When I first started watching anime, a part of me didn’t want to tell other people about it. At the time, anime fans were generally thought of as weird and awkward, and though I was a social, outgoing person, I still feared that I would be ostracized because of the stigma.
Some anime fans are socially awkward, while others are not, as with every other niche market. But there is a reason why this stereotype is specific to anime fans, and it is anchored in cultural differences, preconceived notions, and overenthusiastic hobbyists.
In this article, we will separate fact from fiction and lay out the intricacies surrounding the belief that anime fans are socially awkward. Read on to find out more!
Anime fans are socially awkward: Where did the generalization come from?
The idea that anime fans are socially awkward is perpetuated by the fact that they are a minority. There are certain elements that the majority could not understand; hence, they resort to stereotyping to make sense of it.
For example, they do not understand why anime fans wear costumes and go to conventions based on their favorite anime characters. Hence, this sub-culture is thought of as weird. But when you think about it, this is not much different from a Star Wars fan wearing a Darth Vader costume.
This can be attributed to cultural differences. The idea that someone from the West is copying a character that originates from the East is more jarring than if the opposite was true.
Consider the following elements in Spirited Away:
You can’t really find a Western equivalent of this show because anime typically includes unique components and spiritual undertones that are not common to other cultures.
In general, an anime fan would have a sense of admiration for Miyazaki films such as Spirited Away. If a person likes these “strange things,” then his entire person is then perceived as different and socially awkward.
What kind of behavior classifies anime fans as socially awkward?
Social awkwardness occurs when a person finds it difficult to communicate with others and is unable to pick up on social cues. While the idea that all anime fans are socially awkward is misguided, it is true that some anime fans can be socially awkward.
Some are simply introverts and are thereby uncomfortable with too much interaction. Others may have been diagnosed with social anxiety. Hence, they would have poor social skills even if they are not anime fans.
However, their social awkwardness can be exacerbated by the fact that they are anime fans. Naturally, they will gather around other people who have the same interests as them. That’s the only way they can be comfortable in social settings. The downside is that it may cause them to live in a bubble.
When they step out of their circle, they continue to speak with a vernacular limited to anime fans. They fail to adapt to societal norms and courtesies. This leads to them being tagged as socially awkward.
And then we have the extreme hobbyists that are known as “unwanted otakus.”
An otaku is someone who is deeply integrated in a fan culture. The term is most commonly associated with manga and anime sub-cultures, and it initially had negative connotations. However, it was eventually embraced by the different fan communities.
There is a difference between an otaku who is genuinely excited and passionate about their hobby, and an otaku who is pushy, overzealous, and disconnected from reality.
The overzealous fans who are disconnected from reality are called “unwanted otakus” by other anime fans. These are the ones who become so obsessed with anime that they begin to think of anime characters as actual people they have a relationship with.
They view the anime world as their reality. They wear their character costumes daily because they think that they are from that universe. Their speech and manner of action also reflect this belief. Understandably, these people come across as socially awkward.
This article will probably interest you as well: 10 Things Anime Fans Hate!
Are socially awkward people drawn to anime?
While all kinds of people are drawn to different hobbies, TV shows, and books, the storylines and elements included in anime make it particularly appealing to socially awkward people.
Anime has socially awkward main characters
Main characters in anime have usually endured a difficult childhood. Some of them were bullied for being weak, like Midoriya at the start of My Hero Academia. Others were considered as social outcasts, like Kawako of Kimi no Todoke.
Then through the series, these characters were given growth and strength. They were able to step out of their shells and bloom into the people they were meant to be. Socially awkward anime fans who have similar struggles then look to these characters as inspirations.
Anime provides an escape from reality
People who are classified as socially awkward typically have a hard time navigating their lives. As such, they choose to escape in outlets that allow them to forget their worries and concerns.
Because a lot of anime are written in fictional universes that do not correlate with the real world, it gives these people the opportunity to immerse themselves in something else entirely.
They become so invested in the characters and the storylines because they’d rather pour all their mental energy into these.
And while there is nothing wrong with this, some end up getting trapped in the fantasy. This perpetuates the stigma even more.
Did you know that in Japan, you can marry anime characters ? Unwanted otakus completely give up on the idea of a real-life romance and choose to obtain unofficial marriages with the anime characters they have fallen in love with.
Certain types of anime are marketed towards socially awkward people
There are animes with storylines that revolve around the life of NEETs; that is, people Not involved in Education, Employment, and Training. Socially awkward anime fans who are more reclusive and isolated than others particularly relate to these kinds of shows.
Furthermore, lengthy anime series that require hundreds of hours to watch cater to an audience that is willing to spend a significant amount of time indoors. This implies viewers with limited social interaction.
Does watching anime reinforce socially awkward behavior?
In general, watching anime does not reinforce socially awkward behavior. Many anime fans are eloquent, emotionally intelligent and have thriving social lives. This shows us that while there may be a correlation, we cannot immediately conclude causation.
In fact, watching anime could lead to better social interaction, as it could be used as a conversation starter. Recent years have seen anime hit the mainstream, and even the stereotypical “cool kids” have come to appreciate its entertainment value.
On the other hand, certain anime genres like ecchi, hentai, yuri, and yaoi cater to people with fetishes. Hence, people who watch anime classified under these may have different ideals and expectations for social interaction.
Perhaps, watching this trailer of Highschool DxD will help you understand what I’m getting at:
It may be worth considering that under the anime genres of harem and ecchi, this is considered mild. In this regard, we could say that watching anime like this reinforces their socially awkward behavior.