Even though I’ve been going to Anime Expo for years I’m still blown away by the dedication the fans have to the lifestyle of being a modern Anime fan. The commitment to detail in terms of costume and character of each Cosplayer is staggering. They not only love the artform of Anime/Manga they live the artform. Anime/Manga is no longer a hobby, it’s a global lifestyle that transcends our typical ideas about branding and merchandising. The world of Anime/Manga isn’t owned by the companies that create the source material. Anime/Manga is owned by the fans.
This idea of fan ownership is evolving very quickly in the digital age. The ability that the average fan has to connect with other fans and self promote themselves within the community via the internet has caused the Anime/Manga fandom to evolve into something unique and in it’s own way unprecedented in the history of fan to brand relationships. The fans at Anime Expo come to see each other more than to engage with the source material. It’s about celebrating their creativity as a group vs. waiting to be entertained. They don’t wait for the next big trend they entertain themselves by making the next big trend themselves.
As this way of thinking evolves I believe being a full time fan will become a lifestyle unto itself. I can see a time in the not so distant future where fans will want their lifestyle to be recognized in the same way LGBT is becoming more accepted. Instead of moving towards a lifestyle that is determined to be “normal” or “acceptable”. Fans will want a “Custom Life”. Where their love for the Anime/Manga/Cosplay lifestyle enters more freely into their daily lives. They will want to express their “inner” selves by projecting out the version of themselves they want to be recognized as. The version of themselves that is accepted by the world, in essence becomes the “costume” while the cosplay becomes a truer expression of their inner personality and idea of themselves.
The "Custom Life" -style will further extend into their daily lives effecting where they live and play. They will want to live with like minded people surrounded by physical things that reinforce their custom life. Imagine “Anime” themed apartments or restaurants. Already in San Francisco there is an Anime themed hotel. http://www.jdvhotels.com/tomo/
As these lifestyles are embraced by the mainstream, employers will create workplaces that reflect these themes allowing for the employee to better transition between the world they have constructed and customized and the world of the workplace. Generating more loyalty to employers that understand their needs and lifestyle choices.
The Anime/Manga style lends itself to this type of future because of the sheer amount of detail that goes into making the worlds behind the movies and TV shows. These worlds become “hyper real”, seeming more constructed, more thought out with a sense of purpose to them.
As daily life becomes more stressful, uncertain, violent and dangerous there is a part of our minds that seeks out a happier more constructed way of living. A retreat to a world we make the rules for. A place where we are the hero, the princess, the sidekick or the funny animal. A place where dreams become reality and we step a bit closer to being what we really want to be.