Looking Outwards: Anime, Blogging, and Belonging

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This post is a lot more on the personal side than I’m normally comfortable with on Otaku Lounge, and usually there’d also be the customary question to the readers at the end. However, having being inspired for the first time to write directly about this topic, I thought I’d forgo the question this time and instead invite people to make a post of their own on what blogging, or more specifically blogging about anime, means to them.

Like no doubt thousands of other anime fans, I’ve loved the medium since I was a kid watching dubbed episodes of Sailor Moon on TV before school. Of course, back I had no idea what anime was, much less that I myself was watching it. I was instinctively attracted to shows like Pokemon, Cardcaptors, and Samurai Pizza Cats and could see that they were all similar in some way, but was unable to really place how until some years later, with the shocking discovery of things like cable TV, internet that didn’t stop working whenever someone picked up the phone, and the exact same cartoons only with (gasp!) Japanese character names. My world had suddenly become much, much larger.

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Wait, you mean that ‘donut’ is actually something called an ‘onigiri’??

For some time after that, I was content to fangirl alone. Sure, every now and again I’d hear someone mention some anime title at school in passing, and my normally shy self would dive headfirst into a follow-up conversation. Problem was, it would quickly become obvious that most people just didn’t care about the subject anywhere near as much as I did, and my general enthusiasm no doubt scared those same people away just as quickly. Not that this particularly bothered me – as long as I could simply watch anime then I was happy, and talking to other people about it was fun but ultimately not all that high up on my to-do list.

And then came university, which grouped me with a bunch of geeks.

I don’t mean to imply that everyone there was an anime geek – far from it. In fact, I had never even regarded myself as a geek as such before that, mostly because I didn’t really have anything or anyone to compare the degree of my interest against; as far as anime went, my internet habits had been limited to watching poor-quality episode streams and crappy music videos, so I hadn’t had any kind of direct contact to speak of with other fans. But unlike at high school, I felt that everyone who attended university genuinely wanted to be there, and to make the most of their experiences – in part by wearing their passions on their sleeves. It was suddenly not only acceptable but even expected that you were going to be geeky about something, be it anime or ultimate frisbee. It was, in effect, my first time looking outwards and not just inwards, and my first time feeling truly at home.

I didn’t really miss academia by the time I finished up, seven years down the track. What I did miss was that specific sense of belonging, even if I hadn’t quite recognised it as such while I’d been there. And anime, which had steadily become more and more a part of my life, was forced to take a back seat for a while as I, along with many of my friends, were faced with more immediate concerns like attempting to get an honest-to-god full-time job, whether or not to move overseas, and how best to pay off what felt like an obscenely large student loan.

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By the time the dust had settled and I had become accustomed to my new life, I found myself once again wanting to establish some sense of community for myself. I was perfectly content with my social life outside of the internet, but it wasn’t the same as having somewhere I could talk candidly about my interests without having to justify them first – and after a long period of being able to be totally open and even having lengthy discussions about them, going back to only passively watching anime no longer seemed enough. I felt the need to somehow express myself again, and more importantly, to be part of a collective – however loosely defined (or dysfunctional).

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And so, in April 2013, I started up Otaku Lounge in the hopes of doing just that.

The rather intimidating concept of writing for a public audience took some getting used to and plenty of trial and error – I had never previously been acquainted with WordPress, or attempted to craft articles designed to appeal to anyone other than myself or some kind of academic board. I guess I must have done something right along the way though, because here I am almost two years later, still blogging about anime and with a few hundred people subscribed to my blog. I don’t fool myself into thinking for a second that even half of that number read everything I post, and certainly nowhere near that many people comment with any regularity, but I feel like I’ve more or less achieved what I initially set out to do and continue to aim towards still – namely, to be an active part of something larger than myself.

Blogging is about a lot of things for me, some more important than others: a steady give and take of ideas and opinions; sharing my own thoughts with a bunch of people who for some reason actually seem to care about what I might have to say; the personal satisfaction I get out of writing in general. But most of all, blogging, and blogging on anime in particular, is about gaining a certain kind of unquestioning acceptance, and about having a tangible engagement with a community that shares similar passions.

Blogging is a means of belonging.

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29 thoughts on “Looking Outwards: Anime, Blogging, and Belonging

  1. I really like this post! I have to run off to an exam for now, but I just wanted to know that this is something that I empathize with and I’m sure a lot of us empathize with! Thank you for sharing your feelings and I can tell they’re really heartfelt! *hugs*

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  2. Hear hear!

    “Belonging” is definitely a big thing for many of us. I don’t think I’d be into anime as much if I didn’t have a community, for instance.

    I think the really great thing about blogging is discovering people who care about you as an individual, despite never having met you personally.

    On that note, it’s been great having you around, Artemis. I really enjoy your posts and the variety of topics you cover. I’m also touched by how much effort you put into networking and making the blogging community a warmer, more vibrant place to be in.

    Keep up the good work! I look forward to many more excellent posts to come 🙂

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    • I think I’d probably still be as into anime on a surface level if I didn’t have a community I could relate and contribute to in some fashion – I was obsessed with anime from minute one, despite not understanding what anime actually was – but I doubt I’d be into it anywhere near as deeply. Watching anime is great and is still my number one passion I guess, but interacting closely with others has meant that I’ve been engaging more and more with anime on a much deeper level than I otherwise could have.

      And you’re right that one of the other awesome things about being part of a community like this is the feeling that people do genuinely care, even if they’ll probably never personally meet you. I think I’ve discovered not only much more about anime, but also much more about myself, in the process of becoming further involved, and hopefully I’ll continue to do so.

      Keep up the good work yourself! You help make this place what it is, too. 🙂

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  3. Yes. This. I am a newer fan to anime, but have always had interests that put me on the social outside (sci-fi, fantasy, heavy metal). Being a parent in his 40s, I started to blog so I could talk about what I watched (and is a fan of) somewhere since so many of my friends and co-workers do not watch anime. Yes: belonging. Nice post!

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    • I’m glad you also feel like you’ve gotten a sense of belonging out of anime and blogging. And new fan or seasoned viewer, parent or youngster, I’d like to think that everyone is able to help make this community a place where they can feel at home. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. You make a good point. Can I push it one step further? I think it was down to my experience of anime and of Japanese culture that I became open to the importance of community, having been something of a congenital loner before. Do you think that you also learned a sense of community from anime, and followed it to its source?

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    • That’s a good point you’ve got there too. And long story short, yes, I do feel that along the way, anime has not only given me a sense of community but also taught me about the importance of having one in the first place. There have been other instances of discovering and actively engaging with a community outside of my anime interests, but the community centered around anime and blogging have certainly been the most influential and long-term of these – and the more I get involved, the more I also appreciate the importance of being a part of it.

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  5. This is wonderful!! Really, a wonderful read! I love how anime effects each person differently in ways we can’t even appreciate without one first sharing! I love your blogging story! 🙂

    ~Jamie

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  6. Pingback: Anime Blogging: Writing, Comments and Beyond | Ninety's Blog

  7. Just after I moved to Japan a coworker introduced me to a bunch of otaku people she knew. It was the first time I ever mentioned a series (in this case, Hidamari Sketch) where everyone went “Ohh!” and not “Huh?” That felt great. I don’t see those guys as often as I’d like, alas, so I settle for online.

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    • Even in Japan I don’t have many friends that are into anime, and those that are still only watch casually, so in terms of offline socialising with other fans, I ironically do far less of that in the home of anime than I ever did in my own country. Which I guess makes blogging all the more significant to me.

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  8. Your start into anime fandom is very much like mine: I too started off as a kid watching Sailor Moon and Samurai Pizza Cats, having no idea that they were anime but that they had some kind of similarities. And for my early years, I also had trouble finding people who shared my hobby, especially at school. But thankfully I didn’t have to wait until university to find fellow fans – once I got into high school, I made a lot of friends who liked anime. My school even had an anime club! Since then, in all the schools I’ve attended and the jobs I’ve had, there’s always been at least someone who likes anime 😉

    But anyway, it’s great that blogging has helped you gain a sense of belonging. Considering that it’s barely 2 years old, the fact that you’ve gotten so many readers and followers in such a short time is awesome! It took me longer than that just to get more than 0-2 comments per post!

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    • Yeah, my situation definitely isn’t particularly unique in that regard. Neither my high school nor my university had an anime club or anything like that though, so what fellow anime fans I discovered offline I met purely by coincidence. Still, I’m not complaining – I’m really happy being able to blog like this and read about what others have to say, and I count myself quite lucky that I’m able to freely do so and to feel so welcome and involved. 🙂

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  9. Great post! I turned to blogging primarily to find a comfortable space to talk about anime with other people who liked it. My friends are awesome but most of them aren’t really into anime, or they watch a popular show or two (i.e. Attack on Titan or Fullmetal Alchemist) so sometimes it’s hard for me to tamp down on the enthusiasm when there’s such a big discrepancy in interest. It’s also valuable to hear what other bloggers are interested as well.

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  10. I think many commenters have already said what I wanted to say, but let me reiterate that I certainly agree with your post. My reason for blogging was quite simple (to just share my thoughts on anime and the likes), though what surprised me was the incredible responses of other anime bloggers. I didn’t think people would be that interested in what I write, but I was satisfied on liking and commenting on others’ content. It’s kind of cheesy, but this continued communication and sense of community, for instance in anitwitter (I’m still a softspoken individual in that little space, though), are actually what drives me more to write about the things I love, that normally I wouldn’t be able to talk about with my IRL friends whose interests lie somewhere else. Needless to say, blogging has helped me rekindle my love for writing, which I somehow lost when I entered high school.

    So, yeah, thanks for bringing this up. And your second anniversary is coming soon!

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    • Likewise, I was surprised (but really, really happy) when people responded to my posts and having conversations with me. It might be cheesy to say, but I think it’s absolutely true that positive and thoughtful feedback naturally inspires that continued communication and sense of community. And when it comes right down to it, that’s what I value the most about blogging. 🙂
      Anyhow, you’re welcome – and yes, it’ll be two years in April. The time’s really gone by quickly!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Likewise. My friends do watch anime, but mostly mainstream stuffs (the usual Naruto, Bleach, One Piece, though it’s more manga for these three; and also FMA, SAO Attack on Titan) so discussing with them is kinda difficult at times. Other than anime, their interests also lie more towards games, and even those games aren’t ones I normally play, lol. So I turned towards the internet. I’m fortunate enough that I already had my sense of “belonging” before I even started blogging, since I was a heavy anime forum-er before, but nowadays, I spend more time with the aniblogging community.. :p

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    • I never really got into any anime forums at all – I knew they were out there, but I guess I found them to be vaguely intimidating, and also felt that they didn’t really provide me with a space to properly call my own like having a blog does. But who knows, maybe someday. For now though, blogging fits about perfectly, and I’m really happy to have found that sense of belonging here with it. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  12. This is a wonderful post. Thank you for sharing. It’s wonderful to be able to “meet” people with the same passion. Your blog is such a pleasure to read. Like some have already posted here, I have friends who watch anime but many of them seem to do it solely for entertainment purposes. It’s hard to find people who “really” engage with the anime they’re watching and if they do, it seems to be only surface level. You seem to embrace going deeper and it’s great. Coming across blogs like yours gives me a sense of finding a kindred spirit. Ironically, I have never blogged because I’ve always been afraid of being unable to find some belonging. A fear of rejection is a strong one. I have digressed. Thank you for finding your belonging and helping others, like myself, find it in turn.

    Also, unrelated and possibly inappropriate for this post… But, I’m an English major and I plan to get my PhD as well. I would love to read your thesis if you wouldn’t mind sharing. It’s not about the literary cannon and it’s about anime? Sign me up! My email is estherkfrancois@gmail.com

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    • Thank you so much for saying so! I’m really glad you find this post (and my blog in general) fun or interesting in some way. I admit I was actually pretty nervous about this particular post, because I’m not really used to getting quite so personal when I blog here, so it’s been wonderful to get such a positive response.

      No problem, I’ll email you the link! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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