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Otaku: Japan’s Database Animals Paperback – March 25, 2009


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Editorial Reviews

Book Description

In Japan, obsessive adult fans and collectors of manga and anime are known as otaku. When the underground otaku subculture first emerged in the 1970s, participants were looked down on within mainstream Japanese society as strange, antisocial loners. Today otaku have had a huge impact on popular culture not only in Japan but also throughout Asia, Europe, and the United States.

Hiroki Azuma’s Otaku offers a critical, philosophical, and historical inquiry into the characteristics and consequences of this consumer subculture. For Azuma, one of Japan’s leading public intellectuals, otaku culture mirrors the transformations of postwar Japanese society and the nature of human behavior in the postmodern era. He traces otaku’s ascendancy to the distorted conditions created in Japan by the country’s phenomenal postwar modernization, its inability to come to terms with its defeat in the Second World War, and America’s subsequent cultural invasion. More broadly, Azuma argues that the consumption behavior of otaku is representative of the postmodern consumption of culture in general, which sacrifices the search for greater significance to almost animalistic instant gratification. In this context, culture becomes simply a database of plots and characters and its consumers mere “database animals.”

A vital non-Western intervention in postmodern culture and theory, Otaku is also an appealing and perceptive account of Japanese popular culture.

About the Author

Hiroki Azuma is codirector of the Academy of Humanities in the Center for the Study of World Civilizations at the Tokyo Institute of Technology. A leading cultural critic in Japan, he is the author of seven books, including Ontological, Postal, which won the 2000 Suntory Literary Prize.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Univ Of Minnesota Press (March 25, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0816653526
  • ISBN-13: 978-0816653522
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #475,912 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Hiroki Azuma is codirector of the Academy of Humanities in the Center for the Study of World Civilizations at the Tokyo Institute of Technology. A leading cultural critic in Japan, he is the author of seven books, including Ontological, Postal, which won the 2000 Suntory Literary Prize.

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Paul A. Houle on January 21, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Although the work of French cultural critics is essential for an understanding of postmodernism their works are notorious for being impenetrable in English translations. Their ideas have been "big in Japan" for a long time, but anglophone readers have only become aware of this because of a handful of books about anime including this and "Beautiful Fighting Girl" by Saito Tamaki.

Although this book is mainly about anime and dating simulation video games, the theory behind it applies to media outside Japan such as episodic television, science fiction, the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, and role playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons. A core idea is that consumers of this kind of fiction aren't so much consuming stories but instead consuming the systems that underpin fictional worlds. In fact, the believes that many of the anime that outsiders see as quintessentially Japanese such as Urusei Yatsura are actually more expressive of American culture than Japanese.

This is an accessible and essential book for anyone interested in anime, video games, science fiction, fantasy and role playing as well as critical theory, postmodernism and the question of "What changed in our culture after 1968?"
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Lucrezia on November 23, 2009
Format: Paperback
I will not attempt to describe Otaku: Database animals better than Daitokuji31 in the previous post. Azuma gives a good insight to a commonly disliked topic, otaku. He points out the issue of the schism between society and the otaku culture, and he attempts to explain it so hopefully a resolution can be made.

I just wanted to add that I found Azuma's theory amazing. It's a really good read, even if he gets a bit complex at times. It has easily become one of my favorite books. If you are studying postmodernity, metanarratives, or just Japanese culture, this book adds an amazing perspective.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Nathan Brown on January 4, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I thoroughly enjoyed this candid look into the world of the Otaku. However, I would also love to see a follow up to this, seeing as how the Otaku world has really come into a new age since it was published. More and more Otaku are leaving the dark recesses of their abodes and bringing their obsessions into the light of day to share with other Otaku.

To put it simply ... I recommend the book, and would like to see more from ths author on the subject.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By zerozaki on January 24, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
*Star rating is for the content of the book.

I purchased the physical copy of the book before purchasing the digital one.
I spotted an issue while reading through the Kindle version.

Issue:
Pictures are switched around for Figure 1a and 1b. Picture of Sailor Mars is tagged with description for Sakura (Urusei Yatsura), and picture of Sakura is tagged with description for Sailor Mars.

I will update this review as I find more errors in this version.
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Otaku: Japan's Database Animals is explicitly about the phenomenon of moé in anime, but it's effect lies in a far broader sense as an explanation of postmodernism without all the flowery, gracious-sounding fluff that French philosophers love in their works. The idea of our common cultural understanding creates standards by which art is judged rather than fixed standards of virtue or arch-narratives now seems obvious in retrospect--my abbreviation of it doesn't do the entirety of the idea justice. Azuma goes further into history of the shift, from the Japanese media's perspective, from modernism to postmodernism, as well as how that created the condition of the anime industry today.

I highly recommend this to any fan of Japanese culture who wants to read an interesting take on today's otaku, and also to anyone who wants a straightforward introduction to postmodernism before wading through the bog of the swamp garden known as Jean Baudrillard--pretty to look at but a chore to traverse, sacrificing clarity for the sake of aesthetics. Otaku: Japan's Database Animals is as clear as it gets, and aptly demonstrates that it can be done.
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