It is good to be different, original and basically to be yourself. If you like something that people look down on, that’s even better. The only person you need to impress and satisfy is yourself. If someone criticises or makes fun of you for what you like, then it reflects a problem with that person and perhaps they are not a good match for you. In which case, it is time to find people who you do energetically match with.
In this final part, I’ll discuss a bit more about anime and manga. They are typical interests of otaku, but also loved by so many people worldwide.
Anime and Otaku
Japanese anime is incredible. I gained an appreciation for it later in life and then had to play catchup. It contains a vast range of stories, genres, dramas and movies. Some of the stories may seem fantastical with imaginary characters, but the topics they deal with are pretty down to earth. As I mentioned, anime is a common interest of otaku.
People afraid of admitting their otaku tendencies
At school my best friend was a great fan of Japanese anime and manga. At the time, I didn’t know much about it or care for it. As I said, I was more interested in Micheal Jackson. Once he showed me some of his anime movies. One of them was the famous anime movie ‘Urotsukidoji: Legend of the Overfiend’.
If you don’t know this anime, it is probably one of the worst animes to show someone for the first time, unless they are a rarefied pervert. It is basically in the genre of sex/horror anime and is usually classed as X-rated as it contains scenes of demons raping women. It’s the kind of DVD they may sell in sex shops under the anime section.
To put this in perspective, I had grown up watching harmless kids animations like Dangermouse or ‘Dogtanian and the three Muskehounds’.
I watched Urotsukidoji and thought ‘what the hell is this sick stuff?’ After that I had no interest in watching any more anime if that was all it was about – demons raping women.
There are different Anime for everyone’s taste
Later on, I discovered that actually there are lots of anime genres to match different audience’s tastes and some anime is really exceptional stuff. I really enjoyed Street Fighter, Devil Man and Fist of the North Star. Some animes even have stories that tackle deeper life issues, even though they seem to be designed for children. Some animes are based on interesting subjects such as the supernatural, the universe and human emotions.
Basically there is anime for everyone. My wife really like Detective Conan, a kind of crime detective anime series about a genius police detective trapped in the body of a young boy. She loves detective dramas and crime. It doesn’t interest me though.
Hajime no Ippo
One of my favourite series was Hajime no Ippo. It is basically a story about a young kid who becomes a boxer. We follow his trials, his hard training, his clumsy attempts to date a girl he likes, and his fights that take him closer to becoming a champion It is very similar to the Rocky movies and is the complete opposite to that animated movie Urotsukidoji and the raping by demons.
I also really enjoyed Kaiji: the ultimate gambler. It is so good, I have watched it three times. I really wish they would make a season 3. This is a story about the burdensome effects of debt and about being a failure in life. However it contains the hopeful story of a young man who just wants to make a better life for himself and is prepared to risk his whole life just to do so. It is a very intense anime.
They also made a very commercially succesful movie based on it. However, the anime is hands down the best, as in the movie, some scenes had to be dramatically shortened. For example, they missed out a lot of the gambling scenes on board the ship Espoir, which had to be cut to fit into the shorter run time.
Also the last I was in Japan, I discovered a lesser well-known manga called Shamo. it is named after the Shamo chicken, which is an aggressive and big-boned chicken from Japan, sometimes used for cock fights. Shamo relates to a young man, which the manga centres around.
This anime is a story about a troubled young boy who goes to prison for killing his parents (yes – extreme, I know) and then learns how to fight from a Karate master in gaol. He gets released early as he was a minor when he committed his crime and then goes on to become a professional fighter, but is hated by everyone because of his dark past.
This is not a story about redemption. Shamo is a bad man who doesn’t care about anything except getting stronger and winning. Yet, we can’t help but sympathise with him. For me, it helps connect with some of my own darker feelings and perhaps teenage angst.
It is a very dark manga. I collected the entire comic series and brought it back to the UK. Unfortunately, I can’t read it as my Japanese is not at a high-enough level, but you can follow the story just by looking at the drawings.
Here is an image of Shamo training in the mountains. Just looking at this picture motivates me to start exercising.
Not being honest to what you like
The curious thing was that when I was a kid, I noticed a few kids seemed to really like anime and manga but never openly admitted it. At school, I often accompanied my friend to a manga comic shop in Birmingham. Whilst there, he would lose himself in the shop looking at various merchandise. For me, I honestly tried to find something I liked there, but it didn’t interest me the time, so I would just wait for him to finish. He would also buy things to sell to other kids at school.
One time he met up with a couple of kids who he was selling some manga to. These were two relatively popular kids and on both occasions, they seemed kind of embarrassed and coy when I was there, as they realised that someone else knew their ‘secret’ that they liked manga and anime.
Personally, I didn’t care whether they liked manga or anime or not. As I said, I have my own otaku interests. But I was curious why these popular kids became all embarrassed to be found out.
Then I realised that actually a lot of people like these kind of ‘otaku things’ but are ashamed to admit it. They are afraid of being judged. What a strange thing.
Why should popular kids care about such things. Could it be that popular kids are actually not so brave deep down or that they are not being true to themselves? And what happens when these kids become adults? Do they continue to lie about that they like in life and just put on a show? Food for thought.
This is the reason why I really like going to Hyper Japan festival in London, UK. When I go there, I see so many young people dressed up in the most outstanding cosplay outfits, with makeup and hairpieces, all based on certain anime characters.
They look incredible and they are not bothered at all at how they look. They are honest to themselves and it is refreshing to see people enjoy themselves and not care about how others judge them.
Exceptions to self-expression
This may seem to go against my general message, but there are times in life when you have to conform. Otherwise, it can cause you all sorts of problems or hold you back if you try to express too much. Here are some examples:
School is one of those things you have little control over in life. It’s more of a training ground for young souls. The training doesn’t last forever. You can’t always control your school, or who your classmates are. And truthfully most kids at school are going to be jackasses and can be incredibly cruel.
School is the time to conform if you want to get by. If you don’t, you may find yourself the target of bullying for the remainder of your school years. It is simply not worth the hassle or the fight. The great thing is that school doesn’t last too long. Once you get to college or university age, or you leave, than the reverse comes true. You enter an age where you can start to freely express yourself.
Hicksville or ChavsTown
If you live in a small-minded community, where people standing out can get abuse or threats, than you may have to be wary of expressing too much otaku-ness. Cities like London are great places to express yourself and find like-minded people, but smaller towns are not so.
Making a living, means to a certain extent you have to conform. Some jobs will require a certain dress-code and adherence to a certain appearance. It all depends what you choose for your work.
In your own spare time, do what you love though. Work is not your life.
Ramming it down others throats
There’s nothing more annoying than being the guy or gal who shoves their thing in some one else’s faces as a kind of message. Its kind of like the gay guy in the comedy series ‘Little Britain’, who is proud of being ‘the only gay in the village’ and just keeps repeating it to everyone to get attention.
Embrace your otaku-ness because it gives you life-satisfaction, not because you want to make a statement, get more attention or use it as a weapon to make others feel uncomfortable. If this last paragraph makes you feel uncomfortable, than it’s probably true.
How to appear less Otaku, (whilst still being an otaku)
Well to finish, here is a small bit of guidance of how to achieve two things: The coolness and bravery aspects of being an otaku, combined with a sense of conformity and style so you can be attractive to others.
1. Firstly, never give up what you love.
If it gives you please in life and doesn’t hurt anyone else, then keep doing it. No one has the right to take that away from you. Be true to yourself.
2. Embrace the style-side
Find a friend or family member you can trust, who is sensitive enough to give you fashion advice. I’m sorry, but your taste in fashion sucks.
Become more fashionable. This is not very hard to do. Just study people you admire or buy some male fashion magazines. Just do it. You can be an otaku and look cool and attract girls.
3. Build a bigger network of friends.
Otaku tend to hang out with other otaku. Naturally it is comfortable to be with people who won’t judge you and accept you. In fact you mirror each other. But the risk is that you will lock yourself into a limited world.
Sure, there are lots of assholes out there, but you don’t need to be friends with any of them. There are also plenty of decent people out there also. Give them a chance to get to meet you.
Lay off the porn. It is just a poor substitute for human relationships. It won’t give you anything other than short-term pleasure. If you go too much into it, it can suck your life away and create a muggy cloud over you, that people can pick up on. The reason is that it is addictive and low-energy.
Go to the gym, exercise, or simply walk more. Do anything that improves your body and energy. Most otaku are young males in relatively good health so it is good to work with that energy. Becoming more active really changes your energy-vibe, which makes you more positive and even more attractive. Exercise clears any negative vibes around you.
Wash every day. Some otaku do not wash. If you do not wash at least every other day, you will smell bad. It doesn’t matter if you don’t feel like it – just do it already! Some Otaku don’t wash as a way of pushing people away. This indicates a deeper mental or emotional problem, that they need help with.
It may be worth exploring just what is the cause behind adopting the otaku lifestyle and mindset. Perhaps it is a way of avoiding a painful situation in life. By dressing in an unfashionable way, you are effectively putting a barrier between you and the world. You are saying ‘stay away’. This is especially the case with an otaku who doesn’t wash and consequently smells.
I think it’s fine to escape for a while and throw yourself into something that give you pleasure like following the life of a pop idol or a favourite anime. But eventually, you have to face life. You may find that even though it may be very painful, once you pass through it, your life will dramatically transform for the better.
Be proud that you have your own way
Finally, be proud of yourself. It takes guts to follow a counterculture lifestyle. In the grand scheme of things, it will give your life a richness and makes you interesting. Perhaps people may not appreciate that, but so what. No one is perfect.
Side-note regarding the title of this article: ‘You are all Otaku’
The title of this article is paraphrased by Sakurazawa Nyoiti’ 1960’s classic book, ‘You Are All Sanpaku‘. This is a book promoting the Japanese Macrobiotic diet. Sakurazawa Nyoiti (also known as George Ohsawa), was one of the founders and a fervent promoter of the Macrobiotic diet in the West.
Sanpaku is a made-up term, which relates to a state of poor health, specifically chronic fatigue, low sex-drive, bad temper, poor sleep and an unclear mind.
At first glance, the word Otaku has nothing to do with Sanpaku, but perhaps some aspects of the otaku lifestyle has some similar components.
Go forth and be at one with the otaku within
This is the end of this three-part series. I think the underlying message is that otaku is just a form of self-expression and of finding your own ‘tribe’. Otaku have to be quite strong mentally to go against normal society and express and fully embrace their interests in what they like. I think it would be great if more of us could so the same. The world would be a much more interesting and colourful place.
Imagine if we all looked the same, dressed the same, listening to the same music, went to the same places, had the same experiences? Well we may as well be robots. And yet, there are some people in life who do live like this.
So I say, embrace the inner otaku however he or she manifests and bring colour to your life. And if the inner otaku is not accepted where you live, then it’s time to find the place where you do belong. Your spirit will thrive.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this series of articles. And that you are now ready to embrace your inner otaku.
My 2 years old son with my dragon ball figurine and a female doll I won in a shooting arcade in an Aeon mall in Japan. I don’t know which anime it is from. My son pulled off parts of her jetpack.
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