Meg-chan in Wonderland: Why I Revert to a Weeboo When Distressed
By: Meg Humphrey
It’s fair to say that most things I do involve fantasy and escapism. The bulk of what I read is fiction, I cosplay, I’m entrenched in the online Star Wars community, and I daydream often. All of these things add some adventure and excitement to my life, but what do I do when things get bad? How do I cope with bouts of anxiety, low self-esteem, or times when I feel overwhelmed (but restless)? I turn to anime and manga. Of course.
Most of the media I consume is hard: super gory horror movies, crime thrillers, mind blowing sci-fi, and non-stop action romps. My taste in anime and manga, however, runs soft – flowery shoujo types about friendships and falling in love and believing in yourself. These are like hugs. They insulate me from ugliness and worries. Everything is beautiful. Everything will work out alright (even if the characters you want to fall in love don’t). In the best ones the plot doesn’t really matter, it’s all about who they are and what they learn about themselves and their loved ones. The catastrophe that will befall if Sakura isn’t found worthy to be the master of the Clow Cards is that everyone touched by them will forget the person most precious to them. Not mass destruction or a plague, but the most horrible thing in the world would be if people forget about the people they cherish the most. If that doesn’t give you goopy, cheesy feelings of happiness and hope, I don’t know what will.
There’s also multiple sides of the nostalgia factor going on for me. The first is that when my life was all about anime and learning about Japan, I was very happy. I was in junior high and high school at the height of my weeaboo. I was the heaviest I had ever been, but my self-esteem and confidence were unshaken. I was surrounded daily by friends, knew who I was and what I wanted, and the only obligations I really had were chores and school work. Sure, I had some negative feelings in me, but overall I was self-assured and happy. Why wouldn’t I want to go back to those easier times?
Even more than school, I learned how to be and have good friends through the anime community. I had very close friends that I met through anime clubs and conventions. I learned how to sew, how to speak another language, and how to draw with them. I spent holidays and weekends with their families. People wanted to share and create things together, far beyond the confines of what brought us together in the first place. Making friends as an adult is hard. There are schedules and previous commitments and everyone has already formed their own judgments and cliques. Making friends like I had is a thing of the past, but I often wish I could do it now.
The community as a whole was very different from the experiences of other sorts of nerd groups. It was still fairly small back then and I knew most people. If people weren’t overtly friendly, they were at least not mean or exclusive. I never felt unsafe and I never felt like people were discriminating against me. Anime was not a boys club like comics or sci-fi; there were no gate keepers checking my knowledge about Ranma ½ or City Hunter. I was welcomed by a community that wanted to grow.
There may also be something to say about the fact that I’m not really involved in the anime community these days. I still go to Sakura-Con and talk about anime and manga online or with my friends, but that’s about as active as I get. I don’t try to keep up with what’s popular nor am I really serious about cosplay. I don’t have to deal with angry fandoms, ship wars, spoilers, or rumors. It’s something pure that I can enjoy on my own terms and limits. I mean, I love you Star Wars online fandom, but sometimes everyone (including myself) should probably just shut up.
Anime and manga are those old friends. Ones you can spend months not talking to, but instantly reconnect with a single text message or a coffee date. It’s a warm and reliable safe haven. So yes, squealing about Matsunaga-san finally confessing his feelings to Shiharu makes me feel like a ridiculous fifteen year old, but that’s the point. And it’s wonderful.