With anime convention season almost around the corner, why not brush up on your foreign language skills? In this post we take a look at easy to read Japanese manga that will help boost vocabulary comprehension (kanji, katakana, and hiragana), grammar, and cultural understanding all from the comfort of your own home.
The warm rays of spring are almost upon us in America which means one thing: convention season is almost here!
Whether you’ve been neglecting your studies or have yet begun, this is a post for anyone who would like to study and improve their Japanese using manga. This takes into account that you have already taken formal classes while learning grammatical rules, the three writing systems of hiragana, katakana and kanji, and have the ability to formulate basic sentences.
If anybody is interested, I can make a post on textbooks and supplementary material recommended for beginners at a later date. Just let me know here or via social media (Twitter, Reddit,IG).
So, we’re looking at five books today and although it may seem overwhelming, I’ll show you how they tie into one another.
In one of my first posts on In Asian Spaces, I talked about religiously reading a manga after finishing an anime series I enjoyed. Or vice-versa.
One of my absolute all-time favorite manga series isAku no Hana [惡の華], or The Flowers of Evil by Oshimi Shuuzo. The work explores themes of deviance, isolation and mental illness surrounding a remote mountainous town in Japan. The characters would all eventually like to “go beyond the mountain” and escape the monotonous daily life of being surrounded by judgmental, close-minded individuals.
I first read the manga while it was still ongoing in 2009 – 2014 and then watched the (unjustly poorly rated) rotoscoped anime adaption in 2013.
In current news, there appears to be a live-action film in the works scheduled to premiere this fall that I’ll eventually have to watch.
Anyway, I go to my local Kinokuniya to purchase the manga in Japanese for a re-read with the show fresh in my mind. I’ve found that it’s easier that way since if you do stumble upon an unknown kanji, the context of the situation is still comprehensible.
Luckily,Aku no Hana uses furigana, or kana by kanji to indicate pronunciation. This is the first book we’ll examine.
The primary focus in this work is Kasuga Takao and Nakamura Sawa,
both middle school students. Because of this, a high usage of informal,
childish speech can be found coupled with advanced words related to school
coursework and studies.
When reading a chapter, I like to circle a word in pencil that I do not understand. I continue on, but then come back after finishing to see if it makes sense. If I am still stuck, there are two options: either ignore it and keep going, or look the word up using a service.
Luckily in the digital age it is fairly simple to open the google translate app and snap a picture to find out what the word means. You could then input the word into an online dictionary such as Jishoand discern its meaning, see it used within a sentence and even learn the stroke order to practice writing.
Using a spaced repetition method, write the word down at least five times while saying it aloud along with its meaning. A sheet of notebook paper would be fine for this, but if you’d like to get fancy and are serious about your studies look for something called “Kanji Practice Sheets”. These are used in classroom settings to learn the writing systems or for personal study use.
Googling this phrase, you can find PDFs to download for free or you can even make your own. Simply go to the dollar store and purchase unlined paper, a ruler and bam – you have practice sheets! Or if large graph paper booklets are available in an office supply store near your home, that would be even better.
I don’t know what it is, but I just find the official practice sheets for sale often have inflated prices way beyond their usefulness. But, that’s just me.
One more option for learning kanji and building vocabulary would be investing in a study aid. I purchased 600 Basic Japanese Verbsalmost two years ago in anticipation of the December JLPT. I am a terrible test taker, and since I learned Mandarin before studying Japanese I have a tendency to mix up the meaning of kanji characters.
This book is really useful for learning all forms of a verb to truly grasp its usage in written and spoken common speech.
You’re probably wondering where the other books come in, right?
In the photo, Saeki-san’s friend asks:
“Hey Nanako – did you hear?
Did you hear what happened?”
“Huh?” or “No, not yet”
could be her interpreted response.
Japanese the Manga Wayis great at filling in the gaps that come with Japan’s honorific/hierarchy system from the perspective of an informed outsider. Males speak differently than females, adults differently than children, etc. This book highlights and focuses on patterns of informal speech that would be used by say, our middle school characters in The Flowers of Evil.
Japanese the Manga Way also explains situational differences and gives examples of when informal usage would be acceptable, or solutions of polite speech to use instead.
This book also acts as a great aid for manga that heavily uses katakana, or the Japanese writing system primarily used for foreign words. Shirokuma Café [しろくまカフェ] or Polar Bear Café takes place in Canada.
The story follows a group of talking animals in a world that
co-exists peacefully with humans. After watching the 2012 anime adaptation, it
was great to revisit the world and learn the corresponding characters for Japanese
homonyms and homophones.
It also helps that the characters are simply names of animals, so if you ever go to a Japanese zoo you’d be a wizard traversing the different habitats!
The last manga to mention is Kirby. I’ve never really played the games or seen the anime, but this was recommended to me when I first started reading J-manga. I’ll be honest: all I know about the story is that a pink blobby creature has the power to inhale anything, and eats a lot of food.
(Kirby would also be the last survivor should an apocalypse ever happen, as evidenced by the last Super Smash Bros game storyline.)
The manga is simple to read, utilizes all of the writing systems referenced above and it just has a fun, silly story. It’s a stress-free read if you are just beginning your Japanese language journey.
So using these methods – should we call it the In Asian Spaces method? lol- you now know how to look up a new kanji, learn its stroke order, determine its contextual meaning, and how to learn all of the forms it can take during conjugation.
I may do a post that focuses on Netflix shows with colloquial Japanese and great apps you can download to keep your comprehension up to speed at a later date.
Hopefully someone found this information useful!
How do you learn
Japanese with manga? What was your favorite Japanese book to read as a
beginner? Do you have any recommendations to add to the list?
Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, I’d love to hear from you! Also be sure to follow us for more language learning strategies and skills!
Is Anime NYC worth it? Read about my strange experience and let’s find out.
I’ve been waiting for this.
After therather lacking experience of Anime Fest @ NYCC, I was ready to shake it off and be surrounded by nothing but fandom.
I woke up super early, arriving at the Jacob Javits Center at 9:30am. There were a bunch of autograph tickets being raffled at 8 am and out of curiosity, I decided to see if any were left.
Coming to the con, I didn’t really have much of a plan. See a few specific booths, stop by some vendors, go to industry panels and try to stay long enough for the masquerade.
I accomplished half of this list.
It’d snowed the Thursday before the convention, turning Manhattan into what felt like early January depending on the time of day. I ordered my ticket late and went up to the will call area upon arrival. There were a ton of red ribbons everywhere for the queue and corresponding signage. I barely waited five minutes before getting the Black Clover inspired badge, a lanyard and show programme booklet.
After a quick walk through security I ventured downstairs to find the autograph hall queue.
Many fans were casually lounging around the food court area and the atmosphere was super relaxed. It was refreshing. Hours earlier, an email had been sent out from the convention letting everyone know the game plan for the day and that “You can also walk around the building, sit down, get coffee, and visit the Merch Store.”
I decided to take advantage of the good vibes and take off my coat, rearrange my bag and gather my bearings. Heading even further downstairs I asked security where the ticket signing area would be and was pointed in the right direction. Getting there, however, one staff member was already closing the area off with the red tape I’d seen earlier. I asked if there were any more tickets and he apologized and said no. I asked where would be a good place to wait for the Exhibition Hall to open and found my way back to the lounge area with the other fans.
The escalators were now blocked off and no one could go up to where I initially entered the building. Venturing up to the area two staff members were standing guarding the section and only let other staff members cross.
A crowd assembled and one fan (for whatever reason) decided to argue with one of the men for a few minutes. When she paused for breath, I asked where I should wait for the Exhibition Hall and was directed back to the now taped off section I had just previously come from. I mentioned that I was sent over here by another staff member and received a confused look in response. I suggested that maybe I should just hang out in the area and he agreed. The fan from earlier then continued her pointless argument with the same staff member.
I’m honestly not sure what her goal was. It’s a new convention, only in its second year and it has upscaled greatly from its inauguration. She kept repeating that it made no sense to close off both exits and someone else chimed in that it was a fire hazard. The worker reluctantly agreed but there was literally nothing he could do about it.
I worked in customer-facing roles for about six years and learned that sometimes, people really do just want to argue with you for no apparent reason.
I scanned around and found a seat as the crowds formed from a mob into a somewhat thick line. I sat down at a table with some guys who seemed to have been saving a seat for late arriving friends, but didn’t protest when I asked if it was taken. I took photos and people watched to pass the time. There was a huge line for the Mega and Crunchyroll Premium Fans to get on the showroom floor first. Some people found creative ways to get around this and join their line, and I tip my hat to them.
An hour later at 10:30 am the other line had successfully entered the floor and we were allowed to finally go up the escalator.
I had heard that the convention took up half of the Javits Center, the other half dedicated to “Pet Con”. It’s a bit funny in a sick sort of way that the convention center stuck the anime fans with the animals, but c’est la vie.
Walking around there was so much to see and do. I wrote a list beforehand of booths to check out and made a beeline to the first on my list.
I was an email subscriber and explained that I read you could get a poster by showing the newsletter on your phone. The woman in the booth looked back at me dumbfounded and suggested I go to the booth in back of her. I looked at the posters in front of her and she covered them with her arms. Another fan approached and the woman looked at me, looked at the other woman and then back at me as to ask “why are you still here?”
I asked if I could have a poster and she reluctantly agreed.
Weird. Maybe I was bothering her.
I visited the other booth and mentioned that the other woman said to come here for a poster. She gave me one with a smile and I went on my way. I decided to do a sweep of the area with my camera to get some photos before it got super crowded.
There was a little stage that was playing music. Later returning to the area two men were teaching people the Wotagei dance. Wotagei [ヲタ芸] or Otagei [オタ芸] is the synchronized glowstick dance done at Japanese Idol concerts by (otaku) enthusiasts.
Everyone was jamming and then a baton flew into the group of on-lookers.
No one was harmed, and it continued without a hitch.
One of my favorite mangaka’s works are becoming more popular in the West and I spotted one of his serializations at a booth. I wanted to ask questions, but it was pretty crowded. It seemed like if you didn’t have a credit card out or look like a devoted sycophant – you were pretty much ignored. Which is fine I guess, people came to make money. Nothing wrong with that.
I decided to swing back around to that table in a few hours.
I went down the list of things I wanted to see and finally found myself in front of the last booth. A girl working it was in cosplay speaking to two con-goers. They were having a very passionate conversation and I wanted to ask questions about their streaming service so I decided to wait.
There were posters on the table and a lot of booths went the route of having a “Freebie” sign out encouraging people to take the designated items. About five minutes passed and it didn’t seem like they were letting up anytime soon, so I decided to grab one of each poster. There was a boy standing beside me who was also waiting and followed my lead. The cosplayer broke off mid-conversation and glared at me before saying it was only one poster per person. I apologized and she rolled her eyes before finishing her conversation like nothing had happened. I put one of the posters back and walked away, noticing the boy beside me had done the same.
Right. Well, at least that saved me some money. I’d rather people show their asses before I support their lifestyle.
Also just to note, while going through my camera I found pictures I’d taken of this booth earlier. The girls were blocking the “freebie” sign, and different employees were handing people multiple posters. So maybe this was at their own discretion?
Moving on, I decided it was time to rest so I caught a few panels. The first one was a bit dry and they had slight technical difficulties which was fine – as it is a new con. The dull tone was made up for however by the great information being delivered.
I ventured into another panel that I had been looking forward to. They also had technical difficulties and initially did the presentation without visual aid until the problem had been fixed. It was the same people who had serialized that mangaka’s work, and they were focused on indie works. I started taking notes of when titles would be released and photos every now and again. After the panel, they invited the audience to come up to their table and take some promos. I spoke to the man closest to me and told him it was a really great panel. He dryly said “right” and just turned away.
Maybe he thought I was being sarcastic?
I brought a mask to wear at the convention due to the germs. Being flu season, I didn’t want to catch anything – least of all a con cold. It made my voice a bit muffled and you couldn’t tell my facial expression. I am wondering if this factored into the way he responded. Or maybe he was just stressed and I shouldn’t have even bothered.
Either way, upon leaving I found myself no longer interested in their work.
There was another panel I wanted to see, but first I wanted to try and find the bathroom on that floor level. The manga library caught my eye and I took out my camera to try to get a photo. As I moved to get closer, another girl with a camera also decided to do the same. She was in my shot, so I moved closer and she walked in front of me and into the foyer area to snap a few shots. After a few seconds, she quickly came out of the room and walked away. I decided to go in as well, not passing the table checkpoint as she had. I snapped two photos and walked a few feet out of the room before stopping to look around for the bathroom. I hear someone yelling “Ma’am wait” and see one of the people at the table sprinting after me. He tells me he has to check my bag, and confused all I said was “I didn’t”. I meant to say “I didn’t even go in”, but I assume he thought I meant “I didn’t steal anything” because he then replied “Well good, because we have a lot of great manga.”
After he checked my bag I looked ahead and seen the other girl already at the top of the escalator.
I’d be lying if I told you that this didn’t pissed me off.
I was completely pissed that I was accused of stealing, and that I watched someone else also walk in and they weren’t even checked. In fact, I wanted to write this article Saturday when I got home but purposefully held off until I cooled down. It’s 11 pm on Thanksgiving Eve my time of writing and I am still angry at that exchange. Hopefully, that bit of negativity isn’t coloring the review and causing bias. That is not my intention at all but I need to share these experiences so I can move on to other things.
Following that incident, I said screw the panel and the bathroom and the cosplay meetups – deciding to take one last loop around the convention floor. I went up two escalators to find Artist Alley and stood on the huge line for a security check before getting annoyed, walking up to the table barrier, snapping a quick picture and going back downstairs. I had to go through the main security checkpoint again to get back to the hall and almost just walked out and left. I forced myself to stand in line and thankfully it went quick enough.
After taking some pictures and uploading them to social media for treats, I stumbled upon the far side of the con I hadn’t noticed earlier. People were huddled around cute plushies, novelty merch, and the sparse gashapon machines. One station had some particularly interesting toys inside and upon asking how much a spin was, I was informed it was five dollars. I internally wished I had come to this section earlier when my mood was better and thanked the woman before walking away.
I decided to stop on a lower concourse by a water fountain to sit down and re-arrange my bag. The crowds had really come out and it was hard to find space. There was a group of teenagers sitting next to me in a circle joking and having a good time.
An Undertale cosplayer had walked over and they took pictures with the character. One of their friends had been eating and missed her photo op. A young male from the group got up, followed the cosplayer wherever they went and stood over their shoulder repeatedly asking for a picture until they returned to the group together. After the photo the girl just sat down and spoke to her friends, leaving the cosplayer standing there awkwardly.
I thought about saying something to the kids about harassing people, but decided that I should just go home if I’m in this sort of mood.
I had seen all I cared to see and left to find Jollibee before catching the train home.
Walking to the store from the center there was, unfortunately, a really long line, so I just turned back around and headed home.
So what does this all mean?
Full disclosure: I don’t care about the anime posters. I don’t care about the buttons. I don’t care about the stickers. I don’t care about much of the freebies offered at anime or comic conventions nowadays.
As I mentioned before, I care about experiences. I know where to find most of the merchandise offered at this con here in the city, online or even where to look in Japan. Because of this knowledge, I am generally very laid back and will not fight another fan or anybody for that matter over merch. I’m not one to join a crowd bum rushing a certain area just to claim something before someone else can or does.
I’ve been going to conventions since 2011 where I learned early on that sometimes just grabbing something on a table has consequences. I’ve grabbed posters before and been told that they cost money and had to put them back. With situations like this in mind, I like having a conversation with the person behind the counter or even just saying hello and asking what is alright to take. I go to conventions to feel a part of the collective fandom, meet new people and make friends (even if they are just line friends!).
But for some reason, that was very difficult this year at the convention. I attended last year on a Sunday, and had an average experience based on the con’s new status. This year, I went Saturday and was having the time of my life until (what I perceive to be) bad events happened in quick succession of one another.
Does this reflect badly on Anime NYC?
It’s a great convention for what it’s worth. Solid. It’s grown tremendously from its inauguration last year, and I expect it to grow even further for next year’s installment.
What happened is a reflection on those individuals.
It’s a small industry and I have an impeccable memory, so I’ll leave it at that.
Go to the convention next year if you are able to. If you are local, even better!
The general consensus is one of great excitement and enjoyment, and I am in the minority with the ever odd situational stories to tell.
Your experience will not be my experience, and everyone has their own subjective reality.
Also I hate to beat a dead horse or make this comparison, but between Anime NYC vs New York Comic Con, come to this convention for all of your otaku needs. It is for the fans and they truly do care. You’ll have a lot of fun and hopefully, make a ton of new friends (=
I have nothing against this con and look forward to what they have in store for next year.
A list compiled by Reddit and personal finds of freebies at NYCC this year.
In no particular order or booth numbers because that is essentially how the con rolled this year…
SyFy Fan Lounge (up the escalator in the circular area. You know you’re there when you see crayons and coloring books randomly, spot overworked slightly demure staff and a line wrapping in a circle like some great angry serpent) – free t-shirts also may find the elusive bags here.
Heather Bus (towards the right hand side of the Geico booth if you’re standing in a wrap-around line. Literally a gratified yellow school bus) – Go inside the bus and a bunch of Heathers’ in character will take your photo on a bus seat, and then tell you if you tag it on social media they “might give you something…or whatever.” Upon exiting you get a nifty Heathers pin promoting the reboot.
Geico (Just look towards the Javits Center ceiling to see the judgmental reptile staring at you with glee in anticipation of your personal info. Which by the way, say something to the effect of “I only have my badge, not my license” and staff will waive scanning your ID.) – You get a big blue bag out of it that holds a good amount of weight. Go into the semi-sturdy van set up before leaving and play a game to win different prizes. I got a Geico plushie with a different cape than last year. I think playing the memory game on the screens also give prizes, but I’ve never seen anyone win that yet. Don’t forget to get some hand sanitizer on the way out. There is also a 360 photo/video booth before exit you might want to pop in.
Fandom – You get a cute little pin with their logo on it.
Crunchyroll – A huge pit filled with some sort of bananacat animal plushies. You put shoe covers on your sneakers, hand your cell phone to one of the staff and literally just flop down into the pool of stuffed goodies. You receive some sort of card and red wrapper for partaking. I’ve heard inside the wrapper was an enamel pin. I was in line for this but the person I attended the con with kept incessantly going on about the amount of germs at the con and how I already felt ill, so I skipped out a few moments later.
Outlander/American Gods (towards the green entrance con-goers with tickets were funneled through. It is outside of the convention center with an American cowboy get up.) – Show the Starz app on your cell phone and I believe you also may have to go through some inside store to get the goodies. American Gods give out t-shirts, character buttons and you can take a photo. Outlander gives out a tote bag, and reportedly a perfume vial along with “a personalized leather luggage tag.” The line was a bit long when I arrived and I was still fruitlessly searching for a program booklet, so I skipped this altogether.
Stranger Things – Can receive a replica of Mike’s bike when signing up for a Hawkins Library Card. In addition to a few other little gifts.
Sideshow – Stop by the booth and ask for a card. Go to the smaller comic book vendors and receive stamps from each. Return back to Sideshow and receive a free Marvel Thanos pin that is engraved with ‘NYCC 2018’ and its booth’s namesake. Try to complete this task early if possible.
Loot Crate – Pay with a MasterCard and get a go at their UFO catcher….They may draw you in under the false pretense of scanning your badge to enter a raffle and then ask “have you used your MasterCard today at our booth? If so, you can play our claw machine to try and win mediocre prizes!” Unbridled fun for the masses!
Good Omens – Take an elevator and after a bit receive an enamel pin and a “Nice and Accurate Prophesies of Agnes Nutter” book for your time.
Mood Fabrics – These folks are giving out a little booklet with cosplay patterns and some information. You can scan your badge and be entered into a drawing for a sewing machine to…you know, finally complete all of those backlist cosplay costume ideas.
DC Universe – Receive a gift bag with Titan pins, comics promoting Aquaman, Shazam and Titans. May have to sign up for the service trial to receive these, just remember to cancel before the week is out unless you want to be billed.
Adding onto DC Universe, I received a set of four pins in plastic near the Publishing area but I can’t remember from whom.
Marvel – You may have to fill something out on social media to receive a box with pins, character figures and two masks. Can enter a drawing to win an xbox.
Square Enix/KH3 Demo – Tickets are given out each morning when the convention floor ends, so get there early. After the demo receive a themed popsocket with the logo. Apparently, they are also giving these to people who are in the right place at the right time, so don’t be afraid to ask about it!
YuGiOh – Take a photo and be a part of a children’s card game for all of eternity.
Imgur – Free pins at their booth.
Overwatch – Cosplayers allegedly can wait in a shorter line. The special pin is the Reinhardt character. Can you tell I don’t know much about the game?
She-Ra – A huge statue towards the concourse of the Javits Center. When I passed by I just seen people taking photos with prop swords, and someone asked about freebies but the staff said they were out. Apparently, you can get a headband and a set of buttons. Not sure if the statue and the ‘She-Ra experience’ are two different things. Again had no clue of the layout because of no show program and didn’t want to eat my battery life using the website. Or app.
Penguin Random House – Giving away items associated with the promotion of Anne Rice’s newest book (Blood Communion: A Tale of Prince Lestat). Pins, posters, a cool red feather pen, and some other goodies were available. Basically just travel along all of their different offset booths (graphics, etc) and grab posters and chat with the delightful staff. They are also giving out full on free signed books in drawings every few hours, be sure to check out their booth early to see what’s going on for the day.
Chevrolet – No detailed license scanning this year, thankfully. Complete a survey and have a choice of a few goodies including blue or silver drawstring backpacks that high schoolers wear on field trips and t-shirts.
SmartyPants Vitamins – T-shirts for winners of a quick game, vitamins for all who want them. Towards the entrance of the convention center.
Stranger Comics – Free comics if you follow their social media. Not sure which series or issues.
Rilakkuma (Pop up shop just on the cusp of Artist Alley.) Walk through the cutesy little alcove and the staff can take your picture if you are alone. It was really nice that they tried keeping the stragglers moving in a polite manner so everyone had the chance for nice photos. – Receive a cool deco pen for your time.
Kodansha – Sign up for the newsletter beforehand (I literally just showed them an email from a week ago) and receive a character pin. I believe they also had posters.
Oni Press – Pins and posters. If the pins are not out just ask one of the staff and they should have some, as they were tucked away until I said something. Really nice people working that booth.
In general, everyone was really nice that I encountered.
Dark Horse – The elusive yellow bags. Get there early, because they do go super-fast and you will be haunted every time you see someone go by with one in tow.
Viz Media – Posters, manga sampler, fighting a stampede.
GKIDS – Posters and little character pins. I also think you could get a special Mirai film promotion poster with a purchase.
Vertical Comics – Posters and a very cool shojo manga sampler.
Note: Remember to try your best to go to booths with free bags as early in your con day as possible. They usually run out within ten minutes in some cases (looking at you, Dark Horse…three years running and I still haven’t secured a new bag).
Check out the Reddit thread hereand add your freebie haul to the list! Also be sure to check your favorite exhibitor’s actual website or social media for more info on possible exclusives!
Did you get a good haul? How was your con? Are you excited for next year? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, we’d love to hear from you! Also be sure to follow us for more convention news! NYCC and AFNYCC con reviews coming soon!
Do you actually take Anime Culture seriously? Anime Culture as in watching anime, reading manga, studying Japanese language, going to cons, buying figures, etc. Do you see it as something cool and foreign or as actual stories told by Japanese people using the medium of animation?
Just some background on why I am asking this. I’d been into anime since middle school, staying up late watching Adult Swim because I was bullied and could never sleep. I gradually started watching fansubs online when my mom brought us a computer. Switched from dubs to subs, I started buying books on Japanese culture and studying the language. A few years later I created a YouTube channel doing reviews of niche anime and manga, but it wasn’t popular. Due to the fact that the standard channels were talking about whose waifu is trash, fmk, who had the best teet-hair color combo. I refused to do that, plus in hindsight I didn’t promote the channel well enough. I was in film school at the time (I finished btw) but I would actually talk about character growth and development, plot events context in Japanese society and customs, etc. and it was dirt compared to people who squealed about mainstream show episodes by saying “the pacing was good, the animation was on point, the music – OMG – I was so hyped” to the crowd they catered to.
After college, I got a job at a Japanese cultural center for a year where I continued to take language lessons (I’m currently intermediate level and I will be trying for the JLPT N4 in December) and I had a good time there. I didn’t watch any shows, mainly because I didn’t have time but also because I felt like I was living in a Slice of Life. I knew a lot of customs (meishi koukan, correct amount of times to bow and the degree, how to accept or give items, how to be conscious of my body language i.e. not a lot of hand gestures, even nuances like how to refer to myself by pointing to my nose) and I knew literally all of that shit from watching anime and glazing older cultural books. My colleges were always impressed and I received a lot of respect. I had no problem surviving in the thick Japanese atmosphere where I heard Japanese spoken each day and dealt with businessmen and workers from well-known international brands. I had friendly convos with the older ladies in Japanese at local grocers by my job, could find my own non-English manga at book stores; I never felt out of place going to summer Matsuri or other ceremonial things. I didn’t feel like a total gaijin, even though we were still here in America.
When we had events for anime and those in the community showed up, they were looked down upon. It wasn’t fair, but it’s not a secret that Japanese don’t put a lot of stock into any sort of subcultures. The fans showed up in their Black Butler T-shirts and Shingeki no Kyoujin backpacks (which was fine) but didn’t even try talking to some of the Japanese people who were also there. There was such a clear divide between people with similar interests, where the Japanese were probably “too foreign” despite Americans consuming their media that does have a lot of traditional aspects in it. The Japanese were probably intimidated by the language barrier and thought it was a pain to try to speak to them.
Do you watch anime consciously knowing these stories are told by actual Japanese people, or do you just enjoy the aesthetic and don’t really care about the culture behind it? There are so many reasons why anime has educational value and why it is so popular. The bridge can definitely be crossed I think. I just don’t know if each side is ready.