On Power Levels (Anime Club Escapades: 11/22/2014)

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.

Urban Dictionary

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.

20141124_084125

There are two grocery stores in Little Tokyo, where you can buy fresh Japanese bread in one and fresh onigiri in the other. It was a bit late by the time we got around to buying food, so I defaulted to my usual stuff: candy, candy, and curry. Not pictured: swiss roll cake, castella, melon cream soda, and WHEE, SKAL!

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.

20141123_194746

Going to that bookstore was where I first figured out that Wandering Son was being localized. And that I was interested enough in Black Jack to read all of it (eventually).

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.

20141124_113611

At least I’m more tasteful in what I’d rather have around my neck.

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”.
Bobduh

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.
shinsei

I’m not ashamed of it. It’s just that it seems like a bad first impression for some people.
Joey

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.
wendeego

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.

20141123_194729

This was pretty much the extent of my collection when I started out as an anime fan back in high school.

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.
Inushinde

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.
iblessall

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.
Marow

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.

20141123_194902

I own four wall scrolls but I”m not opening them until I’m actually living on my own. In order to cut residential costs I’ve been living with my dad, and while I doubt that he’d complain about these being splayed across my room, there would be some assumptions about me that I’d rather he not make.

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.
Whemleh

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.
Sorrows Neptune

So what about me? Where do I fall under when it comes to this spectrum of power levels?

20141124_084033

A run-of-the-mill person wouldn’t know that this was from a manga unless they asked me where it was from. Hell, most would actually assume this is the Amazon mascot.

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.

20141124_083043

Question: which shirt is the one I don’t /actually/ wear in public?

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.
vestenet

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.

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My keys, however, are an amalgamation of things I want people to recognize and things I hope are never recognized.

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.

Addendum

  • 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!
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6 comments

  1. Reading through this, I think the one think I forgot to mention in my answer is that I would never really lead into an first meeting with someone (or bring up in a first meeting with someone) with “I like anime.” As people have said, as a first impression, it’s not a great one, unfortunately.

    I may have sounded pretty cavalier in my answer about letting people know I like anime, but that’s almost exclusively a phenomenon that I’ve limited to people with whom I have already established relationships. In a sense, it’s controlling how I present myself and how people perceive me. If I immediately bring up that I like anime, that is going to be people’s first impressions because that’s one of the first things I told them. But if I let them know me as myself (and whatever other hobbies/interests/values I have) first, then anime becomes just another facet of me as a person, not a defining trait.

    There’s been a lot of talk on Twitter as of late about “not defining yourself by your hobbies” because of GamerGate, and I sort of feel like this rests in the same region of interest. How do you want to define yourself in public? Do you want anime to be a large part (or the main part) of that impression? Some people might be okay with it, but it’s a good idea to think about the conceptions others are going to form about you if you do so and if you’re okay with that.

    Personally, I’d rather have anime be just a facet of my total identity to others—not a defining trait.

    1. I think the one think I forgot to mention in my answer is that I would never really lead into an first meeting with someone (or bring up in a first meeting with someone) with “I like anime.”

      Me neither. That would be terrible and something that is much better asked than claimed.

      The similarities to GamerGate are interesting, to say the least. I don’t think I’ve ever run into any issues with people assuming a lot of me as an anime fan because of how I dress, but now that I think about it, things could happen negatively that can make my choices a bit unsavory. However, my impression of people around here (on campus) are that they genuinely don’t care that I show off anime-related stuff so long as I stay quiet about it verbally. As such, anime certainly isn’t a major trait in my identity, but I’d be lying if it wasn’t part of my everyday life.

  2. I used to have that Gurren Laggan skull as a pin I kept on my bag. I forgot about that. No one ever recognised it, which was saddening.

    I probably should mention I am pretty casual about my anime fandom these days. If someone was to ask me about my hobbies, I wouldn’t be overly afraid to mention it. The lesson I eventually learned was less that I had to hide my love of anime, but rather that if people do find out, make sure the first thing they see isn’t things like Lucky Star. That’s definitely not a series for the uninitiated. I should also mention that at least two of the friends who found out that way are now anime fans themselves, albeit much more casual fans who don’t go far beyond the typical ‘Western appeal’ shows.

    When you treat your hobby as something you don’t need to be ashamed of, then I think most people would have no problem accepting it. Provided you aren’t an obnoxious jackass about it, of course.

  3. Genuinely saddened that E minor’s answer didn’t make the cut

    :(

    1. My blog is not worthy of its profundity.

  4. Reblogged this on Anime Ascendant and commented:
    This brings up a good issue for anime clubs: looking at your members and seeing what they want to do and what kind of anime fans they are.

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