While some writers of anime blog content may profess to write using the voice of a critic, a filter for quality, I consciously do not do so. I write consciously and purposefully using the voice of a fan. I have a bias for the subject as a whole, and appeal to fellow fans of anime and manga.
Late 2009 saw a militant attempt to cull the fandom in the name of authenticity. A group of self-proclaimed otaku accused the broader fandom not only of grossly misappropriating the word, but causing much harm in doing so in the misinformed and incorrect practice of blogging their hobby.
The attempt drew a lot of attention, albeit fizzling out unceremoniously leaving the status quo comically intact. Despite this, many of the bloggers who paid notice to the inflammatory activities may have reflected more on the nature of their hobby and how this figures in their identity. While some reflect on the impact of growing older on the hobby, others take on specific aspects of being a fan, and how fans respond to the media they love.
[Click on the images to go to the linked articles]
Moritheil takes note of quite an insightful discussion by Jonathan Gray, on why fans hate things. It’s something that doesn’t come naturally for me, as my usual response to something I dislike is to ignore and stop caring about it. Some people seem to enjoy actively hating certain works, and those related to them.
Moritheil takes the position (to agree with the discussion he refers to) that identity is quite a factor. I will attempt to illustrate:
X show signifies xy, but I am not xy, I am Q. I must not be identified to like show X, to accomplish this I shall display aggressive hatred towards it and dismissiveness toward its fans.
This issue is of much interest to me, and I have written about it at length even as I was starting out as an anime blogger.
Identity issues are very much the business of gender. As a male viewer, I still am conscious when I am watching material that is “for girls” though I don’t have a big problem acknowledging my taste for them (e.g. Revolutionary Girl Utena). Yumeka explores this issue after a stint as an “anime enrichment teacher” at her local YMCA. How interesting a gig that was!
The American children that took part of the class were still young enough to exhibit the formula above (as I imagine them):
[Sailor Moon] signifies [“girlyness”], but I am not [a girl], I am [a boy, and a manly boy]. I must not be identified to like [Sailor Moon], to accomplish this I shall display aggressive hatred towards it and dismissiveness toward its fans (girls).
Yumeka notes that in recent times (at least), there is more interest among males in shows about girls, doing girly things. There’s more to this I think, since the girl element in the shows mentioned (K-ON!, Clannad) are there precisely to appeal to males. Still, I do know as an 8-year old I watched Macross and would have nothing to do with anything like K-ON!. My tastes are maturing?
Still somehow related to identity, liking and hating some works, is Pontifus’ deft distinctions between the methods by which viewers and readers interpret the works they consume. I really suggest that all of you read this post and find yourself among the three strategies presented.
I think much of the noise and pointless conflict in discussions about anime and manga (among other things) can be significantly reduced once more fans understand each other and how they approach the things they consume.
I didn’t expect K-ON!! to suddenly turn self-examining and point the spotlight on the fans that make it so popular. Even I underestimate it so grossly that this level of intelligence somehow isn’t supposed to manifest. I’m glad 21stcenturydigitalboy took note and then some. He wrote a very insightful look into how the 7th episode of this series lovingly parodied otaku and their behavior.
Because Mio is the fanclub’s Absolute Goddess, she can do no wrong whatsoever – after all, her being herself is exactly why they are all obsessed, so anything in the range of her character is exactly what they want. See: when Mio is giving her opening speech and keeps biting her tongue.
This observation may be even more telling than even digiboy intended. For many fans of the show, it is what it is, and any kind of analysis (even mine) is superfluous.
What is beyond consumption? Collection? Interaction with the makers of the work? Sharing with a community? There’s a fan activity that accomplishes just about all of the above: the crafting of fan fiction. Strictly speaking, it’s not something that I’ve done or am into (the farthest I’ve gone was in the service of a blog post), but Itsubun spent her early adolescence immersing herself in its world. She writes,
Fan fiction is a medium that allows the fan-author to alter, develop, deconstruct, or subvert a plastic world that was once perfectly packaged in order to facilitate their own desires, dreams, and dynamic understanding of that world, thereby challenging the technophobic myth of the consumer passively absorbing any media that is presented to them. The very existence of fan fiction is proof that we are not merely victims of media and technology, but we are capable of channeling our own creative energies through an active engagement with the fantasy that is being sold to us.
If she puts it that way, what’s stopping us from making our own?
I think there’s much more fun in fandom than pursuing “X show signifies xy, but I am not xy, I am Q. I must not be identified to like show X, to accomplish this I shall display aggressive hatred towards it and dismissiveness toward its fans.” I’m all for diversity and variety, and it’s part of such openness that I can imagine how some people can really like works that I personally find abominable.
More often than not, those people will also like things that I like to. This is always where I want to start.