Densha-Otoko, Pt. II

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I asked a Japanese acquaintance, who works for a shukanshi (weekly tabloid magazine), about Densha Otoko, and he said that there’s a common view that:

Someone at 2-ch (specifically, Nishimura Hiroyuki) and a commercial writer planned out the project, aiming at publication, and intentionally manipulated the 2-ch thread. Nishimura has made anywhere from ¥X,000,000 to ¥X00,000,000 in royalties from the publication and the film/television adaptations. As a manager of 2-ch, Nishimura continues to lose libel/defamation suits for things written on 2-ch and has had to pay several million yen in indemnities, which he is unable to pay. So the idea is that he planned the publication of Densha Otoko as a way to be able to pay off the libel fines.

The reason that debunking the story hasn’t taken off in the shukanshi world is that Shinchosha is the publisher of the Densha Otoko book, and they happen to own the most vicious weekly magazine, Shuukan Shincho.

This is infinitely more interesting than my original conclusion: the runners of 2-ch had to create a media hoax in order to pay off the libel suits born from the anti-establishment rhetoric on their site. And the reason no one is barking about it is because both mainstream and outsider media companies have vested interests in the project’s success.

Marxy wrote a lot of essays back on his old site Néomarxisme. This is one of them.

21 Responses

  1. Patrick Says:

    Who needs shūkanshi when we’ve got 毎日魔悪誌?

  2. zombie Says:

    Sorry to go off-topic here, but I’d like to say:

    Discovered this site by accident when I was looking for info about Spaghetti Vabune! I’m a fan of indie-style Japanese music, living in the US, who doesn’t speak a word of Japanese, nor do I know of any other jpop fans personally, so keeping on top of what’s good (or even finding out about it in the first place) is no easy task. Living in Japan as you do, and knowing Japanese, you may not realize how difficult it is for semi-ignorant English speakers on the other side of the globe to uncover decent info about what’s listenable in jpop,

    As for my taste, much of it is “out-of-date” in that I like bands from various points in the past, most of which have probably broken up by now. My all-time favorite band is/was esrevnoc; others top picks include Sentimental:Bus, Three Berry Icecream, chee’s, Suwa Band, dicot, Mummy the Peepshow, Halcali, Chappie, and Dog Hair Dressers, to name a few. (Yes, I know that many of these no longer exist, or practically qualify as “oldies” by now.) Anyway, hope that gives some kind of idea where I’m coming from. And, to be frank, I have plenty of other “guilty pleasure” mainstream artists on my playlists, like Tommy Feb6, Puffy, Mini Moni — even early Aya Matsuura. Hey, at least I’m honest. (Oh, and j-punk too, like Hi-Standard, Mongol 800, Go! Go! 7188, etc.)

    What’s my question? Well, I suppose what I’m looking for is some kind of Web site that provides decent and up-to-date news and info about the kind of jpop I prefer (poppy/retro/melodic girlpop, I guess). Your site is a good start, Marxy, but I’m hoping to get some pointers!

    Also, I’m an mp3 scavenger, since obtaining out-of-print indie-label import Japanese CDs here in the US is both quite difficult and quite beyond my modest budget; so any sites or techniques for mp3-listening would also be lovely.

    Anyway, just want to say I’ve bookmarked your blog here, and I intend to drop by repeatedly to get the scoop on the latest on J-culture from someone with good taste!

  3. marxy Says:

    You can check keikaku.net for J-rock info, and Nippop.com for profiles. I would just follow label leads. If you like Spaghetti Vabune!, you’ll probably like everyone on the Blue Badge label. (Make sure you also check out Vroom records and Usagi-Chang Records.)

    And you can get a lot of very inexpensive imports of Japanese indies stuff at the mlshop: http://mlshop.pliink.com

  4. Momus Says:

    See my comment in the “Oh, Bother” thread about the thing about “status thinking” versus “contract thinking”. Discoveries like today’s should make you veer towards a “contract” model of Japanese society. You should avoid the conclusion that a contract-based society governed my mutual interests and consensual understandings is a conspiracy.

  5. marxy Says:

    See my comment: why is it a fair contract if consumer do not get access to equal information?

  6. ben Says:

    sometimes i really want to give momus a forceful punch to the face, and marxy a weaker but nonetheless painful punch to the stomach.

    your ceaseless bickering detracts greatly from my enjoyment of this blog.

  7. l Says:

    For this regular reader of neomarxisme, their ceaseless bickering’s the best part of it all.

    On topic: Nobody I know who knows about Densha Otoko thinks it’s a true story, probably because I hang out with fanfic people too much. DO seems like the classic Mary Sue/Larry Stu fic, posted in installments to solicit feedback. The author had sock-puppets and crony-friends spreading hype around fandom. You know, the usual. Some fics are based on real people (celebrities) and events, but nobody ever mistakes the fics as real.

    Usually I find Marxy’s points worth noting, whether I agree with his positions or not. In this case, shouldn’t he find at least *one* person who believes DO to be true before proceeding further?

  8. marxy Says:

    Usually I find Marxy’s points worth noting, whether I agree with his positions or not. In this case, shouldn’t he find at least *one* person who believes DO to be true before proceeding further?

    Fair point.

    Let’s reframe this: does anyone think it’s odd that everyone knows it’s not real, yet the media has to pretend at all moments that it is? If this were another country, would not somebody try to get to the bottom of it being a hoax? As if the producers of The Blair Witch Project claimed their movie was “real” and no one ever noted that it wasn’t.

    So the question is: do people not care or is it that the media is colluding to not ask that question? If the theory I heard is correct about this being a 2-ch/Shinko/Dentsu/Fuji plot, there is certainly collusion, but whether that’s the root cause is up for debate. And since there is much chatter on the Internet, they do seem to be asking the same question I am.

  9. Josh Says:

    The Momus/Marxy rivalry is like every Internet meme ever – it’s entertaining at first, but gets old pretty damn quick and then you find yourself never wanting to hear the two words “Zero Wing” again.

    Obviously the only way to solve this is a good old fashioned Iron Composter tournament.

  10. Brad Says:

    So, wait, I was under the impression that the 2ch guy was filthy rich from 2ch. I mean, you’ve got a web site that gets several million page hits daily and all those ads are going out to all those people. Plus it’s not like he’s pushing a lot of graphics and other data so he needs lots of bandwidth, etc. It’s just a lot of text.

    I’m sure the libel lawsuits are very expensive but, again, I thought he had more than enough money to handle all this.

    Or am I totally wrong?

  11. l Says:

    does anyone think it’s odd that everyone knows it’s not real, yet the media has to pretend at all moments that it is? If this were another country, would not somebody try to get to the bottom of it being a hoax?

    If indeed everyone knows, why bother investigating? The media tries to keep the fantasy realistic for the audience because that’s what they expect and there’s money to be made. The premise (realistic fantasy) is similar as in virtual reality, EverQuest, celebrity RPG, cosplay host bars, etc. Only the scale is bigger.

    Collusion… looks more like cooperation to better serve the customers. As with any cosplay hosts worth their salt, the least they could do for us is not break character.

    Whether it’s collusion or cooperation depends entirely on whether the goal’s mass deception or realistic experience. Back to my starting point then: Is anyone deceived? Honestly curious here, because I don’t live in Japan and have just begun learning Japanese.

  12. marxy Says:

    Is anyone deceived?

    I will paraphrase Robert Duckworth on this: “I think you give the Japanese way too much credit.”

  13. l Says:

    Again, please find one Japanese person who believes DO to be a true story in the literal sense. Discuss your suspicions with him or her. You may then understand better how the media’s mass deception works, and so may we.

  14. Brad Says:

    I did this, sort of. I spoke to a couple of co-workers about Densha otoko and then sort of dropped marxy’s idea on them. They were both like “ohhhhh!…well, that sucks then.” The conclusion was basically that while the story seemed improbable to them (nerd find the courage to ask out a hot chick and they fall in love, suuuuuuure), since it was being labelled as a true story, they just assumed it was true. But the idea that a bunch of corporations were behind it all, that made much more sense to them. The whole thing initially smelled funny ot them, but because they were told it was a true story, they believed it.

  15. marxy Says:

    Explicitly thinking “it’s not true” does not absolutely follow from getting the vague feeling that something’s wrong. Just because we as Westerners understand it’s fake – after living in a world of exposed hoaxes and high media transparency – doesn’t mean that these are obvious conclusions to a Japanese consumer.

  16. Momus Says:

    So the line between credulity and cynicism is exactly the same as the line between East and West? Is this “fact” based on a True Story or just something you know intuitively?

  17. marxy Says:

    The historical circumstances of modernization in Japan – state-run, centralized, undemocratic – meant that media corporations were born as an explicit vessel of the state, not as Fourth Estate organizations gaining power from a critical stance to work for the “public interest.” So the Japanese media doesn’t feel particularly interested in debunking consumer hoaxes when it gets everything it has from associations with the producers/information providers, not the consumers. If consumers decide they no longer like that magazine, the huge publishing house just moves resources over to another one of its titles.

  18. Momus Says:

    The historical circumstances of modernization in Japan – state-run, centralized, undemocratic – meant that media corporations were born as an explicit vessel of the state, not as Fourth Estate organizations gaining power from a critical stance to work for the “public interest.” So the Japanese media doesn’t feel particularly interested in debunking consumer hoaxes

    Wait, wait, by “fourth estate organizations” you mean privately-owned media corporations, right? Since when do these automatically take a “critical stance” or work in the “public interest”? You mean like the “critical stance” of ABC, NBC, Fox News, etc in the US? Since when did relying on advertising and being in the hands of moguls and shareholders (and it’s not as if these Japanese media corporations are any less beholden to the same powers) guarantee objectivity? It’s more likely to produce right wing populism than “work for the public interest”.

    I’m never clear what your stance on private / public ownership actually is. What’s wrong with government control, when the alternative is shareholder control? And why is government control more “undemocratic” than ownership by Rupert Murdoch?

  19. Dave Says:

    I think the real difference between media that has always been controlled by the state and the world of Rupert Murdoch is that some of us in ‘the West’ know what we’re missing out on.

    (Although perhaps the period of press independence is actually an imagined past too – I don’t know.)

  20. Momus Says:

    I’m never clear what your stance on private / public ownership actually is. What’s wrong with government control, when the alternative is shareholder control? And why is government control more “undemocratic” than ownership by Rupert Murdoch?

    I’m still waiting for Marxy to answer this question.

  21. marxy Says:

    The reason I didn’t bother answering the question is that you are again taking the issue into an imaginary tangent – as if Japanese news media firms weren’t dependent on advertising too and that the West had no inherent ideas of seperation between news desks and advertising departments. And while I’ll admit that the financial bottom-line sometimes butts into American news coverage (NBC’s coverage of GE is always extremely sunny), at least there is a tradition of investigative journalism and the existence of ethics – no matter how much they will be ignored as things become more like wonderful postmodern Japan.

    Japan has the worst of all worlds – state pressure to not to dissent from the ruling party line (and it’s the same ruling party every year, essentially), heavy dependence on advertising, no journalistic ethics about public interest, and cartel-like behavior to prevent investigative “scooping.” So it’s not just a question of public vs. private. The ultimate question is editorial independence, and I would find it hard to believe that Japan leads anybody in this category.