The Problem With Reading Yourself Into An Anime

I identify with this guy so hard ZOMG
u mad, bro?

I’ve been really amused by the shitstorm around Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei. I got into the show expecting the usual anime bullshit and cliches that I love and adore, and ironically ended up finding much more entertainment outside the show itself.

The shitstorm occurred for the usual reasons shitstorms happen in anime discussion. Someone (usually a critic or aniblogger) points out something that is morally questionable about an anime’s message or worldview, to which the fans immediately spring up in defence saying stuff like, “OMG U FAG WHY DO YOU READ SO MUCH INTO IT? IT’S JUST AN ANIME, HAVE FUN, CALM YOUR TITS.” Ironically, it is usually these fans who look like they are in need of having their tits calmed, seeing as they are the ones getting overly emotional in the discussion and all.

The problem stems from liking an anime so much and in such a specific way that you end up reading yourself into it. It’s like the anime becomes part of you, and if anyone criticises the anime, they criticise you, too.

I can sympathise with that, though. I mean, everyone reads themselves into fiction to a degree. When something really hits hard and connects with you, it has as much to do with your outlook and life circumstances as it does with the story itself.

And that’s great. That’s testament to the power stories have to move and inspire us. It’s just that when you take such a hyper personal view of interpreting stuff, it’s hard to detach yourself and see other points of view. Your personal interpretation is never wrong, but it doesn’t hurt to be able to relate with other people, right? Helps for pleasant social interactions.

But instead of lecturing about “THE EVILS OF RABID FANBOYING/FANGIRLING”, I’ll tell you about my observations from being in the fanfiction community for seven years, where the whole “reading yourself into an anime” thing is absolutely rampant.

When you are a derpy teenage fanfic author, you tend to go through phases. They don’t necessarily follow each other in sequence and are often combined. I’ll list them one at a time here, though.

PHASE ONE: Shipping Yourself With Anime Characters














One of the more popular types of fanfiction is creating an OC (Original Character) who conveniently is exactly like you in every way only awesome, and then shipping that character with the anime character you find most attractive at the time.

As you can imagine, this kind of writing is looked down upon, even by other derpy teenage fanfic authors. The big reason for this is that it’s a bit more difficult to engage with someone else’s self-indulgent fantasy. (But hey, it can still happen! I mean look at all the fans of Bakemonogatari)

Shipping yourself with an anime character is a really… kneejerk reaction to the text, I guess? When you find a fictional character romantically attractive, it closes your mind off to their character flaws (or their flaws become attractive). This makes it difficult to actually understand them on a functional, how-to-write them kind of level. As a result, the vast majority of HOT ANIME CHARACTER x OC fanfictions are shit.

Now, even if you have a more reasonable understanding of the character and that character’s relationship with other characters, finding fictional characters attractive still causes you a big problem in your interpretation. You tend to focus your entire reading of the anime around the characters. The broader themes and stylistic elements are lost – or at least relegated to lesser importance. This could explain why such a huge proportion of fanfics are about shipping, and why they don’t attempt to capture the tone or genre of the canon, even if the characters act reasonably like themselves.

This actually drove me crazy back in the day. I hated fanfics that were just about shipping. I got into fanfiction because I wanted to get more of what I liked about the series, which usually didn’t mean sappy romance. For example, the Prince of Tennis fandom pretty much consists entirely of yaoi and HOT ANIME CHARACTER x OC fics, so I made a point to only write about the tennis, because I was like the only person in the entire fandom who actually played tennis.

Prince of Tennis is about tennis, I swear!
Prince of Tennis is about tennis, I swear!

… Which brings me to phase two.

PHASE TWO: Canon Worship

On the surface, trying to write stories that are “faithful” to the original seems like the smart way to do fanfiction. But, taken to its logical extent, this leads to canon worship, which is another form of reading yourself into the narrative.

When you’re a fan of a series, you feel as if you know a lot about it. You read really far into it, and you memorise all the terminology specific to that show. The problem is that when you take your geek status so seriously, you tend to feel upset when someone doesn’t seem to “get” it. Then you feel as if you’re the one who knows the canon best and all other interpretations are wrong.

This, again, leads to shitty fanfiction with narrow scopes. These stories don’t show any originality and are only ever shallow copies of the divine canon. I used to write stories like these.

Some types of narratives lend themselves more to canon worship than others. These are the stories where it seems there is an in-universe explanation for everything that happens. Stories that are “told” rather than “shown” tend to inspire canon worship. Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei is a perfect example of this.

I’d already grown out of canon worship by my later years as a fanfic author, so when I was in the Sword Art Online fandom, I was surprised by the extent of some of the canon worship I observed. Some reviewers left long, detailed comments pointing out every single tiny aspect of SAO’s world-building that I overlooked. Many of them did not seem to care very much about the themes of my narrative, only about how “faithful” it was to the original’s world-building. This fits the general perception of SAO fans; they care a lot about minor details, but don’t think as deeply about the big picture.

There is a deep, literary meaning behind this
There is a deep, literary meaning behind this

The biggest problem with having that kind of mindset is that, while you might have the most knowledge about a series, since you can quantify that, you can’t quantify understanding. You can’t see the story outside of “This is what the author wanted!” When I first became a blogger, it actually took me some time to adjust to readings that deliberately ignored the narrative purpose. I was still so used to looking purely inside the narrative to explain every storytelling choice.

PHASE THREE: The “Artsy” Phase

You can easily tell an “artsy” fanfiction from a normal one, just from the summary. They usually don’t even tell you what happens in the story.

Artsy fanfiction usually attempt to be like experimental literary fiction. They don’t follow conventional storytelling rules and they attempt to depict a specific mood or emotion rather than a plot. These stories combine unrelated literary influences with a finer understanding of the anime’s themes, rather than its superficial details.

There are problems with these types of fanfiction, but this is more to do with the author’s lack of skill than the ambition. Some artsy fanfiction ape poetic prose for the sake of standing out and end up coming across as pretty nothings. Others, when you unpack them, are simply dry character studies that could have been better expressed in essay form. But in general, this type of writing tries to portray grey areas of interpretation, and they attempt to stand up as works of art in their own right.

In my mid-to-later years as a fanfic author, I really bought into this approach towards writing. I started to take fanfiction seriously as a hobby, and became strongly aware that art is more than the sum of its parts. I used fanfiction as a means of self-expression and of seeking personal catharsis and greater truth. Fanfiction should aspire to the heights of great literature because fanfiction is a form of literature, not of masturbation.



The problem with reading yourself into an anime isn’t just that you’re more likely to be a prick or self-defensive when someone insults your favourite anime. The problem is that you don’t end up being a very good writer.

After a certain point, fanfic culture really doesn’t help you if you take writing seriously. It’s seen as a form of self-projection, both from inside and outside the community. I quit publishing my fanfiction last year because as much as I believe in the potential of fanfiction as a literary form, I think I’ve gotten as much as I could from the community. Right now, my primary outlets of creative writing are blogging and translation.

Taking up more conventional criticism through blogging has helped expand my thinking a lot since those fanfiction days. I’m still seeking more meaningful readings through anime. I don’t have any answers about what’s the “best” reading for anime and for fiction in general. I’m still developing myself as a reader and thinker myself.

This post focused purely on the “writer’s” perspective on self-projection in fiction. I would have linked to examples of what I thought were good and bad fanfiction, where you can see how limited interpretations really weaken the quality of writing. But I figured that pretty much everyone on the Internet has encountered bad fanfiction and should know exactly what I’m talking about. I also tend to assume that my blog readers aren’t interested in fanfiction, despite how much the theory behind it still interests me. If you do want to ask me where all the good fanfics are, just ask away in the comments. I have a list of favourite fanfiction and favourite authors that covers most of the popular fandoms.

Well, that’s it for this post. I’d originally wanted to write more specifically about canon worship and how this applies to Mahoukabut that’s opening a huuuuuge can of worms. Maybe next time.


(P.S. This post is a perfect encapsulation of everything that is entertaining and awful about Mahouka blog posts and their comments. Not the post, the comments.)



  1. There are 12 more comments I stopped from appearing, from dear Bob. He also took to trying and spam me on

    I find fanfic a very interesting topic to think of and discuss, and had for years (see my Yaoi blogpost. At school, so no link for now :P). I used to write on LiveJournal, and read quite a bit of fanfic. Also, if you want an example of a published author writing himself into his series, and since he’s a magician, and the series is about chaos magic, it even makes meta-sense, look for The Invisibles by Grant Morrison. At one point the character shaves his head and looks just like the author ;-)

    • Confession: I checked your post once every couple of hours, with popcorn in hand.

      Bob’s comments were hilarious, but oh man I would have hated to be you. My favourite was “Be careful watching your media or else you might become the next Hitler!”

      • I posted it on a subreddit dedicated to anime discussions. I’ll link you on twitter if yer interested.

        I don’t think I’m ready to post it on /r/anime, but maybe I will, and just ignore the replies, which is not a good thing to do in general, but sometimes you just need to know not all fights are worth fighting.

        I mean, I think this fight is worth fighting, thus the post, but the comments are often just banging your head uselessly against the wall.

  2. 1. Shipping self:
    Okay I’ve been on FF for like 7 years and I personally never felt the want to ship myself with a fictional character (hurray I guess?). I dunno, maybe it’s my upbringing because I never fantasized the ‘perfect relationship’ thing. I could see WHY people want to ship themselves with fictional characters, but writing yourself into it?

    Now I’m more of a gamer than I am an otaku but I see this in the VG community too. Look at games like Mass Effect where you, yes you, can sex it up with some hot blue alien chick. And because this is literally your avatar, you would assume people get more intimate with the idea. But looking at a lot of game fics, I find them to a lot of them to be pretty high quality compared to anime fics.

    I find that even with a lot of RPGs having romances, a lot of FF writers still tend to focus on plot more than the relationship itself. Oh look, another M!Shepard x Tali fic with pretty good action! Oh look, another (insert popular anime) fluff crap fic! Any thoughts why this is?

    2. Canon Worship:
    First things first, SAO had crap world building. I could write an entire essay why SAO as a game is a badly designed game in itself.

    Second, I might have to disagree with you here. Now you took SAO as an example, and SAO is well … SAO, I don’t need to explain its flaws. But if you look at other fandoms like say, Avatar (the bending one), you would see that while people have their OTPs, the setting comes first. The war with the Fire Nation, the after effects of the different cultures, that seems to be more important than shipping.

    I think we could attribute this to how rich the world is. While we’re gonna have our pairings and shipping wars, a greatly designed universe with its lore and background is what keeps the fans being fans.

    3. Artsy
    Can’t comment much on this. I’ve seen very few fics that attempt to do things out of the norm. The one that I recall the most was someone writing a story in the mind of a Fallout Super Mutant and God, was it really complex in both good and bad.

    As for FF as potential, I get you. I just started writing late last year and I’m already planning on taking NaNoWriMo. Funny enough, a good friend of mine who I met through FF is using FF’s PM system to write his novel. I’m editing his work at the moment and it’s going through a second rewrite. We’re using FF to write an original piece of work, make what you will of that.

    Long post is long. And rambly too.

    • I’ve written for video game fandoms too (my first fandom was Chrono Trigger) so I’ve also observed the differences you note between game and anime fandoms. I believe the difference largely stems from gender. The game fandom has a higher proportion of male writers than the anime fandom. Gender doesn’t really make that much of a difference when you’re very skilled, but among amateur writers, it’s really noticeable. From my experience, girls are more into shipping while males are more likely to buy into canon worship. As you can see from my post, though, I don’t believe male fanfiction writers are better than female fanfiction writers, although I did once think that way.

      About SAO: Among anime fandoms, it has a higher percentage of male fans, so SAO felt different from other anime fandoms to me. I agree that the setting is not that well thought-out, but clearly there are fans who buy into it more seriously than I did. But SAO also has more than its fair share of revisionist fanfics by people who obviously think SAO could have been done better than it was. That includes you and I.

      Anyway, good luck with your original novel! I’m still in contact with some of the authors I met through FF and we’ve helped each other out with our writing for many years, so I know all about how FF is a great place for meeting writing buddies.

      • Most great FF writers I follow or am buddies with are male. Not to say female fans are better/worse writers, but it does show the demographic of a fandom. FO, mostly male. ME, near equal. Dragon Age, mostly female. It’s really really weird. Someone should do research on this.

        Funny enough, I think ALO, the worst arc in the series, has the most fleshed out world. GGO, we don’t even know the name of the country/continent for God’s sake! Regardless, there are a lot of FF writers who just write with canon SAO in mind. There are a few pretty original ones and there are rewrites like yours and mine. A buddy of mine is currently in the process of taking GGO and making it a war fic, guns galore. Like something out of a Tom Clancy novel. Shame he’s a bit slow to write.

        I’ll be sure to tell you if either my stuff or my friend’s stuff ever gets done. I still remember your imouto incest story. No, it will never go away.

        PS: So … you got far into that fic of mine?

        • GGO, we don’t even know the name of the country/continent for God’s sake!

          Nevertheless, I fully expect GGO to be the best SAO arc because I ship myself with Sinon

          I still remember your imouto incest story. No, it will never go away.

          Truly a classic to be remembered by the ages!

          So … you got far into that fic of mine?

          UHHHH I read one chapter? :DD

          • I would read a FroggyXSinon fic. There’s a disturbing lack of Sinon fics. ANd when GGO comes around, we’re gonna have a truckload of bad Sinon fics.

            I await Froggy-sensei’s in depth analysis!

  3. When I stumble across an anime that I like, the first thing I do is go check out the fanfiction. It’s pretty reflex for me and though I’ve been devouring fanfiction for a decade, it still hasn’t lost its charm. (I have a more streamlined approach to filtering out the crappy ones). I used to do it just because I wanted to read more about the characters and contemplate the “what-ifs”, see the developing head canon, and relive the moments that made the original source so enjoyable for me. Your post has made me realize that looking at the fanfiction is also one of many ways one can see how a show has shaped its fandom (and vice-versa).

    Though I don’t get a ton of these nowadays, sometimes, you’ll stumble across a fanfiction that just really resonates with you. Or is written so well it makes you swoon and wonder at the author’s true identity (imagine a Nobel lit prize winner masquerading as an FF writer!). These fics tend to really affect either my experience with a certain character, theme or show and are the ones that I remember vividly years later.

    Of course, epic-length alternate-universe fics are by far my favorite. Because who doesn’t want to see the Code Geass cast thrown in a high-school setting with ship-teases galore? Oh wait that already kind of happened in canon. Crossover fics, if done right, can also be a lot of fun.

    • I relate to everything about this comment.

      One of the big reasons that I bring up fanfiction so often in my posts is because I think fanfiction does offer a great alternative perspective that enriches your experience with an anime. Writing fanfiction is a constructive form of literary criticism – it shows a particular interpretation of the source material and adds that on top of your other impressions of the anime. Conventional criticism is more deconstructive – you unpack the source material in order to get to your interpretation.

      Ideally, both forms complement each other. You become better at deconstructing something the better you understand the storytelling form through actually writing yourself, and you become better at telling stories if you deconstruct how they work. I feel fanfic authors could stand to gain from reading literary criticism and applying a broader range of influences to their writing, just as I feel critics could stand to gain from reading (good) fanfiction and applying a broader range of interpretations to their writing.

      Since you and I are among the few bloggers who are also immersed in fanfiction, it’s interesting how our tastes and ideas challenge the norm somewhat. Fanfics definitely influence how I interpret anime – I think a lot in terms of headcanons and what-ifs. I like to think about things that are “hidden” inside the text but could be there if you were intent on bringing them out. Like you, I really enjoy those epic AU fics a lot. They’re my favourites, along with those artsy fics ;)

  4. I find it interesting that I can sympathize with those three phases, even though I never got to write fanfics. Hell, I could probably use those to describe my appreciation of other entertainment forms. From the top of my mind, I remember loving the Harry Potter books because I just wanted to be like Harry so much, then hating them a few years later because their magic system was never properly explained.

    Nice read!

    • Hmm, interesting! Yeah, there are definitely links between how you consume stuff as a fan and what type of fanfic you’d write (assuming you ever got around to it). Everyone’s a fanfic author inside their head, I like to think.

  5. I find it curious that the phases of fanfiction you describe correspond to ‘loving the characters’, ‘loving the setting’, and ‘loving the style/abstract message’, of a given work. If you ask me, fanfics neednt follow the phases you say, because people neednt follow the same phases. I started out an artfag and am currently a canonfag.
    This argument is a bit simplistic, though. Artfags arent just style-lovers. I don’t really know what they like, just that when they love it, they call it ‘art’.

    • Yeah, funny you mention that. This is going off my own personal experience with writing fiction, but I always got a greater sense of satisfaction when I produced thematically-driven writing, where I felt like I was really saying something important to me. It felt more… cathartic, you could say. Readers don’t always necessarily appreciate that, which is why you get authors like Arthur Conan Doyle, who lamented over how his “serious literature” wasn’t taken seriously, and who tried and yet failed to kill off Sherlock Holmes. Or, to quote Oscar Wilde: “All art is quite useless.” My take is that “serious art” is yet another form of indulgence.

      In terms of fanfic culture, “artsy” fics seem like the middle road between “extreme self-projection” (shipping) and “extreme author-projection” (canon worship). I envision it more like a spectrum, which means calling it “phases” was a stupid idea of mine. I know that I’ve switched back and forth between many different types of consumption. In fact, these days I buy into the “shipping myself with an anime character” thing and proudly show off my waifus, which doesn’t say an awful lot about my developing maturity.

      Obviously, no type of interpretation is bad, only very limiting when taken to its extreme.

      • After a bit of diggin up old embarrasing memories, I’ve recalled that I used to ship my female elf arcane warrior/blood mage character from Dragon Age really hard with Sten. This was my first phase, as predicted by your stage-sequence, so I’m guessing there is something about your sequence which I think will hold true for more consumers than can be accounted for by coincidence.

        It also makes me think that for phases one and two, video game self-insertion is easier than anime self-insertion. I wonder if the same hold true for phase three.

  6. > I mean look at all the fans of Bakemonogatari
    Was tilting my head here

    Have you read this little piece Cytrus shared last week?
    Probably my favorite type of fanfic. Not sure how it fits into your three phrases though. No shipping. Mostly extrapolation rather than strictly following canon (but quite believable within its frame). Not overtly “artsy” or “experimental”, It simply presents an inconsequential (to canon plot) side story from a side character’s point of view. It is based on a mere two short encounters with said character in a single episode, so the writer is the one supplying the details of the characterization. It reminds me a lot of Touhou Project fanfic/doujinshi, where canon is extremely sparse and barely followed anyway. Instead, writers take the bits and pieces of the characters and settings that inspire them and create their own world.

    • Didn’t read the story since I didn’t watch Black Butler, but I’ve always liked Cytrus’s approach to fanfiction. (E: OOPS I MEANT BLACK BULLET. LOLIS NOT SHOTAS DAMMIT)

      As I wrote in my response to runoverpebble above, calling it “phases” was stupid of me. It’s more like a spectrum, with shipping at one end, canon worship on the other and artsy somewhere roughly in the middle. Most fanfic readers would refer to Cytrus’s story as a “gen fic”, which means it’s not romantic, usually about family or friendship if there is any relationship focus in it, and the plotline is generally light-weight. I love gen fics, they’re great.

      • Bakemonogatari fan? Whatever makes you think that? Just because I’m a Shaft fan, a NisioIsin fan, an Akio Watanabe fan… ah shoot you got me. But I should really get to finishing Second Season sometime.

        I made my way over to TVTropes’ list of fanfic categories. I guess your Bakemonogatari recommendation would also go under Original Flavour? (and a pretty well done one at that, it has the bantering down pat.)

        And it turns out they have a genre exactly describing Cytrus’s Black Bullet fic. Curtain Fic. Just replace the curtains with coffee.

        • Tropers use different labels to describe a fanfic than fanfic authors. It’s like how there are scientific names for animals, and then the actual names people use in real life. But it’s interesting how TV Tropes chooses to categorise certain fanfics. Makes the whole fanfic process seem so… orderly.

  7. That reddit thread you spoke of sounds entertaining. But in regard to this post, I’m actually interested in your recommendations as far as fanfic goes.

    • My old FFnet account has a list of fav stories and authors, so you can start there:

      There actually *are* some self-insert stories listed on my favs. I thought they were pretty good, which goes to show there are gems hidden among the trash.

      If there are specific fandoms you’re interested in, feel free to tell me what they are. It’s been a while since I last went on an archive binge but i-it’s not like I’m doing it for you or anything!

  8. I know I might sound stupid asking this,but how does someone “read” themselves into an anime?

    • Identifying with characters, or going, “Yes, I always thought the exact same thing!” about ideas expressed in them, or just, “Those two characters talk just like my best friend and I do.”

  9. @Guy Would it be all right if we got to know each other more? When I read you had a background in sociology, I kinda got intrigued. ^_^

      • It’s a little embarrassing…Simply put: I think you’re quite interesting and I just think I’ll be able to learn a few things by getting to know you. ^_^ You seem quite intelligent and your latest post about Mahouka at least made me understand where you were coming from.

        I like hearing about different thoughts and opinions. I happen to have a degree in political science, you see–so I like reading about social topics in general.

        Besides, I’m always up to make new friends. ^_^

  10. Oh my god XD. I’ve never been through phase one, but am definitely a culprit of phase two and phase three. Like when I wrote an entire “Spoon River Anthology” inspired collection of poetry, each for one dead Naruto character.

    Ah, good times.

  11. Here, have years’ worth of analysis on fanfiction, primarily from the female perspective:
    Also relevant:
    I think that the “males are into world-building, females are into shipping” generalization is slowly changing as gender roles are being blurred and erased in real life. There are more than a few articles, even outside of the links I’ve given, about how fangirl squee, including teen idol worship and shipping, was and is used as a space for females to explore facets of their desires that they cannot do in traditional ways due to societal expectations. (primarily slut-shaming) Because males don’t have as many restrictions on relationships, romance, and sex, they don’t have as much of a need to channel into the expression of their fandom. As these power structures are changed towards equality, in both directions, both males and females are more comfortable embracing what used to be the other gender’s territory, and that includes what kind of fanfiction they read and/or write. (There may be a point about how because the source media tends to be male-oriented, males will tend towards canon-worship, or the things that are already oriented towards them, while the females will write the things that they want that the canon does not give them. But the dread word “privilege” gets involved and there’s waaaaayy too much inevitable misunderstanding when that happens. I’m trying to make a neutral stance here.)

    I also think that it should be noted that “shipping fics” usually refer to character x character, rather than character x self-insert OC. It’s still very writer-indulgent, though. In badly-written pieces the characters involved act according to the author’s pre-conceived notions of the perfect romance, rather than their actual characterization. But insofar as the romance is the point over the source material’s themes, by the descriptions in the post, they would fall under phase three? (And still considered as vastly superior to character x self-insert OC)

    Actually, the most common forms of male first fanfics I find are fix-fics: “Shinji/Harry/Naruto gets a spine and curb-stomps everyone” (and if explicit revenge is involved…) and “Charming rational OC points out the holes in the original text and solves everyone’s problems. While romance is a side plot only, harem subtext very possible.” (Not unlike most LNs! *ba-dump-ch*) Such fics are a combination of all phases. Self-shipping, a form of canon worship by exploiting all of the worldbuilding details, and artsy by ignoring original thematic elements in favor of fixing plot and characterization “problems.”
    I do love a good fix-fic every now and then, especially combined with a Time-loop mechanism. Fix-fics thinly disguised by crossovers can be super-entertaining, too, which is another point of difference in gendered writing. Males tend to go for the crack, with plot-driven shenanigans highlighting the differences in each worlds’ powers, while females writers will often do domestic scenes that don’t involve action, in order to focus on how these characters interact in social situations. Males will write camaraderie and females will write friendship. And romance from both, of course, but the male-written romance will more likely be one fandom’s character realizing how great the other fandom is, especially compared to their canon interest, where female-written will focus on the “brother from another dimension” dynamic, the characters who have similar backstories or characterization. There’s more of an experience/age bias than a gender bias as to which authors prefer to maintain source material themes and tones in a crossover, though.

    Damn, I can just go on and on about this shit. I read way too much of it.

    • Sorry for the grossly late reply!

      Those are some great links which shed really interesting insight on what it means to write fanfiction. I agree that the social dynamics of fanfiction are changing – I like to think it’s slowly becoming a more accepted outlet where both genders can explore things like sexuality in a relatively safe haven. I know that through my own experience in the community, I sought to challenge the stereotype that fanfics are just for girls. I also tried not to conform to any stereotype about what guys are supposed to like reading, though that was more as I got older and grew out of my “shipping fanfics suck!” stage.

      I also think that it should be noted that “shipping fics” usually refer to character x character, rather than character x self-insert OC. It’s still very writer-indulgent, though. In badly-written pieces the characters involved act according to the author’s pre-conceived notions of the perfect romance, rather than their actual characterization. But insofar as the romance is the point over the source material’s themes, by the descriptions in the post, they would fall under phase three?

      My take is that with character x character shipping, the inexperienced fanfic author projects themselves into the character that is of the same gender as them. So it’s like a self-insert x canon character, except not by technicality. I’m only talking about the ones where the characters are really out-of-character. The more faithful ones which link their portrayal of the ship to some kind of broader theme, definitely fall under phase three by my distinctions. Or, alternatively, if it was a fanfic of a more romance-centric source material to begin, phase two. But the lines do blur.

  12. I was so amused by this post, I even laughed sometimes, because I could relate so much to the phases! Even though I didn’t apply all of them to my writing, I still definitely went through them.

    “This actually drove me crazy back in the day. I hated fanfics that were just about shipping. I got into fanfiction because I wanted to get more of what I liked about the series,”

    This made me a bit curious though. Why ARE people so into shipping fics? Is it because the anime themselves lack romance that the watchers are craving? That would be my guess. But I also think this can tell us a lot about what kind of people are reading fanfiction.

    • Why ARE people so into shipping fics?

      I think it’s a combination of many things: dissatisfaction with their own love lives, it’s an opportunity to explore unusual or taboo forms of relationships without actually having to experience it. I see shipping as a philosophical outlet and as a form of self-projection. I attempted to answer that question fully here:

      And you’re right. I think you can learn a LOT about a product from studying its audience, which is why audience studies is such a big thing in academia right now.

    • Ah, sorry, I don’t listen to anime music very much. If you want to read a blog with actual reviews on anime music, try

  13. Late to the party here XD I’ve had this post open in my tabs the past few days and have been meaning to read it…just didn’t have time until today!

    But yeah, excellent post! I know I’ve written a couple of posts on the subject of fan fiction, canon shipping vs non-canon shipping, and taking one’s fandom too far. I actually wrote a few anime fan fics when I was a teenager, and read some too. But I never went through your Phase One. Even back then I never cared to ship myself with anime characters and didn’t want to read any OC fics. I guess I just never related to the media I consumed that way, where I’d want to actually insert myself into the world and interact with the characters as opposed to just interpreting. All of the (few) fics I wrote, and most that I read, followed your Phase Two. The only ones I was interested in were ones that I felt could potentially happen in the show’s world, or a story that wouldn’t seem implausible for the creators to make. I never got to the Artsy Phase though =P But honestly, my interest in fan fiction was very small and short to begin with and now I really don’t care what people want to put in their fan fiction or what kind of crazy head canons they come up with. I don’t have to like it, but as long as they’re having fun, that’s what counts XD

  14. Hmmm… I’ve never been into fanfic because it just feels different consuming any material that is not from the original author’s mind. I’m not saying that all fanfic is badly written, it’s just that I can never get myself feeling as attached to fanfic as compared to the original work. Though I don’t really read or study the canon work in detail either.

    So is that a lazy form of canon worship?

    • Hmmm, yeah, rejecting fanfic interpretations in general does seem like a lazy form of canon worship, but if you’re not obsessed with the original story and if you accept reviews and differing interpretations in general, then I don’t see any problem with that attitude at all, to be honest. Fanfics just aren’t for everyone, even the good ones.

  15. From a former active FF-reader (still read them now, still not as much), I was always so frustrated when I was looking into some fanfictions, looking to expand my horizons on the characters beyond the anime, only to have some “hot anime character x OC fanfics” :\

    I also has an obsession to read fanfictions that uses the same settings from the anime’s. No timeskips, and definitely no alternate universe too. Not sure if that count as canon worship.

  16. Note to self reading oneself into anime is seriously detrimental albeit inevitable.
    Fine post, it really made me think back on what see online too. As anime fans I’m sure we can’t help loving anime so much that some of us if not all read ourselves into that world and create our own best interpretation.

  17. well…since you’re really knowledgeable, how about a good old deconstruction flick of a harem series?

    I’ve only really read that one love hina one. had some issues but the idea was amusing enough.

    • Since everyone seems to have a different idea of what “deconstruction” means, I’m going to ask what you mean by the term. Are you talking about stories that just “twist” the harem premise or dark stories that show how horrible to be to have a harem in real life?

  18. […] So the act of watching an anime and becoming a fan of it – which involves making the assumption that it has something special to say to you in particular – is significant because it decontextualises the media. The circumstances in which the media was originally created mean little and are outright ignored in most cases. Consumers see emotional truth in a story because it affirms something they have always believed, or they can read themselves into it. […]

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