As reported in the news media, the “Akiba-kei” magazine Elfics is holding the first “otaku” certification exam, OTAK. For those interested in taking the take-home test, the question booklet is included in this month’s issue, between the anime-parodies and forty pages of erotic sci-fi art. (These artists seem to be tackling sex in same fantastical, non-empirical way as Robert Heinlein or Arthur C. Clarke wrote about the moon without ever actually traveling there.)
I would not normally have this genre of literature in my home if it were not for the fact that a serious, respectable American magazine requested a translation of the test booklet. Unfortunately for the editors, the exam is not as unintentionally funny as they imagined, but I did manage to find something quite interesting in the process of translating the test.
The OTAK is about 1/3 parody of Japanese test-taking (juken) culture, 1/3 honest attempt at knowledge certification, and 1/3 soapbox for the leaders of the Akihabara Otaku Rights movement. While the AOR does not technically exist, something like it seems to be bubbling up. In the first section about the origin of the term “otaku,” one of the written passages specifically calls out Densha Otoko as a “fake” otaku trend — created by the mass-media and not an “authentic” part of otaku culture. Apparently, the exam authors are incensed by the recent media attempts to make otaku “cool” for the masses, which ultimately takes away the central taste-making authority from the subcultural leaders. First Densha Otoko, next maid costumes on network television, then drawing dirty pictures of prepubescent girls will in danger of being normal. How dismal this future. Keep your eyes on the prize, boys.