Shuffled amongst the steady stream of student folk that populate our campus, you may have noticed an increase in outward appreciation for anime. A once sacred ritual reserved for a small pocket of diehard fans and weebs (non-Japanese who are obsessed with Japanese culture) seems to have exploded out into the general population. More and more people are representing a previously sombre subculture with large printed t-shirts, iconic headwear and even tattoos.
But what’s the deal? Are there just heaps more anime geeks amongst us or is anime cool now?
When I was a young teen, anime was still very much in the shadow of comics and video games, even back before the Marvel cinematic orgy. The only shows on TV were the generic money grabs like Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh! and the occasional Shonen like Dragon Ball Z. To find something of real substance required YouTube deep dives and trips to the comic book store (shout out to Mark1).
Today there is an endless buffet of anime streaming via sites like Crunchyroll and Netflix, as well as in dark pockets of the internet that offer free anime in exchange for some rather dodgy pop-ups. There are countless genres within the space and mega hit shows that spin off movies, video games and a plethora of branded swag including toys, keychains, mouse pads and undies.
My best guess as to what sparked this anime avalanche is exposure. It’s not that anime is necessarily cool now, it’s just that more people are seeing it. More people have the opportunity to flick through shows and discover anime’s dirty little secrets. It’s fucking good.
There are no restrictions. The larger than life characters and worlds are not tethered to special effects budgets like other genres. The stories are adaptations of beloved manga (Japanese comics). Sure, they suffer from repetition and trends, but top tier anime shows are really solid.
I’m not saying you have to tattoo Naruto on your bicep, but maybe check out a Studio Ghibli movie and take your mind on a vacation.