Anime and Bullying: Adolescent Otaku Dealing With Bullies

I recently uploaded an app called “Anime Amino.”  It’s a social community for anime fans – mostly teens and mostly those who enjoy Black Butler, Fairy Tail, Naruto, and the like.  To engage the community, I asked this question in the discussion section:

Have you ever been bullied for being an otaku?

I didn’t intend to share the results anywhere in particular (you’ll note that the responses and questions aren’t really set up survey-style), but the response was so great that I thought I’d share.  Part my work has to do with bullying, as well, and I believe the topic of bullying has an important association with Christian life.

As of the writing of this post, 101 individuals responded to the question posed.  Most (90) were teenagers, with a few younger than 13 and a few older than 19.  About 2/3 were female.

When I posted this question, I was hoping for a smattering of soulful responses.  Instead, I got way more responses than I anticipated, but only a few serious, detailed ones, which was perhaps more in line with what I should have expected.  Still, it was great to get so much feedback – about half of the respondents, 49, said they had been bullied.  I determined that of those, 20 were almost certainly bullied, according to the definition of the term; 2 were not and 27 were undetermined.

Here’s a good definition of bullying:

Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.

And so, what did I learn from all the responses and anecdotes?  First, bullying of adolescents because of their identification as otaku seems to be a significant issue.  No one presented a story that involved dangerous violence, but the fact that 49 kids on this small app said they were bullied is significant enough.  And I think this is a pretty new phenomenon – of the six adults who responded, only one said they had been bullied.  Meanwhile, 50.5% of those of school age said they were.

The responses to bullying were interesting, too.  I divided responses into two categories: positive or aggressive.  Positive responders dealt with bullying in recommended ways:

  • Avoiding the bully
  • Ignoring the bully
  • Standing up and then walking away
  • Telling an adult
  • Stopping the activity that the bully focused on

Notice the last point – stopping what you’re doing.  Although it may seem like a weak response that stomps on freedom of expression, it’s worth considering stopping some things that attract bullying, and at least consider stopping some actions, if not all.  For instance, the girl quoted below might just want to stop singing J-pop on the bus and yelling “BAKA!” at people:

I say “No!!!!! IT’S JAPANESE!!!! BAKA BAKA BAKA BAKA BAKA!!!!” and they ran away…then on the bus me and my otaku BFF were singing in Japanese and all the 8th graders started making fun of us and talking bad about us….yeah I always get called a freak and stuff…

Aggressive responses were just that – name-calling in return and violence, for example.

Heroman screen capture from Farewell, Nyarth blog

Most respondents didn’t provide enough information to fit into either category, but of those that did, almost twice as many were aggressive rather than positive, like this humorous individual:

But I hit a boy with my pencil case across the head and kicked him a lot!

Others seem to be going through their chuunibyou stage:

I don’t know how many times I had to give them 1000 years of pain.

To be fair, though, all of the respondents did respond at least somewhat positively since they shared their experience on the app.  And certainly, a number responded in very healthy ways:

…I learned a few years back that if I’m having fun doing whatever I’m doing it doesn’t really matter what those people say!

People have tried bullying me in the past, but they kinda gave up when they realised I didn’t care about what they thought at all…they tend to leave you along if you just act completely apathetic towards them.

Some acted in a mixture of ways:

People sneer at us everyday but we shrug, smile and secretly think of ways in which they could die!  You know by death note and all that!

You may have noticed the words “us” and “we” in that last quote.  A connecting thread among many of these young people was they dealt with bullying and name-calling through community:

The fact of the matter is I was picked on but ive got the best people on my side and I have our community, our ‘world’ standing next to me!

…it doesn’t really bother me, since some of my friends share my passion so that we can be weirdos together 😉

And perhaps that’s a great lesson on which to leave this piece.  As bullying perhaps becomes more unrelenting than ever, teens may be best able to move past it by banding together with friends.  And that’s the purpose of community – whether on playgrounds or in church or anywhere else – to be there for another in love.

34 thoughts on “Anime and Bullying: Adolescent Otaku Dealing With Bullies

  1. I have been bullied in the past, not because of anime, I started liking really liking anime late in life, but probably because I had, still have, a hard time sharing the same problems as people my age, and I was badly depressed at the time too. Ironically enough, I was so out of the loop that I didn’t even realize I was bullied until years later.
    Here’s how I dealt with the bullies, I ignored the rumors that were spread by the girls, as for the boys, one day I walked to one and simply hit him. From that day on, things went pretty well.
    I dealt with all of this alone and, strangely, I only got deeply involved in my church after it stopped.

    As for specifically anime related bullying as I said I’ve never been a victim but I’ve witnessed some, it wasn’t nothing major, just a casual comment from a “friend” of mine about how that person sucked for liking anime so openly, I don’t even think that person heard it, but my friend, who’s been bullied in the past as well, got a lecture from me.

    1. Thanks for sharing your experiences, and also sharing some ways to cope with bullying. It sounds as if you’ve really grown and become stronger – that’s awesome!

  2. This is really interesting and quite disturbing. I think the results rhyme with the info on bullying in general. From what I understand, a student gets bullied due to not one but multiple factors or traits. I think those that habitually yell ‘baka’ do carry other traits that tend to attract bullying as well. But one thing is certain; being otaku strongly attracts bullying.

    1. Good insight – indeed, we’re only seeing a small portion of the story. A lot of these young people are probably bullied for more than just their “otakuness,” though that certainly contributes.

  3. Interesting post that seems to be relevant to western geek culture as well. That said, this seems to have taken a darker turn into bullying *within* geek culture – there’s been a lot of talk lately about so-called ‘fake’ geek girls receiving abuse and trolling. Sadly, it seems that the bullied can become the bully at times…

    1. You know, I’ve read about that in a few places recently! What a weird trend. I remember Olivia Munn being criticized as being a fake nerd when she was on AOTS, but I hadn’t realized that this was actually an issue many were facing rather than a random jab at an actress/host.

      One of my friends, Lauren Orsini of The Otaku Journalist, actually wrote about her own experiences related to this problem at her blog.

      1. Actually this is more common than you think.
        Bullying inside the very anime community, hell, inside the very same fandom, is sadly something I have seen even more than real life bullying.
        I suppose it comes from the fact that it’s easier because most of the communities are online.

        This is quite hard to deal with, I have never been a victim of that because I am not as active in the communities it’s been happening the most often (another reason why I dislike Tumblr ^^) but I have seen it done to friends and I never know what to do, supporting someone via the internet is quite complicated since you can’t really hug them and hit the bullies.

        1. That’s a great point – the digital setting brings a whole new set of challenges. It’s easy to bully online, but like you said, I think it’s more challenging to support the bullied in this medium.

  4. I’ve experienced being bullied in elementary school, but I didn’t let the bully have a foothold on me…. in fact , I fought back. In the end, she was the one who lost friends, became alone. A lesson learned. My motto is, don’t get mad, get even. That’s bad, but I believe people shouldn’t walk away from this kind of thing. It only empowers and emboldens the bully.

    1. Haha, well, maybe “getting even” would be considered “bad,” but you definitely have a great point and speak from experience. Really, when bullied, we have an opportunity not only to stand up and help ourselves, but help others to by stopping the bullying now and perhaps preventing future victimization from occurring.

      Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  5. he he Actually, I was just a thin, Asian girl, a new student….. but I fought back. She elbowed me on the school bus…. I hit her with my school bag, told my mom , Mom wrote a letter to the teacher, ” Student bullying should be stopped early,” was what she wrote, she was called to the Principal’s office, her parents, too and she was suspended for 2 days. And to think I was the one who hit her. BTW, she had been elbowing me out of a line, in the cafeteria, etc. Then I held a birthday party, I gave everyone an invitation, except her, and I showed her she was the only one who wasn’t invited.( My Mom planned that). She wasn’t popular, I became popular, and she was just a big, fat, ugly girl who bullied because she was inadequate. There, I said it.

  6. I was never the type who was very open about being an otaku, and I think reactions like this are part of the reason why. I know a lot of people look down on anyone with hobbies like us, and some can be very abusive about it. As much as it sucks, some people are just like that and it’s usually best not to aggravate them.

  7. I was bullied for a lot of other reasons when I was younger. I was a very awkward child and had little to no proper social skills, which really didn’t help my case at all – and my mother’s way of dealing with it was completely inadequete and made me cry and didn’t help things at all.

    I started watching anime at an age where I’d learned to keep quiet about not-ordinary hobbies, so the only disparaging thing I’ve had to deal with is a friend of mine who doesn’t get it and has made a few scornful remarks, and thinks I’ll hit it off with any guy that happens to like it as well >.> That’s irritating, but nothing serious.

      1. Go to hell holo, you narrowminded. Who was asking you to open your mouth, smartass. I understand what you go trought sweatpea616, i had the exact same prob.

    1. Thanks for sharing. I started watching anime when I was already technically an adult, but I still largely kept it under cover.

  8. I have experienced bullying myself back in grade school. I was the chubby kid and sort of the outcast. Definitely was not popular. I got called “fat” and “ugly.” I did cry when I got home from school when I got called that, mainly by the boys in my class, but it wasn’t too severe I think. What helped was the fact that there was a small group of us in the class that would have been considered the “outcasts.” We sort of banded together and it made my grade school days bearable. I think I get the last laugh in general since this ugly duckling has turned into a swan.

    I do have to admit that I’m scared for the kids of this generation when it comes to bullying. Social media like Facebook, Twitter, etc. makes bullying much more vicious than just words alone. Kids have extra ammunition to really hurt and humiliate someone. It’s easier to shake off words, but to post something that is a lie and thousands of people can access it through the internet, it makes it harder to ignore. I definitely agree with people being held accountable these days for bullying with the amount of suicides because of it.

    1. Thanks for sharing!

      It’s definitely a difficult world for kids out there now. Facebook makes bullying so much more powerful – it can reach so many so quickly, and it makes it so that kids can’t just leave it all behind at school. Meanwhile, schools are having troubles catching up to bullying, but hopefully, we’ll see some real in-roads into bully prevention in the coming years.

  9. While I don’t really enjoy saying it, I was bullied about liking anime by my older brother. And I don’t like calling it bullying, but it technically was. Then again, it probably didn’t matter that it was anime, although he did seem to find it particularly stupid. He stopped doing it after a while.
    Bullying is a huge problem, and I believe that it’s one that also keeps itself alive, if you know what I mean. Some kids who are bullied will then bully others, who then might bully others, and the cycle goes on and on. Like the cycle of hatred in Naruto.
    Having friends certainly does wonders, though.

    1. Yeah, strangely enough, I think a good number of us have been bullied (or at least disparaged) by those close to us. 🙁

      And again, everything comes back to Naruto. Good comparison! 😉

  10. I don’t recall being bullied by anyone in regards to being an anime fan, although I was criticized by my male classmates in grade school during the Pokemon craze for liking “cute” Pokemon like Pikachu versus more aggressive, powerful ones, especially Mewtwo. For me, though, this was par for the course since it seemed my classmates would do anything just to piss me off – even my “friends” – and the authority figures were impotent to do anything about it save for one or two incidents.

    1. That’s an interesting conflict you bring up…the idea that Pokemon is okay (after all, it was hugely popular), but that we might be insulted for the Pokemon we liked, based on how it puts us in specific cultural roles.

      Thanks for sharing!

  11. i still get bullied, then again, its actually within the community itself sometimes, simply for throwing out someone who was popular in the Anime Community. Oh well…it happens. But truth is, the outside will always look at us like freaks, nothing we can do…we just have to smile and remember…we understand something that people have yet to understand at all.

    1. Also, there are so many people out there that simply live lives of selfishness and contempt – that won’t ever change and they’ll continue to look for victims. I hope that you’ll endure and be strong!

  12. I am Brazilian , so it is possible that the text has a mistake, since I’m typing into Google Translator , and everyone knows how much he is wrong.
    I’ve been intimidated by most of my life. Because of animes, my short stature , or any other petty reason like my glasses or my utter addiction to wear a scarf (event 4th grade , where I went through a bad time , as a disease , do not know exactly what since my mother never told me (as she is a nurse , she made ​​the same diagnosis and told me what to do . never received an adequate explanation ) , and even in the heat of hell here in Brazil , I was forced to use because it felt cold all the time … )
    The fact is that at the time, bullying was not a subject much talked about and I do not know how to react to it , so I ended up reacting like the perfect victim . Just shut up and answered the bully , afraid that worse things happen . So the thing was evolving as a snowball . Bullying led to theft of personal belongings , which led to theft of money , which led to physical aggression. With ten years I’ve had more broken bones than most students in the class together. And arranged the various excuses for this, as break or trip accidents in a ladder (since the school has a lot ) . Still I remained silent , afraid .
    At that time , I had apelas 10 or 11 years and had no friends . Today my parents complain , saying that when I was a child easily arranged friends , and today I ‘m the quietest person they know . Obviously not at the time or today they know what happened and happens .
    In Grade 5 , the school moved again , this time to a school farther inland , in a small town in the interior of São Paulo , after begging my parents . I could redo my life , as he was too shy to really make friends , but the intimidation was not so clear. Was smaller target of some bullies , but most was just insulation. Made a friend in the middle of the year , a chubby girl, but really quiet and shy , who also could not get friends . It was the first courageous act on my part , that I remember . Her name was Isabella , with her, I could act my real self . I remember that my favorite activity was to make her exasperation saying ” Rules are made ​​to be broken ! ” Of course I never really broke the rules ( unless you tell it to use my cute and innocent of lying to get some ice on the ward way. With the heat , my favorite activity was to put ice in your mouth and drink during class . This was the most affordable things )
    But once again I had to change schools due to an ‘ incident ‘ in class Physical Education , where I ended up taking a knee to the eye. Fortunately, it was not so serious and I usually I see yet.
    Even changing school, the bullying continued , indeed increased , as with the changes I could not keep in touch with friends I made in a way that was not MSN or Skype .
    Many suffered physical assaults during that time , cyber bullying and even had an incident that caused me to get kicked out of a school when I was framed in a joke from classmates .
    Now I am 15 years old and will be going for the second year of high school . I’m afraid the kind of bullying that will suffer. I was among the three who could repeat the year last year. Theirs was the only one who actually spent , but it does not really matter to them . Besides the 3 could be repeated , one was me , another was my only friend and the other a girl who never spoke . The other two repeated , then I lost my friend . It was me who used to ‘ protect ‘ , and without him there anymore , what should I do?
    I know I should denounce them . Stop doing what made me start Bullying is a bit impossible at the moment. Much of what started this is my height ( I Have 1 m and 45 cm ) , and my constant reading manga. Can I stop reading manga , but it will not make me grow … My only option would be to denounce them , but I’m afraid … And it hit me anymore? The Director never suspended or expelled anyone for intimidation or assault , since it is a school where students are supposed to be better behaved and intelligent ( since the college has an entry fee of only successful 5 % , with the rigid proof ) . Not to mention it is a school with a lot of clout . This is also bad because it is a small town and any incident can cause a bad reputation on local TV . They avoid severe punishments for students to avoid riot act .
    I do not know what to do , and the more I think about it the more I’m desperate . Especially that with the mixture of classes planned for next year, I ‘ll end up in the same room Ricardo Silva , the biggest bully of the school, responsible for 78 % of my injuries last year. This is what I saw in the interval and exit . What will I do if he is in my class ? I’m not on good terms with the rest of the class , so I can not wait for outside help . There are cameras in the room , ( as it is against the law ) , just in the hallways . There are chances to catch him in the act … And there is a 5 minute break between classes so that teachers can walk from one side to the other of the college without haste, and go in the staff room to get the stuff next class. Five minutes is enough for him to hurt me seriously.
    What should I do?

  13. Victória , obrigado por responder . Eu entendi quase tudo , eu acredito que , mesmo com os problemas Tradução de Google .

    Sinto muito que você teve um momento tão difícil . A adolescência é muito difícil, e tem sido um especialmente difícil para você , mas você está quase completamente. Apenas mais alguns anos de escola !

    Eu não estou muito familiarizado com a cultura brasileira ou com a sua escola específica , então eu não tenho certeza se as minhas sugestões vai ajudar, mas acho que estes podem, por isso, espero que você vai considerá-los :

    1 . Evite os valentões da melhor maneira possível . Aproveite as câmeras e os professores , fazendo planos para aqueles momentos e lugares onde você pode ser intimidado .

    2 . Faça um outro amigo, se você puder, e ser um ” time”, emparelhar-se uns com os outros , sempre que você ir a lugares .

    3 . Tente ser confiante. Em vez de se esgueirando para longe, dizer o agressor para parar.

    4 . Não fique sobre- emocional se você está intimidado . Tente não deixar o valentão ver que está ficando com você, porque eles se alimentam disso.

    5 . Informar um adulto de confiança , seja seus pais ou um professor. Isso pode ajudar, embora eu certamente tentar corrigi-lo em meus próprios termos em primeiro lugar.

    Finalmente , eu estarei orando por você. Se você é um crente, eu sugiro que você depende de Deus – como você crescer em sua fé, eu acho que você vai encontrar força nos tempos mais tenebrosos .

    Tome cuidado !

    Victória, thank you for replying. I understood almost all of it, I believe, even with the Google translation problems.

    I’m sorry that you’ve had such a hard time. Adolescence is very difficult, and it’s been an especially hard one for you, though you’re almost through. Just a couple more years of school!

    I’m not too familiar with Brazilian culture or with your specific school, so I’m not sure if my suggestions will help, but I think these might, so I hope you’ll consider them:

    1. Avoid the bullies as best you can. Take advantage of those cameras and teachers, making plans for those times and places where you might be bullied.

    2. Make another friend, if you can, and be a “team,” pairing up with each other whenever you go places.

    3. Try to be confident. Instead of slinking away, tell the bully to stop.

    4. Don’t get over-emotional if you’re bullied. Try not to let the bully see that it’s getting to you, because they feed on this.

    5. Tell a trusted adult, whether it’s your parents or a teacher. This could help, though I would certainly try to fix it on my own terms first.

    Finally, I’ll be praying for you. If you’re a believer, I suggest you depend on God – as you grow in your faith, I think you’ll find strength in the darkest times.

    Take care!

  14. Thank you. I’ll try to do these things, as much as I can. Sometimes a kind word helps more than a thousand municipalities, so I thank you. I was a little afraid that maybe people thought I really deserved it, for being myself … It’s pretty much what they tell me all the time “You deserved it”, “You deserve to feel it all.” I do not know exactly what to think. This is so ingrained in me that I simply … Sorry.
    But … Thank you.

  15. I have actually been bullied for liking anime but I didn’t make actions out of the norm. The only reason people found out was because I had already been getting bullied, someone grabbed my back pack and dumped it out and what they found was a bunch of RE: Zero manga. From there I constantly was bullied until I got invited to a stemm academy with a bunch of otakus there.

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