Here’s a bit more introspection that’s been stuck at the back of my mind for some time. This time with more focus on what it means to be a fan of anime, and the line between being a fan and being a hardcore fan. I’m curious because I personally feel like I’m skirting that line between being otaku in the sense I’ve watched a lot of anime and have quite a sum of knowledge (especially when compared to the average anime avid), and being otaku in the sense of behaving like Makoto Takiya, crossing the boundary over to being casually but also fervently into attending conventions often (though, I have visited a few) and spending money on an abundance of anime merchandise.
Really, the only real thing holding me back from taking the plunge into this more impassioned and dedicated behaviour is simply the lack of space to accommodate for the plethora of merchandise I withhold my eagerness in buying for that very reason. Still, I can’t help but feel a tad jealous when I see others ecstatic and comfortable in their rooms covered in the many aspects of their fandom. Seeing any room consumed by anime merch, particularly anything in the circle of my interests (see One Piece, etc.) evokes almost a sense of shame in me for not having something similar. As much as I recognize there’s no hierarchy here, the comparisons sometimes bring (stupid) feelings of inadequacy with them.
That said, I have bought a few things regarding anime (mostly dvds and blu-rays, of which I have tons, and too many to bother listing here): from a Shingeki no Kyojin (Scouting Legion) t-shirt to a Hunter x Hunter keychain & necklace… and if we’re picking from childhood I suppose you could count all the Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh merch as well (cards, duel disks, games, plushies, etc.). In terms of fandom behaviour, I consider my spending game to be shamefully abysmal. I wish I could spend more and own more in relation to the things I like and am passionate about in anime. I truly do, but one must understand my living conditions are quite compacted and burdened with too much stuff already for the allocated amount of space.
Edit: Okay, so it’s less to do with there being little space, and more to do with that space already being accommodated by my family of hoarders before I ever had a chance to fill it even a fraction of it myself.
As much as I’d love to have my own space for all the paraphernalia I could ever want – from posters of my favourite shows, to figurines of my favourite characters to cosplay, and virtually any merch from One Piece – I must accept, at least for the time being, that I am in no position to be frivolously spending my money on such things. That aside, you know damn well how much I’d love to plaster my walls with posters of Stein;s Gate, Psycho-Pass, Hunter x Hunter, Log Horizon, Yu Yu Hakusho, Code Geass, and One Piece posters, and to have shelves filled with Kill la Kill. Haruhi, and Gurren Lagann characters (just to name a few). Plus, the amount of characters I’d love to cosplay is in the thirty plus range at this stage, so my desire is clearly there.
But is this really what defines the jump from being a fan to being a hardcore otaku? I have to wonder, since I do find myself having in-depth discussions more-so with anime than a lot of other things. If that isn’t evidence of being “hardcore”, and what determines a person’s level of passion and interest is based solely on their spending habits, it calls into question; why is that? I find it odd to correlate a person’s level of interest, love, and enthusiasm for anime to how much they’re willing to spend in their buying habits regarding the things they like.
Consider the different kind of fans: from the veteran otaku (someone who has been watching anime with zeal for years (maybe most of their life), collector of various and many things in the anime sphere and likely has walls filled with posters and shelves filled with figurines of anime goodies, also may have dakimakuras and anime apparel, very likely to frequent cons), to cosplayers (also seen at cons, embrace their characters or are just really into the aesthetic of them, probably a champion of a select few shows with growing interest in others, not an exclusive group by any means, as anyone from newcomers to veterans of the fandom can be seen cosplaying either on occasion or frequently), to newcomers who are experiencing the fandom for the first time or only opening to it quite recently (having had some past exposure). You can argue that the newcomers won’t be into anime as much as the veteran otakus, but I’ve seen just as many wide-eyed newcomers as there are jaded or still enthusiastic veterans.
So, what is the basis for this distinction between fans and hardcore fans then? I’m not claiming to be an arbitrator here, so I’ll put the question to you, and you can let me know what you think in the comments, since this is something I’m curious about. Is it to do with the level of knowledge that comes with having been part of the fandom and invested the time into learning more and more about anime for so long? Or is it to do with the passion behind the interest to the extent you’re willing to empty your wallet for whatever merch you can grab your hands on? Or is it simply being able to have long discussions about what you love about anime so much, and how it affects you / makes you feel (happy, understood, inspired, etc.)?
Personally, I think it’s a mixture of how much anime-related things you’ve amassed, as well as how expressive you are about (being an anime avid/otaku) the anime/otaku fandom.