Defining “Otaku Pride”: Apparently, You Are Not An Anime Fan Unless You Are A Loser Too
This is an autobiographical entry.
Last weekend, I went to an anime con. I did the usual: took a bunch of photos, attended a few panels, got autographs from some English voice actors. Then I went on a wild shopping spree for figurines and other useless anime-related shit.
When I got home, struggling under the weight of all my purchases, my father blinked and rubbed his eyes a couple of times. “Just how much did you spend?” he demanded.
“Only a couple hundred.”
“Only a couple hundred?”
“Well, my good father,” I responded positively, “I was among good company. I could finally be myself at last.”
“You are always yourself. You are way too much of yourself.” He shook his head incredulously and pointed at the Infinite Stratos pillow, which was much too big for my bag. “What is that?” he asked flatly.
“A pillow with a picture of a half-naked anime girl on it. I intend to sleep with her tonight – and every night from now on.”
“…You’re into cartoon porn?”
“She’s also underage,” I added, with a hint of pride.
My father squinted at me. “What have you become,” he said.
That was a statement which gave me pause for thought. What have I become indeed?
Up until that day, I would not have identified myself as an ‘otaku’, at least not in the derogatory Japanese sense. I’d been to cons before and I have made anime-related purchases, but these were mostly for mainstream anime like Code Geass and Death Note. If anything, I have always thought of myself as a mainstream fan who can flit in and out of different fandoms at leisure. I can talk fluently about yaoi and shipping with a fujoshi, I can talk intellectual things with an elitist, and I am also up to date with Bleach, Naruto, One Piece etc. I could understand otaku, but I did not consider myself one of them.
Lately, though, and especially after coming up with this blog, I’ve become much more of an apologist for otaku. The thing about otaku is that no one seems to like them, even other anime fans. There’s this undercurrent in the English-speaking fandom that I don’t like, namely that anime aimed at otaku is crap and the otaku market is causing anime to get worse. To be blunt, I think the current framework most critics use to review anime with is outdated. Not understanding what makes an otaku anime is what’s causing a lot of people to assume otaku have bad taste in stories. (If you want to see my full argument about this, you can read this post.)
Little wonder, then, that otaku have come together and carry their hobby on their sleeve with this sense of defiant pride. “I am a true man because I like 2D girls.” “I am a true fan because I’m actually buying anime and figurines.” There is a kind of elitism in being an otaku, I think. In the end, that’s what Otaku Pride boils down to. You get anime; the others don’t.
‘Otaku’ is a term many anime fans use to describe themselves, but I don’t think it’s a label that should be used lightly. In a lot of ways, it’s an insult. But even for the losers, there’s pride in it. To get a sense of the complicated picture that is, look no further than anime itself. There, otaku are often portrayed in this humorous, deprecating way – but they’re also glorified and celebrated for their hobby. “Aren’t we so funny and unique?” seems to be the ultimate message from shows like OreImo and The World God Only Knows.
It certainly is a strange feeling to be in that position. I can actually relate quite a bit to Kirino from OreImo. Like her, I’m a straight A student with a functioning social life – but I am also a real geek about anime and that’s just as much a part of who I am. And also like Kirino, I have an older brother who is not into anime. See, my brother is what you’d call a ‘riajuu’. He lives a super fulfilling life and has a girlfriend, a car, a music recording business, a bunch of friends and everything. Bastard. Unlike OreImo, however, we are not in an incestuous relationship. (Thank God for that!)
Watching more and more otaku anime, I could see more and more of myself in it. Before I knew it, I was taking pride in my loserdom, cracking jokes at my own expense but secretly thinking I was the greatest for it. Somewhere along the line, my empathy warped into submission. And I’ll admit it: somewhere, deep down, I do think that a lot of people who call themselves anime fans just don’t understand what they’re watching.
As in, how could you really be an anime fan if you don’t embrace the “moe database”? Or the ecchi stuff? Harem? Cute girls doing cute things? 4koma adaptations? Light novel tropes? It takes up a pretty huge proportion of what anime is, you know. Saying a good anime is one that doesn’t fall into one of those “pitfalls” isn’t necessarily a bad way of critiquing it, but it’s certainly limiting.
When I joined the blogsphere, I met some really nice, really intelligent people. But as you might know, bloggers seem to have this reputation for being “elitists” because it’s the intelligent anime with a lot of cool, literary ideas that get popular with this crowd. (Like Uchouten Kazoku this season. wtf I’m not even watching that.) I was afraid that I would be discriminated against for my otaku-friendly tastes. It turns out that bloggers are pretty accepting of different opinions. But still, I can’t help but wonder if I’ve sold myself out, if others think of me has having lost my standards for the sake of enjoying the so-called “generic anime”. I felt like there was this underlying choice, that one has to decide between being critical and being an otaku.
I decided I wanted to be both. I could have my cake and eat it too.
And that, I think, is my own definition of Otaku Pride. Yeah, I’m a loser; I like cute things and I collect figurines of pink-haired anime girls and I want to marry Momo from To Love-Ru. But ‘loser’ here is actually a euphemism for ‘fucking awesome reincarnation of Jesus’.
However, I also deserve to be knocked down a peg. I got into otaku culture wanting to understand how otaku related with anime. I don’t want to get caught up in their own brand of elitism – at least not too far. So I make every effort to keep in touch with all the other aspects of fandom. You definitely don’t need to be an otaku or a loser to be a true fan of anime! To all non-otakus: I would love to know what you see in anime and why it resonates with you. It is, like I’ve admitted, way too easy to fall into this idea that if you reject or close your mind to all the weird otaku aspects of anime, then you can’t really like anime that much. Perish the thought, right?
And with that, I will now go to bed. Oh yes, Char, you are mine tonight~~
Posted on August 23, 2013, in Editorials and tagged 2d girls are better than 3d girls, bleach, code geass, Death Note, i want a harem, infinite stratos, me and my boring life, momo is best girl, my pink-haired waifu, naruto, one piece, ore no imouto ga konna ni kawaii wake ga nai, the world god only knows, to love-ru, uchouten kazoku. Bookmark the permalink. 42 Comments.