An Introduction to… Maniacs, Victims and Otaku (part 2)
If you missed the first part of the introduction, read it here:
An Introduction to… Maniacs, Victims and Otaku (part 1)
Here we go with Part 2.
Akihabara and Idol-worship
Personally, one of the most fascinating forms of maniac I have so far encountered is the idol-loving otaku community who gather every Sunday on the streets of Akihabara (a pulsatingly vibrant part of Tokyo, Japan’s main centre for anime, idols and electronics) to sing along, wave their arms, leap, clap and otherwise go berserk in front of their favourite girl singers (idols), in order to imbue them with energy as they perform on makeshift stages (i.e. a microphone, amp and cd player) in the streets around the train station.
This special dance style (created by the idol-otaku themselves) is known as Otagei, and the participants as Otageishi.
This from the Akibanana Glossary:
Otagei combines the words otaku and geinou (芸能) meaning art. This is a kind of hyper-energetic cheering dance performed by otaku idols in idol concerts (usually in specially designated areas) to get the room excited. Otaku performing otagei choose to go beyond passive observers to participate in a dialogue with the idols on stage, by synchronizing their moves to suit the changes in melody and mood.
Practitioners of this art are called otageishi (オタ芸師) and they usually meet outside in groups to practise their skills, making sure they look uniformed in their timings and moves.
A quick YouTube search will find a vast selection of intense and frenetic otagei action, bewildering to most but bringing an incredible sense of comradeship to those involved.
Specific venues catering to such activity have sprung up and do a roaring trade, such as the famous Dear Stage, where hordes of young men (and some women, this isn’t purely a guy thing) go mad as idol upon idol performs a short set of songs to backing music, all in front of large windows facing the street from where passersby witness the otagei mayhem inside.
At selected times the action is live-streamed, although to date I have only seen such broadcasts during quieter times.
Imagine stumbling across this in a window facing the street as you wander round the Akihabara alleyways looking for a USB memory stick, a computer part or cable:
And here’s a view from inside:
These videos can’t really begin to convey the atmosphere and intensity of the crowd. It’s something of a hybrid between mosh-pit and synchronized dance routine. Sweaty, smelly, rough but polite and adoring.
Large-scale idol events are also held in big venues on occasion, and these allow the wider community to meet, discuss and indulge. As with any large convention, this also serves as a forum for discussion and idea exchange.
Of course, as with all niche interests in Japan, one can always find a range of books, magazines and videos for further information.
Examples include instructions on how to do the moves:
DVDs are available:
(buy the above DVD at Amazon Japan)
And this segment from a TV show takes you onto the streets of Akihabara to show more…
What do you think of otagei? Comments please!