“You should watch ‘Naruto,'” a friend said in no uncertain terms last year. It was innocent enough, but when I was scrolling through Netflix in late 2021 and saw the yellow-haired boy in a flamboyant orange jacket, I decided to give it a try. It was the first Japanese cartoons or a new season of some half-assed dating show. At least, that’s what I reasoned at the time.
A year later, I’m deeply invested in anime, watching all of “Naruto” and “Naruto Shippuden” in about six months, making it through “Demon Slayer,” “Jujutsu Kaisen,” and about half of “Bleach” and “Boruto.” Almost finished “InuYasha” and watched parts of “Hunter x Hunter” and “The Seven Deadly Sins.” I currently have about a dozen more recommendations from friends and family that will consume the next two to three years of my life.
It may seem a little strange for a Mexican-American woman in her 30s to become so fervent about something that is considered childish, but reintegrating into post-pandemic society has been incredibly difficult for me. People drain me more than ever, and the idea of coming home after a long day of social interaction to watch a live TV show filled with scripted conversations is no longer my ideal way to relax .
Instead, I prefer to disconnect from reality for a few hours at night by delving into the world of mythical demon dogs and chakra-charged ninjas. It’s funny because when I started telling people what I was seeing, I expected them to make fun of me. But so far, it hasn’t happened. If anything, people have made unwarranted suggestions to me theirs favorite anime Their faces usually light up and we go through the list of anime we’ve watched to find commonalities.
It’s comforting to know that I’m not the only one who uses anime as a stress reliever. AnimeTok star Tony Weaver Jr. he started watching anime before he understood what he was actually watching. He found himself consumed as a child watching “Pokemon” and “Dragon Ball Z,” but it wasn’t until he saw the futuristic adventure series “Eureka Seven” that his passion for the genre was truly ignited.
“Anime appealed to me because it gave me characters I could lean on when I wasn’t strong enough to be myself,” Weaver told HuffPost. “When I had a hard time making friends, I could imagine myself as a member of The Strawhat Pirates from ‘One Piece.’ If I needed strength, I could lean on characters like Goku. The nature of anime based on the long-form story really it gives time for the characters to grow, and I strongly believe that watching them grow through their journeys has helped me grow as a person.”
“What I’m hoping for is that the new generation of anime fans are kinder and more diverse than ever before. They’re creating new norms for what an anime fan looks like.”
– Tony Weaver Jr., a TikTok star who covers anime
Weaver, who is also the award-winning author of the manga series “The UnCommons” and the first comic book writer selected for Forbes 30 Under 30, has since turned his love of anime into a full-fledged career TikTok dedicated to celebrating the genre and destigmatizing the stereotypes surrounding anime fans.
“Things like misogyny, racism, and bad body odor have plagued our fandom for years, and I’ve seen them all firsthand,” Weaver said. “But what makes me hopeful is that the new generation of anime fans is kinder and more diverse than ever. They’re creating new norms for what an anime fan looks like, and a lot of my content is focus on creating a safe space for them to do so.”
Like me, Weaver uses anime to de-stress. He leans on comedy shows like “School Rumble” or “Hyakko” in times when he feels overwhelmed, but he also finds hope for the future in powerful stories. “Seeing the deep friendships has made me appreciate my friends a little more, and seeing the characters break their boundaries helps me break mine too,” she said.
For Linda Dianne, watching anime was a way to cope with the events of September. 11. Dianne watched anime like “Sailor Moon” religiously before, but after the national tragedy she found that anime helped her process the event.
“It was an escape and a safe haven, because if ‘Sailor Moon’ was on, everything was safe in the world,” they said. While anime doesn’t necessarily help Dianne reduce stress, they said it helps them deal with reality. “I feel like I’ve been able to use anime to not only explore world events, but also really heavy emotions like grief. I think of life as a coloring book, and anime just helps me access more colors nuances that I may not have had access to before seeing it.”
Although Dianne and her partner are watching “Dragon Ball Z” together, this was the first anime that pushed Zach Humphrey into the action-packed and passionate world of Japanese cartoons. It was the first show that helped Humphrey find common ground with his older brothers. They enjoyed watching the show together so much that they all iced their hair and pretended to be Super Saiyans while quoting the show.
Humphrey started looking at anime as a way to bond with his family, but said he has since formed deep friendships and connections with roommates and even mentors. Beyond finding community among their peers, not to be confused with problematic weeaboos, who denounce their own culture and stereotype Japanese culture, Humphrey said they admire anime as an inspirational art.
“Many people dismiss anime as a childish and melodramatic art form, but I find that these people are simply not engaged with an art form rich with a long history,” they said. Although they mostly watch anime now for a much-needed dose of nostalgia, Humphrey also finds solace in “idyllic” queer romance anime. “[They] It shows queer relationships in such a sweet and free way that we don’t often see in real life.”
And it is this escape and hope for the real world that captures the hearts of so many anime fans. For others, watching anime wasn’t necessarily a conscious decision. Sara Delgado grew up watching anime unknowingly as a child. It was a standard morning cartoon ritual full of “Dragon Ball Z”, “Dash Kappei”, “Captain Tsubasa” and even “Shin-chan Moomin”. As a ’90s kid, it wasn’t until “Pokemon” came out that she realized she’d been an anime fan all along.
“It wasn’t really a conscious decision, I just grew up with it,” he said. “It was on TV. I think people didn’t care back in the day. It was only later that the distinction between anime and cartoons became more prominent, as did the ‘otaku’ stigma.
The idea that watching anime turns you into some kind of social outcast took hold in the early years. Perhaps due in part to racism or a general dislike of things designated as nerdy, anime fans have had to navigate the delicate balance between their love of Japanese cartoons and society’s expectations. In the early years especially, the love of anime could be misconstrued and turn your distress into something embarrassing for others. Now, however, Delgado said that watching anime has become almost fashionable.
“I was at the airport not too long ago and I remember hearing a teenage girl flattering a classmate, saying they were perfect because they watched anime. That’s not something I would have heard back in the day, not to sound like a soul old woman,” Delgado said. “On the other hand, I think a lot of people still see anime as ‘less than.’ It seems that some people can’t understand that an ‘animated series’ can have awesome stories and have a varied design, no matter if they are supported by colorful images or more grotesque images.”
The new generation of anime fans decry the oversexualization of female characters and inappropriate conversations that have become an overused and unwanted trope in anime. These fans have made efforts to separate themselves from extremists who use their love of Japanese cartoons as an excuse to fetishize Asians. They are actively trying to improve this community and create a space that is welcoming to everyone.
Still, as anime fans continue to navigate the treacherous waters of enjoying something the masses consider abnormal, they find solace in their passion. Delgado and his partner watch anime together every Saturday morning with breakfast.
“They may not be as light-hearted as the ones we watched as kids, but the nostalgic element feels comforting on its own. Whether it’s 20 minutes if we only have one episode to watch, or a couple of hours if we need to get into the day, during this time period, we feel as carefree as when we were kids. That’s part of why I enjoy it so much. I don’t think anime is therapy by any means, but just like any other form of entertainment , they can also be a form of escape.”
Not only that, but the web community is incredibly healthy. Talking about your favorite characters together, delving into theories, or even bonding over your shared love of silver-haired side characters, there’s a sense of togetherness in knowing you both enjoy the vast world of Japanese animation .
And for anyone reading this who wants to dive into this seemingly intimidating world, Weaver has just one thing to say: “Anime is for everyone. This community is full of kindness. So if you’re looking for a friendly place , [we’ve] i caught you “