Back when dial-up held dominance over the internet and cable connections were still in its infancy, the act of ‘shipping’ fictional characters was a fun and harmless activity wherein fans came up with their own headcanons regarding the romantic pairing of any two given characters.
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Just like fan fiction or the entirety of Tumblr, the resulting ‘ships’ were never meant to be taken seriously, but with the rise of social media, some have taken to going to proverbial war over their completely non-canon ideas.
Some, like the more rabid of the Yaoi (or ‘Boy Love’) shippers, have grown to take the concept so seriously that they will literally end friendships over their favorite fictional pairings – they take going down with their ships like they’re the captain of the Titanic.
Recently, Japanese artist Maromi found herself at wit’s end after being claiming to have been attacked by one of the more rabid fans of OMOCAT’s psychological indie-horror-RPG, OMORI.
The critics issue? The artist followed accounts that drew art of pairings they didn’t like.
On February 19th, Maromi posted a lengthy statement (translated via Twitter user @orangiah_) regarding the full scope of the alleged harassment she had been enduring from her critics.
According to the artist, the harassment began in July 2022 “while I was in the middle of drawing OMORI fan art” when she “received a DM in English for the first time in my life.”
“The message which included two Twitter accounts asked ‘Are you aware that you follow accounts that draw porn of underage characters?'” Maromi recalled.
Looking into the two accounts brought to her attention by the user, whom she refers to in her statement only as ‘A’, the artist ultimately found that “one of them had never to my knowledge posted any sexual content, while the other one had all of their Not Safe For Work (NSFW) content properly tagged and warned for.”
As such, she informed ‘A’ that she “[didn’t] really see the problem” with the accounts’ respective content.
In response, ‘A’ proceeded to accuse Maromi of being a pedophile, drawing child porn and a being ‘pro-shipper’ (a term normally used in reference to someone who is supportive of anyone engaging in shipping regardless of the pairing, as Mamori actually is, which many terminally online critics have begun to use as a synonymous term for the aforementioned crimes, which she does not participate in).
“‘So you think it’s okay to sexualize children?'” ‘A’ asked. “‘In that case, can you write that in your profile so people who aren’t okay with that can avoid interacting with you?'”
“I personally prefer adults in my porn, but in Japan, fictional works have freedom of expression,” shot back Maromi.
“That’s too bad. In English, we call people like you ‘proshippers.'” ‘A’ screeched in return before demanding, “To avoid trouble, please write in your profile that you are a proshipper.”
At this point in the conversation Maromi knew this discussion was not going anywhere and decided to put what a swift end to their entire back-and-forth.
“I can write whatever I want on my profile,” she ultimately declared to her critic. “Let’s just block each other so that we can avoid any interaction. In Japan, we call this ‘self-defense’ That’s all I have to say. Take care!”
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Unfortunately, despite following through with blocking ‘A’ and ending their interaction, little did Maromi know that the next few months would see the Western critic launch a smear campaign against her.
“After that, I continued drawing as usual, but around October , I received a DM letting me know that someone had been harassing me,” said the artist. “There were replies to artists I followed or interacted with warning them ‘this person is a pro-shipper,’ out-of-context excerpts of our DM conversation claiming ‘this person says they like underage por posted in the fanart tags, etc.'”
“Since I wasn’t the only person ‘A’ was targeting, most people just ignored it as trolling and continued interacting with me,” she recalled. “So I left it alone for a while even after learning about it.”
From there, said Maromi, “things continued to get exaggerated among people who hate proshippers, escalating into rumors that ‘Maromi confessed to being a pedophile’ or ‘Maromi secretly draws underage porn.'”
“Of course none of this is true,” she clarified, “but since the OMORI fandom is an English fandom, I think it was hard for foreigners who didn’t understand Japanese to fact-check.”
Maromi then explained that the straw that broke the camel’s back in this situation came in February 2023 when she “became mutuals with a foreign artist.”
“Even though we spoke different languages, we complimented each other’s art and had some friendly exchanges,” she said.
“One day, I realized that they’d soft-blocked me and deleted all of their replies to me,” the artist continued. “Confused as to what happened, a kind follower told me that ‘A’ had told them I was a proshipper. When I checked from another account, I saw that ‘A’ had in fact replied to our exchange with their usual document [of accusations]”
“I received more and more reports from other kind followers and mutuals that they’d seen people harassing or spreading bad rumors about me.” They added. “I realized that the harassment from A and their supporters was intensifying, so I decided I needed to share that I was being harassed, and have a discussion with English fandom about Japanese fandom etiquette.”
Taking place three-days ahead of her statement being published on February 16th, this discussion saw Maromi address the ever-expanding cultural gap in common sense and manners growing between the East and West.
“First of all, I am Japanese and live in Japan,” she began. “The idea or concept of Proshipper does not exist in Japan. All that is required to publish a work in Japan is zoning, and in fiction, all depictions are allowed, and “it is considered an ugly act to speak ill of someone’s work, no matter what their taste is.”
“Some people advise me to block the person you are following because he/she is a proshipper,” she elaborated. “I do not discriminate against them as long as they are properly zoned. That is the rule in Japan.”
“Please understand that if I, as a Japanese, do the same thing as you English-speaking people,” Maromi added. “I will be treated as a freak who cannot distinguish between reality and fantasy.”
“There are some descriptions and ships that I dislike, but I deal with them by unfollowing or muting them,” she reiterated. “That is called ‘self defense’ in Japan.”
“I have explained this to people who continue to harass me and told them that I myself am not interested in child pornography,” Maromi emphasized. “But they did not understand.”
“I just like HEROMARI and want to draw a cute HEROMARI🥺” they pleaded. “I have never looked at them in a sexual way, and I am happy just to see them holding hands. I will never paint OMORI NSFW, not even for commission. I promise you that.”
“I know this is a long story, but thank you for reading this far,” Maromi concluded her thread. “If you dislike me after listening to this story, feel free to unfollow me and block me. Artists who do not want to be involved in harassing me are also welcome to unfollow me and please take care.”
Following the publication of her thread, Maromi would be inundated with support from not just Japanese artists, but also the overwhelming majority of the English-speaking OMORI fandom.
Met with additional supporting information and context regarding the behavior of Western users, Mamori would later provide Japanese otakus with a direct warning regarding what she deemed the “American Yakuza”.
“I was prepared to expose my own way of thinking,” Maromi opened her thread. “Thinking that there are special rules in the English-speaking world.”
“But all the people I talked to defended and encouraged me and from what I heard, the people who are considered pro-ship and anti-ship are heretical even in the English-speaking world,” they continued. “And seem to be a more heinous version of what the Japanese call ‘omochi yakuza’ (a yakuza who have a strong sense of humor).”
“The original meaning of the word ‘pro-ship’ was ‘omnivore’ (TN: someone who likes almost every ship with few or no squicks and doesn’t hate on other people’s pairings – in other words, someone following obvious common sense) in Japanese, and when the word ‘pro-shipper’ was coined to mean ‘permitting everything’ in order to keep away those who cannot pass through landmines,” the artist detailed. “The anti’s started labeling pro-shipper as child molesters, incestuous, abuse tolerant, abnormal and abuse-tolerant freak.”
“As the definition of the word becomes more and more ambiguous, it seems the word pro-shipper has been weaponized by racists to target artists whose main language is not English,” they warned. “And the bad guys are flocking to genres that deal with underage characters such as OMORI and shonen magazine works. Pedophiles are easy to criticize.”
“I used to think that if you are going to create a foreign work, you should follow the rules of that country as much as possible, but that’s not the case,” she ultimately declared. “So I will advise you not to deal with people who harass you for being a pro-shipper, because they are American yakuza who have a hard time with the ships they don’t like. I’m going to advise them not to deal with them.”
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