Anime and manga fandom (otherwise known as fan community) is a worldwide community of fans of anime and manga. Anime includes animated series, films and videos, while manga includes Manga, graphic novels, drawings, and related artwork. They have their origin in Japanese entertainment, but the style and culture has spread worldwide since its introduction into the West in the 1990s.
Otaku is a Japanese term for people with obsessive interests, including anime, manga, or video games. In its original context, the term otaku is derived from a Japanese term for another's house or family (お宅, otaku), which is also used as an honorific second-person pronoun. The modern slang form, which is distinguished from the older usage by being written only in hiragana (おたく) or katakana (オタク or, less frequently, ヲタク), or rarely in rōmaji, appeared in the 1980s. In the anime Macross, first aired in 1982, the term was used by Lynn Minmay as an honorific term. It appears to have been coined by the humorist and essayist Akio Nakamori in his 1983 series An Investigation of "Otaku" (『おたく』の研究, "Otaku" no Kenkyū), printed in the lolicon magazine Manga Burikko. Animators like Haruhiko Mikimoto and Shōji Kawamori used the term among themselves as an honorific second-person pronoun since the late 1970s. After its wild spread usage by other Japanese people, however, it became pejorative and increasingly offensive in the 90's, implying that a person is socially inept. Otaku can be seen as being similar to the English terms geek or nerd. However, the term started to be used by anime and manga fans themselves again starting in the 2000s, in a more general and positive way, and today it is often used by those outside of the fandom to refer to fans of anime or manga. However, older generation otaku, like Otaking(King of Otakus) Toshio Okada, in his book Otaku Wa Sude Ni Shindeiru(オタクはすでに死んでいる) said the newer generation of self-proclaimed otakus are not real otakus, as they lack the passion and research sense into a particular sub-culture subject, and are only common fans which only over spent in buying products.
History of the community
Anime and manga fandom traces back to at least the 1970s when fans of the series banded together to get Space Battleship Yamato back on the air after it stopped airing on Japanese television. In Japan, anime and manga are referred to collectively as the content industry: anime, video games, manga, and other related merchandise are different types of media focused around the same content.
However, the manga market in Japan is beginning to decline. In 2007, the manga industry showed a 4% decrease in sales from the previous year, its fifth consecutive year of decline. Japanese and American researchers have proposed that this may be due to the decrease in the young population in Japan and a lack of interest in reading. The manga critic and translator Matt Thorn stated that there was a growing dissatisfaction with the lack of originality found in many manga. Al Kahn, CEO of 4Kids Entertainment, stated that "Manga is a problem because we are in a culture that is not a reading culture" and that "Manga is dying in Japan." Liza Coppola, vice president of Viz Media, said that the widespread availability of cell phones and ability to view anime and manga on cell phones is likely the cause of decline in demand for anime and manga.
English-language fan communities
The fan community in the English-speaking world began in the 1970s and steadily grew. According to Japanophile Fred Patten, the very first fan club devoted to Japanese animation was the Cartoon/Fantasy Organization, which began in Los Angeles in 1977. Its growth characterized by waves that Gilles Poitras as well as Bruce Lewis and Cathy Sterling name as specific "generations", often instigated by a singular work.
In the Philippines, GMA-7 began airing Voltes V in 1978. It was the first exposure of Filipinos to Japanese animation. Voltes V soon became very popular between children all around the Philippines which led to the sudden popularity of other anime series' related to the Super Robot genre in the Philippines. It was soon banned in 1979 by then president Ferdinand Marcos, five episodes before the end of the series, along with the other anime series' airing at the time, for its violence and warlike themes. This however, did not hinder the Filipinos' growing love of anime, leading to the large popularity of anime and manga throughout the Philippines.
Poitras identifies the first generation as the "Astro Boy Generation". Despite being the first and most popular animated Japanese television series, Astro Boy did not create many hardcore fans, but it exposed viewers to the medium and increased their receptivity towards it later on. The "Early Fans" or "Old Timers" generation that consumed titles like Speed Racer, Eighth Man, and Battle of the Planets as staples. These fans were much more aware that what they were consuming was Japanese and took the initiative to search for more. The "Yamato" or "Star Blazers" generation originating from the series Space Battleship Yamato that originally aired in 1979–80. Poitras states that this generation was so loyal because Star Blazer's strong narration required viewers to never miss an episode. The Poitras dubs the next generation the "Robotech Generation", after the 1985 television series Robotech, is the earliest major generation in the USA and is distinguished by fans clearly recognizing anime as a Japanese product with significant differences from American animation. Fans from this generation and the Yamato Generation were to make up the significant portion of organized fandom throughout the 1980s. The film Akira, which played in art theaters in December 1989, produced a cult following that Poitras names the "Akira Generation". Akira inspired some to move on to other works but stalled many becoming an isolated work in their eyes, overshadowing the creative context of anime and manga it represented.
Then in the 1990s, Poitras states that "something new happened in the U.S.", the "Sailor Moon Generation" was born. Previous generations consisted mostly of college age fans, however in 1995 Sailor Moon was adapted into English and caught the attention of people even as young as grade school in age, many of them female. In the span of a few months, the fan demographic changed dramatically and as their interests diversified, so did the titles adapted into English. Poitras, Lewis and Sterling describe current generation of fans as the "Otaku Generation", however not necessarily applying the word "otaku" to current fans. For this generation, the release of a title onto the television in the past was unusual enough that fans often remember their first anime experience as something special. Poitras remarked that as of the "Otaku Generation", the influx of fans into the fandom is better characterized by a continuous stream than as waves as it was in the past.
In the United States, the fan community began as an offshoot of science fiction fan community, with fans bringing imported copies of Japanese manga to conventions. Before anime began to be licensed in the U.S., fans who wanted to get a hold of anime would leak copies of anime movies and subtitle them, thus marking the start of fansubs. By 1994, anime had become more common in the U.S., and had begun being translated into English and shown on television, most commonly shōnen series such as Pokémon and Astro Boy.
According to Mike Tatsugawa, the founder and CEO of the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation, the first milestone for anime in the U.S. was in the 1980s with the advent of the Internet. With the Internet, fans were able to more easily communicate with each other and thus better able to exchange fan-subtitled tapes and higher quality versions of anime. Some experts, such as Susan Napier, a Professor of Japanese Language and Literature, say that Akira marked the first milestone. However, most experts agree that the next milestone was in 1992 when U.S. Renditions, a film importer, released the first English-subtitled anime videotape that year, entitled Gunbuster. According to Tatsugawa, the success of Gunbuster triggered a flurry of releases.
Due to the localization process, many people who grew up watching anime did so not realizing that it originated in Japan. After the success of Power Rangers (which first aired in 1993), U.S. television companies began broadcasting Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z in 1995 and 1996 respectively. However, due to the relative failure of the latter two (both shows brought success when aired at a later time on Cartoon Network), anime did not seem like it would become mainstream. However, the anime boom in the U.S. began with the airing of the anime series Pokémon in syndication in 1998, which served as proof to U.S. broadcasters and distributors that Japanese media could succeed in the U.S. market. It was only after Pokémon and Power Rangers left the mainstream that U.S. audiences became aware of anime's Japanese origins.
European fan communities (France, Italy, Spain and Germany)
In the '70s, Japanese Animation reached Europe mainly with productions aimed at European and Japanese children with the main results being Heidi, Vicky the Vicking and Barbapapa. However these works were not recognized as Japanese productions and did not earn much of a dedicated fanbase. However Italy, Spain and France grew an interest for more Japanese animation for their television programming, due to success of previous co-productions, Japan's productive output and cheap selling price in comparison to US animation. Particularly Italy imported the most anime outside of Japan. Like in the Philippines, the Super Robot Genre became very popular with series such as UFO Robot Grendizer and Mazinger Z. However many more genres got added to the mix, with space opera such as Captain Harlock, shojo shows like Candy Candy and Rose of Versailles, sports like Captain Tsubasa and more. Germany however largely rejected Anime other than western literature adaptations of Nippon Animation, with Speed Racers and Captain Future proving to be problematic. It was only during the rise of cable television during the '90s that Japanese series such as Queen of the Millennia, and Rose of Versailles went on air. A strong affinity for unique Japanese productions was developed among a generation of German children during this period.
Appeal of anime and manga
One major appeal of anime is its artwork; some fans claim that its visual quality is superior to that found in most animated series made in the United States and many ignore all non-Japanese animation. One fan described enjoying anime because "there is no dividing line between special effects and what is real...it's just the way somebody imagined it. The content editor of Anime Fringe, Holly Kolodziejczak, described being amazed by anime's depth that was unlike the cartoons she had seen before: "the characters had real personalities, their own feelings and motivations for their actions, strengths and flaws that enhanced their characters. They were more like real people, and thus people could much more readily identify with them." Larry Green of Nausicaa.net agreed and added that anime discusses subjects for both adults and children whereas in the United States animation is traditionally for children. He also stated that any viewer would be able to find something to their liking due to anime's large scale of production.
Susan J. Napier, a Professor of Japanese Language and Literature, stated that anime fans "find refuge in a culture that diverges from the typical American way of life." She pointed out that fascination with Japanese culture is not a new concept and has existed since the mid-19th century. For example, an 1876 painting by Claude Monet entitled La Japonaise depicts Monet's wife wearing a kimono, with Japanese hand fans shown in the background. Napier described this interest in Japan as an "escape from the Industrial Revolution ... a pastoral utopia" for many Europeans.
Fan service is material in a series which is intentionally added to please the audience. Although fan service usually refers to sexually provocative scenes, it also refers more generally to events of little plot value designed to excite viewers or simply make them take notice, such as big explosions and battle scenes. When anime and manga are translated into English by U.S. companies, the original work is often edited to remove some of the fan service to make it more appropriate for U.S. audiences. Mike Tatsugawa explained this change as a result of a difference between cultural values of Japan and the U.S. In fact, some anime seem to feature little else other than fan service as their selling point. Some believe that the prevalence of fan service indicates a lack of maturity within the fandom; an editor of Del Rey Manga joked that manga Negima!, which contained fan service, should be rated as "for immature readers 16+" rather than for "mature readers 16+".
Anime and manga have stimulated many young people to learn the Japanese language. In the 1970s, Naoka Takaya's Saskatoon Japanese Language School was founded with a student body consisting of primarily Japanese-Canadians interested in polishing their language skills for their return to Japan. However, popularity for the language began to rise; the Japanese Language Proficiency Test was first held in 1984 in response to growing demand for standardized Japanese language certification. Yuki Sasaki, who works for the Japanese language program at the University of Georgia, noted that when she first started in the program in 1994, most students were interested in Japanese for internal business majors; however, in 2004, students are more interested in "translating Japanese pop-song lyrics and talk excitedly about the Japanese anime character Card Captor Sakura." Echoing this sentiment, Takaya also stated that about 60% of her students are studying Japanese because of anime.
Despite some fansubbers declaring (due to fansubbing's illegality) that they will stop distribution once a series is licensed, many fansubbed versions of anime are produced because of the stiff localization process in official translations. According to one survey only 9% of fans prefer dubbing over subs; some fans believe that the localization process degrades the quality of anime and thus look to fansubs for the purer form of Japanese culture, feeling that something is lost in translation. Most hardcore fans are motivated by the desire not to miss the jokes and puns present in Japanese anime and manga. In fact, most people interested in anime express at least a passing desire to learn Japanese, but usually choose not to, due to either time constraints or rumours about the difficulty involved in learning Japanese. Japanese terms are so well integrated into the anime and manga fan culture that during a Fanime convention, a newcomer expressed confusion at some of the announcements because she was unable to understand the Japanese words used. As fans become more proficient at Japanese; they often also become more critical toward the quality of various translations; some critique the different translations of a single series by different fansub groups.
Some fans even decide to translate professionally. In fact, fluent English speakers who know sufficient Japanese are often preferred for translating over fluent Japanese speakers who know sufficient English, as the syntax of the latter group tends to be stiff. Del Rey Manga's editor finds much of their talent through conventions.
Anime and manga have also inspired many young people to learn about Japanese culture, and the anime fan community in fact encourages people to do so. Fans often learn about Japanese honorifics from anime and manga. Companies such as Del Rey Manga and GoComi add explanatory notes describing honorifics and other words and concepts that do not translate well between languages.
Technology and the Internet
Developments on the Internet have had profound effects on the anime fan community and the way in which anime is consumed. Additionally, fan interest in anime has inspired many developments in technology. Roughly 68% of fans obtain anime through downloading from the Internet or through their friends, a much larger proportion than in any other medium. As a result, fans have made some of the most sophisticated advances in peer-to-peer software in order to make searching for and downloading anime online faster. Other fans have created websites that uses a custom server to search the Internet for video mirrors and new episodes, similar to Google on how they crawl each website and saves the information gathered to the database. The search engine keeps every episodes up to date. VirtualDub, a video capture and processing utility, was first created for use on an anime film adaptation of Sailor Moon. The desire to simulate all forms of media that anime and manga comes in has caused PyTom to create Ren'Py, an open-source software engine that allows for the creation of visual novels without the need for a programming background.
Several online communities have been formed where fans can come together to share and interact. Sites that offer file sharing services are popular and influential where people can gain easy access to anime and manga. Fandom has also resulted in the creation of anime and manga fan communities on sites where people can share fan art, one of the most common ways for fans to express their love of anime. These communities tend to do more than just share files. Like most forums on the Internet, they discuss topics that they are interested in and want to know more about. These anime forums are becoming places for people to discuss the plot, characters, and styles of anime and manga.
Sightseeing in Japan
Many anime fans dream of one day visiting Japan. A large number of well-known travel agencies from Japan have begun offering anime tours. In 2003, the company Pop Japan Travel was founded to help customers experience Japan's content industry (including anime, games, food, and fashion) by allowing them to visit studios and meet artists, among other activities. Many different museums dedicated to the industry exist throughout Japan, such as the Suginami Animation Museum in Tokyo and the Tezuka Osamu Manga Museum in the Hyogo Prefecture. Other popular locations include places where people can enjoy anime-related activities, such as shopping for related merchandise or singing anime theme songs. Additionally, fans enjoy visiting real-life locations that serve as settings for some anime, and locations where live-action movies were filmed. For example, the popularity of Lucky Star brought many of its fans to the real-life settings of the anime, beginning in April 2007.
A popular location for anime fans to visit is Akihabara, located in Tokyo. Known as the Electric Town, it is a major shopping area where people can buy manga, anime, and other assorted otaku merchandise. The Tokyo Anime Center is one of the most popular spots in Akihabara, where a diverse set of events take place, such as the display of new anime films, related exhibitions, talk shows featuring voice actors, and public recordings of radio programs.