In late January, I posted links to two clips by "Yamato Damacy" that featured otaku and Akihabara. In the meantime, they've posted two more videos that feature otaku culture. I enjoyed them, though the otaku interviewed at the end of Episode #18 was probably being too down on himself. Follow the links below:
Episode #18, Otaku
I also came across a video segment called "Otaku from USA", posted in the following blog: TV in Japan: Otaku from USA.
It's a clip from a Japanese TV show that followed around and interviewed the members of a Pop Japan Travel tour. I went on one of those as well, but we didn't get the same amount of Japanese media coverage (just a newspaper article with a photo, and a little video footage during the Sapporo Snow Festival). For a full length documentary featuring a Pop Japan Travel tour, check out Seven Days in Japan by Joe Doughrity.
Kevin Underwood: An American otaku-murderer?
26-year-old Kevin Underwood was recently arrested for the murder of a little girl, whose body was found in his apartment. It has been a high profile incident, not just because of the crime's brutality, but because of Underwood's significant internet presence (he maintained various blogs, for example), allowing crime analysts (professional and amateur alike) to peer into his clearly troubled psyche. He was into a lot of things: sci-fi, movies, music...typical stuff, really, for someone his age who spends a lot of time on the internet. More telling was his apparent interest in serial killers and cannibalism. I mention him here because he was also into anime. The nature of his crime and his interest in anime have caused some on the internet to draw parallels between him and Tsutomu Miyazaki.
Miyazaki, of course, was the infamous child-murderer who, due to his vast collection of videos (anime, horror movies, and child porn, according to most reports), was publically called an otaku by the Japanese media, sparking a moral panic against otaku in general in the late 80's and early 90's. I do agree that there are interesting parallels between Miyazaki and Underwood, but I find it ironic when people label Underwood as an otaku. Miyazaki being called an otaku resulted in an unfortunate backlash against anime fans in Japan. While Underwood's crime is similar to what Miyazaki did, are we to repeat what the Japanese media did over a decade-and-a-half ago, creating a backlash against anime fans in America by focusing on Underwood's anime habit? [Anime was apparently only one facet of his wide-ranging interests; he does not appear to have blogged about anime-related subjects very much since 2004]
Luckily, linking Underwood to anime hasn't really happened yet on any large scale, and the network news coverage of the incident hasn't really touched on anime at all. Hopefully, they will focus less on the media he was into and try to understand the deeper causes of his crime. Unfortunately, we may never know the real answer. Even in the case of Tsutomu Miyazaki, after all these years, there is still debate about his motivations and what really happened. (The following article has an excellent discussion of that: Sifting through the geeks - that's all of us - to identify the perverts)
I find myself a bit puzzled as to why more people have not made a connection between Underwood's self-professed social anxiety and Japan's hikikomori problem, since the hikikomori phenomenon is often associated with social anxiety disorder. When reading some of Kevin Underwood's blog posts, I was more reminded of the disturbed hikikomori protagonist of Welcome to the N.H.K. than the easy-going otaku portrayed in Genshiken (which is not to say that I think being hikikomori or having social anxiety disorder necessarily leads to violent behavior).