Sunday, December 27, 2009

Learning Otaku Culture

I think it's obvious that I have an affinity for Japanese culture. The history, language, customs, and literature are all things I've studied and continue to enjoy. I love their food and listen to their music and read their (translated into English) books. But one thing I haven't quite gotten into is one of the reasons Japan is so popular in the U.S. today: Anime.

Naruto Shippuden

The Japanese phenomenon of otaku culture has swept the nation. I've seen evidence of this as anime festivals and cosplay events are held frequently in New York City. People dress up as their favorite anime characters and have contests. There's an entire community of people who share a passion for the stories and characters that the Japanese have been prolific about creating and distributing.

I've never really understood the fascination behind it. As the New York Japanese Culture Examiner for the website, I probably should. I've already written a couple of stories about anime and cosplay events in the city, and I'm going to be reporting about that sort of thing more often. So I've added "learning about otaku culture" to my to-do list and made it my New Year's resolution to become more familiar with the characters and shows the kids are so crazy about these days. I'll start by adding The Otaku Encyclopedia to my library and by watching different genres of anime.

I'm not going to dress up and enter myself into contests with 17-year-olds, but I'll continue to write about and promote events in NYC because they are a huge part of Japanese culture in the city, even though I've seen more non-Japanese at these events.

If any of you are knowledgeable about anime, manga, and otaku culture, what are your suggestions?


Daniel said...

It's been a while since I was big into this stuff, so I can't really help you get a feel for the current pulse of otaku culture, but I do expect you to post pictures when you inevitably start cosplaying.

Maybe start looking into anime/otaku podcasts?

shrinecastle said...

There's nooooooo way I'll ever start cosplaying! But your idea about anime/otaku podcasts is a good one. I'll give it a try.

Was there a particular show you used to watch, or were you into manga? I know you like video games; how does that fit into the subculture? (I sound like a REALLY big square right now!)

Daniel said...

The last show/manga that I read/watched and was really interested in was called Death Note and it was pretty cool, if a little dark.

I also know that the industry (in both Japan and in the States) has been "in trouble" for years now, but for different reasons. Here it has to do with piracy and over there it has to do with costs vs. sales.

Video games tie in pretty nicely, since there are often games based on shows and sometimes shows launch based on games. Most of those don't come out stateside unless the series is really popular out here, which is why there are tons of Dragonball and Naruto video games in the USA.

shrinecastle said...

I've actually seen Death Note the movie.

Good info, Dan. See? You were more helpful than you thought you'd be! Thanks!

David said...

The otaku culture is mainly focused on animes, but I have seen it overlap frequently into video games. Companies like Square design their characters in a way that often makes them look like a classic anime characters. These characters are embraced like the anime characters and often times appear as cosplay in the festivals as well.

The video game characters that I have seen with large fan bases have predominantly been characters from the RPG genre of video games. I think this is because RPGs have a story and often times have similar themes and other similarities to animes

You also see occasional overlap with classic games. Games that have bridged the gap between everyone like Mario and Pac-Man.

shrinecastle said...

Good info, David! Thanks for your input. I wondered why I saw some people dressed as Mario at the Anime Festival last September. I also saw character from Star Wars, so I suppose there's more overlap than I thought.