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Moe Check! ยป The Eternal Fandom Rant

Tsukasa is amused at Little Busters.

One of the problems with being a blogger is that where a relatively normal person would have an idle thought and then dismiss it as trivial or irrelevant to the more substantial questions of life, the universe, and where the next meal is going to come from, a blogger would pick and poke at the thought like some hitherto unexplored sore tooth, seeing how far one can probe before pain happens.

I was, not too long ago, talking (via IRC, as my actual Real Life social life has dwindled to nonexistence) to a player of World of Warcraft who lamented the much-heard lament about the WoW community and its general unpleasantness. This is, by no means, a particularly new complaint or revelation, but it struck a certain note of familiarity from other sources, which once again brings me to a tangent: it is invaluable, I feel, for a member of any fandom to diversify, to broaden his or her interests, such that a sense of perspective is gained and one realizes that there truly is nothing new.

The word which brought me pause was "community". What made a community? Sociologists and those in related fields would probably have an answer for that, but I would not know where to start researching, and in any case this is a blog entry, not an academic paper. I hold myself to the utmost standards in spelling and punctuation, but calls for citations, because I have been online for too long and am thus incapable of functioning as a normal human being, rearrange themselves in my head as "SAUCE PLZ".

I thus reason, without any logical basis whatsoever, that a community in this sense consists of a group of people who recognize themselves via at least one (if not more) distinct identifier, whether geographical, idealogical, or (most commonly on the Internet) by their hobbies and interests.

This is a blog, and my job is to point out the stunningly obvious. It fills the wordcount, you understand.

Tsukasa the Unlucky Star.

I have mentioned, time and time before, that I will and do consider myself as an anime fan, among other interests. This, I suppose, makes me a part of the anime "community", along with other qualifiers. Part of the "anime fandom", so to speak.

This is about as useful as considering a person as part of the set of human beings, or perhaps the subset of male or female human beings. It is simply too broad, and with no particular reason for any particular member of this community to share a great deal of the same proclivities as another, except by chance or broad strokes. Of such things are statistics made.

And yet we see calls for "the anime community" to do this or that or the other. Buy this. Don't buy this. Rally against this. Rally for something else. Orders and commands are given to people whom one probably has not been formally introduced to yet and has no real authority over. Quite often, these commands are accompanied by some sort of unpleasantly indiscriminate tarring, pricking one's pride or guilt or shame.

I have often wondered, quite directly at times, why I appear to be lumped in with the rest of "the anime community" even though I am innocent of the great majority of the sins levelled against us in accusation. The answer, invariably, is that I am not the target of such, even though I fit all the criteria as laid out in the beginning, save for the accusations themselves. This is poor debating form. The comeback of "you know who you are" seldom works, for much the same reason as the old bromide about the mad never quite realizing that they are mad.

We have communities, or fandoms, and we appear to expect that every member (except for the speaker, of course) to be more or less clones of each other, in actions if nothing else. We rail against the Faceless Masses, and I would probably start prevaricating and adding on plenty of qualifiers if the Faceless Masses suddenly gained individuality and faces of their own. Easy to dismiss an online handle and a short message in the comments, but far harder to do so with a more substantial replier, or someone who is earnestly attempting to address you with an uncomfortable premise in Real Life.

I have said fairly often that I like The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya because it fits my personal tastes, and not because of this or that or some other reason. Now, I like Card Captor Sakura even more, but that anime is curiously less controversial than MoHS, or at least not in the same way. I don't care if it's over-rated or over-popular or over-hyped or over-cooked: it is what I like, and I feel that it is probably within my rights to like it.

The interesting thing here is that I find the need to repeat all of that, when, for almost all my other fandoms, I don't have to. It is, I think, the concept of the monolithic Community rearing up again, considering how many accusations I've received of liking MoHS only because it is the Popular Thing, a Fad, so to speak. I'm beginning to think that one reason why CCS does not get this treatment is because it is an older anime, and therefore more "classic". It has been given enough time to prove whatever worth it is supposed to have. The logic in the difference between the reactions to interest in the two series escapes me.

But because I like MoHS, I have to contend with accusations about all sorts of tendencies I must have, which are worse than criminal, in that they are impolite. This is not, I hasten to add, restricted simply to being a MoHS fan, but also to being a Lucky Star fan, or a Singaporean anime fan, or a MMORPG gamer, or a tabletop roleplaying gamer, with that last divided into whether I profess an interest in Dungeons and Dragons or World of Darkness. This is very possibly the Next Generation of the old discredited tropes about You Dang Kids And Your Rock Music.

Upskirt.

So why do we even bother to have fandoms, if we are often characterized by the louder and more embarrassing members thereof? Why does the World of Warcraft player continue to admit that he or she plays that game? Why would a Harry Potter fanfic writer mention as much? Why would the Haruhiist identify himself or herself?

People like to band together, I suspect, mostly because it is a human (and perhaps near-universal) urge to want to talk to someone who Knows What You Mean, and is interested enough to listen and possibly make their own contributions. "I" is a very lonely way to state an opinion, and "we" feels much safer.

And there is that small indescribable feeling one gets when one knows that You Are Not Alone. It's the same sort of feeling which fuels live concerts, or fan conventions, or planned gatherings. It's the feeling when hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of WoW gamers went out one night and waited for the official launch of the Burning Crusade expansion. It's the feeling when about the same number of Harry Potter fans waited to get their hands on Deathly Hollows. It's the feeling Haruhiists will invariably feel when season two of the anime comes out. You are not alone, you see; there are hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of other people who are feeling exactly what you are feeling right now.

It is a heady sensation, and more than makes up for any amount of having to explain myself slowly and calmly while others use sadly transparent methods in order to rile me up, probably in much the same exploratory spirit which prompted this blog post in the first place and causes people to pick scabs before their time.

It is possibly interesting, albeit only to bloggers who overthink everything like myself, to note that fan backlash to fan praise occurs only in certain cases and not others. I have already mentioned the CCS example, and I find that in every case (so far, at least), the criticism levelled is mostly in the vein of needing to "grow up" and incredulity that I should be interested in a show aimed at young girls. (Well, that and the whole "pervert" angle.) For MoHS, however, the criticism is more vehement, and aimed at the fandom or the show in general; I have not yet encountered anyone who noted my tastes in specific with regards to the show, choosing instead broader statements. This is, of course, entirely anecdotal evidence, and not likely to be borne out by a serious analysis.

Still, perception makes for a funny thing.

Like a mirror, except not.

3 Responses to “The Eternal Fandom Rant”
  1. MK says:

    People want to be ahead of the curve by hating Haruhi. I'm not saying that everybody should love Haruhi, and plenty of people have made well-constructed cases against it. The criticisms are frequently aimed at the fanbase, as if people can't think of a reason to hate it so they resort to personal insults. I can think of flaws in Haruhi even as a fan, but I only dislike series based on the quality and not based on the fans.

    The tribal tendecy of anime fans that you mentioned is interesting as well. Frequently I've heard people say that they barely watch any anime or have stopped altogether, and yet they still post on anime forums and go to cons. The appeal of being part of a group must be too strong

  2. suguru says:

    Good post–I think it's definitely part of human nature to want to feel like part of a larger group, and especially with a niche like anime, a lot of people only find that group feeling online since (like me) they may not know any anime fans in 'real life' (unless you count getting my wife to watch CCS).

    It's a shame, but the internet seems to lend itself to rudeness, and the way some people will disparage Haruhi fans is a good example of this. "Your opinion is wrong" is what a lot of those arguments boil down to, which I have to think would make any debate instructor roll their eyes in disbelief. If someone says they don't like Haruhi because they hate sci-fi, or they find Haruhi herself annoying and don't like that kind of character, sure, I can understand that even if I don't feel the same way. But when I say I like SHnY because I find it has a good mix of comedy, romance, and sci-fi, and I'm told back "no, it doesn't", that's like telling me I can't like the color blue. It's purely MY opinion, so by definition it can't be right or wrong.

    Sadly, I think the reason CCS doesn't get the negative attention Haruhi does is that to the "your opinion is wrong" element on the internet, CCS just doesn't exist. This element, if I had to guess, skews younger, would boast they've never paid anything for their anime because they download it all, and considers anything aired before 2004 "old school" and not worth watching.

    I remember in a project management class being told that 55% of all communication is non-verbal, and maybe that's part of the reason why conversations on the internet turn sour often–a comment meant as a joke is easy to take the wrong way when there's no non-verbal context. Hell, I've seen plenty of email chains at work among so-called professionals devolve into flame wars of sorts, only to be defused in five minutes once everyone's in a room eye-to-eye, or even just on the same phone line. It'd be nice if people could be more civil about differences of opinion, but it's not a phenomenon confined to anime–go to any political blog in the US and you'll see 'red' versus 'blue' dumping vitriol and hate on each other like there's no tomorrow. Compared to that, anime fans in general are positively civil…

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