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July 10, 2008

Comments

Roger

A familiar story. Whenever someone starts a movement, as soon as it gets past three people things start to mutate.

Reread the entry, replacing the word "otaku" with "hippy" and some interesting parallels appear.

Daryl Surat

And for the REALLY interesting parallels, see what happens when you replace "otaku" with "Nazi"! OH SNAP DID I JUST BLOW EVERYBODY'S MIND? DUN DUN DUN!

I think it's clear that what's happened here is that Toshio Okada understood and realized the concept of the Otaku Expiration Date (which is roughly 30 years of age). If you do not at least partially renounce your otaku ways and start pursuing some sort of meaningful human relationship by then (for example, dating or getting married), you're going to die very quickly upon your DNA realizing that your life is wasted and beyond salvation. That's why most common causes of otaku death at this point are suicide and The Happening, or as I call it, "getting Happened."

That is why you're still alive Matt. You needed someone to like, throw out your Jumbo Machinders or whatever it is girls do. Okada followed a similar path, which is why he is not dead.

Aceface

This is not at all surprising since Otaku is based on shared understanding and appreciation of subculture,which are mostly manga/TV program/consumer products.

Partially because the genre is so dependent on commercialism,the whole scene is based totally on supply side.And otaku's role in the scene is passive consumer,which makes them difficult to find trans-generational interest.That means not only the product,but the fans are also expendable.

Todd Ciolek

It's telling that Okada was often regarded as a meddlesome nut by other Gainax staffers, and that he even wanted the company to give up anime in favor of making games full-time in the early '90s, if The Notenki Memoirs are to be believed.

It's also telling that Okada hasn't actually worked on any anime, manga, or video games since 1992. From what I've seen, he's just known for studying the otaku subculture itself.

So I'm surprised that he didn't renounce his ways sooner, as he wasn't doing anything creative within his obsession. Geeking for geeking's sake leads nowhere.

MattAlt

They can have my Jumbo Machinders when they pry them from my cold, dead fingers.

"the whole scene is based totally on supply side. And otaku's role in the scene is passive consumer"

Otaku are definitely super-consumers but it seems there's a lot less less physical stuff to actually have to buy now (i.e., you can download digital copies of anime, imagery, music etc. from the Web rather than having to purchase actual products -- this is particularly true for BitTorrent obsessed American fans).

"I'm surprised that he didn't renounce his ways sooner,"

Okada's always had a flair for the melodramatic and announced his retirement at least once before, around the late '90s if I recall. I suspect the huge mainstream success of "Don't Think You Have to be Fat Forever" gave him the confidence to actually do it. Given his age (he's fifty) and his self-professed dislike for a lot of modern otaku culture, it's probably getting difficult for him to position himself as an expert about current trends. I think he'll still be the go-to guy for quotes about the "golden age" of otaku culture, which is quickly becoming intertwined with Bubble Era mythos.

I kinda wish he'd go back to fiction, too -- I suspect that a hundred years from now, he's going to be far better remembered for penning "Aim for the Top" than his diet book.

wildarmsheero

>>a lot less less physical stuff to actually have to buy now

Hey hey. Figures. Dakimakura. DOUJINSHI.

MattAlt

Here's a question: do you think being an "otaku" today requires more or less of a financial commitment than it did in the '80s?

Aceface

More.
Because the industry is seeking for"otona gai(adult-ish consuming)" crowd as their ideal consumer.

And think about all the DVD box set.They didn't exist way back in the 80's.Sell videos and Laserdiscs were there,but the output certainly wasn't this frequent.

wildarmsheero

!

Well, I guess in Japan you could just watch the stuff on TV, but in the US you had to do the whole tape buying/trading thing along with buying ridiculously expensive LDs. These days if you want a show it's as easy as just opening up perfect dark and downloading it.

Though, there are still those of us who buy what they love, and as a result I end up spending something like 2000 dollars a year on DVDs, figures, hug pillows, doujins and other crap. Not sure how that compares to your spending Back In The Day but it's a lot for a 20-year-old who only works in the summer!

Mr.Dandy

Yeah, in the US in the 80s, since it was so much harder to get anything, most otaku were older, like upper-high school but more often college age and above, because you really had to have resources (connections, transportation and MONEY) to get that overpriced DYRL VHS or back-issue of Newtype hidden in an obscure game shop across town.

Not to diss the otaku of today, since they certainly obsess on their anime like any good fan should, but it can't possibly be the same sort of treat when you can get most anything you want at Best Buy, Borders or the internet (not to mention broadcast TV)!

I think the difficulty we had just made us appreciate it more, and made for a much more exclusive club. Kind of like being archaeologists digging up ancient tombs. Now all the sites have been excavated, give hourly tours, and have gift shops selling with $5 ushabtis.

^_^

MattAlt

>>More.

I wonder. Obviously niche items like dojinshi or obscure DVD sets or moe hump-pillows aside, I really wonder how many so-called otaku product lines are supported by what you'd call actual stereotypical otaku.

These days, it's okay for otherwise normal adults to openly purchase "childish" stuff (like robot toys, or figures of kaiju, or video games, what have you). I see otherwise normal looking men (and the occasional woman) stalking the toy aisles of Yodobashi Kichijoji, "ikemen" types with anime keitai straps or watching anime on their cell phones, salarymen playing the latest Gundam game on their PSPs while commuting to work. Unless you're a seriously obsessed die-hard there doesn't seem to be that pressure to "graduate" into a "normal" life like you did before. Everyone's a little otaku now. And in the end analysis, I think that's their biggest legacy.

MattAlt

>>Kind of like being archaeologists digging up ancient tombs.

As a kid growing up in America I definitely felt a sense of needing to preserve the precious few "artifacts" I'd find from Japan. The occasional "Roman album" artbook was a godsend, a Chogokin a jewel beyond compare. Back then you never knew when something you stumbled across would come up again, if ever, and there was a real thrill of the hunt. That's one of the biggest differences between the first American otaku and the current generation.

I think it's great that so much more stuff is available today, but it's also sort of a double-edged sword. If translated, subtitled anime/manga and related merchandise had been as widely available back then as it is now (and believe me, we basically had nothing), I suspect I'd never have gone through the effort of learning the language...

MattAlt

>>A familiar story. Whenever someone starts a movement, as soon as it gets >>past three people things start to mutate."

I hesitate to even imagine what form it will take, but I'm sure the next generation of otaku kids will manage to come up with something that makes even moe-lovers blanch.

Steve Harrison

I am Okada, and he is me.

I think the key difference, and Matt, you touch upon it, is the STRIVING for the thing.

For me, it was trips to Detroit and Chicago, and when I was in my 13 months of hell in Ft. Wayne there was one trip to Indianapolis that netted some amazing deals (HCM Super L-Gaim for $25), and it's all things that can never be that way again, because Books Nippan is gone, Pony Toy is gone, and what was expensive back then is insane overpriced now. I was buying St. Seiya cloth for around $30, now the new Myth lines start at 4000 Yen and they go out of production the minute they're released so it's not even worth TRYING to find a store that might bother to import them and charge $60 and up...which I don't have anyway! (money that is)

But there was effort involved. I had to WANT to look for things. And I had to make choices. I'm sorry I passed up on the Clover DX Gundam set for about $50, because I thought it looked goony and not cool. Now of course I understand the funk. Or my friend who could have got that DX Tomy Ideon at Barbarian...

and the store in Detroit that screwed me over for the HCM Vifam w/Sling Pannier and the HCM VF-1 ...

Rant rant.


taiki

What I don't understand is why in Japan the "Otaku" lifestyle seems to be that of isolation, where as in America, it seems to be the opposite. If you're an Otaku, you tend to go to club meetings, cons, and the rare theatre showing of something like a Bleach or Death Note movie. In Japan, it seems to be an entirely isolationist experience. Movies, cons, events, whatever, maybe you have friends, but there never seems to be the same comraderie.

I know it's entirely cultural, but I'm wondering what aspect of the culture caused Otaku to shun those from the outside? What caused them to be so lonely when really, all around them, is the solution to their own loneliness? How screwed up must it for your life as an otaku for it to be that you live in one of the most densely populated areas of the world and yet you're lonely?

DrmChsr0

I note with a mild sense of detached amusement the irony of the title and the article play off each other.

The titular book, on which the title of the article was shamelessly ripped out of, was the continuing story of a boy who had such a tender compassion for the enemy he had defeated and brutally killed (Ender's Game), be became quite literally, the guy who gave stirring eulogies to dead people of importance, loved or hated. He even had the compassion to go back to Earth to give a stirring eulogy for his brother, whom he hated.

Okada is not Ender Wiggin. He hates the otaku with such vehemence he writes them off as dead. In fact, I daresay that it was he who initiated the hate for otaku all those years ago, only at that time no one wanted to listen to him or treated him as a raving lunatic. and the fact that he wrote in a erotica book instead of publishing it should speak volumes of either his cowardice or hatred.

He is not a star. He is one who has catapulted to fame with a white-hot sword of hate. And he is living up his status. He uses his fame and throws it around like a child with a temper tantrum, spewing invectives like a child who has learnt a new swear word.

He may be able to disguise his hate by trying to cast the 'first-generation' otaku as rebels with a cause, but to the trained and enlightened person, he (or she) can see through the mask he tries to portray himself as to see what he is really saying.

Instead of emphasizing with the people who are forced to dig themselves in, he further assails them with artillery and air strikes, forcing them even further into their bunkers of escapism and delusions. Is this how one treats the person he one was? Even the formerly blind Bartimaeus didn't beat every blind person he met after he could see. But I guess we live in a different world, where beating and exploiting the needy, the destitute and the poor (both in body and in spirit) is considered not just fair play, but highly recommended.

If this is what he wants for his swansong, then he better have absolutely no regrets in doing so.

MattAlt

I think it's important to note that Okada isn't criticizing anyone personally or individually. He takes great pains to explain that while he doesn't understand the appeal of moe, he also doesn't see anything inherently wrong with it, nor does he want anyone with a passion for it to apologize for their personal tastes.

His main argument -- and as with any argument grounded in opinion, it's open to rebuttal -- is that the latest generation is generally more insular and has a far narrower range of tastes than previous versions of otaku. It's less about moe per se and more about how forming tight cliques of like-minded individuals has reduced the exchange of ideas and could stunt the future growth potential of otaku culture as a whole. The only real way for Version 2.0 otaku to "win" this argument is to take up the torch Okada is trying to pass to them.

Steve Harrison

And yet the great irony is that Okada helped create the MOE culture. What, if not MOE, is the barely pubescent Daicon girl, both in her sailor suit school uniform and her 'grownup clothes on a child' Captain's uniform? Mocking himself in Otaku no Video with the intense concentration over creating a resin 'fetish figure' of same?

Of course the difference is the Daicon girl has a context and meaning, whereas many of the MOE chara can be worshipped sans creation since they are coldly and carefully designed for specific tastes.
It's rather like the Ameriotaku downloading tons of images ripped from various dating sims and H games. They don't care for the 'story', it's just cool pictures.

I understand Okada's confusion.

MattAlt

Okada definitely played a role in popularizing the Moe stereotype though it's arguable it existed far before he got his start in the business. The problem isn't moe. It's the current community's lack of self-confidence and ambition.

They were laughed at as freaks at the time, but the manga, anime, and games created by the Otaku 1.0 generation laid the groundwork for the current "Japan Cool" phenomenon. What have moe fans created that's of interest to anyone other than themselves?

Steve Harrison

Yes, and that's the thing. In my day (hurf durf shakes my walking stick), because of my fannish loves, I've:

Created and run a convention (that lasted 10 years)
run anime video rooms at other cons
created and produced a fanzine
built props for other's costumes
done up some low rent costuming
sat on panels, and been a (paid, official) guest
and other stuff.

So yeah, the current Ameriotaku (I'll get that word into mass use by hook or by crook!) are more "is there going to be a rave? I heard there's gonna be a rave. I wanna go to a rave!" and "is there going to be cosplay chess? that would be cool" and other passive (or not partaking creative effort) acts.

Some cosplay, but it's often lazy for all the work, being 'safe' chara, very few daring to do costumes for 'obscure' chara like Maetel or Cobra or Captain Future (wouldn't that ROCK?)

It's a circle eating the snake in a lazy sideways '8' .


Bernie

I'm so glad that this post led to so much fancy pants nerd talk.

(I mean that in the best way possible.)

Dan Hager

I'll compare memories of my first San Diego Comic Con in 1988, and the last convention I went to, Animazement in 2008. The first was a crowded hall with a bunch of obsessive guys in their thirties and a bunch of back issue tables. The big event was a screening of the first X-Men cartoon pilot on an AV cart. The second convention was a crowded hotel filled with obsessive thirty+ year olds, including me this time, but also tons of younger fans of both genders, some indiscriminate, and shades of skin other than pasty white. They were playing red rover out on the lawn, posing for cosplay photos, and yes, there was indeed a rave. Do you know what I would have given to even be able to talk to someone my own age at Comic Con in 1988? Because there was none that I could see. Considering how fucked up I felt in 1988, and how much I've grown in twenty years, I'd say the kids are alright. And if they're alright now, maybe they'll make some pretty good adults. It's a big freak scene now, folks, not just a little one anymore. We're only the better off for it being so.

Toshiaki

No Otaku of any generation have produced anything that would interest anyone but themselves. That's the fundamental nature of a subculture.

Okada is a big nuisance. The man hasn't been an "Otaking" since 1995.

Noisome in his anachronistic commentaries, promoting a "cause" nobody shares, It's a shame he gets as much attention as he does. While I can appreciate the sentiment, Otaku no Video was complete crap even in its own time. The contemporary Otaku, if you want to call him/her that, is alive and well and growing in dynamic ways that were impossible in Okada's time. The Otaku's creativity and productivity are branching out in new directions and into new media all the time, their nuances and appeal are apparently just lost to a fat viewer who demands to see things explode. Sometimes I wonder if Okada knows what an internets is.

MattAlt

"No Otaku of any generation have produced anything that would interest anyone but themselves."

Putting Okada aside for a minute, given the whole "Japan cool" phenomenon I think the only way you could seriously argue that point is if you defined otaku purely as consumers rather than producers. But even that is a hard sell, given how their habits (and in particular shopping patterns) managed to redefine at least one entire section of the city, Akihabara. And on a broader societal level, it's now "cool" (or at least, not specifically "uncool") to read manga or watch anime both in Japan and abroad. That simply wasn't the case twenty five years ago. The first generation of otaku can claim at least a little (and some would say a lot) of the credit for that cultural shift.

Steve Harrison

To be fair, Matt, you might want to adjust your above, or expand on it. I've never heard it was unacceptable to read manga in Japan 25 years ago...heck, wasn't the presence of salerymen reading 'phonebooks' on the train part of the "Japan is so advanced in how they treat comic books! Everybody reads them! Shonen Jump sells a MILLION 300 page comic books EVERY WEEK!" concept that was pimped to the American comic industry as 'this is how it should be done' thinking?

I think the true key is, who is advertising on today's anime? What market is being sold to? How upscale is it? How 'mainstream'?

I've got Yamato III episodes taped off air back in '81 with the expected Bandai/Popy ads on it, and chocolate ads from Gilco, but also ads promoting the new Nissan Skyline and Zetto sporting equipment, neither of which are particularly Otaku focused I think you'd agree....somehow I just don't imagine 'The Burning Itch and redness of Haruhi Bo bo bo bo' getting similar ad buys...or am I so out of it I can't even imagine?

MattAlt

"I've never heard it was unacceptable to read manga in Japan"

In an era when manga and anime are recognized by the Powers That Be as a cutting-edge international export industry, it's easy to forget that once upon a time they were seen by polite society as kids' stuff at best and absolute trash at worst. (Popularity doesn't necessarily equate respect.)

Variable Gear

RE: "His main argument -- and as with any argument grounded in opinion, it's open to rebuttal -- is that the latest generation is generally more insular and has a far narrower range of tastes than previous versions of otaku. It's less about moe per se and more about how forming tight cliques of like-minded individuals has reduced the exchange of ideas and could stunt the future growth potential of otaku culture as a whole."

I agree with what you're saying, despite the fact that I've never read anything by Okada (Is any of his work available in English?). Just look at what shows are being produced today. It's rare that a show breaks out of the current zeitgeist and presents anything that could potentially interest the mind.

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