Otaku Talk

Definition of otaku, mania, moe, dame, anime, and generations
anime, NGE, criticism, sociology, Little-Boy, interview, SF
by: Toshio Okada, Kaichiro Morikawa, Takashi Murakami, Reiko Tomii 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


[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]


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.


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.


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


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.


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?


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


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


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


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


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


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


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.


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,


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


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”


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


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 .↩︎