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Otaku Spaces by Patrick W. Galbraith

Otaku Spaces

by Patrick W. Galbraith

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This book is a revealing exploration of the Otaku culture in Japan. The author interviews several diehard fans and lets each one speak out about how his or her collections (sometimes barely) fit into their lives. If you enjoy manga or anime and self-identify as a geek, you may well recognize these Otaku as kindred spirits. ( )
  alsatia | Apr 9, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The word Otaku has a certain stereotype of the creepy obsessed anime fan living in a basement. The authors set out to go beyond this stereotype to show the real Otaku by connected them to the spaces they occupy. To do this, these spaces are photographed and various individuals form the Otaku community in Japan are interviewed. The
style of the book is easy to read but the gallery copy I received lacked most of the photographs. I assume these will be in the final product. The few pictures presents added another layer of depth to the interviews. I love the wide selection of individual featured who are
defined as Otaku. It does help if the reader have some very basic knowledge of Japan modern culture but a novice will not be lost. ( )
  corcra | May 27, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Part curiosity, part sociology, part anthropology, this book looks at the lives of a handful of people who identify themselves as otaku. Otaku may very cursorily be described as avid collectors and/or fans of anime, manga, technology, and a myriad other subjects. Each individual is interviewed by the author and accompanied by a photograph of them in their living space or 'otaku room'. Each interview is fascinating in its own way, teasing out how the individual sees themselves and their hobby. They range from housewives to intellectuals to young men living with their parents, but all share an almost obsessive drive to collect, consume, and collate. Praise to Galbraith and Christodoulou for their wide range of subjects. While certainly some nearly hopeless nerds are featured, we are shown the vast array of people who could fall under the otaku title, up to and including a champion kick-boxer and some fashion models. Accompanying the interviews are several short essays on the development of otaku culture, its commercial centers, and academic discussions of what it all means. I found ( )
  Magus_Manders | May 20, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

"The design of this book just kind of screams "puff piece" from the outset: large pages with large color photographs, a three-column layout for the text, lots of graphics in the margins, maybe an introductory paragraph that tries to contextualize the photographs and make it seem more intellectual than just "ooh pretty pictures." In short, it looks like a coffee table book, something you flip through when bored and show off to your friends rather than actually straight-up read.

That would be a wrong assumption. This book not only has a lot of text, it has footnotes. It talks about public vs. private space, the media gaze, and a bunch of other things I haven't heard uttered since I got my communications degree. Of course, that ultimately means I enjoyed those parts greatly, even if other people might have been lost.


I appreciated how it treated its subjects respectfully, and I enjoyed the diversity of subjects. The essays were a bit dense, but not terribly so, just a bit beyond what a normal person might expect of a book of this design and format. The section about otaku areas/neighborhoods could have been a bit more filled out, perhaps with more photographs of the exact things they were talking about (maybe more specific storefronts) and maps. [...]

The design had some oddities in it; there was a lot of white space, including entire blank pages which could have had more photographs on them and the little pictographs in each interview were about 50/50 with their usefulness, making them feel like space-fillers rather than as presenting any kind of information. I also disliked how they didn't necessarily correspond with the text on the page; it's distracting when a magazine uses a pull quote in an interview that actually appears on another page, and this wasn't any different. I also found the book somewhat hard to hold, but that's really a minor gripe considering the trade-off is that the size and shape is there to display the photographs better.

Overall, I thought this was an interesting read, a good overview of how the otaku scene has changed over the past decade, and a respectful look at its otaku subjects." ( )
  lampbane | May 18, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The opening essay in Patrick Galbraith's OTAKU SPACES is a scholarly attempt to define the obsessive compulsion to collect, at least as it took form in Japan in the last decades of the 20th century. There's probably too much opinion in the essay, though.

The essay is followed by 19 interviews. About half of those interviewed say that are not even "otaku". Mostly the interviews are a waste of time, full of trivia and questions like, "what's your favorite store." This is not useful information. The interviews should have helped define the term, should have given clear examples that clarify why the book was written.
The book has a section on the sections of Japan where collectors congregate and consume. These mini essays are actually pretty well written, and provide some very interesting history. There seem to be parallels between these centers of otaku in Japan, and those in America. The San Diego Comic Convention started as a fanboy's paradise, for a small core of rabid collectors. Since then, it has become increasingly about movies. There are parallels, if I read these essays correctly, in the way,say, Osu, Nagoya has changed as the media popularized what was once a niche fascination

I wish there were more than just three photographs paperclipped into the book.These pictures are worth a thousand words. There's a picture of a chubby teen boy, sitting buddah like, surrounded by his astounding collection of toy cars. The kid is a completest: There is one shelf of just toy VW minivan models - one can count scores of them in various colors and configurations. And there must be, what, 60 shelves, each shelf with up to 50 toy cars, arranged by color and style. What compulsion. What drive, to have amassed such a collection.
  SeaBill1 | May 16, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
Otaku Spaces Shows Off Collectors’ Riches

The new book Otaku Spaces sets out to explain the complicated subculture of otaku through the stories of otaku themselves. The Japanese word usually describes people (usually men) who are obsessed with certain forms of pop culture such as manga, anime and videogames. Like any subculture, however, otakus often feel misunderstood. They are often dismissed as geeks by outsiders, where those in the know might use the term more as a synonym for “expert.”

“When you talk to these guys you find out they often have full time jobs, they’re in touch with their families, they have girlfriends, and are actually very social,” says author Patrick W. Galbraith, a known otaku historian who just received a Ph.D. from the University of Tokyo and is now pursuing another Ph.D. at Duke.

Like nerd culture in the U.S., otaku has come into the mainstream through consumer spending. A report cited in the book claims otaku spend $2.5 billion a year on their hobbies — a figure that suggests there are more than just a few otaku hiding out in their rooms.

In addition to a negative association with being nerdy, otaku men in particular can carry the stigma of sexual deviancy. This is due in large part to a media-fueled frenzy about Tsutomu Miyazaki, a reclusive and socially awkward otaku collector who was arrested in 1989 for molesting, murdering and mutilating four young girls.

“The idea [for the book] was really to move away from the stereotypes,” says Galbraith.

To do this, Galbraith and photographer Androniki Christodoulou allow the otaku subjects they feature to take control of their own narrative. The entire front of the book is filled with portraits and personal interviews.

“[The portraits and interviews] were about giving a voice and a face back to the people who are talked about but not talked to,” Galbraith says.

Since the low point of the Miyazaki arrest, both the Japanese and global media have also helped build a more positive image of otaku by creating TV shows and websites that explore the culture and work to challenge the bias. In these portraits, for example, Christodoulou asked the otaku (both men and women) to strike some kind of pose that mimicked their collection. This mimicry, says Galbraith, was one way to undermine the traditional otaku stereotype by having fun with it.

“It was kind of an over-performance where the subjects said ‘I am otaku, look at me now,’” he says.

While otaku culture is mostly associated with private spaces, collectors have also created made a home away from home in the urban areas around the shops that cater to otaku culture. In cities around Japan, these shops tend to form nodes that provide a public space for a notoriously shut-in hobby. Along with related activities like cosplay, where people dress up like an anime or manga character, these nodes are making the otaku lifestyle visible, and accessible, to anyone.

“Considering how otaku were associated with the closed rooms and social failure of Miyazaki Tsutomu in the 1990s, associating otaku with open rooms and social success in the 2000s is nothing short of a paradigm shift,” Galbraith writes in the book.

That said, there is still a long way to go.

“There are not enough pages in the world to get through the complexity,” Galbraith says. “And unfortunately there is still a lingering polarization of the otaku image into good and bad. This does nothing to tell us about the real people who live between these stereotypes and out of sight. In the book we are confronted by actual people, who graciously share their private spaces and thoughts, and I hope that readers will try to understand them as fellow human beings.”
added by susieimage | editWired, Jakob Schiller (Mar 22, 2012)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0984457658, Paperback)

"Otaku Spaces sets out to explain the complicated subculture of otaku through the stories of otaku themselves...Galbraith and photographer Androniki Christodoulou allow the otaku subjects they feature to take control of their own narrative." - Wired.com Raw File

"This is a terrain of contested meanings. And 'you' (the original meaning of the word otaku in Japanese) are entering it. Invite otaku into your home and heart, as they have invited you into theirs." - The Huffington Post

"A peek into an otaku's bedroom or living space can be a bit of a surprise for the average person...Patrick W. Galbraith digs even deeper into the way otaku choose to decorate their surroundings, and the reasons why they choose to do so in the way that they do." - CNN "Geek Out!"

"The book is certainly a beautiful object...There's such an intimate air to Christodoulou's photographs that you have to imagine what the subjects are hiding...But the interviews appeal, in the end, to our commonality: A few of the subjects gently point out that if people are honest with themselves, everyone is a little bit otaku about something." - The Stranger (Starred Review)

"(Galbraith) clearly knows his stuff, and also has a genuine regard and respect for people that it would be easy to make fun of. Christodoulou has a real eye for capturing the essence of the otaku world, and the large-scale format (9” by 9”) and high-quality color printing in this book show her work off to its best advantage. Even if you’re not an otaku yourself, Galbraith and Christodoulou do such a good job of capturing the flavor of these subcultures that reading Otaku Spaces is the next best thing to a trip to Japan." - PopMatters

Otaku—nerd, über-fan, obsessive collector. Since the 1980s, the term has been used to refer to fans of Japanese anime, manga, and video games. The word appeared with no translation on the cover of the premier issue of Wired magazine in 1993.

Patrick W. Galbraith has produced a groundbreaking work of reportage that takes us beyond the stereotypes of "weird Japan" and into the private rooms of self-described otaku. Interviews and more than fifty color photos reveal a seldom seen side of these reclusive Japanese collectors. They talk frankly about their collections of blow-up dolls, comic books, military paraphernalia, anime videos, and more.

Galbraith follows the collectors to their favorite shops and shows how public space in Japan is starting to mimic the look and feel of the otaku's private room. He also interviews Japan's top cultural critics, helping to place otaku culture in wider sociological and economic contexts. Galbraith broadens his interview focus even further to include otaku from the United States and the United Kingdom, forcing those of us who live in any hyper-consumerist culture to admit that we can and do have otaku tendencies.

Patrick W. Galbraith—a self-described otaku with the anime tattoos to prove it—is a PhD student at the University of Tokyo and the author of The Otaku Encyclopedia (Kodansha Limited). He also blogs at the popular Otaku2 and is widely considered one of the foremost American experts on Japan's pop culture.

Androniki Christodoulou is a freelance photographer based in Tokyo, Japan.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:36 -0400)

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