How Fanfiction and AUs Keep Fans Going

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Deanna Nguyen
Deanna Nguyen is a writer and editor with several years of experience in content creation and editorial management for print and digital publications. Aside from watching anime and simping for her favorite characters, she enjoys playing otome games and cuddling with her bichon frise, Yoshi, during her free time.

By Deanna Nguyen

No longer is lurking in the comments section after watching an anime enough. Instead, it’s all about Twitter, Tumblr or AO3, where diving into show and character tags let you absorb all the speculation, fan art and fanfics that fandom has to offer. 

There’s something special about seeing your favorite characters beyond their screen time. These characters take on lives of their own, breathing in different mediums, whether that be in art or writing, all created by incredibly passionate fans. And when social media meets an impassioned fanbase, you get a built-in community all around the world. 

Now, you may already be familiar with terms like One True Pairing (OTP), Alternative Universe (AU) or Original Character (OC). Fandom lingo is how fans manage their feelings for a show, and that evolves into various forms of fan participation. Some fans join forces to create content that may not necessarily follow what’s canon in a series, but learns from established characters, or they become completely different with flipped personalities.

You might also encounter an artist whose works were influenced by a fanfic writer’s AU or vice versa. With the power of anime on their side, these creators are able to utilize their skills and creativity while expressing their passion for fictional characters. And for a fandom at risk of falling into obscurity, this passion can keep it alive.

Among these creators is one known as RogueDruid. His fanart claim to fame is a rendition of an evil Izuku Midoriya from My Hero Academia, which in turn was based on a fanfic illustrating the same concept. The fanfic received over 300,000 hits on AO3 and even saw translation internationally. 

Growing up, RogueDruid watched classics like Samurai Champloo and Cowboy Bebop. It wasn’t until the start of the second season of My Hero Academia when he finally joined the fandom and found his voice.

“I ended up with a long weekend in early May 2018, and wrote something like 8,000 words, posting as I went,” RogueDruid said. “It was messy and was never planned to be more than a few chapters, but the fandom loved it. I got an overwhelming response, including people who wanted to help me edit and format stuff, and that support really pushed me to make it a much more comprehensive story.”

The overwhelming popularity, he said, led to friendships forged within the community, and the emergence of his own fans. 

“I hope to see more and more people start writing and talking and enjoying the fandom, as well as normalizing people being passionate about the characters and stories,” RogueDruid said. “It’s one of the coolest things about being in a fandom.”

artist: waveoftheocean

Michelle, also known by her handle @waveoftheocean, is an artist whose gateway anime included Soul Eater and One Piece. Haikyuu!!, though, is the manga and anime that deeply resonated with her, so much so that even after five years and many rewatches, she said she still cries over it.

While Haikyuu!!’s artstyle has influenced her own art—specifically the characters’ eyebrows, expressiveness and how motions and gestures are captured—she said the characters and storyline left a stronger impression. 

“The emphasis on teamwork and friendship and how they’re all united… by a love for playing volleyball is something that inspires me to be better, both as a person and at anything I love to do,” she said. 

Michelle’s AUs are defined either by her favorite characters doing what she might do in real life, like take a nap and ignore responsibilities, or her own personal reactions to what occurred in the canon story. Fandom reactions to a show are essentially fuel to the “hype train,” or in other words, a way to stay relevant. But Michelle offers a different perspective to the growing number of anime fans. 

“One thing that I do feel somewhat apprehensive about is that the demand for content keeps rising and there are more and more shows that are super popular for a couple of months, and then rarely talked about again,” she said. “There’s a lot of pressure, especially as a content creator, to stay on top of the trends and to produce a lot very quickly. I can’t even imagine what it’s like for the studios producing entire shows to try to keep up.”

With that, Michelle points out that more and more anime fans are recognizing animators and directors rather than just the series they create. Similarly, anime fans are becoming fans of each other. 

“One time when I was tabling at an event, there was a person who got super excited when they saw my table,” she said. “They came up to me and told me that they’d been saving up their money for my booth and that I was their favorite artist! They were incredibly sweet and, especially when I feel down about my art, I think about what they said to me and it helps a lot.”

More often than not, one passion can lead right into another, resulting in an inspiration crossover. Liya, or “mochipanko,” delved into anime early on with Sailor Moon, Pokémon, Inuyasha, Detective Conan, One Piece and Naruto as her starter pack. But it was her obsession for Katekyo Hitman Reborn! that held the biggest influence on her art. 

artist: mochipanko

Stemming from her desire to draw the series’ characters, Liya practiced “like crazy” and, living in Germany, thanked English subtitles for helping her improve her English. By sharing her art on social media, she was able to partake in collaboration zines, create original artwork and discover her passion for background art and fashion.

“I like to imagine the characters in modern everyday settings such as grocery shopping [and] eating in a café,” Liya said. “I [also] love to reimagine them in contemporary urban street fashion. It’s important to think about each character thoroughly, about their traits and personalities and putting all of that into their clothes. Coming up with patterns and small details that reflect the character is so much fun!”

When engaging in the anime community, Liya said the best messages she receives are ones of encouragement, when fans tell her how her art impacted them.

artist: mochipanko

“…That it cheered them up, helped [ease] their anxiety or motivated [them] to draw again,” she said. “Also, I love reading Tumblr tags because I can find the most honest reactions to my drawings!”

AUs are just one of many creative ways for fans to share their passion and appreciation for their favorite anime. With social media becoming such a powerful tool in cultivating fandoms, it has also helped many artists and writers become more, as they’d call it, “visible” online, whether personally or professionally. 

But they all follow a simple motto: There’s a spot for everyone in every fandom. Whether its fan art, fanfics, memes or just a positive comment on someone else’s work, these contributions allow fandom to grow beyond its starting line. 

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