Is It Bad To Study Japanese Solely For The Anime And Manga?
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.
Founder of Jalup. iOS Software Engineer. Former attorney, translator, and interpreter. Still watching 月曜から夜ふかし weekly since 2013.
I completely agree with you, I often see people in forums acting insultingly and “superior” to anime influenced Japanese learners solely because they are learning Japanese for more “righteous” purposes like business or teaching.
IMO it doesn’t matter why someone is learning Japanese as long as they enjoy the learning process. Learning Japanese can just be another hobby like playing tennis or photography. You do it because you enjoy it.
I agree, if a person wants to learn Japanese because anime influenced them, that’s totally fine; it can lead into many great opportunities after learning a language skill. But, in today’s society and media, japan lovers were often seen as,”weeaboos,” in a bad way, however they don’t know that there was a japan lover before anime was the thing, this japan lover’s name is, Lafcadio Hearn, an author and notable scholar, famous for his books that explain about Japan.
Thanks for the link. Interesting read. Being a foreigner in Japan in 2015 sometimes has its difficulties. But 1890? Wow.
Maybe I haven’t been on enough Japanese learning forums to realize this trend of osekkai and anman. Though, I did have my time as a learner where I “left” anime for dramas and looked down on those who only knew about anime and didn’t know anything else about Japan. Now I love anime and manga again, as well as dramas and other parts of Japanese culture. It was just a phase. Perhaps those osekkai will change too, and realize there’s no reason to judge.
It’s interesting when someone learns a language just for one purpose. My sophomore year of high school, I considered learning Japanese just to play video games, and even imported one, but never really put much effort into it. I never considered that my start of learning. I found new motivations and really started learning my junior year of high school, and like you said, from there my interest in Japanese culture gradually broadened into other areas of Japanese.
I remember the first time I heard Japanese was from “Dead or Alive” on the Dreamcast. I was in 5th grade. From there I heard it in anime and songs. I started to get curious about this beautiful language. That’s when I began to read about the culture and its people. Video games and anime was what sparked the interest, and I don’t think I would have gone through this wonderful journey if I hadn’t been exposed to it.
Like you said, your interests will broaden through time. It has to start somewhere.
I did go through a phase where I avoided anime. I didn’t want to be in the category of learning because of anime. Even people that aren’t learning Japanese say, “Oh, so your an otaku right?”. Now I’m back to enjoying anime because it is fun.
It is such a big part of Japanese culture. There has been numerous times where I went to 飲み会 and the adults reminisced in shows they grew up with. They encourage to watch these shows because it’s part of their culture. Even at a young adults conference we burst into song singing どらいもん theme song. My last Japanese teacher even told me to learn from watching エマ.
You never know when it will come in handy.
I was expecting a steroid-powered rant against anime/video game haters upon reading the title. I was disappointed.
Which is a good thing, of course.
To be extremely honest, I dislike when people ask me why I’m interested in the Japanese language. It’s true I’m interested in it because of the culture and I just find it fascinating…. but it’s also true that one of my main motivating factors is because of anime and manga. It makes me extremely embarrassed to say this for fear of being judged and looked down upon.
Anime and manga has made a big impact in my life and I don’t deny that. However, even when I was first finding out about anime and manga (not to say I didn’t read or watch it before, I just didn’t know what it was I was reading/watching) I knew that anime fans in America are very much looked down upon. I’ve always thought it was a little unfair but I supposed I could understand where they were coming from seeing it as a shallow thing. So I’m happy that this article exists. I’m unhappy that there’s a need for it though.
You know, I would disagree with that. Although it might depend on where you live and your social surroundings, I think the Japanese culture in terms of anime and manga is very embraced and accepted in America. It wasn’t so much maybe ten years ago, but it’s very much so nowadays. From my perspective, people who aren’t open to geeky culture like video games and anime are kind of boring. Once you learn to accept your own interests in public, I think you’ll attract people as friends who like the same things you do and realize it’s not so bad after all.
Oh, but after I typed that, I realized it’s rude of me to say people not open to anime are boring. What I mean is when people put down liking anime, it affects the relationship and I don’t find them that interesting. If people just aren’t interested in anime, I’m sure we might have other things in common. Hope I didn’t offend anyone!
I think it also depends on who is asking you.
If a Japanese person is asking you, and you tell them, often time they feel a sense of pride that a part of their culture has influenced the world so greatly.
If a non-Japanese person is asking you, yes unfortunately there is still a slight stigma to anime and manga. However, this is similar to fading stigmas that change with newer generations growing up on them such as “liking video games” or “internet surfing.”
And really, eventually you will want to change your answer, simply because you’ll get tired of answering the same question over and over in the same way regardless if it is true. For a time, the reason why I was learning Japanese became “I wanted to work on one of those giant tuna ships in Japan and catch some serious fish.”
I think I’m 2/3 Anman. I like anime and manga, but I also like visual novels.
Normally I’m a lurker when it comes to posting but… I’ve been reading over some of the articles on this website and I have to say one thing has impressed me above all else. The general tone of positivity and encouragement while being honest how long achieving X level of proficiency in the language. I think this site is just what I needed to find to re-motivate myself into actively studying again! Love the idea of leveling up and the RPG stuff. Thanks for creating such a great resource!
I completely agree about the “branching out” idea. I started studying Japanese because I liked anime which then turned into manga and listening to theme songs of anime on Youtube which then turned Vocaloid which then turned into random other videos on Youtube which turned into “Hey, I should learn Japanese so I understand all of this,” which turned into me going to Japanese restaurants and eating sushi and other food, which eventually turned into talking about everyday things with penpals, especially differences in our cultures. In Japanese. I’ve learned a lot of cultural bits and pieces out of pure curiosity since I started studying a few years ago.
Interesting at how the people look down on the Anman, eh? I find it annoying when people are looking down upon others for their reasons.
What if I want to be able to speak, write, and read Japanese so I can learn the culture, and read some Japanese Novels on the go?
Instead of waiting for the translated version of a light novel (Which might never come out…), I would rather buy the Japanese version and read it anywhere. If I like it, I recommend it to others.
Then it comes to the culture of Japan. I would love to know Japan’s past. I want to see what happened there instead of America for once.
I’m an Anime/Light Novel/Manga fan and I know it, but I’m also devoted in learning the history of all nations.
Got to start learning languages and study countries somewhere, right? Why not Japan?
By the logic of the superiors on the forums we must stop the history students learning Latin, Italian and German! How dare they all learn another language purely so they can read books and documents in their original form without the opinions of a translator (if its ever translated at all) getting in the way! What stupid closed minded logic! Could continue to rant but I think I’ve summed up my opinion above.
I used to be an active member of the Japanese music room on the P2P program SoulSeek, which from what I remember, lost a significant amount of its membership. It was one of the few places where people were at least somewhat open-minded about J-culture, but it was dominated by half-Anman type people who were really cruel and nasty. Thing is, I was one of them and was paranoid of weeaboos because I felt they were often promoting stereotypes about Japan in terms of why they liked it that were culturally untrue. I didn’t want the culture entirely misrepresented as a fan but at the same time I was going into an anti-Japanese phase and adopting the stigma of the members who were also into this mentality. I still stand by some of my views about the misguided notions some people have about Japan because I was the only one making logical coherent arguments about it in this community (as a regular participant) while everyone else relied on emotionalism and elitism to justify their ‘arguments’. I relaxed when I finally broke away from their community because the benefits were outnumbered by the negativity and filth eminating from the regular members. My mind became clearer and I realized I didn’t have to worry about whether ‘weeaboos’ were going to destroy Japan’s image because cultural romanticism exists in all cultures, and it’s a battle that you can’t entirely win. So I wasn’t going to put that burden on my shoulders. Eventually I went back to liking the stuff I was shying away from, and embraced it fully. However, I like to let myself be exposed to different forms of communication, both formal or informal, to absorb as much variety as I can in Japanese. Video games have been a hobby of mine since young and it was because of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 that I got into the music of Dreams Come True and have been a life-long lover of J-pop. I also have imported dozens of games from over the years across numerous platforms and learned much vocabulary from them. I am glad to see your article so accurately describe this phenomenon!
Yes! Please everyone need to spread this! I’m tired of seeing people being made fun of just because they are learing japanese for that purpose. Let everyone do whatever they want! If we weren’t interested in the culture we wouldn’t have bothered to memorize over 2000 kanji! Just because I’m learing japanese to understand anime/for a trip I get called a “weeaboo”!