I- Hi, I’m Isha Sanekar and I’m an Otaku.
A- Moshi Moshi, Watashi wa FP2-
I- Bro, let’s try to allow the readers to actually understand what we’re saying?
I- And we welcome you to the ‘Animeme’ show!
A- Did someone say ‘anime + memes’?
I- Naruto speedruns towards that tea.
How did it begin?
A- Well personally I would have said it all started with manga but anime is actually a form of its own. Sure it is linked to manga, in the sense that most anime start off as manga or light novels in recent years, but anime is its own thing. Out of the oldest anime titles, only Astro Boy was a manga adaptation, while the others like Katsudo Shashin, Uramisha Taro and Imokawa Mukuzo Genkanban no Maki are all anime originals.
I- Yeah, but what sense would it make in context of Indian anime memes?
A- When you look at how anime came to India, it was first through channels like AXN and Star TV which brought in shows like Dragon ball Z and Cardcaptor Sakura followed by other huge shows like Pokemon, Digimon, Doraemon, Shinchan, Kochikame, Kiteretsu and Ninja Hattori which made otakus out of little kids who didn’t even know a term like that existed. I know because I was one of those kids.
I- Yeah so was I!
A- So, I think when anime is memed by modern Indian pop culture, these are usually the most commonly seen. People are just more exposed to and/or comfortable with these anime.
I- It also helps that anime has a wide amount of genres built for different tastes, like Shounen, Shoujo, Hentai, Harem and so on, all with their own target audiences. For Shounen it’s teenage males, for Shoujo it’s young female audiences, while genres like Yaoi feature romance between men, created by and for women. Some of these genres can really give in to the stereotype, with all the hypersexualisation it has.
A- *coughs* Don’t forget Tournament arcs.
I- While there’s space and audiences for all kinds of anime, I personally can’t get behind Hentai that have underage characters. Also dominantly male fandoms of Hentai can become quite sexist, encouraging fanservice that involves rampant objectification. But apart from that, we can’t deny Hentai is meant to be erotic, and people really enjoy that. I mean how can we forget body pillow merchandise?
A- You leave the sacred body bags alone! But I do think modern anime have actually recognised the problem of hypersexualization through the male gaze and have actually curbed this to show some strong female characters. A few notable anime could be Shingeki No Kyojin, Made in Abyss, Burakku Ragūn,Yakusoku no Neverland, Boku Dake ga Inai Machi, Psycho Pass and even Kimetsu no Yaiba. But you’re right about Hentai tropes existing with their own legit viewership.
I- Actually the anime community called it out with ‘Mineta’ from Boku no Hero Academia.
A- God, I hate that guy!
I- I rest my case, your honour.
A- But then I wouldn’t say it’s just hypersexualisation, it’s also anime being simply confused with cartoons and then categorised as kids content, when the reality is a little different.
I- Yes, although, I’ll have to admit, that anime being around in India for almost three whole decades has made a difference by now – people appreciate it as an art form with varying genres suited for different age groups.
A- And they’re providing some quality memes indeed.
What about some golden memes which are popular even among non-anime fans?
A- Memes always go forward, evolve and progress with the passing ages, it was only a matter of time before people looked back at retro anime and were able to figure out some brilliant sarcastic memes which everyone could relate to, regardless of them being a part of the fandom or not.
I- Although reference loaded meme templates are successful, the internet has seen many anime meme templates that require no prior knowledge of anime at all and everyone could relate to. Some really good examples of these include the “Omae wa mou shindeiru” from Hokoto No Ken; “ok.” from One Punch Man; “Skeleton hand” from Ranma ½’;
A- Not to forget the classics that are the “Over 9000!” meme from Dragon Ball Z, “Surprised Pikachu” from Pokemon, and the “Is this a bird?” template from Brave Fighter Son Fighbird.
I- Yeah, memes do have an interesting history with some major fan-subbing fails. Their enthusiasm to make subtitled anime available for International slangs, can lead to creating more cringe content. They were quite controversial in their own right, y’know.
A- Dude, fansubs were my main introduction to anime.
I- Honestly, same. I remember going through kissanime and looking at those ridiculously coloured subtitles with big outlines drawing all the attention away from the anime.
A- How do you think I have my encyclopedic knowledge of Japanese terminology? It’s because our dear fansubbing overlords often loved to leave out the translations of so many words. (P.S. If any reader speaks fluent Japanese, don’t talk to me in Japanese as I would mostly understand only a few words) And don’t get me started on those footnotes!
I- Oh my god those footnotes! You’d be lucky if you were able to watch the anime and read everything at the same time.
A- I mean, I would just pause the video and read everything, when the pause button didn’t magically disappear. My major problem was them covering up the entire screen.
I- Or, them coming up when they are completely unnecessary.
A- Dude, yes! I think my favourite fansubs are the Karaoke OP’s that help me to properly sing the songs.
I- Nah, I’m just a fan of the subs which write the untranslated words in the subtitles and then add the meaning of the words in footnotes. Pretty much like the ‘Just According To Keikaku’ meme from Death Note.
A- Hahah, I remember watching Nichijou that way. Good god, it made an already funny anime even funnier. But it kinda brings to question here, is it the subbing that we’re laughing at or the language inferiority?
A- I’m saying. We laugh so much at fansubs. Is it because the fansubs are truly bad? Is it because we see English as a sort of superior language? Or is it probably just because of bad acting? Where do we draw the line between bad translations and English superiority?
I- I think I understand what you’re trying to say. I think both are at work but in different places and ways. I mean, we need to look at different examples here. If we look at the ‘Just According to Keikaku’ meme, that is just the absurdity of the translation method, or as everyone seems to understand it – bad translation. But if you look at the “Your base are belong to us” meme, that may have some English superiority undertones because the subbing and dubbing people were all Japanese who may not have known English as well, yet they were heavily memed for not speaking correct English.
A- I think ‘K-On! The Movie’ really called out this trope, where they went to America and basically shenanigans ensued when everything got lost in translation. But then again, Japanese is a funky language and English is but a funkier one, words have multiple different meanings and just a few words originally intended to be compliments could suddenly be seen as gross insults, so i think I can probably see many errors being made in translations. Although I must say I have now been transitioning more into just official subs and/or the normal subs as compared to fansubs.
I- GASP! You traitor!
A- Yeah, sorry not sorry, they are less fun, yes. But a lot more accurate. This kinda brings us to the biggest question ….. subs or dubs?
I- Bro NO! We are not fueling that fire!
I- Y’know, we’re saying all this, and how much we love fansubs. But we can’t really ignore how controversial they are and the massive debates they have caused within the communities regarding their culture, intellectual property and of course, their economic impact.
A- Yeah, but isn’t that the whole piracy aspect in general though? It has always begged the question as to who really is benefiting from all of this? Is it the fans, who digitise, translate and distribute? Or is it the anime studios, who actually put so much time and effort into making the anime?
I- Not all anime studios have stayed mum with respect to fansubbing. In 2004, a few anime production industries delivered a letter via a Tokyo law firm to several fansub groups and websites with a warning.
A- And what happened then?
I- Well, it’s not that simple now is it? Because, you can’t really reach these fansubbing sites because they aren’t really sites per say as much as they are a collection of networks. That’s why the redirects exist.
A- So it’s like a hive based system?
I- Kind of, look at bit-torrents as an example, they never really launched a proper website but a series of tiny domains and .io type sites.
A- Come to think of it, I have seen so many pirated anime websites keep switching web addresses constantly- from .io to .mov to so many different styles just cycling around.
I- Like little insects. Ian Condry mentioned in his book, Soul of Anime that it’s rather unsure whether or not creators support this kind of piracy. Many do, many don’t, and for many, it’s just a facade. I remember his interview with Studio Ghibli producer, Toshio Suzui, who tried evading the question of fansubs and when cornered by the question, he just locked eyes with the interviewer and gave a nervous smile suggesting how even anime creators aren’t able to stop the forces of fansubbing and how licensers, distributors & producers anonymously might just be supporting fansubbing and internet is an important tool of the promotion of anime.
A- As much as I enjoy a good Ian Condry reference, I can’t help but feel like you’re kinda calling me as a viewer out though, here with all this scary stuff.
I- Listen, it’s not the viewers committing the crime, it’s the pirates. Such are the piracy laws of the interweb. But that doesn’t mean you close your eyes to the fact that these informal practices still exist. We aren’t sure if creators support them, we just know that many don’t.
A- So what do we, as viewers do? We don’t know if the piracy and fansubs truly supports the industry or if they’re just taking advantage of fans who can’t afford to buy and watch the original animes, and profiting for themselves. Fans like me.
I- I think those who actually have the means to support the industry and anime creators, should do so. It doesnt make you stupid to subscribe to anime streaming platforms like Crunchyroll, Funimation or Netflix.
I- I’d like to remind you this is a PG13 blog.
A- Too much culture? Sorry.
I- Anyways, the point of this is that meme-ing is also one of these informal, remixing practices – referred to as something called collaborative creativity.
A- Fortune cookie wisdom from dear Senpai!
I- Oh please!
Rise of the Multifandoms
I- I’d consider myself a multifandom person. That is, my interests lie not only in anime, but in other fandoms as well.
A- I don’t think a person exists that’s only interested in one thing. We all are multifandom beings in that sense.
I- True and that really shows in our memes. As India grows more and more digital, we have more access to different media and fandoms and you’d often see a meme that combines two or more of them, for example the Sacred Games-One Piece memes, the Naruto-Marvel memes.
A- Or even the Jojo-Pewdiepie memes.
I- Exactly! Finding memes that pertain to multiple fandoms rather than one is very common in this day and age. so many small youtube channels & instagram pages are releasing crackversions & mematic dub content on their pages. Have you heard of a YouTube channels called anime™talks & anime mirchi?
A- I have not
I- So they dub over popular anime clips with awkward and funny scenes from Indian web series, it’s really a laugh riot.
A- Oh really?
I- It basically gives us what desi anime fans have always low-key wanted, Bollywood ishtyle dubbed anime memes.
A- But then how does this affect anime? In the sense that why do think Indians are more into this now?
I- It’s all basic convergence culture. These are all a sort of fan participation or actually, more like fan labour. I remember this article by Ritika Pant where she writes about this, trans-cultural fandoms and how this kind of re-appropriation of stuff in a much more local context is actually a form of fan labour.
A- So it also helps in pushing the anime forward?
I- Pretty much yeah, it always ties to that. However, multifandoms and their related memes help fandoms and cultures of all genres to grow progress. They both help to widen cultural horizons.
A- Hum saath saath hain?
I- Exactly, so when we see all these Mirzapur, Patal Lok memes mixed with anime music or anime images, we’d then watch the show or engage in the fandom just to understand the memes. That seems like some pretty cool free marketing to me.
A- If there’s one thing we broke college kids love, it’s free stuff.
I- Hahaha yeah.
I- you know the caramelldansen dance?
A- every true otaku has done that at least once in their life.
I- Satya vachan. (P.S.- Stop exposing our community like that!)
What is the recipe for Desi Anime Memes?
I- Aaiye dosto, aaj hum seekhenge ek shaandar aur bohot hi simple dish-
I- more like ‘Chai peelo aunty’, but anime ishtyle.
A- Hello friends, meme banao!
I- The ingredients include –
A popular meme template from anime:
Any mention of relatable pain or relatable schitzengiggles (because desis have always been fan of ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’)
A basic knowledge of current affairs (or lack thereof)
Regular meme fonts like Montseratt, Comic Sans, Impact, Open Sans or even our dear Word Art!
Basic knowledge of Otaku concepts (e.g. senpai, waifu, chan etc.) in the context of desi scenario and culture.
Some editing and graphic effects like traditional wear, ornaments, food & desi characters etc. on the anime character just to show some desiness ( for garnishing).
A- Spoken like a pro indeed.
I- Bachpan se pro, bro.
A- I’ll pretend you didn’t say that and smoothly transition to talking about a few Indian Anime Meme Pages like The Hindu Nationalist Anime Girls page on Facebook which has recently garnered quite some media attention because of their usage of anime memes to make socio-cultural and political commentaries. Similar pages could include Anime Memes for an Indian Otakus and Anime Bhosdi.
I- At this point, the anime industry and culture in India has made so many achievements. Unofficial fan practices, leading to the burst of popularity, be it fansubbing or fanart
A- Don’t forget piracy is also a huge part of contribution, arguably the biggest. Even what we’re doing right now, this very blog is a sort of unofficial fan practice.
I- Indeed my friend, just like yin-yang (there is good in bad too!). Just as buying pirated CDs on the streets grew the Indian masses’ love for bollywood, pirated anime websites have kept the spirits of the Otakus alive.
A- Yeah, Indian youth has been always trying to balance between flying chappals from parents and scarce pocket money, these sites are like the only bits of happiness we had left.
I- You actually got pocket money?
A- Moving on… even anime merch has become such a huge thing in India. It’s no longer awkward for me to wear anime merch when going out.
I- Nice way to dodge the question but yeah, I do agree, today’s desi anime fans wear the merch representing their favourite anime. There’s this massive sense of pride that comes with showing off something you love a lot.
A- Agreed, it is a sort of cool-ness now, to represent the culture you support, be it through clothes, blogs, fanart and so on.
I- Also the availability of this merch varies from Colaba markets to a custom store in your nearby mall to online stores like Bewakoof, Souled Store, Comicsensexyz, and so on, enjoying anime merchandise is no more of a luxury or something to be ashamed of now.
A- It’s a power. Forget Netflix & chill, Hentai with Senpai is the trend now!
I- Haha, yeah and with the spread of content sharing sites and social media, all these fan practices work as, not only a hindrance and challenges, but rather opportunities for promotion and distribution.
A- Economy101. It kinda reminds me of what Ian Condry calls, ‘dark energy’, where, although he draws parallels to universes and galaxies but he still boils it down to anime, saying the effect is measurable and observable but poorly explained by theories of economic motivation.
I- Condry is a Japanophile elite. Also the multifandoms are bolstered due to the increase in the popularity of anime.
A- Not to mention anime being a huge part of the mainstream Indian pop culture, for example rapper Raftaar who makes many DBZ references in his rap songs.
I- Even many fandom apps like Amino and Discord helping the fandom to take pride as an anime fan & discuss some relevant memes together.
A- Even people outside the fandom have recognised Otakus, Weebs, Japanophiles and everything anime as a true and relevant subculture
I- It is no longer a subculture, it’s a sab-culture!
A- It sure is.
World’s first anime: Katsudo Shashin (1907): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4DMQx0dTqbs
Urashima Taro (1918): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZZsjGdCqtM
Imokawa Mukuzo Genkanban no Maki (1917): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-KGZLFzXvws
A guide to anime genres: https://www.looper.com/189420/anime-genres-explained/
Review of anime ‘Attack on Titan’: https://myanimelist.net/anime/16498/Shingeki_no_Kyojin
The soul of anime by Ian Condry: https://books.google.co.in/books/about/The_Soul_of_Anime.html?id=iQJ6LwEACAAJ&redir_esc=y
When piracy becomes promotion: https://www.technologyreview.com/2004/08/10/274810/when-piracy-becomes-promotion/
For nostalgic anime memories in India: https://armchairjapanophile.wordpress.com/2014/04/21/animes-entry-into-india-part-i/
About K-on! moviE: https://myanimelist.net/anime/9617/K-On_Movie
Just according to ‘Keikaku’: https://knowyourmeme.com/memes/just-according-to-keikaku
Is This Pigeon Meme a Think Piece?: https://medium.com/new-york-magazine/is-this-pigeon-meme-a-think-piece-ba3880a1fda3
The Internet is filled with ‘Is this a pigeon?’ meme and they are way too real: https://indianexpress.com/article/trending/trending-globally/is-this-a-pigeon-meme-5176299/
Anime meme pages as popular culture in India: https://scroll.in/magazine/847313/these-japanese-anime-girls-are-endorsing-patanjali-products-and-hanging-out-with-narendra-modi
The silver lining of official release of anime movies in India: http://www.businessworld.in/article/Indian-Anime-Movement-Brings-Japan-s-Blockbuster-Weathering-With-You-To-India-/12-09-2019-176036/
Mixed feelings of Indian audience regarding anime: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_zNnldjfZUA
Disclaimer: The memes linked, embedded or mentioned in this blog do not belong to The Meme Project and are not the views of the Meme Project Team. They have been used here to refer to their content or make a statement about their use.