Can Otaku Love Like Normal People?

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In Part Two of “Otaku Research,” Nakamori Akio breaks down (or reinforces, depending on your view) stereotypes involving the mating habits of the otaku. Even more bombastic than his original missive, this column is an intriguing window into contemporary views of the subculture during the early 1980s.

A few definitions for the uninitiated: Minky Momo and Nanako are both examples of a proto-“moe” genre of anime based around super-cute girls with magical powers. And “Gekisha” is the name of a long-running series of cheesecake photos of young women in swimsuits that proved incredibly popular among the otaku in the mid-Eighties.

Otaku Research #2
“Can Otaku Love Like Normal People?”
by Nakamori Akio
(Translated with permission by Matt Alt)

Last time, we got as far as naming the hordes of gloomy, obsessive boys you see everywhere these days as “otaku.” I think most of you can figure out the origins of the word, but it’s like this: don’t you think it’s a little creepy to see junior high school kids addressing each other with “otaku” [「お宅」] at manga and anime conventions?

The minute these twerps hit puberty, some of ‘em are inevitably gonna turn into stone-cold pervs. But you know what? With the way they dress, the way they talk, the way they act, they don’t stand a chance with a woman. See, these otaku are definitely lacking something in the masculine behavior department. Most of them leer over cutouts of Minky Momo and Nanako they’ve got stuffed into their commuter-pass holders — you could call it a 2D complex, or something — yet can’t bring themselves to speak to an actual woman. Those with milder cases tend towards androgynous idol girls without much feminine appeal or obsess over lolicon. A nude photo of a normal young woman does absolutely nothing for guys like this. There’s this one dude I know who flips out — “get that away from me! It’s dirty!” — if someone kindly offers him a porn magazine, but then again, this he’s the editor of [dojinshi anthology magazine] Comic Box, so I guess it comes with the territory.

Anyway. The one thing these guys are into is Kishin [Shinoyama’s] “Gekisha” series [gravure idol photos], which runs in the otaku magazine Goro. You know what I’m talking about — they always run stuff like “Write Kumiko a letter! She’ll reply to the ones that catch her fancy!” Now that I think about it, I bet you anything the editor’s mailbox is packed with tens of thousands of letters from otaku. Gag me. Just take a look at the readers’ column in any recent Gekisha compilation — it’s filled with love letters from the otaku! The guys writing about how they couldn’t wait for the next issue to come out so they went to the bookstore in the next town over; the 26 year-old salaryman who cuts out the pics of his favorite babes and saves them, and this is the real otaku part, only to get in hot water with his wife after she stumbles across the file; the guys who write poems devoted to miss-so-and-so, and so on and so on until you start getting a headache. But they’re out there, the guys who have mint-condition copies of every back number of Goro lining the bookshelf of their filthy, four-tatami-square hovels. There are even some who buy two copies apiece, one to preserve and one to use for… whatever.

Maybe it’s because they’re lacking in the male performance department or something, but these guys all seem kinda effeminate to me. These are people well into their twenties who, upon getting a new poster or something with their favorite anime character on it, get so happy and excited that their legs come together, their knees bend, and they start to bounce (this legs-coming-together-and-hopping thing being a peculiar characteristic of theirs). And whenever they screw up, they make these exaggerated fake boo-hoo sounds. It really makes me sick. There’s no way the majority of these guys will ever get a woman.

Then again, you know what they say: there’s a marriage partner out there for everyone. I’ve always sort of wondered what kind of woman an otaku might marry, but recently I had a scary thought. If an otaku marries an otaku woman, their child will be an otaku kid. And so it goes.

Matthew ALT
April 7, 2008

Matt Alt lives in Tokyo and is the co-author of Hello, Please! Very Helpful Super Kawaii Characters from Japan and Yokai Attack! The Japanese Monster Survival Guide, among others. His blog can be found at http://altjapan.typepad.com.

9 Responses

  1. wildarmsheero Says:

    Me and few other guys were wondering– is this possibly the first mention of a 2D complex in the media?

  2. gorilgna Says:

    If you consider some ALT with a superiority complex dooming an entire subset of the population to sexless, loveless lives, sure.

    Otherwise, hardly.

  3. Matt Alt Says:

    Now, now. Don’t shoot the messenger.

    I’m not sure if this represents the first usage of “2D Complex,” and the Japanese Wikipedia is silent as to the subject of its origins. But for a perfect example of the androgynous idol girls mentioned in the second paragraph, look no further than Onyanko Club:

    http://meta.neojaponisme.com/2008/04/04/onyanko-club-on-video/

  4. gorilgna Says:

    I’m sorry for shooting you. The bearer of unpleasant news is often shot. I am an unfortunately merciless anime king.

  5. W. David MARX Says:

    If you consider some ALT with a superiority complex dooming an entire subset of the population to sexless, loveless lives, sure.

    This line of attack seems to have two fatal flaws:

    1) Matt Alt’s last name is Alt. He is not an ALT. I can’t wait to see what people say when my friend Will Jet starts writing here.
    2) Matt translated this piece. He didn’t write it.

  6. john Says:

    I can’t wait to see what people say when my friend Will Jet starts writing here.

    your friend is a JET?!
    (i’m sorry, i’m sorry. i couldn’t resist.)

  7. Taisa Says:

    Did the author of this article coin the term “otaku” for these people, or was the usage already established (if not widespread)?

  8. Matt Alt Says:

    As explained in Part One, Nakamori did not create the word (it’s merely a polite form of saying “you” or “your home”), but he is generally credited as being the first to use the term to describe the demographic:

    http://neojaponisme.com/2008/04/02/what-kind-of-otaku-are-you/

  9. dressing like an otaku Says:

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