Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Are otaku all that different from sports fans?

While sifting through the news to come out of Anime Boston and PAX East, I stumbled across an opinion piece on arguing that Anime fans and Boston sports fans aren't so different after all. After reading through the contributor's points, I found myself agreeing: both enjoy dressing up to show support of their favorite team/character, both spend an inordinate amount of money on relevant team/series swag, both avoid end-of-season disappointment by turning to the rallying cry of "there's always next season!", and both enjoy a strong sense of community.

A casual reader might dismiss the opinion piece as being overly general. You can apply the above listed traits to nearly any group of enthusiasts- but the point of the article was to bring understanding of the otaku culture to the non-otaku in the Boston area.

Like most cities that host major conventions, the local Boston businesses enjoy a healthy boost from the convention goers, but despite this economic boom there sometimes exists a marked air of antipathy between locals and convention attendees. In my experience, this is fairly limited and localized. Most locals goers treat otaku (cosplayed or otherwise) with a sense of bemusement and idle curiosity. Pictures are taken, awkward smiles are exchanged, and sometimes a few polite questions are asked. It's sort of like acting in a renaissance festival, except you (probably) yell "Huzzah!" less frequently.

Sometimes, however, exceptions to this d├ętente surface and an uglier side of the relationship is revealed. During lunch at a food court near Otakon this past summer, I overheard a father tell his toddler son that they were going somewhere else " get away from these fucking freaks". A charming moment of fatherly love that the child will recall fondly, for sure, since the "fucking freaks" in question were nothing more than a group of well-behaved, bubbly teenage girls in Pokemon cosplay enjoying lunch. Not exactly the sort of thing you need to lock your child away from, that.

Yet even in this, the author of the opinion piece is onto something. For the cantankerous, miserable, and malcontent crowds of people enjoying themselves- be they comprised of drunken Sox fans or pink-haired otaku- are something to be treated with open derision regardless of whether they're yelling "ICE COLD WA-TER" or upending cars and lighting them on fire*. Perhaps otaku and sports fans aren't so different after all

*- To my knowledge, this august tradition of sports fans has never happened at an anime con. Yet.