So this is what I’ve been busy with for the past few weeks. As you all know I am a proud Filipino, and I also like anime and otaku culture. As such, I have submitted a research proposal about this particular topic. And what do you know? It got accepted by my professor!
Now you’re probably asking why the hell I posted this long and boring article over here. Long story short, I want opinions. Opinions on how I can improve this draft for the impending doom that is the final paper to be submitted sometime soon. So be a pal and help me out, okay?
Disclaimer and warning: This post contains the rough draft of my academic paper. It is tentative and is subject to further changes. As it is now, this study is unfit to be used as an official source for an academic paper, and it shouldn’t. However, if I find out that this article is used unlawfully, I am fully prepared to take the case to court, so please think twice before attempting to plagiarize.
“Otaku” is a Japanese slang word that roughly means “a person who has an obsessive interest in a particular subculture or hobby, most often, but not always, anime or Japanese animation, manga or Japanese comics, and other related merchandise. Various other interpretations of the term exist. For example, Oxford Dictionaries defines the term as “a young person who is obsessed with computers or particular aspects of popular culture to the detriment of their social skills” (otaku, n.) .This example may reflect the image of a typical otaku in the eyes of the more critical groups of people, and of the general public over at the western side of the world. However, Japanese author, Hiroki Azuma, provides a more “culture-centric” approach on his definition: “…a general term referring to those who indulge in forms of subculture, strongly linked to anime, video games, computers, science fiction, special-effects films, anime figurines, and so on” (3). The latter definition provides a more in-depth and comprehensive view on the specifics of the subculture, and the definition that is widely accepted by anime and manga fans themselves. In this paper, Azuma’s definition will be used.
Otaku culture in the Philippines, though comparatively small compared to the US and other countries, does exist. This is proven by certain factors, which would be discussed in this study. To provide a clear grasp on the historical and finer details concerning local otaku culture, it is imperative that a brief history of anime in the Philippines be provided.
Japanese animation started gaining popularity in the Philippines during the rising popularity of “Mecha,” or giant robot, anime back in the 1970’s (Sy). It was back at those times that the anime industry in Japan was just starting to produce animation with a deeper focus on plot and character development, producing a broader spectrum of cartoon themes than the normal slapstick comedy staple of western cartoons back then. The local airing of Voltes V was very well-received by the Filipino people with some considering it to be the most phenomenal anime series in Philippine history (Voltes V on Hero TV EXPOSED!). The title first aired in the Philippines during the martial law regime of Ferdinand Marcos. The themes of Voltes V, such as opposition of an oppressive ruling body and a family-centered storyline might have contributed to the overwhelming popularity of the show among the Filipino people; children and adults alike.
However, the introduction of other imported TV programs, namely Mexican soap operas in the 1990’s, Taiwanese soap operas in the early 2000’s and most recently, Korean shows and pop culture in the mid-2000’s demoted anime to the early morning children’s programming block and at times, the afternoon programming block along with other imported non-primetime Asian shows. Local television stations on free TV have also shown less and less anime to the point of said stations rerunning locally popular anime opposed to acquiring broadcasting licenses for newer titles from Japan. While local cable channels dedicated to broadcasting anime like Hero TV or Animax Philippines have a wider choice of programs, they are still quite limited and inaccessible to those not subscribed to cable television services. Of course, now with fewer anime titles shown on local free television, Filipinos who want to see more anime had to find alternative ways to watch said shows.
The recent rise of internet usage among Filipino households have allowed for the exposure of the more liberal internet-using Filipino youths to information about anime, manga and Japanese pop culture in more depth and detail compared to what is shown on television or other forms of media. This also led to more Filipinos discovering websites where they could watch anime or read manga to their heart’s content. Fan-subtitled, more well-known as fansubbed anime, and fan-translated manga are also accessible through the internet for the prospective anime watcher.
Social networking sites and services like Facebook, and blogs dedicated to anime, manga and otaku culture also help in spreading information about the culture and provide a place where Filipinos can discuss aspects of the culture with each other. A quick internet search of something like “otaku Philippines” will provide substantial results when searching for Filipino otaku gathering websites.
Because of this now widespread knowledge, even if limited, about anime and Japanese culture among the young Filipino people, some aspects of the otaku culture, both in Japan and other countries are being assimilated into the growing local otaku culture. Many Filipino otaku consider themselves as such, with most treating it as a badge of honor and a symbol of knowledge about foreign culture (Sy).
University organizations, one of the most popular and prominent being the UP AME, or the University of the Philippines Anime and Manga Enthusiasts, participate in most Japan-related events within the university. The organization also holds an annual event called the AME Fair, which caters to both casual and serious anime fans in the Philippines, particularly in the Metro Manila area.
Several anime-related events, or conventions, like the AME Fair or the Ozine Fest, are being held regularly, and greeted positively. According to AME member and AME Fair Committee finance division member Jesus Lorenzo Guerrero, the last AME Fair had an attendance count of around 5000, selling out every available ticket and having to deny admission to many more latecomers because of the unanticipated positive reception (Guerrero). Other such events like the aforementioned Ozine Fest, is also held from time to time.
Role-playing and/or dressing up in a character costume as anime and manga characters, better known as cosplaying, is gaining popularity locally. In anime-related events, cosplayers are often present, aside from other cultural influences such as Maid Cafés, or cafés that have waitresses who dress as maids are also being integrated into said events.
It must be said, however, that the term otaku has bad connotations both in Japan and countries like the US and the UK. Tsutomu Miyazaki, a social recluse responsible for some deplorable defilement and murders of young girls was found to be obsessed with pornographic anime and manga (“Otaku” Murderer Tsutomu Miyazaki Executed on Tuesday). The Japanese media needed something to blame Miyazaki’s actions on back then – a scapegoat: anime and manga as a whole. From then on, otaku culture has been seen by the general public of Japan as something that implies being a “geek murderer” or an obsessive maniac. This notion has since dwindled significantly following the positive reception of Japanese media franchise, Train Man, an allegedly true story about a 22-year old Japanese otaku, nicknamed “Densha Otoko (Train Man)” by anonymous users of 2Channel, a Japanese message board. According to the story, “Train Man” saves a woman he meets on the train from harassment by a drunken man. This story became an international bestseller (Ashby) and helped improve the image of otaku in Japan.
There is also the issue of Rapelay, a Japanese anime-style adult game primarily involving rape, getting discussed by the British parliament (Choo), open to the public, about finding ways, and effectively banning the sales of such games. This may have influenced the views of the public about otaku for the worse.
Cases of both internet and real life bullying toward otaku, one of the most infamous being the now inaccessible Encyclopedia Dramatica articles on otaku and anime, as well as some websites that publish unsubstantiated claims that generalize otaku as unpatriotic, perverted and weird do exist. While some of these claims may hold a sliver of truth, it most certainly does not apply to every anime and manga fan.
However, Filipino otaku culture reflects very little, if any at all, of these stereotypes, especially when considering the outgoing and hospitable nature of the Filipino people. Claims referring to Filipino otaku being sociopathic child murderers cannot possibly exist due to the absence of any such case in the Philippines being made public, if any have happened at all. Any appeal to lack of patriotism will most likely be shrugged off because of how Filipinos easily assimilate foreign culture to their own.
This does not mean that there is no stigma associated with being an otaku in the Philippines, however. Watching anime is somewhat viewed as a childish and immature endeavor, and being seriously involved with the culture was not widely welcomed. In fact, Angel Rivero from the Philippine Star shares that as an otaku herself, she found otaku culture to be largely unpopular some years ago, and that other people find it hard to comprehend anime fascination and other aspects of the culture (Rivero).
This popular conception might come from the fact that most anime aired in the Philippines come from an anime and manga genre known as “shōnen” or anime targeted at young boys. Examples of these kinds of anime include Dragon Ball, Naruto, Bleach and One Piece. While these examples are some of the most internationally-acclaimed examples of Japanese animation, they are most certainly not the only anime in existence. The “shōnen” genre isn’t the only genre of anime and manga that exists. There are in fact, anime and manga targeted at a more mature audience; those that showcase technicality, darker themes and even socially relevant issues. Some examples of these anime include 1995’s Neon Genesis Evangelion, Code Geass of 2007, or the recent Puella Magi Madoka ★ Magica aired this 2011. These kinds of anime are considered to be for a more mature audience as they contain high amounts of violence, profanity, and a certain amount of suggestive and dark themes. These anime franchises were very popular in Japan, even among the non-otaku crowd. Though Neon Genesis Evangelion did air here in the Philippines through the television network ABS-CBN in 1999, the series seemed to have only received little acclaim, if any, the local broadcast of Code Geass had tough viewership competition from being broadcast at the same time that local television giants such as GMA7 would broadcast daily news and Puella Magi Madoka ★ Magica has yet to be aired locally.
It is possible that the reason why such anime have seemingly poor reception is because of the remnants of conservative Filipino culture, as well as people treating anime as something that is for children and teenagers alone. It is for this reason that a minor stigma against Filipino otaku appears to exist, even though the possibility exists that said stigma is simply a trifling worry.
However, even with these apparent issues, Filipino otaku suffer little, if any, persecution from common people. It is considered as simply a love of culture, much like how many Filipinos also appreciate Korean and American pop culture without suffering from any negative stigma. Filipino otaku can freely socialize with non-otaku people while donning anime-themed clothing or accessories, as much as the next Hollywood film fan would.
The local otaku subculture, though may not be as prominent as it is in Japan or western countries, is slowly taking footing as a stable subculture through the improvement of information technology and the absence of negative notions about otaku in the country.
Azuma, Hiroki. Otaku, Japan’s Database Animals.Trans. Jonathan E. Abel and Shion Kono. Minneapolis, Minnesota. University of Minnesota Press, 2009. 3. Print.
Choo, Danny. “Rapelay.” 29 May 2009 <http://www.dannychoo.com>
““Otaku” Murderer Tsutomu Miyazaki Executed on Tuesday.” 17 June 2008 <http://www.animenewsnetwork.com>
“otaku, n.” Oxford Dictionaries. April 2010. Oxford Dictionaries. April 2010. Oxford University Press. <http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/otaku>
Rivero, Angel. “Part Chinese, part Filipino and part otaku!.” 20 May 2011 <http://www.philstar.com>
Sy, Michael David. “An ethnographic study on otaku culture from a local perspective.” 22 March 2007 <http://animeotaku.animeblogger.net>
Ashby, Janet. “Hey Mr. Trainman.” 18 November 2004 <http://search.japantimes.co.jp/member/member.html?ek20041118br.htm>
Guerrero, Jesus Lorenzo. Personal interview. 21 August 2011.
“Voltes V Evolution on Hero TV EXPOSED!.” 11 April 2006 <http://magtibayanime2000.blogspot.com>