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Otaqu, Where Did They Come From?
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[0호] 승인 2005.07.07  
트위터 페이스북 네이버 구글
Park Su-kyoung
Reporter
lugie@hanmail.net

What would you think of someone who recited the lines from movies longer than 2 hours, who spent most of their pay seeing performances by obscure teenage singers, and who bought all kinds of character models in the games? Such people are otaques. This word comes from Japan, as you would guess from the sound of the word.

Its original meaning is ‘you’, representing the second person pronoun. But nowadays the word is usually used to designate people who go crazy about one field like animation, game, movie or science fiction(sci-fi). At first sight otaques seem to be strange and queer. If you have heard about otaques, the word may brings bad images to your mind. Otherwise, you would wonder who they are.

Otaques first appeared in the 1980s. Their emergence was related to the Japanese artisan spirit. Artisans absorbed in one thing that they were interested in, and became the best at it.

This is the common point with the otaqu. And the Japanese closed education system has also given a hand in the creation of otaques. This education system, in which students cannot show their individuality, makes them lose interest in study, become violent in school and also feel alienated. And gradually they indulge in their interests through social groups, which focus on individuality not the whole. Then we can call them otaques.

Now we can tell the difference between an otaqu and a fan or a buff. A fan, for instance, buys a CD that they like and watches programs their stars appear in. Buffs buy a soundtrack that they like, collect articles and recite lines. They could be called specialists in that sphere.

But otaques write down the names of the support crew and extras in a movie after the movie is over and they even distinguish the different filming techniques. They also buy related products regardless of the price and analyze the products as though it were their job. They sacrifice their money, study, and even something important things in their life for their favorite. They are more specialized than the experts.

To help understand otaques, here is an example. Someone plays computer games as a hobby. He gradually indulges in it, spends every night on a game and analyzes the characters in it. Then he collects the character models, buys their sound tracks and memorizes them. He searches for more interesting games and he finds that there are no more interesting games. So he establishes a company with his fellow otaques and makes games with his own hands. This is an otaqu.

To the common person, these otaques are incomprehensible. Actually when asked about otaques in Japan, most people answered that the otaques wear T-shirts with cartoon heroes and glasses with thick lenses and carry gaudy game CDs under their arm. Sometimes they have even been called as social dirt after an otaqu committed a string of murders. The serial killer committed it for his sexual satisfaction and he was revealed as an otaqu. Actually there are otaques who study murder or S & M(sadism and masochism).

On the other hand, some people say that otaques will be the heroes who will lead Japanese culture in the 21st century. Then what do they say about otaques? The otaques analyze their work, research their techniques and try to learn about their favorite subject endlessly.

They get details out of the work about what the maker’s intends. And they also watch the maker’s development intently in the role of observer. From these things otaques can gain power, which they can use to create their own works. Okada Tosio, the founder of GAINAX, is that case. He created the worldwide computer game ‘Princess maker’ and has even given lectures about otaques at Tokyo University.

In this article, I have looked what otaques are. And what do you think about otaques now? Are they still madmen or the leaders of culture in the 21st century? Since the opening of the door to Japan there have been some people who are self-styled otaques in our country.

How should we understand them in a society where traditional customs are still strong? It is a serious problem not to be overlooked.
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