Otaku

Otaku is defined by the wikepedia as a Japanese term sometimes used pejoratively to refer to people with obsessive hobbies, most commonly manga or anime. If either of those last terms are not familiar to you it is time for you to learn.

Bookstores in the US now have manga available in their graphic novel’s sections. While it is not as hard as it used to be an anime and manga fan as it used to be back in the 90′s, it still carries the stigma associated with the genre. Like martial arts, often mistaken for a way to learn to beat people up, manga and anime are equated to either overly cutesy characters or animate porn.

As you might have noticed, I gave up on finishing the world is flat and have placed a manga as my current reading. The book was just way too boring and since I have not been in an airport in a while, I have not had a chance to finish that book. I completely lost interest even though it was a pretty good book. I actually purchased my first manga book and chose Genshiken as the first series I will actually own.

The series starts with the main character coming to terms with who he is, an anime geek. In Japan, an otaku is someone that is addicted to pretty much any hobbie… kind of like the word geek here can be attached to any hobbie to emphasize complete and at times sick devotion. The term otaku here in the us, is more used by anime and manga fans to express their devotion to the hobbie.

When I wrote this post I had not come to terms with my otaku nature just yet. Even though I expressed my love for anime since I was young, I was not completely out about how much I truly think it is a form of art just as relevant as movies are; and at times even more relevant.

Most people think of anime as just a series of cartoons that have a lot of sex mixed in. People do not realize that outside the U.S. sexuality is not as taboo as it is here. Sexuality does not equal perversion, and while there is a genre inside of anime called hentai that can be quite perverse, most anime that have some sexuality on it do it for humor than for stimulation.

The story telling in anime is at times far more complex than anything that hollywood has to offer. The way images are used to replace dialog is something that its hard to get used to at first, but then you start craving. A reflection of the moon on a lake, or the perfect blossom of a cherry tree carry a lot more feeling than overinflated dialog.

24 and Lost are all the rage now. Storylines that twist and turn have been an element in manga and anime for quite some time now, yet to the American audience almost seems like a new concept. The way characters in the Matrix moved and how the whole world looked was heavily influenced by anime. In Japan anime and manga are as big as Hollywood is here.

There are many reasons to love anime, but I think discovering it on your own is a lot more fun. I have had a couple of people ask me where they should start and I do have a couple of recommendations. If you like comic books, or did as a kid… I say start with manga. You can get it online, but the best way is to take a trip to your local bookstore and browse the anime section. I would recomend Rurouni Kenshin if you like history, Cowboy beebop if you like Sci-fi, or Genshiken for an introduction to humor in the manga world. If you prefer movies, I would say that you need to rent Ghost in the Shell if you like sci-fi, My Neighbor Totoro for just a simple story or Akira but be careful with this one… you might not get it the first time you watch it. I think anyone that can appreciate art and good storytelling will be able to enjoy anime. Just be open minded and when you see something that you do not understand feel lucky that you are discovering another culture.

14 Responses to Otaku

  1. I’d have to get over my utterly unjustified and irrational dislike for anything to do with Oriental culture. It has nothing to do with anything, it’s just not a culture I’ve ever found the least bit interesting. I’m sure Chinese culture is very different than Japanese, is different than Korean, is different than Vietnames, etc, etc but I’ve never been able to discern a difference. I’d probably have to remove that self-imposed roadblock before I could ever enjoy manga or amine.

    However, just because a culture has different, more “enlightened” views toward sex, or any moral issue, it doesn’t necessarily make them right or make us prudes. There are some standards of morality that should transcend culture. We abhor “honor killings” in the Islamic faith even though we know it could never be justified morally.

  2. I think it’s very cool when we are able to define what we like to have as hobbies. During a long time I felt like I had lost all kinds of interests. I didn’t read, I didn’t want to watch movies, music made me sick, etc. I’ve recently have found my hobbies again, and I even have new ones that I was never interested in. You know how crazy I am about my Nintendo DS and ACWW… Ha ha ha!

    I personally haven’t been interested in manga before, but I have a brother who is an illustrator and I appreciate that kind of art. My mother gets a little bit disturbed when I start looking at Heavy Metal magazines to check the artists work.

    If you are able to enjoy what you do to the fullest, with the conviction that it won’t hurt anyone or your convictions, then go ahead and have fun! Isn’t this Genshiken what you showed me in YouTube the other day? It looks entertaining.

  3. Easy Barry, Easy… I was only talking about the portrayal of sex in entertainment… and yes it does make the US prudes.

    Most of the sexuality standards in entertainment here in the US come from Hays Code. While I do not agree with sexuality on TV to the degree we see now, I do think that the whole taboo factor is very dangerous. I believe that trash TV (Jerry Springer, The real world now, I love New York) is a lot more inmoral than The Naked News.

    Japan’s culture IS a lot more rich than our culture simply because they have had more time to develop it… American culture is a baby compared to anything oriental or even european. Christianity is fairly young in history when compared to Budhism… and protestantism even more so. Killing people is a whole other subject and has nothing to do with entertainment… because we would get into a very boring discussion about how Texas kills mentally challenged people.

  4. My son owns the Trigun series so I’ve watched some of it with the kids at one time or another. I enjoyed that one.

  5. Love your culture, Logtar. Japanese culture isn’t richer than American culture, it’s just a bit more homogeneous.

    As with any medium, there are creators of anime and manga that break molds, tell interesting stories in interesting ways, and otherwise push the envelope of entertainment, but as a quick look at Japanese television fare can attest, anime also suffers from a glut of clichés, recycled paper-thin character archetypes, and prefab story templates.

    That said, check out Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann. It is comprised of 90% post-consumer recycled awesomeness and win.

  6. I would like to be able to say I love American culture. I just cannot, mostly because I continually feel like an oustider even though I have lived here for 14 years.

    Pop culture and Hollywood are cool and entertaining, I do not hate them, but I do think that other cultures are a lot more richer than the American. However, that is just my opinion. I guess Barry just got me going with the “enlightened” word.

  7. I’d like for someone to explain how one culture is “richer” than another. Who exactly sets the standards for richness of culture?

  8. Hi, I’m the guy that determines whether one culture is more rich than another. Pleased to meet you.

  9. IMO, I believe culture has a lot to do with history, customs and way of life. I believe that in comparison, American culture lacks a lot of depth…

    I would like to know what it is that you see as American culture?

  10. I can see what John is trying to say here. America is a blend of cultures rather than a culture itself. Let’s start by the invasion of the American indians land by the British, French and Spanish, but that’s another story.

    Also, he’s talking about cultural age and traditions that have been present and UNCHANGED way longer in eastern cultures. I don’t understand why people feel uncomfortable or attacked after comments like this. It’s an appreciation, not a judgement.

  11. To me, telling me a culture is “richer” than ours tells me it has more inherent value or that ours is shallow and superficial by comparison.

    I know there’s a lot wrong with American culture but it’s not all defined by “American Idol”, Don Imus and Paris Hilton. To me, American culture is the natural fellowship between all its citizens that extends across racial, gender, class and religious lines. Sure there are pockets of prejudice all over the country, but on any given day in almost any given city in the US, you can find any number of diverse people working, living, playing and loving together content on the fact that they like each other and don’t care about what’s on the surface. We enjoy Disney movies and Bruce Springsteen concerts together. We all watch Lost and Mr. Rogers and The Flintstones. We attend weddings, funerals, bar mitzbahs, graduations, family reunions, company picnics, church socials, retreats – we hike together in the mountains, sunbathe together at the beach, ride rollercoasters together, cheer our favorite football teams (and usually keep it pretty civil even between heated rivals). We plant, harvest, sell and eat together, all of us. We welcome all cultures, ALL cultures, even the ones that may seem to want to do us harm. We take the best parts of those cultures, combine them and create something new that everyone can appreciate and enjoy while leaving behind the old traditions that are no longer necessary or desired. We change, and grow and adapt.

    That’s American culture to me.

  12. As hard as it is to admit Barry, American Idol IS part of American culture right now… as nauseating as that might be there are more people that know who Sanjaya is than who is runnig for president.

  13. Hi I love the anime manga and all that…and i love the japanese music but I dont think I m an otaku ,the otaku word is very weighted for me i dont know lol
    hey add my msn if you wanna talk about anime …

  14. Cowboy Bebop rocks! Well, I’ve just seen the TV Series and the movie. The musicalization is one of the bests I’ve heard and the color ambientation really gets you in the story.

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