Spectrum News NY recently ran a series of reports discussing the anime/manga culture in the Big Apple. The pieces were quite informative and well done. Those who paid close attention might have observed that many of anime and manga’s most ardent fans appear to have a somewhat negative self-image – not of themselves individually, but of the culture they belong to.
It is not that these fans don’t truly love anime and manga. They absolutely do. But they seem to think that the rest of the world is against them. They feel as though their chosen art form doesn’t get a whole lot of respect. To illustrate the point, a pull quote from one of the Spectrum News pieces suggests that “because it’s [manga] Japanese, it’s just not considered mainstream and that’s unfair because it truly is a global phenomenon. “
Loved in the U.S.
It is understandable that some fans would think that anime and manga don’t get a fair shake just because they may not know whole lot of people who like the genre. But judging the merits of something based on what complete strangers appear to think isn’t reasonable.
Fans may not see tons of other people walking around in anime T-shirts or Japanese streetwear. They may not know anyone but a few friends who buy anime clothing and accessories from Umai. But that does not mean anime and manga are not popular. Let’s face it, we know the Star Wars and Star Trek franchises are huge. But there are far more people who are ambivalent about them as compared to those who consider themselves fans.
The fact is that anime and manga are very much loved in the U.S. How do we know? Because people spend money on whatever is most important to them. And yes, they are spending big on anime and manga. A case in point is the latest iteration of the Demon Slayer series that hit theaters in late April 2021. It made $20 million on its opening weekend.
Streaming giant Netflix also announced earlier in 2021 plans to invest heavily in dozens of new anime titles. Their motivation is clear: they believe anime represents their best opportunity to remain competitive against rivals Apple TV and Disney+.
Not Everyone Is a Super Fan
Perhaps the disconnect for many fans of anime and manga is nothing more than the separation of casual fans from super fans. Not everyone who appreciates Japanese art and culture is a super fan, and that’s okay. The same thing is observed in just about every pop-culture phenomenon.
Going back to the Star Trek and Star Wars franchises for just a minute, there are enough fans to make tens of millions of dollars in profit on every newly released film. That says nothing of all the money made on streaming series, merchandise, and so on.
Still, the number of people who would consider themselves super fans of the two franchises is relatively small compared to the size of the general population. That doesn’t mean either franchise flies under the radar. We know they don’t.
The poor self-image among some anime and manga fans doesn’t make a lot of sense. Perhaps it is the result of our culture being too quick to look at ethnic differences as the reason not all people are on the same page. It’s a foolish assumption, but that’s the way mainstream America thinks. In reality, the amount of money people spend on anime and manga proves that its global reception is a lot more positive than some people are willing to admit.