It's great to be an otaku today, though I’m certainly not as hardcore as some fans. My shrines to Tenchi Muyo have been packed in boxes, but my dining area still features a beautiful Vampire Princess Miyu poster, and action figures are scattered around my house. We grow up, we get new interests, but we’ll always be otakus at heart. We’ll see someone with a Naruto t-shirt and give them a smile and a nod, that is, if we don’t have time to start up a whole conversation about the inherent coolness of ninjas.
When I started doing columns here at theOtaku.com, it was great because suddenly I was in touch with my audience. People from all walks of life, all demographics, could give me input, correct my mistakes, and point out something I forgot to factor in.
I’m excited about Version Vibrant, and I can’t wait to try out my columns again. I do plan to put in more information and news updates about topics I find interesting, as well as focus on my columns about aspects of otaku life. I plan to set up a tagging system to identify different topics, so if you’re only interested in one thing, you can just check on that.
Some of the topics I’m planning to cover are:
Anime Conventions, AMVs, Otaku Socialization, Cosplay, Dealing with Parents, Writing, Publishing, Artists Alley, and Making a Difference in the Anime World
Okay, so I haven't posted in forever. I keep meaning to get back to posting, but revamping my site has gotten in the way of writing articles.
But I saw this video and couldn't keep from linking to it. Its great for all of those of us who have gotten the "why don't they look Japanese???" question. Unfortunately the video's subtitles go pretty fast, but even just the visuals are great and I definitely learned a few things.
Making the Convention Argument :: Teens' Guide to Parents
It seems like a lot of teen otaku are trying to figure out how to convince their parents to let them attend a convention. Now, this will be different for every person, because you each know your parents far better than I do, but for the average parent, here are some talking points.
And remember, to most parents, anime is just odd. They think of cartoons as something for little kids, not teenagers. They don’t understand why you would be interested in it. And they also want to keep you safe.
One of the most important things I’d caution you against when trying to convince your parents about anything is to come into the discussion fully armed as if it were a debate. You want to try to predict what arguments they're going to make and have some solid evidence to counteract it. Appearing mature during the conversation will go a long way toward convincing them you're mature enough to actually attend. Never use pouting, crying, yelling, or other dramatics to try to make your point, because nothing will make you look childish faster. Your goal here is to make them reevaluate their opinion of you and decide that you are truly old enough to either make your own decisions or at least have input in them.
Why you like anime.
Central to the process of convincing them to let you go may very well be also making them accept why you like anime. Come up with some lessons you’ve learned, cultural insights you’ve gained, friendships formed, etc.—whatever it may be that makes anime so important to you. Clearly and concisely tell them why you would like to go to the convention and what you hope to gain.
Conventions of any kind can look “dangerous” to parents. A bunch of teens getting together in one place? Even teens can acknowledge that can be a recipe for disaster!
One thing you want to do is reassure your parents that there is security and staff at the convention, people who are trained to deal with any situation that may arise. You may want to show them the rules and regulations for the convention (make sure you’ve read them yourself!) to show that most of the actions they're worried about (underage drinking, lewd behavior) are clearly not allowed at the convention and that staff will act on any instances of those things they see. If they have further concerns, it may be possible to get in touch with someone from the convention who can relieve some of those worries, but as it gets closer and closer to the convention, staff may be harder to reach.
Persuade in Force
Gather your friends and make a group weekend of it with one or two trusted parents as chaperones. You’ll need a parent to abide by most convention rules, so if one of your friends has an at least anime tolerate parent, convince that parent to chaperone the trip and then start working on your own folks. If they know that another parent they trust is going, they will be more likely to allow you to attend as well.
If you need to travel to the convention, convincing your parents to pay can be tricky. Not only do you need to get there, but so do your chaperones. Most conventions require a parent on site (some have to have the parents registered, others just a parental permission sheet) if you are under the age of sixteen. This means that at the very least you need a friend with a parent interested in going.
One way you can try to get your family to attend the convention, or at least transport you there, is to sell this as a family vacation. Now, if you’re just there for the weekend, this might mean giving up some of your convention time to eat dinner with the family or visit a tourist attraction, but that’s still better than no convention at all. Do some research before you approach your parents about what interesting things are going on in that city and attractions that your parents might be interested in.
Another reason they might not want to let you go is they're afraid you'll blow all your money either at the con or making your costume. One thing I’d suggest is come up with a budget/savings plan before the convention and make it clear to both them and yourself that you won’t spend more than your budget. Be reasonable though; know that you will spend about $20-30 a day on food at least, if you aren’t able to stay at home. Even if you just end up snacking all day, those pops and snacks will add up. Maybe come up with a plan, like that you are going to bring bread and sandwich materials to cut down on your food costs. Acknowledge that your parents have a point when it comes to money, because you will be spending a good chunk at the convention. Even just for yourself, it's good to think ahead of time about how much money you want to spend and then remember that during the convention when something cute and shiny catches your eye.
The closer your first anime convention is, the better. It’ll be easier to convince your parents to let you attend, and it will save you money. With anime conventions spouting up all over the country, you can probably find one nearby. Convincing your parents to take you to Otakon in Baltimore for your first convention, when you live in Florida, might be a bit of a stretch. Check animecons.com to find out about conventions you may have never heard of. You could also look to see if there's a science fiction convention in your area if there isn’t an anime one. Those conventions often have anime programming.
What will your parents do?
This point can be best summed up in my previous column, Parents at Conventions. There I stress how to best prepare younger siblings for conventions and make suggestions on what your parents can do while you’re doing your own thing. Keep in mind what interests your parents have, maybe they like cooking or history, and try to see if there are any panels listed once the panel schedules are up that meet those interests. It might be good to see if you can get a hold of the previous year's schedule, as often panels will reappear and it will give you an idea of what kind of panels dominate the convention.
If you’re brining your parents to the convention with you, you might want to plan ahead of time how to cover yaoi and yuri if your parents are at all homophobic. A parent who might not care about gay/lesbians in a normal situation might get overwhelmed by the sheer amount “OMG, let's make two pretty boys kiss!!!!” that’s going on at a convention. Warning them ahead of time (as long as you don’t think they're going to keep you from going) might help avert an awkward situation later. You can try to keep it a secret from them, but chances are, they’ll find out what yaoi is.
So those are my thoughts on the subject. Please ask me any questions in the comments, and I’ll try to clarify and help you with your situation, or message me as well if you want personal help. Not all parents will be persuaded, unfortunately, but if you make a good argument one year and get them thinking, then it's possible that next year they might just decide to let you go. I remember the worst thing about being a teen was hearing “when you’re older,” but sometimes that’s just life.
Countering Your Parent's Complaints about Anime :: Parent's Guide to Anime P3
This is something that again is written towards parents. So whether this is something you want to forward on, or just pull your arguments out to use when your parents say "Isn't it violent?" "Isn't it cartoon porn?", I hope you find it useful. Now, I know some of you may not like my section on setting limits, but at the same time, just like video games and everything else, anime gets a bad name because parents don’t know what it’s about.
And I do believe strongly that parents should know what their kids are reading, not to censor it, but to be there to answer questions and give a new level of connection between parents and their kids. My parents usually knew what I was reading. Sure, I hid some lemon fan fics from them when I was thirteen, but that was more out of embarrassment than them actually being mad if they knew I was reading it. Anything that is unknown is going to cause more uneasiness, especially for parents. Teaching your parents about manga ratings can also ensure they don’t give your little brother an 17+ manga for Christmas while trying to be a supportive parent.
Plus, I think at the very least, my words should remind some of your teenagers how your parents are viewing what you do. Nothing helps to counter their arguments like legitimately understanding where they are coming from. That’s the tactic I always used on my parents and a tactic they encouraged me to use. And now it helps a lot as I’m a nanny and trying to bridge the gap between preteens and their parents who don’t get why I’m giving their kids manga.
Is Anime too Violent for my Kid?
What About the Nudity?
That depends on the age of your kid and in what form they are getting their anime (TV, internet, manga). In reality, most anime is censored on American TV. Three episodes of Pokémon were cut from the American series, one being the famous seizure episode, another involving cross-dressing that couldn’t be ignored (the guy has inflatable boobs and is showing them off), and the last because a gun is waved at one of the characters. In other words, the anime which is aired on CW and similar channels is not going to be any more violent than any other cartoon on the air.
On the other hand, you might think that these are just cartoons, and therefore they aren’t graphic or too adult for children of any age. Most anime in America comes with age recommendations. Granted, back when I was fifteen and getting into anime, I routinely watched things rated “17+,” but that was because the only reason for the rating was nudity. Personally, I was brought up believing that nudity isn’t an issue. Most of the time the nudity in anime (at least in children’s shows) is not of a sexual nature. They simply do not make as big of a deal about it as we do. The fact that there is a bit of naked Sailor Moon while she is transforming into her magical girl outfit simply isn’t a big deal.
Really, anime comes in about as many varieties as movies and television shows. Pay attention to the ratings, and don’t forget that there can be nudity and violence. Shows on CW and Cartoon Network are going to be edited for TV and fit within those stations’ standards. Cartoon Network does show an evening programming run called Adult Swim, and this starts around midnight, depending on your time zone. Children aren’t usually up that late, but the network does make it clear that these are more adult shows and may contain content that may not be appropriate for those under 17. Personally, I think most of the shows are more likely inappropriate for those under about fifteen, since these shows are not even as bad as an R-rated movie. Mostly there is some crude language, and the violence is more likely to have blood and death than in daytime cartoons. There might also be a more sexual nature to the shows, but the actual act of sex is not shown.
I don’t want to tell you to censor what your kids read or watch, because my parents let my brother and me read and watch a lot of things, and I turned out just fine. I was given adult novels when I was thirteen and taken to some R-rated movies. But my parents always knew why a movie was rated R before we went, so that they could make an informed decision about whether or not the movie was all right for us to see.
That’s a parent’s job. Not to limit their child as much as to give them guidelines to pick out the right books and television shows. If you make something forbidden, children will go out of their way to watch it anyway. Kids are curious about what their parents say they shouldn’t do. And teens want to rebel against any limits they don’t understand.
So the first step is to sit down with your child and watch or read with them. Why not spend family time reading out loud in different voices or snuggling under a blanket to watch My Neighbor Totoro? It’s great bonding time, and they are going to love it.
With older teens, it’s not as necessary to read their books (though an occasional glance can’t hurt), but it is important to talk to them about issues. Whether we are talking about anime, manga, or teen dramas, teenagers get a lot of different views on the world. Talking to your teen about sex and drugs in a realistic manner can help them form their own views that will be strong enough to stand up to what they see in the media. And I mean real talks, not just “smoking is bad.” Everyone knows that smoking is bad, drugs are bad, yet why do people do them? That’s where the talks need to go, past the generalities.
Manga can be a good tool for introducing new subjects to your kids. A series called Confidential Confessions is kind of the after school special in manga form. It discusses sex, rape, drugs, abuse, molestation, and other topics that teens worry about. While we all hope those things don’t happen to someone we know, or especially to our children, it’s good to have an idea of how to deal with them if they do happen. And even better yet, having knowledge can help prevent those things from happening.
Most manga and anime companies these days put ratings on their anime and manga, which can help you to know what to buy for your kid. The thing to keep in mind, though, is that the ratings may not always reflect how you feel. Typically there is a division by age, such as: All Ages, 10+, 13+, 16+, and 18+. Some companies divide these up more, but Teen (13+) and Mature (18+) are almost always a classification. Tokyopop has recently released a new comprehensive ratings system with forty indicators of the content of their books.
Anime and manga are also an excellent cultural learning tool. There are many books hitting the market about Japanese culture and heritage, along with possible language and culture classes in your area. Even just encouraging your children to watch their favorite anime’s subtitled version is a great way to help their reading comprehension. They can also begin to make a connection between the Japanese that they see in the subtitles and the words that they hear.
Another skill they’ll learn (and you’ll probably pick up also) is how to read the “wrong” way. Japanese manga is printed in right to left format, and you’ll be amazed at how quickly it becomes normal to switch to reading like that.
In addition, Japanese and other Asian languages are very difficult to learn after the teen years because of brain synapses required to speak non-Indo-European languages need to be developed at an early age. While most Japanese students learn English, simply knowing Japanese cultural customs can be useful for future business interactions as Japan grows as a political and economic power.
At the moment I'm working on an essay about trying to convince your parents to let you go to anime conventions. Can't guarantee it'll work, but I'll at least give you a good argument on why a convention is more than just a bunch of teenagers acting stupid.
Here's an interesting bit of industry analysis about manga and audience. It’s from the YPulse YA conference. YPulse is a newsletter that focuses on news items and essays that are about marketing towards teens and things those marketers should be aware of. They've discussed manga in the past and are pretty "hip" on new medias, manga, etc. The second paragraph ties into parents and manga as well,
"The Visual Storytelling panel was awesome! They were super vibrant and offered all sorts of cool impassioned information on the world of graphic novels -- not really anything super surprising in the future for graphic novels or comics, just that they are here to stay! They also talked quite a bit about the role of girls in the industry and how they are among some of the most avid readers. I found this particularly interesting: Andrew Farago pointed out that in pre-war American EVERYBODY read "the comics" and there were few distinctions across gender. After the War, it somehow became a boy thing and the stigma has persisted even though girls today read a ton of graphic novels, manga and comics.
"A question a lot of folks wanted to address was how to deal with parents that dismiss manga and the like as not serious reading... a waste of time. The panelists agreed that emphasizing the characters and their righteous moral journeys was one way to sway them. Farago reminded us of the mainstream popularity of Persepolis, and that American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang won the Michael L Printz Award and was a National Book Award finalist in 2005. The literary world is taking this genre seriously. This might offer some validation to those that need it.
"Reluctant readers (aka boys) want action and honesty, and both authors and publishers talked about how alternative tie-ins like games are a great way to attract readers. Also, non-fiction still provides an important draw. I was particularly interested in Jeff Savage's experience with his mostly boy fan base. He talked about how he thinks his books are so popular simply because of his readers love of the subject matter: sports. Seems like a no-brainer, right? But it's a genre, if you will, and one that I hadn't ever paid much attention to. I will now. "
Anime 101 for Parents :: Parent's Guide to Anime P2
Like the other columns in this series, this is written towards the confused parent who’s just trying to make sense of it all. So today, we have some basic descriptions of what anime is and what we mean when we say there is a lot of variety to it.
An Intro to Anime
As a concerned parent, you might have heard things like “All Japanese cartoons are porn” or “What do pre/teens see in cartoons?” and you’re likely wondering, well, what do they see in it, and what exactly is anime?
Have no fear, all shall be revealed in time.
In 1995 and 1996 respectively, Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z came to American TV, beginning the integration of anime into mainstream media. Sure, anime had been in America before that, but it was only available on imported VHS tapes and was rarely shown on television. There had also been Speed Racer and Transformers, but these shows were portrayed very clearly as children’s shows and many people did not even realize that these were Japanese in origin. The limited availability made anime mostly the domain of “geeks,” as it was available at comic book shops and was popularized through viewing rooms at science-fiction conventions. These shows began to bring anime to the attention of the general public, but it wasn’t until Pokémon hit the airwaves that things really took off for anime in America.
Now many kids enjoy shows like Naruto, One Piece, Yu-Gi-Oh, InuYasha and ZachBell on WB (now CW) and Cartoon Network. Not to mention all the anime-inspired shows like Powerpuff Girls, Teen Titans, Atomic Betty, Samurai Jack, and Batman Beyond. In addition, Cartoon Network runs its Adult Swim at midnight (Eastern Time) and that officially goes until two AM. Even starting at about eleven, Cartoon Network is no longer showing shows intended towards those under thirteen.
Main types of anime aimed at children/teens:
Shōjo (or Shoujo) – Literally means girl or little girl, and it is both a genre in America and a demographic. Generally, a shōjo manga will deal with a female protagonist, and the story will center around characters, emotion, romance, and drama. It can cover all the genres, from historical to sci-fi to high school. The art style tends to be more elegant and detailed, often marked by extra detail in the eyes and flowery backgrounds.
Shōjo manga tends to focus more on emotions and characters than it does on plot and action. Magical girls are typically a subcategory of shōjo, and while there is a plot going on, the focus is mostly on the challenges the magical girl faces as she comes to terms with her new powers and the difficulties inherent in trying to balance crime fighting, school, and relationships.
Many guys do enjoy shōjo books, and the American companies are making an effort to shift the focus away from the female aspect of the definition and instead look at the character focus.
Viz also produces a monthly magazine called Shōjo Beat, featuring all shōjo titles.
Shōjo Examples: Sailor Moon, Marmalade Boy, Fushigi Yuugi, Ceres, Aishiteruze Baby, Nana.
Shōnen (or Shounen) – Literally meaning a “few years,” or transliterally “boy,” this demographic is aimed at the action-loving boy or the girl-loving teenager. Humor is almost always a part of the story, with zany accidents befalling the central male character. Unrealistic and unattainable girls used to be a common element, but recently more realistic girls have made their way into the mix. Another common theme to shōnen shows is the idea of improving oneself in order to win the big fight, get the girl, or get into the right college.
Harem shows are especially popular in this genre, as a shy guy suddenly finds himself living with three or more hot girls, with at least one who likes to make advances towards him.
Many of the shows that are on Cartoon Network and CW are shōnen style, and more likely to appeal to both the male and female demographic. Even with anime becoming more and more popular with young women, shows that are male-based still gain more popularity, because women will openly watch boy-oriented shows, while guys are more hesitant to admit to loving a show designed for girls. Of course, shows like InuYasha, Naruto, and Pokémon all still contain female characters that are realistically portrayed, which helps to make the shows popular with both genders.
Shōnen art styles tend to be less detailed than shōjo, and the characters are often rougher looking and more likely to have scars and old injuries.
Shōnen Examples: Tenchi Muyo, Dragon Ball Z, Detective Conan, Death Note, Bleach, Yu Yu Hakusho, Fullmetal Alchemist, Trigun, Love Hina, InuYasha, Naruto, One Piece.
First three images by Stefanie B, last by Uncreativity
Children’s Shows – Not exactly a genre of its own, but more a way to distinguish between the age demographics that shōjo and shōnen shows target. These are the shows that appear as Saturday morning cartoons. The art style and humor is often more cartoony, and the storyline is more like a sitcom, with each story wrapping up by the end of the episode, though a loose overall plot ties things together season after season.
When these shows are brought to America, they are typically toned down (or dumbed down, as some adult fans would argue) from the Japanese versions, even if the target demographic is the same. In Japan, things like cross-dressing, brief nudity, sexual based jokes, religion based references (like in Dragon Ball Z, a character was named Mr. Satan), and homosexuality are not so readily banned from children.
Children’s Examples: Pokémon, Card Captor Sakura, Yu-Gi-Oh, Naruto, One Piece.
Yaoi and Shōnen-Ai – Both are terms for gay guys, though Shōnen-Ai focuses more on boy-love (BL) and is often more of an innocent romance. Yaoi tends to be more pornographic or sexual in nature, though the two terms are rather intermixed in America, and the best thing to do is to look at the book’s rating.
Popular with teenage girls because many of them don’t want to think of other girls with the guys they find hot, this is a drastically growing genre. Yaoi Press prints only yaoi manga, some by American writers and artists, and other manga companies have their own yaoi lines.
Now while the guys in yaoi and shōnen-ai might be gay, they very rarely represent realistic homosexual relationships. Instead, they personify the idea of how “cute” gay guys are, and one of the guys is often extremely feminine.