It's been about two weeks since the conflict between Mike Tatsugawa and the SPJA was made known to us. Before I continue, I to say that I am neither here to pass judgement on Mr. Tatsugawa nor the SPJA. I won't pretend to know anything beyond what's already been made public knowledge on the subject. Indeed, I have no right to know, considering I've never been to Anime Expo, much less have served within it in any capacity. So I won't comment directly on the controversy. Sadly though, the revelations and ramifications here cannot be ignored. I just want to take in this whole thing from a larger perspective.
I know that the finger pointing came as a surprise of some sort to most of us who read about it. I know it did to me. However it wasn't in any shock and awe sense. Was I surprised that there was strife within the SPJA? No. Was I surprised at some of the details? No. Was I surprised it got out and has blown up into quite the PR mess? Yup.
One of my professors placed the assertion in my mind that everything you do and everyone you get involved with is political. Whether it involves business organizations or families, everything comes down to politics. Although his specific points are somewhat cloudy to me now, the underlying point still remains. In the end, he never really needed to lecture us on this point to prove it, all he needed to do was to tell us to go out and experience it.
When it comes to anime fans, the only conclusion I've made is that about the only thing that's agreed upon by fans is a love for the form. Beyond that, organized anime fandom can be a very ugly game of factions and cliques. In this game, groups try to one up each other in many different ways. Some of it can be honourable; other ways can be down right dirty. The anime clubs you have membership in, the anime conventions you attend, they are products of fandom's efforts, yes that's true. But at the same time, all of these things are products of the fact that fandom cannot get along as well.
And it isn't just conflict between groups, but conflicts within
groups as well, as this case has nicely illustrated. We as a society know these things about devious dealings all too well. It isn't just anime, it's in just about any organization. What you pray never happens though is that none of this ever becomes public because the facts become even more skewed, the stakes become higher, and the conflicts intensify to a level that not even the combatants could easily handle.
So if none of this is new, what makes the conflict between Tatsugawa and the SPJA so special? Because what stands in the balance is what many perceive as not just the foundation of the anime fandom in North America, but the foundation of the entire industry
in North America. Let's face it Anime Expo is the granddaddy of them all.
Both sides will say that they're doing this for the fans. But in the end, the fans really couldn't care less. We here at ANN coined the conflict as another version of industry vs. fans. But at the same time, we're oversimplifying it. One of the most unique points about the anime scene in North America is the degree of interaction between the industry and us as fans, so you cannot really say it's as cut and dry as that. Anime Expo is a true reflection of that point. As Tempest said, it's an industry convention without really being one. Yes it's easy to say that the industry cannot survive without its fans (duh), but that relationship here is taken to another level. While capital is still an important aspect to this industry, a large emphasis is placed on consumer input as well. Because of that, new complications arise.
Whatever happens as this controversy continues, I hope that Anime Expo as a whole is able to weather the storm. But let's face it, Anime Expo is just one event. An industry should never hinge itself on one event, group, or person. If Anime Expo goes down, the industry as a whole will survive and grow. The thing is, it would be a horrible waste of a decade's worth of hard work if anything happens. I know this much, by the time this is over, someone's reputation will be damaged beyond repair.
To those of us involved with fandom for many years, this controversy is nothing new. To those who are just beginning to get involved with organized anime fandom, I feel this is something you should know. Someone once told me, “Ya know, the politics is soooo unneeded”, and I couldn't agree more. Unfortunately it's also a fact.
Hey that was quite the way to avoid a true comment on the controversy. Want to hear what my opinion really is? Write me. Want to tell me your opinion? Tell me. okina_chair (at hotmail.com)Articles on ANNSPJA StrifeSPJA Challenges Accusations