The Cosplay Lynch-Mob

shinji-1

It was an odd internet scandal even by the standards of our post-truth age. Donald Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, a man whose grasp of the truth makes Comical Ali look like George Washington, was “outed” in January by the Kotaku fan site, whose minions had been trawling his social media posts looking for something to laugh at. They found it, seemingly, on his Twitter feed for 2013, where he had been enthusiastically hash-tagging a Gundam costume he saw at Katsucon.

Could it really be that, in the year that America jumped the shark, the frowning White House press secretary was a recovering anime fan? And if so, could it be that he was That Guy… you know, That Guy?

spicer-twitter-imageNo, I didn’t know That Guy, but enthusiastic chatter soon enlightened me – a man at American conventions of a few years back, who dressed up as pathological whiner Shinji from Evangelion. What better illustration of his oft-repeated catch-phrase, “I Mustn’t Run Away”, than appending it to a picture of Spicer standing before the press corps, unreliably informing them that black was white, that crowds were much more biglier than people remembered, and that Evangelion 4.0 was sure to be released very, very soon?

Anime fandom was awash with giggly glee as they tried to hunt down five-year-old cosplay photographs. High-level nerds were put to work on facial recognition software. Everybody was mobilised to get him… but I didn’t understand what for.

“Wait,” I asked. “If that’s really Spicer dressed as Shinji, why would you laugh at him? Because he’s a cosplayer? Because he likes Japanese cartoons?” Isn’t that shooting all your fellow anime fans in the feet? It seemed like an oddly mean-spirited and self-destructive form of protest, discovering that one’s enemy was a bit like you, and then laughing at him for it.

Spicer and I are the same age, and the world is a small place – it turned out we had a mutual acquaintance. He’d been a hard-core otaku at the same college as Spicer, and reported that he had zero interest in anime in the 1990s. If he were a fan, he was something of a late bloomer, and these days probably had other things on his mind than assuring people they have five minutes until the planet explodes. But fandom should lay off trying to shame itself.

Jonathan Clements is the author of Anime: A History. This article first appeared in NEO #161, 2017.

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Hugos and Gareths

More than one way to skin a catbus, in our 24th podcast

manga_uk_podcast_logo.jpgJeremy Graves is joined by Jerome Mazandarani, Andrew Hewson and Jonathan Clements, for a series of rants and ill-informed commentary about anime, manga, the storm over the Hugo Awards, and your most awkward convention moment. Download it HERE.

01:00 Delays, to Fairy Tail The Movie and Jormungand. Jonathan Clements is accused of being a complete Cnut. Stuff that will be happening at the Birmingham Comic Con and Kitacon.

04:00 Breaking out the world’s smallest violins for Torrent sites. and BBC3. The exciting world of “back catalogue”.

10:00 What counts as “good sales” in Japan? 500 Nutters? How can a film make a loss in cinemas but still profit its production committee? The mysterious case of Heartbeat and Emmerdale Farm (not anime, but just imagine…).

16:00 The Ghost in the Shell live-action movie, and the chances of everyone being crushingly disappointed again. Who would you pick to direct a notional GITS movie? As promised, a link to our interview with the director of The Raid.

19:00 Speaking of people called Gareth, we’re back to Godzilla. The chances of Martin Scorsese directing GITS (unlikely). The prospects for Tom Cruise’s Edge of Tomorrow, “based on the book that looks like a manga.” The chances of Kurt Sutter beating up Jerome, and a bizarre tangent about the script-writers for The Shield.

25:00 The politics of handing out a Lifetime Achievement Award to Katsuhiro Otomo, and other issues to do with enticing Japanese guests to foreign events.

29:40 The ridiculous scandal over the Hugo Awards, in which Jonathan Ross is appointed to host, SF fandom kicks off, Jonathan Ross withdraws, SF fandom kicks off again, and Jerome Mazandarani goes through the fall-out arising, beginning with the press coverage and working backwards.

41bkTuP9TdL._SY445_36:00 The ridiculous scandal over the Hugo Awards, this time from the perspective of Jonathan Clements, who has brought up the Worldcon twice before on this podcast and got nowhere. A very different version of events, beginning with the fight on the committee and working outwards (and ending with a plug for Anime: A History for Best Related Book).

44:00 The quest for panel parity, the gender division within fandom and whether or not that is reflected in film festival juries and, er… podcasts like this one. The hidden influence of Jonathan Ross on Ghost in the Shell: Innocence and its UK sales.

48:30 Will you be releasing season two of xxxHolic? And an answer that transforms into a plug for Blood C.

50:25 Pros and cons of releasing something on Blu-ray before DVD. Why do we have to keep releasing stuff on PAL when modern TVs can handle NTSC conversion…? Why not make everything a Combi-pack?

59:00 Netflix makes it to the Consumer Price Index, thereby suggesting that our secret masters believe “the next format is no format.” The problems of marketing collectibles to people who cannot afford to collect very much.

63:00 Releasing classic films on Blu-ray. The origins of the Blu in Blu-ray: can the Japanese just not spell?

64:00 Prospects for Star Blazers 2199, a.k.a. Space Cruiser Yamato 2199. Tweet us if you want it. #2199uk

kumadori.jpg65:20 How would Scottish independence affect an anime company, if at all?

69:00 Top of the Pod! This month: what’s your most awkward convention moment? Here’s a picture of Jeremy’s. Tell us yours by tweeting #mangatotp

The Podcast is available to download now HERE, or find it and an archive of previous shows at our iTunes page. For a detailed contents listing of previous podcasts, check out our Podcasts page.

Doctrine of Lapse

Behind the link, James Hidahl in Texas interviews me about regional lockout on DVD and Blu-ray players, and what it all means. Includes a comparison of fan entitlement issues to the behaviour of the East India Company, and allusions to several import/export scandals from the anime business in recent years. Also an entire article by Ben Carter from Manga Max in January 1999, one of the first ever pieces to address lockout in print.