Otaku Talk

Definition of otaku, mania, moe, dame, anime, and generations
anime, NGE, criticism, sociology, Little-Boy, interview, SF
2012-04-092013-11-20 finished certainty: log importance: 1


This tran­script has been pre­pared from a PDF scan of pg 164–185 of Lit­tle Boy: The Arts of Japan’s Explod­ing Sub­cul­ture, ed. Murakami, pub­lished 2005-05-15, ISBN 0300102852. The dis­cus­sion took place on 2004-03-31. (See also the tran­script by Takashi Muraka­mi.)

An ear­lier par­tial copy of this dis­cus­sion appears online; it omits most of the images, and every­thing after the sec­tion Gen­er­a­tional Debate.

Otaku Talk

by & Kaichiro Morikawa; mod­er­ated by , and trans­lated & anno­tated by Reiko Tomii

[pg165]

[Fig­ure oppo­site: From 1999 TV anime series]

Fig­ure right bot­tom: Kaichiro Morikawa (left) and Toshio Okada dis­cuss otaku

Takashi Murakami: Okada-san, Morikawa-san, thank you for com­ing. Our topic today is the cul­ture of 1 [lit­er­al­ly, “your home”]. After Japan expe­ri­enced defeat in World War II, it gave birth to a dis­tinc­tive phe­nom­e­non, which has grad­u­ally degen­er­ated into a uniquely Japan­ese cul­ture. Both of you are at the very cen­ter of this otaku cul­ture.

Let us begin with a big top­ic, the def­i­n­i­tion of otaku. Okada-san, please start us off.

Toshio Okada: Well, a few years ago, I declared, “I quit otaku stud­ies,” because I thought there were no longer any otaku to speak of.

Back then [dur­ing the 1980s and early 1990s], there were a hun­dred thou­sand, or even one mil­lion peo­ple who were pure otaku—100-proof otaku, if you will. Now, we have close to ten mil­lion otaku, but they are no more than 10- or 20-proof otaku. Of course, some otaku are still very otaku, per­haps 80 or 90 proof. Still, we can’t call the rest of them faux otaku. The otaku men­tal­ity and otaku tastes are so wide­spread and diverse today that otaku no longer form what you might call a “tribe.” [zoku –Ed­i­tor]

[pg166]

Fig­ure top left: Miyawaki Shuichi, pres­i­dent of Kaiy­o­do, from 40th Anniver­sary Kaiy­odo Exhi­bi­tion Offi­cial Guide (World Photo Press, 2004-05-05), page 174
Fig­ure bot­tom left: Great Han­shin Earth­quake, col­lapsed high­way in Kobe, Jan­u­ary 1995

Kaichiro Morikawa: Okada-san’s def­i­n­i­tion of otaku sounds pos­i­tive, as if they’re quite respectable.

In my opin­ion, otaku are peo­ple with a cer­tain dis­po­si­tion toward being dame2 [“no good” or “hope­less”]. Mind you, I don’t use this word neg­a­tively here.

To some extent, peo­ple born in the 1960s are sad­dled with the bag­gage of an “anti-estab­lish­ment vision.” In con­trast, otaku, espe­cially in the first gen­er­a­tion, have increas­ingly shed this anti-estab­lish­ment sen­si­bil­i­ty.

It’s impor­tant to under­stand that although otaku flaunt their dame-ori­en­ta­tion—an ori­en­ta­tion toward things that are no good—it’s not an anti-estab­lish­ment strat­e­gy. This is where otaku cul­ture dif­fers from coun­ter­cul­ture and sub­cul­ture.

T. Murakami: Indeed, otaku are some­what dif­fer­ent from the main­stream. They have a unique otaku per­spec­tive, even on nat­ural dis­as­ters. For exam­ple, the reac­tion of 3 exec­u­tive, Miyawaki Shuichi, to wit­ness­ing the destruc­tion of the 4 in 1995 was, “I know it’s insen­si­tive to say this [after such ter­ri­ble dis­as­ter], but I think 5 got it wrong.” You know, the after­math of a real earth­quake was used as a cri­te­rion in otaku crit­i­cism.

T. Okada: At the time of the earth­quake, I raced to Kobe from Osaka, hop­ping on what­ever trains were still run­ning, tak­ing lots of pic­tures. I agree, Gam­era got it wrong. To cre­ate a real­is­tic effect of destruc­tion, you need to drape thin, gray noo­dles over a minia­ture set of rub­ble. Oth­er­wise, you can’t even approach the real­ity of twist­ed, buck­led steel frames. It was like, “If you call your­self a mon­ster-­film­mak­er, get here now!”

When 6 erupted in 1986, the pro­duc­tion team of the went there to see it.7 They were true film­mak­ers.

Wabi-Sabi-Moe

Takashi Murakami: Morikawa-san will present an exhi­bi­tion about otaku and 8 [lit­er­al­ly, “burst­ing into bud”] at the archi­tec­ture bien­ni­ale in Venice in 2004.9 Your asso­ci­a­tion of otaku with archi­tec­ture is unique. Please tell us about it.

[pg167]

Fig­ure top right: Gam­era 1965 Film poster 103×72.5 cm
Fig­ure bot­tom right: Kaichiro Morikawa’s descrip­tion of Wabi-S­abi-­Moe, in Morikawa, ed., Otaku: Per­sona = Space = City, exh. cat. pack­aged with fig­ure for the Venice Bien­nale’s Ninth Inter­na­tional Archi­tec­ture Exhi­bi­tion (Gen­tosha, 2004-09-10), page 36

Toshio Okada: I was most impressed by your phrase, -moe, in the exhi­bi­tion the­sis.

Moe is not an easy con­cept to com­pre­hend, but when you linked the three ideas lin­guis­ti­cal­ly, it made a lot more sense.

Those who are unfa­mil­iar with the con­cepts of wabi and sabi [mean­ing “the beauty and ele­gance of mod­est sim­plic­ity”] must surely won­der what’s appeal­ing about feign­ing pover­ty.

Like­wise, with moe, until you get the con­cept, I’m sure peo­ple ques­tion the ori­gins of this seem­ing obses­sion with beau­ti­ful lit­tle girls, .10 But once you get it, you start to feel like moe might become a mega­con­cept, exportable like wabi and sabi.

Kaichiro Morikawa: The truth is, I made up that phrase to pitch the show. But sud­denly it was a head­line in the Yomi­uri news­pa­per.

T. Okada: That’s awe­some. The fact that it became a head­line means every­body can under­stand it.

K. Morikawa: It’s a play on some­thing the archi­tect 11 did in his exhi­bi­tion, Ma,12 in Paris in 1978. He pro­vided log­i­cal Eng­lish expla­na­tions for such tra­di­tional con­cepts as wabi and suki [mean­ing “sophis­ti­cated tastes”] on exhi­bi­tion pan­els.

The key Japan­ese word­s—­such as wabi, sabi, and suki—were inscribed in clas­si­cal cal­lig­ra­phy and accom­pa­nied by lengthy Eng­lish expla­na­tions printed in Gothic fonts.

I decided I’d do the same with moe.

There is a huge gap between peo­ple who know the word moe and those who don’t. Every otaku per­son knows moe. For them, it’s so basic. But it’s not like all young peo­ple know the term. While at grad­u­ate school, I asked my col­leagues about moe but almost none of them knew it.

It dawned on me that most main­stream peo­ple just don’t know it.

T. Murakami: That dis­par­ity is really intrigu­ing.

KM: It clearly cor­re­sponds with another gap between those who know that 13 is now an otaku town and those who don’t.

Those who do know could­n’t care less that oth­ers

[pg168]

Fig­ure top left: (above and below) Aki­habara today
Fig­ure bot­tom left: (above and below) Aki­habara today

are finally catch­ing up, while those who don’t know

Aki­habara today still think of Aki­habara the way it’s been por­trayed in com­mer­cials for house­hold-ap­pli­ance stores. This gap reflects the state of Japan­ese cul­ture and soci­ety today.

To those who are unfa­mil­iar with moe, I only half-jok­ingly explain, “In the past, we intro­duced for­eign­ers to such indige­nous Japan­ese aes­thetic con­cepts as wabi and suki. These days, peo­ple abroad want to know all about moe.” A lot of peo­ple respond, “Oh, is that so…”

TM: Morikawa-san, I’d like to ask you, then: What prompted otaku to gather in Aki­habara?

KM: Otaku are self­-­con­scious about being con­de­scended to, when they go to fash­ion­able places like Shibuya.14

But they feel safe in Aki­habara, because they know they’ll be sur­rounded by peo­ple who share their quirks and tastes.

Over time, the focus of otaku taste shifted from sci­ence fic­tion to anime to 15 [erotic games], as young boys who once embraced the bright future promised by sci­ence saw this future grad­u­ally eroded by the increas­ingly grim real­ity around them. I think they needed an alter­na­tive.

[pg169]

Fig­ure top right: Digiko from DiGiCharat

TO: I think 16 [lit­er­al­ly, “cute”] is the con­cept Murakami-san exported through­out the world.

Grant­ed, Murakami-san’s kawaii is alarm­ing enough. But I won­der why I was fur­ther alarmed by Morikawa-san’s for­mu­la­tion of wabi-sabi-moe. In a pre­vi­ous con­ver­sa­tion we had for a mag­a­zine arti­cle, you said, “Otaku is about the vec­tor toward dame.”

As a way of expand­ing on that, when otaku choose this ori­en­ta­tion, they head in the direc­tion of becom­ing more and more pathet­ic. At the same time, they enjoy watch­ing them­selves becom­ing increas­ingly unac­cept­able. If you think about it, in a very, very loose sense, this is wabi and sabi.

I sus­pect this ori­en­ta­tion is inher­ent in Japan­ese aes­thet­ics. If you look for a West­ern equiv­a­lent, it would be Deca­dence, or the Baro­que, though theirs is a ten­dency toward exces­sive dec­o­ra­tive­ness. I imag­ine such peo­ple think of them­selves not in terms of “See what we’ve done. We’re amaz­ing,” but more like, “See what we’ve done! How pathetic we are!”

TM: I have said this many times, but I am a “derailed” otaku.

Nei­ther of your sit­u­a­tions applies to me.

When I am talk­ing to Okada-san, I remem­ber feel­ing like I could never keep up with the dis­tinc­tive cli­mate of the otaku world.

So, I now want to explore the real rea­sons why I escaped being an otaku.

TO: Prob­a­bly because otaku stan­dards were so high when you tried to join them. Besides, I bet you wanted to go right to the heart of otaku, did­n’t you?

The closer you tried to get to the heart of the otaku world, the far­ther you had to go.

TM: That’s not just true with otaku, though. The world of con­tem­po­rary art is exactly the same. If you can’t dis­cuss its his­to­ry, you won’t be taken seri­ously and you won’t be accepted on their turf. I kept being reminded of this while lis­ten­ing to you two talk.

TO: In other words, just as you once had to know the his­tory of con­tem­po­rary art, now you have to under­stand moe, right?

[pg170]

Fig­ure top left: Kaichiro Morikawa’s dia­gram, “Upward and Down­ward Shifts in Anime”, show­ing the “shift away from moe” (above), from Nau­si­caa to Motoko Kusanagi (Ghost in the Shell) to Mei (My Neigh­bor Totoro) to Chi­hiro (Spir­ited Away); and “shift toward moe” (be­low), from Lum (Uru­sei Yat­sura) to Ser­ena (Sailor Moon) to Rei (Evan­ge­lion) to Ayu Tsukimiya (Kanon)

Otaku vs Mania

Takashi Murakami: This may be a fre­quent ques­tion, but what is the dif­fer­ence between otaku and mania17?

Kaichiro Morikawa: In otaku stud­ies, we often argued about this dis­tinc­tion. Gen­er­ally speak­ing, three dif­fer­ences have been artic­u­lat­ed.

First of all, mania are “obses­sives” who are socially well adjust­ed. They hold down jobs and love their hob­bies. In con­trast, otaku are socially inept. Their obses­sions are self­-in­dul­gent. This point is raised mainly by the self­-pro­claimed mania, crit­i­cal of otaku.

The sec­ond point con­cerns what they love. Mania tend to be obsessed with, for exam­ple, cam­eras and rail­roads, which have some sort of mate­ri­al­ity (jit­tai), while otaku tend to focus on vir­tual things such as manga and ani­me. In other words, the objects of their obses­sions are dif­fer­ent.

The third point relates to the sec­ond one. A mania tends to con­cen­trate on a sin­gle sub­jec­t—say, rail­road­s—whereas an otaku has a broader range of inter­ests, which may encom­pass “fig­ures,”18 man­ga, and ani­me.

Taken togeth­er, I would say—although Okada-san may dis­agree with me—that some­one who is obses­sive about anime likes anime despite the fact that it’s no good, dame. That’s mania. But otaku love anime because it’s no good.

Toshio Okada: Mania is an ana­logue of otaku. Obses­sives are adults who enjoy their hob­bies, while otaku don’t want to grow up, although finan­cial­ly, they are adults. These days, you’re not wel­come in Aki­habara if you aren’t into moe.

I was already a sci­ence-­fic­tion mania when otaku cul­ture kicked in. I can under­stand it, but I can nei­ther become an otaku myself nor under­stand moe. [Laughs]

T. Murakami: And I’m nowhere near Okada-san’s lev­el. I failed to become an otaku. Peri­od. [Laughs]

T. Okada: I believe otaku cul­ture has already lost its pow­er. What you find in Aki­habara today is only sex­ual desire. They all go to Aki­habara, which is over­flow­ing with things that offer con­ve­nient grat­i­fi­ca­tion

[pg171]

Fig­ure top right: Takeshi (left) and Yoshimi from DiGiCharat
Fig­ure bot­tom right: Aki­habara

[pg172]

Fig­ure top left: Ujik­in­toki Sonome (vol. 4) from Weekly Dear­est My Brother 2004 Plas­tic-­fig­ure assem­bly kit pack­aged with book­let (see pl. 20)
Fig­ure top mid­dle: Char­ac­ter design and fig­ure mod­el: Ohshima Yuki Illus­tra­tor (cov­er): Yuki Shin’ichi

of sex­ual desire, made pos­si­ble by the power of tech­nol­ogy and the media.

K. Morikawa: But I think the sex­ual desire in Aki­habara is dif­fer­ent from that in .19

TO: Kabuk­i-­cho is about phys­i­cal sex.

Because the heart of otaku cul­ture shuns the phys­i­cal, it has renamed seiyoku [sex­ual desire] as moe.

Sex­ual fan­tasies are becom­ing more and more vir­tual and “vir­tual sex­u­al­ity” pro­lif­er­ates in Aki­habara.

KM: Many otaku think they like what they like even though they know these things are objec­tion­able, when in fact they like them pre­cisely because they are objec­tion­able. This gap between their own per­cep­tion and real­ity has made it dif­fi­cult to dis­tin­guish otaku from mania.

If we define otaku through this ori­en­ta­tion toward the unac­cept­able, it’s easy to explain the three dif­fer­ences between otaku and mania. Because if you like some­thing that’s socially unac­cept­able, you will appear anti­so­cial.

Another con­sid­er­a­tion is that mate­r­ial things are con­sid­ered supe­rior to the imma­te­r­i­al. So if you are inter­ested in the debased, you nat­u­rally grav­i­tate

[pg173]

Fig­ure top right: Sis­ter Princess 2 2003 PlaySta­tion2 game

toward the vir­tu­al.

In addi­tion, otaku don’t just purely love anime or man­ga, they choose to love these things in part as a means of mak­ing them­selves unac­cept­able. That is why their inter­ests are so broad.

This dame-ori­en­ta­tion is evi­denced by the his­tory of otaku favorites. Up until the 1980s, peo­ple who watched ani­me—any kind of ani­me, be it 20 or 21 or what­ev­er—were all con­sid­ered otaku. Today, Japan­ese anime is so accom­plished that one film even won an Acad­emy Award. As a result, grown-ups can safely watch, say, Miyaza­k­i’s anime with­out being despised as otaku.

The upshot of this is, as soon as anime and games earned respectabil­ity in soci­ety, otaku cre­ated more repug­nant gen­res, such as bishojo games22 and moe ani­me,23 and moved on to them.

TM: Morikawa-san, you’re say­ing the essence of otaku is their ori­en­ta­tion toward dame, the unac­cept­able.

KM: Yes, yes. But dame does not define some­thing as bad or low qual­i­ty. It’s the self­-in­dul­gent fix­a­tion of otaku on cer­tain things that is socially unac­cept­able.

TO: I totally dis­agree. Morikawa-san and I have two vastly dif­fer­ent con­cep­tions of who are the core tribe of otaku.

Morikawa-san, your otaku are “urban-­cen­tric”; they are the hope­less otaku who roam about Aki­habara. That’s why you say otaku are dame-ori­ent­ed. You have to remem­ber that only about fifty thou­sand peo­ple buy .24 It’s wrong to define them as core otaku.

In my expe­ri­ence, otaku like sci­ence fic­tion and anime not because these things are worth­less, but because they are good. Otaku are attracted by things of high qual­i­ty.

Some otaku obses­sions become hits, oth­ers don’t. But accord­ing to Morikawa-san’s def­i­n­i­tion, the ques­tion of “qual­ity” becomes irrel­e­vant in otaku cul­ture.

But what’s sur­vived in otaku cul­ture has­n’t become unac­cept­able. It’s sur­vived the com­pe­ti­tion because its qual­ity has been rec­og­nized.

Once some­thing like a bishojo game achieves a cer­tain level of qual­i­ty, you buy it even if you don’t actu­ally like bishojo games. I feel otaku are tough

[pg174]

cus­tomers who demand high stan­dards. As a pro­ducer of video and manga mag­a­zi­nes, I was keenly aware of their stan­dards and thought, “They make me work really hard because they won’t fall for cheap tricks.”

Generational Debate

Takashi Murakami: I have to con­fess, I don’t think I fully under­stand the moe sen­si­bil­i­ty.

Toshio Okada: The moe gen­er­a­tion is mostly made of otaku 35 or younger.

I myself belong to the pre­vi­ous otaku gen­er­a­tion, so frankly I don’t under­stand moe.

The gen­er­a­tional shift is abrupt. Some peo­ple below a cer­tain age know what moe is about. But those of us above that age can’t fig­ure out why they like bishojo so much. It seems to us that they like any­thing involv­ing beau­ti­ful young girls.

There is a gen­eral debate. The liveli­est topic in the otaku world these past few years has been this gen­er­a­tional debate.

Among them­selves, otaku refer to belong­ing to this gen­er­a­tion or that.

Kaichiro Morikawa: I’m not that inter­ested in the gen­er­a­tional debate. Once you have a clear def­i­n­i­tion of otaku, then you can have a gen­er­a­tional debate. But there is no gen­er­ally accepted frame­work for under­stand­ing otaku. So it’s futile to sub­di­vide otaku

T. Okada: Morikawa-san, what is your def­i­n­i­tion of otaku?

K. Morikawa: If you track the cen­tral focus of so-­called otaku through the gen­er­a­tions, Okada-san’s gen­er­a­tion focused on sci­ence fic­tion, fol­lowed by a gen­er­a­tion that favored ani­me, which was in turn fol­lowed by another inter­ested in moe anime and bishojo games. How did this evo­lu­tion take place? Manga pro­vide a handy exam­ple. Before I was born [in 1971], col­lege stu­dents read­ing manga on the trains were con­sid­ered a seri­ous social prob­lem.

Back then, manga were for chil­dren. Grown-ups were sup­posed to watch TV dra­mas. For­eign TV dra­mas were bet­ter than domes­tic ones, and films were even bet­ter than that. And Euro­pean films were con­sid­ered more sophis­ti­cated than Hol­ly­wood

[pg175]

movies. There was a clear cul­tural hier­ar­chy, and manga were at the bot­tom. The spite­ful label of otaku was attached to grown-ups who had unac­cept­able tastes and still enjoyed kids’ stuff.

As far as soci­ety is con­cerned. today’s otaku taste for moe is more repug­nant than watch­ing porn. Eroti­cism is not the only moti­va­tion that informs their fas­ci­na­tion with moe. They have a strong urge for what is unac­cept­able.

Otaku who buy Weekly Dear­est My Brother not only feel affec­tion for toy fig­ures, but also enjoy being the kind of peo­ple who “buy embar­rass­ing, taste­less things.”

TO: Otaku are bash­ful. They are intel­li­gent but so bash­ful that they’re more com­fort­able with chil­dren’s anime than with reg­u­lar movies. They can shed their reserve if a seri­ous idea is fil­tered through a “Made for Chil­dren” label. I sus­pect that peo­ple who love toys and fig­ures, man­ga, and anime love them because they can see the world through this fil­ter of ret­i­cence.

Otaku con­sume this stuff because of the twist that indulges their shy­ness.

At any rate, I have never seen an ori­en­ta­tion toward the unac­cept­able among otaku.

For exam­ple, 25 dates from the first half of the 1970s, fol­lowed by 26.

Fig­ure left bot­tom: Sarin gas attack on Tokyo sub­way by Aum Shin­rikyo, March 20, 1995

[pg176]

Fig­ure left top: Har­maged­don 1983 (orig­i­nal film release) DVD of anime film (cov­er)

Now, Morikawa-san, would you say Gun­dam was more unac­cept­able than Yam­ato? I don’t think so.

The more exam­ples I show you, the less solid your the­ory becomes.

KM: Well, let me repeat myself. Being no good, dame, does­n’t mean the qual­ity is poor. On the con­trary… the qual­ity is very high, but it’s a mat­ter of self­-­con­scious­ness on the part of otaku. They are con­cerned that their self­-in­dul­gence appears socially unac­cept­able.

TO: Well, then, do you mean from the mid- to late 1970s, things got pro­gres­sively more unac­cept­able from Yam­ato to Gun­dam, and then Nau­si­caa of the Val­ley of the Wind?27 I don’t think so.

An incli­na­tion for dame appears to exist because otaku have shifted to bishojo these past few years. Within this lim­ited con­text, you may have a point, but vet­eran otaku have to dis­agree.

KM: Gen­er­ally speak­ing, I see a down­ward spi­ral.

28 was influ­enced by .29 In the 1980s, otaku dreamt of Armaged­don; they fan­ta­sized about employ­ing super­nat­ural pow­ers to cre­ate a new world after the end of the world.

But Aum’s sub­way attack in 1995 thor­oughly shat­tered the post-apoc­a­lyp­tic otaku dream of cre­at­ing a new world in which they would be heroes.

After their apoc­a­lyp­tic fan­tasies col­lapsed, they steadily shifted to moe. Before their Armaged­don obses­sion, there was sci­ence fic­tion, which pro­vided otaku with an alter­na­tive to the actual future. In the broad­est terms, moe has replaced the “future”.

TO: But your def­i­n­i­tion of sci­ence fic­tion is nar­row. In Japan, sci­ence fic­tion was viable as a lit­er­a­ture of alter­na­tive futures only through the 1930s. From the 1960s onward, sci­ence fic­tion became socially con­scious, a lens into alter­na­tive soci­eties.

In Japan sci­ence fic­tion was asso­ci­ated with the future only dur­ing the brief period between World Wars I and II. As you know, 30 by Sakyo Komat­su, a block­buster in 1973, was­n’t a story about the future. Futur­is­tic sci­ence fic­tion never took off here.

[pg177]

T. Murakami: Morikawa-san, how do you define the “future”?

KM: The future is not merely a time yet to come. It’s a vision of the world based on sci­en­tific under­stand­ing.

TO: Again, that is true only through the 1940s. Even the visions of the future pre­sented by and were dis­cred­ited by the harsh attacks from the .31

Whether we’re talk­ing about sci­ence fic­tion or ani­me, our views are so diver­gent. I don’t see things the way you do, Morikawa-san. Not at all.

KM: You mean, we have an unbridge­able gap?

TO: Not nec­es­sar­i­ly. I am sym­pa­thetic to your obser­va­tion that 32 pre­fig­ured an otaku land­scape, and that today’s otaku are fas­ci­nated with moe. But as far as your def­i­n­i­tion of otaku is con­cerned, I think you are wrong. Because we are read­ing dif­fer­ent “texts”.

TM: I’m begin­ning to see a cru­cial gen­er­a­tion gap between Okada-san and Morikawa-san. Speak­ing from my gen­er­a­tion, I, too, find otaku more com­pelling than moe.

TO: Murakami-san, I know you are pre­oc­cu­pied with otaku, but I don’t think otaku will gen­er­ate any­thing more inter­est­ing than moe.

I belong to a group of mod­el-­tank mak­ers. When I meet with them, I can’t tell them apart from the guys who obsess about moe. They carry back­packs and wear sweat­suits. They look like stereo­typ­i­cal moe enthu­si­asts, but you never know which toy fig­ure—bishojo or model thank—they’re going to pull out of their back­packs.

If we refer to them as a “tribe”, they all belong to the same tribe, but the mod­el-­tank guys are never into bishojo. Actu­al­ly, they hate bishojo.

KM: How are they dif­fer­ent from mania?

TO: To answer your ques­tion, I have to go back to my own def­i­n­i­tion of otaku. The sole dif­fer­ence between mania and otaku is their social accept­abil­i­ty. Otaku are mania who are socially reject­ed. Con­verse­ly,

[pg178]

Fig­ure top left: Ghost in the Shell 2: Inno­cence 2004 Film poster

the hob­bies of mania are those that are socially accept­ed.

For exam­ple, the moment girls decide that motor­bikes aren’t cool, motor­bike mania become motor­bike otaku. It’s just a mat­ter of soci­etal label­ing. That’s the only dif­fer­ence between mania and otaku.

KM: Does­n’t that mean they are ori­ented toward the unac­cept­able?

TO: No, it does­n’t. Even if a motor­bike mania sud­denly becomes a motor­bike otaku, he does­n’t become an otaku because he is unac­cept­able. He only becomes unac­cept­able because soci­ety says he is.

Let’s use an extreme exam­ple. It’s pos­si­ble that one day the Japan­ese peo­ple will sud­denly be defined as unac­cept­able. Say we become the enemy of the world for some rea­son.

Would you then say we Japan­ese are inher­ently unac­cept­able? I don’t think so. It boils down to the ques­tion of soci­etal label­ing.

KM: In that case, let’s sup­pose that one day anime is legit­imized and enters school text­books. Would otaku obsessed with anime today still love anime then? I think not. That’s not plau­si­ble.

Okada-san, if we accept your def­i­n­i­tion, otaku should love anime regard­less of how soci­ety val­ues it.

If anime became so won­der­ful that school­teach­ers rec­om­mended it to their stu­dents, would otaku still seek out ani­me? I seri­ously doubt it.

TO: I can prove you wrong. Some otaku works are socially accept­ed, oth­ers are not. Anime films by, say, Hayao Miyazaki or Mamoru Oshii are respect­ed. Have otaku lost inter­est and quit watch­ing them? No.

I don’t think soci­etal label­ing affects what they are attracted to. In fact, many otaku sup­port Mamoru Oshi­i’s lat­est ani­mated film, .33

Morikawa-san, when you talk about dame, the unac­cept­able, aren’t you talk­ing about “lit­er­a­ture” (bun­gaku)? For prac­ti­tion­ers of jun-bun­gaku34 [lit­er­al­ly, “pure lit­er­a­ture”], lit­er­a­ture was about becom­ing unac­cept­able. After 35 came out as a TV anime series in 1995, every­body fell in

[pg179]

Fig­ure top right: Masked Rider 1971–1973 TV anime [??? –Ed­i­tor] series
Cap­tion bot­tom right: Five Rangers 1975 Tokusatsu film

love with dame.

Until then, lit­er­a­ture was rel­e­vant only within the realm of pure lit­er­a­ture. Some rock musi­cians may have liked it a bit. But, thanks to Evan­ge­lion, ordi­nary peo­ple, young peo­ple enthu­si­as­ti­cally embraced it. Eva made it OK for the main char­ac­ter to be pathet­ic. By the stan­dards of con­ven­tional ani­me, it’s incon­ceiv­able that Eva’s main char­ac­ter does­n’t try hard­er. But that’s pre­cisely what makes him so appeal­ing today. While lit­er­a­ture used to shock and sur­prise us in the past, anime shocks and sur­prises us today. A dame-ori­en­ta­tion is not a new thing; in the old days, a dame-ori­en­ta­tion was called lit­er­a­ture.

KM: Don’t you think Gun­dam got a sim­i­lar recep­tion? The main char­ac­ter was a com­puter geek.

TO: In Gun­dam, one thrust of the story was the main char­ac­ter’s desire to be rec­og­nized by oth­ers. So Gun­dam and Eva are com­pletely dif­fer­ent.

KM: As I said before, the 1980s-era fas­ci­na­tion with the apoc­a­lyp­tic was shat­tered by Aum. I think moe emerged as an alter­na­tive, to fill the void.

TO: I see. To me, Eva was all about “Since I can’t do any­thing about chang­ing the world, I will do some­thing about myself.” Don’t you think “robot anime”36 is all about “try­ing to change the world”?

Morikawa-san, you talked about the apoc­a­lyp­tic. One step before that is “social reform” (yo-­naoshi). One of the key con­cepts for under­stand­ing otaku is “a child’s sense of jus­tice”. The rea­son grown-ups are enthu­si­as­tic about 37 and the “war­rior team” genre (sen­tai mono)38 is because that basic sense of jus­tice, which we aban­doned in soci­ety long ago, is still mean­ing­ful in the world of these TV shows.

Of course, there’s also the ter­rific mon­ster designs and pan-chira [the fleet­ing dis­play of girls’ panties], but that’s not enough to keep the boys inter­est­ed. That basic sense of jus­tice worked until Eva. But with Eva, it became clear that no one could save the world. And Eva com­pli­cated the whole thing, rais­ing issues such as “Maybe I should at least save myself” and “What’s wrong with me, think­ing only”

[pg180]

Fig­ure top left: She, the Ulti­mate Weapon 2002 (orig­i­nal TV broad­cast) DVD of TV anime series (cov­er)

“about sav­ing myself?” Eva marked a turn­ing point. What­ever we dis­cuss today, we can­not avoid Eva.

KM: After Eva, a genre called sekai-kei [lit­er­al­ly, “world-­type”] emerged, and it’s very pop­u­lar now. In this gen­re, pri­vate feel­ings and emo­tions are directly linked to the fate of the world.

TO: 39 is the defin­i­tive sekai-kei.

KM: And Eva.

TO: Read­ing just a cou­ple vol­umes of She, the Ulti­mate Weapon will give you a sense of the sekai-type sen­si­bil­i­ty.

In the typ­i­cal logic of sekai-kei, the same weight is assigned to one’s pri­vate emo­tions and the end of the world. In She, the world comes to an end. The main char­ac­ter wit­nesses the anni­hi­la­tion of the world, which hap­pens to be caused by his girl­friend. His love for her and his despair over the destroyed planet are expressed through the same emo­tion.

But mak­ing a sekai-kei ends artists’ careers.

KM: You mean, like ,40 who cre­ated Eva?

TO: That’s right. Anno-san has been in reha­bil­i­ta­tion ever since [by get­ting away from anime and work­ing on live-ac­tion film­s].

By Way of Conclusion: Otaku and Art

Takashi Murakami: While lis­ten­ing to you, it dawned on me that otaku is much like Pop in the art world. There are many kinds of Pop, each of which is gen­er­a­tionally defined.

The otaku Okada-san believes in is com­pa­ra­ble to the seri­ous medium of “paint­ing” in art, while the otaku defined by Morikawa-san is akin to my work, as a “failed otaku”.

Toshio Okada: Right. Murakami-san, you mar­keted shoku­gan41 [lit­er­al­ly, “food toys”] last year. I think the toy fig­ures of Weekly Dear­est My Brother are far more otaku than yours, pre­cisely because you are a failed otaku. Their work is more cre­ative, whereas your shoku­gan are very com­mer­cial. If you ask me

[pg181]

Fig­ure right bot­tom: Takashi Murakami’s Super­flat Muse­um: Con­ve­nience Store Edi­tion 2003 Plas­tic fig­ures and fig­ure assem­bly kits pack­aged with gum, brochures, and cer­tifi­cates.

which is “art”, I would say those of Weekly Dear­est My Brother.

But the prob­lem is that your work is more rec­og­nized socially as art—which makes it so hard for me to under­stand art.

T. Murakami: In today’s dis­cus­sion, a few things became clear: the huge gap between those who know moe and those who don’t, as Morikawa-san told us; the gen­er­a­tional debate among otaku; and the three dif­fer­ent posi­tions we have—that is, I am in art; Okada-san, in _otaku; and Morikawa-san, in moe.

Kaichiro Morikawa: Okada-san, I don’t know if it’s a fair cat­e­go­riza­tion, but gen­er­a­tionally speak­ing, your otaku expe­ri­ence was from a time when peo­ple respected otaku for their achieve­ments.

I had the oppo­site expe­ri­ence, belong­ing to the gen­er­a­tion that suf­fered otaku-bash­ing.42 In our dis­cus­sion, I empha­sized the unac­cept­abil­ity of otaku, and you said I was “com­pletely wrong”. I won­der if this reflects our con­tra­dic­tory expe­ri­ences.

T. Okada: For argu­men­t’s sake, let’s assume you define otaku as the self­-pro­claimed fans of gyaruge43 and bishojo fig­ures, who are about thirty or younger today. If you say this group of peo­ple have such and such dame-ori­en­ta­tion, I would have to agree.

But I don’t think otaku are lim­ited to this group. Otaku encom­pass many diverse types. That’s why I can’t agree with you. And this brings me back to my ini­tial state­ment, which is that I quit otaku stud­ies, because I thought that there were no more otaku.

TM: We’ll have to recon­vene some other day to dis­cuss more about the rela­tion­ship between otaku and art. Morikawa-san and Okada-san, thank you so much for today’s dis­cus­sion.

(March 31, 2004)

The trans­la­tor wishes to thank Toshio Okada, Kaichiro Morikawa, and Yoshiyuki Mashimo for their assis­tance in com­pil­ing the notes.


  1. The term otaku sig­ni­fies “obsessed fans, pri­mar­ily of anime and man­ga.” First intro­duced to the print media by the critic in 1983, the word defies any sim­ple (or sim­plis­tic) def­i­n­i­tion. While the word otaku some­times car­ries a deroga­tory con­no­ta­tion in Japan, it can have a pos­i­tive mean­ing as a Japan­ese loan­word in the West, sig­ni­fy­ing knowl­edge­able or hard­core fans of ani­me. For its ety­mo­log­i­cal orig­in, see Noi Sawarag­i’s essay in this vol­ume.↩︎

  2. The word dame (pro­nounced “dah-me”) orig­i­nated in the Japan­ese game of , sig­ni­fy­ing spaces of no ben­e­fit to the player claim­ing them—i.e., use­less spaces. In con­tem­po­rary idiomatic Japan­ese, this ver­sa­tile word var­i­ously means “no good,” “worth­less,” “incom­pe­tent,” “unac­cept­able,” “pathet­ic,” or “inept.”↩︎

  3. Estab­lished in Osaka in 1964, Kaiy­odo is a pio­neer in shoku­gan (lit­er­al­ly, “food toys”) and “fig­ures” (see note 18).The com­pany ini­tially worked with con­fec­tionery man­u­fac­tur­ers, but since 1982 it has devoted much of its busi­ness to devel­op­ing orig­i­nal prod­ucts. These now amount to some two thou­sand dif­fer­ent items, rang­ing from “cap­sule toys” fea­tur­ing char­ac­ters from Evan­ge­lion to those of the nat­ural his­tory series Aqua­land and Dinoland.↩︎

  4. The Great Han­shin Earth­quake struck the region between Kobe and Osaka early in the morn­ing on Jan­u­ary 17, 1995. More than 6,000 peo­ple died, with more than 43,000 injured and nearly 320,000 evac­u­at­ed. In an earth­quake-prone coun­try, it was one of the most dev­as­tat­ing sin­gle events, com­pa­ra­ble to the Great Kanto Earth­quake in 1923, which destroyed much of Tokyo and its envi­rons.↩︎

  5. Gam­era is a tokusatsu (spe­cial effects) mon­ster-­film series fea­tur­ing a gigan­tic mutant tor­toise (kame in Japan­ese, and hence the crea­ture’s name, Gam­er­a). The orig­i­nal Gam­era cycle con­sisted of eight movies pro­duced from 1965 to 1980, with a sec­ond series of three movies appear­ing from 1995 to 1999. In each install­ment, Gam­era wreaks havoc on Tokyo and other Japan­ese cities while bat­tling an array of other giant mon­sters.↩︎

  6. At 764 meters, Mt. Mihara crowns Mt. Oshi­ma, located on Izu Oshima Island south of Tokyo. When the vol­cano erupted in Novem­ber 1986, the island’s entire pop­u­la­tion, some ten thou­sand alto­geth­er, evac­u­ated the island within a day, as the flow­ing lava rapidly encroached upon res­i­den­tial areas.↩︎

  7. In the 1989 film , Godzilla appears from behind Mt. Mihara.↩︎

  8. The term moe orig­i­nated in a com­put­er­ized tran­scrip­tion error, when the char­ac­ter mean­ing “to burst into bud” (moeru) was sub­sti­tuted for the homonym mean­ing “to catch fire.” Moe in otaku jar­gon denotes a rar­efied pseudo-love for cer­tain fic­tional char­ac­ters (in ani­me, man­ga, and the like) and their related embod­i­ments. For fur­ther detail, see Otaku: Jinkaku = kukan = toshi / Otaku: Per­sona = Space = City / Otaku: Per­son­alita = spazio = cit­taa, exhi­bi­tion cat­a­logue pack­aged with a fig­ure (Tokyo: Gen­tosha, 2004).↩︎

  9. The pre­sen­ta­tion of Otaku: Per­sona = Space = City at the Japan­ese pavil­ion of the Ninth Inter­na­tional Archi­tec­ture Exhi­bi­tion (Sep­tem­ber-No­vem­ber 2004) was orga­nized by com­mis­sioner Kaichiro Morikawa. It included works by the archi­tect Kenzo Tange, the otaku critic Toshio Okada, the com­pany Kaiy­o­do, and oth­ers.↩︎

  10. The best-­known bishojo is (Ser­ena in the U.S. ver­sion) of the pop­u­lar TV anime series (first broad­cast in Japan in 1992). Her full title in Japan­ese is bishojo sen­shi, or “pret­ty-­girl war­rior.” Moe-type bishojo (such as the ten-year-old of , a 1999 TV anime series) are gen­er­ally young, inno­cen­t-look­ing girls.↩︎

  11. Arata Isozaki (b. 1931) is a lead­ing archi­tec­t-the­o­rist who rep­re­sents Japan’s avan­t-­garde and post­mod­ern archi­tec­ture. He designed the Museum of Mod­ern Art, Gunma (1974) and the Tsukuba Civic Cen­ter (1982), among oth­ers; and cre­ated Elec­tric Labyrinth for the 1968 Milan Tri­en­nale. He is Artis­tic Direc­tor of Yoko­hama 2005: Inter­na­tional Tri­en­nale of Con­tem­po­rary Art.↩︎

  12. Orga­nized by Arata Isoza­ki, the exhi­bi­tion MA: Space-­Time in Japan was first pre­sented at the Museum of Dec­o­ra­tive Arts in Paris in 1978. Under the the­sis, “Ma is the place in which a life is lived,” as artic­u­lated in the accom­pa­ny­ing cat­a­logue (the Eng­lish edi­tion pub­lished by the Coop­er-He­witt Muse­um), Isozaki visu­al­ized dif­fer­ent man­i­fes­ta­tions of ma (lit­er­al­ly, “space”) in Japan­ese cul­ture through diverse instal­la­tions.↩︎

  13. Aki­habara is a huge electrics and elec­tron­ics shop­ping dis­trict in Tokyo. Long dom­i­nated by house­hold-ap­pli­ance stores, Aki­habara began to change in char­ac­ter in the 1990s, when large-s­cale stores spe­cial­iz­ing in per­sonal com­put­ers and related prod­ucts prompted its diver­si­fi­ca­tion, which in turn drew younger cus­tomers to the area. The rapid infil­tra­tion of otaku cul­ture begin­ning around 1997 com­pletely changed the face of Aki­habara. Kaiy­odo was a pio­neer in this trans­for­ma­tion, mov­ing its stores from the fash­ion­able dis­trict, and was fol­lowed by other stores spe­cial­iz­ing in com­mer­cial and pri­vately made mer­chan­dise related to ani­me, man­ga, and games, such as dojin­shi (fanzi­nes) and char­ac­ter-based prod­ucts.↩︎

  14. “Shibuya is a dis­trict of Tokyo con­trolled by the Sezon and Tokyo groups, com­pa­nies that pro­mote a fash­ion­able and sophis­ti­cated urban lifestyle through their con­sumer prod­ucts. As such, the whole town has become a gigan­tic adver­tise­ment.” (Morikawa)↩︎

  15. Eroge is an abbre­vi­a­tion for “erotic games.” It is a sub­cat­e­gory of bishojo games (see note 22) that includes sex­u­ally explic­it, adult con­tent, and is thus unavail­able to peo­ple under the age of eigh­teen. The most rep­re­sen­ta­tive eroge is To Heart.↩︎

  16. For kawaii in con­tem­po­rary Japan­ese art and pop cul­ture, see Midori Mat­sui’s essay in this vol­ume.↩︎

  17. In Japan, a per­son who has a fanat­i­cal enthu­si­asm for or inter­est in some­thing is called mania, derived from the Eng­lish “mani­ac.”↩︎

  18. “Fig­ures” (pro­nounced figyua in Japan­ese) are a coun­ter­part of Amer­i­can “action fig­ures,” broadly encom­pass­ing plas­tic rep­re­sen­ta­tions of pop­u­lar char­ac­ters from ani­me, man­ga, and games.↩︎

  19. Kabuk­i-­cho is an area no more than a few hun­dred meters square, north­east of Shin­juku’s sub­way and rail­road hub in Tokyo. In addi­tion to many small restau­rants and bars, it is crowded with mas­sage par­lors and other pur­vey­ors of sex.↩︎

  20. Hayao Miyazaki is an anime artist, film direc­tor, manga writer, and founder of the anime com­pany . He first made his name with his manga (1982–94) and its cin­ema­ti­za­tion in 1984. Often cen­ter­ing on such themes as the con­flict of nature vs. sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy or the destruc­tion and rebirth of civ­i­liza­tion, he has cre­ated such pop­u­lar anime films as (Mononoke-hime, 1997) and (Sen to Chi­hiro no kamikakushi, 2003), which won the Acad­emy Award for best fea­ture-length ani­mated film.↩︎

  21. Mamoru Oshii is an anime cre­ator and direc­tor. He directed the TV anime series (1981) and cin­ema­ti­za­tion (1982 and 1983) of by , the anime sci­ence-­fic­tion film (Kokaku kido­tai, 1995), and the live-ac­tion film (2001), among oth­ers.↩︎

  22. Bishojo games have two cat­e­gories: eroge (“erotic games”; see note 15) and gyaruge (“gal games”). While the for­mer include sex­u­ally explicit con­tent, the lat­ter do not. It should be not­ed, how­ev­er, that the label­ing cri­te­ria vary from man­u­fac­turer to man­u­fac­tur­er, depend­ing on the intended medium for the game soft­ware (i.e., a com­puter or a “game machine” such as PlaySta­tion and Game Boy).↩︎

  23. Exem­plars of the moe-anime genre are DiGiCharat (1999; see note 10) and (2000).↩︎

  24. Released in 2004, Shukan watashi no oni­i-chan / Weekly Dear­est My Brother is a series of boxed sets, each con­tain­ing a bishojo-cen­tered comic book­let and a fig­ure. These depict the lives of girls attend­ing a fic­tional pri­vate ele­men­tary school; fig­ures are pro­duced by Kaiy­o­do. To date, six dif­fer­ent boxes have been issued in total.↩︎

  25. Space Bat­tle­ship Yam­ato (Uchu senkan Yam­ato; broad­cast in the U.S. as Star Blaz­ers) was a break­through TV anime series, first broad­cast in Japan in 1974. See pl. 27 and Sawarag­i’s essay.↩︎

  26. Mobile Suit Gun­dam (Kido sen­shi Gan­damu), first broad­cast in 1979, was a TV anime series that spawned a long line of sequel series. See pl. 30.↩︎

  27. Nau­si­caa of the Val­ley of the Wind (Kaze no tani no Naushika; mod­i­fied and released in the U.S. as War­riors of the Wind) first took form in 1982 as a seri­al­ized manga epic (se­ri­al­ized through 1994), cre­ated by Hayao Miyazaki (see note 20), who went on to direct the 1984 film based on the man­ga. Princess Nau­si­caa, who grows up in a safe haven insu­lated from the pol­luted world a thou­sand years after a great war, uses her intel­lect, heart, and courage to pro­tect every­thing she loves.↩︎

  28. For Aum Shin­rikyo, an armed cult group that released deadly Sarin gas on Tokyo sub­ways, see Sawarag­i’s essay.↩︎

  29. Genma Wars (Genma taisen), a story about peo­ple with super­nat­ural abil­i­ties who fight Genma (Phan­tom Demon) to pro­tect the Earth, orig­i­nated as a series of books by Kazu­masa Hirai. The nov­els were adapted by Shotaro Ishi­nomori as man­ga, and were sub­se­quently made into an anime film in 1983 (re­leased as Har­mage­don in the U.S.).↩︎

  30. For the sci­ence-­fic­tion novel Japan Sinks (Nihon chin­botsu), see Sawarag­i’s essay.↩︎

  31. “New Wave sci­ence fic­tion, char­ac­ter­ized by its philo­soph­i­cal bent, arose in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive writ­ers include in the U.S. and Koichi Yamano in Japan.” (Okada)↩︎

  32. Expo ’70, held in Osaka in 1970, was the first World’s Fair in Asia. Under the theme of “Progress and Har­mony of Mankind”, it fea­tured a wide range of tech­no­log­i­cal tri­umphs as well as pro­jec­tions for the future—from space tech­nol­ogy (the U.S. pavil­ion exhib­ited a moon rock and an Apollo space­craft) to a mono­rail, mov­ing side­walks, and elec­tric cars, to com­put­er-linked infor­ma­tion ser­vices.↩︎

  33. Oshi­i’s Inno­cence (2004, released as Ghost in the Shell 2: Inno­cence in the U.S.) was nom­i­nated for the Cannes Film Fes­ti­val in 2004.↩︎

  34. “As opposed to pop­u­lar and mass lit­er­a­ture, jun-bun­gaku (pure lit­er­a­ture) aspires to achieve the purity of art, eschew­ing pop­u­lar tastes and a wider recep­tion. Within Japan’s lit­er­ary estab­lish­ment, jun-bun­gaku often means the ‘I’ nov­el, which focuses on the author’s pri­vate expe­ri­ences and feel­ings. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive writ­ers of jun_bun­gaku include Yukio Mishima and Osamu Dazai.” (Okada)↩︎

  35. Evan­ge­lion, com­monly known as Eva, is short­hand for the TV anime series Neon Gen­e­sis Evan­ge­lion (Shin-­seiki Evan­ge­rion, or “New Cen­tury Evan­ge­lion”), first broad­cast in 1995–96, and its cin­ema­ti­za­tion (1997), both cre­ated by the anime stu­dio . See pl. 33.↩︎

  36. “Robot anime” is a pop­u­lar genre of anime that fea­tures pow­er­ful or oth­er­wise extra­or­di­nary robots as pro­tag­o­nists or the cen­tral theme of the sto­ry. The very first robot anime was (Tet­suwan Atom), which was also the first anime TV series in Japan, broad­cast in 1963. In recent years, robot anime has become “giant robot anime”, the most rep­re­sen­ta­tive exam­ple of which is Mobile Suit Gun­dam (see pl. 30).↩︎

  37. Masked Rider is a TV spe­cial-­ef­fects series, first broad­cast in 1971–73. The hero­ics of the title char­ac­ters, who are “altered humans” bat­tling against the evil orga­ni­za­tion Shock­er, have been per­pet­u­ated by spin-off Rid­ers in sub­se­quent series, which con­tinue to this day,↩︎

  38. The “war­rior team” gen­re, which orig­i­nated in the spe­cial-­ef­fects TV series , or “Secret Team of Five Rangers” (re­leased in the U.S. as ), has enjoyed tremen­dous pop­u­lar­ity in Japan since Gorenja was first broad­cast in 1975. The “team” con­cept, derived from the “dou­ble rid­ers” scheme of Masked Rider, cus­tom­ar­ily allows the inclu­sion of one female fight­er.↩︎

  39. She, the Ulti­mate Weapon (Saishu heiki kanojo) orig­i­nated in 2000 as a seri­al­ized manga by Shin Taka­hashi (trans­la­tion pub­lished as The Last Love Song on This Lit­tle Planet). It was made into a TV anime series in 2002, and adapted as a game in 2003.↩︎

  40. Hideaki Anno is a screen­writer and direc­tor whose best-­known work is the TV anime series Neon Gen­e­sis Evan­ge­lion and its cin­ema­ti­za­tion (se pl. 33). After Evan­ge­lion, Anno shifted his inter­est from anime to live-ac­tion films, and in 1998 directed the fea­ture film , based on nov­el; he cre­ated his first spe­cial-­ef­fects scenes in his 2004 film, .↩︎

  41. Con­tem­po­rary shoku­gan orig­i­nated in gangu gashi (lit­er­al­ly, “toy candy”), first intro­duced in 1922, which were can­dies pack­aged with small toys and tar­geted at chil­dren. In 1999, the shoku­gan boom was launched by Furu­ta’s “Choco Egg”, a choco­late shell con­tain­ing elab­o­rately detailed plas­tic ani­mal and insect fig­ures man­u­fac­tured by Kaiy­o­do, which set the stan­dard for things to come. The extremely high qual­ity of today’s shoku­gan has made them objects of adult—and otaku—fas­ci­na­tion, as demon­strated by Murakami’s shoku­gan series, Super­flat Museum (2003).↩︎

  42. In 1989, a land­mark event turned otaku into a house­hold word: the ser­ial mur­ders of young girls by . When the ever-cu­ri­ous mass media dis­cov­ered that the alleged mur­der­er’s room was filled with numer­ous vol­umes of manga and thou­sands of video­tapes of anime and other gen­res of pop­u­lar cul­ture, the whole nation was stunned by his obses­sive nature. The world otaku was closely asso­ci­ated with Miyaza­k­i’s pro­file—a weirdo unable to form mean­ing­ful rela­tion­ships with grown women or dis­tin­guish real­ity from fan­ta­sy. The mass media went on the attack against otaku, and chil­dren inter­ested in anime and games were fre­quently harassed and ostra­cized at school.↩︎

  43. Gyaruge is an abbre­vi­a­tion of “gal games”. It is a sub­cat­e­gory of bishojo games (see note 22) that does not con­tain sex­ual con­tent, and is thus avail­able to peo­ple under eigh­teen. The most rep­re­sen­ta­tive exam­ple is .↩︎