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Gunshow Comic’s “The Anime Club” recently reminded me of how easy it is to make someone angry by saying their favorite show sucks. For those of you who haven’t read “The Anime Club,” it’s an on-going series about a group of high school kids who love anime and fall prey to every negative otaku stereotype possible, and yet is still fun to read and never actually feels mean-spirited even when it’s actually making fun of anime.
In the relevant chapter, a loud and obnoxious character insults the all-time favorite of another loud and obnoxious character, and through it reveals the simple steps needed to insult anyone’s favorite show. All you do is declare that the story is “predictable” or “cliche,” the characters “flat and one-dimensional,” and possibly insult their intelligence and/or maturity. You don’t even have to know anything about the show to do this.
Now it’s not like bad characters in fiction don’t exist, let alone in anime, but what’s interesting about this generalized method of diminishing someone else’s tastes in anime is that it hits on multiple vital levels.
First, by saying that a show is predictable, you say that they are easily entertained and have less intelligence than they should for not being able to see the “obvious” developments. And if you were to look at the self-image of anime fans, you’d see that they usually consider themselves to be smarter than average. Second, by calling their favorite characters flat, you trivialize any emotional connections they have made with those characters and demean the fact that they opened up to it. Third, by calling into question their level of maturity, you exploit that niggling doubt that exists in a great many anime fans, that their hobby is worthless and that a “well-adjusted person” who lives in the real world would never do this.
The last one’s efficacy is dampened somewhat if it’s coming from one anime fan to another, and in general the effect weakens the more you talk specifics as then the possibility of mutual understanding increases. But the overall effect, whether the blow is softened by familiarity or not, is that it becomes an attack on an anime fan’s confidence, and many fans have some degree of confidence issues.