Why it’s hard to watch anime when you live in Japan (sometimes)

I know. What a first world problem. What a tragedy I’m burdened with. I live in Japan, the birthplace of anime, and I’m complaining about it. I’ll save you from the real issues that non-Japanese residents face and focus on this frivolous one.

I’ve watched significantly less anime while I’ve been in Japan, and I find it interesting. I’m not here to say that I’m the only one facing this or the first, otaku expats have always been a thing… But I haven’t seen many blogs about it so I figured it might be an interesting concept to explore, briefly at least.

Obviously, the problem with my decline of anime consumption isn’t availability nor comprehension. I will admit I still typically watch with English subtitles, just to be safe, but I’ve ventured into using more Japanese subtitles as of late. Coupled with the fact that anime is so predominant in and out of my private life, can’t even go to the grocery store without anime characters greeting me, that can wear you down a bit.

I don’t exactly have a ton of people who ‘get it’, outside the limited expat community I talk with that are also otaku. To my immediate coworkers this isn’t really a problem, they’ve grown up surrounded with this stuff. It’s kind of funny the way they define an anime otaku though. Someone watching more then one seasonal anime that’s currently airing would get an otaku label from them. What an amazing low barrier to entry!

Back to the point, why is it so hard for me to watch anime these days? I have the complete opposite of a problem!

Honestly, it’s a two fold issue. The first being my personal taste, and the second factor that anime, especially when you live in Japan, can be a bit too close to home.

I’ve stated before that fantasy and associated subgenres, aren’t my thing. I like more realistic series, ones set on earth usually. Following that train of thought, what’s a setting on earth that universal enough that everyone can relate, but you can really play with as a setting? School. What field of employment do I work in Japan? Education.

It’s that weird moment of familiarity, but also over exposure. I know exactly what’s going on, sometimes with a lot more context then I did before working in Japan, so that makes it easy to watch. At the same time when I’ve just spent my 9-5 working at a school that day, I don’t want to also unwind with a school setting. The same problem happens when I try to fit my prior criteria and end up with office setting; same problems.

How did I even get to this point? Studying believe it or not. Let me be clear, I don’t have a textbook cracked open and a pencil at hand to do line by line dictations or anything while watching. While anime is obviously dramatized in delivery and execution, there’s enough of reality in there when you really dig, and learn to discern the dramatization from the reality, you can actually get some really solid familiarization with Japanese as a language. Even if you’re just listening to the Japanese dub, with English subtitles: I’m serious. During my college years I made a point to pick more stories that fell into the more ‘true to life’, over other genres.

My teacher, being one of the coolest ever, never told me that I couldn’t learn Japanese from anime. They just cautioned to be careful which anime, and in what context I was learning things from. Hence, my now almost a decade long habit of watching in this vein of anime that… well now leads into what I do for a living causing a frivolous issue for my hobby.

The simplest answer is get over myself and watch a different genre. Try something more in-line with Sci-fi or action, and other genres I don’t watch as much. The only conundrum is then dealing with the linguistic changes of those settings, verses my real life ones. My former teacher would tell me to just study more so I can handle any genre and achieve the legendary status of watching anime without subtitles…. I’m personally thinking I might need to untie my habits of anime watching with ‘familiarization with Japanese’ that I decided was a thing in college…


    • Thank you! I’m glad it was interesting in that regard.

      Please don’t let my comments here deter you! I need to get out of my own way and just watch good shows regardless of setting! lol

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I found much the same when I was living in Japan (and as far as my Japanese co-workers went, I admit, I always stuck to listing extremely innocuous titles when I said I liked anime, like Studio Ghibli ones). I also did end up having an accessibility problem as well though, since I didn’t own a TV and Crunchyroll never worked for me outside of the U.S. (though maybe it’s different now).

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ah, I’m glad I’m not the only one when it comes to this! (I usually do the same, they only know of my deep love of Black Jack since I have buttons of him on my work bag).

      The accessibility thing I mostly just used a VPN when I wanted to get to Crunchyroll and things. But even then the older VPN’s are pretty iffy about the connections.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, I never really thought about it that way, but I can see how you might get a little burnt out if you are surrounded by anime 24/7. You should totally try out some light Sci-fi or Paranormal anime, I bet you’d be surprised at how similar the dialog is to more realistic anime!

    Liked by 2 people

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