Fandom joy

Today’s post isn’t so much a planned essay as a laid-back ramble about how fandom has been sparking joy for me lately.

It started with ‘Sarazanmai’, the Spring ’19 anime that’s been all over the internet largely because of those two singing dancing cops (and partly because of the singing dancing frog-dudes pulling stuff out of butts). Because it’s an Ikuhara Kunihiko work, it’s layered with symbolism, foreshadowing and a ton of stuff that you’re never sure if you’re supposed to take literally. There’s also a short tie-in manga about the two cops looking after an abandoned baby, and a Twitter account giving even more of their backstory. Even with only two episodes released so far, there is a wealth of material to go through.

In response, the fandom that’s sprung up in the last two weeks is going wild analysing every single frame of both the episodes and the previews, pulling out all sorts of theories and writing meta like it’s going out of style.

And I love it.

This is precisely what fandom is for me; appreciating the work, exploring it from all angles, sharing ideas and theories, and teasing out meanings. It’s like being given a puzzle with multiple solutions and a heap of new friends to help solve it.

I love when a show or a story drives creativity in its fans, and leads people to create art and fanfiction and other inspired works. But I love it more when a text inspires fans to explore the world within the story as it’s given, figuring things out and learning about what the creator has made for us.

I saw similar things in fandom during the second season of ‘Mob Psycho 100’, when fans went nuts over the stunning animation of the action sequences and were sharing their thoughts on character development, on the relevance of the new opening sequence, and on potential future seasons and spin-offs.

Before that, it was ‘Yuri On Ice’, when for three months it felt like anime had brought about world peace. Every so often, a show comes along that seems to me to bring out the best of fandom. A show that clearly has had so much work and thought and love put into its creation that it inspires the same effort from fans to explore and appreciate it.

In order to help me get my head into the right space for the rest of ‘Sarazanmai’, I’ve been watching another Ikuhara work: ‘Mawaru Penguindrum’. I watched the whole thing over the course of four days, and it’s been a helpful reminder of just how dark Ikuhara’s stories can go. For all that ‘Sarazanmai’ is looking wacky and out-there in its first couple of episodes, I’m mentally preparing myself for some heart-wrenching turns in the plot. We’re already getting hints of how dark it could get, with Toi’s criminal activities and the fact that Mabu and Reo are apparently causing the deaths of suspected criminals with their ‘desire extraction’. There are already fan theories circulating about Haruka, and eagle-eyed viewers have spotted Sara’s ticker-tape report about a missing prince. I am obsessed with this show, and fandom’s response is only enabling me further!

Who is dream-Sara’s mystery man?

I feel like I’ve always managed to avoid fandom drama. I have my ships, but I’ve never understood anyone’s need to go to war over a ship. Likewise, it’s beyond me why anyone would actively put time and effort into making other fans feel bad for having a different fandom experience to them.

Maybe it’s an age thing – as a Fan Of A Certain Age, I’m old enough to know to pick my battles, and fandom shouldn’t even be a battle in the first place! If it doesn’t spark joy, then you don’t need it. No one needs to be arguing with internet strangers about which fictional bishounen should be romancing another bishounen.

The best fandom experiences I’ve had have been when I’ve found some quiet little corner of a fandom where there are about five of us all watching the same side-character who gets barely any love from the writers or from other fans. Many years back, it was the geek trio in ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’. Then it was Rami Malek’s adorkable closeted boy-next-door character in the little-known (and honestly not that great) sitcom ‘The War At Home’. When your character of choice has little screen time and barely any fans, you cling to everything you can get, so fandom drama that could split your five-person-strong fan-club is the last thing you want.

Does it spark joy? Yes. Yes, it does.

Fandom is meant to be fun. It’s meant to be about bonding with people over something you love, not competing for Biggest Geek or trashing someone else’s ships.

So thank you, ‘Sarazanmai’, for sparking my fandom joy once again.

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