Otaku, east and west


Roland Kelts “Soft Power, Hard Truth/Who is an otaku? It depends on where you ask” http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/features/arts/20070914TDY13001.htm


Yaoi is a manga and anime subgenre, a casual abbreviation of yama nashi, ochi nashi, imi nashi, meaning "no climax, no ending, no meaning." Its narratives adhere to soap opera schemes; in Japan, most of the stories are written and read by middle-aged women.

But here in London, 9,600 kilometers from Tokyo, Yaoi is cool--and apparently for young boys and girls alike.


(….) During my U.S. book tour, I was barraged by young Americans who insisted that they were "otaku," as if the very term conferred upon them a sense of cool, cutting edge, irrefutable intelligence.

Meanwhile, in Japan, I am reminded that no self-respecting citizen self-identifies as an otaku.

This dissonance has complicated roots, the beginnings of which I'll try to trace here.

In 1989, the term otaku, which roughly translates as "hey, sir," with both informal and formal connotations, took a big hit. It was employed by anemic, inward-looking, vaguely autistic Japanese males who began preferring "things" to "people." That they may have been prophetic was beside the point. In the late 80s and early 90s, the implications were appalling.

In 1989, Tsutomu Miyazaki, a psychopath identified as an otaku, was arrested for murdering four children. He molested them. He cannibalized two.

The police found a lot of anime and manga in his apartment. Hence the subsequent clouds.

Fast forward to 2007: Kids and young adults in the United States proudly proclaim: "I am Otaku!" Young men and women in London proudly assault an author, bearing the Yaoi badge.


On the one hand it reflects the obvious perversities of pop culture, in which G-string-wearing Madonna is lionized as a harbinger of the feminist future, and U2 is the last "supergroup." Pop culture lives and dies by hyperbole.

On the other hand, it shows that Japan is clearly a leader in the world now, despite its modesty, claims of inferiority and native resistance to global prominence.

また、”Japan is becoming, despite itself, a major world player. But it doesn't want to be.”とも。日本的かつポップなものがotakuと(混同も含みつつ)総称されている? 例えば、Kelts氏が

Let us bless designer Nigo and his Bathing Ape clothes, Kinokuniya and its multilingual book inventory, and the legions of Japanese artists who are producing the best pop culture in the world. "Pop" is "culture" in the 21st century." Perhaps things really are better than people.
と書いているのは日本人としてはどうなのだろうか。例えば、秋葉原メイド喫茶に出入りするオタクがBathing Apeのような裏原宿系のファッションを自分と同じ文化圏に属するものとして認知しているのかどうか。”artists who are producing the best pop culture in the world”の中には村上隆も入るのだろうけれど、村上はオタクに拒絶されたことがあったんじゃなかったっけ*1。もしかしたら、西洋人(或いはその影響を受けた亜細亜人)からは日本の内部からは異質で対立しているように見えるものの同質性や共通性がメタ的な立場において認知できるのかも知れないが、ともかくそうした混同を伴った日本イメージの構成というのは興味深いとともに、正直言ってまだ全然わからないのだ。