I’m 22 this year, going on 23, and I love Anime. Not to say I love all Anime; over the years I’ve been watching I’ve acquired a more developed appreciation for the medium. You won’t hear me singing praises of Sword Art Online, yet nothing gets me more excited than discussing Umineko or Little Busters.
I’m writing today because I’ve recently noticed that all of a sudden, most of my peers are dropping this hobby. It seems I’ve reached the age where this kind of thing isn’t as socially accepted as it once was. I know I’m still young, but it’s only going to become more of an issue as I continue to age. The average Anime convention attendee is about 5 years my junior; it’s not long before I start feeling out of place.
I made a lot of my current friends through connections based on a mutual love of Anime and related Japanese culture. What I’m seeing now is majority of those friends are abandoning that hobby, with varying comments from “I don’t have time for it any more” to “I’ve grown out of it”. I know rationally this shouldn’t affect me, but seeing it happen to all my friends leaves me with an irrational feeling of loss that I’m still learning how to cope with. For many of them, this mutual interest is what sustains our relationship, and losing that common thread can be devastating. But that’s not the only issue. Hearing comments like that causes me to seriously question my hobby, and how it influences my identity as an adult. Most of us are only able to continue hobbies like these because we have the acceptance of our peers and some of assurance that it’s okay to like the things we do. But seeing all my peers and friends drop that hobby, I begin to question the validity of my interests. Am I just a child that can’t face reality? Do I need to grow up? The prevalent NEET Otaku stereotype doesn’t help matters either. I’m sure many of my peers faced similar questions, and decided to leave it behind in favour of new, more adult ways to spend their time.
Unfortunately, I’m a bit stubborn. I think it’s very important to assess our behavior and how we fit into society, but I can’t accept that getting excited over something like Umineko is merely a phase to grow out of. I can only speak for myself, but the answer I’ve reached is this. I want to build my adult life around this passion. Is that a strange answer? Anime, and it’s related culture, is such a big part of my life, such a big passion that I’m convinced I won’t grow out of it. It’s here to stay. So, I figure the best way to continue is to integrate it into my identity as an adult. I want to build a career around it. My inspiration has come about from seeing so many adults working in the industry who love Anime, and built their career around that love. I can’t imagine a better life than building a career around what you love; that’s what I want to emulate. Maybe I’ll end up selling Anime merch, maybe I’ll get into licensing series’, or maybe even localisation work. I’m not sure exactly how yet, but I want to be able to give something back, to integrate Anime and Manga and Games into my adult life. It just… Makes sense to me. Is that so strange?
So, I’ll be closing with some open messages. To those of you who may be unfamiliar with the culture, don’t be so quick to judge it. While there are many bad examples of Anime fandom, and heaps i’d really poor Anine, there’s a lot of his stuff out there. A lot of heart that goes into producing Anime, and some of the stories I’ve discovered through the medium have such profound messages, the likes of which can change a man’s life. Some have brought me to cry where I barely shed a tear anywhere else. Maybe if you give it a chance, you’ll find a series even you can appreciate. It’s just too broad to judge based on one or two impressions.
To those who have moved on from Anime, I wish you all the best. I’m sure you reached that decision after some careful deliberation, and while I’m still learning to cope with seeing some of my friends turn away, I can only respect their decision. I only ask that you don’t cast judgment on those of us who will continue to love that culture late into our lives. It was special; I hope you don’t forget that feeling.
And to those out there my age and older facing similar questions, don’t lose heart. Loving Anime doesn’t make you immature. You need to look inside yourself and decide if this is the kind of adult you want to be, and if it is, then you have my support. It’s not always easy to go against the crowd, but what’s most important is that you live your life for yourself, rather than based on what you think you SHOULD be doing. And most importantly, no matter how it may seem, you’re not alone.
Thanks for reading, everyone. Let’s continue moving forward.