Beryl and Addie: An Unexpected Delight

June 8, 2007

Of course, I wasn’t dreading their visit or anything, but I definitely did not expect to sit through two hours of immensely entertaining storytelling. I was all ready to ask Beryl and Addie about their most unusual experience as staff members at the anime convention, but obviously, it would have been like asking a mother to pick her favorite child. It was very reassuring to hear Beryl confirm my theory of the power of “mega-subcultures” being derived from the nature of their various intersections, as well as from the celebration of the minority. As Beryl said, “if we learn about each other’s differences, we start seeing our similarities…and all of a sudden those guys don’t seem so strange anymore. A-Cen in itself is going to be about the celebration of a foreign culture that people find cool. Our facination with Japanese culture is a direct expression of American culture…we’re open to see what’s good about people outside our world. As Americans, we’re always looking for the next fresh thing.” Evidently, the anime culture has persistently leaked into the American mainstream. From my experience at the convention, it is apparent that, as with”the geek,” the otaku has unashamedly embraced its own creation, took back the power of their name, and declared their rightful foothold in the world of “the mundanes.”

Indeed, “art is in the hands of the people now.” We no longer have to be elitist and selectively chosen artists to create.


mainstream vs. subcultures

June 8, 2007

I thought the analogy that “butler/maid cafes are to otome as hostess bars are to salary men” is quite fascinating. It never occurred to me that for some people, butler/maid cafes can be as much of an everyday (and necessary) escape into a fantasy land. What is the otome aversion to “reality,” or any other more common form of escape? On a similar note, do mass/mainstream pop culture and subcultures (or high cultures) exist in opposite binaries? Can all subcultures be lumped into one social force opposing pop culture? What does the fluidity and permeability of a culture have to do with the authenticity of its “essence”?


Attack on Pokemon?

June 3, 2007

I want to add this (albeit late) because I think there are some issues that came up in class that need clarification. I want to start by saying that my comments in class were in no way an attack on Sean or anyone else who enjoys Pokemon, nor were they an attack on the industry as a whole. I want to point out, however, that I was simply trying to introduce to everyone that there is a “business” involved.

The following is taken from the wikipedia article on Pokemon (obviously not an authority, but I checked all citations and they are accurate):

Pokémon (ポケモン, Pokemon?, IPA: [ˈpoʊ.keɪ.mɑn]) is a “MEDIA FRANCHISE” owned by video game giant Nintendo and created by Satoshi Tajiri around 1995. Originally released as a pair of interlinkable Game Boy role-playing video games, Pokémon has since become the “second most successful and LUCRATIVE video game-based media franchise in the world”, falling only behind Nintendo’s Mario series.[1] Pokémon properties have since been MERCHANDISED into anime, manga, trading cards, toys, books, and other media. The franchise celebrated its tenth anniversary on 27 February 2006, and as of 1 December 2006, cumulative sold units of the video games (including home console versions, such as the “Pikachu” Nintendo 64) have reached more than 155 million copies.[2]

I have put in caps and quotations things that I want to point out in this introduction that will emphasize my point. I believe a short lesson from my economics course is also in order. Nintendo is a firm, concerned with maximizing profits. Any firm that does not have this as it’s priority is known as a “former firm” (bad joke). Pokemon is a fully marketed franchise that is done so with the purpose of maximizing returns for the company. In doing this, they have created a franchise that is highly entertaining and enjoyable for many, yet it is not given out for free BECAUSE the reason they created this franchise is because they (Nintendo) saw it as being a profitable activity.

My concluding point is that, while we have engaged in these long heated debates about “the world of Pokemon” and how it is all these important things to all these important people, we must understand that it is still a business and it has been marked to market quite effectively. THIS IS NOT INTENDED AS AN ATTACK ON POKEMON! I am not trying to take any value from it as I know there are many people to whom it is of significant importance and meaning. I have things that are important to me as well in a similar manner. I love the Pirates of the Carribean series and particularly the character of Jack Sparrow, but I know that he is not a real character and that Johnny Depp does enjoy playing this role but is not doing it for free. Because of his desire to maximize his profitability, he has given me something of importance. It is the way the world works. Please do not attack my view as being overly “business oriented” although this is the background I can bring to the class, but try to understand what I am saying and acknowledge the facts.

Finally, I went on youtube and did watch an episode of pokemon for my own edification. The protagonist (Ash) was batteling this guy named Brock I think and he had a huge rock snake named Onyx. I was quite entertained and yes, think had I grown up with it, I could perhaps still be interested.

Nicely done Nintendo.

– Alan


Beryl and Addie’s Discussion

May 31, 2007

I liked the discussion yesterday with Addie and Beryl Turner.  Beryl, in his discussion of his own personal history with anime and manga and how he got into the con culture, seemed to really reiterate the classic stories we’d been told through Otaku Unite and a number of readings.  I especially noticed it in his and Addie’s description of “the early days” when a bootleg VHS tape of some anime was coveted and small groups of friends huddled around televisions to watch original Japanese TV shows. 

 

I also was really interested in how Beryl got his start in the con circuit, and especially given Lily’s response (at least I think it was Lily…) that the con culture is not just about whatever the object of the con is.  In other words, ACen isn’t just about anime and manga, as Beryl said it’s about “community” and “making it a smaller world.”  There’s a community at conventions of all types, be they science-fiction, anime or gaming, and it was through this community that he managed to climb the ladder and end up chairing this year’s ACen.  I think the parallels in the different cultures of conventions are interesting (if I were in a sociology course I would probably talk about social and culture capital), and I think it was really helpful to talk to the two of them about their experiences. 

 

I, as did many other I see, really liked the notion of the “mundanes” as opposed to the otaku, and I liked how JK Rowling co-opted and extended its meaning to become “muggles.”  I’m not really a Harry Potter fan, but I like seeing how aspects of these seemingly fringe social groups become mainstream.


Addie & Beryl

May 31, 2007

Today’s discussion with Addie and Beryl was pretty interesting, and brought to light a number of things that I wouldn’t have guessed. For instance, that all of the staff and volunteers at ACen, including those who would probably be considered “higher-ups”, were unpaid volunteers; Anime Central, then, is most definitely a labor of love (or obsession/addiction, haha. But I like to think of it as love. ^^). Though I think that the only difference in atmosphere that I felt at ACen vs. Anime Expo, a commercially sponsored Con, was mainly in the dealers room, where there would be HUGE booths for each sponsoring company, as well as the number of panels on “what’s coming up for [company name] in anime” type things, as well as a larger number of advertisements in general (programming booklet etc.). However, the fan interaction, I found is this pretty much the same, which is somewhat reassuring (of the fact that an increased sense of commercialism in the exhibit hall does not equal a different kind of fan-base.)

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ACEN! Beryl!

May 30, 2007

I really enjoyed talking to Beryl today. He was a fun person to talk to and it was awesome to get a behind the scenes look at the con. Addie was awesome, too, and his artwork was great.

It was funny when someone asked Beryl if he considered himself an otaku, he responded with a “DAMN STRAIGHT!” It really reinforced the idea that in America, cons and otaku are all about community. I could really sense a strong sense of community at ACEN.

I had no idea ACEN could draw around 12,000~14,000 people. That number is INSANE. It really put things into perspective about the popularity of manga and anime today. It was also interesting that Beryl mentioned how science fiction cons that have existed for over 10 years cannot match the attendance rate at ACEN. To be fair, I think a lot more young people are into manga/anime than science fiction today, which could be a reason for their mass appeal.

All in all, Beryl’s visit was fun and he was really friendly. ACEN was lucky to have him as the chairperson this year!


I Have or I Am?

May 29, 2007

Speaking on the subject of how inter-sex individuals and their families view the state of inter-sex, Emi Koyama brought up the question of whether inter-sex individuals view themselves as having inter-sex or being inter-sex, especially in light of the fact that there has been a recent decision to change the name from inter-sex to Disorders of Sex Development. Would an inter-sex individual say, “I have inter-sex,” implying a condition as the new name seems to indicate, or would they say “I am inter-sex,” implying an identity? Treating inter-sex as identity, it would seem, renders it as something that colors every aspect of someone’s life while treating it as a condition leaves it as only one on a long list of self-defining characteristics.

This same question can also be applied to the “Otaku.” In some contexts otaku is viewed as an identity, whether it is outsiders pining this label on others or those who are self-proclaimed. For many of these identity otakus it does not seem that any segement of their life remains untouched by the state of otaku-ness. To draw from fictitious examples, we can look at the example found in the characters of “Genshiken” and Train Man. These characters were obviously and pervasively “otaku,” and being otaku took on more connotations than just being extremely obsessed with something—it was a way of life, a mode of being.

On the other hand it seems that some would treat Otaku as a condition, particularly those who are (hyper) critical of it. The Miyazaki incident, as related by Kinsella and Schodt, brought to mind the way in which otaku can be perceived as a disease, something put on with a pathology and symptoms, something that is a singular (broken) facet of a person’s personality. Otaku becomes a condition that may demand treatment.

Is there any right way to approach labeling, be it in the context of an inter-sex individual, an otaku or > enter defining characteristic