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16Jul/092

Re-Blogging: Interview with Yamamoto Yutaka

Otaku in Japan

A Japanese Otaku with his prized posession: the hug pillow.

I just happened to stumble upon this story and thought I'd share. Akira, this particular blog entry's author, has taken a printed interview with ex-Kyoani staff member Yamamoto Yutaka and added a bit of commentary of his own to highlight some of the more significant points Yamamoto makes.

Akira explains Yamamoto's significance in the anime industry far better than I could, so I'll let him do the talking:

Mr Yamamoto is one of the foremost critics of anime. After graduating from Kyoto University with a BA in Literature (incidentally, his senior thesis was about End of Evangelion and Princess Mononoke), he entered Kyoto Animation. Some of his more notable innovations at Kyoani include both the Lucky Star and Hare Hare Yukai dances, as well as the 12th episode of Haruhi (featuring now well-known musical numbers such as God Knows…). He was fired abruptly after directing four episodes of Lucky Star for being “not good enough.” Kannagi is his first work since being fired from Kyoani.

He then reiterates a good point Yamamoto makes in saying that anime as a subculture has a sort of self-imposed caste system:

...there are different “tiers” of fandom; with those who watch dubs and Naruto often at the bottom, and members of the fansubbing community (especially those who actually speak Japanese) at the very top. This self-imposed caste system certainly does not make newcomers to the anime fandom feel welcome.

Another Otaku, I belive in Germany. Theres no escaping these guys.

Another Otaku, I belive in Germany. There's no escaping these guys.

So the lowest level, the gutter-cleaners and trash collectors, are dub viewers and Naruto fans. (Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Naruto dub fans. ) This is all too obvious at conventions and even in small gatherings -- you can almost gauge how long someone has been aware of anime by how they stack up against this otaku chain of command. The different levels here in Western groups are fairly cut-and-dry, however I have a bit of trouble picturing the higher level structures. Where does the walking Gundam encyclopedia fall? Is there a rift between those who consume (read/watch/download/etc.) only a particular few, and those that take in much more -- even if they both prefer the same genre? How about fans of particular genres? Shounen? Moé ? Mecha?

I'd love to know what constitutes placement in the Japanese otaku hiearchy as well: Are Japanese rippers and RAW distributors at the bottom of the food chain, since they're illegally exporting 2-D goods from Glorious Nippon? Are cosplayers held in higher regard than they are here? Is there such a thing as a bad Japanese cosplayer? Are there any major class distinctions that are mutually shared between our otaku culture and Japan's? But I digress: those are all questions for another day.

The article continues to discuss sub-genres and how they have caused creativity in production to stagnate, the overuse of referential in-jokes and other terrible devices, producers preferring to stay safe rather than try to innovate, and other problems in anime today:

The lack of originality and the desire for exclusivity by the fandom has created a highly transparent industry. Mr Yamamoto affirms that the creators and the fans are “too close.” This is the biggest reason behind the isolation of the anime industry. The creators feel too obligated to please their fans, and the fans naturally expect the creators of anime to cater to them specifically, as opposed to society at large. This negative feedback loop simply exacerbates the problem over time, and now we have an industry that has boxed itself into a dead end.

Really interesting stuff. It's worth the read if you care anything about the dynamics of the anime industry over in Glorious Nippon.

Read the full text here: http://behind-the.nihonreview.com/20090427/otaku-soul-an-interview-with-yamamoto-yutaka/

Posted by bigopinion