Niche Fame

Recently, I heard of the death of Steve Pearl, known as the “American Otaking.” He was apparently well known among anime fans, having been a fixture at the Okaton anime convention to say nothing of moderating the Newsgroup starting in 1993 until 2001 (a year before I became a fan). He authored two well-known anime FAQ’s, one on conventions and one on general anime information. He was known by OKADA Toshio, who was the president of Gainax and knows as the “Otaking” in Japan (taken from the Ganaix OVA, Otaku no Video). Okada-san dubbed Steve the American Otaking in 1995.

I’d never heard of Steve until Anime News Network published a blurb about his passing. However, many anime fans from before 2001 knew him from the conventions or Newsgroups. Naturally, they were saddened by his passing, especially since he was only in his 40’s from what I understand. Still, there was something about his passing that hit me — niche fame.

Within the world of anime, the name “AstroNerdBoy” is known to several people within the English manga publishing world and the R1 anime licensing world. I don’t say this to brag, but am merely stating a fact. I’m on rec.arts.anime.misc still (though not as often as I used to be). I’m a member on several anime-related forums. I’m a moderator on one board, an admin on AFC, and a super moderator on FUNimation’s board. I write reviews on the Community Anime Review site. I run the Tenchi Muyo! FAQ. And I have this anime blog, which continues to grow in popularity month after month (thanks to you guys).

Now I’m not trying to say that I’m as famous as Steve when clearly I’m not. There are other anime sites much larger than mine. There are anime blogs much bigger than mine. The list goes on. I guess I was reminded of just how niche the anime and manga market is. Even then, for someone like Steve, who was clearly a well-respected anime fan at the top of the heap, his fame was only known to those who are anime/manga fans, and even then, they’d have to be fans from before 2001. Once he dropped out of the anime/manga fandom world, new people came in and he was all but forgotten.

For me, Steve’s death was a reminder that I don’t write this blog, write reviews, or maintain the TM!R FAQ with the hopes of becoming the new “American Otaking” or anything else like that. Its tempting to think that because I have a little name recognition within our niche fandom that this makes me something. It does not. Even if I were to score some interviews with Japanese mangaka, anime directors, or the like and companies sought out my advice on anime/manga (or I got a job that had my face at conventions all over), in the end, I would still be a simple fan who’s name would be soon forgotten with the passage of time.

Still, I would like to send my condolences to Steve’s family, friends, and those he affected within the anime/manga fandom.

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