More Than Awesome Collections…An Otaku Spaces Book Review

A new book is out today from the guy who brought us The Otaku Encyclopedia in 2009, Patrick W. Galbraith. His latest book, Otaku Spaces, is a hit as far as I am concerned and is something more than just an educational read with pretty pictures. The book consists of an introduction that further explains the origin of the word, the stigma it held (and lingers today), and how it has made its way into popular culture.

Photographs by Androniki and the interviews conducted by Galbraith give a seldom seen side of Japanese collectors you don’t usually see publicized. They each bring these reclusive fans to light giving the reader a chance to see the sociological side of Otaku and not just the collections they might hold. Finding out why the collect, how it is important to them, and what being an Otaku might mean to them if they label themselves as that. These interviews are personal, profound, and best of all, interesting. Where other books on otaku culture lack, Otaku Spaces overcomes the hurdles of regurgitating the same information over and over again with the same pictures of popular spots like Akihabara.

It does exactly what it promises going beyond the stereotypes with the glimpses into the private rooms of people who collect more than just anime, manga, and video games. There are also interviews included in the book from cultural critics like Yoshimi Shun’ya and Morikawa Ka’ichiro.

With over fifty photographs and it’s 9×9 size I wouldn’t hesitate to leave it out on my coffee table. It is a well designed interesting read worth its sticker price of $20. For anyone interested in Otaku culture, or even culture in general this is a must read.

The book is available in stores and on amazon now!

OTAKU SPACES © 2012 by Patrick W. Galbraith and Androniki Christodoulou. Photographs reproduced by permission of the publisher, Chin Music Press.

K-On!! The Manga Review

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Here it is. My first manga review. As the title probably gave away it’s for the recent release of K-on volume 1. I have no idea if we got an early release of it but I snatched that shit up before it had a chance to be a day old. Booya. If you have no idea who or what K-On is I highly suggest you use your powers of google. Ah hell, I’ll be convenient and even link you to the wiki article on the series.

There is certainly an anime out there for pretty much anyone, and the same can be said about manga. It’s also been quite some time since I’ve really been excited to buy or read anything either. Most times I keep pretty busy with work or freelance. However, I took the time aside to read this lovely new manga about a girl band. That’s right. Girl. Band. And it is straight up moe. It’s cool if you don’t really like that sort of thing but these girls are just so freakin’ adorable that you can’t help but like them.

Seriously....look at them.

Seriously....look at them.

The Series As A Whole

Although you could argue that this is just like any other high school show with cute girls in it I don’t suppose that it would really be worth arguing with you about it. The appeal of K-On, in my opinion, is not that it is so new and different. Beck, for example, came far before K-On ever did, and I am of the mind set that there is very little that can be new or different anymore. All the genres for the most part have been invented. All the character types are pretty much out there. What matters now, or should matter now, is the use of all those elements in story creation and how those elements and characters interact with each other.

There are plenty of stories that have all the elements of K-On and have fallen completely flat for one reason or another. One of the fantastic things I appreciate about this series is not that it simply has cute girls being ridiculous in it (although it’s a plus, I am a fan of ridiculous) but that it centers around this tossed together crew of girls who are trying to do something difficult and can only really succeed as a group. Yui, who I dare call the main character though no others are less important by any means, is practically useless without the others. To toss in an old school reference she’s pretty much Usagi from Sailor Moon…you know without the whole moon make-up powers and ‘meatball’ hair.

That’s not to say the other girls are so ‘together’ all the time either. Mio has her own phobias and fears and Ritsu, super awesome club president, forgets all the important things to do. Really the only one who seems to have her ducks all in a row is Mugi (Tsumugi Kotobuk). Not everyone can be crazy all the time.

K-On does a good job of  balancing the need all the girls have to keep their club together with the adorable shenanigans they get into repeatedly. Overall I have to say that the series gets the job done. Not to mention it’s hard to miss all the kawaii in it.

The Manga On Its Own

As I mentioned at the top of this article I snatched the first volume of the manga the minute I was off work. I know that manga can be pricey and this volume is $10.99 at retail. Some might groan at the $11 plus tax and that they could just read it online from a scan group but I say FEH to the naysayers. This book is well worth the money. Not only is it a larger format than most American manga, it’s actually pretty true, if not the same, size as the Japanese original. It also has 24 full color pages inside where most manga you are lucky if you get three  at the beginning of the book. Yen Press has done a fabulous job compiling this book together. I’ve been pretty pleased with them as a manga publisher all around, but back to K-On.

We follow the characters through an entire year which means the pacing of the book goes pretty fast. The paneling is very simple and easy to follow. While some might complain about that I feel it suits the tone of the comic. However, at times I felt like the time passing went a little to quickly for my liking. I had to remind myself that larger chunks of time were going by when I started to doubt just how close the girls should be with each other. And that’s the only real complaint I have with the manga.

The writing is cute and spot on for each character. I never question if that’s something one of them would really do since whatever it is they are doing seems completely natural to them. All in all it is a fun read with some really fun characters. As a person who has been in plenty of music classes and had friends who were in bands from time to time K-On hits the humor/nostalgia bone just right for me. I can’t wait for the next volume to hit stores.

It Was Only A Matter of Time

Lastly I’ll mention that we all identify in some way with the characters we read. And if I’m going to be honest I’m probably most like Ritsu. Not just the simple fact that I have her hair right now. More the fact that our personalities are pretty darn close… it’s kinda terrifying. No doubt she’s going on the cosplay list.