Wednesday, 16 October 2013

WK6 Otaku

Trainman is the collaborative story of a 'geek' who transforms himself fashion-wise to get the girl (a career-oriented unwed woman in her 30s-40s with no children or 'loser-dog'). After saving her on a train from a drunk person, he appeals to members of the 2Chan message board for assistance in winning her heart. Trainman changes his style, hides his obsessions (while maintaining his consumption) and wins her over, becoming the dominant one in the relationship and leaving his character behind. It profits from the "belief that all otaku are members of a subculture unified by shame, who desire to disguise themselves as a step to becoming more participatory members of larger society. "Supposedly a true story, some people have come out against it for further marginalizing otaku culture (it is ok to be otaku, "so long as you do not look or act like one in public") as well as for its possibly corporate origins that successfully keep people buying related products. It has sparked a trans-media empire including internet books, cell-phone books, mangas, tv shows, a film, etc.). It comments on gender roles, hearkening back to 1950s attitudes about a women's place, re-affirming the status quo and a response to low birth rates. 

Moe (translates to 'bud' or 'sprout' and is a word used to describe the level of intensity experienced by otaku for fantasy characters or representations of them. Japanese philosopher Honda Touru considers it in terms of 'imaginary' or 'pure' love, in that a relationship with a character may be preferable to a real interpersonal one. At the same time this supports the industry through frequent and reliable consumption ('love capitalism'). Otaku began to collect and create fan-made contributions in order to create and affirm their own identities and sense of self. Additionally it allows moe-otaku men to become 'feminized' by making it socially acceptable to love without dating (esp. in a down-turn economy), and pay lavish attention on Hello Kitty products for example. They become shoujo or 'little girls'. Azuma Hiroki focused on the specific constituent parts of the fantasy, deconstructed and removed from context (like how young men may have been conditioned with a erotic response to girls in maid outfits or cat ears). Love has been separated from reality. These fetishistic collections of 'design and personality points, characters and situations that can produce moe' are referred to as 'the database'. Fans began to even desire character materials in the absence of a story. This emphasis on fantasy ('a body without organs') is liberating in a way, because authors are free to imagine scenarios divorced from realistic considerations and consequences (the young cute eroticized girl popular with a male audience, or Yaoi/Boy Love, the homosexual men genre popular with women); these archetypes are not part of the 'real' world and their consumers need not be "socially mature and responsible adults".


  • Azuma, Otaku: Japan's Database Animals
  • Murakami (moderator), "Otaku Talk",

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