(right) Komiria, the eldest daughter of Max and Miria Jenius from Macross
One of my hobbies is Japanese animation, also known as anime (ah-nee-may). 'Anime' is the Japanese word for all animation, but the popular American usage of the term takes it to mean animation produced in Japan (by Japanese creators) for Japanese audiences. I also enjoy Japanese comics, known as manga (mahn-gah).
Anime is a legitimate artform, a medium of creative expression as diverse as it is deep. Anime is meant to be enjoyed, and is therefore a form of entertainment...and what a rich form of entertainment it is! full of variety and substance, and a reflection of Japan's fascinating culture.
The anime titles available on American store shelves are not even a close approximation of what is available in Japan in terms of pure volume and content. You'll find anime for all age groups, from children to fully grown adults. We're not simply talking about films "for the whole family," but films for each member of the family. There are contemporary dramas, historical dramas, all sorts of comedies, science fiction stories, fantasy stories, horror stories ... Just about any genre or style you can think of is represented in anime. The stories make you cheer, they make you cry, they make you laugh, they make you jump out of your seat, and they make you think.
In Japan, animation is not "just for kids". It is recognized as a respected medium of expression, where mature themes can be presented seriously. Even children's anime is more intelligent than the average American fare (in my opinion). The richness of anime owes much to Japan's huge manga industry/culture. Manga, read by boys and girls and men and women of all ages, account for over 40% of all books and magazines sold in Japan.
Anime fans are a varied bunch. There are casual viewers and then there are hardcore fans. I would say that I tend towards the hardcore side. To dedicated fans, anime is not something to be watched passively. Rather, it is an interactive experience. Dedicated fans get involved, try to promote the artform, and are compelled to be creative in their "hobby," perhaps taking it a bit further than the original anime creators intended. It is the dedicated fans who seek to know the anime in-depth, beyond the surface, knowing such details as who worked on what show, the names and roles of the voice actors, the significance of certain design details, etc. Refusing to be mindless consumers, die-hard fans are nonetheless voracious collectors of information in whatever form pleases them--such as videos, posters, CDs (offsite link), artbooks, MP3s, cels, models, video games, whatever.
The most hardcore fans are the otaku. The word "otaku" has a variety of Japanese meanings, but has come to refer to the most obsessed fans of them all. There are anime otaku, car otaku, computer otaku, idol singer otaku, cosplay otaku, military otaku, etc. Although some consider the term insulting and degrading, others wear it as a badge of honor. I think that the otaku phenomenon is truly fascinating, and perhaps even refreshing in our society where dilletantes run rampant and everything is presented on the surface-level, with very few individuals encouraged or willing to learn about anything in-depth. Perhaps the otaku ideal (its basic attitude) is something we should aspire to.
(left) The classic characters of Gainax, otaku animators extraordinaire
Here are some things for you to read. In addition to my own essays, I've included interesting, informative, and sometimes humorous articles and links related to otaku:The Politics of Otaku My comments on the history of the word "otaku" and its usage
The current status of "otaku" and Japan's latest youth crisis My thoughts on hikikomori and otaku
The Origins of "Otaku" Why did Japanese fans call each other "otaku"?
The Evolution of the Otaku Concept More of my thoughts on the issue of otaku identity
Talking About Otaku with Weekly Anime Review In 2006, I was interviewed by the Weekly Anime Review Podcast. Follow the link to hear what I had to say.
My Thoughts on Anime : An Interview In 2004, a high school student interviewed me as part of her research project on anime.
Into the Otakingdom: Days and Nights with Toshio Okada My experiences with the Otaking
The Fans Who Would Be Kings My review of: The Notenki Memoirs: Studio Gainax and the Men Who Created Evangelion
A look at "The Four Revolutions of Anime" An historical overview of four major anime titles with a discussion of the Otaku Generation
Maid in Akihabara : Episode 1 Review and Analysis Taking a look at Akihabara, otaku, and maid cafes
Do you know Akiba-kei? Meeting real otaku in Akihabara
I'm alone, but not lonely Volker Grassmuck's brilliant analysis of the otaku lifestyle
Man, Nation & Machine, The Otaku Answer to Pressing Problems of the Media Society (offsite link) (by Volker Grassmuck) is well-written and has several nice insights.
The Incredibly Strange Mutant Creatures... (offsite link) A darker and more sensationalist otaku article by Karl Taro Greenfeld, author of Speed Tribes
Modern boys and mobile girls (offsite link) William Gibson discusses Japan, England, and otaku
Otaku: Japan's gadget geeks dictate tech future (offsite link) An article from CNN.com Asia
Heads Up, Mickey (offsite link) A 1995 Wired article about anime, otaku, and Gainax
Dark Otaku vs. Otaku of Light Cuel explains how to tell the difference (humor)
Favorites by category Me, Enrique Conty, and Mitch Hagmaier independently wrote about what different fan types prefer (humor)
Otakon 96 report (by John Scofield) Otaku can often be found at anime conventions. One popular convention, Otakon, is held annually on the East Coast. The author of this report, John Scofield, was a senior staff member of Otakon and is a really nice guy from what I've seen. F1 readers, specifically--note the references to the cosplay and the game show.
My Anime Expo '96 report
CJAS-relevant Otakon '98 reports
My San Diego Comic-Con '98 Report
Fanime Con 2001 Info and My Fanime Con 2K Report
My Fanime Con 2001 Report
Anime Punch : Post-Armageddicon My review of Anime Punch 2006
Anime Punch 2006 Report (offsite link) In this con report, the Weekly Anime Review podcast discussed the panels I presented at Anime Punch 2006.
Con Report - Anime Punch 2008
What the Avant Gardesmen Have To Say: Anno Hideaki vs. Ikuhara Kunihiko Two anime creators share their viewpoints on art and the industry
International University of Otaku (offsite link)
Otaku no Video liner notes (offsite link) For full effect, read this before, during, and after watching Otaku no Video, Gainax's otaku-culture masterpiece.
Otaku Unite! (offsite link) I did some research work for this anime subculture documentary project.
The Evil Kanemitsu Research Institute (offsite link) "Anime, anime, art, censorship, comic books, culture studies, doujinshi, intercultural communication, manga, moralism, otaku, popular culture, subculture, translation and interpretation."
Anime and Manga Research Circle (offsite link) This is a discussion list I started to establish a community of scholars engaged in anime and manga-related research. I am currently recuiting members, so if you are interested, please feel free to join us.
Anime Fandom Research This is the webpage where I described my (now completed) dissertation research on otaku culture.
Otaku Rooms (offsite link) A Flickr group for sharing otaku room photos
From the CJAS (Cornell Japanese Animation Society) NewsletterCourtesy of Eddie Chen's archive (offsite link)
Thoughts on To-Y (2/3/96)
Stealing the Show: The Secondary Character in Anime (12/7/96)
To Conquer All of Known Space: Legend of the Galactic Heroes (5/2/98)
Miyazaki vs Takahata (12/2/95)
Profile of Shoji Kawamori, Director and Writer of Escaflowne (9/20/97)
In the Eyes of Hideaki Anno, Writer and Director of Evangelion (5/3/97)
The Movie Disney Couldn't Make So They Bought It (9/7/96) (group article)
Kodomo no Omocha (Child's Toy): Even Elementary Kids Have Their Problems (12/7/96) (with Dave Welte)
Genki to the Extreme (5/3/97)
Bubblegum Cats (4/18/98) (group article)
Article Crisis (2/8/97) (group article)
"I'm Lupin... Lupin the Third" (9/6/97)
Lupin (article) III (2/20/99)
Tenchi Muyo! A Retrospect (9/3/96)
It's Time to Meet the Characters (11/2/96)
Magical Girl Pretty Sammy (5/4/96)
Magical Girl Pretty Sammy 2 (12/6/97)
Princess Army: Wedding Combat -- A Fashionable Enough Judo Girl (8/30/97)
Nadia, Oh My God! Nadia (8/29/98) (with Greg Marques)
To-Y: Live 1998 (12/5/98)
The First Battou-Sai (and related Kenshin notes) (2/27/99)
Otaku no Dreaming: The Daicon III and IV Videos (5/8/99)
Open the nExt: serial experiments lain (1/29/00)
Fandom and Related Media
Tokimeki Memorial: Forever With You (10/4/97)
Koko wa Hot Truck? (10/18/97) (group article)
Manga Review: Pulp (5/2/98)
Lone Wolf and Cub: The Baby Cart Assassin (2/6/99)
Costume Drama (4/25/98)
Anime Fashion (3/30/96)
Our Favorite Things (2/22/97)
Anime Artbooks (12/5/98)
Pictures of You: the wonderful world of anime posters (and stuff) (5/1/99)
Otaku no CJAS: Graffiti of the Otaku Generation 1988 (11/8/97)
CJAS: What Else We're About (1/24/98)
CJAS: A Comparison and the Final Thoughts of a Graduating Otaku (is that a self-contradiction?) (5/2/98)
10 Years of Decadence, CJAS-Style (another CJAS history article) (9/19/98)
Anime Expo '96: What We Did, What We Saw, and How We Waited in Line (9/7/96)
The Tenchi Muyo in Love Premiere at Anime Expo '96 (10/26/96)
Otakon 1997: Views from the Crowd (9/27/97) (group article)
San Diego Comic-Con International '98 (9/12/98)
Anime Grapevine articles
(More to come)Computers in the anime-making process (10/29/00)
Blue Submarine No. 6 (a review) (11/5/00)
Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou (a review) (11/5/00)
The perception of anime in Japan. (It's not as popular as you might think) (11/13/00)
A real-life analysis of the Rurouni Kenshin sword techniques (6/4/01)
OAV versus OVA: what's the difference? (12/16/03)
Information regarding the "real life" otaku interviews (1/5/04)
Some thoughts on anime fans being perceived as "extreme" (2/5/04)
Miscellaneous articles"The Popularization of Anime" (offsite link) (originally published on Anime Grapevine, and currently published on the website of Otaku Unite!)
A Tetrad Analysis of Anime (11/7/98)
Morrissey meets Anime (10/12/05)
Pre-web anime fandom (3/24/06)