Does the anime we like reveal what kind of person we are?

Credit to linked pixiv user

I’ve touched on this topic in bits and pieces in other posts, but I don’t believe I’ve actually delved into it fully. It’s an idea that permeates anime fandom, or really, all communities of media fandoms where people tend to judge one another based on the game or show they like, and people who take such criticisms of their hobbies as personal insults. But is there any merit in either?…

I’ve had this post among my queue during my hiatus, but a recent post by Bobduh on this very same topic inspired me to write about it today.

As Bobduh describes in his post and what should be common knowledge anyway, each one of us is a unique blend of our own personal experiences and environmental factors that determine who we are physically, mentally, and emotionally. So because all of these are different, it’s natural that each of us is different and thus we like different things in our anime and other media. I don’t think anyone can deny the “different people like different things” concept, but the question at hand is, “Should we be judged for who we are based on the things we like?”

We have two sides of people when it comes to this: those who do make these judgements about other people based on what they like, for example, thinking any anime fan that picks SAO or Naruto as their favorite series must not be very bright, and the people who take such judgements of their favorites as an actual attack on them personally. There are flaws in both of these sentiments, so let’s start with the first one.

People’s relationship with the media they like is very complex, as Bobduh also describes in his post, “The experience of engaging with an art object is a kind of alchemy – the work itself has a variety of aesthetic touchstones, the viewer of that work has a variety of emotional touchstones, and the experience created through the intersection of those wires will always be a personal one.” So when you judge someone based on what anime they like or what game they play, you reduce that very complicated relationship between person and media work to “I think this thing is stupid and yet this person loves it, therefore they must be stupid.” This idea is also flawed because it’s based on the assumption that the only reason people like things is because they think they’re exceptionally good, which is true a lot of the time, but not always. A prime example of this is the fact that I think the Pokemon anime is terribly formulaic and repetitive, with very little effort put into most of the episodes. If someone said the show was bad, I would be inclined to agree. Yet, I still watch and enjoy it, not because I think it’s exceptionally good, but because of my personal relationship with Pokemon as a franchise; I love the games and the franchise in general, so seeing the Pokemon world animated, as lame as those animated stories are, is enjoyable to me. Some people watch stupid comedy shows, recognizing that they’re stupid, because it helps them relax and unwind from a tiring day. Some people watch ecchi anime because it’s titillatingly satisfying. Some people watch mindlessly violent shows or play mindlessly violent games because it gives them a nice adrenaline rush and lets them unleash that animal instinct they couldn’t release in real life. Bobduh gives the example in his post of considering Monogatari one of his favorite series even though he thinks poorly of its main character Araragi, reinforcing that one can love something without having to love all of its elements. Again, the unique relationship one person has with the media they like is much more complex than “we like good shows and don’t like bad shows” because people themselves are complex and have various conscious and subconscious reasons for liking what they like.

Ok, so I’ve established that people like things for various reasons and not necessarily because they think they’re notably good pieces of work. But what if they do? What if someone says a specific anime is really good when you think it’s complete crap? Can you call that person stupid now? Well, no, because you’re reducing the sum of an entire human being to equal what anime they prefer, and as we all should know, a human being is much more complex than that.

Which then leads to the other side of it – the people who do identify themselves so strongly with the media they like that they take any attacks on that media as personal insults. And in doing so, they’re doing exactly what I described in the above paragraph, except they’re bringing it on themselves: by being like that, they’re reducing the entirety of who they are to equal the social standing of an anime they like, which isn’t healthy. There’s nothing wrong with liking something so much that you consider it a part of your identity, and yes, it can hurt when other people trash something you love. But the important thing to understand that I think a lot of these people miss, is truly thinking about why they love something so much. One of the reasons I blog is because it gives me opportunities to write about exactly why I do and don’t like things, which forces me to look at them objectively and therefore see why they resonate with me personally. And when criticisms do come along, I can easily think, “Ok, these are this person’s reasons for not liking this anime, which I kind of get, but it’s still not enough to take away from the reasons I like it.” Completely shutting yourself off from criticism of what you like and taking it as a personal attack, takes away from an important part of your relationship with that media work – understanding why you like it when others don’t. Bobduh gives a great word of caution when he says, “Don’t try to prove you’re an interesting person by demanding others respect your media choices. Prove it by being interesting – by digging into that media and finding something worth talking about, or, better yet, by enjoying it because it’s what you enjoy, and then going off and doing something else too. Our preferences and media are meaningful because they can teach us about both ourselves and the world.”

So on that note, is there any merit at all in judging someone by what anime, movies, or games they like? There are stereotypes everywhere, even in anime fandom, and we might be inclined to think that this guy who watches all these moe anime and collects all these moe figures must be some kind of creepy anti-social otaku, or this girl who watches all this yaoi and bishonen anime must be some kind of air-headed fan girl, or this other fan who’s favorite anime is Naruto or Bleach must be some kind of anime n00b who’s too immature to appreciate quality anime. But like with any stereotypes, sometimes there’s truth in them, many times there isn’t, so the right thing to do is give people the benefit of the doubt until you actually know them. I don’t care if people enjoy a movie I think is stupid, or they’re really into a show I find disturbing, or a game I find utterly boring. To me, people’s actions are what count, not their media preferences. If someone watches ecchi or yaoi anime because they like to fantasize about having relationships with the characters, but in real life they’re kind, considerate, good people with respectable morals and values, that’s what counts – what they actually do, how they act on what they believe in, not whatever strange subconscious Freudian feelings make them like a particular anime that I might not agree with.

In the end, it’s silly to judge someone you don’t know based on what animated work they like. Sometimes we can’t help but get preconceived ideas about them if they happen to like something we strongly dislike, or they dislike something we like. Sometimes our assumptions about them turn out to be true and sometimes they don’t, so again, give them the benefit of the doubt…and you may even learn something new and interesting about something you thought you liked or something you thought you disliked. And again, it’s great to be part of a fandom, but it’s even better to be a worldly, well-rounded person that can separate their fandom from their personal identity, especially when it comes to people who happen to have opposing opinions about it. So with that in mind, I’ll close this post with a final quote from Bobduh’s post that I feel sums it up quite well: “The messages of your media, and what it says about your existing preferences, are important things to be aware of and actively investigate, but they do not dictate your value as a human being. Only your actions can do that.”

17 Comments… read them or add your own.

  1. Kal says:

    Very interesting subject. I was thinking of a lot of things to say, but one phrase you said pretty much nails it in the head:

    “To me, people’s actions are what count, not their media preferences”

    That is what it comes down to. They can like hentai, sado-msochism, urinotherapy (I know a few people that do this), but as long as they are respectful and good people all around, I’ll be respectful and good with them.

    The other problem, is that while I do think that the anime we like may reveal something about ourselves, there is no “one” anime that can reveal much about ourselves. Lots of people like SAO. Some may like it for the animation only, others for the plot, others for the action only, others for the main character (many others may hate the main character), others for the supporting characters, etc. So saying “all SAO fans are [insert adjective here]” is just wrong on many levels.

    So it comes down to respect I guess. Respect is an action, so it comes right back to what you said. People’s actions are what matter. Excellent post.

    • Yumeka says:

      Yeah, in today’s day and age where we can watch anime, movies, TV shows, play games, etc., everywhere at any time because of all the recent technological advances, people are consuming media much more than ever before, so in a way, whatever one show they choose to watch is becoming increasingly less telling about them because it’s all so easy to access.

      I wouldn’t judge anyone based on an anime they watch or a game they play, but I think the only time I would judge them based on something they watch is if that show (or movie, or a book they read, or whatever) advocates something I think is morally bad, for example, if they like watching shows about hunting or spearfishing because they think it’s cool, then I couldn’t help but get a bad impression of them because of my morals. But as far as liking something fictional like anime and games, I have no prejudgements ;)

  2. drawingirl94 says:

    Very well written post. I know how it feels to be judged over the types of shows you like. Since I’m an ecchi/moe/loli fan, most people would think I’m a lonely pathetic creepy manchild, but none of that is true. Not only am I female, which is outside of the demographic for these shows, but I’m also in a happy relationship with a guy who also likes the same shows as I do. I’ve seen people say that anyone who likes Clannad or K-ON is a shallow moe-obsessed otaku who doesn’t want substance in their anime/only likes those shows because they have poor taste and don’t set their standards high enough. I can’t help but personally feel offended by this because I love both of those shows, and I do feel they have substance to them. And I do think about what I like and dislike about each show, and I did have high expectations for them, just not the same expectations their detractors had. I wish these stereotypes would stop, because if you knew me in real life, you’d know I definitely don’t fit the stereotype for a moe/ecchi otaku.

    • Yumeka says:

      I also don’t fit the stereotype because I too am a female anime fan who doesn’t like the shows that girls typically like. I’m not into ecchi but I do like many “moe” shows (and occasional lolis here and there don’t bother me) such as K-ON, OreImo, Hayate no Gotoku, Clannad, and Lucky Star, the latter being one of my favorites. And as anyone who reads my blog knows, I don’t just watch anime for “mindless entertainment,” but I really think about the themes and notable qualities of every series I watch, as well as why they do and don’t click with me, genre notwithstanding. My own unique blend of personal experiences and environmental factors makes me see depth and value in series like these that many others don’t, and that’s totally fine and shouldn’t be grounds to judge who I am. It’s just silly to judge someone based on a few of the works of fiction they enjoy. And even if our preconceptions turn out to be a bit true (which does happen but not that often) it’s still a poor replacement for truly getting to know a person.

    • jimmy says:

      I’d thought that it was those sort of shows that create the stereotype, but I could hardly imagine K-On! or especially Clannad getting you viewed like that.

      I’d expect the ones to get you pegged as a creepy moe-obsessed fan would be the smaller, seasonal moe shows like A-Channel, Non Non Biyori, Kiniro Mosaic and Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu ka?. Or better yet, shows actually for kids, like PreCure.

      (I… may have watched all of these and enjoyed most of them.)

      • Yumeka says:

        Yeah, maybe not Clannad quite as much, but in recent years people have considered K-ON to be the staple example of an otaku-aimed “moe” show; it’s popularity above all those others you mentioned is probably what helped make it the go-to example.

        I don’t think people get criticized for liking kids anime like Pokemon or Naruto as much because they don’t have the “creepy otaku who likes 2D girls” aspect to them. People might think someone who likes these shows is childish or immature, but otherwise harmless. But if you’re a guy who likes “girly” kids anime like Sailor Moon or PreCure, or again, any anime that stars cute girls, you’re more likely to get called out.

      • drawingirl94 says:

        I may get in trouble for this, but the reason why I included Clannad is because I have seen some judgement made towards fans of that show in my time. There were certain YouTube users I used to follow back in the day who would make very harsh judgments towards people who like Clannad. Some of them were pissed off that Clannad was the highest rated anime at the time, and they said things like, “How could anyone see that this is anything more than brightly colored moe schlock?” or, “Anyone who rates Clannad highly has set their standards too low. Clannad doesn’t challenge expectations at all and serves up an insulting ending like it’s some great truth. Thinking is hard, that’s why people don’t do it often,” or, “The reason why Clannad is well received is because otaku are pathetic lonely guy losers with no life,” or even, “All Clannad fans are rabid fanboys, and fuck this series and fuck everyone who likes it.”

        All that shit is in the past, but there’s no doubt in my mind that these people did judge other fans because of the shows they liked. I did personally feel judged for being a fan of Clannad. I don’t know if these people still stand by those statements or not, I hope they don’t, but that’s what happened.

        • Yumeka says:

          I’ve heard my fair share of Clannad hate too. I think the reason it got so much back in the day isn’t just because it was a supposed “moe” show, but because it was also really popular, and as we all know, anything that becomes noticeably popular will bring about a lot of haters. It’s not new and popular now, so we don’t see as much hate except from the avidly anti-moe people. K-ON got the same treatment because, again, the type of show it is isn’t anything unique, but it just became so popular that people couldn’t keep quiet about their dislike.

          I know plenty of (non-rabid) girls (and guys for that matter) that like Clannad (myself included) so that statement that all Clannad fans are rabid fanboys is ridiculous.

          • drawingirl94 says:

            It probably did have something to do with the popularity. At that time, Clannad was the highest rated anime on ANN. If that wasn’t the case, then it would probably not recieve so much hate. I mean, I don’t see that much hate for other Key series such as Kanon, Air, Little Busters, or Angel Beats.

            It is absolutely ridiculous, but I think the reason why that person said that was because of their personal experience with Clannad fans. I think he felt a lot of people were very arrogant to him for preferring Kanon and Air over Clannad, and since it was the majority type of Clannad fans he interacted with, he assumes that everyone who likes Clannad is a narrow-minded fanbrat whose claws will come out the minute someone says they don’t like that show. He was very angry with those people, and that anger turned into straight up doing very petty things such as printing out a picture of the cast of Clannad and spitting on it, and being rude to everyone who likes the show, even if they acted fairly polite towards him and respected his opinion. I did talk to him about it after all that stuff was over, and he did say that he was going through a very angry moment in his life, and he did learn and grow from that experience. He also says he knows that there are sane Clannad fans, some of which he’s actually good friends with. So maybe it wasn’t the wisest idea for me to bring that incident up because it’s in the past, but I brought it up for the sake of discussion and sharing my experiences with being judged over the types of anime I like.

            • Yumeka says:

              That’s an interesting story behind that quote. It’s good to know that the guy is over all the hate now and is older and wiser for it. I would imagine, or hope at least, that a lot of the haters are on the young and immature side (late teens, early twenties) and as they get older they mellow out about it and see that it’s a waste of effort to hate on animated shows and make assumptions about their fans.

              Regardless, Clannad is a good example so thanks for bringing up these particular instances.

              • drawingirl94 says:

                I would hope that anybody who judges other fans for the shows they like are just going through a phase and eventually get over it, because I personally think that judging fans over the types of shows they like is very immature. Maybe I’m not one to talk about maturity since I only turned 20 years old just yesterday, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned throughout my 20 years of being on this earth, it’s that judging people before you get to know them, especially if it’s over trivial things like the types of cartoons they watch in their spare time, is very childish and stupid.

                No problem. Hopefully I brought something good to the discussion. :)

        • jimmy says:

          Well, I stand corrected. I wasn’t “in the fandom” when it was coming out, I guess, so I must have missed that. It just seems an innocuous title looking back. (Actually, most Key titles really rub me the wrong way personally, but that’s a different matter entirely.)

          • drawingirl94 says:

            It is a pretty innocent title, but that whole incident happened sometime in 2010, not long after After Story was finished. And that whole situation only happened in a small community on YouTube, so not everyone is going to know about it. Like I said before, I only brought it up for discussion purposes and sharing my personal experiences with being judged because of the titles I’m a fan of.

  3. chikorita157 says:

    In the past week and as mentioned in my recent editorial, I have witness the turmoil in the gaming community because video games is one of the types of media I enjoy besides Anime. It’s sad that people would resort to calling gamers manchilds, “worse than ISIS”, terrorists, etc because they don’t necessarily agree with the view that video games causes sexist behavior (which is not scientifically proven), block all comments because they are afraid of criticism and play the victim card because most people plays violent video games. As you mentioned in your post, people will have different views that you may not disagree and take it like a personal attack. This is why I can’t take people like Leigh Alexander seriously as they attack the vast majority of people who like to play games they find offending by writing an article saying “Gamers are over” (an equivalent to “your tastes in games is garbage because I think video games are sexist” and therefore, I hate all gamers!) and they turn around and disable comments, attack people or play the victim card just because the vast majority does not agree with her views. It does not only make other people view her as close minded (especially since she has an agenda), but it shows that she does not fully understand why people like or don’t like a certain piece of media.

    As for me, I have different tastes in Anime and Video Games since I play mainly Japanese games (aside from driving and simulation games such as Sims or Simcity), mostly Japanese RPGs opposed to first person shooting games. Not only that, I prefer playing as a female protagonist rather than a male one (if there is a choice) or games with a mostly female cast (there are some exceptions). Not only that, I prefer watching slice of life, romance or magical girl shows (although I do watch action or other genres once in a while) that has moe girls in it. Do I care if somebody come up to me to say I’m a creepy manchild because I play these types of games or watch these types of games or my tastes are terrible because they don’t agree with their tastes? No and I do not exhibit any of the stereotypical behavior. Moreover, I will not personally attack people or shut out someone’s criticism just because they don’t like a particular show that I like since I know that criticism is highly subjective. As long they don’t attack people who like a certain kinds of shows, games or whatever, I don’t mind even if I don’t agree with them.

    • Yumeka says:

      While I don’t pay attention to the video game community much since I play very few games besides Pokemon, I’ve heard about the criticism you’re talking about and it’s a big shame. Until someone presents a large amount of proven statistics that shows a correlation between people (or men I should say) being sexist and playing violent video games (and not just a few isolated instances) such an assumption like that is wrong. I’ve known all kinds of people throughout my life – male and female, young and old – that enjoy playing violent video games, shooter types or otherwise, and none of them were sexist or violent in real life. Heck, a lot of them are friends of mine that I know well. Like I said, I think that playing violent video games is a good thing as it’s a release for the “inner beast” in us, or just getting out any negative feelings, without having to resort to violence in the real world.

  4. Overlord-G says:

    I like yuri, comedies and slice of anime most of all and I’ve been described as an optimist who cannot help but tease or question pessimists. I suppose that’s an accurate description…or maybe it’s because I go to Twitter too often when I really shouldn’t.

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