord group, a widespread pushback against the accusations in an attempt to weaponize his fanbase and lay down a thick screen of smoke – and it’s worked. The anime fanbase is now more torn asunder than I’ve ever seen it. There’s no sense of community. Nobody can agree on anything. People are spreading both truth and misinformation every which way, and the result is nothing short of chaos.

I’m just flatout disheartened at everything about this. First and foremost, I’m crushed for the victims of his actions. These are women (and men!) whose whole lives are built around this community, and not only do they not feel safe in their workplace, but there are numerous people in said community who are making their lives hell because they choose to believe the voice of one man over dozens of women. Because, in the minds of the most ardent Vic defenders, this is all a grand conspiracy to unseat Mignogna in the name of… well, they haven’t quite figured that one out yet. But it must be a conspiracy! It has to be! 

Only, most likely, it isn’t. The fact of the matter is that Mignogna is, in all likelihood, somebody who’s taken this community for a ride. Somebody who, much like Robinson or Keilman, has used the notoriously poor personal boundaries found in this community to mask his own deliberate transgressing of boundaries. Yet, as transparent as this seems to be, and as much as major voices like Sean Schemmel and Christopher Sabat and Monica Rial are irrevocably raising their voices against him, there’s a large and vocal portion of the anime fanbase who refuses to believe any of it. Who are willing to go to bat for a dub actor and not use that energy to protest things that could be good, like poor workplace conditions in the anime industry, or the rapidly deteriorating state of the production committee system. This is what they’re focusing their time and energy on. Much like the otaku who vandalized Gainax and threatened Hideaki Anno’s life over Evangelion‘s ending, it’s a lot of time and effort put into something that ultimately doesn’t matter.

Only in 2019, that widespread harassment is amplified by the platforms that everybody has unfettered access to. It’s not just letters or graffiti – it’s a constant barrage of harassment sent out carelessly, without thought, by thousands of people instantaneously, and a barrage that you have to be privy to if you want to have a social media presence. This time, too, it’s not about the actual medium – it’s about one dub actor in one language. It’s depressing and disheartening to see the Western anime community brigade around somebody like this, and to see them playing right into the hands of a fundamentalist bigot who made a very calculated effort to use his clout to defend himself.

Sure, Vic Mignogna was a personal hero, but that doesn’t matter to me now. He built his career on the backs of people he harassed and assaulted into submission, and I feel disgusting for ever looking up to the man. If I, a professed fan of the guy, can put away my personal baggage about him to listen to victims, I would hope that people far less invested in him could do the same.

Apparently not.

 

It’s About Ethics In Anime Journalism

I don’t have a ton to say about this, but it is something that really, truly bothers me and I need to at least bring it up, because it does affect the way we consume anime in the West. First and foremost, watch this video really quick.

Pedantic Romantic is one of the best voices in Western anime fandom right now, and is one of the only AniTubers (woof, I hate that term,) that I can bring myself to pay attention to. In this video, she astutely points to how inherently messed-up journalism in the Western anime sphere is, in that it mainly serves the purpose of appealing to shareholders and marketing whatever the hip, happening new show is.

She also uses clips from Foxy Nudes, which I personally find hilarious. Anyway.

I’ll add onto this, very briefly, by saying that this has a largely negative effect on the fandom as a whole. Because at places like Crunchyroll and other major anime journalism outlets, we have overt fans of things insidiously behaving like your cool nerd friend while peddling whatever mediocre show they’re on the production committee of or otherwise involved with the marketing of in some capacity. We have news focusing on whatever the website in question has advertising stake in, and glossing over actual ethical issues that are surrounding the production of that thing. It’s a real mess.

The consequence of this is that the lines between fandom, advertising and information is becoming increasingly blurred by design. When people like the hip meme daddy and cool meme mommy from Crunchyroll posit themselves as your Twitter pals, post thinly veiled marketing for their programs as “news,” then act like the biggest and most unapologetic stans for those things, it creates a hype surrounding a product that permeates throughout the fanbase. I don’t take issue with fandom being weaponized to sell things, because let’s face it, that’s what this industry is built on in Japan and America alike. What I take issue with is the feigned authenticity that we collectively buy into, to the point where we’re pumped full of uncritical news about something and then get hyped for it without any real information other than, “this thing is in production, we’re streaming it, and OMG we’re the biggest fans ever of it!” That’s insidious. That’s creepy. That’s, on some level, pretty unscrupulous and some low-key Don Draper shit.

Brands aren’t your friends, and they’re certainly not places you can trust to deliver you reliable news about the industry. A community that uncritically trusts companies to be their pals is one that’s rife for exploitation.

 

The YouTube Problem

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Respected community figure.

“Did you know that Akira Toriyama is a bad writer? This thirty-minute video really explains it.”

“JoJo’s art direction is actually really bad. Here’s a video telling you why.”

“Naruto’s anime’s biggest hypocrite, and look, if you just have an hour and a half of time, this video will really convince you.”

In theory, I love the idea of anime YouTubers. Watching people have critical and nuanced discussions surrounding a medium that I care about sounds delightful. But the problem is that most people I’ve come across is that they have no grasp of critical theory whatsoever, don’t know how to deliver intelligent or insightful commentary on things, completely strip context away from the things they discuss, and spiral into tangential arguments about petty nonsense that’s entirely subjective but state it with an objective voice.

My issue with this is that it reinforces a culture of uncritical thought. If somebody watches a YouTube video on something, they suddenly feel like an expert on it, and they feel smart if they just recite what they heard without thinking for themselves. Aside from the obvious slippage in this mode of thought, it becomes a real problem when many prominent anime YouTube voices deliberately manufacture controversy or deliver hot takes for attention; when their online persona and real personality get blurred, and their followers start thinking that it’s totally fine to be mad about cartoons all the time. It’s similar to the widespread problem with the YouTube gaming sphere, although a lot of great alternative voices have risen out from that particular scene.

I’m not saying that every single person who’s ever talked about anime on YouTube is bad, or that you’re bad for watching them. But I do think that we should treat media criticism the way actual scholars treat it – subjectively. Watch it and don’t blindly follow because you agree with a point. A very good friend of mine is somebody I admire for this. He watches a lot of anime YouTube takes, but he’s an intelligent guy who susses away what he agrees with and doesn’t just immediately parrot whatever he just heard. That allows for me to have fun conversations with him where we can both walk away with either reinforced or changed opinions. I like that. It’s why him and literally one other person are the people I trust when it comes to talking about the medium.

What I don’t like is an army of pseudo-intellectuals thinking that they’re experts on the medium because they watched a YouTuber yell about art direction or narrative for twenty minutes, when neither they nor their fanbase know literally anything about art or narratology. It’s resulting in an army of fans reciting half-baked criticisms and being unable to back them up with their own opinions. It’s groupthink, and I’d like to think there are plenty of historical precedents for why groupthink isn’t a great thing to be a part of.

 

So Why Am I An Anime Fan?

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Not a cell phone in sight. Just people living in the moment. Wish we could go back.

Right behind me are two shelves full of the entirety of the Dragon Ball manga and anime. Below those two shelves is one that houses an out-of-print set of Macross that I spent hundreds of dollars on, the ragged Evangelion Platinum Collection I’ve had since 2005,  and mamma-jamma collector’s editions of HaruhiSchool-Live, No Game No Life,  Macross Delta, and Cardcaptor Sakura.

Right in front of me, a little to my right, is a giant wallscroll of Asuka Langley-Soryu that’s about 5’9″.

Downstairs, I have Madoka and Homura figurines guarding both my medications and a replica Sailor Moon Moon Stick perched atop a shelf. A little below that is my Nendoroid collection. Nearby is a bookcase loaded with manga, anime, figurines, plushies, and other things that I have spent literal thousands of dollars on over the course of my life.

And, please, don’t even get me started on my terrifying garage.

This isn’t a brag. I’m saying all this to make a point.

Despite all my misgivings about the Western fanbase, anime has always been, still is, and will always continue to be a key part of who I am as a human being. Few things in this world have given me the same joy as getting a cool new figurine, watching a really good anime series, or stumbling onto an obscure manga that I fall in love with. This hobby has made me some of the best friends I’ve ever had, has helped break the ice between myself and the love of my life, and inspired me more than possibly any medium outside of film.

The point of this piece isn’t to say that anime is bad. Anime is good. Anime can be great. And, as I’ve seen throughout my years in the fandom, it can bring people together in a way that no other medium can. But right now, that fandom is broken. It’s muddied by bad faith actors who prey on the community. Fractured by people who want to take up arms over an English voice actor. Poisoned by people who are unable to understand what a personal boundary is, who are seemingly incapable of acting like grown adults, and who find it socially acceptable to say they want to fuck animated nine-year-olds. These people are emboldened by corporate entities who ignore this behavior, or even encourage it in the case of certain individuals who will go unnamed, and filled with ideas by YouTubers who they uncritically look up to and parrot. This community is one that is besieged inside and out by unethical, unscrupulous and unacceptable behavior that only gets worse with each passing year. It’s no longer one that I can feel proud of being a part of.

So, right now, I’ll continue to watch anime every single week. Keep on top of the shows I like, rediscover old favorites, support the things I want to see more of, write about all those things and spend money on fancy plastic. But will I actively participate in cons? Continue to defend this motley crew of genuinely kind people, bad faith actors, predators, and predator defenders?

For the first time in my life, I’m going to take a hard pass on that one.

As a community, we need to take a look at ourselves and who we accept, and realize that it’s high time we wake up and try to make this fandom a better place. I’m optimistic that we can. Since joining WordPress, I’ve come across several good people in this community, which has given me faith that we can combat the bad behavior and toxic trends present in Western anime fandom and help make it a place where predators feel unwelcome and people can feel safe have an unapologetic love for these weird Japanese cartoons together. So, let’s keep fighting the good fight.

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5 thoughts on “Fear and Loathing In Anime Fandom

    1. That gift is perfect – I realized that it was an estimated 30 minute read and winced!

      And thank you so much for reading, as always. I definitely have been sitting on this for a while, and it definitely is really bitter, as I read it again. However, that comes from the love I have for this medium, this community and what it can be, you know? I do have genuine hope that things will improve as we support the good parts of the community and help weed out the people who are predatory. I’m just tired lol

      Again, thanks for reading, and thanks for commenting! I always like your feedback and your thoughts.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I’m sorry that you are caught up in some of the dark stuff that’s been happening. Our current tools for large-scale discussion — primarily Twitter or the more long-form platform like YouTube — aren’t set up to incentivize nuanced discussion. So, I think a blog post like yours was the perfect way to get your points across.

    Like Kapodaco said, “It seems like you had been holding this in for quite some time.”

    I’ve tried for the last half hour to come up with a coherent way to present my ideas, but it just isn’t happening. So let me say this.

    I support your conclusion:

    “Since joining WordPress, I’ve come across several good people in this community, which has given me faith that we can combat the bad behavior and toxic trends present in Western anime fandom and help make it a place where predators feel unwelcome and people can feel safe have an unapologetic love for these weird Japanese cartoons together. So, let’s keep fighting the good fight.”

    I have just one minor nit to pick.

    We’re not really fighting a good fight. That’s a phrase based on a certain patriarchal view of the world. Ursula K. Le Guin introduced me to this concept. Notions of testosterone-fueled confrontations permeate fiction, sure, but they’re misleading.

    We’re not fighting. We understand confrontation has limited utility. What we’re trying to do is build a supportive community. We’ve weaving a social fabric.

    As that grows, it will displace the toxicity that you’ve had to endure.

    At least, that’s my hope.

    Though to be honest, I never thought I’d see it get this bad in my lifetime.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    Like

    1. Thanks for your insightful feedback!

      I think reframing the pushback as “building community” versus “fighting” might be more useful for me, so thank you so much for that paradigm shift in my mode of thought, as it were! Uplifting and nurturing the positive versus a masculine, “crush the opposition” mentality – I like that.

      And thank you for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

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