The perception of anime in Japan. (It's not as popular as you might think) (11/13/00)
Actually, I think Vanye's point was a bit different from your reading of it. He was saying that, unless you're a kid, anime is not naturally common in Japan, though it's probably more common there than American animation is here in the United States. While manga is ubiquitous, anime is still considered for kids and younger teens by most Japanese people, and if an adult in his twenties said to other adults "I'm a big fan of anime" I think people would look at that person funny, supposing he might even be an "otaku" (used here in the stereotypical negative sense, as opposed to the idealistic positive sense). Publicly expressing one's like of anime in Japan is less like a Japanese adult in America saying "I'm a fan of American sitcoms" and more like him/her saying "I'm a big fan of Tom and Jerry".
In Japan, saying that you liked a few anime shows when you were younger is not so conspicuous. Saying that you enjoyed the latest Ghibli feature is okay, too--roughly equivalent to saying you enjoyed watching the latest Disney animated film. Saying that you just bought the deluxe DVD boxset of Lain will possibly earn you a reputation as being obsessed and possibly antisocial. -_-
It's a little discouraging to hear that as an anime fan, I know. From what I understand, anime fans in Japan are still in an uphill battle. The situation is getting better though. For example, Toshio Okada, the founder of Gainax, now teaches a course on otaku culture at Tokyo University (Japan's number one school), helping to bring some mainstream credibility to both anime and its fans, and hoping to encourage a positive definition of the word "otaku" (as it applies to fans) to combat the rampant negative stereotyping.
Our fan activities outside of Japan are helping the cause, too, in that the Japanese government now has to admit that anime is one of Japan's most important cultural exports.
The content of the Japanese government's Educational White Paper for the year 2000 was recently made public. Within the White Paper's featured cultural themes, animation and Manga have been ranked as varieties of "Art" and given high praise. This is because the Ministry of Education have now recognized the fact that anime and manga are among the most important forms of artistic expression in the modern Japanese cultural environment.
Especially in the case of anime, the White Paper remarks that: "they are highly recognized and popular abroad, and many anime created in Japan have spread in renown overseas." In addition, anime is particularly commended as "Japanese animations are a unique form of expression and display a minute attention-to-detail, due to the craftsmen-like talents of the animators."
Modern anime has been around for about 40 years now, so this recognition has been long overdue, but I think we can agree it's a step in the right direction. And it's great to know that our acceptance of anime outside of Japan is positively influencing the perception of anime in Japan.
In a funny anecdote, Toshio Okada reportedly convinced important people in Japan to watch Ghost in the Shell by telling them it's "so popular in the United States" which is ironic because marketing in the United States tends to mention how critically acclaimed it is in Japan. ^_^