The B.S. of “Otaku cred” and nerd identity

Something that has been on my mind lately is the idea of credibility in fandoms. I’m talking about the frankly ridiculous views of narrow minded individuals that you’re not a true fan of a certain medium or property unless you like certain things within that category and dislike others. A good example outside of the anime sphere would be a Star Wars fan who constantly berates those who like the prequel trilogy and stating that anything other than the original trilogy is rubbish.

“You’re not a real anime fan unless you’ve seen at least 50 vintage black and white anime shows” said no anime fan ever (I hope). Image: Cyborg 009 (1968)

As you may have gathered by the title of this article this sort of crap frustrates me no end. It seems particularly prevalent in the anime fandom where it seems there’s always arguments between what is valid and worthy (unless you’re on Anime UK News forums where we mostly have a laugh about each other’s tastes). It’s a big thing issue among fans of videogames too, how many times have you heard someone say they’re not a “real gamer” unless they play a difficult game like Dark Souls instead of the latest mobile craze like Candy Crush (or whatever the biggest one is right now). Such behaviour has become so commonplace and toxic online that I cannot even use the term “gamer” seriously. I may have played a lot of videogames since I was 10 years old and owned all the major consoles but I couldn’t bring myself to ever write that I am a gamer because of the shitty behaviour attached to that particular term (also something about it sounds too self important for what is essentially a hobby).

Coming back to anime though….because it is a niche fandom (although it seems to be becoming a lot more mainstream these days) there will always be those who choose to gatekeep or look down their nose at certain people and question their fandom and “otaku cred”. Some of them will claim they’re not real fans because they don’t watch/read anything other than Shonen series, some will mock people because their favourite anime is a very popular one like Naruto, Death Note or Attack On Titan. It doesn’t matter what your tastes are, how long you’ve been into anime and manga or what your knowledge on the subject is, if you like some of it you’re a fan, simple as that. Experience is no reason to give anyone any sort of grief, we all have to start somewhere! As for the people who hate particular shows or books it’s all subjective. How many times have you seen an opinion online dressed up as a statement? “(insert anime here) is trash” No, I think you’ll find it’s just something you dislike, plenty of other people will love it for reasons you probably don’t understand and never will, that’s fine. Just don’t go around trying to make out like your word is law and you’re some sort of fandom messiah.

The colossally popular Attack On Titan.

So as we’ve established what other people think of my interests doesn’t bother me. Although….I must admit there have been times when it did. I went through a period where I didn’t wear anime, film or comic shirts to work because I was afraid people would see me as the office geek or childish. I got over it quickly and now I really don’t care. I’ve also been worried about being the target of the aforementioned gatekeepers who deem what is worthy and what is not. The older I get the more I’ve come to accept that my likes and interests are about me and nobody else. There was a time I wouldn’t talk about anything else online (for example on Twitter) because my niche was anime, manga and Japanese culture and I felt if I broke “brand” that people might stop following or interacting with me. Of course that’s daft but it does happen, you just learn to not care about such things.

Don’t be this guy.

So the point I’m making is don’t let any these things ever get in the way of what you enjoy. I am a rabid mecha anime fan but I also enjoy Transformers (though some of the shows under that banner are technically anime) and am a huge fan of comics in general not just manga. Don’t worry if someone thinks your tastes are too “mainstream”. I’ve posted everything from stuff about Akira to Zambot 3 on my Twitter account and occasionally something about movies and comics too. We all have opinions and stuff we dislike in the communities we inhabit online but simply put there’s no need to be a dick about it. Post your opinion on stuff but make sure it sounds like an opinion and not fact. Life is too short to doomscroll through all that crap. Criticism is fine (and even encouraged, I co-host a podcast after all) but being douchey because you feel your opinion or taste is superior to someone else is unacceptable. Also don’t be one of those who take their fandom way too seriously, don’t base your whole identity around it. It’s okay to be passionate but don’t let other people’s opinions on your interests hurt you or make your angry, it’s not worth it.

In short, live the way you want to live, don’t feel any shame about what you enjoy and don’t get drawn into arguments with keyboard warriors. We’ve all got better things to do with our time.

Have you had any experiences with these kinds of people? or even just the fear of being targeted by them? I love hearing from you all in the comments.

1 Comment

  1. Growing up I definitely had my run-ins. You’re not a real fan of anime unless you’ve seen some stupidly long shonen anime. If it aired on TV it’s mainstream and you’re a normie. Really trite statements like that always would get me, because I would get goaded into watching something ‘niche’ so I could say I wasn’t a normie anymore…. and the goalpost for not being a normie would inevitably shift.

    So at this point, I just do my best not to judge people for their tastes and acknowledge anyone and everyone can be an otaku these days. There’s no point in nit-picking or gatekeeping because all it does is waste your own time when you could just be watching more anime!


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