For 5 years now I have been regularly attending anime and manga conventions in and around Sydney and my home town, I’ve cosplayed on occasion, participated in various activities and spent unfunny amounts of money on random display swords, artwork, comics, etc. Anime is infamous for it’s intense and loyal fans around the world but why are anime fans considered so fiercely loyal? Why is anime typically associated with geeks and as such has had a negative stigma? Is this still the case?
It’s Just About Everywhere
There’s no doubt that anime is becoming rapidly more popular over time. In 1991, Japanese Anime film Akira made its way overseas via vhs distributions, it was uncommon in western markets but quickly found itself acceptance among a growing number of cyberpunk fans. The visually stunning, surrealist style allowed for a film that could capture the visuals and themes of cyberpunk that was previously, only successful in a book format. Following the rise of the internet and subsequent digital distribution networks, anime has more readily been accessed by a considerably wider audience.
In an article on “Transcultural creativity in Anime” ,Rayna Denison writes, “The phenomenon of ‘digisubbing’,the production of fan-subtitled anime via digital reproduction technologies,is also changing the relationship between fans and anime texts considerably. While on the one hand enabling greater fan creativity in the reproduction of anime texts, it is also enabling a vast increase in the illegitimate flow of anime outside Japan” (Denison, 2010), Digisubbing is the digitisation of the task of subtitling anime, effectively splitting the task among several fans regardless of geographic location, this way, anime texts can be reproduced in various subtitled languages quickly, aiding faster global distribution of these texts. This digitisation of the text has also evolved into various other practices such as abridged versions of anime and animated music video (AMV) just to name a couple.
Abridged anime is the re-cutting and re-dubbing of anime to create a new text or side text while AMVs are the re-cutting of anime to a song or some music as a new text or simply a fan made music video. The popular use of anime to create new texts and concepts such as head canon (fan made lore as an addition to an existing story) simultaneously personalise anime to it’s fans and isolate any new comers to the genre who are struggling to comprehend the scope of anime as a pseudo transmedia/multimedia text, die-hard fans might argue that you don’t really ‘know’ an anime unless you engage with multiple forms of the text.
What’s Not To Love?
The term Otaku is often used to refer to the die-hard fans of anime and manga and while it’s often used endearingly in the west, it has a history of negative connotations in Japan where the word originates. In a blog post on ‘Japanese Level Up’, Adam takes a loot at the word “Otaku”, and what it means. He notes that it can be used as a word for ‘fan’, ‘expert’ or ‘mania’ but specifically within the context of a hobby or interest that is not considered socially acceptable. Despite having overwhelmingly positive reviews around the world, Ghost in the Shell is still considered a ‘cult classic’ that appeals to a ‘niche audience’ with ‘special interests’, why is it that anime struggles to get recognition alongside more classic media forms such as live action film and television?
Anime hasn’t previously been considered ‘mainstream’ due to it’s association with subcultures and not being widely accepted as a legitimate form of media but recently anime has begun to permeate into what is considered mainstream for example, the long running American animated sitcom The Simpsons had an episode as an homage to the films by Studio Ghibli. Mainstream is what is considered normal and anime is not considered normal but following the popularity of anime and it’s permeation into other mainstream media, it’s just about abnormal to have not had any experience with anime.
Denison, R 2010 ‘Transcultural creativity in anime’, Creative industries Journal, vol.3, no.3, pp.221-235.