The paper concludes with a discussion of Love Plus, a bishōjo game for portable devices, which offers open-ended interactions with a virtual girl.
These interactions are also with the machine, contributing to the formation of “techno-intimacy” (Allison 2006) and opening up possibilities of “becoming” with a technological “companion species” (Haraway 2003).
In Japan, producers and distributors of media are disproportionately centered in Tokyo.
A unique ecology has emerged in the last half century.
Perhaps no other place is as tied to the global imagination of technological dystopia as Japan, and perhaps no persona as much as “otaku.” Though roughly comparable to cult fans, Japanese otaku are described as “children of media and technology” (Grassmuck 1990: 5), “socially inept but often brilliant technological shut-ins” (Greenfeld 1993: 1) or “pathological-techno-fetishist[s]” (Gibson 1996: 88). To further develop Boellstorff’s insight, this paper takes up the example of bishōjo games for the personal computer, which run the gamut from conversation to pornography, and comprise a huge industry in Japan that blurs the line between direct, mediated and purely machine contact.
The paper begins by describing the place of media and technology in Japan, with special attention given to the condensed and accelerated situation in Tokyo.
Those identified as otaku were none other than the boys and men oriented towards “shōjo” consumer culture.
This transgression of masculinity and productivity accounts to some extent for the “moral panic” surrounding otaku culture in Japan in the 1990s (Kinsella 1998: 314-316).
This engendered a turning point so drastic that Yoshimi Shun’ya argues it was the beginning of “post-postwar society” (Yoshimi 2009).
The imagery here seems to invite an application of Donna Haraway’s writings on “techno-feminism,” specifically the cyborg as a “queer” life form that blurs boundaries (Haraway 2003, discussed below).
There is something to this unexpected alignment of women and otaku.
In challenging binaries - man/machine, man/woman - and subsequent abjection, otaku resonate with feminist cyborgs.
Bishōjo games foreground relationships to technology and the virtual feminine, providing an opportunity to reflect on these issues.