Why otaku are

There is something in the milieux of places that enriches and invites the fomentation of thought. Although I am unable to write at all whenever I am cramped in my own dormitory room, I find that even simply moving to a public Internet cafe (despite my possession of a decent Internet connection, and by decent I mean not a dial-up one) allows me to better organize my thoughts regarding the different occurrences and objects around, within, and beyond me. As I have noted in my previous entry, I have not written much about anime these past few weeks because I have been devoid of the Internet connection in my dorm. I have not watched anime because of this privation.

Yet I have discovered more than what I have lost. In addition to a rediscovery of Korean drama I have also introspected and looked within; I realized then that I am content as an observer of relationships: as the apathetic, distant observer I know more of what I need to know as regards myself. Seeing however, with the incompetency that I have tackled this personal issue, I shall strive to explicate better and with more depth this problematic.

This is the problematic of detachment, and I think this is pertinent to the appreciation of anime because most otaku have imbibed this attitude towards real life. Most otaku have disconnected themselves with the reality of the world, or the reality that Mundus est, or the world is. They have created worlds of their own, where amidst a vassalage of blind people they possess not one, but two eyes: they are not only king, but king, queen, emperor, and God. I have turned my back on this problem and enjoyed life as much as possible despite possessing a virtually nil social life; I immersed myself on the media that I love, and I was content. I was God of my own world, the world of my mind; I was Paley’s watchmaker, a detached being who was ubiquitous, omnipotent, and omnipresent in my own world of anime. I played, paused, selected, stopped, and terminated. But then I was asked by a friend of mine, ‘Is that enough?’

I could say nothing else but yes. For me, it was enough to live the worlds I have created and to observe what happens to these different characters. I had, however, in the end, the final decision: I could simply press stop, and they (the characters of my self-created world) would disappear into nothingness. I commanded their deaths and their lives. And maybe this is the reason why a lot of otaku disconnect themselves; perhaps this is why they ejaculate themselves from their mundane existence. I mean ejaculate not in the common sense; rather, I derive meaning from its etymology. To jacere in Latin is to throw; in the same vein, ex- or e- in latin is a prefix for out. They throw themselves out of their banal existence to become gods of their own worlds.

I realized this may be one of the reasons why otaku become otaku. Who does not want to escape from the painful realities of life to become gods? Practically no one. Everyone wants to do what they want, to sate their desires and to live as hedonistically and as sybaritically as possible. Yet the real world limits us, manacles us like chains and holds us to do what we need to do to exist.

But I do not want to be God. Yes, I do want to utilize anime as a means of temporal escape from the harsh reality of the world, but I do not want to be God, and neither has it passed my mind that I want to emulate God’s absolute command over life. (I ask pardon to all the atheists out there.)

What is the reason, then, why I disjoint and disconnect myself from the world through the means of anime? Why do I do these things?

Looking even deeper within, as if trying to uproot the weeds in the abyss of my memory to uncover the truth, I find that I seek perfection, and that I can only find this in anime. In anime, there is perfect good as there is perfect evil. There are existents who live to be as benevolent as is humanly possible; on the other hand, there are existents who exist on to sow evil. But this is not all; there are existents who are truly representations of beauty that cannot be found in this world as there are total representations of ugliness. And this was the reason in my previous article why I mentioned Fernando Pessoa.

Fernando Pessoa is a poet renowned in Portugal, but he was never known as a prosaist until 50 years after his death, when his manuscripts to which is now known as The Book of Disquiet were discovered. Although some of his entries (as it had the form of a diary) were simple and pedestrian, some possessed compact but explosive power. I was totally moved by some of his entries, especially those regarding aesthetics.

In one of those entries he mentioned that observing a beautiful lady from afar was akin to observing great works of art such as the Mona Lisa from pictures and stories. Because one does not know the lady one assumes (blindly) in his mind that the beautiful lady is perfect, that each movement of hers is the representation of perfection itself. But whenever one gets closer to the lady, one realizes that she may not possess the perfect teeth, or that something in her personality irritates one. The ideal of perfection is now decimated, run aground, and totally destroyed. It is because one knows more that one cannot fake anymore the ideal of perfection. When one knows, one recognizes his imperfection because, according to Descartes, we understand that we can always know more, that even when we near our deaths, even when we are moribund we still can know more and by that we are imperfect. Ignorance, indeed, is bliss. When we come to understand that reality in and of itself is terminally and inexorably imperfect, we tend to avoid it, or rather, avoid being held down by it. Perhaps this is why I bathe and enrich myself in the anime that I watch. Perfection is exemplified by some, and even the flaws in and of themselves are perfect (if one catches my drift). This quest for perfection that is impossible to consummate in reality can be observed in the world of anime. It may be sad, but this perfection is what everyone seeks, although in different manners and methods. Some try to excel in school; some try to improve their bodies; others dabble in anime and become otaku. There is something in the observation of perfection itself that reflects perfection, and among the ways to do this is the watching of anime. We feel perfect because we can see perfection. I guess this is my reason why I watch anime and have become an otaku of it.

(I really wish I could add more, but it’s almost 2 am here, thus I am tired, and by tomorrow my thinking would be in a totally different dimension so a continuation of this article would be nigh-impossible. I’m sorry if there are grammatical or spelling errors as well.)

7 Responses to “Why otaku are”

  1. Mike Says:

    Very perceptive self-reflection, Mike. The longing for perfection is built into all of us, a longing for the ideal world–and fiction has always been a way into the ideal worlds we continue to create. I agree with Plato when he proposes that there is a memory, embedded deep inside of us, of what our original state was and where we came from. It is also the idea that lies underneath the story of the Garden of Eden; as they sang back in the 60s, “we’ve got to get ourselves back to the Garden…”

    And yet, as our shared love of Honey and Clover attests, we can look to the best anime to also reflect accurately the state we find ourselves in at the moment too. Reflected more vividly and eloquently, and perhaps more neatly, than our real lives perhaps, but a true image all the same. I suggest that too can play a role in our otakuness; it certainly did in mine, seeing that it was Evangelion (particularly its ending) that drew me into this hobby in the first place. I think we need the truth reflected back to us and for others to say and show us the things we can’t say ourselves.

    CS Lewis once wrote that the desire for something that can’t be perfectly fulfilled here on earth suggests that there is Something Else out there that can fulfill it. I’ll leave it at that. 🙂

  2. Impz Says:

    The thing with animation is that the boundaries are almost limitless because you can distort almost everything in your means to weave a story. With real people, the face, the expressions and all are limited by the group of people that you have on your cast.

    There is less scope for restrictions in the world of anime, and that is perhaps why anime is so sorely under utilized in terms of experimental creativity and works. Another important thing with anime is that it allows a certain form of utopia for those that do not dissolve well in the social networks of life.

    In anime, there is little rejection, little need for active participation and yet there is this certain sense of involvement due to novel story telling. You do not need to do anything at all, but I guess it’s a choice of life in which you decide what you want to do. There is no right or wrong, simply a choice. We are usually too quick to judge and analyze using our own eyes, which is sorely limited at times. That is why we have stereotypes, to simplify our world no matter how inaccurate those forms are in reality.

    To end off this comment, I will say that anime allows a dismemberment of the line between truth and falsity. It is only up to you to see if you want to live a beautiful lie, or a bad truth that can progress if you try to move forward. Viewing anime of the philosophical genre (I am sure you watch them, Mike) should already tell you that.

  3. TheBigN Says:

    A vary interesting viewpoint here. I haven’t thought of anime being as perfection, because when you look at the surface, a lot of things aren’t too great about it. I place it upon myself to keep myself grounded in reality, and to keep things in perspective. While I love anime, I can’t let it be a means of escape because I’m “tethered” to responsibility and the like. I don’t have to follow society (as xxxHolic stated), but to me, it feels at it’s something I have to do, just as you use anime the way you do. :3

  4. NovaJinx Says:

    There has been escapism in one form or another throughout history, but in very limited forms until the digital age. In the jolly old days regular folk was busy working on fields and pastures all day long and pretty much the only people with enough wealth and free time to enjoy of such things as arts and entertainment were the select few living in mansions, whose life was supported by the toil of faceless mass of peasants. For the lower class on the fields the escapism was the work itself – that, or the good ol’ booze, which still retains its position as the first and foremost form of escapism for most of the regular crowd.

    However, the digital age has brought all the possibilities to the regular folk – combined with modern social structure that guarantees most people at least some degree of free time and personal wealth – things that did not exist just a century ago. Currently people who commit themselves to digital entertainment are still labeled with terms such as nolife, nerd, otaku, geek etc. by the vast crowd who stick with more conventional ways of detaching momentarily from daily worries (alcohol, partying, sports and so forth). To the regular crowd digital entertainment is “unreal” – in the conventional sense “virtual” means this. But how do we define “virtuality”? Often the answer is that “virtual” is something “not physical, a bunch of electrical signals that form something that cannot be physically touched” – but if this is the case, isn’t the “reality” itself just a bunch of electric and chemical signals in our brain, that produces a certain image of our surroundings? What makes, for example, football any more real than an episode of anime or a round of Unreal Tournament? Many people whose idea of spending free time is found from a bottle of booze have told me how empty, sad and boring my life must be – shouldn’t I be the one asking that question?

    The ones with some knowledge on the Good Book know the case of Thomas the Apostle – who wouldn’t believe before he could physically confirm – and this is how majority of people still think to this day. What cannot be physically touched cannot exist, no matter what. As such, “virtual” is something foolish people waste their lives on, to let a system of electrical signals manipulate them to feel something that’s not real. While the same people who think this way use chemical substances to manipulate the system of electrical signals inside their brain. But alcohol has a physical, liquid form, you can feel it going down your throat.

    We live in an age in which the traditional boundaries of “real” are being questioned as people are beginning to realize the true potential of “virtuality” – that allows just anyone with affordable tools and a bit of time to achieve things that would’ve been unthinkable just a few decades back. Now anyone can use digital, “unreal” tools to create music, graphical art, writings etc. and, more importantly, share them with the rest of the entire mankind in a collective digital network. What was thought of as something only nobles are allowed to have their hands on has now become commonplace – and people are finally becoming to realize this. Surely we are nerds, geeks, otaku and unsightly nolives yet, but times are changing and the attitudes with them.

  5. intro Says:

    Anime is not limited to perfectly good and perfectly bad characters, although there is the tendency to like them because their boundaries are so clear cut.

    An anime viewer who does so to escape reality and into a “perfect” alternate like anime must necessarily get close to the characters and their world. But the closer one gets, the more imperfections are observed. Character flaws are “perfect” only in the sense that they are accurately portrayed in the context of the setting. But in that case, it should make no difference whether or not we watch a live-action TV series or not.

    The animated medium grants a lot more flexibility and is thus an elegant vehicle to embed creativity and symbolism, but perfection ought to be judged on the product and not the form.

  6. Asuka Says:

    In most cases, escapism is a healthy coping mechanism. Heck, the entire entertainment industry feeds on our need to detach from reality once in a while. Like NovaJinx mentioned above, the whole argument lies in the definition of “virtuality” and to some extent, “reality”, as well.

    You made an interesting point of comparing a woman in the distance to a Mona Lisa painting, only to have your imagination take a hit when you realize the woman is imperfect. The description reminds me of a scene in Jack London’s “Martin Eden”, where the protagonist was drawn to a beautiful painting from afar. However, as he stepped closer, he saw the ugliness of the individual patches and pixels that composed the painting. It’s the same with people – the more you get to know them, the more ugly patches you see. How well you come to accept and even appreciate those patches determines how attached you become with them. This is the basis of love: accepting the other despite their imperfections.

  7. Ryan A Says:

    Awesome stuff here. First, I can’t believe you used the word fomentation in the first sentence, fab intro, I had to read everything for myself.

    I’d like to compliment the points made on the embedded desire for perfection (beauty), and the escapism in a virtual manner, which I believe is also embedded in humans, even before the digital age and such.

    If we were to look back on humans thousands of years ago, we would still find virtual escapism; dreams. Dreams are a part of our lives before many of the physical necessities we require, and though not everyone may truly “escape” in dreams, it is a sort of elusive form of living, for about 1/12 of our lives. It is true that dreams are usually not enough to satisfy our need to separate from our realities, but is it possible to group this form of virtual escape with the digitalized version?

    I don’t know the answer, as I’ve not thought it through, but what I’m getting at is this: It is less critical to consider an otaku’s escapism as a form of dreaming, a natural process, than to relate it to artificial, man-created stimuli. Both of these aspects will meet in the middle of one’s fatigued reality, for when one cannot bear with true reality, it will be distorted and smeared with an alternate one of choice (dream or entertainment).

    Just as there exists those who have extreme difficulty distinguishing between dreams and reality, it would be natural to assume that eventually there will be those who cannot distinguish between reality and their own virtualization (dream). Do otaku fit this bill? I would say in the worst case scenario, but I would not consider most of these situations to be as dangerous as one who cannot control mixing dreams and reality (these would be in the DSM-IV).

    Until otakuism is in the DSM-IV, we may be okie-dokie!

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