Your mid-twenties can be an awkward time if you’re an anime fan. You start realizing just how many high schoolers there are in anime, and maybe their stories and struggles don’t resonate with you as strongly anymore. Maybe the glitz and glitter of anime cons just don’t fill you with that wild-eyed youthful glee like they used to, and then we all let out a long sigh as we think about jobs, money, and (shivers) insurance.
There have been lots of discussions lately about the fact that there is still place in fandom for non-teens, but what exactly does that look like in practice? What are we 25 and uppers supposed to do? How do we not-quite-anime-babies-but-not-yet-oldtaku fit into this equation? Let me pose some Thoughts™.
Think back to the first time you really sank your teeth into anime fandom. It probably grew out of you finding a collection of friends, online or off, and you all really got into this anime thing together. You discovered new shows, learned how to torrent, bought overpriced F.Y.E. DVDs and every volume of Fruits Basket or Death Note, and you blossomed into a fledgling weeb! You probably attended your first con with those friends or met those friends at your first con, or what have you.
Wouldn’t it have just sucked if there were a bunch of olds hovering over you saying, “Wow you don’t know who SATOSHI KON is?!” (yet).
It’s important that we give the generation of fans under us some space. They are forming fandom in their own ways and on their own time. There is no Right Way to become an anime fan, and the classics to you may not be the classics to them. Sure, anyone of any age can enjoy and fall in love with anime of any time period, but they have to come to that on their own. Kids have to be allowed to be genuine fans, just as you were given that opportunity yourself. Make their vision of older anime fans as a people of wisdom and welcomeness, not holier-than-though-know-it-all-ists.
Congratulations, you’re a Real Adult now! That means you have explicit and implicit responsibilities, both to yourself and to this community you choose to be a part of. Now is the time you have to ask yourself the question of “how can I give back to the community that’s given so much to me?” And there’s no one right way to answer that question, but I do believe it’s your duty to ponder it.
Some people volunteer at conventions, some people start anime meet up groups. Other people become artist alley artists, some people lean into the anime blogosphere. For me, I’ve found my place as a convention panelist and podcaster. I’ve been able to aggregate all this arcane cartoon knowledge into a form that can educate and entertain others about this shared hobby. Whatever you feel led to pursue, go for it! It might not be something that occurs to you overnight, but spend some time thinking about what part of this fandom you love most and lean into it however you can.
Did I mention responsibility?
I’ve seen a lot in my decade+ of being in this community, and a lot of it was not pretty. Gatekeeping, sexism, racism, bullying, general rudeness, harassment of all shapes and sizes…. the anime community has it all, online and off. But instead of throwing up your hands in frustration, or sitting back and complaining on the internet, do your best to counteract those things in your own context and encourage others to do the same.
I know, it’s hard to go into a convention, stand on a soapbox and yell, “Hey folks, if you’re a sexual predator, stop it! Get some help!” and no one is asking for that. But what you can do, of course, is A). don’t be a sex pest, and B). if you see something, say something. Con staff is going to want to know if there are unsavory folks attending their convention because obviously, that’s a huge liability and people can get hurt.
Be enthusiastically and earnestly inclusive
Speaking out also works in the reverse. As much as actions and words can create division, they can bring us together instead.
In every corner of society, there are folks willingly and unwillingly attempting to pit people against each other based on big stuff and small stuff. Nerd spaces are constantly fighting over arbitrary nonsense like brand loyalty, whether or not someone is a “real fan”, or complaining about “thots” or “normies.”
All these barriers are extremely pointless, arbitrary, gatekeepy, and lame, even if you think it’s “just a joke.” Who cares if someone expresses fandom differently than you? Nerd spaces are for everyone, anime is for everyone, and if you don’t like that, that’s a you problem.
Use fandom space to bring people together, in a context where they may have no other place where they belong.
My perspective has changed a lot since my first few anime cons. Times change, I’ve changed, and I try and embrace that every day. Every time I go to a con, do a panel, or review an anime on a podcast, I see that as a small chance to make a positive impact. In a world where there’s so much strife and pain, it takes everyone working together, living their best life, to build a community worth having.
Age should not dictate whether you can/should participate in anime spaces. Anime is for everyone, old and young. Age merely dictates what is rightfully expected of you within these spaces. Step up to the challenge and embrace it!
That’s my soapbox. I hope to still be revisiting this topic, even when I’m 50.