Column: Anime community grows in post-pandemic pop-culture

Allison Bair, Staff Writer

It all began with my uncle gifting me old comic books and reading the weekly comics in the Sunday newspaper. My obsession with picture books never really faded. Images could tell just as good of a story on paper as words to me. So from reading and rereading old classics like Garfield and Calvin and Hobbes, I dipped my toes into the DC and Marvel scene. I started down a path I would unknowingly never be able to come back from. 

I remember my first interaction holding a manga. It was a black and white comic book. But read…backwards? And Japanese? The kids who read manga and watched anime weren’t very cool. They were smelly and greasy and always thought they were the smartest in the room. So these stories couldn’t be that good. Right?

I was wrong. Years later, my best friend introduced me to her favorite anime at the time. An animated sports show? It sounded ridiculous, but I gave it a try. After being used to dark and gritty TV shows, comics and novels, I was rolling my eyes hard at the positivity radiating from this anime. This redhead was so positive and optimistic about being the best volleyball player on the court even though he never officially played on a team. Haikyuu was the first anime I ever watched. Begrudgingly, I decided my best friend was right. This anime was really good. Then came COVID-19.

COVID-19 gave a lot of people, kids and adults alike, a lot of free time. Live-action TV production was canceled. This is how animation had its big 21st-century boom. Technology made it possible for creators to work from home. 

With new animated content being pumped out and promoted and live-action entertainment cut short, COVID-19 coincidentally paved the way for a new generation of anime. Replacing the first generation of anime, such as Bleach, Naruto and One Piece is Jujutsu Kaisen, Demon Slayer and My Hero Academia. For new generation watchers, the former three anime are what began their journey. Fanbases exploded. Tiktoks are being made, art is being created and the word about these shows is growing exponentially.

Perhaps it may be because I live in an echo chamber and surround myself with people who like the same things as me, but I feel as though the consumption of what was previously seen as weird and geeky is now the norm. Although the standard passerby may not watch anime, they are definitely aware of its existence and may be able to prattle off a few popular titles. 

The same could be said for other media, such as video games and western animation. While COVID-19 was a negative experience for everyone, many of us found community without the barrier of strangling societal norms. I feel as though quarantine opened up so many opportunities for people to discover their interests or try something they may not have liked simply because they had time to do so.

I’m proud of the growing nerd culture and I’m so happy to have been able to meet so many new and interesting people. While it’s a cliché thing to say about such an unimportant topic, trying new things is fun and, for me, it opened up a whole new world of people to meet and things to do. I found a social life because I had no social life. Funny, right?