Anime moves from niche to mainstream in the West

Desi LaPoole

Editor in Chief

Over Thanksgiving break, instead of working on my I.S. I found myself binge-watching “My Hero Academia,” one of the most popular anime at the moment, when my brother walked into the room, looked at the screen and said, “Oh my god, Bakugo is so freaking annoying, right?” This took me by surprise. Somehow my brother, who used to make fun of me for being incredibly invested in “Death Note” back in the day, had been keeping up with “My Hero” — so much so that he had an actual opinion about one of the side characters. It was at that moment I realized that anime wasn’t a genre catering for niche audiences in the West anymore, but it was now part of mainstream pop culture. At the moment, I didn’t really know how to feel about that.

My love for anime and manga stretches back almost as long as I could read. I laid my hands on my first manga when I was only in third grade; it was the manga version of the movie “Spirited Away,” a film I wouldn’t watch for the first time until I was in high school.

The art style, the story, the difference in form and function of the book intrigued me to no end, and I wanted more. I read a manga named Emma next, a story about two star-crossed lovers living in Victorian London, and then Chobits, set in a near-future Japan where everyone owns human-like android companions called persocoms. Once I entered middle school, I began watching their anime adaptations, and then anime of manga I hadn’t read yet. Thus started my love of anime, and it’s stuck with me ever since.

I know my story of how I became an avid anime fan might not be interesting to most people, especially since the genre is only now becoming popular in the West. I fell in love with the medium back when the only ‘cool’ anime to watch were the Big Three (“Dragon Ball Z,” “One Piece” and “Naruto”), and even those weren’t incredibly popular with mainstream audiences. So my interest in shows like “Clannad,” “School Rumble” or even “Ouran High School Host Club” were definitely weird to a lot of people I would share my interest with (I got a lot of sneers and jokes thrown my way when I ex- plained what the hell “Fruits Baskets” was about), and it got to a point where I just wouldn’t share my interests with a lot of people.

But now, a lot more people keep up with shows like “At- tack on Titan” and “One Punch Man” today than watched “Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood” when it first aired in 2009. That’s not to say that people don’t love “Full Metal” now, or haven’t taken the time to watch great classics like “Death Note,” and Studio Ghibli films, but there’s now a newfound appreciation for these amazing shows that I watched as a teen. It’s thanks to shows like the Big Three that aired in the early 2000s that the Western consumer base is now more open to the incredible stories of anime. Now that anime is becoming more popular with mainstream audiences, I can make one of my ice breaker questions when I meet new people “So … do you watch any anime?”

So, when my brother expressed that he enjoys watching “My Hero,” I was taken aback, but I was ultimately happy about it. Now, we have something new we can bond over, and he’s open to enjoying the thing that I have enjoyed for years. I’m excited for more people to get engrossed in anime in the same way that I am, and if you’re interested but don’t know where to start, re-read the article for tons of great show suggestions.