The Otaku's Guide to Quarantine

by Sullivan Wallace

I do not think I am being alarmist when I say that we are currently living through a very dire, very frightening time. As the coronavirus continues to make its way across the globe, spanning continents, countries, and cultures, we find ourselves with only one worthwhile solution: quarantining ourselves to our homes while we wait for the call to reemerge into the common light of day. 

Despite what the Twitter memes may say on the joys of introversion and cancelling plans, I believe that social isolation is not the natural state of the otaku. We inherently crave interaction with fellow maniacs, we need the social connections forged through mutual fandom to keep our community strong and healthy. One need look no further than the despair towards the effects this pandemic has had upon anime conventions. The spring and summer months are the social season for fans, and the cancellation of various cons across the country and the globe, no matter how necessary or vital for the safety of the public health, has understandably put a damper on the spirits of anime fans everywhere.

Austin has already written an article on how to support conventions, artists, and guests, even if they are no longer going through with their programming. My goal here is to outline ways to keep your cool as we deal with such an anxiety-provoking set of events. As Austin has pointed out, you really should not be reading an anime fan site for information on the coronavirus, so please read an accredited news source! Follow the guidelines set by the CDC and other health organizations, and make sure to have a supply of food, toiletries, and other essentials while we weather through this together.

In the meantime, here are some tips for mindfully engaging through your hobbies in the age of coronavirus. 

Clean Your Space

It may be incredibly tempting to keep your home a depression-nest for the time being, but the most sanitary and relieving thing you can do at the moment is start making sure your space is clean and organized. Wipe down your TV, gaming consoles, computers, and your bookshelves. Take the time to dust and clean your figures and organize your collection, you’ll feel better afterwards, trust me. It might also serve to sit down and do a KonMari cleanse, sit down one day and find what sparks joy in your home. We even did two whole episodes about that on the podcast!

Many of us lead busy lives where we don’t always have the time or the energy to care for our living situation as much as it may need, and this is the perfect time to do that if you can. It might even be helpful to look into rearranging or redecorating your room with what you have on hand. Move posters around, find a new display space for figures, or even just prune your shelves for things to donate once this all blows over. Whatever you do, don’t give into the temptation to just let your home get messier and more disorganized, it’s not going to help your mental health in the long run.

Catch-Up on your Backlog

Easier said than done, especially for those who will be working from home or completing schoolwork online. That said, finding a way to delineate your responsibilities from your normal recreation at home is crucial. Be sure to set time to do things you enjoy that aren’t related to work: watch a show you haven’t seen yet, play that game that’s been sitting on your shelf, read that manga you just bought. It’s helpful to set up boundaries between work and recreation when both of those activities now have to share the same space.

If you learn one thing from this show!

On the other hand, if you’re a student and you now seem to have endless free-time, particularly if you don’t have a job (or, your job has sent you home for the time being), it may be hard to engage with media that is unfamiliar outside of your comfort zone. Personally, I find that when I’m not focusing on my graduate studies that I become addicted to Twitter and dumb YouTube videos instead of watching a new anime or making progress in a video game. If this is the case, finding ways to limit your time on distracting or distressing websites and doing something that gets your imagination excited or your blood pumping is going to be beneficial. Use apps that limit time on certain websites, deactivate your account for a few days, or simply go cold turkey. It’s very easy to laze around during a time like this, it’s a very common reaction to stress, but it’s not going to serve your health in the long run.

At the same time, under no circumstances are you supposed to write the great American novel, found a tech startup, or begin a new “side-hustle” or whatever they’re calling it now. It’s important to schedule fun and make time for yourself, but never frame this as “being productive”. This is about making the most of a bad situation, so you have only two jobs right now: keep calm and stay healthy.

Find Ways to Stay Active

Yes, I know, the stereotype is nerds and otaku don’t like to leave their homes and engage in physical activity, but I’m going to let the number of Dragon Ball Z fans who love bodybuilding and all of the anime workout guides I see online counter that for me. Right now, most gyms are shuttering to practice social distancing, so whether you watch the latest anime season while on the treadmill or if you’ve never had to deal with a men’s public locker room (you brave soul), your options for working out are limited.

But there are plenty of ways to move your body while home-bound! There are plenty of in-home exercise tutorials on YouTube, and former ANN Answerman Justin Sevakis is leading digital CrossFit classes on YouTube. You could also take a page from various TikTok celebrities that I’ve never heard of and just dance in your room. If you’re like me, you love to just put on your earphones and lip sync to old anime openings from the 70s, songs from the Sailor Moon musicals, and pop music from the last decade in which your musical taste was relevant. You’re also like me if you know that any footage of this could be used to blackmail you for the rest of your waking days, so you really don’t have to upload it anywhere….

Me, listening to “Stupid Love” (2020) by Lady Gaga

Right now (well, as of this writing), it’s still OK to go outdoors, so load up your favorite OPs and EDs and go for a run or a walk in the park or around your house. It doesn’t have to be strenuous, fresh air and light exercise are good for your body and mind. Provided you practice social distancing and common sense, a quiet walk around your neighborhood should be something you aim to do at least once a day when the weather is nice. And hey! You could always take that opportunity to listen to some of your favorite anime podcasts! Hint-hint!

Just be sure to keep the recommended six feet of distance!

Get Creative!

Finding a relaxing outlet for pent-up energy will make this much easier and help soothe your anxiety. This is the perfect time to work on cosplay, draw fanart, build models, or take up a new project. You don’t have to be perfect at it, this is about the journey, not the destination. A very close friend of mine has taken up cross-stitching in the evenings, and I know many of the Third Impact gang build Gunpla in their spare time. Things like this are a welcome distraction and have the added benefit of having a final product to enjoy!

Take a page from Tohru’s book!

With many non-essential stores closing, it may be hard to find craft supplies or model kits if you don’t already have them on hand. I suggest looking around your home for materials you can reuse or repurpose. NHK’s Kawaii International has done two episodes on sustainable crafts and fashion that are great if you’re looking for some ideas (and have the added benefit of being super relaxing to watch!)

Many of you are upset over the convention cancellations due to this, and while I understand how frustrating that is, this can also be a great opportunity to work on making next year even better! Didn’t finish a cosplay in time? You have time now! Make a new panel, practice your makeup skills, or even just save up your money and start budgeting for the future. Having a con cancelled now just means you can work to make the next one you go to better than ever!

It’s also important to support other people whose creativity is their main source of income. If you know an artist you were planning on buying from this year, commission a piece from them, or see if they have ways to shop from them online. Even just donating to their Patreon or Ko-Fi account helps ensure that they have everything they need to get through this and that you’ll be able to see them when the con opens its doors again.

Keep in Touch with Friends

Perhaps the hardest part of all of this is that social distancing does require us to spend less time with our loved ones, for both our health and theirs. In a community that often faces struggles from depression, anxiety, and severe loneliness, this hits even harder. The most important thing we can do right now is be there for each other, even if we can’t do that face-to-face. Don’t just text your friends, call them if you can, do things together. The Kast app is a great way to hold digital movie nights, and swapping friend codes or gaming together on Discord helps the distance seem less severe. If you can’t talk all the time, just sending a brief, funny text or asking how someone is doing can make their day and yours a little brighter. Personally, I’ve found that playing Scrabble through the app on my phone with a friend in California helps me keep my mind off the news or from getting too depressed when I get bored. Bill and I have also begun watching Lupin III and Creamy Mami with the Kast app when we have a free evening. If there’s a fandom you love, I can guarantee you that there’s a Discord server for it that has watch parties or game nights, and if not, you can always join ours…

Where everybody knows your username
And they’re always glad you came

It’s easy to think that chatting with people on Twitter or Facebook is enough, but making sure to have quality time with your friends in whatever ways you can, even if it’s something as silly as having dinner together in separate houses over FaceTime. Call your family too, especially older relatives if you have a connection with them, they are the ones that will be hurt the most by this, so make sure not to forget them either.

H-hey, mom….

Many years ago, a person who gave a great deal to my life told me something about accepting painful situations. It does not mean you have to agree with it, or that you have to like it. It does not mean that you aren’t allowed to be upset, or cry, or feel like life isn’t fair. Acceptance means we follow the Buddhist teaching that while pain is inevitable, suffering is not. It hurts to have cons we wait for all year to cancel, it’s agonizing to be separated from our friends and loved ones, and it seems unfair to live in a world where terrifying, nerve-racking things like this happen and those in charge seem ill-prepared for it. All of these things are painful, but it is our duty to accept them, and carry on as best we can.

One day, it will be spring again, and you will return to your favorite con. You will go out to a restaurant and dine out on the patio with people passing by on the street. You will hear the laughter of your friends rise over the clinking of forks and plates while you eat together, with the sun warm on your face.

Until that day comes, keep calm and carry on.

Resources about coronavirus and staying healthy:
Center for Disease Control
World Health Organization

Places to watch anime free and legally while at home:
Crunchyroll – free with ads, new episodes are a week late when free.
Tubi TV – Has a huge selection of new and old favorites, as well as some oddities that are fun for a laugh!
Viz – Episodes of Sailor Moon, Ranma 1/2, JoJo’s, and more, free with ads via Hulu on their website.
AsianCrush – J and K dramas, live-action films, anime, and more.
Midnight Pulp – Collection of cult films and oddities from around the world including J-horror and anime such as Mononoke, Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer, and others.
Nozomi Entertainment – Official YouTube channel for Nozomi Entertainment, with classics such as Revolutionary Girl Utena and Emma: A Victorian Romance.
More can be found on Usamimi’s list!

Relaxing video, music, and podcast recommendations:
NHK Video – On-demand videos from Japan’s national broadcasting organization (think the BBC), with relaxing documentaries, travel videos, and news from Japan.
Sarah Akiyoshi’s Bamboo Flute Concert – Well-known Japanese bamboo flautist, this concert was performed on YouTube live for safety reasons. Akiyoshi mixes traditional Japanese music with modern flair, and it’s fun to listen to while cleaning or cooking (at least Marie Kondo says so!) Give her a listen!
LeVar Burton Reads – The former Reading Rainbow host and Star Trek alum reads some of the best short fiction from masters of the genre, including Neil Gaiman and Ray Bradbury. Each episode is around half an hour, great for listening in the bath, while cleaning, or for settling in at night.

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