It’s close to break time and while a couple of the third-years I’ve been teaching are putting the last hand to their self-evaluation forms for the day, the bigger part of the class has devolved into chatter. Given that the subjects of these discussions give me a pretty decent indication of whatever hot teen drama they’ll be plagiarising their next creative writing assignment from, I was keeping an ear out. That’s when I overheard a phrase I’d never expected to hear delivered through a medium other than a crappy Skype connection.
“Gee, I didn’t know you were such a weeaboo.”
That word alone should have been enough of a warning. But it’s not every day you encounter someone as far gone as yourself in your everyday habitat.
“Now that’s a word I didn’t expect to hear in this classroom,” I butt in.
The boys ask me if I watch anime. I, with all the tact and social awareness of a blowfish, take the bait. Almost immediately, I realise how many doors I’ve opened for these scamps to try and slip through.
“You seen Naruto, sir?”
As this point they’re not so much asking as screaming halfway across the classroom.
“A long time ago, yeah.”
Just briefly I remember being around their age and watching Naruto episodes chopped into three parts and chucked onto YouTube, hidden by any means necessary from the fledgling service’s then near-useless copyright protection algorithms. It was my own secret treasure trove, a world that felt like a true home, even if my only company there was a handful of anonymous entities hiding behind meaningless cries of ‘first’ and ‘sasuke 4 the winz’. I was glad that, unlike me back then, these kids had found friends to share their enthusiasm with.
“What about Oreimo, sir?”
No matter how often I may like to remind my mum that kids nowadays are used to a heck of a lot more than she could likely ever conceive of, even I am still a bit shocked to hear that dreaded word coming out of the mouth of a fourteen-year old.
“… How the heck do you know about that show?”
That’s when I notice the pit I’ve dug myself into. I’ve just admitted to a class full of sadistic teens that I know of this thing spoken of in the kind of chortle usually only heard when girly mags have been snuck onto school outings. Committed social suicide just to implicitly remind a child how much better my taste in anime is than his.
“Have you seen it? I like it. Especially the ending.”
Far more embarrassed than I, a grown-ass man talking to a teenager on the brink of a testosterone overdose, have any reason to be, I pretend his question is being drowned out by murmurs from elsewhere in the classroom. Unfortunately, it’s not the kind of murmur I’m looking for. The girls in the class wanna know what’s with all the chatter wafting up from the other side. What’s this about a guy marrying his sister? “Apparently, your classmates are into some really messed-up stuff,” I mumble, and look for the nearest chair to collapse on.
I’d never for a second doubted that the type of lecherous, try-hard teen anime seems to ever more be exclusively catering itself toward, really did exist, but I never thought I’d actually meet one in the flesh. Liking Oreimo, or To Love Ru, or Keijo!, or any of the other titles they start dropping in the hope of getting a rise out of me, is something for random creeps on the Internet. It’s not something I ever expected an actual person in my immediate vicinity to admit to. It feels a lot more alienating than it should.
A couple of minutes later, I’m standing in front of the classroom door with a final assignment. Despite my constant reminders, the kids are having a ton of problems understanding the concept of a full sentence, so I’m telling them no one’s allowed to leave the classroom until they can answer a random question with one.
Not entirely coincidentally, the proud weeaboos are the last boys standing.
“This is becoming way too much of a sausage fest,” says the alpha weeaboo.
“What do you mean by that?” I ask him. It’s as good a random question as any.
“Too many dudes here.”
Not a full sentence, so I keep prodding him.
“And why does that make you uncomfortable?”
“I’d prefer a harem.”
Seriously. Is this my punishment?