How do I know that anime fandom is still alive? Because people are always lamenting the untimely death of anime.
If you’re on Tumblr as often as I am, perhaps you’ve noticed the two viral posts I’d like to talk about today. First, there’s this chart that’s got 12,000+ notes. It depicts one fan’s perspective on what anime looked like before the moe genre was popularized, and after:
Remember in the ‘00s when studios collectively chose to produce nothing except moe anime ever again? Yeah, me neither. Or, as another fan pointed out: studios have produced pandering shows since forever. And they continue to produce shows we all love, too.
Then, there’s a quote from a blog I highlighted in Otaku Links a while back, Man Tears Flowing Free, basically “men getting mad about an anime targeted toward women.” The author wrote a great response to a man complaining about Free! being the death of anime. I didn’t reblog it myself because I think much of the brony hate is undeserved, but here’s the clincher:
“But if a girl ‘trespasses’ into a male space, what happens? (Even when it isnt ‘trespassing’, in the case of Free!, in which a space was actually made for us ) We can expect such timeless classics as: degradation, ‘you’re not even a REAL fan!’ ‘I bet you dont even know ______’, all kinds of threats, and, of course, the posts you see on this blog.”
Gone are the good old days of anime. Anime is dead and moe killed it. Or if you like, anime is dead and anime, like Free!, that panders to women killed it*. (Seriously, where were these guys when Black Butler was airing?)
*EDIT: Massaging the wording here since I’m getting a lot of people thinking I meant that moe is targeted at women. I don’t believe this to be the case at all.
And to the people who make this argument, I say, maybe you’re the reason anime is dying.
In my Otakon review for Otaku USA, I referenced Evan Minto’s fantastic feature on how Homestuck fandom growth is prompted by an almost evangelical recruiting strategy, it’s “Let me tell you about Homestuck!” “[I]t inspires me to fire back with my own, equally welcoming reply,” says Minto. “Let me tell you about anime.”
If anime is dying it’s because fans feel a need to be gatekeepers. To say certain kinds of anime or anime fans aren’t legitimate. To use words like “Narutard” or “Fake geek” to keep people out of our cliques. So much has been written about geek policing, but here’s an academic explanation of just how petty and predictable we can be.
If anime is dying, it’s our fault. It’s certainly not the fault of content creators, who are churning out future classics all the time. It’s our inability to acknowledge anything created after 2005 as anything other than moe pandering. It’s our inability to believe that [insert group here] are part of the anime fanbase. It’s our inability to be welcoming recruiters to anybody who expresses interest.
You may say that I’m making a straw man argument toward a vocal minority. That’s probably true; plenty of people reblogged the moe chart to refute it. However, I’d retort that the very argument that “anime is dying” is a straw man argument itself. Through various streaming sites, anime is more accessible than it’s ever been. There are conventions everywhere, and they’re all growing. I know from firsthand experience that Otakon gained a good 5,000 additional visitors this year.
Anime fandom is only going to get bigger from here. I’ll only suspect that it’s dead when people STOP talking about why it’s dead or dying.
Chart by bewareofmpreg