EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a (cleaner) copy and paste free write of my thoughts of the evolution and history of the Western anime fandom taken from my Facebook page Yuki The Snowman. As such, I was shooting from the hip; so it is unstructured and lacks research and sources to a few statements.
While out-of-state at a friends’ house catching up on old times, we were disusing plans on attending an up and coming anime convention in their area next year named Dokidokon. During the discussion, they mentioned how cool it would be for us to report on the convention, it’s growth, and recording the events as they unfold at the con. With glee, they stated that it would be exciting to take record of what we witness there. Further into the talk, it was mentioned that we’re living in perhaps the best time period for otaku history in the West and how it is important for us bloggers, vloggers, and content creators to record such events in history.
I started to ponder.
While my friends and I enjoy attacking the otaku culture with venomous scorn, taking cheap shots against anime fans whenever the chance presents itself, and mock the culture for its many faults, we still hold onto our great appreciation for how far the anime medium and fandom has come. This is especially true given how Western otaku culture and conventions came up from (to my knowledge, mind you) the underground college anime clubs and conventions of the 70s and 80s to the massive juggernaut in which we are a part of today where the modern anime community is an indescribable melting pot of distinctive demographic coming together to celebrate our love for anime.
For those who might be too young to remember, it wasn’t that long ago when Western anime culture and fans where pushed into the darkest corners of the pop culture world. We were treated as unwelcomed outcasts by – and please note – most (meaning not all for those who are from the remedial side of the education game) nerds and geeks from different sets of the pop culture world (film, comic books, gamers, sci-fi, etcs.).
In the past, Anime (in the West) didn’t have that unbreakable grip that it has on the Western pop culture world today. Thus, us fans were mocked and alienated by outsides (both normies and, ironically, non-otaku nerds who too where shunned for their love for comics, games, etc.) for enjoying something that most people didn’t get. Maybe it was due to xenophobia, lack of understanding, or the pure pride of the ignorant who didn’t want to study why people like and watch anime, but anime fans were treated like some weird nerds who were too much in love with some whacky Japanese cartoons.
Sure, you had timeless hits such as AKIRA, Ninja Scroll, and Ghost in the Shell making noise in America; planting seeds and paving the path for what we are witnessing today when it comes to the Western Otaku culture, but they didn’t have the weight to help put anime in that sweet postion that we call mainstream appeal (Dragon Ball Z would take that honor and run with it in the mid-90s despite what the anti-entry-level anime elitists may want to argue to deal with the fact their favorite obscure anime didn’t get the job done but that’s another topic for another day).
Time went on. The influence of anime in the West grew stronger. Its popularity increased with shows such as Dragon Ball Z, Sailor Moon, and Pokémon. Television networks such as Time Warner, The Sci-Fi Network, Tech TV and Freeform created program blocks dedicated to anime (Toonami, Anime Unleashed, and Made in Japan) in order to carter to the blooming Western anime fanbase. Online bulletin board systems (BBS) and websites revolving around anime culture sprung up on the dial-up internet side of the game. Magazines dedicated to anime such as Anierica were sent out to the mailbox of the American anime fan. Video stores started carrying anime that never aired on TV in America.
It was inevitable that anime in the West would become a huge deal.
Today, you can go on your favorite streaming website (legal and illegal) and pull up almost any anime from the past or present. Popular or obscure. Modern or classic. If you can think of an anime, there’s a good chance that you will find it online. No more wasting time and gas money traveling miles to a nearby video store in hopes you can get your anime fix. No longer do we need to call up a certain BBS to communicate with fellow fans of a peculiar anime and wait two-to-eight hours for a response.
With the advent of modern day technology and social media, we can instantly chat it up with fellow anime fans moments after an episode finished airing. Best of all, fans can communicate and interact with voice actors, creators, production studios, and distributors through websites such as Facebook and twitter – something that was once only possible at annual major conventions and snail mail.
History is being made.
As content creators, we must take advantage of this era of Western anime history. We must take part and note of the trends and the happenings of the fandom – despite the fact if we love or loathe such trends and happenings. Remember: future generations of anime fans will be curious on how their favorite shows and beloved parts of the culture became to be. They will research the roots of their favorites and find connects to the past (that is currently our present). There needs to be a record of what is going on today in the world of anime: both in the East and here in the West.
Keeping record will perverse what is happening currently. It will prevent experiences from being lost to time and history. Just imagine if nobody recorded the famous viral video of the Filipino female prisoners performing the Hare Hare Yukai dance from The Melacholy of Haruhi Suzumiya or most recent, the ever popular live-action versions Chikatto Chika Chika dance from episode 3 of Kaguya-Sama: Love is War!! by energetic otakus cosplay as Chika herself.
It would be utterly depressing.
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