I don’t like piracy. I never have. That certainly applies more to games than anime, but even with anime, I never download to my hard drive. I feel if I limit my access to anime I haven’t paid for (and with my network, limit is very apt) then at least I won’t be too far off from the people viewing it across the ocean on TV. Since joining the blogosphere last year, though, I took this to the next step and actually started buying anime DVDs. The second one I bought was the complete set of what is probably my favorite anime of all time, Kino no Tabi. I was really excited to finally get DVD quality and own this work that had been so formative for me. That was when it happened. I saw unfolding before my eyes what may have been (and may still be) the worst licensing job known to anime.
I recently finished Yoshiki Nakamura’s 1996-2002 shoujo manga Tokyo Crazy Paradise, and it got me thinking about the confines of genre tropes and standards. See, this manga (henceforth TCP) is very much a romantic comedy about highschoolers, much like any other shoujo romance series. What makes it stand out, however, are the other story aspects the series touches upon, even if they never receive full focus. The premise of the story is that in futuristic Tokyo (2020, to be exact), women are scarce and as such are often victimized, to the point that many are openly attacked in broad daylight. In addition, our protagonist ends up as the bodyguard to a mob boss, who is the primary love interest. So, with this context, let me list some of the more standout content present in TCP:
- Numerous instances of near rape
- Drug dealing
- Drugging girls on hallucinogens, then forcing them into cage deathmatches and betting on who dies first
- The love rival getting her right arm sliced off at the elbow
- Gang wars
- And an active attempt by supporting characters to get one of the protagonists to cheat on their fiancé
. . .All wrapped up with a bow of light-hearted comedy and soap-bubbly teen romance. And you thought romcoms were all the same.
This was originally going to be something of an extended first impression, since I felt the series deserved a little more than the little blurb I wrote in our Fall Season Impressions Post. Alas, this post turned out to be rather short itself. At least it won’t take much of your time?
Hi everyone, my name is John Sato, and it looks like I’m the latest blogger to catch the Mushy bug! (Get it? ‘Cause a bug is like a virus, and “Mushy” sounds like “mushi” which is Japanese for “bug,” and. . .forget it.) I will supposedly be making the occasional post here on O-NEW, and since Mushy pretty much gave me free reign of topic, I guess you can probably expect something on anime, video games, and/or writing/grammar from me at some point.
Jumping right in to the post at hand, an otaku, for those of you who don’t know, is basically a huge fan of anime culture, probably on the adult side age-wise. The definition is a little more complex, of course, but for the most part, it’s basically the Japanese equivalent of a brony, if that helps (though bronies only apply to one show, whereas otaku are fans of any number). It’s a social stigmata: most otaku are already in or are entering adulthood, and yet they’re still watching cartoons. How weird is that? Cartoons are for kids. See, on either side of the Pacific, that seems to be the general thought process. Whether you’re in Japan or elsewhere, whether you’re called an otaku or a nerd or a brony, you are a cultural oddity. Obviously, the backlash and judgment differs from country to country, but in the end you’re the strange one, the one that’s different, no matter where you are. Mushy’s excellent post (yeah, I like O-NEW posts, I know I’m weird) from a couple of weeks ago went over some of this territory, so I feel that I don’t really need to discuss it any more here.
Here’s the weird thing about it, though; people brand themselves as otaku. Think about that for a second. People willingly give themselves a social stigma; they want to have it. Why? Why would someone intentionally want to be different (in a bad way)? I feel the answer lies in how you view the word. See, you can view “otaku” as an insult of sorts; I mean, it kind of is. But there are a couple of other ways you can look at the term, too. The first is as a challenge, of sorts. “I watch cartoons at 29, and I’m proud of it!” That kind of thing. By using it to identify yourself, you broadcast a message of your hobbies, and show you’re ready to stand up for them.
The second main view is in stark contrast to this conflict-ready approach, though I suppose they can also go hand in hand quite easily. By calling yourself an otaku, you’re telling everyone that you watch cartoons. That includes other otaku. You’re broadcasting an entirely different message. This one is sort of like, “Hey, you watch weird foreign cartoons? So do I! Don’t worry, I understand what it’s like.” You become part of a subculture, a community, whose purpose is more to build camaraderie and a sense of belonging than it is to actively defend the hobbies you share.
Either way, though, the thing that really interests me here is how the meaning of the word (or words, if you want to include the other terms) can change so drastically from person to person, even as the definition stays the same. An otaku is always an anime fan, no matter who says it. But whether it’s a positive term or a negative one depends almost entirely on how the speaker wants to use it.
tl;dr Otaku is a versatile word and oh lord Mushy is going to kill me I didn’t use capital letters for large amounts of this oh lord oh lord