When Anime Heads West
It's finally cool to be an anime aficionado.
(@theestallion / Instagram)
In case you hadn’t heard, anime has been doing some westward expansion.
From magical girl animes like Sailor Moon to shounen action animes like Hunter X Hunter Japanese animation has never been more popular in western pop culture than it is now.
All of a sudden, anime is not only acceptable, it’s trendy, even fashionable. If you haven’t sat down and watched at least one anime series already, you’re late to the game. It's hard to imagine a time when it wasn’t so readily embraced by western culture, but it hasn’t always been this cool to be an anime aficionado.
It wasn’t too long ago when Americans only thought of overly-sexualized animated women and bizarre plotlines when they heard the word “anime”. Anime fans were considered creeps with no social lives and called “otakus”.
As a person of Japanese descent, I always knew what was up. Growing up, I watched shows like Cardcaptor Sakura after school and enjoyed Studio Ghibli classics like Spirited Away on family movie nights.
I always knew the negative stereotypes surrounding anime in Western culture weren’t true. I knew that for every tasteless one that played into the stereotypes, five more that had beautiful animation, heart-stopping fight sequences, unique humor, magical storylines, or deep psychological meaning also existed.
But the stereotype of the weirdo anime lover still made me hesitant to share my love of anime with others.
I took comfort in conforming to preconceived stereotypes; I’m the girl who’s into lipgloss, Nicki Minaj, and fashion — and for some reason it’s hard for society to accept that I could be into anime, too. So, I hid my appreciation for Attack on Titan, Death Note, and One Punch Man from the world.
Fast-forward to 2020 and it makes me endlessly happy to see that most of the negative stereotypes surrounding anime in Western pop culture have been broken.
The American-based anime streaming platform Crunchyroll has about 70 million users, and most of those users seem to be Gen-Z since the median age of a Crunchyroll user is 18. According to a 2019 Anime Industry Report, anime-related industries generated $9.5 billion in overseas revenue.
Huge celebrities like Kanye West, Zac Efron, Michael B. Jordan and Ariana Grande have all gone on record to profess their love of Japanese animation. Jaden Smith even voiced the character Kaz Kaan in the Netflix Original series Neo Yokio, a show that is co-produced by an American studio and a Japanese anime studio. American cartoons like Avatar: The Last Airbender while not technically animes have an obvious anime-influence when it comes to their animation style.
Rapper Megan Thee Stallion seemed to go against every stereotype that used to surround anime fans and proved that “hot girls” can be fans of anime too, collaborating with anime streaming platform Crunchyroll to release exclusive merch and referencing Naruto in her track Girls in the Hood.
Anime in western culture has even surpassed the small screen. Originally-animated movies like Ghost in the Shell and Alita: Battle Angel have recently been adapted to appeal to a western audience. Studio Ghibli partnered with Walt Disney numerous times to release English-dubbed versions of their movies on the big screen, allowing the appreciation of anime to surpass language barriers.
Sure, there are animes out there that conform to the old, negative American stereotypes of anime, but now people are realizing that anime is like any other form of media; There are animes that are distasteful, but there are also so many that are artistic, action-packed, humorous, fantastical, and meaningful.
So don’t knock it ‘till you try it, and if you need any recommendations, I gotchu.
Taesha Jones is a staff writer at Rowdy Magazine. She enjoys hanging out with her cat, reading fiction novels, applying lipgloss, and memorizing female rap verses. Her passions include combatting racial injustice, raising cultural awareness, and promoting a more diversified society. Dm her on Instagram @taeeesha or email her at email@example.com.