Whether being an "otaku" has positive or negative connotation shifts depending on the cultural moment. It might be dragged down by association with crimes and social ills, or buoyed by cute social acceptance stories like Densha Otoko and the notion that otaku spend enough to make a positive contribution to the economy.
In 2005, the Nomura Research Institute issued a report on the conditions and "business value of the domestic enthusiast consumer group (known as otaku)," estimating 2004's population of otaku being 1.72 million with market scale of 411 Billion yen.
For context, this was in the midst of Densha Otoko phenomenon, when otaku were cast as nice folks, a bit shy and awkward, and free with their wallets when it came to their hobbies. At the same time, "Cool Japan" was still credibly suggesting that this could be exported on large scale.
Report data was broken down into “otaku hobbies,” which was further refined into a number of sub-classifications for soft otaku (anime, video games, manga comics), hard otaku (computer and audio/video equipment), outdoor otaku (cars, cameras, trains, travelling), and fashionable otaku (clothing, celebrity-related merchandise/event tickets).
Six factors for otaku behavioral principles and five classifications by "otaku image"
The phenomenon of otaku has been debated from a variety of different perspectives. NRI defines otaku as a universal phenomenon in consumer society and has analyzed it as objectively as possible. The analysis showed a new image for otaku, one that is broader and more encompassing than generally considered. Having identified the behavioral and psychological characteristics common to the otaku group that were evident from the above-mentioned questionnaire responses, NRI classifies these into six factors: "desire for common identity," "desire to collect," "desire to stand out," "desire to be independent," "desire to be creative," and "desire to belong." Going forward with analysis based on these factors, the survey revealed that 3.6% of respondents could be classified as otaku, with a further breakdown into five types being possible depending on the balance of the degree of desire shown in the above-mentioned six factors: "Family-oriented otaku" (25% of the total defined as otaku), "Leaving my own mark on the world otaku" (23%), "Media-sensitive multiple-interest otaku" (22%), "Outgoing and assertive otaku" (18%), and "Fan magazine-obsessed otaku" (12%). (Table 1).
|Estimates concerning the enthusiast consumer group market scale
in 12 major domestic fields (2004)
|Field||Population (*1)||Market Scale (*2)|
|Comics||350,000||¥ 83 billion|
|Animation||110,000||¥ 20 billion|
|Idols (*3)||280,000||¥ 61 billion|
|Games||160,000||¥ 21 billion|
|PC assembly||190,000||¥ 36 billion|
|Audio-visual equipment||60,000||¥ 12 billion|
|Mobile IT equipment||70,000||¥ 8 billion|
|Autos||140,000||¥ 54 billion|
|Travel||250,000||¥ 81 billion|
|Fashion||40,000||¥ 13 billion|
|Cameras||50,000||¥ 18 billion|
|Railways||20,000||¥ 4 billion|
|Total||1.72 million||¥ 411 billion|
|(*1)||Given that there are population overlaps in each field, the total given here is cumulative.|
|(*2)||Estimated from industry interviews and other research, based on the average per capita monthly consumption that was deduced as a result of the NRI Internet-based questionnaire.|
|(*3)||Show business personalities or TV Star|
Views, both towards the domestic and international, are a bit less rosy these days, but few will deny that otaku are wont to be free spenders.
So, how can you draw the line between being a good contributor to capitalist society and a victim of pathological behavior?
Based on the Nomura definition, financial planner Shunsuke Yamasaki, a self-admitted manga otaku, has developed an easy mathematical test.
The formula for calculating your otaku coefficient, as Yamasaki calls it, is as follows:
otaku coefficient = (monthly expenditures on otaku hobbies ÷ (monthly pre-tax income) X 100
If your results are:
Less than 10: You have socially acceptable spending habits
More than 10: You're in the danger zone. Beyond social repercussions, you're more likely to make bad financial decisions, ranging from skipping meals to incurring debt
More than 20: seriously, rethink your lifestyle choices