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Oct 10 2010

OreImo: Reminders of My Otaku Past

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The Fall 2010 anime season has been off to a great start so far and I do enjoy a lot of what I have decided to pick up. Of those shows Ore no Imouto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai is one the series that I can most easily relate to. In particular episode 2 struck a chord with me and awoke some memories of my life as an otaku that I usually avoid talking about. I would say that I share the same anxieties that Kirino has about making otaku friends though the circumstances aren’t exactly the same.

First I’ll give a little background on how I got into this whole otaku business as context before going into the OreImo-related stuff. I may not have been born in Japan but I very well could have. From as far back as I can remember up until just before my sixth birthday I lived in Japan. I grew up around Japanese culture and I remember going to shopping arcades, trips to Tokyo via shinkansen, watching anime on TV, etc. I didn’t always know what was going on but I loved it. When I moved to the States my general interest in Japanese culture in particular anime and games only grew as a sort of nostalgia.

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Anyway back to OreImo. During the beginning of the episode Kirino overhears a group of otaku talking about some game. Kirino is genuinely interested but she can’t really bring herself to go talk. Her friend puts it bluntly by saying that stupid otaku should just shut up. Kirino consults her brother about the situation. She has no friends with the same hobby as her. Even though she wants someone to discuss her hobbies with she doesn’t want to make otaku friends. She doesn’t want to be associated with such people due to the various societal consequences. The world looks down on otaku so she can’t let people know.

The above is essentially the story of my life though the societal problems for me stem from personal experience rather than a fear of an overall cultural disgust. I understand how it is for Kirino to not have any otaku friends. Every time I expressed my enthusiasm for anime publicly I was always made fun of behind my back. I remember an assignment in elementary school in which I had to create a world and share it with class. I poured my heart into an amazing drawing with an unquestionably heavy anime influence. When I got excited sharing it and talking about it I got laughed at and called names. I also remember designing a Gundam in middle school and the same thing happened. Cases like this are why even now I feel uncomfortable sharing my art with people unless I feel like I won’t be looked down upon. Eventually I kind of gave up on sharing my hobbies with people.

Throughout elementary school to high school I really didn’t have anyone with whom I could truly express myself. That’s not to say that I didn’t have friends at all but I really was never that close with them; I don’t remember revealing and discussing any of my deepest secrets or worries like I do so often now on a weekly basis with my current friends. I had some friends thanks to being in the same academic programs and through my art club but aside from these we had little in common. I already knew that the people I could become friends with didn’t have an interest in anime partially due to what I described above and for other reasons. Sometimes we did things like play video games together or something but never anything that I really liked and was instead dragged into things they liked. More often than not I would choose to stay at home and isolate myself in a world of otaku entertainment rather than interact with most people that I knew. Because of this very loose connection I lost contact with them very quickly after entering University with that academic connection severed. In all honesty I haven’t communicated with most of my high school friends in years except one of my closer classmates a few months ago but only so that he could deliver some depressing news which I’m not going to describe.

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There were a few times during high school in which I could have made otaku friends but like Kirino I couldn’t bring myself to do so. It’s not that because of some self-hate issues but rather I hated the idea of giving people an excuse to mock me or being scared that I would still be laughed at after revealing my specific tastes. I remember seeing a group of goth kids who always talked to each other before class started every morning. Sometimes they would have cat ears or other times they would talk about Inuyasha or something along those lines. “It’s true that these aren’t exactly my interests but surely it must be better than my current situation, right?” I had thoughts such as this and yet I was always too intimidated to approach.

Another time I was enrolled in a technical drawing class. Sitting behind me were a boy and girl who would always talk about various anime as they worked. On one occasion the boy was talking about how KimiNozo was his favorite anime ever. I really wanted to turn around and say that mine was Kanon but I couldn’t do so. I didn’t want to be grouped together with these two and stared at by everyone else.

Anytime I went to the bookstore to look at manga or something I always ran away at the sight of someone else approaching the bookshelves. I was scared of being seen with other otaku. Looking back at it now I honestly regret not having the courage to make new friends and get over my societal anxiety during these or similar situations.

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Anyway back to OreImo. Kyousuke suggests that Kirino should try meeting people online first. This culminates in an IRL meetup with fellow otaku. Kirino is a little nervous as she’s getting into a world she really doesn’t know. At the scheduled tea party she has a hard time interacting with the others and ends up having a terrible time. Afterward Saori invites her to an extended tea party to get to talk to her and Ruri, the other girl who didn’t really have an active time at the event. Ruri and Kirino start to talk more and eventually they find out that they have opposing tastes. Ruri is a fan of a show that airs at the same time as Kirino’s favorite anime and they have a big fight. Kirino defends moe magical girls while Ruri defends her serious business show. Even though they don’t see eye-to-eye the fact that they can be so open about their interests is a triumph which brings them closer. After returning home it’s revealed that Kirino and Ruri have started sending each other messages online.

The analog to this for me would have to be my anime club. At this point I was starting to get tired of not having any friends to talk to about my main hobbies so the first thing I did when I got accepted into my current university was to look to see if there was an anime club. Just like Kirino I was anxious about my first meetup that I didn’t know what to do; I had no experience talking to other otaku online much less offline. In fact I was so frightened by the whole affair that I was late 30 minutes–It took me that long just to talk myself into going. With some very important exceptions that I’ll mention later I had a hard time talking to most people. Maybe it’s because I was shy or something. I don’t really know. What I do know is that looking back I’m glad I summoned up the courage to go or otherwise I may still be in my own world watching anime by myself and isolating myself from others.

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Anyway I kind of doubt that I would have stayed in the club had it not been for the two people I now consider my best friends. Aorii and Miki_sei are the two I had the most in common with. In fact I would say I’m somewhere in between the two. Both me and Aorii had the same tastes in the more niche aspects of otaku culture such as visual novels that the rest of the club didn’t seem to be familiar with. During my introduction to the club I said that Kanon was my favorite anime which I don’t think anyone else knew. Of course at some point Aorii approached me and started talking and the rest is history. In Miki_sei’s case we kept on seeing each other all over the place. We actually met in Japanese class although I don’t think we talked to each other at all, and then later at the anime club and then a Japanese cultural event. After some time we decided to start hanging out and communicating online through the club forums or IM. In fact this is the reason people refer to me offline as Honya since he asked me if he could just call me by my online handle.

Ever since joining my club I’ve become a little more open about my otaku interests. I still have a terribly hard time talking with people outside of my interest base unless I keep things strictly business. I literally have no friends outside of my club. I have acquaintances but nothing more. In a way I’m keeping parts of life separate from one another in the same way as Kirino. This is one of the reasons I’m trying to find a job in the area around school. I’m incredibly terrified of the idea of being separated from my friends especially as I’m also notoriously bad with keeping up with people through online means. I’m so heavily invested in otaku culture that one of my greatest fears is never finding a life partner who shares a similar interest. Otherwise that’s too much time to spend alone. I don’t want to find myself in a situation in which I don’t have anyone in real life that I can be open with and share my interests. I apologize if this has been a little long but this has become somewhat of a catharsis of otaku experiences and fears.

Permanent link to this article: http://honya-ch.com/2010/10/10/oreimo-reminders-of-my-otaku-past/

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  1. NighNote

    That was a nice story, im still i high school student; I kind get what u mean Ive been an otaku since my middle school days thanks to a korean friend that recommended me to watch Death Note, so thats when all startedXD, the thing is that as you i dont have many otaku friends but ive never been afraid of showing my tastes to all in fact I have lots of friends that doesnt like anime or manga as me but they are irreplaceable to me, best friends if u want to take it like that, no one even my classmate looked down on me just for being an otaku and not just an otaku also a Comic Fan, Love Marvel Comics <3 i dunno if its cuz im lucky or due my personality, but is true that i want to talk to them about the episode of last night or the new OVA comming up but its difficult to find those kind of ppl, specially in Mexico and I some times i get this feeling of loneliness while not being alone, I trust u understand it lol, and as you im afraid that in the future I dont find a life partner with similar interest, but somewhere there must be someone :3 so i dont lose hope haha.
    PS: Wow that was quite a comment if u reach here i personally thank you for taking ur time reading this 😛

    1. Honya

      For my personality it’s hard for me to open to people especially if we don’t have many common interests. I can interact a little bit but I can’t really show my true self most of the time which makes me a little sad occasionally. If I was a little more outgoing maybe things would be a little different. I guess the best we can do is to keep believing in the future.

      1. NighNote

        Yes, is all we can do now right? But I know someday our love will reach that special person no matter how far he/she is 😉 well pledge eternity to them <3 😀

  2. Picup

    I fully understand your feelings about being scared to express your Otaku-ness; I felt the same way when I was in high school, although after joining my high school’s anime club, it was slightly better — but I didn’t really meet anyone ‘great’. Maybe the difference between our circumstances is that I’m more of a gamer, so I met people who shared gaming interests. Now that I’m in University, I just pretty much communicate with those from High School — it’s a bit hard to make friends in University if you don’t join clubs. The problem with the anime club in University is that it runs really late on Mondays and I live pretty far from there. But enough about me XD.

    Meeting people online can be a bit intimidating, but once you do, it feels pretty nice. I would love to actually meet you, but too bad we live in separate countries ._.;;;

    From your tweets and some of your posts, I don’t think you’ll lose Aorii and Miki_sei. Don’t lose faith, it also takes time to open up to people!

    thanks for sharing your story with us, it was a wonderful read. [:

    1. Honya

      Unfortunately my high school never did have an anime club though there were probably enough people dispersed around school to form one. That’s probably the main reason our situations are flipped. If you can find the time I suggest giving it a shot.

      I’ve gotten a little better with online communication after starting blogging. I should probably start keeping track of the community actively again. If you’re ever in the States or I come visit Canada I’ll remember that offer.

      I don’t think I’ll lose them either. I have to keep faith.

      I’m really glad you enjoyed it.

  3. ETERNAL

    D’aww… kinda nice to hear about how you met your closest friends at an anime club. I spent a bit of time thinking about social stigma and anime fandom back in late middle school/early high school, but I pretty much came to the conclusion that I simply got lucky; I’ve never been made fun of for being an anime fan, so I never developed the stereotypical otaku self-loathing and shame. Of course, having “alternative” hobbies means that you’re excluded from certain social circles, but they did their thing and we did ours, so I never felt ashamed or reluctant to talk to other fans.

    Still, it’s kind of interesting to hear a story like this from someone older than me since I’m a uni freshman and therefore new to the anime club. For every person I meet in the club, I wonder if there are other equally interesting people who don’t go to the meetings for fear of social stigma… it’s such a shame that things like this have to happen, but I’m glad that you were able to find some friends who share your hobbies. In a slightly different way, I “joined” the internet half way through high school because my real life friends lost their nerd passion and started drifting into hobbies that I didn’t care about, so to some degree, I know what it’s like to feel socially isolated in real life and to have a bunch of acquaintances but no friends. Just remember that the internet is always here! :3

    1. Honya

      *blushes* That part was really embarrassing for me to write. I didn’t mean for it to come out sounding like that.

      I sometimes wonder how things would be different if I actually decided to befriend the people I mentioned but it’s too late for that.

      I’m sure there are people who are scared or put-off of going to the anime club. I know a decent number of prospects never come back past the first meeting or two and some never come at all. I heard from a friend that there’s a fansubber who goes to our school but I’ve probably never met the person. Like you said there’s always the internet but there’s something about hanging out with my friends late night in the living room and talking for hours until the dead of night about various topics. I dunno but just being there in person together is kind of irreplaceable for me. Of course I love the internet too!

  4. eckstee

    I’m here too, lol.

    1. Honya

      Well, yeah but it’s not like I’m going to mention everyone lol

  5. Kawasumi

    Mehhh. . . yesterday about 5~7 persons at my msn said i look like Kirino. d:
    I’m half-japanese, and live at Brazil. My mom come from Japan, and my “nii-san” is very-very harsh about social stuff.
    I love animes, and today i can say “i’m a otome”, but before i was scared to talk about my hobby (eroges, sim date, animes). . . my brothers always loved RPG, but, never talked about anime with me. One day, he comes to my room and started to talk about something ironic, he was a otaku too. The person i most feared was a otaku, and it give me courage to start to talk about my hobbies.

    Okay, sure I’m a anti-social person, hard to make friends because my Misanthropy. It is hard to me belive on someone, and i got some other problem ‘i hate my real self”. At Internet i can be “someone”, someone that i like to be (A little kitsunemimi girl). My mom, accepted (yeah, i was surprised) about our hobby, and she assumed about her “hobby” with animes (she is very-very-very moar otome).
    Okay, she don’t like the ‘modern’ animes, but she watch something with us: Shiki, Arakawa Under the Bridge bridge, Hime Chen! Otogi Chikku Idol Lilpri. She even start to play some anime songs.

    Honya-chan. Don’t be ashamed about your hobby. Anime is anime; like car is car and woman is woman (two “pop” subjects here at Brazil). At Brazil, a lot of people think “anime=cartoon”, “anime is something for children”. But i found my group (and still my friends for RPG, anime, talk about random subjects. . .); so cheer up.

    [Sorry my “awesome” English]. FAITO, Honya-chan!!!! Sometimes, the right person is at your side all the time and you even know. ^_^

    1. Honya

      That sounds nice that your brother helped you be more open about your hobbies and that your mother accepted and sometimes joins in.

      I know what you mean that on the internet you can be the one you really want to be. For me it’s one of the places I can be the me I don’t always show in real life. Same thing with my friends. I can be more open with them so I’m not as afraid anymore.

      Thanks for the support! I’m sure the person really is right by my side.

  6. Shance

    I think this something that you have to really figure out for yourself. Acceptance really is hard, and a lot of otaku encounter the same thing as you did. However, it’s not always a derogatory thing if you do it the proper way. I mean, Kirino may have tried a different approach for her hobby, to the point that she can even convince her strict father to allow her to pursue the hobby further (which may very be the reason as to why she was able to convince her father to let her work for the sake of it). Just find the “proper way” for you to overcome and even things out and you should be fine, no matter how much glare and discrimination you get.

    1. Honya

      I understand. Sometimes it’s hard to do that though which has always been my problem. I guess I should have mentioned this above but at the end of high school I got tired of things and just went crazy since I knew I wouldn’t see most of these people ever again so I did weird things all the time. I guess the biggest one was Haruhi cosplay and dancing Hare Hare Yukai in the school parking lot and trying to do it again inside school only to get stopped by the principal. It was kind of funny actually and I found a few other anime fans because they recognized Haruhi so that was nice to find out.

  7. Liberta

    I believe that your story, as well as message, is the sole purpose of the creation of this anime. =) Everyone that responded in this blog probably had times where their hobbies have been criticized and/or made fun of, myself included. Even to this day I still get “those looks” when other people find out I watch/listen anime and music that comes from anime. Even amongst anime fans, I get EXTREME criticism when the fact I like to play with Visual Novels >.> The good thing is that I do not falter when that happens. Little bickering, such as bullying, does not effect my broad sense of mind. If there are people out there in the world that make fun of people for being different, then that person(s) has not developed enough to appreciate another member of their own species.

    It is nice to know that you met some good friends through an anime club though. It would be nice if I can get out of this stinkin’ house so I can get out more and hang out with people that have similar hobbies. Blogs like yours make me feel more at ease :)

    I will say that I totally appreciate what Kyousuke is trying to do for Kirino. Knowing that she has an understanding brother will help her feel more at ease about discussing about her love for anime and eroge is very fontunate : ) I cannot wait for another episode to air to see more development on their relationship =D

    1. Honya

      Unfortunately many people never really “grow up” and learn to accept other people’s interests and beliefs if they differ drastically from their own. The world would be so much better if that were only the case.

      The environment of clubs is pretty great for getting lots of people with the same interests together. Without it I doubt I would have found many people if any at all with my same hobbies.

      I’m glad you appreciate my blog. If you ever want I can give you a space on the site for your own. The offer is always open.

      The brother-sister relationship is great. I can’t wait for another episode either.

      1. Liberta

        It is a sad story where I can only imagine a world where Humanity functions as one body. Where every single human being was accepted for what they are and to set differences aside. Heck, humanity will probably stop killing each other if that were the case. Ohhhhh, I bet that will never happen in my lifetime XD

        I feel very honored to have been offered a portion of Lyrical Spark, /humbled.

        However, I would not know where to even start in terms of blogging XD I never really gave it a lot of thought on what to blog about. Like 90% of the time, I usually read and hardly ever write XD

        1. Honya

          Well if you ever want to experiment, I can give you a subdomain to test the waters.

          1. Liberta

            Whew, makin’ monies keeps me busy but I like seeing green in this crappy Economy XD

            You are talkin to a person who appreciates the world of science =) I shall accept your offer and your assistance in this experiment :) I believe you have my e-mail in your records since I have to submit it in order to make a comment. When you have the time, shoot me with a mail 😀

            In another topic, Na-Ga contributes his skills in the third eye catch for OreImo. I was SOOOO EXCITED when I saw his name in the credits. Wondering what did he have in store for us viewers. The result was OUTSTANDING! As if Key were to make a OreImo Visual Novel lol

            1. Honya

              E-mail sent!

              It would be interesting to see that. There is a VN that is going to be released on the PSP around January. I’m thinking of getting the special edition but it’s about $100. I’ll probably just end up buying the original novels and saving the rest towards my guitar fund.

  8. taoseven

    This is basically the same situation I’m in now after recently finishing oreimo I realised that I no longer want to keep hiding my love of anime, seeing Kirino and everyone talking and sharing their interests and having so much fun. I’m trying more the online route first though, Blogging about anime joining some forums etc but I hope I can one day make some friends who I can talk about something I am so passionate about with. 😀 This was a nice read I could relate too!

    1. Honya

      I’m glad to hear that you liked my post. It’s good to know that you’re opening up more about your love of anime and sharing it with others. I hope you can make friends like that too!

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