Anime Isn't For Everyone

Anime isn’t for everyone.

That’s not an elitist thing to say, that’s just the truth.

If you don’t like animation, you’re not likely to like anime.

If Japanese culture is completely alien and incomprehensible to you, you’re not likely to like a whole lot of anime.

If you have staunch political views that affect your enjoyment of media, there are plenty of anime that aren’t for you.

Happy Lesson 01.jpg

Why is this controversial? Why does anime need to be for everyone? Do we take people who hate animation and force them to watch Happy Lesson until they like it?

Anime isn’t just a medium, it’s a culture. We have our history, our values, and our norms, and they deserve respect.

The problem with the inclusivity paradigm invoked by proclaiming that “ANIME IS FOR EVERYONE” is that when a subculture begins to uphold inclusivity as a virtue, it eventually starts sacrificing parts of its core to inclusivity. This happens because of the fundamental truth that not everyone can hang. So if including everyone becomes the highest virtue, then a way must be found to include culturally incompatible people. If anime is for “everyone,” that ultimately means that intolerant people are welcome too.

It’s a slippery slope, and it all stems from the question of whether or not we hold respect for the subculture as a criterion for inclusion. For people at the ground level, the otaku of the general populace, who watch their anime, spend their hard-earned money on their anime figures, and muse about their favorite characters, the answer is easy: “You are welcome here, but respect my culture if you’re going to be part of it.”

For those on high, however: The journalist class, the critic class, and their contemporaries, those who operate from within the subculture, but from taste-maker and thought-leader positions, it’s a more difficult question to answer. Because many of those people are exactly the intolerant people who would end up under scrutiny.

When we think about intolerance, we’re quick to imagine racists, sexists, homophobes, transphobes, etc., and leave it at that. In a subculture, however, intolerance takes on more forms.

It’s the moe fan who nonetheless hates on fujoshi anime.

It’s the anime critic who can’t give moe anime, or its fans, a fair shake.

It’s the Anitwitter addict still ranting about Shield Hero as the show is ending.

People who don’t have a “live and let live” bone in their body, who lash out at differences just as superficial as race, gender, and sexual orientation. People who try to bend the subculture around their personal preferences, politics, and phobias, instead of coexisting with other anime fans of different stripes. People who are willing to do harm to the subculture and the people within it in order to ensure their egos get stroked a little bit more.

Anime isn’t for everyone.

But anime can be for anyone. They just need to understand and respect the culture that was there before them.