The “Otaku” Shop
I am sad because my local video/DVD shop, the one I have used almost exclusively since getting married and moving into my wife’s apartment and neighborhood, has closed and been replaced by a used DVD Game store. Sure, there is another video rental shop nearby that I can use. It’s catalogue of movies is a little different than what I was used to at my old shop - with more older, classic movies and fewer current, popular ones. It’s okay, but I don’t see the need of closing the rental shop and re-opening as something else. Surely video and DVD rentals is a lucrative business? Maybe it is not as profitable as I imagine. Maybe the practice of downloading movies from the internet has taken such a bite out of the movie (video and DVD) rental business that it is a risky venture under threat.
When I learned the news I went home and told my wife. “It’s an otaku shop.”
“Otaku” is a Japanese word variously translated as “weirdo,” “hobbyist,” “enthusiast,” “geek,” and more. It is one of a battery of pop culture cant common in the modern language of the young. It is even a word that threatens to make the cross culture leap, in pursuit of predecessors like “judo,” “manga,” “anime,” and others. People who collect things can be described as “otaku:” books, comic books, women’s underwear, computer games, telephone cards, music DVDs. People who are avid fans of a particular thing are similarly described: men and women who dress up on weekends as their favorite manga character - called “cosplay,”or Costume Play - like Sailor Moon or Cutie Honey; people who collect toys of all manner; professional junk collectors who pedal their wares at the weekend bazaars (sometimes for small fortunes); aficionados of pachinko (pin ball), and more.
The more I thought about it the more angry I became at the idea that my convenient video shop should be replaced by a marginal geek store - maybe patronized by solitary, socially isolated middle aged men renting old adult movies from the 70s and 80s.
I lamented most of this aloud to my family one evening. My son and I were joking about otaku - he knows what an otaku is, after all - and I made up a game, the winner of which could call himself the greatest otaku in the world.
“Junko come here! Watch this. The winner is the geekiest geek in the world. Watch!”
“You’re already the geekiest geek in the world.”
So there you have it.