The growth of the ‘otaku’ phenomenon in Spain: “Rosalía is in your team”

The singer Rosalía writes a tweet and manages to revolutionize social networks: she has recorded a scene from the animated film with her mobile ‘Your name’ (‘Kimi no na wa’ in its original language), and the reactions did not take long. “Oh my gosh, Rosalia, take a shower.” “Sing an opening wapo (sic) in Japanese, Rosalía, do it for God.” Himself Ibai comments: “Rosalía is on your team, Rosalía is ‘otaku’“.

It is not the first time that the singer winks to the Japanese country, since on other occasions she has appeared dressed in an aesthetic based on the anime of the 90s (‘Sailor Moon’ and the like). It’s not the only one. The British singer (albeit of Albanokovar descent) Dua Lipa, released a video clip a few months ago of what has probably been one of the most famous songs since the pandemic began: ‘Levitating’, de su album ‘Future Nostalgia’. The grace? The style of the video clip also draws directly from the animes of the 90s (from ‘Marmalade Boy‘to the aforementioned’ Sailor Moon ‘) in a kind of nostalgic tribute, as the name of the album itself indicates, to the millennial favorite cartoons, which after all grew up with Pokémon and substitutes.

When pop divas and other famous singers begin to ‘appropriate’ the symbols of a culture, until then marginal, it means that it is no longer so at all. And, when they start selling sweatshirts from ‘Sakura card captor’ en Bershka, it is also a bad sign. The ‘otakus’ (that is, the self-described lovers of everything Japanese) have their own day of celebration: it is today, December 15. The use of the term originated in a essay by Japanese journalist Akio Nakamori for a column in ‘Manga Burikko’ magazine, in 1983. So the vision of these manga and anime lovers was particularly negative and a bit stereotyped, due in part to the fame he achieved and the way the media treated Tsutomu Miyazaki in 1989, known as’ the killer ‘otaku’. Something similar to what happened in our country with Carlos Moreno and the famous crime of the role.

The view of the otaku has been particularly negative and stereotyped, due to the fame achieved in 1989 by the famous ‘otaku killer’ in Japan. Something similar to what happened here with the crime of the role

But, despite the supposed negativity of the term, in our country several conventions dedicated to this subculture are held every year in different cities (Expocómic, Expomanga, Japan Weekend … where fans take the opportunity to ‘cosplay’ and dress up as their characters favorites), and the sale of manga (comics from Japan) has grown more than ever. ‘Tokyo Revengers’, double volume released on November 12, has been one of the best-selling books in Spain this year, above ‘The beast’ by the controversial Carmen Mola.

“The manga industry in Japan is very powerful and broad,” Jesus Soler tells me, from the specialized bookstore ‘Learn japanese today‘, which is responsible for importing books to learn the language, as well as manga in their original language. “Of course, consumption has changed a lot in recent years. When I was 16 or 17 years old, the titles that were most successful arrived in our country (‘Naruto’, ‘Bleach’, ‘One Piece’, etc.), but manga is a separate universe. Collections and series come out continuously in their country of origin. In Spain there are very powerful publishers, but also other smaller and independent ones that have sponsored titles that were previously unthinkable, almost marginal manga and with very varied themes: historical, LGTBI-themed… things that in the past were believed could not be successful. The generation of the 80s and 90s grew up with ‘Dragon Ball’, ‘The Knights of the Zodiac’, ‘Oliver and Benji’ … but this has changed a lot “.

“There are more and more small and independent publishers that have sponsored titles that were previously unthinkable, almost marginal and with very varied themes: historical, LGTBI …”

Beyond ‘Attack on Titan’ and the like: ‘Adolf’, from the so-called ‘god of manga’ Osamu Tezuka, tells the story of three protagonists; two boys named Adolf during Nazi Germany, and Hitler himself. ‘Buda’, by the same author, is a critically acclaimed reinterpretation of the life of Gautama Buddha, referred to as a “stark and sexual portrait of the life of the founder of Buddhism.” ‘Good night punpun‘, from Inio Asano, It tells of the childhood and maturity of a deeply existentialist young man, with a dysfunctional family, with the particularity that he appears drawn as a little bird so that the reader can feel identified with him. ‘Midori, the girl with the camellias‘, from Suehiro Maruo, is a sadistic horror manga, with influences from ‘Monsters stop‘(1932), about a girl who is abused by her co-workers in a circus. ‘My Brother’s Husband’, by Gengoroh Tagame, tells the reality of what it is to be homosexual in a traditionalist country like Japan, where there is marked homophobia despite the number of sleeves on this subject. All of them are examples of ‘marginal’ products that in the past were of interest to a few and, which are becoming more and more global.

A visitor disguised as a comic book character in Expomanga 2014. EFE

“Of course, globalization has helped,” says Soler, “but I think that one of the aspects for which Japan is so interested in Europe (and in Spain in particular) is because it is a country with codes of conduct, moral and completely different ethics, which draws a lot of attention. This is reflected in many aspects: its language, its behavior, the personality of its citizens … not only manga, but also gastronomy arouses our interest. ‘necessarily leads to the derogatory concept of ‘otaku’ changes“.

When pop divas and other famous singers begin to ‘appropriate’ the symbols of a culture, until then, marginal, it means that it is no longer so at all

“When I was a teenager and I started reading manga they asked me if it was Japanese porn, with pictures of girls with big breasts and huge eyes. I always said that there was much more world. I want to believe that the idea and the term have already changed. ‘Manga’ simply means a comic from Japan, the most famous ones have removed the stigma it had. The conventions have also helped. In the past there was approximately one a year (being Barcelona the largest), but now there are several a year and in different cities in Spain, which shows that the market has grown and contributes to dissemination and visibility. a truly established industry in Europe, and the translation of manga is something that is highly valued because few people know Japanese, “he says.

Source: EFE

Probably, some of the problems that plague the Japanese country are also key to understanding the pejorative conception of the ‘otakus’: the famous hikikomoris, the suicide epidemic, machismo, loneliness… “Japan, like any other society, is imperfect. It has problems and really serious ones, but like any other. The problem is that many people have romanticized it,” says Jesús.

“Japan, like any other society, is imperfect. The problem is that many people have romanticized it”

In any case, the products coming from the Japanese market do not stop growing (a study carried out by the price comparator reveals that the demand for Pokémon products has increased by 70% in the last two years. It is not an isolated case , Searching for ‘Dragon Ball’ products has grown by 44% compared to 2019). All in the lucky year of their South Korean neighbors: ‘The squid game’ It has been the most successful series on the Netflix platform, and the BTS group has made history once again (his song ‘Butter’ has become part of the Guinness Book of Records as the most played song on Spotify in its first 24 hours).

Although some voices already speak of ‘Asian fetishization’, these are probably the charms of globalization in a world where even Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny dares to sing in Japanese in his song Yonaguni (name taken from a small and remote island in Japan). After that, you cannot say that an urban tribe is marginal, no matter how much its own members want to be. In your day, ‘otakus’ of the world, unite. Although there are more and more in this world in which we have had to live.