Otaku Culture in China
Japan and China have never been the best of friends. During World War II, Japan invaded China for its rich resources, which has left a bad taste in the country’s mouth even to this day. Anime fans, however, are not dwelling in the past. According to the Wall Street Journal, ‘Overseas sales of Japanese animation rose 79% last year to $288 million, with about half of that increase coming from Chinese buyers.’ Doesn’t sound like all of that bitterness matters at all when it comes to anime and manga. Sure, America doesn’t like Cuba very much, yet many Americans still drool over Cuban cigars. However, the otaku culture in China is a bit more profound than that.
Recently in China, an entertainment market known as ‘er ci yuan’ has been established. This market is basically a Chinese online virtual world of anime, comics, games, and novels, which are based on Japanese anime and manga titles. According to CITIC Securities, this market has reached a value of 250 billion yuan ($38 billion) and is estimated to double in the next few years as many Chinese citizens look to this virtual world as a getaway from work or other trivial activities. In other words, Chinese citizens are stressed out and use anime and manga as a way to vent that stress! This otaku-themed virtual world has reached 200 million consumers (that’s 1.5 times more that population of Japan) who view Japanese media in order to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
This popularity has caused Chinese web giants such as Alibaba and Tencent to invest into the anime industry. As a matter of fact, a Chinese anime streaming site named AcFun raised $50 million last August. Additionally, Tencent invested millions of dollars in Bilibili, an anime niche website. Bilibili is now working with Tencent to produce 20 domestic anime series over the next few years.
Furthermore, on 1 October 2016, as people gathered to celebrate the founding of the People’s Republic of China, hundreds of Chinese youth simultaneously shouted ‘Sieg Zeon!’ It is a trademark salute to the Principality of Zeon, an antagonist in the anime series Mobile Suit Gundam. This memorable phrase is beloved by the Chinese people. The young Chinese fans were cosplaying a number of their favorite anime characters. Shuichi Ikeda, the voice actor of the iconic Gundam character Char Aznable was also in attendance. He even spurred on the youth’s passion for Japanese culture by shouting Char’s famous catchphrase, ‘May the glory of victory be yours!’
Being at odds with Japan for decades, China has actually found a piece of Japanese culture and transformed it into their own special subculture.
Otaku Culture in France
Most fans would go as far as to think that the otaku culture is only a western and eastern world affair. This is a big misconception as otaku in Europe are as enthusiastic as the rest. Especially in France, the otaku culture has come a long way. According to French magazine Manga Mag, 13.6 million manga units were sold in France last year. In estimation, manga sales in France rank near the highest around the world, even higher than manga sales in the U.S.
The beautiful European country is also the home of the biggest anime convention in the world (sans Japan), Japan Expo. Japan Expo is based in Paris and began in 1999 with about 3,200 visitors. 17 years later, the total number of attendees increased to 250,000 in the year 2016.
Being one of the most well attended Japanese culture conventions in the world, Japan Expo is visited by people from all over the globe. It is probably the de-facto premier European anime and manga convention, garnering attendees from places like Germany and Turkey. This just goes to show that otaku culture has become just another reason to visit Paris, besides the Eiffel Tower anyway. More importantly, in an interview by Asian Beat, Thomas Sirdey, the vice president of Japan Expo, commented on the inception of the convention, while commenting on his own reflections on Japanese culture that is obviously mirrored throughout France.
In that interview, he states:
‘Japan Expo began in the year 2000. Jean-François Dufour, Sandrine-Dufour, and myself launched the event because we wanted to share our passion for Japanese culture. Prior to this, we had been individually creating and organizing our own Japanese pop culture events, and as my knowledge about Japan grew, I realized that it was not only manga and anime that this country had to offer. Rather, I feel that manga and anime is a gateway to Japanese culture and everyday life. By watching anime alone it is difficult to understand how one gets into high school there or even what the food is like. Back then, these sorts of things were still exotic to me. For that reason, I decided to continue researching into the traditions and contemporary culture of this country through its pop culture and anime.’
Fueled by their passion for Japanese culture, Sirdey and his partners established a far-reaching convention that even has ties to Japan. Japan Expo has actually helped to launch the careers of Japanese artists such as: Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, Momoiro Clover Z, AKB48, and Golden Bomber, years before they all became prominent musical artists.
Sirdey also says that the reason behind Japan Expo’s success and exposure is his frequent communication with otaku in France. He states that he regularly keeps in touch with fans to determine how he should plan every event. Since Japan Expo is the largest Japanese culture convention outside Japan, it should stand to reason that the otaku culture in France is booming.
The otaku in France are informed, devoted, and determined, which makes Japan Expo a success every year. Similar to the rest of the world, the anime and manga cult following in France began in the 1980s. Thus, a great number of young French citizens grew up reading manga and watching anime. Even Nippon.com reportedly stated that the French people are tremendously familiar with anime and manga. Because of this exposure to Japanese culture, otaku in France make amazing things happen. Japan Expo is a reminder of that reality.
Otaku Culture in Germany
Manga sales in Europe total up to $212.6 million, with France occupying about 50% of the sales pie. Germany is next in line in terms of manga sales. Although the otaku culture is a bit more subtle in Germany, anime and manga have become mainstream. People from all age groups line up in front of store windows looking at their favorite manga titles and sit in front of their comfy fireplaces to watch their favorite anime series from their smartphones.
Additionally, Germany does have prominent anime and manga clubs such as: Anime No Tomodachi, Kodomo No Yume, Animexx online community, and Anime Daisuki, which have adherents all over the world. To add, almost all German television channels have been airing anime shows and movies. Animax TV broadcasts anime series 24/7. A member of the popular anime site animesuki.com had these things to say about anime broadcasting in Germany:
‘I lived in Germany for 8 years and they show tons of anime on German TV every single day. About 3-5 hours of day of anime on some channels like RTL2 (2-5 PM) and late evenings from 10 PM. And on German MTV and VOX channels they show Neon Genesis Evangelion and Golden Boy 17 uncut and far more.’
There are four main corporations in Germany that distribute manga. These companies are: Planet Manga, Carlsen Manga, Egmont Manga, and Tokyopop Germany. The most popular anime titles that are distributed in Germany are Naruto Shippuden, One Piece, Soul Eater, Death Note, Fullmetal Alchemist, and Cowboy Bebop.
Germany is also home to many otaku-themed stores where fans can get their hands on otaku merchandise like manga, cosplay clothes, and figurines. One can only wonder how Japanese culture even got to Germany, but it’s there now and it is flourishing. That leaves just one more country where the otaku culture has grown to astonishing heights.
Next Page: Otaku Culture in the United States