|▲ We can find Otaku easily in our daily life.|
|▲ Host defines the new positive meaning of Otaku. (Google)|
Have you heard about the expression ‘Otaku’? In its early days, it referred to people who bury themselves in specific interests such as animation or science fiction, but have no idea about other subjects. By the 1990s the meaning of the word was extended to include a more positive side where those with Otaku were consider experts in their specific field. Put simply. In Korea, the word Otaku is similar with fanatic.
In 2004, when the concept of Otaku first appeared in a TV program, the viewing public scorned at the people, often criticizing them because they didn’t understand their obsessiveness. However, the feelings towards Otaku are now changing from negative to positive. People are recognizing them as experts in their fields, even without a degree.
In a pilot program called ‘A Capable Person’, ordinary people and even celebrities showed their interest as Otaku. Audrey Hepburn’s Otaku, Lim Jeong-do showed off his handmade Audrey Hepburn figurine as the audience watched in wonder at the details of it. Chicken Otaku, Seo Bo-geun won a battle of distinguishing chicken menu against chicken expert. Sim Hyeong-tak, who recently gained popularity as a ‘Doraemon Otaku’, also made an appearance on this TV program. As a result, the perception towards Otaku is changing.
From the research conducted by The Dankook Herald (DKH) on the topic, 84% of respondents said they have a similar temperament to Otaku. ‘Animation and cartoons’ are ranked the most popular field for Otaku. It was followed in the rankings by ‘movies, dramas, and performances’, ‘games’, and ‘music’. 41% of the respondents said that the social mood of respecting Otaku should be built in Korea and 29% of them said that society should rank their efforts of having professional knowledge very highly.
The DKH tried to locate Dankookians with Mania. The DKH interviewed Choi Jun-mo (sophomore, Dept. of Japanese Languages) who is fascinated by animation and comics and currently working as President of the animation club Bulgeurim. The DKH first asked about his motivation to be interested in animation and comics. He answered, “I think my motivation isn’t that special. Just like others, I watched animation since I was a kid. Others might just watch animation and finish by enjoying it at that time. For me, it gave me a motivation to make animation, because the stuff I watched made a huge impression on me. Same case for comics, too.”
The DKH secondly asked how others react to his hobby. “Well, I think there are two extreme reaction. First, there are those who don’t approve and don’t try to understand us, but rather just narrow-mindedly categorize us as abnormal. Second, there are those who don’t care either way. They also can’t understand us, but at least they know that everyone has their own way of thinking,” he said. “I think there is no reason to criticize someone for their choice of hobby,” he added.
To find out more from another Mania at Dankook University, the DKH interviewed Park So-jung (freshman, School of Communications). She is interested in calligraphy and collecting unusual coffee sleeves. Firstly, the DKH asked how did she started drawing calligraphy and collecting unusual coffee sleeves. “Before I started calligraphy, I had a hobby of collecting pens. As my collection grew, I developed an interest in calligraphy where I could write phrases more beautifully using a variety of pens. As a result, I became a calligraphy Mania. Recently, during my summer vacation, I started collecting the different designs of cup sleeves. Each cafe has their own unique designs, so it there is a lot of delight in collecting them,” she said.
The DKH asked about the sense of reward she generated from practicing her hobbies. “After I complete a new calligraphy project, I always take a picture of it. When I see the pictures of my work, I see how far I have come as compared to the past. This is when I feel rewarded for my efforts. Also I feel this is all worthwhile, when people ask for copies of some of my work,” she said.
Finally, the DKH asked about the merits of being a Mania. “In my case, I want to be an art director and I believe they should have professional knowledge about advertisement and design. I am confident that my attention to calligraphy and collecting diverse designs of cup sleeves will be helpful for my future,” she said.
Nowadays, there are so many kinds of things we can be hooked on and it is easy to find an Otaku so called Mania around us. There are ‘Kidults’ who collect dolls, legos, Gundam models, and figures. There are others who collect caps, shoes, accessories, and cosmetics, and they all get excited about one thing deeply. They can also be called Otaku, and experts who are very passionate about what they are doing.
We cannot criticize those who wish to concentrate on one thing just as much as experts do. On the contrary, there are many people living passively like machines that have no passion and time to be hooked in one thing deeply they love. Faced with this kind of alternative lifestyle, can we blame those who we call Otaku for being different?
An Hee-jin, Park Seh-hoon email@example.com