Anime Feminist has a running series titled “AniFem Talk”. These posts include a number of discussion prompts that are designed as starting points for readers to get engaged in a broader conversation. The aim of the version on my blog will be to respond to these questions off-site and at a much greater length than I would otherwise be able to.
This week’s discussion has already seen a large swathe of comments across social media thanks to recent posts from the ultra-famous celebrity influencer, Kim Kardashian. In a short series of remarks, she stated that she was “obsessed with anime” and credited Darling in the FranXX‘s :02 for her latest hair inspiration.
Due to the fact that Kim is able to connect with a wide american audience, alongside her astounding ability as a trendsetter, many have called this a huge step towards putting anime into the public conscious, therefore bringing it mainstream acceptance.
This wasn’t without some push back however, with many anime fans harboring resentment for Kim’s ability to make ‘cool’ something which many grew up perceiving as a ‘nerd’ interest. There has been no shortage of hot takes on the matter, one of the more prominent ones you might have seen being that of the fan-as-gatekeeper debate.
Now in order to steer us into a constructive dialogue, Anime Feminist begs to ask, How can we encourage new anime and manga fans?
Since a lot of the voices out there have already broken down the problem of using negative experiences as proof of entry into the fandom, as well as aspects like measuring fan authenticity in how much you catalogue your anime watching, I want to instead bring up some points I have yet to see mentioned.
I believe that one of the most crucial ways to encourage growth within the anime and manga fandom, is to genuinely let people explore the medium at a pace and direction that they find most comfortable.
I think it speaks kindly to the passion of established fans that we so often choose to push our favourites onto newcomers in the form of “MUST WATCH” lists and “Underappreciated” recommendations. We’ve had experiences that are deeply relatable, entertaining and sometimes even formative. It only then makes sense that we would want others to share those positive experiences with us.
Unfortunately this creates an environment, however unintentional, that places undue pressure on fans to be a part of an in-crowd. Under the wrong circumstances, a newcomer might rush past shows they would otherwise love in order to catch up with that “super amazing series called Hunter x Hunter”. They might feel pressured to like a show for fear of upsetting the long-term watchers, or even worse, develop the mistaken idea that the medium mustn’t be for them after being railroaded down a certain path.
The reality is that everyone defines their favourites differently, each informed by their preferences, individual biases and personal circumstances. It therefore stands to reason that there will always be an endless supply of ‘must watch’ anime & manga. If we want to welcome newcomers to the medium, then we need to let them discover these experiences for themselves, and develop connections to the fandom organically, going from “I like this thing” to “I wonder what other people say about thing” to “Wow! Look at all this cool stuff people are making around thing!”.
That doesn’t mean we can’t be there to provide a helping hand or open conversation if needed, but if we leave our preconceived notions of what a fan must see at the door, perhaps we’ll find that the community only grows further.
On another note, I think it’s past time we calmed down with the ever rampant callout culture. Being politically and socially active is not inherently a bad thing, in fact I encourage it, however the way it is currently being channeled within certain social spheres is extremely hostile and not at all welcoming.
In case you’re fortunate enough to have avoided the cycle of drama that floats around the fandom, in these particular cases it is not uncommon to see long winding threads with subtweets and screencaps to ‘call out’ a user on their problematic behavior or presupposed bad opinions.
While this can sometimes be harmless, it’s not typically conductive to healthy discourse, as it centers the discussion on why the individual is a bad doodoo, without directly confronting why their actions are fundamentally wrong, or how it might serve as a cautionary example for others to learn from.
Of course this isn’t all encompassing, there can and will be circumstances in which letting people know about an individual or groups actions is simply a matter of public service. Just be aware that these issues scale, and remember to ask yourself if contributing to a public callout is necessary in order to reject the basis of an argument.
If we can’t confront each other on matters that are important to the community without inciting malice, then how can we reasonably expect to welcome new fans to the scene?
Would we want them to follow the same practice?
Now another point I want to consider, is that fandom spans across all age brackets. There is no such thing as too young or too old in a medium that produces works tailored for a wide variety of audiences. Yet despite this seemingly simple fact, there are noticeable instances in which people look down on others for their specific viewing habits.
We must respect that younger and older fans might be drawn to different kinds of works, and never shame them for this. A person who almost exclusively watches 80s anime as a calling card of their generation is not, contrary to popular belief, ‘missing out’ on the wonders of modern animation, nor are they vain nostalgia freaks by consequence. Likewise a person who only consumes stories aimed at a young demographic is not made any lesser for it. These works are all equally a part of the medium and subsequently the fandom too. That needs to be respected, because it is a very real possibility that newcomers will be driven to these works when they first dip their toes into the wider community. They shouldn’t need to face the scorn of their supposed peers as a result of that choice.
Lastly I want to bring up a seemingly obvious point, but an important one none the less. Support inclusive works and inclusive spaces. If the question is “How do we encourage newcomers to the scene?” then what better answer can you find than representation.
Whether we acknowledge it or not, we all enjoy seeing our experiences, interests and even our identity represented in both the medium and the communities built around it. If we want to continue seeing these things produced, then make the effort to support them!
Throw money at the creators you love so they can keep making the content you enjoy. Don’t be afraid to ask for better representation, or question why certain subjects have yet to share the spotlight. Welcome new voices to your specialized circles and make those spaces safe for everyone involved. Do lots of things or just a little. If you are willing to simply promote your passions, then that in turn will go a long way to broadening the boundaries on what it means to be a fan, and who is welcome to join.
I hope you enjoyed reading this article, and that perhaps some of the points I brought up have provided you with a fresh perspective. Once again I want to thank Anime Feminist for sparking this discussion, and if you like what they are doing, consider supporting them on Patreon for as little as $1 a month.
Thanks for reading!