Brian Alexander recently wrote a rather controversial article which states that extremely sexual and shocking mediums of anime and manga have become mainstream in the U.S. This article is filled with poor research, quotes taken out of context, and broad generalizations in order to make a predefined point. In other words it has all the earmarks of modern shock journalism. This clearly caused most of the Internet community to go right to their favorite local forums and blog and complain like nobody’s business.
With so much being just blatantly incorrect it’s laughable that he goes on to call anime mainstream. Mainstream implies that the average joe on the street knows a least a little about whatever it is. So since the not-so-average joe writing the article seems to know close to nothing about it, it is hard to believe anime is mainstream. What is also sad is you know a bunch of middle-schoolers’ parents saw that article and freaked out at their Naruto watching children. Poor kids.
The claims that anime and manga have become mainstream forms of art and culture are, oddly enough, the most erroneous mistakes in the article all together. Anime is still a very niche interest in the U.S. and I don’t see this changing anytime soon. This is a fact that some American anime fans don’t seem to realize.
It is the power of the internet. You can always find like-minded people online and once you immerse yourself you can forget there are other people out there. If you prowl around anime websites, forums, blogs, and hang out with people who watch anime it is easy to think most people have a clue about your hobby. Anime acceptance in the U.S. has come a long way but I don’t think it will ever reach mainstream.
It’s easy to think that anime has become mainstream. You read interviews with animations and movie producers that have been influenced by anime. You see anime to buy in your local Best Buy. You remember that Spirited Away won an Academy Award. This leads to some people thinking that anime has become mainstream. This is a case of tunnel vision leading to a incorrect perception of the truth. Anime has certainly come far from its humble beginnings. There was a day that it would be inconceivable to all but the most optimistic fans would consider the fact that we would ever see anime regularly on TV, have manga in chain bookstores, or read regular articles about it from major news channels. Despite this, anime is still a fringe hobby and I don’t see it changing anytime soon.
The popularity seems to ebb and flow like most things in entertainment. Why just a couple of weeks ago we learned that anime was being relegated to the “death slots” of Adult Swim, with the exception of Bleach. And AWA brought the news of no more anime for Toonami though it was unclear whether or not Naruto would be staying. This seems to further enforce a trend we’ve been seeing in the last couple of years, anime is not selling like hotcakes. Apparently it isn’t even being watched for free enough to sustain a run on cable in some cases.
I’m not some elitist anime fan that feels that anime is only cool if you keep a velvet rope around it so the mundane people can’t get in. I still have the old school mantra that spreading the love of otaku culture is cool; the idea that anime is a treasure to share with others; the feeling that it is your duty to spread the knowledge. But anime is still a niche product that most people are generally unaware of let alone any have sort of interest in. Anime is still mostly the hobby of nerds and geeks. The sheer number of fans has grown. I would even say that it has become a mainstream geek hobby but that does not equate to an overall leap into the mainstream.
You must spread the love! I lent anime to countless people throughout my middle school and high school days. Some of it stuck, some of it didn’t. But there is always someone out there that hasn’t seen it that will fall in love with the medium. I think it is also easy to mistake an interest in one thing, like Naruto, as someone having an interest in anime. While Naruto is absolutely anime, it doesn’t always make people leap into the fringe. For the most part is creates a mild passing interest in such things. It is a starting point though! Most of us have our roots in something similar.But I still think that the amount of people that grow from that into full feldged anime fans is small in comparison to the amount of people watching.
You still have to explain to most people what anime is. Even if they do know what it means they might not really understand it. Most people have a narrow perception of anime. You still meet a great deal of people who think that anime is all either tentacle rape porn or Pokemon. The best selling anime DVDs still sell far less than any moderately popular show or movie on DVD. Manga does better but most nowhere as well as any best selling novel or children’s book. As the product of a foreign nation for a foreign audience I feel that anime will always be banished to niche realm. Its popularity will rise and fall depending on what Japan is creating that year and what Americans are looking for. Certain titles will rise above the pack and gain something close to a mainstream appeal but the medium as a whole will remain in its geek ghetto. This is not unfair or horrible nor is it preferable or right. It merely is the way it is and I accept that fact.