Japanese learners face an irritating problem when they deal with each other. There is a never ending supply of unnecessary criticism of how and why people study Japanese. People get so involved in their own methods that they love to put down others. Japanese website forums are dangerous places where this negativity festers. “Advanced” learners seem to love to “help” beginners by telling them why what they are doing is “wrong.” For the rest of this article let’s refer to this unpleasant group of people as Osekkai ・御節介 (the Japanese word for someone who always is meddling in the affairs of others).
The number one targeted beginner group that receives the worst wrath from these Osekkai are those who start studying Japanese because they like anime and manga, and want to watch it without subtitles and read the manga in its original form (let’s call these people the Anman group). You will find countless posts, videos, websites, and discussion board topics of Osekkai knocking on Anman. What makes this even worse is the “half-Anman”, or someone who is studying Japanese for anime and manga PLUS other areas of culture will join the Osekkai in this craziness. The half-anman will claim that he is different from the pure Anman because he studies all areas of Japanese culture as opposed to solely for anime and manga.
If the above paragraph sounds kind of crazy it is because the reality of the situation is crazy. A large percentage of people start studying Japanese because of anime and manga. I’m not here to discuss whether studying anime is good for your Japanese or not. I’ve already done this. I’m here to discuss whether there is something wrong with being an Anman, and studying Japanese only for anime and manga.
Study Japanese for whatever reason you want.
Being an Anman is no different from studying because you like Japanese history, samurai, swords, ninja, temples, buddhism, AKB48, Akihabara, Japanese idols, Japanese guys, sushi, rice, or even Hello Kitty. No area needs to be considered inferior to the other. Anime and manga are and have always been extremely popular in Japan, and in recent years this has spread to the rest of the world.
Anime and manga are a large part of Japanese culture. If you have lived in Japan, you know this. Adults and children alike share in this joy. While it has caught on in most other major countries, there is still a slight stigma to it. This is the same stigma that video games used to have when I was growing up in the late 80s/early 90s. Playing video games was considered kind of uncool and childish. Flash forward to 2012. How are video games viewed now?
But even before it reaches the same acceptance as video games, what does it matter?
Can an Anman succeed and become fluent from only studying with Anime and Manga?
This question is void. Studying Japanese will change you. I guarantee you (a JALUP guarantee) that whatever reasons you started off studying Japanese for will evolve. While you may have started Japanese solely for anime and manga, you will branch out. Even if you think you have no desire to ever focus on anything else, naturally you will become more interested in the language and culture. People somehow forget that manga and anime tell stories that take place in Japan and usually hit on various aspects of culture.
Do you think after watching Ruroni Kenshin (samurai anime) you won’t have a little interest in the Edo and Meiji eras? Or after reading Great Teacher Onizuka, you won’t develop an interest in what Japanese high school life is like? Or after reading Liar Game, you won’t want to watch the drama, and after watching the drama, you won’t become a fan of Toda Erika? The great thing about anime and manga is that it will introduce you to the culture in an easier to digest format, which means your Japanese will improve in a smooth fashion.
So let’s stop the elitism. Stop the hate. Let people study what they want for whatever reasons they want without thinking they are doing something less than you are.