The Otaku Myth

You’ve heard about “America’s Greatest Otaku”– or maybe you haven’t. It’s Tokyopop’s newest marketing tour, where they travel across the country in a bus looking for the biggest anime fan. Once they find this supposed pinnacle of fandom culture, they will reward them with a trip to Japan.

At heart, this contest has positive intent (or at least, I sincerely hope it does, because I like to assume the best about corporate intentions). However, I take issue with the use of the word otaku in this campaign– as well as the usage in many other forms of marketing used by the American companies.

Many people are unaware of the real meaning of the word otaku. In the US, it has become something to be proud of; a person uses it to describe themselves as an expert, or a person who is more obsessed with anime and manga than their peers. It’s become somewhat synonymous with the word “guru”. But the avid Japan-lovers that apply this word to themselves have not bothered to research the origin of the title, as happens with many things in American fandom– but that is something to save for a different post. More

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American Manga Publishers: Doing It Wrong

Let’s start this post with some honesty: Currently, the manga publishers of America are treating their customers like idiots.

We are expected to sit on our hands for the year gap between a Japanese tankoubon release and the English release of a volume. Then, after we pay $10.00 (or more!) for these English releases, we are supposed to remain completely unaware of the fact that the translations are inaccurate, content has been omitted for the sake of making things easier for the proofreaders, and the extras (such as interviews with characters, the mangaka, etc.) have been left out entirely. Of course, we are expected to be entirely ignorant of these issues, because we (presumably) speak nothing but English, and don’t know what the Japanese versions of these productions offer.

Secondly, the marketing methods the publishing companies are using are alienating to the general public, and negate the fact that manga in Japan is a medium. There is something for everyone, for every walk of life, and every age; however, American publishing companies have created the mentality that manga is something meant for the fringe components of society, and is working actively to make this fringe demographic their customer base while alienating every other prospective audience member who does not follow the stereotypical “obsessed otaku” mindset. More

The “Huge Nerd” in the Room

I have started to feel ashamed of my fellow anime fans in my school, and my affiliation with the subculture they belong to– And it’s a feeling I absolutely hate myself for having.

On the first day of Evaluating Contemporary TV class, everyone was told to stand up and state their name and class, followed by the kind of television they most enjoyed and most hated. I went first, and stated my genres of choice- Leaving out the fact that I prefer those genres to be animated and Japanese in origin. We went through the whole class, each person saying their piece, and I laughed along at the commentary about bad reality TV and the like. At the back of the classroom, however, a girl stood and stated her preferences. “I’m kind of a huge nerd,” she stated, continuing on to say she loved anime.

While watching the varied reactions to the statement on my classmates’ faces, I realized that while the majority remained neutral, there were several very obviously disgusted expressions in the room, including a girl who had said she hated “those weird Japanese cartoons”. This wasn’t very surprising to me, of course. I’ve been an anime fan long enough to be aware that it is in many cases a love-it-or-hate-it genre, based on misconceptions and stereotypes. The thing that bothered me most about this particular statement was the girl’s appearance, and the fact that it is a very common look for the “otaku” on my campus, in my state, and in most places I have been in the States. More

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