You’re a weeaboo or otaku. I get it. Or, if that term conjures the images of fat, smelly men cuddling with body pillows that reek of semen or equally fat and smelly women heavily breathing over a monthly issue of “It’s not Homo; It’s Yaoi desu!”, you might at least prefer to be called a “Japanophile”. I get the part where proclaiming as one of the three terms above makes you feel unique and special, often to the point where your friends and peers would just shake their heads and mutter “Almighty Chinchin-sama, please grant me the sweet release of death so I can be rid of this fucking cancer”; I was once like that in junior high school. But as I grew up, I realized that I could be what I called a “positive weeb”. I didn’t have to live up to the stereotypical weeaboo/otaku/Japanophile character.I could channel the power into things more closely related to reality.
A reminder before we start. All of this is my anecdotal experience. I’m not saying that if you follow these tips, you can achieve the aforementioned objective. I’m just here to share, not to spew self-help bullshit that I despise.
Let’s carry on now, shall we?
My weeb journey
First, an obligatory origin story.
My cancerous weeaboo phase started back when I was in junior high. The first anime I was addicted to was Gundam Wing and subsequently, Gundam SEED, which was aired on Sundays on TV. That was back when Indonesian TV stations weren’t total Muslims and showed anime without cutting out the fans service parts (save for the explicitly vulgar). I remember humming Just Communication at school. I should also tell you that there was no such thing as cheap internet back then. I only had a dial-up connection from Telkom and had to wait like a fucking hour just to download a 4MB MP3 file. Ah, that was the life. Waking up at the break of dawn just to use the internet. Anyway, junior high was the time I developed cancerous weeaboo syndrome.
Anyway, junior high was the time I developed cancerous weeaboo syndrome. I talked all about anime, glorified Japan non-stop, and couldn’t stop whining when other people said they didn’t “get” anime or said it was simply cartoons. I even became an angsty recluse during the class performance just because the majority rejected my idea to perform a Japanese song on stage. Fuck ’em, I said, and then I retreated to the computer lab to play DOTA.
Good thing Facebook didn’t exist, otherwise, I would have had a cringe-fest of a profile.
However, I would say that one good came out of that phase: I began to become interested in anything related to Japan. This would set me up for my more sophisticated weeb phase later in my adult life, starting from senior high.
My weeb persona carried over to my senior high life. It was a great time in my life, where I began to explore the intricate aspects of my weeb self. In my second year of senior high, I became chairman of the Japan Society, a group of like-minded people who have a Japan fetish. There, I met my first love (yes, I’m fucking serious) and some friends who liked to draw, read comics, discuss anime, and even go to Japanese events (really rare back then, like once a year rare).
But I was seriously a bad leader.
Anyway, during my senior high life, my weeb persona urged me to learn Japanese. There was no Rosetta Stone back then, so I had to learn it the hard way. I went to Gramedia and purchased some books on learning Japanese. Luckily, the school curriculum offered a course on Japanese. Then, I learned my ass off. In my spare time, I was practicing writing the Japanese alphabet, reciting common vocabulary, and even dreaming of getting the Monbukagakusho scholarship (which I didn’t get) so I could fly to Japan and fuck a Japanese schoolgirl… I mean, prostrate myself in front of Yasukuni Shrine.
So far, my weebness was only there as a means for either entertainment or establishing social connections. It was when I became a college student that being a weeb and watching anime had any significant impact on my real world activities, including academics. And this is the part which I emphasize on the “positive weebness”, or how being a weeb actually helped me in real life.
Which leads us to…
1. Anime helped me understand abstract concepts
Once, I used a clip from Arpeggio of Blue Steel in a classroom presentation to explain maritime security. The lecturer praised my presentation. Even my colleagues thought it was cool.
A bit of context, though. I was an International Relations undergrad, focusing on Security and Defense Studies. It was my turn to deliver a classroom presentation on Japanese maritime security policy.
A week before, my brain was fucked up trying to understand Mahanian naval strategy, the Booth trinity of naval roles, and Geoffrey Till’s concept of the 21st century Navy and seapower. All of these concepts were essential in understanding maritime security, especially maritime policy. But I couldn’t understand a fucking thing and my brain was fried. So, I decided to take a breather and watch the first episode of Blue Steel. After the first 10 minutes, everything became clear to me. I suddenly understood how maritime security is essential in safeguarding communications, trade, and ultimately, the security of the entire world. Then, I spent 3 hours straight making a presentation.
You see, anime as an art form helps bridge understanding between the abstract and reality. Academic textbooks are so fucking dry, yet the concepts they deliver are essential. Now, I always actively watch anime as a form of art that tries to convey a certain philosophical context. Blue Steel was one of them. It helped me understand the basics of maritime security because it communicated the essential concepts in a form that is easily digested, contrary to the dry, droning style of textbooks. Another interesting anime is Ghost in the Shell, which explores our obsession with augmentation and the perils of an overly connected society. Or this Reddit thread on Mirai Nikki as an allegory of Nietzsche. Or, perhaps Valvrave and Gundam, which demonstrates how international relations work in a compressed time frame.
Of course, I’m not saying let’s fuck the textbooks altogether. Anime only works if one has a rudimentary grasp of the abstract concepts; otherwise, you’re just passively watching.
Of course, I’m not saying let’s fuck the textbooks altogether. Anime only works if one has a rudimentary grasp of the abstract concepts; otherwise, you’re just passively watching. And this only works when you’re actually watching meaningful anime, not just another fan service fest full of butts and busts.
If you haven’t already, you should read my review of Rakuen Tsuiho, where I discuss how the anime successfully demonstrates three philosophical ideas, which would be absolutely boring as fuck if read as words. Or, if you would like an anime satirical version of Orwell’s ideas of a negative utopia or “political correctness” gone overboard, check out my review of Shimoneta.
2. Being a weeaboo helped me develop multiple perspectives
Face it, you can’t be a weeb without open-mindedness. Heck, you’re being exposed to a culture that’s sometimes way out of whack from your original culture. How could you possibly enjoy anime or anything without an open mind? If you didn’t, you’d be just like the fuckers at the Information Ministry, censoring anything that doesn’t hold to Indonesian morality standards just because they’re different.
So, what’s the connection between weebness and open-mindedness? Simply put, being in close contact with a foreign culture for a prolonged amount of time helped me develop multiple perspectives on life.
I was always fascinated by the punctuality and hard work ethic of the Japanese. How could they work 10-12 hours a day non-stop and how the fuck are there trains punctual to the minute? I wanted my Indonesian friends to learn these values no matter what. But then, I tried to look at it another way. High productivity has its downsides. Deaths related to work are common and work-life balance is thrown out of whack. I can’t imagine that being applied in a society that’s more communal than the individualistic Japanese. So, there had to be a middle ground.
Or, when I began to explore Japan’s budding halal tourism business. At first, I was excited to know that, despite not being a Muslim, Japan was trying to expand its market reach to the Muslim tourists. However, I didn’t like the practice where Japanese businessmen would cut corners in obtaining the halal label in an attempt to rake in easy shekels.
Or the issue of sexuality. In Japan, sex is not a taboo thing. It is regarded as a private matter, except when minors are concerned, and is not linked explicitly to a degree of morality. In Indonesia, women who want to become cops have to undergo a virginity test and cheap motels are often raided by the Moral Police to prevent decadence from spreading.
There’s always many sides to something, and being exposed to another culture helped me understand that. It opened me up to more possibilities, more perspectives. But, despite anything you say, VOCALOID was not a fucking mistake. It is the pinnacle of human ingenuity and you won’t convince me otherwise.
3. Being a weeb gave me uniqueness
I still admit that I like anything related to Japan. I am still, to some extent, a Japanophile. However, now I’ve learned to channel my powers for good. Like my Bachelor’s thesis, which earned me a Cum Laude, my degree, and was nominated as one of the best theses of the year.
Since I became an IR student, I always wanted to write my thesis on Japan. But, I wanted to be a hipster and choose something out of the ordinary. The stereotypical thesis on Japan was always about anime. Either the evolution of anime art, anime as an art form, anime as Japanese pop culture, or the evolution of anime as a part of pop culture. There were already so many theses discussing anime. Yet few discussed Japanese politics. So I decided to do that. Luckily for me, in 2014, Shinzo Abe decided to push for constitutional revision of Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution. I saw that as a fucking opportunity and jumped right on it. I decided that would be my thesis: Japanese security policy.
And so I wrote. And wrote. And wrote. In one month, the final draft of my 140-page thesis was finished. The results were beyond satisfactory. Now, I’m going to continue my Master’s and hopefully do more research on Japanese security policy and perhaps its effects on Indonesia-Japan relations.
So I think that being a weeb did give me a sense of uniqueness, but only when coupled with another aspect. Being a weeb in and of itself is fucking disgusting, but when paired with a more realistic aspect of life, it becomes a driving force that’s fucking powerful. I mean, take a look at Danny Choo. He’s a Japanophile, a full-blown weeaboo. Yet coupled with his tenacity to make his own brand, he became one of the most famous Gods of Japanese pop culture. Or some of my friends on my Facebook feed. Luthfi of Re:psycho is a damned weeb obsessed with Akane’s butt. But when coupled with his passion for music, he’s now one of the respected reviewers of music and works at a J-themed radio station. Or take the King, a hardass weeb with a talent for lay-outing and writing. You know who I’m talking about. And let’s not start on the many aspiring Indonesian comic artists who were once weebs too, but then channeled the weeb power for good.
Being a weeaboo has had its ups and downs for me. When I was in the cancerous phase, I became nothing but the trash of society, obsessed with 2D girls and showing off my “anime expertise”. But as I grew up, I learned how to harness the negative aspects and emphasize on the better aspects of the weeb power to become what I am today.
And I could say, that without my cancer phase, I wouldn’t be able to become the self-proclaimed riajuu as I am today. I still adore Japanese culture and all its charming and disgusting aspects. I am still in touch also with my original culture and roots. I now actively watch anime to extract the good messages and let the fans service slide. So, all in all, being a weeb has helped in a lot of my life.
Again, this is just a simple recap — or musing, if you may. I don’t intend to push any of these “tips” on you readers. But I would really like to hear your similar experiences. Perhaps being a weeb helped you out somewhere or some time in life?