In a weird twist that I
could nowhere see coming, I began to ignore Akihabara.
After years of squatting
on the fringes of electric town, the joke felt spent. The corridors of old junk
parts, increasingly haggard maids, and the usual otaku haunts seemed to have
reached an evolutionary impasse known as “kind of boring”. At least for me, anyways.
As my attention drifted
to Shibuya and Harajuku, I probably hadn’t even really gone to Akihabara much
in the last year except for Mandarake runs and last min gift shopping or BD-R DL grabs at
But last May, the AKB slapped
me upside the head and surprised me all over again. The missing ingredient was largely
this: going at night time.
Prodigious use of LED
lighting is changing the Tokyo landscape from blanket flat fluorescent into
unforgiving localized starbursts. Akihabara seems to be the epicenter of
how far that look can physically go and a walk down Chuo-dori – the main drag –
feels like it could do real damage to the optic nerve.
Also, I was struck by just
how dingy the neighborhood had become, especially in areas that were only
recently built or set to be revitalized. After all, around 2005, Akihabara made a bid to
become Japan’s swinging new tech center and the centers of power began to shift.
The gleaming NTT UDX center was meant to be a springboard for all manner of changes, physical and psychological. But the Japanese IT revolution
didn’t happen as planned and backstreet funk has leaked seemingly
everywhere since, over tourists and locals alike.
In my past writing on
Akihabara, I saw things in terms of a struggle between the weirdoes and the
straights, but I didn’t consider how large a role pure inertia would play in
changing the equation. Now, there’s something like a cross between Las Vegas,
Chinatown, a decaying mall, and a short circuiting Interzone to explore all over again. So here we go boldly in the future -- Phase transition from liquid to solid: Cold Japan.
"Otaku don’t get bullied for being nerds anymore. Yankii listen to idol music, yankii play video games – yankii are otaku. Back in the day, delinquents could join bosozoku bike gangs. But the cops clamped down on that scene, so geeking out is their only option. If all the kids are otaku, then it means that Japan is growing up otaku. The ossan are the only ones still blind to this fact."
Ok, so here is the cover of the new reprint of my 2006 book
Otaku in USA. Goes on sale in Japan on July 10. This is a bunko paperback edition from publisher Takeshobo that, like many great
Japanese technological advances is smaller, compact, and more efficient.
we planned on updating the original cover by using a new picture of an American
LUM cosplayer, but they all turned out to be flaky or demented. Artwork is lots
easier to work with, so we commissioned a fancy new illustration by utomaru with
design and layout by Yoshiki Takahashi.
Seven years is a long time in the otaku game (shit man, even
three months is a lifetime for anime fans now…), but I guess the publisher
figures that ribald tales about Kojiro Abe and co. (as translated by Tomo Machiyama) might still tickle a few
funny bones out there. Either way, the book contains a new introduction by
myself that tries to get things up to speed: the death of DVD, the rise of the
streaming anime wars, and the new jack swing of stalking Japanese people via social
media and the significance of otaku stoners.
Most of that lot are on the plate in greater detail for my next book for Japan,
due “real soon”. In the meantime, got a spare 819 yen? Because here's the....
utomaru is an illustrator and designer who
dishes out eye-popping color and dazzling line work. Powered by generations of Japanese
subculture, ‘80s anime and manga, with a generous helping of American superhero
comics, her work feels nostalgic, familiar, and contemporary at the same time. Maybe best of all, her portraits of
imaginary cute girls come without cavets and are free of the pretention that sometimes bogs down
otaku-inspired art from Japan. The big picture is that a new generation is inheriting and remixing the past, and the results are close to literal eye candy as you are likely to get.
Please introduce yourself!
I'm utomaru. I'm an
illustrator and a graphic designer. Yuko Motoki is my real name but my friends
call me utomaru. It's been my nickname since I was 15.
When did you start drawing?
Probably since I was 4
years old. I began to study illustration and graphic design in earnest and
eventually went to art college and I began to do design for some minor rock
bands from when I was15 years old.
Tell us about one of your
favorite illustrations that you have done.
I always think my best
artwork is my newest one. Right now, I like my illustration of Iron Man (above) that
was created for an event flyer. But it is hard to show off proudly because it
is unofficial. Another one I like is an illustration of a girl wearing a rabbit
helmet. I painted it for the cover of the book by my and finished it the day
What are some of the influences
on your artwork?
My father was my biggest
influence. He owned many magazines, comics, and movies from the 1960s to the
1980s, and they greatly affected me. He didn’t dare give them to me, but they
were always put in a position where I could see them and handle them.
Do you have any favorite films,
TV shows, or books you can mention?
It is a very difficult
question. Stanley Kubrick's “The Shining” is special to me the way it is for
many other people.
Also, I like the movie
director Teruo Ishii. Often to relieve stress from school, I would go to
Japanese grindhouse theaters and see his films. I also like flashy movies that
have cruelty, monsters, and lots of explosions.
I know that American superhero
comics are among your favorite things. Can you explain why you like them so
I think, it was slow.
That is from 18 years old probably. I have read Japanese magazine about
American comics called "MARVEL X", and also I have found "INFINITY
GAUNTLET". It's soooo amazing! It was trigger. Few years later, I read
Watchmen that has been republished to fit the movie then and I was shocked
Your illustrations have a
strong 1980s flavor. What is it about that time period that appeals to you?
A lot of movies and
Comics in 1980s are very energetic, violently and flashy. (Is it just me or is
it really so...? Probably some are sober but I love something extreme.) This
are my favorite. I would like to recreate the atmosphere of those.
Why do you think you mainly
draw pictures of cute girls?
Because it's cute! Cute
girl is the best motif than anything else. But, to be honesty, I also like boys
or old man. However I just have not had a chance to draw until now.
Your use of color is one of the
most striking things about your art. How do you choose which colors to use?
It's not a natural
ability. I alaways make color selection mechanically based on hue, saturation, and brightness. Because I studied it in
school. I think anyone could do it.
Please tell us about your brand
Bangkillporn and how you are involved with it.
I began Bangkillporn in
May of last year with another illustrator named Superlog. We are illustrators,
but because we didn’t necessarily have a lot of work, we came up with Bangkillporn to be kind of an advertisement for ourselves.
What does the word
"otaku" mean to you?
The meaning of this word has
become lighter now. But, but in the truest sense, it means few people who are
familiar with everything. An extremely small number of them are around me.
What is your image of American
Everyone is good at First
Person Shooters! Why? Because they have guns?
I’ve been giving this a lot of thought and have come to the conclusion that Julie Watai is the coolest, most well-connected female otaku in all of Japan.
From her Hardware Girls photo sessions, to her stints as a gravure model and her sessions as a club DJ and remix artist, Julie continually and nimbly crosses the lines between super nerdy and somethin' else.
Lately, she’s been busy with mishmash＊Julie Watai, a musical collaboration with T. Mishima, long associate of Japanese indie music tiki head Cornelius.
Oh...one more thing about Julie…SHE ALSO HACKS FURBYS!!
All of which leads us to mishmash＊Julie Watai’s latest song, “Go Furby Go”; an ode to the toy that Julie loves to “circuit bend” when dressed as a maid.
And while Momoiro Clover Z has been assigned the duty of delivering the official Furby 2012 endorsement deal via their new commercials, Julie and co. have a furry saga of their own to unfold before your eyes below...
The full length version of “Go Furby Go” will be available on October 26th from iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play.
Richard Fukuoka of Japanese tech bible Weekly Ascii materialized in San Francisco late last week for the Apple World Wide Developers Conference. He’s here in the USA to promote Ascii’s latest endeavor, “Tokyo Kawaii Magazine”, a English language magazine for the iPhone, available in both free and paid versions, filled to the digital brim with – as the flier puts it – “Anime, Fashion, and Tokyo Topics”. My company jaPRESS is handling localization for TKM, and we’ve also been hired to oversee translation and rewriting of a Certain Ascii Media Works Manga That Shall Remain Nameless (for now, at least).
Although I wasn’t expecting anything more than a simple meet-and-greet with Richard, he whipped out his iPhone and iPad to show me two things that blew my mind wide open. Believe me, my facial expression did a complete 360 after I saw....
1. The “augmented reality” feature from Konami’s Love Plus game, in which a simple paper printout of a symbol (in this case, a plus sign and a heart mark) creates a 3-D image of a Love Plus character in the finished photo when taken with a webcam (see above). It even automatically adds the correct copyright information to any situation, whether you want it or not. Talk about a killer app...
2. The Hatsune Miku concert from March 2010, in which the virtual Vocaloid idol finally became as “real” as virtual idol can with the aid of state-of-the-art projection and a special curved screen. Finally, the holographic promise of anime pop concerts in Macross city (or Megazone 23, your choice) has been made manifest, and the only natural reaction to this alien lifeform, judging from this audience, is to cheer or scream...or both.
Maybe you've seen both of these examples before. Fuck, maybe you're even waving around a glow stick as I type this. Either way, what I saw gave me acute future shock. That's in part because philosophically, we're at a dead end. The simulations just keep getting better and better. But that's besides the point...As much as Japan pundits are now wringing their hands over the nation falling behind in the tech and gaming sweepstakes, here are two startling examples of Japan doing things that fall into no other category other than "magic" with emerging and existing technologies.
The precedents go back to the post-war era, when Japan pioneered the art of miniaturizing transistors and became a world leader in the consumer electronics racket. Japan didn't invent the TV or the radio or the cassette player or the computer game, but they sure managed to put a big old Made in Japan stamp on them.
So, at the risk of sounding really naive, I’d like to think that the ever-increasing Apple and Android-ization of our daily lives will give the guys in the lab (especially the really old guy who smells like an ashtray) another chance to hit a home run. Not saying they will, and all bets are off, but it's hard not to feel like there's at least another brass ring up for grabs...unless it too turns out to be a hologram.
The catch is that otaku desire and obsession seems to be in the driver’s seat this time, rather than the needs of the nuclear family (see also: anime). Lots will depend on whether the corporate owned tech that gives birth to Love Plus and Vocaloid will ever be developed beyond 2D fetishism. I don't know. Maybe otaku themselves should put down the doujinsji and figure out how to 3D laser-project? After all, military radar helped to create television, and World War I was the cradle of wireless radio...
DISCUSSION TOPICS Can otaku content spread to the mainstream? Otaku subculture vs. mainstream anime and manga Divisions within the otaku community Moe and new models of creativity Otaku power, sexuality, and identification Ukiyo-e: 2010 is 1910 Japan as “the Other” Pachinko! Anime as nationalist propaganda machine Galgames and the end of the Japanese game industry
J-POP in the USA: Past and Present
Lecture by Patrick Macias
Over the last few years, Japanese pop exports such as anime, manga,
and video games have had an enormous impact on people’s lives in the
United States. But how did the current demand for Japanese cultural
products develop, and where is it going?
In this presentation, Patrick Macias will present an overview of the
development of J-pop fandom in America, from fans of early anime like
Astro Boy to the new breed of self-identified “otaku”.
Japanese pop culture represents an enormous opportunity for both
teachers and students alike to share and learn from, and this
presentation will also offer some ideas for using anime and manga in
the classroom as an educational tool.
About the speaker: Patrick Macias is currently the Editor-in-Chief of OTAKU USA magazine, a bi-monthly newsstand publication about anime and manga. He is also the author of numerous books including TOKYOSCOPE: THE JAPANESE CULT FILM COMPANION, JAPANESE SCHOOLGIRL INFERNO: TOKYO TEEN FASHION SUBCULTURE HANDBOOK, and OTAKU IN USA, published in Japan by Ohta Shuppan.
Patrick has spoken about Japanese pop culture for UCLA’s J-Wave
Conference, the Japan Society of Northern California, the Consulate General of Japan in San Francisco, and at Temple University Japan Campus.
Time and Date
1:30pm – 3:00pm
Sunday, May 3
San Francisco State University
College of Humanities
Room 133 (Humanities Auditorium)
“Please have exact change.
Please bring your student ID with you.”
NCJTA (Northern California Japanese Teachers’ Association) members, free
Northern California Japanese Teachers’ Association official website: ncjta.org
Because you have lots of money, truly do worship the god Mammon, and need things to spend it on in the form of even more money: the Japanese branch of the Franklin Mint now brings you the Shotaro Ishinomori 70th Anniversary-of-his-Birth Commemorative Kamen Rider Coin Set.
Limited to 7,000 pieces, a blazing white display case contains 10 count'-em US half dollars emblazoned with the amazing likenesses of the righteous Showa Riders created by the guiding hand of the late Henshin Pimp himself.
With tax and shipping, the set will do you about $300 worth of damage. If that seems like too steep a price to pay, it is acceptable to beg like a dog for it for Kamen Rider Christmas.
Director: Kazuya Sasahara Original Manga (released in the USA as Apocalypse Meow): Motofumi Kobayashi Format: 23 min. 12 episodes Target Viewers: Survival game fans and military fans Anticipated Customers: Clients who are looking to invest in imaging contents that are on a par with those by PIXAR
Plan Objective: The concept of this work is the development of real and fierce combat by cute and fluffy animals. In these days when people have become too used to seeing people die in movies, we wish to use cute animals as the characters to give viewers a stronger feeling of the misery of the wars that are taking place in this world.
Story: Packy, Botasky and Rats are special operations experts working
in a private military company. Every day they are embroiled in combat
somewhere around the world. In the first episode, they intend to come
to the assistance of a hostage captured by guerrillas demanding the
withdrawal of the US Army, but instead become surrounded by a large
number of guerrillas.
BECAUSE YOU DEMANDED IT...here's the goddamn Tohokushinsha booth, already! According to the exhibitor's guide, the ONLY thing the company was there to promote was a new anime called REDLINE (not Red Noah, sadly), so I guess they threw together this Drive-In Movie sized Yamato display at the last second just for us...Although as I tried to explain earlier, the name of the game was strictly "Yamato 2 pachinko, or get lost". They had a few of those glossy press kits up for grabs and I quickly stuffed a couple down my pants making "robble robble" noises while the Yuki booth bunnies distracted the shutterbugs.
There were little meeting tables set up in front of the display, which is weird since here we see two guys who actually prefer to be standing! Man, Japan sure is wacky sometimes! The guy at left could be asking the suit, "What is this...Yamato? Is it dangerous?" or "Where's the toilet?" or maybe this is photographic evidence of the inevitable Pachinko Yamato 3 being laid out like a TAF Wansee Conference. Who can say for sure?
The only other thing I saw that made me think of you hot boys was this glass case featuring a few original Kazuo Komatsubara illustrations including some from 999 and my oddly titled JAL in-flight movie, "Captain Harlock in Arcadia" (above). Good thing you both weren't at the show because I think we would have smashed open the case and then fought over who gets the pic only to accidentally tear it to shreds like total retards.
But yeah, that's it! Since you guys don't care about women wearing tight yellow female space navigator uniforms you may now exit the building! Unless Steve would like to wander over to the Bandai booth in a fugue stage and present a Byzantine business scheme inspired by his crackpot comments on other people's blogs while Tim might be tempted to stay at the Yamato booth asking questions about the availability of audio drama cassettes from 1983 until the cops hauled him away screaming in a straight-jacket. 'Aint pachinko grand? THE END (?!TheNish?!)
Ok, that's the official word on my lecture this Fri/13 at Temple University Japan Campus. I didn't choose that colour or the font for this flyer (which you have to click in order to make it a "biggie"), but being a massive fan of fantasy surrogates myself, I did indeed write my own copy. This event is free and open to the public so show up in your very best Dragonball club shirts and ask a bunch of questions I can't answer about Inu-Yasha.