Steve McClure enters the online world of otaku, where he considers raising an army of his own children
DESPITE WHAT SOME people say, there’ll always be a market for stories about quirky and wacky stuff in Japan.
One reason is the quasiracist Orientalism that sees Japan as an exotic playground populated by odd and occasionally endearing people who are always good for a laugh (except for when they lose their sense of place and do sneaky things like attacking Pearl Harbor).
But you can’t deny that Japan comes out with some pretty weird shit. Ample proof of that is afforded by the many English language otaku blogs and websites that populate cyberia. There’s no sense of sneering superciliousness here just nerdy enthusiasm for cool and (often) offbeat products and services.
The highly informative and frequently updated Akihabara News website, for example, recently shared the earth shattering news that a battery operated “mop ball” is now on the market at last! The mop ball rolls around by itself on the floor, picking up dust along the way. It’s apparently a big hit with cats and dogs. But, as one poster to the site notes, “guess it will have some problems with them corners.”
The video game industry can always be relied on to score high on the weird o meter. An excellent online source of up to date info on Japanese game news is Japanator, which bills itself as “the otaku’s companion.” Romantically challenged otaku will presumably welcome a Japanator news item noting that this summer will see the release of a sequel to the role playing video game “Conception: Please Give Birth to my Child!” In the original game, “you [the main character] went around romancing the female characters in the hopes that they’d have your children. These children then become a part of your party, fighting in battles alongside you.”
To quote Dave Barry, I swear I am not making this up in fact I can’t conceive of such a game. And was it mere coincidence that when I clicked on the Japanator site, there was a banner ad at the top of the page titled “Dating, Love and Marriage Date Japanese Ladies?” Do these poor unsuspecting females know that otaku who are fantasizing about spreading their seed to create their own kiddie army want to date them?
One of the best otaku websites is the truly outstanding Culture Japan site. It’s a well designed, well written and newsy one stop source of info on all things otaku. Culture Japan is put together by Tokyo resident Danny Choo, who “runs a media production company called Mirai Inc who’s [sic] main focus is to share Japanese culture with the world though web, TV, mobile, print, products and conferences.” The company even has a flagship mascot anime character, Mirai Suenaga, a high school girl with a de rigueur gravity defying bustline.
Otakudom’s underlying Lolita fixation rises to the fore on the vaguely creepy Random Fantasy blog, which has a softporn section for the poor geeks unable to find true love through that “Dating, Love and Marriage” ad.
The list of otaku websites and blogs is endless. It includes hardcore, deeply obsessive blogs like the wonderfully named Organization Anti Social Geniuses and the serious but fun Manga Therapy (“a blog/ site that takes a look into the psychological aspects of Japanese manga characters, past and present”), as well as lighter fare such as Japanese Trademark Database.
The Japan Blog Directory is a good place to begin your exploration of the online otaku world. But be warned: your life may never be the same.
Steve McClure publishes the online music-industry newsletter McClureMusic.com. He has lived in Tokyo since 1985.