Thursday, June 21, 2012

Genshiken Diaries: A Blogging Project

This is gonna be a slightly different post than usual. My good friends and blogspot buddies Foxy Lady Ayame and Neko of The Beautiful World initiated a blogging project, asking bloggers to share their stories about anime fandom in their local/national communities. I've finally gotten with the program, so read on to hear about my community experiences.

In The Beginning...


Alone...
      Let me start by giving you some background. In the beginning of my anime fandom, I had no kind of community whatsoever. In fact, my introduction to anime was ultimately through my brother and (at the beginning) me mocking it. (This is a lengthy story in and of itself, so I won't recount it here.) Basically, I've never really had any friends or acquaintances with which to discuss anime before. I attempted to form a connection of that kind with one of my cousins, who has professed to enjoying anime, but he was significantly less interested in the medium than I, so that possibility was cut short. Unfortunately, nothing in my immediate area helped fill the gap, either. I live in a small village that's essentially in the back country, so there's no place we'd have any kinds of anime events. And since I have a family who is less than supportive of my hobby (and I don't have a license/car), I've never really had the option of going to conventions elsewhere. Skip to November 2011. I had kept my many opinions to myself all this time, short of rating a few shows on internet watch sites. Then I found Otakuness by chance while searching for the Winter anime lineup. I was pleasantly surprised at how well my opinions matched theirs', and I thought, "Hey, this anime blogging thing seems kind of cool." One thing led to another, and I finally stopped lurking in December and commented on the blog. A very short time after, I started my own, and I finally had an outlet to discuss anime with others.

Alone, no more

Blogging


      Yes, my interactions with an anime community of any kind were (and still are) quite "young" at this point. I didn't even join forums, MAL, or anything like that, so blogging was my very first foray into sharing my anime fandom (Ayame allowed me to write about it even though it's online and not "local/national"). And at first, even the aforementioned interactions were quite limited. I commented on Otakuness some, looked at a couple other blogs and dismissed them from my attention for some forgotten reason, and went on with my life. I was content; I finally had a place in which I could share my opinions (my blog), and well as a place I could discuss anime with others (Otakuness). But then, something happened. First Saranaufogus, then the rest of the Otakuness team went on hiatus. I was in panic. Who would I discuss anime with? Sure, I was posting reviews on my blog, but there were no comments, so my only interaction with other fans was through other blogs (in this case Otakuness). I went into withdrawal, and on the verge of death (metaphorically speaking) decided to check out some of the sites on Otakuness' blogroll. Eventually, I found Ace, TsurugiArashix, Marth, Snippettee, Ephemeral Dreamer, Sabishii Miruku, and Ayame. These seven bloggers were the ones who made me an "actual" anime blogger. Before I had been doing the work, but lacked the spirit, the real purpose of blogging. I had been throwing my opinions at the walls and pretending I was content with that. These bloggers made me realize there was so much more to blogging than that. They made me realize the social aspects of blogging, the community that it had to offer. And not just in the sense Otakuness had. To use an analogy, when I first started, I was looking for interaction with people in one room. But thanks to these seven, I started looking in the whole building, even the whole city for interactions. They collectively integrated me into the blogging community (in various ways, as I pointed out in one of my posts), and I've been here since.

There were some awkward hellos along the way, but we somehow managed.
     Anyway, that's how I was introduced to this place. And I have to say, I'm pretty impressed with it so far. One thing that an online community has to offer over traditional ones is the free expression of ideas. Whether it's a deep analysis of small element present throughout a series, or just someone's rant about how much they liked/hated an episode, it's all fair game here (though some might decry the latter as poor blogging). If you have an idea and you can make a full post out of it, you can share it. And furthermore, you can expect a much greater attention span from your audience. Imagine me trying to tell you this story, or much worse yet, my 5,000 word write up on the improper use of style in Borderlands, in a face to face discussion. I wouldn't even get a tenth of the way done before getting (rightfully) interrupted and going off on a new tangent. When you're sharing ideas with other people in "real life," it usually results in the free flow of ideas; wherever the conversation takes people, that's where they go. Online, however, if I have an idea that takes a long time to explain, I can still express that idea. This is because my readers won't be expecting a conversation, but rather an exchange of ideas. And that's what I consider the coolest thing about the online (ani-)blogging community.

Twitter


      A while back, I joined Twitter on the advice of one of my peers. The platform took my community interaction to the next level. On Twitter, I'm able to talk about pretty much everything, no matter how short. I don't need to make a post about it. In other words, Twitter granted me the power of conversation. Before, I had only been able to communicate in a method closer to email than to instant messages – comments. I'd comment on someone's post topic, and maybe they'd reply back. On Twitter, I could have a spontaneous, arguably easier to initiate communication with another anime fan about anime (and furthermore, it could be about anything, not just a post topic). And as someone who to this day has no "real life" acquaintances (that is, no one I've physically seen) with which to discuss anime, that's been a pretty amazing experience. I could finally converse with people about anime, and they'd treat it with the same amount of understanding and seriousness that I did. In this way, Twitter provides what blogging lacks; conversation. While focusing more on the exchange of ideas instead of the flow is one of the blogosphere's greatest advantages, conversation (the flow of ideas) also has its good points, as I outlined above. Because of Twitter, then, one can have the best of both worlds in the online community. Basically, Twitter streamlined my interactions with others. Before I used it, I had to comment on others' posts to have any kind of presence in the blogosphere. On Twitter, though, I can just be there, shooting off a random thought about the show I'm watching, and my existence will be known. It's pretty cool.

Tweet, tweet.

Skype


      And that brings us to the current pinnacle of my anime social life: watching Queen's Blade Rebellion with others over Skype. In a Twitter conversation, Draggle and Snippettee roped me into begged me *cough* to watch the show with them over Skype (actually, I cornered myself into watching it in that conversation). It was the most nervous I had been since my first day at college. Sure, I said Twitter allowed "conversations," but they didn't have the same impact as an actual voice-to-voice discussion. It felt like a first date. And furthermore, I was unlucky enough to get told about it for two hours beforehand, so I had that whole time to worry about all the ways it would go wrong and I would permanently embarrass myself (I'm that kind of person).

Basically this...
     I eventually just kind of shut down and went on screensaver mode, let my adrenaline/nervous energy take over, and the next thing I knew, I had downloaded Skype, loaded up the episodes, and had sent Draggle my Skype name. I found a place that converted GMT to EST and checked it about once every three minutes to make sure that I had the time right and didn't actually have another agonizing hour to wait, or worse had overshot the correct time and was even then making everyone wait for me, surely impatiently and angrily. When I had about fifteen minutes to go, I locked my door to prevent any untimely intrusions from my prying brother, opened a window to cool my now overheating body, and tensely held my eyes rapt to my computer screen. The clock finally struck ten (so to speak – I only have digital clocks in my room), and a few seconds later I heard a ringing sound coming from my computer. I picked up the call almost immediately, so as to not freak out, stop myself from picking up, and/or go into denial, and then I heard Draggle's voice. It was too surreal for me. Here I was, sitting in my room with two episodes of what was arguably anime porn (what the heck, I have it in my search terms anyways) on my computer, freaking out like a 10 year-old and nervous as all ****, talking with my VOICE about anime with another anime fan for the first time. He was lord knows however far away from me and I had no idea what he looked like (other than the face of his avatar – which depicts a starfish that is decidedly not Patrick), but I was talking to him, dangit! I was talking to him! Snippettee, Inushinde, Redball, Emperor J, and Foshiizzel joined, and we started after saying hello. Throughout the whole thing I was talking and making jokes and (at myself) yelling, "SHUT THE **** UP BEFORE YOU SAY SOMETHING UNFORGIVABLY STUPID! WHAT IF THEY GET OFFENDED?! WHAT IF THEY-" and so forth. Fortunately, everybody put up with my over-talkative self, and I like to think we bonded some over the mind-numbingly painful stupidity genius symbolism of Queen's Blade. As an added bonus, I somehow stopped my head from exploding.

Didn't shoot myself, either.
     Eventually, that halcyon hour ended, Draggle and everyone else said "goodbye," and I sat back in shock. I had done it. For the first time in my life, I had watched an anime show with other humans. The next day, Draggle got me on Google-Docs, lied through his teeth used genuine, accurate insights about the symbolism in Queen's Blade to get us started, and the next thing I knew I had participated in my first collab. post, writing about a fictional sex culture, of all things.

That was my first "real" interaction with the anime community, and at this point stands as the most communication and interaction I've had with another anime fan before (or in this case, 6 other fans). This experience, as I said, is the current pinnacle of my social anime fandom, and I think it shall remain so for a long time. After all, what could be a more social anime activity than actually watching anime with other people? I guess the bigger point of this is that my online community has provided much more socially for me than any "real" one I've encountered. Anyway, there's my contribution to the The Beautiful World's project. Be sure to check out the other participants and their posts! (Ayame has them linked on the project page.)

P.S. On a side note, the subsequent watches were considerably less anxiety filled.

14 comments:

  1. I still fondly remember the first time I watched anime with others. Joined the anime club in my third year of university. There's something special about getting to enjoy something like that with other, similar people.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I definitely agree. It's made Queen's Blade at least 10 times better. Uh, because our discussion reveals its, uh, intellectual deepness. Totally the reason. ;)

      Delete
  2. Thanks for your contribution, Sato-kun :)
    So you get nervous easily? Hihi how sweet! Although it's not like I don't understand the non-acceptance fear.
    Glad we became friends, btw.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was my pleasure. :)
      >///< Yup, that's me. Little insecure Sato-san, trying to forge a path through the blogosphere...You all have made it an easier path to make, though.
      I am too Ayame. I really am.

      Delete
  3. o_O skype. that's a step further than me...

    I really found your first paragraph interesting, because it's so similar to my experiences. Other way round though - it's my brother who claims to hate anime, but watches it (even marathoned Letter Bee & Reverse in 4 days), and I have a cousin who says he enjoys anime - but not as much as me :/

    Are you on IRC? It's another great community (on the right channels), though I don't see many anime discussions. Then again, I'm only on a few channels...

    >Queen's Blade
    lol, I won't ask whose choice that was. I'm assuming it was a lot more enjoyable with friends though :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's fun, you should try it out if you get the chance.

      It's ironic that my bro got me introduced to anime, considering that he seems to have kept all his distaste for the medium. I'm glad I kept with it and came to love it, though. As for the cousins, isn't that frustrating? Well, it may not be the same for you, but for me it's like, "they're so close, and yet I can't turn them into *actual* anime fans!" I've had two cousins like that, actually.

      You know, I can't wrap my head around IRC or what it is for the life of me. I know of a few places I'd want to check out if I ever did get on it, but for the time being, no I am not. I'll consider that a recommendation to check it out sometime, though.

      Yeah, I think it was a very spontaneous choice for all involved parties.

      Thanks for sticking around, Raggers!

      Delete
    2. np, I really like your writing style, and you have some great ideas.

      IRC is pretty simple once you get the hang of it. All the /join and /msg nickserv look daunting at first, but they're pretty logical and you get used to them pretty soon. Basically it's a lot of chatrooms - organised under different servers (e.g. Rizon).

      I think the biggest barrier to watching anime is social perceptions of "cartoons" as for kids. You either find anime as a kid (me) or a friend sits you down to watch some, and since they openly like it you give it a chance. Learning how other people journeyed (descended) into anime fandom is always interesting.

      People who are on the edge of being fans are definitely annoying (as are people who proclaim themselves anime fans for watching Naruto, Bleach, and worst: Dragonball). I think my cousin has left it behind for sure, but my brother... I've watched Katanagatari with him, and started Gosick. I want to marathon them, but can't because he wants to watch them and he's "too busy/sleepy"... *stranglesimaginaryneck*

      Delete
    3. ...*blushes*

      Good to know. Thanks for the advice.

      Oh my yes. It's an art form, and I feel like not a lot of people realize that.
      Haha, "descended." I laughed. :)

      Hoo boy. I know that feeling. My entire family does that with every kind of media (shows, movies, games) ALL THE TIME. Believe me, you have my sympathies.

      Delete
  4. Awesome post! Really, this was perhaps the best article I've seen written about the aniblogging community. You captured both its heart and purpose. Kudos!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, thank you! That's very high praise indeed! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

      Delete
  5. I love this post. It's so human. As TWWK said above, it really captures the feeling of looking for something, finding it and the ensuing joy. As someone new to the sphere, it's quite encouraging :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aww, thanks! I tried to make it less formal than my usual posts, since it's about a personal experience. Looks like that came through.

      Haha, that's actually somewhat ironic, since you've been here longer than I (albeit actually "blogging" for a shorter period of time)! Still, I'm glad that I could encourage you, and you should definitely stick around. You really are an awesome blogger (one who has encouraged me at times), so I hope you continue making your intellectual posts!

      Thanks for reading!

      Delete
  6. That first Queen's Blade call. I had actually sworn off the idea of ever watching QB because of its common comparison to Ikkitousen, which is one of my least favorite series I've ever watched. So I said to heck with it and joined, figuring the call would be about as it was: everyone laughing uncomfortably. I was even able to talk that call.

    I think a lot of people can identify with the story you tell here. The online anime community is so rich and active in large part due to geographical dispersion, and of course various social normative reasons. So it's hard to band together at a local level without some sort of dumb luck. I was able to see much of my story in yours: the initial internal backlash to the idea of watching anime, then watching with basically no social aspects, finally reading blogs, and then bringing yourself into the community. That doesn't put it into words, though. Rather, you've done that here. And so, thanks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Redball! Thanks for dropping by!

      I was still learning everyone's voices at that point, so I can't really pick out your voice from the crowd...But I do have that "no" from the last call to go off of. :)
      Haha! "Uncomfortable laughter" is a good way to explain it.

      As for people identifying, that's the impression I've gotten, which surprises me a little. When I think about it, it's actually a pretty natural progression of events that you've outlined, so I guess it should be more obvious. It's just kind of cool and unexpected that other people have had experiences like mine.

      And thank you for being a big part of these events! Twitter, Skype, and Google Docs just wouldn't be the same without you.

      Delete