↩ [LWC 54]
Preface: Go Read Chuchlann’s Blog
Thanks to Chuchlann’s recent writings on Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu I decided to watch the first three episodes – and what a good decision that was. Skipping to the second and third episodes, the “depth” (buzzword) of what was being said was strikingly profound – but more importantly, to whom it was being said. Having spammed the living hell out of IKnight’s condensed theory of moe (as you’ve probably read it anyway), there was one largely relevant part where he brings up the imagined community of otakudom.
Section 1: Imagined Communities
In Imagined Communities (how fitting), Benedict Anderson writes that the nation is “an imagined political community – and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign.” In the case of the reader who hasn’t been familiarized with Anderson’s text, by “limited” he means to say that the nation “has finite, if elastic, boundaries, beyond which lie other nations.” And by “sovereign” he means to say that “nations dream of being free [from the dynastic reigns of self-proclaimed monarch-as-proxy to God], and, if under God, directly so.” Finally, by community he means to say that “regardless of the actual inequality and exploitation that may prevail in each, the nation is always conceived as a deep, horizontal comradeship.”
Remaining in the swing of this comparison, the otakusphere is an imagined community for one important, broad reason: members within the otakusphere are connected through the activities of digital solidarity such as (1) watching fansubbed anime (fansubbed is important), (2) writing blog posts, (3) reading and commenting upon blog posts and (4) conversing via instant messaging programs. Reading, as Anderson had said, insinuates a simultaneity of time:
“The idea of a sociological organism moving calendrically through homogeneous, empty time is a precise analogue of the idea of the nation, which also is conceived as a solid community moving steadily down (or up) history. An American will never meet, or even know the names of more than a handful of his 240,000-odd fellow Americans. He has no idea of what they are up to at any one time. But he has complete confidence in their steady, anonymous, simultaneous activity.”
The social performance of the foremost mentioned rituals links one member of the otakusphere to the imagined whole. When we write, we write not for a specific person (maybe some of us do) but for an abstract concept represented by numbers as blog statistics. We read as a member of the otakusphere, not as if a public blog post were a private letter from one friend to another. Watching fansubbed anime links us to the imagined community since we knowingly acquire the data from it through torrents (or what have you). The act of P2Ping concretizes this imagined linking because we view not a private datum, but the toils of a translation group, the communal, weekly anticipation that exudes from the letters of the entire aniblogosphere. The weekly aspect of airing series establishes a sense of turn and rotation, the feeling that by receiving that weekly dose you will be able to insert your being and acknowledgement into the discussion (externalized or internalized) that constitutes the imagined community in motion.
While I use swiftly and without remorse the coinage “otakusphere” – and we all do with great currency – I am aware that there is a Japanese sphere comprised of otakus unlike our own. “Our”, here is the keyword – and in depicting “the” otakusphere as truly “ours” I inevitably homogenize the otaku as the English speaking otaku. But there is the genesis; the original, Japanese otaku, or, perhaps おたく would indeed suffice infinitely more than the cultural meaning derived from the Anglicization of a loan word.
Section 2: Otaku Nation?
We may be able to describe the English language otakusphere (henceforth Elos) as a nation because it does fulfill the requirements of being limited, sovereign and imagined. It has no defined polity nor government, yet it has a politics, mostly a politics revolving around its “legal” counterparts (and the politics of legality and ethics is a prominent one). I would not call “the industry” as antithetical to the otakusphere (since we do have many similarities and work towards the same goals, roughly), but does serve as our political opposition (I guess that makes it bipartisan?). Thus, due to an opposing polity, Elos is limited because it cannot be infinitely large – there are limits to its political and ideological territory. Elos is, by that very extension, sovereign because it wishes not to be politico-economically controlled by The Industry. As Lawrence Lessig put it: “extremism on one side begets extremism on the other [and neither side is right (or something like that)].” Again, the recent string of ideas of how to fix the anime industry indicates that there is a desire to be sovereign.
There will be a few people that say “Elos is not a nation, it is merely a sub or counter culture.” Perhaps they are correct – Elos is a type of culture, but that does not restrict it from the semantics of the nation. Likewise, yet, however, the nation cannot always be so homogeneous a culture, but then is to say that the entity of a culture is aligns itself with the perimeter of its nationalism? The nation cannot be so homogeneous a culture, nor can the culture be so homogeneous a nation – the two aren’t mutually exclusive nor mutually coextensive. Basically, this mindless circuitry can be summed by saying that culture isn’t inherently political as the humanities don’t consider themselves to be political.
Similarly, other subcultures have traits with which we could classify them as nations. National anthems are one characteristic that lend a sense of social cohesiveness to the entity as one. While, in America and around the globe, there is considerable “evidence” and sustained mindset for the existence of a Black nation, it has no defined polity, no government – does not function as an internationally recognized country because it is such a decentralized thing. There is the black national anthem, however, which would serve to adhere a racial ideology to each of its constituencies (people). Similarly, for the otaku nation, perhaps anime OP’s can perform the function of national anthems. But with the massive amount of titles released each year, can there only be “one” yearly, definitive national anthem? In the case of my own nexistence, Bouken Desho Desho would take the role of definitive J-pop song of the past few years. Gurren Lagann’s OP would also serve as a relatively heightened rock song. Perhaps these are interesting songs or anthems because, for instance, in the case of The Star-Spangled Banner, whose lyrics we all know come from F.S. Key, the music is a British tune. Perhaps anime OP’s are composed completely by Japanese composers and lyricists.
Section 3: The Politics of Language and Authenticity
But, as all nations or social movements are, Elos is not without internal strife. Indicative of this is the plight of the weeaboo. Given Elos, it’s “language of state” is English. Any attempts to remove Japanese words out of their cultural, semiotic context will then “de-nipponify” them (The word/symbol “Japan” itself is contingent upon a Western construction of日本) thereby resulting in our own idiosyncratic usages of “kawaii“, “sugoi“, and “KEIKAKU DOORI” (because that one doesn’t even merit italics). The paradox of the weeaboo (and thus why they’re ostracized) is because in their blissful xenophilia they actually “corrupt” the meaning of the symbol-as-word by inserting it into the West and assigning it a historically Western signified while keeping an Anglicized signifier; sugoi may or may not translate roughly into “amazing”, but “amazing” is not the日本人 definition which, in itself, would require a definition utilizing the Japanese language.
Not all otaku are weeaboo, and not all fans of anime are otaku. More importantly, none of the above, by causality, are necessarily xenophilic. I don’t like referring to a body of people deemed weeaboo as “them”, although there’s hardly an easier way to phrase it. My meta-point is that while I use illiterately a sparse amount of Japanese and Chinese characters, it isn’t necessarily because I’m an alleged, xenophilic weeaboo (oh accuse all you want) but that in using these characters (despite their Westernized meaninglessness) the elitist politics of disgraceful xenophilia will perhaps be reconstituted, forgotten, erased, dismantled with the meaningless deployment itself.
This is exactly the case with “narutardity” (refer to picture #2). Be ashamed of our hobby because we see an enthusiastic (nevertheless, overly so in this picture?) fan[atic], but “anime culture” seems like an exception simply because it’s the scapegoat of “incomprehensible” social oddities and outcasts. If a young, normal [white] boy is truly fanatic about baseball, carpentry, reading (to an extent, otherwise a nerd), learning, crafting, engineering, and so forth, he is commemorated and praised. The fan of anime is shunned, and the closet otaku will therefore shun his more open brethren for being “heretical” in that the blasphemy of his existence contradicts the elitist canon of anime viewing and cultural propagation. The perpetuator of narutardity is not the narutard himself but the politically conservative hater that (1) bastardizes the Other; (2) bastardizes the cultural source of the Other; (3) coins a demeaning word and assigns a negative connotation to it (excuse the hypocrisy, for he is simply a fan of Naruto) because essentially, “narutard” has a similar yet non-racial function to that of the nigger, gook, gringo, chink or gaijin in that it establishes a discursive “normalcy” and bifurcates a group of people into categories of “regular” and “irregular”. The narutard is the scapegoat of the scapegoat.
Section 4: 乃木坂春香の秘密とらき☆すた
Considering the recent murder in Akihabara, is Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu “leftist” propaganda as Code Geass may or may not be a kind of propaganda itself? A social commentary of sorts, glorifying the hub of all “the world’s weird shit?” Maybe Akihabara is glorified in this anime, but more importantly, the otaku herself is glorified – Haruka. In fact, insofar as we are to even view her as an otaku with any degree of “realistic” “normalcy”….but even that doesn’t make any sense. Haruka is a caricature. The precipitate of many an otaku-fantasy, she is one ideological manifestation of the ideals of the otaku.
Because she is but a caricature, the role she plays within the microcosmic anime is minimal compared to the “meta-role” she plays; that is to say the content and/or plot of this anime has not as much to do with the viewer as does what the anime-as-form has to say. This is not fan-service, this is second order fan-service. As Pontifus put it, the “meta-nerd”. This while Haruka is quite the closet otaku, Konata [Izumi], is the blatantly extroverted articulation. Both are, in themselves, products meant to fan-pander. Haruka functions so in a “見ないで！恥ずかしい…” vein Konata is the opposite – a “come lavish in the idealistic ota-chan” function.
This is actually what I’ve been building up for when I titled this as a “meta-critique”. Insofar as Haruka is but a representative caricature, is she pandering or criticizing? Are the authors unintentionally catering to the Japanese otaku or are they intentionally laughing at them (us?) behind the façade of the sparkly bubbles and “moe moe smiles“? Additionally, what can a 2008 iteration (anime adaptation, that is) of a lesser-Kyon tell us about how the average male otaku invests his identity into the protagonists he views. By our own devices we are invariably sucked into the imagined community; there’s no way getting around it as we inextricably pass the event horizon every time we perform the social rituals. Our will to imagine a community is partly based upon a fear of solitude, of being alone. Anyone can attest to this; being alone, whether it be digital companions or not, generally sucks and is depressing. If nexistence is one easy way out of this dark pit, then so be it: we insert ourselves into the imagined community because we then desire to be sovereign, free from ridicule, relieved of the social position of scapegoat, to enter the realm of “normalcy”, to form actual solidarity – but in the recycling of the social system, one class’s ascension must usurp another’s, and so in a Marxist sense of a cyclical hegemony:
“[A class's] victory, therefore, benefits also many individuals of the other classes which are not winning a dominant position, but only insofar as it now puts these individuals in a position to raise themselves into the ruling class. …Every new class, therefore, achieves its hegemony only on a broader basis of than that of the class ruling previously….”
Of course that’s stretching the limits of juxtaposition. Cultures are not “classes” in the strictest economic sense of the word but there is some comparative relevance there. Finally, to restate, is Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu then laughing at the otaku saying “you wish to glorify yourselves through your perverted medium! – alas we shall grant you this futile microcosm wherein you suffer the same fate perpetually through the hypnotism of an idealistic caricature”? I don’t think the creators of the anime or manga had exactly the same thing as I did in mind, but perhaps (I really do emphasize that) there is some resonance between my “over thinking” and their politics of representation and “social change”.
 Anderson, Benedict, “Imagined Communities: Reflections On The Origin and Spread of Nationalism,” London: Verso, 2006, p. 6.
 Ibid., p. 7.
 Ibid., p. 26.
 Hypocritically speaking, I can’t justify the fact that anti-elitism is just another form of elitism. However, the one to accuse me of being elitist is probably missing the point. Also, I made effort not to glorify the narutard (as I can assume this Sasuke cosplayer did do something pretty immature or inappropriate) but to examine the supremacy of the hater of narutards.
 Marx, Karl, Selections from “The German Ideology, Part I,” pp. 174.
 The title of this writing was a double entendre of sorts depending how you want to interpret its definite article.