Anime is our escape, where any dreams are possible. Anime is our freedom, the door that leads to a place beyond our mortal senses. Anime is the wings that fly us to the world so large and yet so private. Of course, we can live our lives without it. But life with anime is much more interesting. Am I exaggerating? Maybe I am. But I tell you now, I am not lying. But why does it have to end?
Although lots of us here in the blogsphere are longtime fans, we are undoubtedly minority among countless silent, brief anime fans in general population. So why do so many people abandon anime? Why can’t anime fandom last very long? This is by no means a new question. And we all know that it depends on multiple factors. Anime fandom mostly occurs on circumstances in which all the contributing factors are simultaneously present like age, raw imagination, education, community, availability and opportunity. As time goes by, all these things start to change and anime fandom eventually dissolves into oblivion for many people. When do we decide to shut that door forever? Or maybe we simply grow up?
The following article discusses about this nearly inevitable phenomenon. Most of it has been mentioned before in this blog and elsewhere. I simply try to organize it to make it easier to understand. Here, I am talking about several oppressive powers that every anime fan must face. After some contemplation, I come up with these common ‘tyrannies’ that can (and will eventually) crush our fragile anime fandom.
The First Tyranny: Distance
Distance is the tyranny that started it all. Anime is only made in the small islands off to the east and nowhere else. The farther you are from the place, the harder to get into anime. It’s simple logic which explains why anime has only become more internationally recognized after the use of internet. But the boundaries are always there. Accessibility and availability of anime, to this day, remains major factor that limits the number and life-span of anime fandom in every country except Japan.
The Second Tyranny: Family and Friends
Unless you are an extreme introvert or a serial killer, family and friends will inevitably influence your choice of media consumption. Especially when you are young, you watch what your family does or what your family selects for you. Even if you love anime, it’d be very hard for you to keep the hobby going against your family’s disapproval. After you grow out of your family, there’s another big tyranny; your friends. Beware of who you choose to hang out with especially if you are weak-minded. The need of communication, participation and acceptance give your friend enormous power over you in your teen-age years.
The Third Tyranny: Adulthood
Just when you think you are free from everything you face during childhood and school years, the third (and bigger) tyranny shows up. And this one means to stay for a very long time, possibly all your life; it’s adulthood. Some go to college, some start working fulltime job(s). But everyone has to survive and find the place to call home. It’s the time for making many difficult choices and the time to display your full potentials. In short, suddenly you have so many things to take care of and watching anime pushed far down in you priority list.
The Fourth Tyranny: Time
You cannot touch it but you can feel it pressing against your back every day, every minute. Time management is such a painful task. It makes everything seems like another obligation. Anime watching should be something that lets you escape from all obligations but when you have so little time and are force to manage it strictly, watching anime suddenly seems like a tiresome task. It’s not so relaxing anymore and many people slowly drop out of it. (Time matters a lot. Just look at what these people go through each day!)
The Fifth Tyranny: Social Stigma
People believe what they heard and generalization is a common habit for everyone, even us. But unlike other mass media, one needs to be active to really get to know anime. Watching too many Japanese Cartoons, not to mention dressing like one, can (and will) create false (or true?) impression about yourself. People may think you are geeky, weird, depressed or a dirty pedophile which may or may not be true but that can insert negative effect into your social life and career. As a result, many anime fans keep anime to themselves. Some even live in fear. Such way of living is not healthy both to your spirit and anime fandom.
The Sixth Tyranny: Anime community
Anime community can be a two-edged blade. On the positive side, it facilitates anime lovers in discovering many good shows and provides invaluable place where thoughts and feelings can be freely shared among friends of the same interest. But as the community grew larger, some voices become louder than others and some voices may contain illusion of authority. If you are not careful, you can get carried away by the tides of voices in the community. You may feel obligated to follow some trending shows in order to remain in the conversations. Your impression and opinion can potentially be influenced by others who seem to be more talented and wiser. Diving too deeply and blindly into the community can make you feel outdated, outwitted and drained of inspiration.
The Ultimate Tyranny: the tyranny of Self
I know this sounds cliché but it’s true. You may be able to withstand all the six tyrannies but if you cannot overcome the seventh, you are doomed. The tyranny of self refers to how you perceive yourself, anime and anime fandom. It all winds down to the most basic question; what is anime to you and how do you view yourself as anime fan?
Maybe you get bored because you have too narrow view towards anime and starts negatively generalizing every new anime that comes your way. Anime may be your way of getting along with friends. It could be excuse for you to keep doing something you love even more like writing, blogging, dressing or drawing. Is anime just a tool to make yourself different from others; the feature to define yourself during your teenage years? Do you view anime fandom as a shameful secret? If your anime fandom depends on short-lasting conditions, it’s doomed. Your image of Self as anime fan also matters immensely. Do you think being anime fan is a shameful secret? Or maybe you, like everyone else, also think that watching too much anime is not perfectly normal. There’s no worse enemy than one’s self and it’s no different in case of anime fandom.
The bottom line: this is just for fun. Don’t take it too seriously.
With that said, I would like to emphasize that each anime fans will face all of these tyrannies in different forms and varying degree and duration. It usually takes some time and combination of factors before the dissolution of fandom.
Did I sound pessimistic? I hope not. I drew inspiration from my experience which was not always so bright and cheery. What do you think of this observation? Have you faced any tyranny other than these seven? Or better, did you face less than seven tyrannies? If so, you are very fortunate.