Let’s face it: quite a few anime and manga otaku could benefit from manning up. Why do I say this? I don’t look at otaku with the stink-eye that Japanese society reserves for crack addicts and indigents (which it lumps such otaku with), nor do I harbor the gentler, kinder prejudice of the Americas (which considers them socially retarded geeks.) Rather, I think that everyone should man up. Anime otaku simply happen to be the audience I write for.
That said, in their hasty attempts to help, otaku are creating images like these:
which do more harm to their cause than good.
Why would I say that?
1. The evidence we see is counter to the arguments involved.
In this comic, the protagonist John has lost Sarah’s heart to an off-screen man named Jason. Sarah berates John for being unmanly and not asserting himself. What’s the problem? Well, we only ever see John being assertive, as we see him in the process of asking Sarah out. We only ever hear about Jason being unassertive, as he was basically moping about when Sarah dropped into his life and practically threw herself at him.
What kind of doubletalk is that? Sure, John was probably much less assertive in the past, and Jason is no doubt taller and better looking or something, but if you’re going to use this as a “WRONG THING TO DO” example, why not show him ACTUALLY DOING THE WRONG THING?
2. The prize is of dubious value.
We don’t really know much about Sarah. However, she probably has some self-esteem issues, because she wound up dating – by her own admission – a near-endless stream of “countless dickheaded guys.” She’s also long-winded, needlessly abrasive, and hypocritical – why criticize “B grade English” when you use statements like “me and my boyfriend are going out for dinner”?
She likes drama, defends the practice of dating assholes in the same breath that she complains about them, and caps it off by insulting John’s “pathetic lust for a pure, innocent virgin.” This is about as coherent as insulting him for liking the color blue. Hilariously, she takes as a superior virtue “impregnating women and thus contributing to the continuation of the human race.” This from a grade school girl (or at the oldest, college student – “Remember Jason, from school?”)
The statement is about as ignorant as they come, both in terms of population dynamics and the female mindset. Humanity is in no danger of running low on people; quite the contrary, by most estimates, population growth is a problem. We have too many people. Sarah isn’t really looking out for the population, as evinced by the very personal nature of her criticisms, and she doesn’t really know what she’s talking about. Furthermore, she’s insincere – it takes losing her patience to actually give John her honest opinion. Isn’t this all stuff she just slammed him for?
If Sarah were a level-headed, mature individual, she would not have exploded at John when he made his awkward confession. If she truly hated him, she would have gotten rid of him sooner, and if she truly cared for him, she wouldn’t have been needlessly insulting and confrontational turning him down.
3. The characterization of the otaku is so hyperbolic as to not apply to most readers, and the affliction of otaku is not unique.
Statistically, I have no doubt that some manga readers/anime watchers probably will be complete social failures. Guess what? They aren’t nearly as articulate as the John we see in the comic. Perhaps that can be overlooked as a bit of implicit fear-mongering – “if you are less articulate than this, then you must be even worse off socially!”
However, are all otaku like this? No way. Even if your addiction to anime is crippling, that in no way implies that you can’t be socialized or productive. People drink and drug themselves to death still clutching Grammys and Nobel Prizes; I refuse to believe that anime can be more debilitating than alcoholism and crack cocaine. William Faulkner, for instance, had to be told the date of the Nobel Prize ceremony was a month before it really was, so that he could sober up enough to not be kicked off the boat to Europe. For an example of a high-functioning otaku, how about former Japanese Prime Minister Taro “Rozen Maiden” Aso? It’s possible that his political career can be largely discounted as the work of his family, but how about his becoming an Olympic-level athelete as a young adult, well after his manga addiction had started?
Take the reverse, as well: are all non-otaku not like this? Does otaku correlate with “abnormal” and “non-otaku” correlate with “normal”? Again, no. There are plenty of socially unacceptable people who are not anime/manga otaku, and there are plenty of otaku who get married and otherwise appear normal.
There’s nothing about being an anime/manga otaku that will keep you behind any more than other leisure addictions.
4. The values are inconsistent, and the message is ultimately mixed.
Look carefully at the rant. In particular, look at the part about “a guy who tells me I’m interesting and cute when he really thinks I’m neurotic and not intelligent enough to pick up on his true intention of having sex with me . . . ”
Well, let’s face it. Sarah is a bit neurotic, or she wouldn’t have been with so many assholes. But the major issue here is that Sarah is telling the otaku, “Don’t do things just to get laid! Be your own man!”
And that’s what got a lot of otaku into anime to begin with. They didn’t want to try out for football, learn to swing dance, etc. just to try to impress the pretty girls (or guys.) Other things were more interesting and ultimately more important.
And Sarah? Sarah doesn’t really care about all that. She just wants what she wants: men who aren’t dull, men who are assholes (which she interprets as being sincere), men who are impulsive and confident and great in bed. That’s okay, I suppose – but why should John necessarily want that?
The only reason John would have to want to mold himself to what Sarah wants is – wait for it – because he wants to get in bed with her. Which, as you’ll recall, is the thing we’re trying to avoid – doing things you have no real interest in, just to impress girls. This self-contradictory rant is just an excuse for Sarah to bite John’s head off for not happening to be her ideal man.
Man up. But not as suggested in the comic. That isn’t manning up at all.