Anime Fan Trap
Being a fan is a trap
Recently in episode five of my VOIDGAZERS show, I talked at length about the relationship between my anime fandom and my trans experience, and how my failure to competently identify what I needed from anime had gotten me sort of “lost" in the medium. It is rare that someone feels the strange draw which tells them they need to sample literally every anime ever made, because they are seeking something from it more nuanced and particular than they can identify themselves or consistently locate based on surface storytelling details.
A lot of my favorite anime over the last decade have done well to satisfyingly encapsulate the best things about who I had been up to the time they entered my life. Haruhi encapsulated the philosophical thinking I'd gotten into in my teens for similar reasons to her; K-On! Reflected the best elements of the friendships I'd developed over the years and was very proud of at the time. When Shirobako came out, I was most proud of my work ethic and constant need to produce, and it has helped me to define my personal goals.
Now that I'm on the other side of feeling like I get what I get out of anime, I also feel very little need to identify by way of it. I look at all the copious anime stuff I have and I just see a means of personal dissociation--of attempting to completely dissolve my sense of self through the sensory overload of looking at nothing but anime girls.
I think there are a lot of reasons people fall into the anime trap. The average anime fan isn't around long--maybe they're kind of awkward or spergie or just haven't developed a charisma yet, and anime helps them find it. Or maybe they have deeper psychological hangups about society or sexuality that anime helps them to contextualize. Maybe they are just looking for a sense of community, and in finding it with their friends, anime itself more becomes the means of facilitating their communication than the actual focus of their attention. There are also of course people who are just sincerely passionate about animation as a film medium, but unless those people care about styles beyond those common to anime, or at least get involved in creating anime themselves, then the particularity of that involvement becomes suspect (and in the latter case can also become even more).
One of my longtime fascinations as an anime fan has been with the “otaku room.” They come in various styles, but mostly I'm not talking about the well-manufactured collection, with it's clean shelves of statues of favorite characters and organized bookcases--Im talking about posters on the ceilings, dakimakura hanging from the walls, no white space clusterfucks like what I was known for. This was a pursuit of mine for exactly the reason of dissolution--to go beyond just “this is the stuff I like,” but for the things to overpower me and drown me out.
I recently started watching tiktok, and it hit me like a wave that I feel sad now when I see otaku rooms. Despite how I did mine, I have always been a fan of interior design and actually good-looking spaces--but my mentality was that I didn't know who I'm trying to be or how to reflect that in how I design my place other than anime chaos. Now, there are countless e-girls showing off their adorable room setups that do resonate with me in their tiktok videos--along with otaku showing off their collection rooms.
All of those videos have an odd confusion to them. The tiktoks about itasha cars are always about how proud the person is to be degenerate--which makes sense, as it is the statement made by the car. The otaku room people, though, have no rhyme or reason: just a collection to show you. They are almost never on-screen as a person, because they are not ready to be a person--only a room.