So there’s recently been this onslaught of people calling into question the term of animu and mangos; one is a corruption of the word “anime” which is, itself, a truncated form of “animation” that Japanese people use; the other is a fruit that sounds vaguely like “manga.”
I personally don’t have a problem calling anime and manga by their corrupt names. I would even go so far as to refer to them by their portmanteau term: “animangos.” Why? Because it’s a unit of symbolic meaning that conveys what I mean without much getting lost in translation.
Sure, people come up to me and tell me its “unprofessional” or that its demeaning to the grand anime gods that preside over me, but really, animangos gets the job done. When I don’t have space to write out “anime and manga” over and over again, I can save five key strokes, FIVE. That’s a whole word I just saved myself from typing.
Still not satisfied? Let me lay it down then. I have a degree in communications and it comes with an understanding of the semantics and pragmatics of language. What this means is, I know how words convey meaning. You read these words I typed, and you comprehend what I’m telling you through shared meaning and the understanding of language. You and I share the concept of what “an apple” is, despite the words having nothing to do with spherical fruit. It’s the same when understanding what anime is.
If I said, “Evangelion 2.0 is a feature length animation resembling Twilight and Blade Runner,” you would just as well understand it if I said “Evangelion 2.0 is a feature length anime/animu/cartoon/moving picture show resembling…” Semantically all of the noted terms symbolically equate to an animated feature.
To quote S.I. Hayakawa, the former President of San Francisco State College (often reviled for being that Nikkei that wasn’t “part of the movement” and as “that guy” that ruined a student demonstration during the late-60s student revolts by climbing onto a protester’s van to tear out speaker wires, but among communication scholars, a noteworthy scholar that warned the dangers of Hitler’s rhetoric during World War II) said, “the word is not the thing.”
What Hayakawa meant was that words do not physically represent something. So when I say animu, the meaning is symbolic as the term anime. Words themselves do not hold any sort of weight.
The negative context we tend to feel from hearing “animu” is assigned from the self. If you think the term is degrading and only used by ironic hipsters that wear corduroy jackets in the summer when trying to be “in” without being considered part of the super nerdy anime crowd that’s “been there since the beginning” you got another thing coming.
If the context and use of “animu” is offensive, refusing to use it and telling some Internet troll to stop being so asinine is like telling the school yard bully to stop punching you in the arm – he’ll just keep punching you in the arm.
I, for one, embrace it. Animangos are a sassy way to denote my hobby, and cute to boot! Embracing the word and making it unironic should be the best way to erode the negative connotation the word holds. I’m sure a lot of people had similar feeling towards words like “Intrawebs” or “blogs,” but owning and popularizing the term just turns people off and move on to something else.
So say it with me, “animangos.”
Tomo Hirai is a Shin-Nisei Japanese American lesbian trans woman born in San Francisco and raised in Walnut Creek, Calif., where she continues to reside. She attended the San Francisco Japanese Hoshuko (supplementary school) through high school and graduated from the University of California, Davis with degrees in Communications and Japanese, along with a minor in writing. She serves as a diversity consultant for table top games and comic books in her spare time.