Well, it has been a few weeks since my last post about this, and now, it has become painfully obvious to me that I didn’t do a very fine job.
I took the comments on my previous post about this into consideration. I also had a consultation session with my English professor regarding this in the same week that I posted the rough draft for the paper, and I had taken her advice and did what I could with the limited time that I had to be able to churn out this paper. I just rushed this so that I could meet the deadline, bypassing most spell checks and most grammar checks. Though the paper may meet the standards set for an undergrad sophomore student like me, I can’t help but feel that this academic paper lacks a lot of passion and dedication, which I had to distribute evenly with equally tiring courses like Math 37 (a fancy name for an incredibly tiring and boring calculus course), Physics 13 (Electromagnetism, which is pretty much standard), and Chemistry 40 (a rather fun course about organic chemistry, until exams arrive), along with my recent problem of my computer breaking down. So yeah, here’s my promised post on the rise of Philippine otaku culture.
It is still considered as a legitimate academic paper, so keep that in mind. This paper uses the Modern Language Association format for citations.
IMPORTANT: For everyone’s sake, please do not, I repeat, DO NOT 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 study, 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 the 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 that was the staple western cartoon theme back then. The local airing of Voltes V, an example of this “Mecha” anime, was very well-received by the Filipino people with some considering it to be the most phenomenal anime series in Philippine history (Voltes V Evolution 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. It is also possible that watching the program provided a kind of haven for the disillusioned Filipino people under the dictatorship.
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 also broadcasted less and less anime titles to the point of said stations rerunning locally popular anime opposed to purchasing 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. At first, the ordinary Filipino anime enthusiast with no access to the internet would survey sidewalk shops or market stalls for copies of popular anime. The selection would most likely be limited to what the retailer thinks would sell, and only provide popular series, most especially those that proved to be popular in local television and this practice is still done by many Filipinos even at present. This limited the choices in more detail further in the study.
The recent rise of internet usage among Filipino households has allowed for the exposure of the 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 curious anime watcher or manga reader.
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 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, most treating it as a badge of honor and a symbol of knowledge about foreign culture (Sy). There are local periodical publications that include the word “otaku” in its name such as Otaku Zine and Otaku Vault. Many Filipino otaku online gathering communities and news sites like Zen Otaku Honbu or the Facebook group Otaku Craze also use the term for their names and titles. It is also claimed that being an otaku is currently a trendy and ‘cool’ hobby among Filipinos (Rivero).
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 anime-style maids are also being integrated into said events.
According to GMA News, MeiDolls café in Cainta, Rizal claims to be the first maid café in the Philippines. The services and amenities offered are tailored a little differently from the common maid cafes that one can find in Japan. MeiDolls café appears to use traditional Japanese low tables and cushions, as opposed to the more western approach, using western-style furniture of common maid cafes that one would see in Japan. The café also offers services to please the Filipino otaku, as well as any curious customer that happens to pass by. Customers are greeted with the customary Japanese welcome greeting, served with a fairly wide choice of Filipino, Japanese and western cuisine, while they are accommodated by costumed attendants with the world-famous Filipino hospitality (Tonson).
Of course, casual and professional Filipino cosplayers do exist, apart from those who work in maid cafes. Anime-related conventions can never be complete without them. In the last AME Fair, there are hundreds of cosplayers to be seen, either just for fun, or to join the event’s cosplay competition. The costumes of the cosplayes have different stories to tell. Some were hand-made y the contestant him/herself and some are made to order. The cosplayers can even be seen acting in character of the character being cosplayed, and is a common sight in anime conventions.
One of the most famous Filipino cosplayers is Alodia Gosiengfiao. She is very popular, not only in the Philippines, but also all over the world. She also admits to be an avid anime watcher since she was 7 and she is also an anime figure collector (Gosiengfiao).
Another subcategory of Filipino otaku culture that is getting more attention recently is being an anime figure collector. This subset of otaku culture focuses on buying, collecting and displaying anime-style figures. Long-time toy dealer, Great Toys online, is based on the Philippines and offers, besides the usual toys inspired by western comics, a growing offering of anime-style toys from Japan and are popular not only within Filipino toy enthusiasts, but also ships merchandise internationally.
A sizeable number of Filipinos partake in this hobby. There are online communities for Filipinos that collect anime figures. One of them is the Philippine Figure Collectors club in the website, myfigurecollections.net. Here, Filipinos discuss figure-related topics like maintenance, sales from distributors and toy conventions.
There is also a very niche subset of otaku culture in the Philippines that is interested in playing the Japanese game equivalent of a ‘choose your own adventure’ book. These games are mostly text based, and showcase Japanese voices and anime-style art. There is very little gameplay, aside from the occasional decision points, at which the player is required to take a certain course of action to advance the story. It is unclear whether this practice is widespread among Filipino otaku, but it is clear that there are Filipinos playing these kinds of games, as shown by the All-Filipino anime and manga blog, The Dere-Moe Project.
It must be said, however, that the term otaku has negative connotations in Japan. 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. The Japanese media has noted Miyazaki’s obsessions and decided to attribute his bizarre actions on anime and manga as a whole, to the point of labeling the man as an “otaku murderer” (“Otaku” Murderer Tsutomu Miyazaki Executed on Tuesday). From then on, otaku culture has been seen by the general public of Japan as something that implies being a “geek psychopath” 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 every 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.
These claims are very sensationalized and biased to the point of inaccuracy, as we can see how 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.
However, this does not mean that there is no stigma associated with being an otaku in the Philippines. Watching anime is somewhat viewed as a childish and immature endeavor, and being seriously involved with the culture was not widely recognized or 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 demographic 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.
To stress the importance of the knowledge that anime is a very diverse medium, a brief look at some key anime titles is important. While some anime exist for casual entertainment and wish-fulfillment of the target audience, most likely where titles like Gintama, K-On! and Yuru Yuri belong, there are anime that gained widespread acclaim for being inspirational, thought-provoking, and tragic, among other things. For example, the recent Puella Magi Madoka Magica explores a twisted side of being a superhero, showing a cynical view on justice, friendships and heroic ideals, Code Geass follows a protagonist who gets consumed by his own ideals while fighting against an oppressive foreign ruler, and Death Note explores the hidden darkness and twisted mindset of an intelligent high school student who was given the power to kill people simply by writing their names on a notebook.
Some anime titles provide viewers with a sliver of life and the joys and hardships that it brings. Clannad, tells the story of a young delinquent, meeting a silent girl who from then on changes his life for the better with the help of friends and family, going through the ups and downs of life itself. Kanon offers a series of tragic love stories centering upon the childhood friends of the protagonist after a long period of being apart from them.
Science fiction titles like Steins;Gate or Serial Experiments Lain provide unique and interesting takes on common science fiction themes like time travel, conspiracy theories and the like.
Most of the titles mentioned never reached Philippine shores, and a plausible cause for it is, aside from purchasing licenses from the Japanese publishers and rights holders, is censorship.
Manga, like anime, is also not limited to the “shōnen” staple. In fact, the aforementioned Death Note is a manga-original story. Puella Magi Madoka Magica, besides from a manga adaptation of the anime series, had two spin-off titles with the same dark themes with a different storyline: Puella Magi Kazumi Magica: the Innocent Malice and Puella Magi Oriko Magica.
It is possible that the reason why such anime have seemingly poor reception among the common Filipino people is because of the remnants of conservative Filipino culture, as well as many 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. Filipinos, otaku or not, can freely socialize with each other 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 major negative notions about otaku in the country.
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