Arama They Didn't

9:50 am - 04/20/2012

Wonderland: The otaku's bedroom

by Colette Bennett

A peek into an otaku's bedroom or living space can be a bit of a surprise for the average person.

But it's not unusual for fans of anime and manga in Japan to decorate their small rooms even more elaborately. Otaku rooms can be covered in posters and pillows or shelves with hundreds of collectible figurines, all emblazoned with favorite anime or manga characters. Some fans make a point of collecting as much merchandise associated with the object of their affection as they can, and making sure it's all on display. It's a form of decorative expression that many otaku in the rest of the world have also adopted.

You might have seen it in the Japanese drama "Train Man," the main character's bedroom is crammed floor to ceiling with shelves of statues and figures from popular anime series like "Mobile Suit Gundam" and stacks of manga.

Let's be clear: This is not "normal behavior" in Japan. While the otaku population is strong there, Japanese who get involved in any fandom to this degree earn a certain amount of disapproval from others. Some are reserved about letting people see their personal space because of it.

In his new book, "Otaku Spaces," author Patrick W. Galbraith digs even deeper into the way otaku choose to decorate their surroundings, and the reasons why they choose to do so in the way that they do. Just like American collectors, comfort plays a key role in why they choose to collect.

"Whether we look at bedrooms, stores or even neighborhoods where otaku hang out, it seems almost as if there is a colonization of space by interests," Galbraith said. "Whatever it was that interested them, they could encounter it anywhere and anytime in daily life, increasing feelings of intimacy. The more they consumed, the closer they felt to favorite series, characters or moments."

There's nothing weird about collecting things - in fact, most people do it. Whether it's DVDs, video games, stamps, vintage lunchboxes or even rare Star Wars figures, there's something attractive about the lore of the hunt, finding that oh-so-rare item.

In addition to that undeniable draw, there's also the space those coveted objects ultimately occupy - how you choose to display those things that you collect. As that space is filled, it brings a collection to life. Each object has a story attached to it - how you acquired it, where you were when you found it. Each piece of the collection acts like a thumbtack on the cork board of your life, pinning an object to a moment and creating a vivid, pointed memory.

If you've ever felt that way, you understand something about the heart of an otaku and how they live.

Otaku collecting is not limited to just anime-related merchandise. There are many different types of otaku, such as "Pasocon-ota" (computer geeks) and "Gunji-ota" (fans of military themed items).

Otaku even compete to have the most impressive rooms. Japanese culture guru Danny Choo challenged the readers of his website to take photos of their rooms and submit them online, which were eventually compiled into a series of best-selling books called "Otacool." These books give the reader the ability to peek through the keyhole into a world that is equal parts foreign, unusual and absolutely fascinating.

"Otaku rooms are some of the most interesting rooms I get to see – filled to the brim with anime and game merchandise," Choo says. "Just like how mum likes to display and enjoy looking at crockery around the house, otaku love to be close to and admire physical representations of their favorite characters."

This method of collecting is merely a highly stylized version of any other collector's methods, but it holds a key in that it communicates a tremendous amount of information from one otaku to another, sketching a vast illustration of their specific interests and drilling down to subgenres of subgenres. In this form of collecting, a deeply personal form of expression is born.

The intimacy that this kind of collecting creates threads of connection between people with similar interests. At a glance, one can't help but wonder if there is some level of competition involved, as one of the things about the otaku bedroom that really jumps out at people is the sheer quantity of collectibles present. The word otaku, as well as their activities and ways of life, generates both positive and negative connotations. Some view the collecting as obsessive and the interest in anime characters as perverse.

What about the negative stipulations associated with this type of collecting, such as the viewpoint that their hobbies are too extreme?

Galbraith says that just because otaku are more specific in what they consume, and tend to know more about and get more involved with it, doesn’t mean that they are losers.

"Though it is true that some people might have hobbies that keep them at home, I don’t think interest in media or commodities means that you aren’t interested in people. People who consider otaku losers without ever meeting or talking to those who identify or are identified that way are probably just reacting to negative stereotypes. Or they are discriminating against hobbies that they do not share or understand."

Certainly there is something intimidating about a level of collecting that seems obsessive - especially if it's paired with isolation. However, one of the most remarkable things about otaku collecting is that is does allow bonding between fans on levels of interest so niche that it would be difficult to have the same connections with strangers.

By bonding over favorite shows, manga, fan art and more, otaku actually move further away from isolation. What once may have made them feel separated now gives them the chance to feel less separated then ever.

Galbraith says that in his observation, the otaku's collecting habits are less about social status and more about a way of life. In the otaku mindset, objects didn't matter as much as the process by which they were acquired.

"What I learned while talking to people about their spaces was that those who were truly collectors didn’t talk so much about social status. It was more about fulfilling a need. A personal need to see or have something, and, in his case, to share it. It leads us to think about the socioeconomic conditions that allow for the development of otaku spaces in Japan and beyond."


Arama, how is your room decorated? I drew some fanart on my walls :D I have a couple of posters and of course a shelf full of manga and anime DVD's lol but nothing compared to those rooms.

Sources 1, 2
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tarantye_no 20th-Apr-2012 03:05 pm (UTC)
Wow, those pictures... o_O;
My room is pretty simple, just posters from japanese bands and takarasiennes. ♥ in fact there's no evidence that I like manga/anime at.all. /D
aiek08 20th-Apr-2012 03:09 pm (UTC)
After seeing the word OTACOOL rooms, I knew I would see Alodia's (last picture). Hahahaha.
chixm8_49 20th-Apr-2012 10:59 pm (UTC)
I was (a bit) surprised to see her there, actually. :))
kerplunk 20th-Apr-2012 03:11 pm (UTC)
I don't have any posters in my room except this one poster my mom hung up of like this oceon lol or something.

The only otaku-esque thing I have is a couple FF8 figurenes that i got as a gift, and outdated old anime & manga......somewhere.

Edited at 2012-04-20 03:13 pm (UTC)
crimsonbreeze 20th-Apr-2012 03:11 pm (UTC)
No manga or anime on mine, it's filled with Johnnys everywhere.

My favourite thing is a huge ass poster of Takki's Yoshitsune and a big (and kinda outdated) poster on my ceiling looking directly at me... of Takki, of course lol I love that he's the 1st thing I look at when I wake up and the last one when I go to bed <3 Ah, and lots of videogame memorabilia and crap like figures and books I get from work... it's starting to pile up.

Edited at 2012-04-20 03:13 pm (UTC)
dulces 20th-Apr-2012 03:13 pm (UTC)
wow these rooms are amazing!
my room is really boring, just a few posters up.
eevaleena 20th-Apr-2012 03:15 pm (UTC)
I like the 3rd one. But really, I don't have anything in my room to indicate that I'm an otaku ^^; I only had manga's (on the shelf) and some 4 Gundam SEED Destiny & 1 Code Geass model kit. Not even 1 poster on my walls or figurines at sight ^^;

Edited at 2012-04-20 03:22 pm (UTC)
michi_chelle 20th-Apr-2012 03:15 pm (UTC)
The room is so cool. I have some anime posters in my wall. But those rooms are really well designed, not like mine. he hehe
atelierlune 20th-Apr-2012 03:20 pm (UTC)
My room's pretty boring right now... there's just a lot of Jigglypuff toys around for some reason.
(no subject) - Anonymous - Expand
uledy 20th-Apr-2012 04:36 pm (UTC)
mumbles 20th-Apr-2012 03:30 pm (UTC)
Rather small shelf of manga in my room but its growing orz
Though back in Malaysia I had several shelves of manga which I had to put in boxes as there was no space left XD;;
kotomichi 20th-Apr-2012 03:31 pm (UTC)
jealoussssss i wish i had their money :l though i doubt i'd buy that many figurines, seems like a total bitch to clean

what i have rn is two bookcases of which more than half is filled with animanga stuff (dvds, manga, plushies) and japanese textbooks, a bunch of death note petit nendoroids on top of one of the bookcases, and a shinshi doumei cross poster (plus two disney posters, haha)

also, OP - is that one of your wall fanart drawings? if so, that is awesome. i love yukino!! ♥
dorkylifestyle 20th-Apr-2012 03:36 pm (UTC)
is that one of your wall fanart drawings? if so, that is awesome. i love yukino!! ♥

It is my fanart drawing ^^, I'm glad you like it! that drawing represents my life after work XD!!

kagami_11 20th-Apr-2012 03:33 pm (UTC)
I want my room to be like that! O.O

I'm not even allowed to stick anything on our walls. All of my stuff are in my closet. I stuck some of my uchiwas on me closet door and my posters are all rolled up. :(
fuzzyspider 20th-Apr-2012 03:35 pm (UTC)
I'd love to collect but my mom would kill me and I'd never hear the end of it from my sister. :( I'm the most curious about Gunpla. I've been wanting to buy stuff and just hide it but I dunno.
dearmisterecho 20th-Apr-2012 03:39 pm (UTC)
I pretty much decorate my bedroom with whatever random, cute crap I find...mostly stuffed animals and stuff I've gotten while traveling or won from claw machines XD I also have a huge cork board behind my bed where I pin all the ticket stubs, fliers, etc. I've gotten in my travels, plus New Years cards and gifts from my young students (every letter, every drawing, every crappy piece of orgami they give me, I keep and pin on my board).

As far as collecting goes, I'm all about collecting my ticket stubs, esp. movie and concert tickets. I guess you could also say I collect dresses, in that I'm never satisfied and keep buying them, and I hold them sometimes and think about how cute they are XD /weirdo
cilsi 20th-Apr-2012 03:43 pm (UTC)
I love buying lots of dresses and cute clothes as well but don't have enough space to display them in my room, so when I'm in the mood just to see them I take them out from the closet, stare at them, and put them back wondering when I will wear them.
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