The Female Otaku: Gender and Identity in Kuragehime

Note: While this post focuses on discussion of the anime Kuragehime, I feel the need to first discuss the definition of “otaku” and consider reactions to the label.

We all know nerds, and most people are nerds about one thing or another.  Some view the term along with visuals of glasses, braces, acne, terrible style, and A+ smarts.  I view the term “nerd” as nothing more or less than someone with extreme tendencies over one or more subjects.  The Japanese have a word for these extremists: “otaku.”  While some non-Japanese anime fans have taken this word and proudly applied it to themselves as anime otaku, video game otaku, and the like, they greatly overlook the implications of the word.  Others understand the insinuation, and use it deliberately.

For the most part, the Japanese use of “otaku” is derisive; it is not simply a term of classification as a nerd to the extreme.  It is a put down.  Otakus are fans of any given topic to the excess and have little control of their obsessions, so say the negative definers.  A good portrayal of the attitude towards otaku in Japan can be seen in the live action show, Densha Otoko.  Taken from a supposedly true story, Densha Otoko follows a shut-in otaku and his interaction with online peers.  Since “normal” people treat him rudely, including his own sister, his social instabilities never have a chance to improve until a chance encounter on a train allows him to grow.  The otaku and most of his online friends are male, a trend that continues into anime representations of otaku.  And like many similar depictions, the lifestyle and attitudes of these people are presented as flawed.  Though Densha Otoko warms the heart with overcome barriers and budding new relationships, it still sets the main character up as someone in need of a “positive” change to his life.

Kuragehime covers the empty bases by giving us what seems mostly missing from shows about otaku: the female population, and the beauty of being yourself, even if you are a “nerd.”

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Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru – Maids! Maids. Maids?

Okaerinasai, goshujin-sama!

I like to think that I’m pretty open-minded about most anime, but there are certain archetypes that dispel any possible interest I might take.  One of these is the maid stereotype.  Japan has this odd fascination with maids, as evidenced in their abundant maid cafes and in most anime harems where the shows make up any excuse they can to stuff their female characters (and sometimes male) into maid costumes.  And when I say maid, it’s definitely not your modern janitor type of clothes, but the classic, Victorian-era, British maid look.

Maids and butlers–it’s all about service, right? Exemplary service is expected to both household and its occupants.  This means the utmost hospitality, graciousness, grace, manners, and the awareness to make one’s self invisible unless called for.  Nothing is more unbecoming than a servant who does not know his/her place (think of Umineko’s servant Kanon and his notion of “furniture”).  In the case of most anime’s depiction of maids, another term comes to mind: MOE.  They are objects of appreciation who do all they can to please the master(s).  Since we’re considering the show Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru, let’s narrow the focus down to specifically cafe maids:

  • Super unrealistic anime-like voices
  • Some skirts may be ridiculously shorter than advised for the practical purposes of a maid
  • Some dresses may be ridiculously more flamboyant than advised for the practical purposes of a maid
  • Additional skills of dancing and singing?
  • Pandering to the desires of the customer, be that spoon feeding or paying special attention to him or her (omelets with requested messages, anyone?) with bidded appeals of “-sama, -niisan, etc.”

While I don’t really find the above attractive in an anime since I see it all the time, I wouldn’t mind trying it out in real life once or twice for the experience and fun.  Taking the cafe in SoreMachi into light, we get the FAILED EXPECTATIONS of the customer.  All those above bullet points are nowhere to be found.  It isn’t so much a show about maids, but about everything anti-maid.

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Fortune Arterial: Akai Yakusoku – Final Impression

Do you remember my entry on Shiki, where I discussed how that show took the very popular vampire topic and actually did something fresh with it? Yeah? Yeah? Take that freshness, that eerie mystery, take a look at Fortune Arterial…then throw it all out the window.  To really enjoy watching this anime, you’ll have to pause any expectations for the unique and understand that Fortune Arterial takes what’s already been done, and just does it over again.Read More »

Yumeiro Pâtissière SP Professional – Final Impression

Who doesn’t like eating the cutest, most colorful, and most damn delicious desserts? Okay, maybe you don’t, but I sure as hell do!  I also put myself through the torture of watching shows like Iron Chef, Good Eats, anime like Yakitate!! Japan, and Asian dramas like Bambino! and Pasta.  What do all these shows have in common? Delectable eats and fascinating premises.

Yumeiro Pâtissière SP Professional is the second season of the very successful anime, Yumeiro Pâtissière.  Like its predecessor, YPP follows main character Amano Ichigo and her friends, both new and old.  After the showdown in Paris at the end of season 1, season 2 takes off on a new route not previously explored: the business of sweets.  Ichigo and her friends tackle this competitive industry with gusto and learn that success cannot be achieved solely through heart.  Read More »