The otaku stigma

This is something that has been stewing in my mind for quite some time now. As a Young Adult librarian (who just happens to be an otaku herself), I have frequently witnessed what I refer to as the “otaku stigma”. That’s a slight misnomer because most of the people who exhibit symptoms of this have no idea what otaku means. In fact, in many cases they’ve never even seen anime or read a single volume of manga. What they do know for a fact is that anime kids are noisy, ill-behaved, and practically illiterate.

I just had a meeting with my YA supervisor this morning- just your general, run of the mill how are things going and what can we do update. She is also a big anime advocate despite not being even close to an otaku; she has worked in YA long enough to know the value in the literature and the simple fact that the teens love it. When you’re working in YA services, the fact that the kids will come in is enough of a reason to support it; so few topics will bring them to you in droves and anime certainly is one of them. In any case, we expressed a mutual lament that so many institutions simply don’t support anime or manga or just view them as worthless comics (I know there are several YA comic lovers out there who can express the true value of an ample graphic novel collection- it has many things in common with manga but just isn’t my passion). Throughout our library system, we have noted a very high correlation between our low level readers and our manga clubs. Ditto our generally troubled kids from all walks of life. For some reason, anime clubs tend to be extremely diverse as compared to other groups, be it sexuality, race, gender, or even home life. (This is the stuff journal articles of made of- too bad I’m so lazy sometimes!)

But that’s not what my coworkers see. My library assistants dread anime night. “There’s too many of them.” “They’re noisy.” “Those books are worthless.” “They aren’t very smart.” (yes, I’ve had people who work for the library system actually say that my anime teens aren’t smart). I have one mother whose daughter is in both my anime club and my teen advisory board who loathes the anime group and will come in early and ask if they’re even doing anything. They’re discussing different series, they’re watching clips online, they’re showing each other their drawings. Yeah, it looks like a disorganized hodge-podge, but I assure you they are doing something.

When I went to library school, I really thought that this antiquated way of thinking was gone. And while none of my system’s YA librarians echo this sentiment, I hear it from children’s and adult librarians and a whole lot of library assistants. I am actually blessed to be in a branch where most of the librarians see value in anime/manga, even if they don’t understand it. But I can’t understand why people don’t take the time to actually watch these kids and engage in a conversation with them. My anime club actually houses both my highest and lowest level readers. All of them can take out an entire series of 20 books and devour it in a week.  If you can’t see value and merit in that, than you’re blind!

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1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    madameotaku said,

    Trust me – that way of thinking is *not* gone, so far as I’ve experienced. Most of the teen librarians in my “home library” are pretty accepting of us otaku, but then a lot of adults are like, “Why do you waste your time with those Japanese picture books?”

    Also, when people criticize anime for being “kids’ cartoons and stuff,” I’m tempted to shove Evangelion DVDs in their faces.


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