It’s no secret that the anime market is heavily stigmatized. Customers are portrayed as cheap, arrogant, demanding deviants that place gore and fetishes above all else. They are labeled as petty and childish, or simply just children. Anime buyers are explained as those who fetishize Japan, and would be accepted into Japanese society as a brother in arms for enjoying the country’s cartoons.
The popular image today is the stereotypical basement-dweller. This fictional image is the overweight, neck-bearded brat of a man, who lives in his mother’s basement. This is the one who can’t be bothered to brush the fucking Cheeto dust from his stained K-On! shirt, let alone shower. This is the fellow that talks down to new fans, and groans loudly when someone mentions anything that isn’t moe or some obscure, tit-laden affair that is simply uncomfortable to watch to the average viewer. In short, the popular image of anime fan is a loser.
Dear reader, are you happy about this?
The anime community is a diverse band of individuals, with their own ideals and preferences. Some fans are bubbly talkers that will strike up a conversation with nearly everybody. Others are quiet, reserved individuals that would rather chat among friends than with a bunch of strangers. Fans come from all walks of life, be it a poor student or a successful professional. From Computer programmers to writers, musicians to retail minions, there are no true bounds to the breadth of who partakes of and enjoys the hobby. The core customer-base consists of thousands of well-adjusted individuals that are eager to discuss their hobby with other people of similar interests.
That’s not to say the stereotype is entirely unfounded. There are still a number of people that fit the mold of the neck-bearded basement dweller. People will often recount tales of “that guy” in anime clubs, conventions, and gatherings. These people do exist, and they are looked down upon in the community. Still, they make for a great mental image, as the loudest and angriest person one can think of is often most easily recalled. Hell, thanks to The Simpsons, this image is easier than ever to recall. One only has to say “He’s like the Comic Book Guy” to get a vivid image of this walking stereotype.
Now for a question, dear reader. Why do we put up with this?
In order for the market to really grow, the stereotype needs to die. Affable, socially adept anime fans outnumber the belligerent nerds on a wide margin. We spend our days working in respectable jobs that may not always pay well, but pay for what we need. We have responsibilities, families, and social lives. We have motivations for the future that may not always consist of “watch more anime,” and we don’t mind going a bit further to help those who have a passing interest in the hobby. We’re not cartoons, we’re people.
As people, we need to find a way to make anime Likeable. We need to assert that we, as fans, as customers love what we do and enjoy our hobbies in moderation. We need to show that most people don’t give a rat’s ass about who enjoy Naruto or Bleach, and who enjoys Madoka Magica and Lucky Star. And, frankly, we need to show that we’re not a bunch of spoiled, perverted children. Something as simple as Facebook or Twitter posts about one’s favorite shows, or conversations about the hobby with non-fans could go far in killing the image that’s been built over the past years.
It’s not an easy task, in the least. The process of changing the public’s mind on an issue takes time, effort, and an ability to spread. Once the idea virus spreads sufficiently, though, the image becomes self-propagating and the public image will indeed change. It’s just a matter of having the patience to see the process to the end.
Tonight, I’d like to close with a pair of questions: Do you foresee the common image of anime fans changing? What would you do to alter these perceptions, given the chance?