Life on the Fringe

The Attack of the Socially Dysfunctional Otaku

Since I'm approaching the ripe old age of 25 this month (on the 26th, so you still have plenty of time to get me presents!), I've decided to share a little bit of the social wisdom I've acquired over the past quarter of a century with our fine readers. At this point in the development of the domestic anime and manga industry, there's a wide demographic range of fans roaming around. We all share the common bond of appreciating either form of Japanese culture, and yet our devotion shows itself in various ways at times.

Usually, I love being in the company of like-minded fans. I love the fact that manga and anime have both grown so much in popularity and I'm all for that trend continuing on until anime is as well-known (and consumed as much) as Coca-Cola.

However, there have been times when I've had to restrain myself from hitting someone in the face with a Mokona plushie. Thus now that I'm practically 25, I think it's high time I start practicing my old man rantin'.

Oh, though before I start getting mean, I'd just like to say that I'm sure that I've been just as guilty of these social crimes as the people that inspired me to write about them. While these descriptions do indeed poke fun at members of the fan community, I generally find these behaviors more amusing than annoying, more funny than frustrating. I just wanted to document my experiences in retail, for I've finally been hired on at a company that will actually get some use out of my computer science degree (there IS hope for you job-hunting readers out there!), and while I'm sure I'll meet some eccentric people at my new job, nothing beats the small bookstore environment for variety.

Where to begin? With so many possibilities to pick from, I think I'll start with the more innocent offenses and work my way up in severity. To kick this off, let's examine the behavior patterns of the insanely giddy fanboy/girl first (or the IGF, for the sake of brevity). The IGF is very, VERY excited. About everything. Always. She's the girl who wears cat ears everywhere she goes. And she meows. Sometimes, she'll even crawl on the furniture. IGFs talk often and loudly. Scientific examinations have revealed that their blood is composed of equal parts caffeine, Pocky, and the same chemicals that can be found in Excel Saga.

However, if Excel Saga ever gets TOO annoying, one at least has the option of turning it off and getting a sanity break. There is no such escape from the IGF. While this type of person may seem predominately female, there are guys who are just as bad. For example, there's the crazy kid who cosplays as Inu-Yasha. EVERY DAY. I think I notice the women who do this more than guys simply because they tend to be cute, but perhaps that's just me. Let's face it - it's usually easier to overlook an irritating personality if the offending party is attractive.

It's cool to be outgoing and excited about manga and anime, but attempting to modulate your voice so that you sound like your favorite dub actress does not score any cool points with anybody, and that's what life is all about - cool points.

Returning to the bookstore scenario, there's another kind of manga fan who simply does not know how to behave in public. I understand that manga is an expensive habit. I'm also aware that it's quite common for kids to get stuck in malls with nothing to do except buy and sell drugs and hang out in the cool stores - like Waldenbooks. Whee. I can even say that can identify with the excitement generated by finding a new book, but do the rest of us manga fans a favor: don't plop your butt down in the manga aisle and start reading every book in the damn store.

First of all, it scares away other people from the manga section. They avoid the books because they don't want to disturb you, and thus you're denying them the manga lovin' they so deserve.

Secondly, if you're not careful, you might end up scuffing up the book. Pages get bent, bindings get strained, and if you just finished up your pizza in the food court, you've left your lovely fingerprints on the book, as well. Unless you plan on buying it, in which case reading a volume is fine before you check out, a picked-through book is about as appealing as day-old sushi left out on the counter overnight. No one wants it, no one will buy it, and when it doesn't sell, it'll get sent back.

Here's why you should care. Both of these activities hinder the sales of manga. Lower sales mean less new manga for the rest of us. And less manga is equivalent to death. DEATH!

Now, we don't want that on our pretty little heads, now do we?

Seriously, if you're especially careful with the books and you REALLY can't wait to get your manga fix, then go ahead and read them, but do it in a less important section of the bookstore. Try hanging out where the sex books are so you can give dirty looks to the creepy people who come in for that sort of "help". It's also fun to hang out in the Religion section, though you might get a dirty look of your own from the folks who shop there. After all, it's only a matter of time until Archbishop Raymond Burke (here in St. Louis) proclaims that anime, video games, and any movie not starring Mel Gibson are all "intrinsically evil". Remember kids, killing people on death row is good, killing people in war is great, but homosexual thoughts and the continuing threat of abortion endanger the safety of the ENTIRE human race.

Whoops. I apologize for that brief political intrusion. After all, I watch anime so I can forget about the self-centered egotistical morons out there who are trying to run my life for me. Back to our scheduled programming, assuming that I don't get a visit from Burke's hitmen for speaking out against his make-believe rules concerning canon law. I'm a little scared, 'cause I think assassinations are okay, too, as long as the killers aren't gay. And by gay, I don't mean happy.

I'm just super cheerful this month! Yee-haw.

Where were we? Ah, yes, the Person Who Knows All. This person, stereotypically male, Knows All. If you're browsing at Suncoast or Best Buy, he's the person who approaches you who wants to let you know EVERYTHING about the series you made the mistake of looking at when he noticed a fellow otaku in the store. "Oh, that's a good volume, but it's not nearly as entertaining as the next disc, where XXX gets killed and YYY finds out that she's the reincarnation of a mythological handi-wipe."

What I find most interesting about the Know-it-All type is that frequently, he really doesn't know much of anything. Here's a real life conversation I had once.

Me: Hellsing was pretty cool, though I wish they had waited a bit longer on the anime so it lined up better with the manga. The manga was GREAT. Too bad the anime ended before the story got really good.

Know-it-All: Oh, there's already a second season of Hellsing in Japan.

My Brain: No there isn't - you just made that up! Oh well, maybe he just heard a rumor and is just being hopeful.

Me: Really?

K-i-A: Yep. I've had it for a couple of years now, and I really like the part when Alucard has to fight Dracula.

My Brain: Okay, NOW we've left fantasy-land and entered the smelly land of bull poop.

Me: Huh. I didn't realize that. Where'd you get those DVDs?

K-i-A: Oh, from a friend in Japan. He records all of my anime off of TV over there, so I pretty much have everything there is.

My Brain: LIAR! God, I probably have more anime coming to my house in a single shipment from TRSI than this guy has ever seen in his life...gotta change the subject and escape - QUICK!

Me: Oh, hey, look at that girl over there - she was in here earlier and asking about Inu-Yasha - maybe you could give her some info?

K-i-A: Mmmm...woman in need...

That's just one example. I've talked to guys at video game stores who tell me about the Playstation 3 and 4 - both available in Japan right now. There are few conversations as fun as the ones where someone is "informing" you of something you know is incorrect, and doing so in a tone that indicates their obvious intellectual superiority.

The key here is to remember that while everyone likes to get information, it's a good idea to verify the truth of your data before announcing it to the world. We don't need more propagation of rumors, so try to become as educated on the industry as possible by checking out websites you trust, and then even when you do pass on news, say something to the effect of "I've heard that..." or "Rumor is..." before presenting your findings as gospel. Then, perhaps people will listen to you and not expect a fetid stream of inane lies and inaccuracies flowing from your mouth.

I could go on and on, but then I'd be like the guy who just doesn't shut up about stuff he likes. And while he doesn't bother me if I'm bored, sometimes I have to wonder if he has something better to do. With that in mind, I think I'll call it a day (or a month) before I become that guy, and leave my brave readers to mull over the various insulting things I've said this month.

I suppose all I really wanted to say is to try and exercise some caution when you're out there representing the anime and manga fan community. We're all good people, and the less annoying we are, the more likely our stuff won't get messed with. And I hate it when people mess with my stuff.

Thanks, as always, for reading the column, and I apologize for the crotchetiness this month. With the start of my new job, the wrapping up of my six year gig at Waldenbooks, and the childish excitement I still manage to generate for my upcoming birthday, I'm not sure where this column came from, but rest assured that I'll try to be more upbeat next month - assuming I haven't been knocked off by a religious zealot.

*sigh* Since I'm Catholic, I bet I'm going to hell now for speaking out against the Burkemeister. I sure hope God doesn't read stuff on the Internet. If so, I'm in trouble. But then, if Heaven isn't web-enabled, who'd want to be there anyway?

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