“”Franny is listening to a program on wolves. I say to her, Would you like to be a wolf? She answers haughtily, How stupid, you can’t be one wolf, you’re always eight or nine, six or seven. Not six or seven wolves all by yourself all at once, but one wolf among others, with five or six others. In becoming-wolf, the important thing is the position of the mass, and above all the position of the subject itself in relation to the pack or wolf-multiplicity: how the subject joins or does not join the pack, how far away it stays, how it does or does not hold to the multiplicity.””
1914: One or Several Wolves? A Thousand Plateaus by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari
On narratives of escape, identity and re-definition, the other, the self and the group:
I feel for the poor Otaku, especially the middle-aged ones who grew up with the Lupin III franchise, and who tuned in to watch the 30th anniversary special GREEN VS RED (2008). Instead of another lighthearted master-thief and buddies pull off an amazing caper and right a few wrongs on the way, we get a meditation on middle-aged male ennui, decline, ageing, all mirrored against a backdrop of bleak societal cynicism and murderous corruption. Yikes! Bummer! But wait! Mr. mid-life crisis Otaku is gonna get a little fable about escapism, disenchantment and accommodation with the real world.
(OH Heck, it’s OZ time again!)
The “plot” is simple yet confusing:
The “original” Lupin III is nowhere to be found, perhaps he is dead, retired, or perhaps he never was. In his place are scores of peter pan types who have cast off their everyday lives and complaints and have become Lupin. There is no longer an original, yet many still NEED a “real” Lupin to give their lives meaning. And so there are Lupins all over the place, scheming, plotting heists, fighting each other, running from the cops and Zenigata, thwarting evil capitalist plans, siding with the bad guys, hiding from their girlfriends, trying to charm Fujiko Mine, and getting busted for shoplifting from a Kombini. SHOPLIFTING!
I blame Baudrillard! Of course, if there is more than ONE Lupin, there has to be many! An excess of Lupins, a horde, a swarm, a profusion to make the point. If there were only two, one would be a fake, the other real.
All of the Lupins remain masters of arcane tech, and disguise (except shoplifter Lupin).. Kinda like 2chan Otakus (neojapon article) (Part of me hopes that Azuma doesn’t play with this one in a later essay, but I can’t see how he could resist)
There is a mcGuffin, a diamond that is not a diamond, but an abomination, a couple of villains that are chillingly evil (one who cores his son for a new body) and there are plenty of odd Highlander-esque showdowns to determine who is or will be the REAL Lupin. Daisuke Jigen, Goemon Ishikawa, and Fujiko Mine cynically hang with one or another of the Lupins not out of “friendship” but according to how much “fun” they derive at the moment. In the end true Lupin-hood remains elusive – or omnipresent – available to all who need to escape from real life’s complaints.
Of note to those of us with a hunger for such things are the odd moments when a posse of Lupins break the Shoplifter Lupin out of police headquarters (or are they too late?) and then argue in a hideout over proper Lupin behavior. The cops bust the joint, but one of the more “real Lupins” and the shoplifter are on bathroom break and escape. In pairs they fight over who is real – in a group they see no contradictions in their multiplicity and only argue about what is canon Lupin behaviour!!!!
In the end, “our” Lupin makes a tentative peace with his real-world life. Others slip off to live the dream a while longer. The cops haul away the bad guys, and none of them get the girl until they GROW UP!
As one blogger commented: (engage cpt Obvious persona) “Lupin has been an idea. What the people watching have always wanted to be at one point. Even if its to a small extent. Funny, Charming, “Cool and Smart.” Able to be free. Lupin has no binded (sic) to anything. He has no family, only acquaintances. He is free to do whatever he wants. Come on who here never once gave a thought to what it would be like to actually be Lupin III? If Lupin III could actually exist in this world?”
Trickster figures have a habit of disappearing and popping up when needed. I note the newest incarnation, ANONYMOUS and their cyber-fun with “the system” (which is often little more than cyber-doorbell ringing and leaving a flaming paper bag full of dog poop on the doorstep) is open to both sexes. It is fun to watch the man yell cyber-terrorism and count up inflated hypothetical losses – just in case the chance to boost their operating budgets or sue some basement dweller presents itself later.
Occasionally Anonymous saves the day, such as when they busted a certain nasty little American security consulting firm that was using custom software and contractees to manufacture multiple fake personas for neo conservative customers – in an attempt to influence political discussion in the US “blogosphere”. (Sock-puppettry: wholesale rather than retail impersonation was their crime – each agent could multitask control 16 or more fake blog respondents – go dig it up on BoingBoing) Epic Battle of the simulations! The masked wonders vs the puppet masters!
We have all been reading too many comics!
“”Who is Freud trying to fool? The wolves never had a chance to get away and save their pack: it was already decided from the very beginning that animals could serve only to represent coitus between parents, or, conversely, be represented by coitus between parents. Freud obviously knows nothing about the fascination exerted by wolves and the meaning of their silent call, the call to become-wolf. Wolves watch, intently watch, the dreaming child; it is so much more reassuring to tell oneself that the dream produced a reversal and that it is really the child who sees dogs or parents in the act of making love. Freud only knows the Oedipalized wolf or dog, the castrated-castrating daddy-wolf, the dog in the kennel, the analyst’s bow-wow.””
The analyst is forever trying to shoehorn an individual, atomized reading onto a group phenomena. The analyst never looks at the surplus exchanged within the pack, especially if the surplus is vaguely pornographic and violates a slew of copyright laws. The analyst never considers how the subject changes within the pack from self/ other to in/ out, how much, how close/ far, how often, and why.
One grand narrative, dead or dying? Many petit recits? Or the pack and the call to escape, to become something different, something more?
ASIDE: Finished with Azuma’s Otaku now.
A groundbreaking work, despite a few metaphors stretched to breaking limits, and the problematic focus of viewing the solitary Otaku through Lyotard-tinted goggles. More Lacan and more Zizek would have been fun, (Much later: them two are problematic as well!) as would have been more examination of the social and technological conditions on the ground that have helped foster Otaku culture. Azuma also softpedalled the curious fact that so much of the Otaku world is day and night, comics and pr0n and the slippage between the two is relentless. Dry discussions of human and animal desire/ consumption were probably needed so that the research could remain serious, but the choice to do so has consequences. Still I infer that the current jp. media canard about grazing herbivorous men owes a debt to this work.
Much later: You can visit Azuma’s “database”, in English – it is called TvTropes and it functions more as a shared vocabulary rather than a “certain magical index”. Also when I was first picking through this stuff, I had no idea how much Dr. Saito Tamaki’s works had stirred up the pot, so “Database Animals” needs to be seen in proper context. Part of that context involves “secondary production”, otherwise why would a vocabulary be so necessary?
In any case, there are some fine resources and blog essays on “Database”:
Azuma summarizes himself:
Adventures in Criticism: Otaku 1
Adventures in Criticism: Otaku 2
Otaku annotated: adventures in moe, porn, and postmodernism
Finally, while the powerful feedback loop between fans and creators is discussed, and the dojinshi, mash-up, game patches (not to mention scanlators, pirates, etc etc) are mentioned, none of the “goggles” are particularly convincing in describing the DRIVES that encourage this behavior, or how the technology – my little matter duplicator metaphor- makes the gift, symbolic exchange, potlatch, the devil’s share, and so on inevitable and fun and part of the community.
The entire beyond objectification – the symbolic exchange of women thing needed to be explored. Women??? What about Yaoi??? (Yeehaw! got my next post topic!)
You cannot analyse Otaku by the representation of Otaku in Otaku literature. For example, a question emerges: how many Otaku obsessively stick to expensive originals, and how many exchange illegal dupes? Do they reserve their disposable income for their “pet” series/ characters and dupe the rest, or dupe all and buy figurines (wait until 3d printers – makebots become affordable!) or what? Digital media is so effing easy to copy.
First-hand experience in Japan, with japanese implementations of Windows hardware point out that there is a lot less DIY among users, but yahoo auctions and a robust mail/ delivery company infrastructure ensures that even the most isolated otaku can get all the used gear they need. Genshiken mentions this in its story, but cautiously edits out the inevitable result, much like pubic hair. We can assume that the Otaku-verse is full of
savvy computer users and pirate dubs.
Final argument: pirate copies and scans take up less ROOM!
What else – the footnotes are useful.
Of course it is 10 years or more since Otaku came out, technology and technologically assisted communities have advanced considerably. I can sit at my kitchen table in southwestern Ontario and follow kotaku, neojaponism, and hellodamage, newsonjapan and a host of other fun blogs and sites. If really, really interested or in need of a radical encounter with the other, I can try my luck with Google translate. If I am interested in Otaku culture, I can indulge myself. I can kick back and read 5 volumes of Mechademia if I really want a fun time (Gahhhhhhhhhhhhh!).
OMG! Does this mean I have become a database animal? Turn off laptop NOW! Join a political party and a square dance club quick!
In many ways, it is FAR EASIER for me to research out and blog this stuff than it is to read my local newspaper online, or watch local tv newscasts, which have gone digital /ATSC. Because everything in Southwestern Ontario is an afterthought to bosses and pols in Toronto, the local newspaper’s web site is junked up with ads and runs on a hideously slow server – we are talking minutes here with a lousy internet connection. (this blog post is taking at least an hour to run through formatting and spell-check! Grrr!) Meanwhile, the two local TV stations were not given a proper budget for their new digital transmitters and their crisp high-definition signals are now unavailable without big 1960’s style outdoor or attic antennas or $350/year cable subscriptions. Japan is now closer to me than my local newspaper.
Of course the American stations come in perfectly; as I type this, some new cop shop has the blond babe detective chasing down organleggers! How depressing the thought of all those middle american types now worried that bad guys are going to swipe their kidneys!!
Gahhhhhh! I am in despair! I blame Larry Niven!
Next time: Mousou Shoujo Otakukei AKA Fujoshi Rumi –
Beyond turnabout is fair play to objectification and the symbolic exchange of men: Comedy and power?