Dear readers, friends and fellow otaku,
Because it’s come to light that Kim Kardashian likes anime, at least enough to dye her hair pink à la Darling in the FranXX’s Zero Two, we’ve seen some fans feeling worried. As kids, maybe they were bullied or made to feel alone by their love of anime. But now, with the school age struggles well behind them or almost over, the mainstream is saying it’s fine to be an otaku. Maybe even ‘cool’. Whatever that means.
What is someone who was a teen outsider supposed to do with this cultural change of thought? We all regret how we spent that time feeling so afraid, not talking about our loves because someone else might knock them down, leaving us with self-loathing and guilt we knew made no sense. Dominic and I both know that fear. My partner in writing and in life saw so many things he was ridiculed for enjoying become the blockbusters that pack out screens with people who are proud to be geeks. As for myself, I was too scared to talk about the art and artists that meant the most to me. Nobody would have heard of it. They’d ask questions I wouldn’t be able to answer. They’d give me that look they always did when I clammed up, sometimes because they really were trying to be kind and friendly, when I presumed the worst.
Because we’ve been through it all, we can understand the cynic that emerges in defence of the long-time fan’s sensitivity and remorse. It’s a natural reaction to think that if back then had been the same as now, it would have been so much easier and there wouldn’t be parts of us still hurting. It’s unavoidable that in our minds we’ll scorn new fans for taking such wide acceptance for granted. But that doesn’t mean we should feel justified in those thoughts, certainly not enough to voice them. We take plenty of the good, easy things for granted ourselves. If it hadn’t been liking anime that drew the public humiliations in the playground, it would have been something else. There’s always some way the past can make us miserable.
So, why let it? Why let the fear and anger stop us in our tracks, when so many of our heroes in this medium we love have forged ahead? Naruto didn’t let being the weird kid, always blathering on about being Hokage, stop him from showing the world that his word was his bond. We say we love anime for its friendships, for the stories that unite us across cultural borders, for how it inspires us to build our thoughts into a blog and share that community with so many others. If you imagine all the new voices that might make their way to the fandom because of one celebrity’s Instagram post, doesn’t it get you excited? It makes me proud to be a part of something that’s been helping me heal from past wounds, and will continue to welcome others who need and deserve that same healing.
Anime and ‘cool’ will never quite gel. If we take cool to mean mainstream, there are still the same old barriers in place. This is ‘foreign stuff’ that sometimes involves reading subtitles, and applying a fair amount of focus and patience to begin to understand its thematic and stylistic quirks. It can be Hollywoodified for big screens and small, but anime itself will always remain niche to some degree. People who are worried about this are getting stressed over nothing. Making themselves miserable, grumpy and hateful for no good reason.
We wish they wouldn’t. We wish we didn’t. We love this fandom, and we love the platform it gave us to write and be heard by people like you. We love being otaku. We want to see more people feel the happiness it’s brought to our lives. Anyone new – if that’s you – then welcome. We can’t wait to geek out, together.