I grew up drawing anime, and I guess it could’ve been worse.
Yu-Gi-Oh! was technically the first “anime” I was a big fan of as a kid, if that even counts (I think it counts in the same way that Pokemon counts as an anime, in that anything touched by 4Kids doesn’t count. Eh.)
After that, though, came FullMetal Alchemist, which all in all is a freaking anime, by anyone’s standard. Yeah! Hell yeah! A real anime!
Edward Elric was my first anime crush (well, ok, after Yami Yugi/Pharaoh Atem, if we’re splitting hairs here.) I think my first anime swag was an FMA shoulder bag that I got at Hot Topic. I RP’d over MSN Messenger with my equally 11-years-old best friend at the time, and Mary-Sue’d the hell out of myself.Even before all of this, though, I was drawing anime.
It was definitely my entrenchment in YGO that all of this happened, but the gateway-drug that was FMA didn’t help. I was the quiet, weird kid in the back of the class drawing bug-eyed cat girls and perpetually angry dudes with pencil-thin eyebrows and winking eyes that perpetually tried to escape the outline of the face. I drew the pointy hair, the glittery irises, the tiny triangle mouths. I had a library of How to Draw Manga book stuffed under my bed, dog-eared and wrinkled with my tears of frustration. I cried some more whenever I walked by the Copic Marker section of the art store.
Growing up, though, I seemed to only ever hear one thing: anime/manga isn’t real art (implying that it’s somehow, actually, fake art?) I was told that college art professors wouldn’t take me seriously if I only ever drew anime (and yet Americanized cartoons were A-OK.)
And so, naturally, I attempted to adjust my style in order to avoid this stigma. I hid my art from passersby, I refused to let anyone glance through my sketchbook. Whenever people would try and laud me as a good artist, I’d respond, “haha, no, not really, I only know how to draw anime!”
This is so messy
God, how I wish people hadn’t burdened me with that opinion, the opinion that anime is lesser of an art form, or whatever. I guess the same goes for most styles of illustration, though, all of it being considered lesser than “fine art,” while “fine art” is considered lesser that video art, on and on and on we go.
Still though, anime remained at the bottom of the totem pole, for whatever reason, and so for years and years I never actually considered myself to be a ~real artist~, seeing as anime isn’t ~~real~~ art. And yet, even with all of that, I continued to draw it. The bug-eyed cat girls, the pencil-thin eyebrows, the arms bent behind backs because hands are hard to draw.
I even got my BA in art, and my emphasis would have been illustration if I’d wanted to spend an extra year or two grinding away at it. It was this point in my life that I was hit with an epiphany– that epiphany being this:
Anime is art, just as modern art is art, just as contemporary art is art. Anything can be art, if viewed in the proper mindset. Anime was no lesser of an artform than the cartoons of Glen Keane (OK, BAD EXAMPLE, Glen Keane is a god among men, I’m so sorry that his name is included within a sentence that also includes the word “anime”).
And so, after finally swallowing my embarrassment in showing off my anime art in class, I found myself opening up dialogues between myself and a number of other students who felt the same way, that anime was mocked within the art world for seemingly no reason. Even professors would join in, apparently surprised that this stereotype even existed in the first place. I wasn’t the only one who’d been teased and bullied and demeaned over my art style through the years, and knowing that honestly made me want to draw anime even harder.
And, let me tell you, nothing is more satisfying than looking around and finding a bunch of other nerds like me embracing their once-secret anime skillsets and demonstrating them in class projects. Whether they drew traditional 90’s-esque anime, or big doe-eyed moe anime, or some warped hybrid of them all– it warmed my heart.
Embrace your inner weeaboo flame, make the style yours, flaunt it and don’t be afraid to show it off. While there will always be people and teachers who disapprove, anyone with actual art education and an understanding of the art world will appreciate what you bring to the table.