Every month the OTW hosts guest posts on our OTW News accounts to provide an outside perspective on the OTW or aspects of fandom. These posts express each individual’s personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of the OTW or constitute OTW policy.
Akira has been doing fan translations of several web novels, doujinshi, manga, etc. since the 2010s – the most prominent works include The King’s Avatar and Omniscient Reader’s Viewpoint. She is also a content creator for various fandoms on Facebook with thousands of followers, as well as a cosplayer.
Editor’s Note: Content warning for suicide reference
How did you first find out about fandom and fanworks?
I must confess that I was a manga addict when I first started reading it in middle school. At the time, I didn’t know a lot of people who enjoyed reading manga, and those who did were not such devoted readers like I was. But then I discovered the internet and along with it, forums, where I could meet other fans who loved manga and 2D culture as much as I did.
Internet friends back then were a very delicate subject in Vietnam. Due to news about several kidnappings and money scams via the internet, my parents were kinda wary of and unfriendly toward the friends I met online. However, in my opinion, you can’t be a bad person if you are so passionate about something. The friends I made then are still the best friends I have in life, even though looking back, that thought might seem somewhat juvenile.
Speaking of fanworks, after getting exposed to the fandom culture, I was astounded by everyone’s devotion and enthusiasm for their favorite works, and I also wanted to be a part of that community. I began as someone who knew nothing about computers, but quickly learned Photoshop, video editing, translation, administration, event planning, and so on. Everything that school didn’t teach me at the time, I learned on my own because I wanted to contribute to the fandom. And those skills have helped me a lot in developing my career later on (though I didn’t think about it then!).
What led you to engaging in cosplay?
I’ll never forget how fantastic it felt to attend my first manga convention–it was also the first time I met fandom friends in person. We held an offline fan-meeting that day and cosplayed as members of Namimori’s Disciplinary Committee together. The costume wasn’t expensive or fancy, I simply wore my school uniform with a cheap red star ribbon. But when I put it on, I felt like I was no longer an ordinary student but a high school student in the Namimori’s Disciplinary Committee, under the command of Hibari Kyouya.
I was overjoyed. I’m not sure how to put it, but perhaps that feeling then was from escaping from real life, leaving all troubles behind, entering the 2D world, and transforming into these powerful and gorgeous characters. Some part of me believed that I’d grown stronger and more beautiful, which helped me discover a confident side of myself I didn’t know existed. So, to me, the appeal of cosplay is all about disconnecting from real life and immersing oneself in the world of imagination in order to experience a life you’ve never had.
What do you find rewarding about working on fan translations?
The main motivation to become a fan translator for me is to bring the works I like to more readers. Language has always been the main obstacle between a foreign work and Vietnamese readers, so I want to use my language ability to remove that barrier so that Vietnamese readers can enjoy such wonderful works as well.
In addition, when translating, I can once again reflect on every single word the author has written and relive the characters through each line and story. I feel like I have the responsibility to convey that content well and as faithfully as possible to all readers, and my greatest happiness is seeing readers cry and laugh along with every chapter I translate. The thrill of seeing readers’ reactions is also one of the motivations that keeps me going.
What advice might you give another fan about doing the same sort of fanwork that you do?
Whether it’s cosplay or fan translation, I think the most important thing you need to care about is not how many readers or followers you have, but whether you feel happy doing it. Because in the end, everything you do is for yourself. You love the character, and you love the work, that is why you want to contribute. Spend your time contributing to the fandom and building it when and how you want to. Always let yourself fully enjoy the joy of fandom, and try not to let yourself get burned out or stressed too much because of it!
How did you hear about the OTW and what do you see its role as?
I learned about OTW on a few occasions when I donated to AO3, and I’m really impressed with what OTW has accomplished and is still doing. I also really want to participate in supporting AO3, but the amount of work I’m currently doing is overloaded, so I can only support it financially. However, sometimes I also use my fanpage to convey some information from OTW to readers in Vietnam. No matter how little that is, I still hope to be of some assistance.
What fandom things have inspired you the most?
I once traveled to China to see my favorite actor perform in a musical. It was, in fact, my first time traveling by myself, and my Chinese wasn’t that great, so I was a little lonely and anxious. However, my Chinese fandom friends were extremely kind. They enthusiastically invited me to dine and hang out with them because they knew I was traveling alone and they wanted to make me feel less lost and lonely.
One friend in particular asked me if I wanted to grab a bite together after the performance. She and I talk a lot, sometimes even about our lives and our idols. She texted me after I got back to Vietnam from my trip to China, saying, “That day, if I hadn’t promised that I would take you out to dinner, I would have chosen to leave this world.” And I kept thinking about her words. I couldn’t believe that a promise to a fandom friend who she had only known for a few days could save a person’s life. Only then did I see the true power of fandom and the way it binds strange, lonely souls together.