By TammyWhite
2 years ago

The Otaku Culture Around the World

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Since the mid-1980s, anime and manga have taken the world by storm, forming tremendous overseas markets and cult followings that border obsession. Interestingly enough, the word ‘otaku’ (that means something similar to the word ‘nerd’ or ‘geek’) has become a modern colloquialism of a distinct devotion to anime, manga, and Japanese culture. While this form of Japanese media has existed for over a century, it has lately spread throughout the world.

Otaku culture has become such a definite subculture around the world that even rivals the one that exists in Japan. Let’s take a look at the influence of otaku fandom all around the world and see how far the culture has come throughout the years.

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Otaku Culture in Japan
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During the early 1900s, Japan marveled at American animation and cartoons. Japanese animation pioneers sought to bring this innovation to Japan but faced obstruction from super high costs and a lack of experience in the animation field. Today in Japan, anime and manga have become a phenomenon and everyone else is on the outside looking in. What else can be expected from the country where anime and manga is rooted?

All over Japan, there are many statues and landmarks that commemorate famous anime titles, manga, and their creators. Many stores in these areas sell merchandise catered to otaku all over the world. The otaku culture in Japan is so great that these stores make huge profits, often overshadowing the merchandise sales of similar cult followings.

Perhaps one of the most important otaku-themed shopping districts in Japan is an area named Akihabara. Akihabara is a shopping district focused on otaku merchandise such as video games, anime and manga memorabilia, and custom apparel. In this area alone exist some of the largest anime and manga stores in the world. The first is the Tokyo Anime Center, which is located inside the UDX building. Second-hand goods store Mandarake is often considered the largest anime and manga store in the world, which is probably because Mandarake has a large number of store branches and a giant online inventory.

Akihabara is a mecca for otaku all around the world and has become a tourist location for people traveling from abroad. Moreover, Japan is home to many anime conventions that outclass worldwide competition. For instance, the AnimeJapan 2017 convention hosted 145,453 attendants, which was a whopping 7% increase from the previous year! The otaku culture in Japan is on a whole different level compared to that outside the country. Being the national progenitor of anime and manga, Japan has the highest anime and manga market value, which is why the otaku culture is so infectious there.

The All Japan Magazine and Book Publisher’s and Editor’s Association (AJPEA) released a report on February 24 that estimated that the combined physical and digital sales of the manga industry in Japan amounted to 445.4 billion yen (about US$3.91 billion) in 2016, a 0.4% growth compared to the previous year’s 443.7 billion yen (about US$3.89 billion). The combined sales of both physical and digital approach 2008’s 448.3 billion yen (about US$3.93 billion) total. This report indicates that Japan’s manga market has grew 0.4% in 2016, while the digital manga sales saw a 27.5% increase.

As for the anime market, the total value that was last reported in 2016 states that the anime market value increased from 1.63 trillion yen to 1.83 trillion yen. This estimates to a 12% increase, a bit more than the 10% increase from 2013 to 2014. With these stats, it is safe to say that the otaku culture is a bit more inclusive in Japan. However, this does not mean that the otaku culture is not thriving elsewhere in the world.


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Otaku Culture in China
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Japan and China have never been the best of friends. During World War II, Japan invaded China for its rich resources, which has left a bad taste in the country’s mouth even to this day. Anime fans, however, are not dwelling in the past. According to the Wall Street Journal, ‘Overseas sales of Japanese animation rose 79% last year to $288 million, with about half of that increase coming from Chinese buyers.’ Doesn’t sound like all of that bitterness matters at all when it comes to anime and manga. Sure, America doesn’t like Cuba very much, yet many Americans still drool over Cuban cigars. However, the otaku culture in China is a bit more profound than that.

Recently in China, an entertainment market known as ‘er ci yuan’ has been established. This market is basically a Chinese online virtual world of anime, comics, games, and novels, which are based on Japanese anime and manga titles. According to CITIC Securities, this market has reached a value of 250 billion yuan ($38 billion) and is estimated to double in the next few years as many Chinese citizens look to this virtual world as a getaway from work or other trivial activities. In other words, Chinese citizens are stressed out and use anime and manga as a way to vent that stress! This otaku-themed virtual world has reached 200 million consumers (that’s 1.5 times more that population of Japan) who view Japanese media in order to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

This popularity has caused Chinese web giants such as Alibaba and Tencent to invest into the anime industry. As a matter of fact, a Chinese anime streaming site named AcFun raised $50 million last August. Additionally, Tencent invested millions of dollars in Bilibili, an anime niche website. Bilibili is now working with Tencent to produce 20 domestic anime series over the next few years.

Furthermore, on 1 October 2016, as people gathered to celebrate the founding of the People’s Republic of China, hundreds of Chinese youth simultaneously shouted ‘Sieg Zeon!’ It is a trademark salute to the Principality of Zeon, an antagonist in the anime series Mobile Suit Gundam. This memorable phrase is beloved by the Chinese people. The young Chinese fans were cosplaying a number of their favorite anime characters. Shuichi Ikeda, the voice actor of the iconic Gundam character Char Aznable was also in attendance. He even spurred on the youth’s passion for Japanese culture by shouting Char’s famous catchphrase, ‘May the glory of victory be yours!’

Being at odds with Japan for decades, China has actually found a piece of Japanese culture and transformed it into their own special subculture.


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Otaku Culture in the United States
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In 2009, American rapper Soulja Boy tweeted, ‘I’m a fan of Anime ^_^.’ In a video made by American actor Samuel L. Jackson he openly admitted that he is a fan of anime… and hentai too (was he joking?). Also, WWE icon John Cena said in an interview that he loves anime and that his favorite anime movie is Fist of the North Star. What is being said here exactly? America loves anime!

The otaku culture in America has obviously sparked the creation of anime and manga heavyweight companies such as Funimation and Crunchyroll, with the latter reaching one million paid subscribers as of February 2017. Perhaps the best indicator of the otaku culture in America is its anime conventions. Anime Expo is one of the oldest anime conventions in the United States; it premiered in 1992. It has now grown to over 100,000 attendees and is the largest anime convention in North America.

The Otakon and Anime Boston anime conventions also receive widespread attendance and attention from otaku all around North America. With so much focus toward anime and manga, American producers have reportedly become jealous of Japan’s growing presence in American culture.

Television shows like Avatar: The Last Airbender and Teen Titans have both incorporated anime style art and elements which can be entirely attributed to Japan’s unique animation style. Although it’s debatable if Avatar and Teen Titans can be considered anime, there are many Japanese anime shows that are popular in the United States: Dragon Ball Z, Naruto Shippuden, One Punch Man, Blue Exorcist, Inuyasha, and Death Note, just to name a few.

Cartoon Network streamed anime shows such as Naruto and One Piece on its regular broadcasting schedule in the early 2000s. It helped instill anime into America’s younger generation. Toonami, which debuted in 1997, introduced many Americans to Japanese anime and Japanese pop music for nearly ten years until its decline in 2008. The popular media company relaunched in 2012 on Cartoon Network’s late night broadcasting slot, Adult Swim, and has since become very popular with American audiences.

Manga sales in the United States have grown exponentially in recent trends. Publisher’s Weekly reports that ‘Total U.S. manga sales in 2007 rose about 10%, to more than $220 million, and about 1,468 titles are estimated to have been released last year.’ Even American singer Courtney Love got in on the action by co-writing a manga series titled Princess Ai.

The otaku culture in America has been overshadowing established pieces of American popular culture like the popular American comics of Marvel and DC. The comic book industry in North America is only worth $1.03 billion. The anime industry in America is worth $2.74 billion, twice as much as the comic book industry on the entire North American continent! This is probably due to the fact that American comic books are generally aimed towards male audiences. There are thousands of women who are comic fanatics, but traditionally, comic books have generated strict male audiences since their inception.

Anime is geared towards all genders and features many genres that far outclass the limited themes of comic books. Comic books are usually about superheroes and the villains they face. Anime is much more broad, featuring genres such as romance, comedy, slice-of-life, action, and fantasy. Although the people in the United States are very fond of Batman, Superman, and the X-Men, One-Punch Man has become a beloved manga and anime series in America as well. Besides, Saitama can surely kick Superman’s butt any day. This trend not only proves that the otaku culture in America is the real deal, but it makes people wonder how much it will grow in the future.

The anime industry in America is still growing, although it isn’t as high as it is in Japan or China. Just this year, the Ghost in the Shell live action movie adaptation premiered in America. According to thousands of Americans and film critics, the film managed to get the incredible visuals and effects right but it wass heavily ostracized for its lackluster storyline and character development. Many American fans were disappointed and hoped that the film would be a direct translation from the manga to the big screen. Despite the backlash, that kind of attention meant that many of those fans had read the manga in the first place, which just goes to show how popular and familiar the title is in the United States.


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The Otaku Phenomenon
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There is no doubt that the otaku culture in Japan is the most active in the world. However, the otaku culture in places like Germany, the United States, France, and China all validate that the subculture is rapidly growing. It is amazing how the presence of Japanese culture has grown in the last 40 years. Millions of fans all around the world share one thing in common, their love for anime and manga. They all have taken a somewhat derogatory term such as ‘otaku’ and bent the meaning into something meaningful. Otaku is now just more than a word, it is a way of life. With all stereotypes aside, it is an enlightenment.

The otaku culture around the world can be summed up in one word: shocking. As animation and media become more sophisticated, these trends will just keep growing. The question is: Which country will get otaku fever next?
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soncee Good artikle
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AnceAne Great post
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olavn54 Nice
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Ravidxb good good
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chooeypepperoni Great article. The Otaku culture is very much present in the Philippines as well.
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aditzu Great article !
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MegyBella Great
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