We managed to bring 21 people to Little Tokyo this quarter. Meaning, we had more than two people who were able to drive people down to Los Angeles. Obviously this meant that we were going to have a bigger retention rate than previous years, since you can’t really live down the fact that you went with a bunch of strangers through the hell that is L.A. traffic and ate all of the ramen. No, seriously, all of the ramen. There were three notable ramen places in the district and we went to two of them on the same day. For me, however, it meant a larger sample size to figure out power levels.
In anime-related forums, most notably /a/, it refers to the fact that one watches anime or reads manga. It is usually used in the context of keeping it a secret from others.
Secrecy is the key term here. Yes, even in something as visually inclusive as an anime club, people are reluctant to show exactly how much they like anime and manga. But in instances like a group trip to L.A., there’s a lot less societal pressure to act like you don’t enjoy the medium to the point of not buying things.
As such, learning the actual power levels of your fellow club members is by no means an uninteresting or unrealized thought to have. Little Tokyo does a lot of things to test exactly how high that level is, too. For anyone into buying manga and/or are learning Japanese, there’s a bookstore that houses both English and Japanese copies of all the latest manga and light novels. For those who are more merchandise-oriented, there’s an entire store to buy figurines, keychains, plushies, wall scrolls, and others such. And for those who are seriously not in the trip to stack up on weeaboo shit, they can at least consider going to the grocery store to buy things for the trip back. Not to mention that we encourage people to join us at whatever Japanese restaurant we happen to go to this time and a few hours’ worth of the karaoke bar (though figuring out where all the anime music is located is a job solely for people who know Japanese). The car rides to and from L.A. also serve as ample time to share exactly how much of a shit your taste in anime really is.
Going on trips like this lowers the gate of entry for people hesitant about expressing themselves. Not only are they surrounded by people who share the same interests, they’re also surrounded by people who are not going to care in the negative sense about what you buy as a result of that. That came up as a point of conversation during the trip, when somehow a discussion about the inherently bullshit logic of Bleach suddenly became about how someone would totally wear that substitute Shinigami emblem as a necklace.
This wasn’t met with any sort of agreement.
While you can buy a lot of things from Little Tokyo with a straight face, it becomes a different issue entirely when it comes to showing the general public your power level. No one in the car was particularly in on the idea of sharing their love of anime and manga with people outside of friends who already like anime and the club members. This isn’t restricted to my club, either. Asking this same question on ask.fm has garnered a similar sentiment from all the people (mostly bloggers well into their college days/employment) who responded over the last day or so as such: It’s fine when you’re around people you know share the same interests, but outside of that it’s best kept an untold story.
I’m not really a fan of deliberate acts of “fandom expression” anyway, or even the idea of considering yourself a “member of the fandom”.
My anime fandom is like a penis. I wouldn’t pull it out and dangle it around in public, but if someone really wanted to see it I probably wouldn’t refuse.
I’m not ashamed of it. It’s just that it seems like a bad first impression for some people.
If i’m talking to someone who’s open to it, i’ll gladly talk about anything anime or manga related (or culture or history related, honestly) w/out being self-conscious or anything.
What I notice out of responses like these is that almost no one is willing to express their power level in public until it is confirmed safe to do so, that people have to be prompted or even invited to talk about it by others who are less worried about their social standing. And for most of the responses, it’s very much restricted to talking about the subject. Buying, displaying, or even wearing elements of your power level is a realm that many are unwilling to partake in when it comes to the general public.
When asked how they expressed power levels, most conceded only to talking about anime and manga with people of similar interests or even similar taste. Others admit to maybe having a few wall scrolls or figurines in the privacy of their own room. Others, still, express it through buying anime and building a physical library to share when the odd house guest happens to stumble upon it. Though, for the most part, any merchandise mentioned is almost always kept as a private collection.
Only on laundry day, when anime shirts are the only shirts left to wear.
I won’t wear something if I don’t think it looks good, and the majority of anime-related clothing or accessories I’ve seen don’t appeal to my sense of fashion.
If you mean when I go outside there’s not much. […] As for why I keep it this way it’s because I don’t see any need to go any further.
What pervades this topic is the risk of being discovered, more or less, that you like anime and/or manga. It’s the reason, after all, why the term “power level” exists in this sense. Popular culture here in the U.S., at least, pigeonholes the mere concept of Japanese animation as just really loud and colorful tentacle porn. Well, with the obvious exception of Ghibli movies, but I could argue that they aren’t regularly considered “anime” in the same sense that we see it as. You know how you watched Sailor Moon, Dragonball Z, and Cardcaptors way back when but didn’t realize that what you were watching was called “anime”? It’s that kind of thought process I’m talking about, and it only makes the perception towards non-localized anime all the more darker because of it. But that’s a conversation for another post.
What I mean by this particular tangent is that when it comes to friends/people who don’t watch anime, they have a much different set of expectations and investment potential when they at look even one poorly-depicted screenshot of your favorite anime. Of course, no one is going to vomit uncontrollably or completely renounce their friendship with you once they figure out you’re into the medium that spawned the likes of Bible Black and La Blue Girl, but it does change your relationship in ways you’re not keen about.
In those cases, that risk is quite real.
A couple of my close friends found out I enjoyed Lucky Star a few years back, when I was first getting into anime. When they tried it out they… didn’t enjoy it. They don’t mean any harm by it, but it genuinely coloured the way they view me and my tastes.
To be honest I’m often wary of bringing it up in conversation, even with people who I know are into anime too. I feel like “expressing” my passion for the hobby didn’t do me any favors back when I was more socially awkward (albeit plenty of people still liked me anyways,) and I don’t want to be like the guys in early Genshiken who can only ever talk about anime, even when they’re at the beach.
So what about me? Where do I fall under when it comes to this spectrum of power levels?
Thanks to my anime club facebook page being public for a few years before finally being set to private, a lot of my friends from high school know that I’m really into anime and manga. Thankfully, the friends that matter in this case don’t mind it and in fact come to me for recommendations at times. I am, of course, wary when talking about anime to members in the anime club for reasons I’ve outlined in previous posts on the subject, but the simple act of talking about anime come easy to me once I know that other people don’t mind me doing it.
What differentiates me from the rest of the crowd, it seems, is that I also have no problem expressing my power level in public. Sure, my collection of merchandise isn’t quite that expansive and I (hopefully) don’t come off as an otaku through my personality alone, but if any of the stuff I buy is tasteful enough to be displayed in public then I’m sure as hell going to do it. I suppose, however, that tasteful is the key word here, and I admit that finding inconspicuous anime merchandise that matches your taste in fashion is hard. However, I find that there is a way to do it.
I wear anime shirts in public. But the key to wearing such shirts is picking the right ones. I usually look for ones that are simple and to the point, as well as obfuscated enough in its design to not draw attention as a “look at this fucking guy and his lame anime shirt” shirt. In fact, it’s best that the shirt is allowed to speak for itself, even if it’s as muted as it is here, because the types of people you want to attract with this kind of shirt are the ones who are already reasonably into the fandom themselves and recognize what these are immediately (though I’d never expect anyone to know what Yatterman is). This isn’t restricted to just shirts, either. the necklaces in this post are in fact my own, and are perfectly acceptable to wear when it comes to my own workplace (admittedly a casual restaurant setting). And hey, thanks to my choices in t-shirts I’ve been able to initiate some interesting conversations with my coworkers about their anime fandom and their own problems with expressing it as well.
I’m pretty cavalier about being a weeb nowadays. The way I see it, it’s a hobby like any other, and there’s not much point in either hiding it or being super obnoxious about it.
Recognizing that someone likes anime is not limited solely to looking at character designs. It’s also about recognizing the symbols in each one. The Geass emblem from Code Geass. Simon’s core drill from Gurren Lagann. The opening lines of the Cowboy Bebop OP. All of those things require the slightest bit of investment into each anime in order to figure out the connection, and that moment when people recognize and appreciate the connection and compliment me for my superior choice in fashion is sometimes what keeps me going from day to day.
And really, what’s the point of liking the visual marvel that is Japanese animation if you’re so afraid of sharing it? While very subtle yet significant changes in relationship dynamics are a real threat, it’s born from a very simple misconception about the diversity of anime and not that the anime you like is in any way shape or form inspiring you to tentacle rape a 10-year-old Boku no Pico loli in the bum-bum.
However, encouraging you to be more open about the fact you like anime is not the purpose of this post. I didn’t ask this question in order to encourage people to do such a thing when it’s backfired spectacularly in the case of some people. This is merely a topic that’s been on my mind ever since I had that conversation in that car ride back home. It’s about me reconciling the fact that many of the people in the club are going back to real life without any visual increase in their power level despite sharing two hours in a karaoke bar singing mutha-fukkin’ Renai Circulation for the first time without a smidgen of shame.
- So that’s my answer to my own question. I do try to show my power level but I want to be tasteful about it. I find the most success with accessories and t-shirts with muted designs. While many of my close friends already liked anime before I met them, I also have friends who don’t watch anime and they’re 100% Totally Okay with me liking that sort of stuff and I’m always tactful about mentioning it around them.
- I’m sorry if I didn’t mention you in this post if you contributed on ask.fm. I’m reaching close to 2.5k words at this point and I didn’t want to make this any longer than it should be.
- Make sure to click everyone’s name to see their full response!