What is a fan? A miserable pile of doujinshi!

I was recently reading the Ogiue Maniax blog and he had brought up some fascinating points about what he thinks determines what a fan is. I brought the post to Narutaki’s attention mostly because it made me wonder what both of us thought makes an anime fan. What separates an anime fan from a person who just happens to just to watch anime? They might seem to be the same but I postulate that they can be very different.

We have definitely had numerous discussions, both heated and not, about fans in the anime community. It seems like one of those subjects that everyone has an opinion on, so why not think out-loud here with ours. I don’t know if we will actually come to some concrete definition, but hopefully we can clear our minds of it and maybe others will tell us what they think a fan is.

One of the greatest problems with any classification is that the extremes are easy to determine. People who are clearly not interested in anime are obviously not fans. Mega otaku are so deep in fandom that their love and devotion of anime is unmistakable. The problem is the people that are near the borders of what makes someone a fan. Where they fall, how you classify them, is strictly up to personal prejudice and taste.

No one is going to 100% agree on the definitions that get thrown out there, hell I don’t even agree with myself on where people fall. I continually ask these kinds of questions and go back and forth on my own definitions. I also think it is really easy to get a skewed opinion depending upon what parts of the anime community you frequent and what you read. It is easy to hate all of fandom if all you read is 4chan.

One of the main things we both got out of the Ogiue Maniax blog was that he postulates are two general types of people who watch anime. Anime fans and anime consumers. I don’t think the amount of anime you watch determines which category you are in. It’s not the simple divide between casual anime fan and hardcore. I think you could watch every anime show ever and still be an anime consumer and you could only watch a handful of shows and be an anime fan. What determines what category you fall into is mainly how emotionally invested you are in the medium.

I agree, but at the same time I think if you have delved deep and watched years and years worth of anime then you are most probably an anime fan, unless you’re in complete denial. And people who have just discovered the medium can be fans, just new ones. I guess it really comes down to the fact that I don’t feel you have to know everything about anime to call yourself a fan. In some instances, the pursuit of knowledge is just as important as actually learning it. It is when people claim to know it all, when they know zip, that’s when the annoyance starts. But this is where that whole gray area of fandom comes in.

An anime consumer enjoys anime. An anime fan cares about anime. There are many ways of expressing that you care about anime. I feel that supporting the industry is a big factor in showing that you care about anime. I also see an interest in learning about anime as a significant factor in being a fan. By looking into older shows, looking into who created the works you’ve seen, and researching references made in shows all support you having deep interest in what anime is all about. Participating in anime fandom can also show that you care. By doing any of these things or not doing any of these things does not necessarily make you an anime fan but I feel they are all good indicators.

I find those first two phrases to be very eloquent, simple but impactful and sensible. I have always felt a big part of fandom is caring beyond your own personal bubble of anime love. Seeking out other people is a good start because the exchange of information is ten-fold! The internet makes is easy to by knowledgeable so if someone doesn’t do any research its hard for me to see them as fan. And being involved in campaigns for shows to get licensed, have a TV run, or be shown in theaters is an excellent piece of fandom. And of course we are big on industry support, so I definitely see purchasing of legitimate DVDs and whatnot an important factor. But as we all l know a lot of young people don’t have that much income. I also feel that trying to spread the love of anime is a great part of being a fan! Sharing it with others, introducing them to it, and helping them out is a good indicator to me.

I think another problem with classify people is some people think they are anime fans when they are really only fans of a specific show or genre. You could be a Naruto or Dragonball Z fan but only a casual consumer of any other type of anime. This does not mean you are less devoted to your chosen show but it also does not automatically make you a fan of the rest of the medium. The problem comes when such a person goes around claiming they are an anime fan or expert when they are anything but.

People’s own classification of themselves makes everything all the more complicated. And the extremes of this are downright hilarious. You have people all over messageboards proclaiming they are not, absolutely not, anime fans. If you proceed to discuss anime on a daily basis. . . . I’m twice as amused by people who “hate” shows but proceed to watch the new fan-sub of them every week. What is with the self-loathing? And it is not like I have never been ridiculed about my hobbies, but seriously people. Though it is okay because I always get a good chuckle.

With all the being said I feel that an anime consumer is anyone who watches anime but does not invest any of themselves into it. They watch anime and enjoy it but they do not love it. I don’t want to be an elitist about this but as soon as one says that you can be sure the next sentence is going to be elitist. No matter how much you tell yourself you’re a fan, a consumer is not. However, I don’t think that because you’re an anime consumer you are not worthy of watching anime or you don’t get anime. Heck, I’m pretty sure there are far more anime consumers than anime fans. Without anime consumers anime would be even more of a niche market than it currently is; anime conventions would be small time affairs; Best Buy or Barnes and Nobel wouldn’t carry anime and manga.

Thank you anime consumers! If it wasn’t for you we would never get our niche titles. No one is unworthy of watching anime, but you can be unworthy of the title “fan.”

If nothing else this article has given me an odd insight into myself. I have always wondered my I did not have the same anime awakening story that everyone else I know did. I did not have that one show that I watched that instantly made me anime fan, atleast not till many years later . I remember liking anime since junior high school. I saw Ninja Scroll, Ghost in the Shell, Akira, and Ranma 1/2. I would occasionally watch what tapes people gave me or I stumbled upon but I never went out of my way to hunt down more. I remember watching Robotech and Dragon Warrior but I never had the realization that they were Japanese until years later. I always said I liked anime and would have labeled myself an anime fan. Heck, I begged by girlfriend in college to drive me hours away to see Spirited Away in theaters. But it was no greater passion in my life than say video games, sci-fi, fantasy, or table top role playing games.

I think a lot of people start off as consumers, especially now with all the access to it, and then blossom into fandom. Years ago you practically had to be a fan because you would need to go so out of your way to get your hands on things. However, I know I jumped into fandom pretty quickly. I was introduced to Ninja Scroll at the age of 11, thanks Lothos! Soon followed up by Akira, Record of Lodoss War OVA, and Slayers. I sort of hit the ground running, though I think that is just my personality. It was crazy back then to find out so many of our favorite shows as kids were anime. Me and my friend used to exchange info and shows; share and share alike. Funnily enough we both bought Evangelion at almost the exact same time. It was just coming out on VHS in the states then. So I guess I did had that one show, it all came about because of Jubei Kibagami.

It was not until my last year in college that someone lent me the Ranma 1/2 OAVs and I truly became a fan. For some reason those OAVs awakened a desire to know more about this medium that I had once only had a surface interest in. I started to look into what else Rumiko Takahasi had written. I started going to Ranma fan sites. Then I started going to general anime fan sites. I looked into the various other genres of anime. I wanted to see more, know more, and do more. I now realize in retrospect that I had been transformed. From an anime consumer to an anime fan.

Narutaki Currently!
Watching Tower of Druaga
Reading Dororo
Listening to Gackt live

Hisui (Brainwasher Detective) Currently:
Watching Karin
Reading Dororo
Listening to Yuusha-oh Tanjou! (Mythology Version) by Masaaki Endou and the GGG Shoujo Vocal Team

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