Art by Isla Mowbray
When lockdown was first announced, I thought it would be the perfect time to work on forgotten projects, develop a new hobby, or attempt some overall self-improvement. For the first few weeks it actually happened, I was cooking more, learning the ukulele, and had even bought some flashy roller skates. Eventually, my extraordinary laziness took over and soon enough all my time was spent online or sleeping. With so much free time and no idea what to do with it, I found myself revisiting things that I’d loved to watch or read when I was younger.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I was kind of a weird kid. I had some rather interesting and intense hobbies (read: obsessions) that I was extremely open and obnoxious about. Basically, as is common for many Asian teenagers, starting from the ripe old age of 12 I went through an intense weeaboo phase. ‘Weeaboo’ is a word used to label people who have a special interest in Japanese culture and media such as animation and graphic novels.
To put it simply, I was really into anime.
I binge-watched hundreds of episodes, spent too much money on merch, attempted to learn Japanese, and even cut my hair to match my favourite characters. I was unashamed, unabashed, and unafraid to show off to anybody who would listen. Childhood ignorance truly was bliss because looking back now, I probably weirded out plenty of people.
But God was it fun.
I genuinely fear that nothing else in my life will be able to match the pure passion and energy that I had as a young weeaboo. It was such a huge, integral part of my life that there was no way I could leave it behind so easily. In a time where I was so unsure about what the future held, it just made sense to go back and relive the days when I didn’t care about all that stuff. Anime became a coping mechanism of sorts, a form of escapism. It became an anchor to keep me from floating away in a sea of stress and anxiety. I didn’t have to worry about global pandemics or university marks when I was huddled up under blankets and pillows watching Bleach or Haikyuu!!. There was a huge comfort in watching something I’d already seen and knew the ending to. I even found myself hesitant to start watching new shows. I didn’t want any more surprises or plot-twists; 2020 had given me more than enough of those already.
Growing up also meant that I had long gotten over the fear of being bullied or made fun of that had partially led me to abandoning my weeaboo life in the first place. Internet ‘cringe culture’ had created the stereotype of anime watchers as pathetic, nerdy, male virgins who never left their rooms and had naught but body pillows of their anime ‘waifus’ to keep them company. I didn’t fit that image myself, and I didn’t know anybody who did either, so why should I let myself be affected by the extremely wrong assumptions of random internet trolls? Without sounding too pretentious, I’m of the opinion that it’s about time that people recognise anime and manga as valid forms of art, with a diverse range of stories, characters, and art styles you’d be hard-pressed to find in Western media. There’s something in there for everyone, from fantasy epics, absurd comedies, and sweet romances. No matter what your taste or preference, you’ll probably find something catering to them exactly. It’s part of what makes anime such an effective form of escapism.
In times like these, everyone is looking for something to use as a distraction, to allow them to escape from the current bleak reality. For me, it’s anime and the childhood nostalgia that comes with it, for others it might be learning a new hobby or general self-improvement. It’s important to understand that there are different strokes for different folk; everybody copes with a massive global crisis in their own way and there’s no one method that’s right or wrong. If it works for me, it works for me and there is no shame in that.