If I were to describe an adult man to you by saying “he lives with his parents and loves anime,” you would not picture somebody cool. You would imagine a dude with a Mountain Dew gut and facial hair somewhere between a patchy beard and an unkempt goatee. You would assume that he owns a body pillow with a shapely cartoon character wearing lingerie on it, and that all he needs to do to acquire a baloney sandwich is scream “Mom!!” a few times through his locked bedroom door. Perhaps it’s not fair that we make these assumptions about adult anime (or manga) fans who happen to share a domicile with the people who conceived and raised them, but this is the society we happen to live in.
Then along comes Michael B. Jordan to upend everything.
Michael B. Jordan is cool. He’s Killmonger, arguably Marvel’s best villain ever, in Black Panther, the biggest film of the year — not to mention an instant cultural touchstone. He’s Apollo Creed’s son in Creed, the finest reboot of the decade, and made his name in prestige TV like The Wire and Friday Night Lights. He’s routinely listed as one of the sexiest and most stylish men on the planet. He does push-ups whenever Lupita Nyong’o demands it. You’d be hard-pressed to name someone cooler at this moment in American history. But is he cool enough to make watching anime and living with your parents cool by association? Folks, I think he cracked it. Those things are cool now.
How did this happen? First, let’s consider the parent situation. Jordan’s mother suffers from lupus — he does charity work in the fight against the disease — and his father has occasional complications from diabetes. Those diagnoses could be considered reason enough to live together as a nuclear family, and Jordan is a cool guy for taking care of mom and dad. Yet they don’t need to be under one roof, in what Jordan has called a “roommate relationship,” as evidenced by his assurances that he will move out in the near future. Still, he points out that it’s “every kid’s dream” to buy their parents a house, and on that score, gifting them a “4,672-square-foot, four-bedroom Spanish style mansion in Sherman Oaks, California” that cost $1.7 million is pretty fuckin’ cool. It’s cool enough that we probably don’t have to bust his balls too much about crashing there this long. Right? They probably have cute little brunches on the weekend. It’s cool.
As for the anime…well, that may be harder to defend. OK, there’s nothing inherently wrong with anime or manga, which, after all, are merely distinctive styles of animation and comic book art native to Japan. It’s just that, as with most fan cultures, the obsession can be taken too far. The brilliant Japanese film director and artist Hayao Miyazaki has argued that far too much anime is informed only by other anime, which creates an insular and inert medium: “Almost all Japanese animation is produced with hardly any basis taken from observing real people, you know,” he says. “It’s produced by humans who can’t stand looking at other humans.” That is, sorry to say, not cool.
Jordan gets around the uncoolness of anime in a few ways. Firstly, he’s not in the closet about digging this shit — he owns that nerdiness, and he does it with self-deprecating charm. He knows anime isn’t cool, but he loves it anyway! Secondly, he’s not a snob about it. No sooner had he tweeted about Goku and Naruto being “real ones” than someone was crawling up his ass about those characters being too “mainstream.” Jordan clarified that this had been “a softball for the anime-uneducated,” which goes to show that while he could name-check some obscure titles, he doesn’t need to. Cool! Lastly, his enthusiasm is too pure to hate on. The man is living his best life. It rules.
So there you have it. Become not only rich and famous, but one of the most popular stars in Hollywood, all while remaining grounded and humble, but also really good-looking, and you, too, could be a cool anime fan who lives with their parents. Other celebrities have managed to keep their cred while keeping family close (Bradley Cooper at one point slept down the hall from his mom, whom he calls a “cool chick”! Michelle Obama invited hers to move into the White House as the “First Grandma”!) and some are undermined not at all by an affinity for anime (Samuel L. Jackson watches it! Keanu Reeves wanted to make a live-action Cowboy Bebop!), yet Michael B. Jordan is the first person to be anime/manga-positive while voluntarily supporting a domestic arrangement that means he sometimes runs into his dad in the kitchen while half-naked and looking for a midnight snack…and not have any of that diminish his clear-cut coolness. Congratulations to him, and may he always dream the impossible dream.