Being bullied for liking anime

Credit to linked pixiv user

Whenever your tastes and hobbies fall out of the norm, you run the risk of being called out by those who don’t approve of anything “different.” Anime, being the niche medium that it is, is a likely thing to be put down about by classmates, family members, coworkers, etc., who, in all likelihood, have a distorted, ignorant view of what anime is. Luckily I haven’t had to experience any extreme pressure at school, work, or home about my anime obsession, but I have had a few incidents that I wanted to share…

I didn’t experience any kind of teasing or bullying in school until my second year of middle school, which is, ironically, the same year my anime fandom began. As I’ve mentioned several times in various posts, getting into Pokemon when I was around 13 years old is when I started to become an anime fan. But unfortunately I went to a private and snobby middle school, and none of my classmates shared my interest in it. One reason could be that I got into Pokemon at an older age than most kids at that time; the majority of kids getting into it were around 7-10 years old while I was 13-14. So many of the younger boys at my school were into it, so of course, being in middle school where peer pressure is rampant, you were considered a nerd if you were older than them but liked the same things. All the girls my age were into boys, glamor, dating, the latest hit movies and TV shows, and other teenager stuff. So liking Pokemon and cartoons at my age was out of the question! As far as actual incidents of bullying, there was one girl in particular who would always mock my Pokemon obsession. She wouldn’t attack me directly per se, but she’d do it by making subtle comments in my presence. For example, she had a 6 year old brother who also liked Pokemon and one day when I brought my Poke-Dex toy to school, she said something like “Oh, my brother has that, but he’s 6 years old…the right age.” And another time when I brought a magazine to school that had Pokemon fan art drawn by artists in their late teens and I showed it to her, trying to prove to her that older teenagers like Pokemon too, she said “Well, they must have no life.” Then another time when I took a Pokemon book out of my locker, she tried to take it away from me and give me a fashion magazine instead.

There were countless other incidents like that with her, and a few with other students too. When we were talking about going to high school one day in class, and this other girl found out I like Pokemon, she was like “You’re going to high school? Drop the Pokemon” (wish I could tell her now how Pokemon is what helped me make friends in high school!) Then I remember another time Pokemon somehow came up in the topic the teacher was discussing and some boy blurted out “Isn’t Pokemon for preschoolers or something?” and the whole class laughed while I just sat there feeling awkward. I even recall a couple of my teachers saying Pokemon is stupid, and one time, when I had brought my Pokemon Red version to play on the bus when we were on a school trip, one of my teachers noticed it and, after confirming that it was Pokemon I was playing, he asked the girl next to me “You like Pokemon too?” and she said “No, I hate Pokemon!” Then he turned back to me and said, “Hear that? She HATES Pokemon!” I don’t think I responded at all and just continued to feel bad.

As you can see, compared to extreme bullying cases you hear about, this is pretty mild. I wasn’t being verbally or physically abused and no one was vandalizing my stuff or anything like that. It was just a lot of hurtful remarks which, at that impressionable age, inhibited my self-esteem and made me keep thinking something was wrong with me for not being like everyone else.

Thankfully I went to a public high school with thousands of students, so there were plenty of “nerds” like me who liked anime and Pokemon. That, together with the fact that during those years, anime was becoming more well known as a form of entertainment for adults too, with anime DVDs becoming available everywhere and anime airing on TV via Adult Swim and Toonami, so that helped make it more acceptable to like by the time I got to high school. Surprisingly, despite covering my school notebook in anime pictures and wearing anime shirts to school, I don’t recall being put down about it at all. Everyone just ignored it, or, if they were anime fans too, they’d compliment my stuff. That’s how I made a lot of friends in high school actually. It was also around this time that I started learning how lucky I was in terms of having a mom who supported my anime fandom and didn’t put me down for liking so-called childish things. A couple of my friends in high school weren’t so lucky and were constantly being harassed by their parents for liking “cartoons” at their age. While my mom was always buying me the anime stuff I wanted, it baffled me how my friends’ parents would never buy them anime stuff for their birthday, Christmas, etc., even though that’s what they really liked. Some years later when I was in college and I was telling one of these friends how my other friends who like anime got accepted to these prestigious universities, she said she had to tell her mom about that – that she had to prove to her mom that you could be an anime fan and still be smart and do well in school. It made me sad to think that people were that ignorant.

Luckily my only account of bullying in school was when I was into Pokemon in middle school, and luckily I never had any family members put me down about liking the stuff I like either (since my family is basically just my mom and she has total respect for it, and the 2-3 other family members I have I’m hardly in touch with, but they don’t mind either). But besides school and home, there is another place where you have no choice but to interact with people who might not approve of your tastes: the workplace. At my first job at a greeting card/gift store, a few of the girls working there would tease me about liking anime, insisting that it was all hentai and I was watching perverted stuff. Of course I would try to tell them that not all anime is hentai, but they wouldn’t listen. I would even fantasize about how I would someday get up the nerve to tell them about the stories of good anime series I was watching at the time, like Nana and Fullmetal Alchemist, so they couldn’t keep saying all anime is hentai and may even get interested in watching it themselves (I never did get up the nerve though). But it wasn’t anything serious, just a few remarks here and there, and unlike being teased for liking Pokemon as a kid, I was an adult by then and I didn’t let it get me down at all. It was just a little annoyance.

Looking back on these incidents now, I have to say that it’s true that people act differently as a group than by themselves. Back in middle school, most of the girls acted alright when it was just me and them. Even that one girl who always teased me about Pokemon acted nice to me when it was just me and her. I remember we used to both get dropped off early to school before most of the other kids and so we’d hang out together and I’d be playing Pokemon and she wouldn’t have any snide remarks. Sometimes she’d even talk to me about it in a friendly way. But once the other girls were around, she changed her tune. Another girl even went so far as to act like she liked Pokemon too when it was just me and her, saying how she would have certain Pokemon cards I would tell her about. But then she’d make fun of it as soon as the other kids were around. And even among the adults at my first job, they wouldn’t make any hentai comments when it was just me and one of them, only when they were in a group. It really is interesting how people can be persuaded to act differently than they normally would when they’re in a group and they don’t have enough self-confidence to overcome peer pressure. Which is why I’ve always felt that “I like individuals, but not people so much.” Unless the thing that someone likes is immoral and by taking part in it they’re causing actual harm to others, I don’t think anyone should be put down for the things they enjoy.

Anyway, I guess I’m lucky that my mom always respected my hobbies, and once I got away from that snobby middle school, I met a ton of fellow anime fans throughout the rest of my school years, many of which I’m still friends with today. And at my last job and the one I’m currently at, I haven’t had any teasing. In fact, I’ve met many coworkers with the same interests. I even have a group of coworkers at my job right now that I get together with sometimes outside of work to play Pokemon and talk about anime. I really feel that during the past several years it’s becoming more and more acceptable for the adults of the new generations to like anime and similar mediums like video games. If that’s the case, I’m very glad for it ^_^

To my readers, I’d love to hear any instances of bullying or teasing you’ve experienced for liking anime or similar things? What was it and how did you feel about it? How did you deal with it?

27 Comments… read them or add your own.

  1. Rioraku says:

    First off, sorry to hear about the stuff you went through in school. Even if it wasn’t that bad it still is a bit hurtful to get teased about what you like.

    For me personally, I think I had a few similar experiences to what you described with the same thing. Pokemon. I was about 8-9 when I got into it so it was fine then, but getting into Jr. High and still liking it was basically putting a sign on your back saying “bully me”. I did get pushed around a bit and my stuff taken but it was never more than that thankfully. That was really the only thing that seemed “kiddy” back then, the other big thing back then ,Dragon Ball Z, was something everyone pretty much loved at best or just weren’t into at worst. Lots of people wore DBZ shirts and it was “cool”.

    That aside, it was my interest in Pokemon that got me my first true friend and then a couple others who are still my friends and still share the same interests to this day.

    • Yumeka says:

      Yeah, the transition from elementary school to junior high can be tough, especially when it comes to the whole “nerds” versus “cool kids” thing >_< Seems like we both got a dose of that in terms of our love of Pokemon. But glad it was nothing too horrible for either of us and I’m sure it helped make us stronger people in the end ;)

      I remember one kid in my junior high class liked DBZ, but the majority of kids were too snobby even for that XP

  2. Kal says:

    Hum… I haven’t had any experiences like that. Well, thing are quite different in the US as they are in other countries as well. I only went to high school in the US for 6 months, but I pretty much kept to myself. Things there… Well, they are not that good… Things are different in other countries. Sure, there is some level of bullying (there always is), but to a much lesser degree. The level of bullying in the US is out of control, but that is a different discussion….

    So I never experienced any issues. Even at work, when I started working at 18, I did not have much of a problem. Sure I’ve met people that do not like anime, or think all anime is hentai, or for kids, but there is never much more than a few thoughts exchanged on the subject, and then dropped. Even when Magic was just starting in my country, and some people thought it was “diabolic”, I still did not have any real problem. Not sure if people are more respectful here, or just don’t want to bother dealing with it.

    • Yumeka says:

      I’ve heard that bullying is a big problem in the US, but also in Japan, a country known for its politeness…so who can say for sure what determines it? =/ It exists everywhere sadly.

      Magic was popular when I was in middle school too, but again, only among some of the younger boys around the 7-10 year old range. I was in the higher grades with the 12-14 year olds who were already too snobby for that XP I might have taken an interest in Magic if I wasn’t totally consumed by Pokemon at the time XD

  3. Bryce says:

    I think Light from Death Note has the best opinion on the matter, in that people want to be right instead of right when they are amongst a group.

    As for me, I do not go out much, beyond what is necessary, and I keep things like my interest in anime to myself, so I do not really experience much bullying about my interest in anime. If anything, I think more people care more about me doing what my church wants me to do and be a faithful member than either my interest in anime or who I am as a person.

    The few times I have been harassed about my interest in anime was when watching Death Note and some family members were complaining that it was just stills closing in on characters or panning side to side, when they did not realize that the conflict is Death Note is mainly a psychological battle, so there did not need to be too much movement, when the focus was on a character’s thoughts.

    • Yumeka says:

      I used to keep anime and my other hobbies to myself in the past, but I’ve noticed that as the years have gone by I’ve card less and less what people think about it and just let it show, whether it’s wearing anime shirts all the time, covering my bag in anime pins, or telling people that I like it if asked. Obviously you’re less likely to be bullied amongst adults than amongst kids at school when peer pressure is all over the place.

      Yeah, if people aren’t thinking anime is all just hentai or kiddie cartoons, they criticize the animation style. But anyone who’s watched enough anime knows that even though there are a lot of still frames, more care is put into each one than the average American cartoon. It’s just a different way of using the animation medium that emphasizes subtleties, character expressions, and art techniques that match the mood rather than just fast-paced movement. To someone only familiar with the fast movement and high-budget animation of Western cartoons, the visual style of anime can take some getting used to.

  4. Cely_belly says:

    Most of my experiences occurred to me now that I’m older, since I got really into anime in my late teens, so I never considered them anything than minor annoyances(like you mentioned). I watched pokemon as a kid, but didn’t continue watching anime until like my last year of high school. But I wouldn’t say that bullying is different in the US than others. I’m from the US, but I’m sure you can find bullies anywhere. Just because I’ve never been bullied about anime as a kid, doesn’t mean I wasn’t susceptible to bullying and peer pressure at all. But even then, my bullying was never anything than a few snide comments, thank goodness. Then again, I was never one to just stand by and let someone say what they wanted lol. But that was probably due to the people in my life. They gave me the confidence and courage to stand up for myself. I, too, had a very supportive family, and a few great friends. One of my awesome friends was actually the reason I got into anime again lol. I made some great friends. I am happy that you did too. From what you’ve shared, you sound like a wonderful person. Thanks for sharing!

    • Yumeka says:

      Thanks, I’m flattered you think so ^^

      As I said, I made many great anime-loving friends in high school and college, some of which I’m still friends with today. And my mom was always supportive of my hobbies. But back in middle school when I was getting teased for liking Pokemon, there was only one other girl in my class, or even in all the higher grades, that liked Pokemon and was a real friend to me (not one of those fair-weather friends I mentioned who act nice when it’s just me and them but then make fun of me when the other kids are around). Besides her I did have one best friend who loved Pokemon as much as me but unfortunately she went to a different school so I didn’t get to see her that often. I did have a very nice adult neighbor who would visit sometimes and listen to my woes about being teased and she gave me lots of encouragement (my mom did too of course but I guess it meant more to me coming from an adult non-family member).

  5. chikorita157 says:

    While there is probably some instances of me getting bullied for liking Pokemon, I tend to keep my hobbies mostly to myself especially for the fact that I was going to a school that has mostly White people and that there are very few Asians besides myself and my sister. Of course, people in college are more open minded and in fact I see other people playing Pokemon or watch Anime.

    Just a few weeks ago, I wrote an editorial about why hobbies surrounding video games and anime or rather the labels themselves (gamer and otaku) and why they are looked down by society. I feel the reason why people who like Anime tend to get bullied is for the fact that it’s not socially acceptable (although it’s unlikely the case in Japan). People think that people who watch Anime are socially isolated, pretty much the same reputation that gamers However, I think people will less likely bully people who like Anime if it becomes mainstream and lose the negative social stigma. We are seeing that with video games as more people are playing them, not just the hard core gamers.

    • Yumeka says:

      Yeah, late elementary school and middle school is where bullying seems to be most prominent – people get more open-minded in high school, finding their own niche of friends and just stick with them rather than bully people (there are exceptions of course) and by college everybody’s grown out of that peer pressure stage (again, I’m sure there’s exceptions XD) I also think the times are changing too and it’s becoming more and more acceptable in this generation for adults to like anime and video games. That label you mentioned of the only people who like anime and games being stereotypical socially awkward nerds is disappearing little by little. Hopefully it keeps going that way =)

  6. Erickus says:

    I agree with you, the people need to accept each other but unfortunately every school have bullies and assholes who dont know how the bully feels… awesome way to write, I like it :) ( sorry for the bad english )

  7. Shikon says:

    I never got bullied about anything anime-related when I was a little kid, I used to play yugioh and beyblades with the kids in my class during middle school though, quite a few people played so no one usually said anything about it. That being said, I’ve never really shown that I’m an anime fan, I don’t wear t-shirts or any type of anime-related apparel, I generally don’t talk about it either unless someone voices their interest or like for the medium. Most of my friends were into at least a few anime series though, my mom even used to watch Inuyasha with me on Adult Swim when I was little, which was pretty cool.

    Aside from people calling any anime they saw Dragonball Z, or “those cartoons with big eyes” , I was never teased or bullied about liking anime. I went to a private school for a few years in elementary and the majority of people were complete snobs, so I know how that is lol.

    • Yumeka says:

      Well, it’s good that you were never bullied and could freely play Yu-Gi-Oh! and Beyblades with your classmates without any teasing XD

      We had to wear uniforms at my middle school so I couldn’t wear any Pokemon shirts even if I wanted to…though I didn’t advertise my hobbies back then so I probably wouldn’t want to. In high school however I wore anime shirts a lot and was either ignored or complimented, which was fine with me =)

      That’s cool that your mom used to watch Inuyasha with you! My mom and I used to do the same with the old Pokemon episodes.

  8. Firechick says:

    I wouldn’t say I got bullied BECAUSE I like anime, but when I was in the 4th grade, I still couldn’t tell that cartoons weren’t real, just drawings on paper, and I had a HUGE crush on Yugi, and I went around telling anyone and everyone about it, which I think led to people picking on me. I don’t remember exactly everything though. I do remember one incident where a kid offered to help me get to a new level on my Sapphire game and, stupidly, I let him borrow it only to find that three of my best Pokemon were taken away. I felt really stupid for doing that. In middle school, I did show some people manga I liked, but a lot of the mean boys kept jumping to conclusions and making crude jokes about what I showed them forever and never got over it. The only real issue I had to deal with for six whole years (final years of middle school and all through high school) is people getting on my nerves by singing the I Love You song from Barney. Ugh! I’m glad those days are over! High school was also the place where I found some great friends, so I can’t really say it’s all bad. But even then, I was still shy about my love for anime and to this day I only share my interests with people who already know about it, as I don’t want people getting the wrong idea about my anime interests, as so many others have.

    • Yumeka says:

      I never even heard of crushes on fictional characters until I got to high school. So if high school kids aren’t shy about saying they have a crush on certain anime characters (and I did meet some like that) then there was nothing wrong with you in 4th grade feeling that way XD But that was many years ago and kids seem to be losing their childhood innocence sooner and sooner as the years go by compared to when I was in school, so being bullied in 4th grade might not be so unusual anymore =/

      Seriously? High School kids teasing you about the Barney song? That’s just silly. But at least you were able to make good friends in high school as you said. That can make it worth it ;)

  9. Brianna says:

    Sorry to hear about what you went through! (I’m glad to hear your family has always been supportive about it though.) I guess I was really fortunate growing up. I started watching Sailor Moon when I was 5 years old (1995), and I began to discover more anime as I was growing up. I was always really open about my love for anime (video games and cartoons in general). I never got any crap for it (I played my GameBoy at school, had Sailor Moon related folders/notebooks, etc), and I started making anime friends in 8th grade. But I guess I always enjoyed other typical “preteen/teen” things as well like fashion, music, celebrities, etc. I’ve always been really outgoing too I guess, and I’ve always stood up for my friends that would get bullied. That could have definitely been part of why I didn’t go through much anime/cartoon related bullying.

    • Yumeka says:

      I also started watching Sailor Moon in 1995 though I was already 8-9 years old at the time. But that was in elementary school when it was still okay to like cartoons…it wasn’t until middle school when everything changed. That’s good that you never experienced any bullying though ;) It could have to do with the area you live in and the type of school you went to in terms of the variety of people there and interests they have which would determine how prone they are to bullying people, but since you enjoyed “teen” stuff too, that probably helped as well =)

  10. Pann says:

    I think I’ve always been lucky, too. No one really picked on me when I got into anime. In middle school I was just starting to like it, and either people just ignored me, or teased me for other reasons, because they were jerks. I was in orchestra in middle school and a few people liked anime in there, and they actually helped get me more interested in it. In high school we had an anime club and there was a whole group of people who liked it a lot, so I hung out with them all the time. My parents never really cared that I was into it, sometimes my mom watches Studio Ghibli movies with me, it’s pretty much the only form of anime that she likes. Dad sometimes watches episodes of anime with me if I have them on DVD. It’s pretty cool!

    • Yumeka says:

      My high school had an anime club as well, but strangely I didn’t make any actual friends there – all my anime friends I made in high school I hung out with outside of the club and they never cared to go for some reason. But the club was a bit disorganized and it was literally only about 20 minutes a week during lunch on Fridays so it was hardly much of a club XD I still had fun though.

      Having parents that let you like what you like and even take part in it with you is a wonderful thing. I wish a few of my ex-friends from high school had parents like that since they eventually lost interest in anime and I feel having parents that discouraged them from it was part of the reason XP I’ve watched a lot of anime with my mom over the years though I have to cherry pick the series I show her since her tastes are very particular XD

  11. ninz says:

    The only thing I experienced when I was a kid was when one of my relatives said that, “why do you always watch anime and cartoons when everything is so predictable.”, reffering to Sailormoon and Pokemon. My family is not that supportive but they did not discourage me for liking anime until now. The only thing they kept on reminding me is to never loose track on my studies.

    Here in Philippines or should I say in my surroundings, people are being bullied for their attitude and not for what they like. I also became part of the bully group when a certain student of different religion criticized our religion in front of us.

    My bestfriend is always being laughed at not for loving Pokemon but for drawing pokemons that are undistinguishable, like when he had drawn a Pikachu that looks like a combination of a cat and a mouse and he keeps on insisting that it is pikachu. Until now, I am not ashamed to tell people that I like anime though when anime is involved my female friends gather elsewhere and I always end up to be the only girl in the group.

    When I read the comment with regards to crushes, I tried to remember who my first anime crush was, it was Dennis of Yu yu Hakusho and I also remembered that I got a huge crush on Sendoh of Slam Dunk that I bought a lot of posters of him even though my allowance was enough to keep my stomach full. (just sharing. lol)

  12. Mikoto says:

    I was bullied a lot during my earlier years of middle school and at random points in high school, but it was never because of anime, funnily enough, rather, it were because of other things like the way I chose to dress (I was very poor so I didn’t exactly get to wear “awesome shoes” people obsess over), sometimes my race, etc. The only instance I can recall that was somewhat connected to my anime hobby was when I was reading manga at the school’s library and some loud Mexican chick was taking snipes at it because I was Asian.

    The racial bullying wasn’t very common though, it was mostly random and I was the unlucky victim that always got picked on for torment in middle school. In high school, most people were decent people and most of them actually did like me and thought I was a chill guy. What’s weird though is that people in middle school never actually picked on me -because- I like anime, yet I have heard and can understand others’ experience being bullied because they enjoy the hobby.

    • Yumeka says:

      That’s too bad about you being the unlucky victim to get bullied because of your race XP Not sure where you went to school but we have a huge diversity of races here in SoCal, so kids early on get used to seeing kids of all different nationalities. So I saw little to no racial bullying all throughout my schooling years. Most of the bullying I saw, heard of, and at times experienced as I explained here, was because someone acted different than everyone else or had hobbies that went against social norms, stuff like that.

      Bullying seems to be more common in middle school – like you, most of the people in my high school were decent enough, but even the jerky people just sort of hung out in their own cliques and didn’t really bully anyone.

  13. Silvachief says:

    You mention that you feel you only had some mild instances of bullying, and to a degree that’s true, but even snide remarks and put-downs can be huge to a young person. Some of the things you described, especially the actions of the teachers, make me incredibly angry.

    I’ve been very fortunate growing up. While anime is more of a recent thing, i’ve always been into more “geeky” things like video games and, as in your case, Pokemon. The limit of my experiences of being judged by others because of my hobbies is limited to the awkward “So what are you into?” questions by people who definitely aren’t interested in the things i’m into, and those persist even in college. Whether New Zealand’s culture is simply more accepting of uncommon interests, or we just have smaller schools where you can’t get away with bullying so much, or i’ve just been lucky, i’m not sure. I suppose i’ve never advertised my love for my hobbies, so that’s probably part of it.

    What I -have- experienced and totally agree with is how people can change dramatically depending on whether they’re by themselves or in a group. The idea of liking individuals but not people really resonates with me.

  14. Kate says:

    I have been trying to find the right explanations for why i like anime and i have gone through many waves of depression over it.

    I am closet anime fan. Up until middle school i used to play video games and watch pokemon and other cartoons like toonami with my friends (all guys btw). In my middle school years, i slowly began to separate from the guys and began trying to socialize with other girls. Trying to fit in at that time was probably when i first started keeping things like video games and other things not really popular for my age a secret from my friends. I had grown self-conscious about it because although i kept it a secret from my friends, i had tried to freely express my interests at home which didn’t really work out. My brother had constantly bullied me, telling me that i was weird and treating me like i was lesser than him (though i am 2 years older), and my parents ultimately did nothing to stop him and his behavior.

    It was my freshman-sophomore year of highschool when i became interested in anime and over the years i had gained a small group of friends who also shared the same interest. I began watching it more and more often and i attended the past 3 Anime expos (including this year’s) but i still kept my interest in anime mostly a secret. My second brother came with me to the most recent expo (as i tried to convince him by using League of Legends as an incentive) but still, my other brother judges/bullies me. I can never win an argument against him and he still thinks i am stupid and weird for liking anime. It is times like these where i am really hurt and begin to question myself for being the way i am.

    I always get through these kinds of moments but it always makes me sad to think that not even my family really support my interests. And it’s not like i am even fully under the “stereotype” that is judged by society. I just wish that i had the courage to not let it get to me. I wish that i had the right sort of words to explain to my family (mainly my brother) why it is normal to like anime.

  15. Kym says:

    Middle school, no. Oddly, it was really popular at my middle school. High school is where the majority happened. I had to transfer to a new high school because their special-education program was better, but had to leave all my friends behind. A few years after I joined, I was considered “the weirdo” of the class, people called me “annoying”. One went so far as to read my fanfic over my shoulder and call it trash. Rumors were spread about me, and it got to the point where I felt like I couldn’t trust anyone. Now I’m afraid to admit that I like those things.

  16. MVM says:

    I got into anime during my middle school years, but I wasn’t bullied because of that. Most of my bullying because the school was predominately filled with people (regardless of their race) who pretended to be “gangstas”. I didn’t fit in their clique requirements, so I was mistreated at school really bad. Though, since the kids too busy fighting their little turf wars, anime was the least of their cares.

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