January 3, 2012

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Fandom Unbound: Otaku Culture in a Connected World


I'm proud to announce the publication of a new book that I edited together with my longtime collaborator Daisuke Okabe and a new editorial collaborator Tsuji Izumi, Fandom Unbound: Otaku Culture in a Connected World. The book is a collection of essays on otaku culture in Japan and the US, ranging across relatively familiar anime fandoms to the possibly less familiar terrain of train otaku, 2-chan, and game arcade culture. It is an effort to showcase both the commonalities of what ties together various otaku cultural forms around the world, as well as showcasing the tremendous diversity of otaku culture. The central thematic of the book is this productive dynamic between local and niche cultural forms and a networked and distributed public culture; I argue in the introduction that it is this dynamic that is in fact the distinguishing feature of otaku culture and what has made it flourish in an era of networked, remixed, and digital culture.

This book was a labor of love that spanned many years of research, translation, and editing. Like our earlier book, Personal Portable Pedestrian, the book includes articles that come from my own research, but the bulk of the content is translated work by Japanese scholars. I've always felt that it's important to bring the excellent work being done in other languages to the English-speaking world. In Japan, many key scholarly works in English get translated into Japanese, but the reverse happens much less frequently. Like with mobile phones a decade ago, we felt that the current international attention to anime and otaku culture provided an opportunity to showcase Japanese scholarly work in an international arena.

Chapters by Lawrence Eng and myself represent the English-language anime fandom, and the rest of the articles are based on research in Japan. We have work from well-established senior scholars such as Hiroki Azuma on moe, Akihira Kitada on 2-chan, and Kaichiro Morikawa on the birth of Akihabara as a otaku town. We also feature work by a new generation of otaku scholars such as Izumi's work on train otaku, Daisuke's work on fujoshi, Yoshimasa Kijima on fighting game culture, Hiroaki Tamagawa on the Comic Market, and Kimi Ishida, who writes with Daisuke on cosplay.

My own work that appears in this book comes from fieldwork on the online English-langauge anime fandom that I did as part of the digital youth project. In addition the introduction, I have one article on fansubbing and one on anime music videos. I also got to tag along with Daisuke during his fieldwork with cosplayers and doujin authors in Tokyo, and that work is also represented in this book. It was so ridiculously fun to hang out with anime fans as part of this project, I'm sad to see this chapter of my research come to a close. While I am no longer actively doing fieldwork on anime fandom, much of what I've learned from fans is key to my ongoing work on interest and passion-driven learning, and my current fieldwork on gaming and other youth-centered interest groups.

I recently gave a talk on the book at MIT. You can see some video excerpts here, and Ethan Zuckerman did a nice write-up here.

Extra bonus is the awesome cover art done just for us by Ulises Farinas.

Posted by Mizuko Ito at January 3, 2012 10:29 AM

1- Juliane Bach Larsen

Hello Mimi Ito,

I'm a Danish university student, who is currently doing research about anime fandom in Japan and in Denmark. Mostly I'm trying find out why the fandoms are different/similar.

As you're a researcher (who has edited a fantastic book), I'm hoping you can give me some advice. I'm not able to go to Japan to do research, so what do you suggest me to do to complete this paper I'm writing? I'd love to hear your thoughts! Thank you.

Best regards, Juliane

2- Jon Sousa

I think that your work with the anime community is very interesting. I was wondering if you plan on studying any other niche groups of fandom, such as that of video games and music groups. Keep up the good work!

I did not know that Otakus can have an affect on scholarly works. I just thought they were manga/anime fans to the max! I totally agree with you. There are many great works done in foreign language, but are never available in english. This look likes a good book to read instead of manga.
Btw, I love the cover art :D

4- Kevin Tran

Hi Mimi Ito,

I am currently reading this book and felt like leaving another comment. It is quite interesting to see how much of an impact otaku have on Japan/America society. I did not suspect to see so much business like information involve in this research.

5- Shahad Sinada

I love your passion for anime fandom. I can relate being arab I think there are lots of great work done that aren't available in English. Love your art work :)

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