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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Get On Your Geek And Ride

My apologies to any Queen fans out there. My good buddy Matthew put me onto this interesting web-ste: Geek Exchange, and in particular one that made me wish I was more of a geek. That means 'being rich', right? 

The article he sent me details how people in Japan are showing their pride for being anime (cartoons) and manga (comic book) fans, by decorating their cars, motorcycles and bicycles with graphics.

Perhaps that's an over simplification of the article.

Otaku. I had never heard this phrase while in Japan, which is too bad, because while I lived there between 1990-1993, I was a gaijin-version (foreigner) of an otaku.

An otaku is a geek, and is a Japanese slang tern that supposedly became popular in the 1980s… a geek is supposed to have obsessive interests in non-popular things.

It's strange, of course, because these non-popular things are usually part of a billion-dollar industry.

Anyhow… Otaku… the 'O' is the Japanese honorific, and 'taku' is Japanese for 'home', as everyone knows that geeky otaku tend to stay at home while the rest of the world goes out and has fun.

I would imagine, like most slang terms around the world, it was popularized in the big cities first, before eventually traveling to the do-inaka (boondocks) areas… like where I lived, some 100 kilometers to the north of Tokyo in a place that translates to: Big-Rice Field-Field city (Ohtawara-shi) in Tochigi-ken. It's so cool, it has the word 'field' in it twice.

In the case of the Japanese geek - much like myself, I think - otaku are fanatical about a topic usually considered 'geeky', like: comic books, cartoons, television, video games, technology and toys.

Back in the 1980s, this was a bad thing, apparently, as only the mouth-breathers… the asthma-inhaler users, and other social outcasts would be into this stuff.

But... nowadays… being called an otaku or a geek is like wearing a badge or pride that you just picked up on e-Bay for a really good price.
If you owned a poster other than this one by the same artists, you and I shopped at the same nerd places.

Excluding technology, I was heavily into comic books (I have about 30,000), cartoons (I have a fine collection of classic American toons), television (I'm watching Green Acres on You Tube at lunch these days, plus Red Dwarf and Breaking Bad on Netflix), video games (I have been playing since the first Pong system came out - and still own every system I have ever bought - close to 15 of them), toys (I still have every toy ever bought for me), including a bunch of first edition Hot Wheels.

And yet… despite playing the accordion, clarinet and piano, watching Star Trek and living in my parent's basement until I moved to Japan as a 20-something… I was never considered geeky enough to be a geek. I was a nerd.

It may have been my unswerving loyalty to sports and women that tipped the scales for me. Actually, I was good enough at sports so that I was probably not considered a nerd... though my luck with women until my mid-20s probably made me more nerdy than I wanted to be.

I'm an otaku-wanna-be.
I have no idea why I owned this poster. 

Nowadays, everyone is showing their inner okaku. Have you seen the Batman movies? Otaku. Spider-man or X-Men? Otaku. Ever masturbated to Lynda Carter's Wonder Woman television show? Otaku. Ever masturbated to Swamp Thing? Major otaku. Read or watched The Hobbit? Lord Of The Rings? Harry Potter? Otaku. Played Halo? Otaku.

But wait… that's all considered 'normal' fare in the era of 2010s… everyone is okay with high technology (I still don't have a cell phone - no friends), everyone plays Guitar Hero with the kids - and is better than them, people wear t-shirts with anime or cartoon characters on them… people are in touch with their inner geek.

But if all that is normal now, whither true geekiness? Leave it to the true otaku to take things a step farther. Bless you, otaku.

Uh... that was nothing to do with heavenly hosts and was more to do with that nasty sneeze you just did, you otaku. No! Don't wipe it on your sleeve!
Anyhow.... in Japan, the true otaku is pimping their ride.

No… not necessarily with… crap… I'm too geeky to know anything about cars… uh… catalytic converters and… and custom stick shift knobs… the otaku is showing their inner geek on the outside… but then you knew that when you saw the photos on this blog entry.

Otaku pimping of the bicycle, motorcycle and car is now the rage.

The whole art on the car thing is neat. It's not new… it's an extension of the glorious late 1960s and 1970s when art on shagging wagons (vans) was styling.
Women got pregnant just looking at this van. Not otaku, believe it or not.

I'm not just talking flames on the side or racing strips up the middle… I'm talking about the old naked woman cooing at the barbarian standing on a piles of skulls. Or the classic Brothers Hildebrandt poster of Star Wars. No, I didn't have to look up the name of the artists. You can, if you need to.

In Japan… true otaku who are able to drive are having their cars plastered with images from their favorite anime or manga… and proving that they are really more otaku than myself… even I wouldn't do that. Ever. But… more power to them! I love the bravery! (Says the guy with over 800 Richie Rich comic books).

Called itasha… (literally 'painful car'), decorating one's car this way is to make it embarrassing, IE painful to look at! Kind of an 'FU' to convention. No... not a comic book convention.

If you decorate your motorcycle, it's called itansha.

If you decorate your bicycle, it's called itachari.

How popular is this? There are car shows dedicated to it in Japan.

I'm going to rip a paragraph directly from the Geek Exchange article:

Some itachari used dedicated disc wheels while others used wheels that were covered with plastic discs, all with artwork of anime and manga characters applied on them. Some of the bikes went a step further and had custom paint jobs and graphics applied on them.

So… do you suppose these otaku people pimping their rides with anime and manga images have sought permission from the artists… you know… paid royalties to use the copyrighted materials?

Where's the cut for the creators of the manga and anime images, asks the guy who writes comic books on the side? Hmmm… I hope that when someone geeks their ride, a small donation is made to the actual image creators...   

Anyhow… the photos are all from Geek Exchange… the site seems pretty geeky… which is how you know it's cool.

Andrew Joseph

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