I apologize; originally I had ready a different rant (but metaphysically related) about memetics, but this seems to be the hot news that came since last Friday. Or rather, by this Friday it won’t be so hot, so I gave it priority. Sorry to those who might wanted to read it because I told you about it earlier. Look at the funky-expressive Alicia-san and forgive my funky-blog.
I feel the need to expound on what many others have said, even if what Sakamoto is doing here is nothing really new. I wonder if she has any children of her own; it is something you want to drill into your kids’ psyche as Asian parents: take life seriously and don’t do the escapist thing.
Well, much good it did me. Anyways, the controversy itself warrants some discussion. The antagonistic patriot that champions personal freedom says that a healthy dose of trolling really brings the issue and its discussion to the fore. This is just that.
But even before we couch Sakamoto’s rant (or better put as HD would have it, Waiwai’s slanted sensational journalism, by the way, a well-constructed nitpicking if you care for a read) in the right light, I think no matter what your opinion is regarding the controversy, the fact you have one means it is warrant enough of the value yellow journalism (which is not quite where Mainichi is, yet) to society.
My view of the situation is that Japan is transforming socially. Ever since the 80s we have had waves of young people expressing themselves as youths would. Sakamoto’s perspective, on that note, is not only critical not of otaku, but of the otaku movement, and specifically the Japanese otaku movement. I get the feeling a lot of the criticism in the English language misses these two points.I also have to confess that I’m not at all familiar with the Japanese otaku first hand. Well, I do know one personally and while his English is not conversant, we do communicate over the internet with some frequency. He’s not a hikikomori, nor does he exhibit a lot of the serious otaku problems you see on TV or on specials or exaggerated in terms of out-of-place images (like a bunch of them with their hugpillows, for instance). What makes him representative to me is his attitude and his flavor in the media that he consumes: self-interested, puts society first, and distinctively pedophilic.
All people are self-interested to some degree. You can make exceptions but they are just that–exceptions. What does that mean in terms of a Japanese-otaku sense? That means they are not going to watch a show they don’t enjoy. They are going to be bothered by people they can’t stand (Genshiken has some great examples of this) or by certain kinds of behavior. They’re generally edgily passive-aggressive (as with the stereotypical Japanese). Empathy is only existent on a social level (as in, following norms) and even then it’s frequently used in a self-serving way.
And like many Japanese people, they treasure who they are in society. Kogals are kogals because they like that inclusiveness–kind of like how gangs work in the US. To that end we have J-rockers, gothlolis, people who are going to Toudai, etc. The otaku label is just yet another one of these things people wear. The only real difference is that today, with things like Densha Otoko, it is no longer wore as a badge of shame and disgrace (like being an ex-hikikomori). Otaku generally are shy, somewhat introverted, uneasy with girls, what have you–that’s just a commonality that separates jocks from nerds, if you want to use some different labels. That is not to say there are no shy jocks or aggressive nerds, but there is some kind of commonality that is shared within each of the labels in terms of personality that not only reinforces these behaviors, but badges them.
To that end, otaku do things otaku does, often because that’s what they are and what they do. They might line up for that new hot video game coming out the night before, for one. Or spend a lot of money so Hare Hare Yukai gets bumped up on the Oricon rankings. You know how it goes. The reality of it is also that they do things Japanese people do with a label–ride that group with pride; they don’t criticize themselves (even if there’s something obviously wrong), and generally don’t leverage that organization to their advantage. Politics? No way–that’s reserved for scums and untrustworthy people wanting to manipulate the public.
The bit of analysis that HD really left out that Sakamoto addressed (a little) in the article touches on this: because marketing and businesses of selling franchises are also of scums, untrustworthy, and they’re all about manipulating the public (at least, no more so than politicians). In this case, the otaku generation. Why do people spend their money on loliporn? There is a HUUUUGE industry for this crap, we all know. It’s not to say otaku are pedophiles, but there sure are a lot of pedophiles in the mix. Things like Negima is rather more ephebilophilc rather than pedophilic, but why do people spend money on this crap? Because that’s the “otaku” thing to do? I just don’t see any redeeming value in that. Ok, sure, it can be entertaining, and I am surely as guilty as any of them in spending money on guilty pleasures…but is that it? Is the economic power of the otaku (IMO their greatest asset) at the whims of dirty pleasures? Certainly a trip at the stores in Akihabara’s media stores will impress you in that exact way. What happened to the good, solid stuff that we westerners recommend to everyone to watch and read as anime and manga? Is that just assigned only to the mainstream?
Because if that IS it, then I’m 100% behind Mimei Sakamoto. It doesn’t matter at all about moe or syntax. It matters that this is a group of people who share beliefs that are just unfit and unhealthy. It is a real social problem, and while it may be brought to our attention because it trolls blanket statements like moe is pedophilic and otakus are lock-in scums, but just how close is that to the truth?