Category Archives: Otaku
One thing I think all of us anime fans can agree on is that this medium stimulates our imagination like few others we have encountered. The idea that we see what we want to see in the anime that we watch, for better or worse, has a lot to do with the particular “lens” we bring along when we watch — which naturally differs widely among anime fans.
Lately, however, I’ve come across the idea of “headcanon.” I take this word to mean the individual fan’s ideas of back story, or character qualities or experiences that we never actually see “on camera.” The word seems to stand opposite to “canon,” which as we all know refers to things explicitly seen or stated “on camera,” or included in the authentic back story to the show in question.
Now surely the development of headcanon is nothing new. I was not around when the original Star Trek series aired, but I would hardly be surprised to learn that the personal history and back story for every character from Capt. Kirk to Uhura, from Spock to Dr. McCoy, were entirely worked out — if not by the original authors, then by the fans. And I would likewise be certain that there were heated and impassioned conversations about the characters’ personal histories, likes, and dislikes among Star Trek fans of the 1960s, just as there are for Naruto fans today.
The idea of headcanon took on an entirely new level of applicability once I joined the Vocaloid fandom a couple of years ago. I have been involved in synthesized or digital music as a hobby for some 25 years, which means only that I approach the Vocaloids as primarily a hobbyist and a programmer. I see them as musical instruments. But of course this is only half of the interest in Vocaloids to the fandom, or perhaps only a quarter of the interest. In addition to the songs themselves and the voice banks that are used to make the songs, there are also the anime-character-like manifestations of each Vocaloid, most of which derive from the original box art. And where such box art was lacking (as with VY2) or mostly lacking (as with the new ZOLA voice banks), fans quickly stepped in and made their own art to express what they thought their favorite imaginary pop singers looked like.
Of course, we cannot get to know the Vocaloids through any anime series — only through their songs, and through what other fans say about their songs. While this idea is not original with me, I’m fond of saying that Vocaloids are very much like actual living pop stars. For example, like Justin Bieber, Kagamine Len has a discography, as well as a worldwide network of producers that write songs for him, and an even larger worldwide network of fans. Perhaps the most important difference between Kagamine Len and Justin Bieber is that Kagamine Len doesn’t actually exist.
We Vocaloid fans are unable to resist plunging into the realm of headcanon, it would seem, by making up our own stories about our favorite Vocaloids. I experienced this recently with particular strength when my copy of the ZOLA Project arrived in the mail. Almost before I had them installed on my computer, I had worked out part-time jobs for them, as well as ages that differed from canon but made more sense to me. I was just about to decide which of the three was married when I had to make myself stop.
We anime fans all too often take the same kind of plunge with anime, even though we are given a much larger amount of authentic material to work with. And as with the Vocaloids, your ideas about the characters’ histories and extra-canonical experiences in a particular show may differ from mine, or be more or less developed than mine. But if one thing is clear, it is that we cannot help ourselves. Whether for Vocaloids, Harry Potter, anime, or you name it, we will develop headcanon.
Since I first began to question myself several years ago about why anime had me so deeply in its grip, I have always been fascinated about the effect anime has on my imagination, and apparently not on mine only. I wish I were able to come up with smarter-sounding reasons as to why these things we call anime characters draw us in, to the point that we make fanart, write fanfiction, and of course develop headcanon. So far the best answers I can come up with are Because we love these characters and Because we find it enjoyable to imagine such things, but I am certain that people better educated in psychology and literature can come up with better answers, if not truer ones.
Perhaps the development of personal headcanon is our way as fans to put our own seal on our experience of anime. Whether or not we can explain it, I would suggest that we continue to enjoy it. I am not sure, but I have a suspicion that this too is something uniquely human that we all share, and by which as anime fans we can understand each other, at least to some extent.
We invite readers to submit questions to us regarding anime, culture, religion, or most any topic! We’d love to respond to your queries!
Last week, Torin sent us the following comment:
Hello! I sincerely apologize if this seems inappropriate, but I’ve been trying to find someone to ask about this for quite some time. I have a question regarding the general anime community’s apparent preoccupation with sex. I’ve noticed this both online and at conventions. My question is, WHY? I can write some of it off as hormones due to the high number of teenage anime fans, but I can’t seem to avoid encountering hordes of people whose main interests I consider seriously immoral. I very much enjoy cosplaying but the other fans that I encounter are driving me away from my interests.
Torin, that’s a great question…and a very complicated one. My immediate reaction is that what we consume, media-wise, is a reflection of who we are. American culture is definitely moving more toward both the “anything goes” attitude – so showing of “explicit drawing” or reveling in shotacon (<— this REALLY gets to me) is becoming a little more acceptable, especially among our younger generation.
Also, and this is more just our natural condition, we seek fulfillment in things that titillate. As anime has grown in popularity, it’s no surprise that individual fans would become preoccupied with sexualizing their characters – bizarrely or not. But with the advent of the Internet and the growth of convention culture, along with that idea I mentioned earlier about more and more acceptance of almost anything, these ideas go from private to public, and take on a life of their own as Tumblr, Twitter, forums and other outlets key on our “consume it now and consume it fast” attitude.
As for cosplaying, I’m less sure – I’m not really attuned to cosplay and convention culture, honestly. But certainly, when I attend cons, I’m pretty surprised at what I see (certainly not all of these girls are super fans of Yoko Littner, are they?!). But I do believe that same connection I mentioned above applies here. And it becomes very scary because as we push our boundaries further and further, lacking restraint, horrible things can occur. Isn’t there some connection here to rape culture and the problems that women encounter at anime conventions?
Torin continued his comments with the following: Read the rest of this entry
Something More: Redeeming Arrietty, Shinto Symbol Sasami-san, and 10 Signs You Might Be a Christian Otaku
Conservative Protestant website/publication, Christianity Today, places The Secret World of Arrietty among its honorable mentions in its listing of the “Most Redeeming Films of 2012.” [Christianity Today]
Meanwhile, the first episode of Sasami-san@Ganbaranai has grabbed attention for it’s religious allusions. Omo gives a great breakdown of the Shinto symbolism in episode one [Omonomono] while Zyl comments on some of these symbols as well [Sea Slugs!]
D.M. Dutcher gives an overview of anime and manga and of what Christians unfamiliar with the medium should be cautious. [Cacao, put down the shovel!]
And I’m a week or two late on this one, but I thought it good to include Dutcher’s list of “Ten Signs You Might Be A Christian Otaku,” which includes gems like the following [Cacao, put down the shovel!]:
As part of the Something More series of posts, each week Beneath the Tangles links to writings about anime and manga that involve religion and spirituality. If you’ve written such a piece or know of one, please email TWWK if you’d like it included.
IKKiCON, the largest anime convention in the Austin area, is concluding today, and I think most of the attendees are probably leaving feeling happy with the guests that showed up, the artists and vendors that were selling, and the assortment of interesting panels – all of which were, to me, as good or better than last year.
This was only the second con I’ve ever attended, so I’m still quite a newbie (contrast Tommy, the con veteran who blogs at Anime Bowl). A without a real agenda like last year, when I primarily visited to conclude my interview with Caitlin Glass, I felt quite detached from the proceedings. But because of that, I perhaps had a perspective unlike many others – from the outside looking in.
I Don’t Belong Here
I dressed for the con like I would on a regular workday, and largely because of that, I was the oddball at the proceedings. As I walked by Haruhi Suzumiya, Vash the Stampede, and lots of Hetalia characters whose names I didn’t know (strangely enough, I spotted zero Sword Art Online cosplayers), I probably looked the part of press, which I technically was, but…well, I’m a blogger, not a reporter.
My age also certainly played a role. I’m 31. Most of the people closest to me in age at the con were either organizers or parents walking their children around.
I adore the characters in Princess Jellyfish, particularly the protagonist, Tsukimi. Their awkward tendencies and feelings of wanting to often hide from the world are very relatable.
The show centers around five hermit-like, NEET otaku that live together in an old apartment complex in Tokyo and refer to themselves as the Amars or “nuns.” Their otaku interests range from trains to Three Kingdoms to traditional clothing and dolls to “gracefully aging” men. Tsukimi is the newest member and fits right in, which is a rare thing to happen for her as we learn, with her obsessive affinity for jellyfish. Although Tsukimi enjoys her life and the people she lives with, she admits from episode one realizing she doesn’t think she is what she was meant to be.
“Mom, I know I was supposed to turn into a princess, but somehow I became a freak.”
On the surface, she is referring to the way she looks, but on a deeper level I think she feels more should be happening in her life, that she should have become something greater. She is not sure what that thing is, she just knows. Read the rest of this entry
Pope Benedict XVI…in manga style…on a t-shirt or hoody…need I say more?
Seinime waxes nostalgia, with some talk about faith and prayer, in his narrative-driven post about Usagi Drop.
Taylor concludes her series on Christian symbolism and themes in My Little Pony.
A youtube response to an
troll? otaku-hatin’ Christian.
Zeroe4 reminisces about his grandfather’s death and his conversion experience after watching Sket Dance.
And a few weeks late, the beautiful couple of The Untold Story of Altair & Vega discuss the St. Peter figure in episode nine of Mawaru Penguindrum.
2DT wrote a wonderful post about the common separate between anime fans and religious folk on his blog. Referencing my anibloggers and religion survey from last year, he discusses the idea that it seems most anime fans simply aren’t interested (or are even against) organized religion. 2DT postulates that a reason for this is that there are “so many more exciting fictions” available than those presented in the Bible.
Please take a look through the comments below the survey. It was exciting for me to read commentary by some of my favorite bloggers and commentators, Christian and otherwise.
When I think about the intersection between anime and religion, my thoughts always turn to Katsucon 2010. For those who weren’t there, this was the weekend that both Katsucon and Family Life’s Christian Values Summit were held at the Gaylord.
Now, you’ll hear a lot of fantastic stories from convention attendees about crazy culture clashes that supposedly happened there, but my favorite wrap-up of the weekend came from a Vienna, VA woman who was attending the summit with her husband. She wrote:
As you can imagine, some of our fellow W2R attendees were not only confused, but horrified. Not understanding this culture, and what was going on created a disconcerting feeling in your gut. And now that I’ve done further research, I have to say I better understand the appeal, but remain concerned.
As for the staff of Family Life, you may be surprised to learn that Dennis Rainey & his wife (who founded FL) encouraged the W2R attendees to engage with these kids, ask what’s going on, & show them love, rather than judgmental looks. After all, they are the generation of the future!?
While it’s unfortunate that this particular Christian woman’s first brush with anime involved more Elfen Lied than anyone should have to experience, her reaction was exactly what anime fans often fear. The Christian group did their best not to be judgemental, but as you can see from her account, it was pretty difficult for them to be accepting. Imagine what they must have thought of Katsucon’s several Jesus cosplayers! Read the rest of this entry
AnimeAid is among the latest groups in the U.S. otaku community that are playing a visible role in raising funds for the Japanese earthquake victims. A joint venture between major conventions in the Washington DC area, AnimeAid seeks to commit “to the task of assisting fan based support initiatives throughout the area to maximize the impact in assisting the people of Japan.” The group’s activities include:
- aiding organizations in sharing their plans with others
- helping to consolidate activities to allow for effective outreach
- and mitigating the costs involved in charitable efforts
The AnimeAid website provides further details, including contact information and details about campaigns and initiaitives the organization is supporting. If you’re interested in working with AnimeAid, please visit the site.
Thanks to Lauren Orsini for informing me about this wonderful venture.
- More Genshiken Manga on the Way
News: The popular manga about otaku, Genshiken, will be continued as Genshiken II in Japan in Kondasha’s Monthly Afternoon magazine. The sequel manga will feature Ogiue, now the Genshiken president, as the main character of the college club. New characters will join in, including a cross-dressing boy named Hato.
Views: Genshiken introduced some of the most memorable characters in recent anime/manga history, but seemed to finish fairly conclusively. That said, I’m a fan of sequels, and am hoping to see an extension of characters I’ve grown to love. Ogiue has become a fan favorite as she struggled with personal demons in a cute sort of way. More than that, she is a character whose actions and thoughts reveal profound truths about the human condition. We’ll certainly discuss her on this blog in the future.
- Court Uses Beserk Manga to Strike Down Obsenity Laws in Oregon
News: The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals struck down two proposed laws meant to prevent minors from accessing “obscene” materials. Considered overly restrictive, the court used Beserk as an example of a work that contained content which wasn’t considered obscene, but would have been restricted through the laws.
Views: Censorship is always a touchy issue, made even more troublesome by the fact that the second law struck down was meant to protect minors from pedophiles. Laws or not, protecting minors starts as a social issue. It is at home that parents have the opportunity to instill values meant to protect their children. On another note, Judy Blume was also mentioned in the decision: has any celebrated childrens’ author been on as many banned/restricted book lists as her? Makes me wanna to read some Superfudge.
- Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act Bill Introduced in Senate
News: Veteran Senator from Vermont, Patrick Leahy, introduced a bill on Monday that would give the U.S. Attorney General considerable power in bringing down sites that infringe on copyright laws, even if the creators of the site are overseas.
Views: As we all remember from our Schoolhouse Rock lesson (video below), this bill still has a while to go before becoming a law. That said, this law would be a major development. No manga site wants to have to deal with the federal government. Perhaps this is a marked beginning to a change for viewing habits of manga fans, and that might be a good thing.
How A Bill Becomes a Law