Otakuness in literature

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An impulsive rambling about otakuness.

I came across Jessica Zafra’s post about Junot Diaz‘s novel ‘The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao‘. I think I saw this book in one of my shopping sprees but I thought the name ‘Oscar Wao’ silly. Anyway, the novel was supposed to have received awards and now it is on my wish list.

Reading the excerpts make me uneasy–I have been consistently walking the path of otakudom for nearly 3 years. There are times I abhor it but at that the same time I look at ‘normalcy’ as boring. ‘Normalcy’ meaning the stuff a girl like me is supposed to be doing–reading romance novels, shopping for clothes, etc, that mundane stuff. It does feel like I am straddling two worlds. One the world of otakus, where I try my best to immerse in but not completely. Despite being an introvert I still try (albeit half-heartedly) to keep pace with the outside environment away from the confines of my room and my computer. Although unfortunately(?) most of the time my activities are more into the geeky kind and mostly escapist (read: anime). At this point I am tempted to rename my blog as ‘Immersion in Geekdom’. I’d probably be able to pull it off and post about other geeky things–sci-fi movies, obscure books, etc etc. Fortunately the part of me that wants to be normal just puts the brake before I become completely out of touch with reality. I don’t need more reasons to enhance my sedentary (and unhealthy) lifestyle.

The otaku as we generally know it is a modern phenomenon, and I hope to see more books about it. As society advances and we get to discover new kinds/modes of escape/hobbies the otaku population can only increase. Sure some will outgrow it (the young ones) or be burned out, but some will still be otaku. The fact that it is becoming a worldwide phenomenon (at least to those who can afford to be otaku) means it cannot be ignored. Perhaps the day will soon come when otaku becomes a mainstream word totally synonymous with ‘geek’, its negative connotations as a Japanese slang word obscured (also I think I read something about the difference between nerd and geek but the exact description I already forgot). If and when we see more otaku characters in stories/novels, how much of the portrayal will come off as negative or positive? More importantly it interests me to read about characters I can identify with more.

On another note…

This afternoon I officially registered myself for JLPT level 2 classes. And when I read the test my sensei wanted me to take, I almost fainted–I couldn’t read most of the kanji. I passed JLPT 3 last 2006, but only barely. And it seems all the new kanji I learned in the 3 months I was in Japan last year I have completely forgotten. So the series of posts about lists for March will be shelved to a later date. I am also no longer sure I will check out all the shows I wanted to see from the spring 2008 anime.

12 responses »

  1. It sounds like you are getting burned out… I definitely think you just need to find a healthy balance between the two worlds. There shouldn’t be a trade off between something you like and normalcy. Normalcy = Overrated. While escaping from reality is good once in a while I don’t think you should over do it.
    It’s also a shame that your kanji skills have deteriorated. Yea I don’t have time to check out all the spring 2008 shows either. I’m pretty much looking forward to Geass 2… and whatever else you suggest ^^.

  2. Yeah people always grow out their hobbies and passion. To some its just a passing phase of life. For some others, it can last until you’re 90.

    Anyway, good luck for your JLPT. I’ve also decided to take proper Japanese language lessons once I graduate this may.

  3. Have you read the original Welcome to the NHK novel? That certainly made normality seem very appealing.

    But – thinking about it – back in the day when the novel itself was the new cheap and trashy entertainment, there was a lot of concern that people (well, young women, to be honest) were shutting themselves away with novels all day and becoming introverted dangers to society. Hence Austen’s Northanger Abbey has a gothic novel otaku as its heroine.

    (Sorry if I was just repeating stuff you knew in the above; whenever I talk about literature, I can never tell whether the recipient of my comments knows more, less or as much as I do, and I find it hard to avoid sounding condescending or servile.)

  4. @wriXeL

    >>It sounds like you are getting burned out…

    I hope not. ^_^;

    @alafista

    >>I’ve also decided to take proper Japanese language lessons once I graduate this may.

    Good luck! 🙂 For some reason I’m thinking I want to get back my college days lol

    @TA

    I haven’t read the NHK novels, but I’ve seen the anime and it was funny (though when I watched I was also looking out for those who might see the not-so-kiddy stuff).

    >>Sorry if I was just repeating stuff you knew in the above;

    Don’t apologize–you probably know more about literature than I do–thanks for that info about Northanger Abbey. Information is always welcome, new or not. 🙂

  5. It’s ironic, but I’ll probably grow out of anime easier than I will with literature. Literature’s fun, and if you’re getting burnt out, take it easy.🙂

    Frankly, I can only read during school breaks, like now. Otherwise I’ll only be watching anime. Or sleeping, or playing DotA. haha

  6. @ Michael

    Good for you if you outgrow anime. It seems for now that I haven’t. =p

    And the value of literature is always constant. I firmly believe it is good for our intellect and I don’t know why you should outgrow it. The feeling after reading a good story or novel is almost always way better than after watching a good anime show.

  7. You know, you should hang out more often in my blog as well! I try to write as much on literature as I do on anime. I still visit your blog time and time again, but since you’ve been posting mostly on mecha I haven’t read much.

    This certainly gives me a lot of pleasure – I’ll return to your blog more often now.🙂

    It would be difficult to outgrow anime. I doubt it. But given a choice between the two media, I won’t hesitate picking literature. While anime is beautiful and evocative as a medium, it pales to what literature can create, foster, and foment. In addition, literature is much more varied and multifaceted.

    I love both, however.

  8. >>but since you’ve been posting mostly on mecha I haven’t read much.

    Well, with Code Geass 2 and Macross Frontier, 2008 has become year of the mecha as far as my almost 3 year fansub watching habit is concerned. I’ll be posting more about mecha but maybe I’ll try to do more also for the other genres.

    >>It would be difficult to outgrow anime. I doubt it. But given a choice between the two media, I won’t hesitate picking literature. While anime is beautiful and evocative as a medium, it pales to what literature can create, foster, and foment. In addition, literature is much more varied and multifaceted.

    Amen.

  9. The best I’ve read this year so far has been To Kill A Mockingbird. After reading it I felt that I could now determine good literature from so-so. Now if only Harper Lee would publish something again.

    Lady Chatterley’s Lover, now it’s significance lies in the fact that it was controversial. I still have to find somebody to help me dissect it though lol.

    Atonement by Ian McEwan made my cry, but his writing style isn’t to my liking. He tends to go into details of the surroundings that his characters are in, and I don’t like it.

    The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini was well, a good first novel. What I liked about it was the window it provided to another culture. I recommend this to anyone tired of reading the usual Western fare.

  10. Harper Lee never wrote any fiction again, right? I don’t know why she stopped, but she did.

    If you’re tired of normal Western fare, try Kawabata. He is so awesome, and he won the Nobel Prize. I have to still read Hosseini, but that can wait, haha.

    It’s useless to read Lawrence. I realized that after reading his novel that he had sexuality as his trump card, and since sexuality was very controversial at that time, he became popular. (It’s a simplification, but … yeah.)

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