Negotiating otaku: A social group, its social representations and the changing cultural context
During the 1980s, a social group of dedicated fans of comics (manga) and animation (anime) – referred to as otaku – emerged within Japanese culture. This paper charts the social representations of this group in Japan over a period of thirty five years, to the present day. During that period, it is shown that the depiction of an otaku has altered from that of a deviant outsider to a representative of modern creative Japanese consumer culture. It is argued here that this development has occurred through the negotiation of the social representations concerning the otaku, within the context of socio-cultural change in Japan. Employing the framework of Moscovici’s social representations theory, it is demonstrated that the representation of a social group is not fixed and unchanging, but is subject to transformation, linked to the changing socio-cultural circumstances of the society. It is concluded that the meaning of a social group cannot be isolated from its cultural context.