Female and their Fandoms: Paisley & Black Butler

 Paisley during her visit to Japan, 2017

Paisley during her visit to Japan, 2017

When sitting down to talk with Paisley Robinson, I had no idea how hard it would be to start asking questions. Her dry wit and sense of humor immediately distract from the task at hand and instead the first part of our scheduled interview is filled with laughter and bonding over inappropriate jokes which should stay between friends unless I were to label this post as NSFW. However, Her funny personality is paralleled with her passion for anime and manga.  

As someone who is a self-proclaimed weeb queen, I wanted to explore the obstacles and passion she has lived being a deeply devoted anime watcher and manga reader.   Living in a fandom that is so vast and holds such a variety of genres that the stereotypes come in all shapes and sizes cannot be an easy feat, which is exactly what I realized after our sit down. 

SPARKLEY ASS BITCH: So, what would you say is your number one, all-time favorite, “don’t mess with you” anime is? Paisley: It’s tough.  It’s probably not One Piece because that is one of those shows where people have a lot of different opinions on it because it is such a big show, so that isn’t one I tend to be defensive about.

What is one you can be defensive about? Osomatsu? No, no I can understand why people wouldn't like that anime. *Laughs* I’d probably say, Black Butler because even some of the fandom can be...annoying.  I was just talking about this. It’s because its as if there are two sides, especially to the Black Butler community.  The people who read it and watch it for the actual story and then the people who watch it for all the hot guys. 

Which side would you say you’re one? Oh the plot for sure.  

Do you watch any animes for the hot people? Not anymore really, not as I did in High School. If anything it would be Saiyuki for the boys and Tenchi for the girls.

Who are they from? Oh no, both are titles.  So, all of them (them being the characters).  It was kind of bad because as a kid I would watch these and think to myself “these people are really hot.”  Now I’m just like “ugh people.”

I was really into Doug.  Like Doug Funny you know? I was more of a Skeeter girl myself.  

It took about 5 minutes to finish laughing at those statements.  I invite you to do the same.  

How did you discover Black Butler? I hadn’t been watching anime for a while, and then they started putting it on Netflix.  That was when one of my best friends and I decided to fall back into that dark pit, so we watched Black Butler, and it was both awful and amazing.  Now I can’t even watch the original anime though.  I read all the mangas which is just so much better.  The original anime catered to the fans, which I can understand maybe why a lot of people who are into it for the guys.  In the manga, the story would be serious but then in the anime, Sebastian's shirt would just fall off for no reason. 

So you found it on Netflix, but it is a reasonably common anime, right?  I don’t consider myself a knowledgeable person when it comes to anime but I’ve known about it so was it pretty new when you found it?  I don't know how new it was then, it was several years ago, but I can’t remember when it originally came out.

Does it make sense, when you have this anime you love so much, to invest in the physical mangas especially considering how many websites and services there are on the internet that allows you to read them for free, right? That is actually kind of funny.  Some of my series I have accumulated over time anyway, but I usually don’t buy a series unless there are differences between the manga and the anime.  So that depends on the title, and I tend to switch around.  I have all of the Black Butler, but for the anime, they only did a certain amount that follows the manga, so I will buy the rest so I can read all of the content they don’t include in the anime.  Same with The Full Metal Alchemist manga.  The manga is just way better, and the original anime only followed two books while the rest of it was filler story, so that's why I ended up buying the manga for that.  Most of the physical manga that I own is because they made an anime version but didn’t do it right or didn’t complete it, like Ouran High School Host Club. That anime only goes up to volume 8, but there are 16 volumes, so half of the story is just never told on screen.  

Well then how do manga and anime compare for you, looking at Black Butler specifically?  The manga wins for sure, but it usually ends up being the manga because it is the original story that the creator wanted to tell.  One of the series I own, Cheeky Angel, has an anime that excluded the entire final arc which is actually one of my favorite arcs of any story. 

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Do you think that you would be considered a “die-hard” fan in the sense that you go out of your way to read or is there a difference?  Do you need to read the manga to be a true fan of a series? I think it depends on the person because some people just don’t have time to read or sometimes the manga isn’t readily available.  With copyrights, it can be hard to find them even translated.  So it really does depend.  With a title such as Attack on Titans, there are manga people, and then there are anime ONLY fans who don’t read the manga because they don’t want any story spoilers.  It is more common to see animes follow the original mangas exactly, especially with more modern series.  It has made it easier to be a fan of either or, or even both.  Usually, I am a fan of both, just because the anime will stop and that's when I will take the time to catch up on the manga.  

Have you witnessed a lot of prejudice when it comes to manga versus anime? Oh yeah, completely.  I think a lot of manga fans tend to look down on the anime fans because they can come off as newbies to the fandom of anime and manga.  There is a stigma that anime is like this introductory step, so there is always this weird ownership of it.  That being said, I do think there are particular “beginner” series that I won’t watch because I have the “been there, done that” mindset when it comes to them.  I feel like there are eras of anime.  For me and my era, it was Dragon Ball Z, and Tenchi.  All of those shows on Toonami back then were like the “starter pack,” but there was also so much more beyond that.  I think with every generation there is always that line up of series that is a “beginner” type of anime but I just can’t bring myself to watch them because I feel like I’m too old and I’ve already been there. But I don’t think of it as if I am looking down on those fans because I’m not.  I just don’t watch them because I already did.

Is it hard to stay up to date with the mangas? Not so much with the manga because most of them either come out once a month or once a week.  With the once a week ones, I will let those build up for a while, so I have a good chunk to read.

Do you get actual physical copies or do you read completely online? The weekly ones are mostly online but then with the monthly ones I am on point with getting them.  I am reading Black Butler and Attack on Titans right now consistently, and they are both getting very intense, so when they come out I’m usually asking “where is my shit? I need it.” 

I know you have “ships” in other series, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard you mention one for Black Butler.  Do you have one? Not really but I am really particular about my ships.  I like a particular dynamic that includes very complex rivalships.  So like Zoro and Sanji from One Piece.  I know they don’t get along, but I’m sure the fuck. And THAT is on the record; I want that in there.  I will demand a rewrite if it’s not. 

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SAB:  Done.  I’ll make sure to bold it for you too.  Has Black Butler inspired you throughout your day to day life?  I know you went to Japan and saw a lot of One Piece stuff but did Black Butler ever creep into your trip? Not really but weirdly enough, Black Butler isn’t THAT popular in Japan.  When I was there last, there were a lot of girls who were more into the shonen series which typically are written for boys because they are becoming more girl oriented anyway.  I am seeing women way more into shonen, for instance, this past Jump Fest, which is the yearly Shonen Jump convention in Japan, there were more girls there any ever before.  But when I went to Akihabara I noticed a lot more guys into the “cute stuff,” or Moe genres that ordinarily are more marketed towards girls, so there is this flip happening in this entire industry.  It is becoming more common to see girls into shonen anime and boys into shojo series.  

And why do you think that is?  I think some of it can be credited to the “hot guy” scenario we talked about before, but for me personally I have always been more of a shonen girl.  I'm not really sure why this switch is happening or how it started because I have always been the girl who was considered “weird”  or just like a for liking the shonen series or been treated like my passion for it was a novelty.  I remember in middle school all my guy friends thought I was so cool because I liked Dragon Ball Z, but to me, I was just being myself and liking something that I thought was cool because it was cool.  I guess it ties into the stereotype that girls are supposed to be into romance, and boys are supposed to be into action so maybe its just a shifting in the tides of a generation modernizing and not conforming to outdated identities.  It’s obviously a good thing that it’s considered okay for girls to be into “boys things” and vice versa but I do think there is a small part of it that can be attributed to the hot guy/cute girl factor. 

Since you see such a switch do you still encounter a lot of gatekeeping as a geek woman when it comes to anime or black butler?  Most of the time I hear “you’re a girl and you're into this, and that’s so awesome!” but it has only happened once where a man refused to talk to me about the mangas I was buying.  I was with my ex, John at Barnes and Noble buying My Hero Academia and the store associate would only talk to my John about it as if they were his.  When I would try to join the conversation because I actually knew what I was talking about whereas my John didn’t care, the associate would just respond to the man standing by me.  He just kept directing his focus at John, and I kept trying to tell him “you have no idea what you’re talking about” but he wouldn’t hear it because he kept me out of it, even though everything he was trying to talk to John about was mine!  

Do you ever feel judged for your choices in your series since you have such a wide variety?  I’ve found that because I do have such an array of series that I like, its made it easier for me to connect with others in the community.  If someone is really into Gundam, I can easily have a conversation with them about the mecha genre, but if someone wants to talk about Madoka, I can just as easily talk to them about magical, girl stuff.  I don’t really feel judged in the scope of anime and manga but more when it comes to the cosplay aspect of it.  Mostly because I am black, I have been told I shouldn’t cosplay certain characters.  I have even had people ask me to get out of photos.  I was cosplaying as Death Note with two of my friends, and I was Misa, and after they asked for a picture, they asked me to get out of it since I didn’t look like Misa.  I also have overhead people say they don’t want to take a photo with me as a character because I am black.  It’s really a common thing.  A girl got really excited to see our Black Butler group where I was cosplaying as Lizzie, and her friend corrected her because “I didn’t look anything like Lizzie.” 

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That is really sad that you have to experience that so frequently - isn’t a significant point about cosplay is to emulate these characters not be a carbon copy?  People are weird.  This one time I was cosplaying with a group of women, and we were dressed as gender bend One Piece when some random dude came up to us and made it a point to ask why we didn’t tape down our breasts for the characters.  When we explained that we were gender benders he could not get away from us fast enough.  He like ran away.  Usually, these people aren’t in cosplay either.  

There are a lot of stereotypes that fly around the term “weeb queen.” That is fair to say *laughs*.

How do you view them though?  Do you consider yourself to fit into the stereotype because I know you are very open about being a weeb?  I think I fit the stereotype but I also face people frowning upon me being into anime, which was maybe an age thing, but I do think I own it.  

Do you think there are any misguided misconceptions about being a weeb?  I think the one that is wrong is that we aren’t regular people who have normal lives.  It’s all too common to encounter someone who thinks this is all I do and think about.  What has always bothered me is when people assume that I want to be Asian.  I have been asked if I want to get plastic surgery to look more Asian because I like anime which is just weird.  I feel like people think we don't have jobs or we cant pay our bills and that we all live at home with our parents, but here I am.  I own my own house, I have a job in a healthy relationship, but it gets old trying to go against that stigma when you’ve been fighting it for so long.  I know my mom worried about me just because I like anime but this is me, and what I like and I think I own it.  I own what I’m all about.