(Thanks to Caddy from A Feminist Otaku for her views on geekiness, cost, and lifestyle)
Whenever I attend an anime convention, I’m struck by the fact that a majority of the attendees have never in their lives wound the head on a VHS tape. They have never blown frantically into their VCR hoping to fix the snow that appeared in the middle of an otherwise peaceful Neon Genesis Evangelion viewing. (As peaceful as a viewing of that show can be.) Oh, youth!
The kids may be alright, but what about the rest of us? What about the salary-men and salary-women of the West? I’ve found that bridging the gap between the working world and fandom can be a fascinating, complicated experience. The stereotype of an otaku who lives with his mom and never showers may have some basis in real life, but really, otaku vary as much as any fan-base. (Not to throw stinky metaphorical stones here, but I have been to many a sweaty, crowded dealer’s hall in my day.)
So how does being an adult, work-a-day fan differ from your average teen screaming at Vic Mignogna in an over-crowded voice actor panel? Other than being older and less likely to don a sexy [insert any anime character here] cosplay as the years go by, the working anime fan has a set of challenges to overcome that a basement-bound student probably doesn’t.
Scraping together enough money to live is difficult enough for most of us, and that oh-so-cute new Nendoroid figure isn’t going to pay for itself. Older fans know better than anybody that anime ain’t cheap. I come from the era of $25 VHS tapes with two episodes of dubiously dubbed anime, and nary a box set to be found. Even with the advent of Crunchyroll.com and free legal streaming, buying the physical media to go with the digital stuff can be pricy.
So what’s a working otaku stiff to do?
No matter what Republicans tell you, at least one government service isn’t evil and can be vital to the cheapskate fan: the public library. We all pay those tax dollars (hopefully), so why not put them to work by renting anime DVDs or reading a new manga series? It’s free. That’s right, free. Selection varies according to location, but most librarians are more than willing to order media for enthusiastic readers, so long as it’s fitting for the general public. (Don’t get on your librarian’s bad side by requesting anything involving tentacles. You don’t want to piss off librarians, trust me.)
Living on your own, or with a partner, presents its fair share of tiresome daily chores. Working, cooking dinner, cleaning your toilet more than once per decade… So how do you work anime fandom into your 8-to-5 schedule?
In college it was acceptable, or even expected, for you to wake up at the crack of noon, split seconds before class started. But try telling your boss that the reason you’re wearing slippers at your desk is that you stayed up until 2 am surfing Pixiv for images of anthropomorphized countries. I’m betting your boss won’t be impressed, even for using the word “anthropomorphized.” Many seasoned anime fans don’t understand the appeal of Hetalia: Axis Powers, so don’t expect your employer to.
One fun way to incorporate love of anime into your dreary daily work is to take the stuff that's already taken over your bedroom and bring it to work! You've spent the cash at conventions to buy the wall scrolls, figures, key chains, stickers, etc., so show it off! Not the body pillows or scantily-clad characters though, unless your boss is very different from mine. Spicing up your workspace can be a fun way to remind you what you've gotten with your hard-earned dollars when the clock just won't move as fast as you'd like towards 5:00.
Not all workplaces are anime-friendly though. If you bring in your Gurren Lagann figurines, be prepared to explain Kamina's funky glasses and blue hair to curious co-workers. If you aren't quite ready to come out as an otaku to your cubicle-mates, try taking a manga volume to read on your lunch break. Unless your supervisor is seriously nosy, you should be able to catch up with Naruto or One Piece at work with no one the wiser.
Any type of dedicated fan has to make these choices to fit their Internet lifestyle into their “real” life. But it can be a jolt to go from the free-wheeling school days to the harsh world of work, where you probably can't wear anime T-shirts every day and dye your hair to match your favorite character's. I've found that it can be almost as fun to find ways to sneak anime fandom into the other parts of my life, and I'm sure older fans can relate.