In perhaps the zaniest (though strangely lowest-budget) episode of K-On!! yet, we are formally introduced to Mio’s fan club – evidently a storyline in the manga that fans have long been hoping would be adapted this season (and which, I note, was the episode that most felt like reading a 4-koma manga to me.) I think it’s pretty obvious that the fan club is a played-straight parody of diehard otaku, and KyoAni being what they are, there is perhaps no one more qualified to write about otaku.
Which is why it’s very interesting to see that this is one of the most respectful portrayals of otaku (maybe the fact that the word is never used could even be considered respectful) that I’ve seen in anime, as well as a refreshing take on the age-old plot of a famous person dealing with fans that are more or less intruding on her life.
We are told in this episode that there was a time in the girls’ first year of high school wherein Mio felt like she was being stalked by someone. She received assurance that the problem would be dealt with from Nodoka and the student council president, though when she thought about their conversation, she realized…
After Mio’s offhanded joke that maybe the student council prez was actually the stalker, we get the reveal:
How would you feel, I wonder, if you found out that someone had been basically learning all about you without you ever knowing? Mio is pretty much instantly forgiving, seeing the president’s anguish, and also having trust for her. She tells her that she’s happy that someone admires her so much – good. This is how you answer a fan. KyoAni understands this, because they know how to present things to otaku in an inoffensive matter. When you are dealing with something that will have rabid fans, you must be aware of their state of mind. If you draw a cute anime character, you know that there are a bunch of people masturbating to it as you speak. If you are an idol singer, you know that someone, somewhere, is masturbating to you as you speak. K-On!!, being a very soft comedy, was not exactly going to show the student council president touching herself while listening to Fuwa Fuwa Time on headphones, but that’s not to say it didn’t happen. If you tell your fans that what they are doing is disgusting, then you will merely offend them. It’s better to try and be understanding.
Nay, Mio does not push her fan away, but rather embraces her love and even gets Houkago Tea Time to perform a live song just for her. And the fandom continues~
Fans must know that they are cared for. In part, this is so that they won’t become enraged and do something stupid, but mostly it’s so that they don’t become enraged and stop spending money. Where there is a fandom, there is a market. A comic market. And a wide fandom often leads to a convention, wherein they will meet each-other as well as possibly get to interact with the idols they hold so dear, so that those idols can show not only their appreciation for your love, but their appreciation for your sales. The Mio fan club tea party is an obvious parody of these sort of conventions (well, moreso ‘events’). Once again, in it’s light and fluffiness, K-On!! avoids a maniacal money-grabbing scheme being made out of Mio’s fans (lampshaded by Azu-nyan making sure that Ritsu doesn’t intend to charge anything), but it’s obvious that they are making a joke about otaku merchandising.
KyoAni gets the fan attitude down pat, especially for Japanese otaku, always ultra-polite and ultra-attentive to their idol’s every word and ready to be at their beck and call, taking every compliment like their life’s greatest experience (which I’m sure it will be remembered as for years to come if their devotion is true.) See: when the first-year fangirls are thanked for getting the keionbu some food (inc. curry bread, which they know Mio likes from the previous ordeal of having the sticker in her hair. The fans did not tell her about it for exactly the reason that you wouldn’t expect them to.)
Because Mio is the fanclub’s Absolute Goddess, she can do no wrong whatsoever – after all, her being herself is exactly why they are all obsessed, so anything in the range of her character is exactly what they want. See: when Mio is giving her opening speech and keeps biting her tongue.
It’s only natural that the fans are going to wear Mio out, especially her first time dealing with them…
…but remember, your fans love you. They will always offer encouragement.
Sometimes, the things that your fans want to know will scare the fuck out of you. Mio hasn’t been trained how to politely or cutely turn down a question (It’s a secret~~!) so she merely must hold out.
Indeed she must stay strong. And it’s not all bad – maybe you can have some fun or even be truly touched in the midst of it all.
Of course, some of your eccentricities might go over the heads of even your diehard fans, as happens when Mio reads them a really, really terrible poem that she wrote for the occassion.
But of course, they are easily recaptured.
The important thing thing to remember about fans is that they love you. Their love can be intrusive sometimes, but it is still love, and Mio manages to appreciate that love without even having to think about it. Your fans only want you to be happy and want to appreciate everything you do – would you deny them that love? You’ll break their hearts (and, if Perfect Blue is any indication, you may cause them to create a fantasy world in their head wherein you still love them back and the real you is a fake who they must assassinate.) If you show your fans a little love, it’s good for everyone – your fans are happy, and you keep making money. Idolship is a trade-off – a little bit of your privacy is something that you have to be willing to give in order to receive your fans’ love (and profits).
Maybe it’s just because they are going off of the manga, but I almost felt as though KyoAni walked on eggshells through this episode. If they had leaned too hard on the side of ‘idols need their privacy’ or ‘otaku are creepy’, then they could offended some of their own audience, who are nearly all members of a much broader and more rabid Mio fan club. But I don’t want to believe that KyoAni avoided this conflict because they were afraid – I want to believe that it was out of respect for the industry. A respect for the symbiotic relationship between fan and idol, wherein neither side is considered just or unjust but only the equal parts of the whole that is fandom. I think that few studios have experienced both the positive effects of pleasing their fans and the negative effects of failing to do so more than KyoAni.
Or I’m reading too deep into it. But this is fun too.