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Rant About Anime Fans by an Anime Fan

You know, I love anime, or at least certain works of moving narrative media that happened to be in an animated format, created and produced in Japan. The anime I enjoy tends to feature unique humor; interesting fusions of drama, romance, fantasy, and science fiction; and lovely music and artwork. Anime is a very cool and unique medium in a lot of ways.

Despite that, I don't know why so many anime fans think they have the right to be such arrogant, clueless assholes. In fact, I wonder if it's not so much that anime fandom is considered to be geekish because anime is geekish, but that as an anime fan one ends up in a category with a lot of total nutjobs out there. Well, and specifically, I guess I'm talking about American (and other English-speaking natives to a lesser extent) anime fans.

What particularly irks me is a sort of ignorance that seems to float around American anime fandom... the ignorance that leads one to believe, "If it's not Japanese, it's crap!" even if they're trying to defend such tripe as Dragonball Z by the statement.

Then there are the 19-year-old boys (and to a lesser extent, girls) who have taken a half a semester of Japanese in college and therefore honestly, truly believe they are more capable of translating a script than a professional translator hired and paid to do a job–people who don't know jackshit about the highly complicated culture of the Japanese, and yet they insist they are capable of translating text written in a language that is heavily culturally inflected. People who think since they've been to a sushi bar once or twice they know all there is to know about the Japanese language and their customs. These people exist and they frighten me. There are the "otaku" who insist everything must be as "Japanese as possible," the ones who spell the name of the heroine of The Slayers as "RINA INBAASU" even though even the creator romanizes the name as "Lina Inverse," obviously intending her name to be spelled like that. There are the people who hear "-san" and "-sempai" used a few times and decide they know the complications of honorific usage and constantly insert them horridly and embarrassingly in their fanfics. (I used honorifics in one fanfic to help show social relationships between characters... and I still don't know if I got it right, even when asking a native Japanese speaker for advice. It's hard.)

And speaking of these "otaku," do these people know that "otaku" basically means, in a loose cultural sense, "Hey you"? Is that not the most stupid name for a group of fans ever?*

The fans especially annoy me are the ones who start dissing an American distribution of an anime even before it comes out–"oh, so-and-so's gonna do it so it'll suck." They're also the one's who hear two lines of English dubbed lines and immediately decide that all English dubs that were ever made and ever will be made will automatically suck. You know, so what if Lisa Ortiz doesn't sound like Megumi Hayashibara? She's a damn talented actress; she's not supposed to sound like Megumi, she's supposed to sound like Lina, and if you'd re-tune your prejudiced ears for a minute, you'd see she does a fine job.

Do these people not know what total snots they sound like when they say all this crap? Especially when it's evident they have no idea what they're actually talking about? ("I heard Lisa say 'Dragon' and therefore I know all 78 episodes of The Slayers TV series is horrible in English.")

But here's the real problem with all the arrogant, whiny, ignorant "otaku" out there:

They drown out the real, legitimate criticism that anime producers and distributors need to hear.

Because WE NEED anime to be legally and legitimately and officially distributed by companies in the U.S. for the genre to be taken seriously and get the PR it needs.

Because it's true the culture–and the creators–needs to be respected, by both distributors AND fans.

Because actually, 9 times out of 10, the professional translator really does do a better job than the 19-year-old fanboy, and by a significant margin. (Granted, this needs to become 10 times out of 10.) Because it doesn't transliterate exactly doesn't mean it's a bad translation... translation is a hell of a lot more than knowing one word literally means another–and if you don't know what I'm talking about, you should stay far, far away from translating efforts.

Because we DON'T need Usagi to become Serena and Tomoyo to become Madison. Maybe we don't have an intimate knowledge of the culture, but we still can understand who these people are even if they have "funny" names–and children can more than we do, as they haven't started associated different sounding names with different places. But we also need to express this coherently and prove we are mature enough to handle the "exoticism."

Because there are some anime tropes that have gotten old and there are some things we need to see more of, and again this needs to be expressed coherently.

Because it's true that some anime dubs are horrible. Why is it I get better voice acting playing a computer game like Baldur's Gate 2 than when I watch a dramatic, highly nuanced tv series like Fushigi Yugi? That's wrong, and anime companies should know to raise their standards. But when every English dub is panned largely on account of it simply being in English, it's hard for the distributors to take the criticism seriously. (And yes, there should be English dubs: 1) Because there are some DAMN GOOD voice actors out there who need to get a good job and people should enjoy their performances; 2) For blind people who don't want to have the subtitles read to them–that's distracting (and yes, I know blind people who watch anime); 3) For people who want to pay attention to the art and not read; 4) so I can watch anime and hear what's going on even if I go into the kitchen and check on what's cooking; 5) Because with a dub–especially a good one–it's more likely to get on television, and anime needs that exposure.)

Finally... because... anime is supposed to be entertainment, not bitching grounds for people with nothing better to do.

So, Hey You: you're supposed to be having fun. So stop your elitist, uninformed whining and let me have mine, too.

* With apologizes to my favorite con, Otakon, but it is stupid. And yes, I know the story about how Japanese fans went to early cons and called each other "otaku" because they didn't know each other's names and blah blah blah. I don't care. It's stupid. It's also come to connotatively mean in Japan, "Big fat geek who watches anime and will never have sex, ever" which is another reason never to call yourself an "otaku"–especially if you're in Japan. Back to main text


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All original materials © 2004 R. Pickard