In its very definition, otaku, and by extension fan culture in its entirety, carries with it a whiff of the obsessional. It’s doubtful any fan would deny that. After all, there’s nothing wrong with a little obsession. In fact, it can prove a most fertile ground, spurring on creativity, participation or just plain old-fashioned dedication. This blog was born in part from all three. Putting it another way, our collective obsession with the anime art form spurred us on to create a blog and contribute to the growing online chatter.
But adoration isn’t consistent, and to think otherwise is to adopt a standpoint that is blindsided and wistful at best. Like in love, an uninterrupted, under-appreciated and fuzzy feeling is difficult to maintain, and attempting perfection may very well signal the first of many cracks to appear in the façade.
It’s much the same with anime. I was a fan of the medium long before I had any notion of the term ‘anime’ itself, or indeed any cultural context through which to view it. To me, it was just cool cartoons with frenetic action scenes (Dragon Ball Z) and powerful messages of sisterhood (Sailor Moon) the latter of which contributed in no small part to my burgeoning sexuality. My friends and I watched those transformation scenes and were utterly awed. Of course, I nary knew what a magical girl was.
It was years before I came to fully understand and appreciate what anime was, and by then I was an avid watcher of Naruto and Bleach, Death Note and Wolf’s Rain and many more forgettable titles besides. I’d stream them after school or borrow the DVDs from friends; either way I’d be consuming animated images at an astonishing rate. And then came the end of the honeymoon period.
If we take adolescence as a time when we experiment with our identity, try on different guises to get a sense of the person we are, or want to be, then it’s fair to say that it’s a time of changes in more important means than the physical. In my case, it meant chucking out every geeky thing I held dear to my heart, and adopting an altogether more pretentious persona. While I maintain many of these preferences now (like art house cinema, jazz music and the writings of the beat generation) I adopted an all-or-nothing stance back then, and anime was most definitely not invited.
During this time, I convinced myself that I’d “grown out of anime” the way I thought I had grown out of heavy metal. I would make no small measure of advertising my disdain for the genre. It was just over the top, perverted and badly animated, right? Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
If anyone ever claims they’ve grown out of something they once loved, then perhaps they never really liked it in the first place. Fortunately, the strength of my respect went deep and it was only a matter of time before I saw the stupidity of my ways.
Re-introducing anime into my life coincided with meeting my partner (and the other half of this blog), and, though it shames me to say, I would make her feel guilty for her own anime fandom. This carried on for months, until I started dipping my toe back in. Whether it was her unending love of NANA, her cosplay of Lucky Star’s Konata or penchant for bishies, I was there to poke fun.
But I did start watching anime again. I even started reviewing the latest UK releases, and it dawned on me, like the rising sun of the Japanese flag, that I love this art form.
Some years later, when the two of us had started this blog, we were consuming as much anime and manga as possible. It felt as though almost every waking hour was consumed with big eyes and impossibly pointy hair, so it was inevitable that it would bottom out sooner or later.
Some of you might have noticed a little dip in our productivity of late, which I can only attribute to ‘anime fatigue’. Not something you’d expect from an anime blogger, I know, but bear with me. Trying to balance being a fan while also being a journalist or commentator, looking at the medium critically and putting it in historical, social and cultural context can be tough. I’ll sometimes shirk my latest review in favour of another series so I can switch off ‘review mode’ and just enjoy some simulcasts, or finish off the last few episodes on my to-watch list.
I doubt I’m unique in experiencing this fatigue, and I’d love to read about your own experiences, so feel free to comment below. If enough of you answer, we’ll even put a response piece of our dear readers’ thoughts together.