Notes on “Otaku: Japan’s Database Animals”: Part 6.5 – I Lied; Here are Some Final Thoughts

So it turns out there’s a little more to add to these notes. Originally, I was just going to end the series in my last post because I wanted to just splatter most of my final thoughts in the book review (which will the last post in this series), but after some more thinking I thought I should include bricksalad’s final thoughts as well, so you can get a sense of two different perspectives on the book. And besides, I want to make sure I do as thorough a job with this as possible so I don’t get the nagging urge to revisit it sometime later (so I guess I’m becoming an academic through and through, eh?).

I thank all of you for putting up with posts as long as you have while I’ve kept mostly silent about other things (e.g. actual anime). Hopefully with all my thoughts on Otaku mostly compiled between bricksalad and myself, barring the book review, this series will be a good resource/reference for anyone interested in understanding/discussing Azuma’s arguments, his book, and some of the material that’s sprung up around it since. I’m already curious as to how out of date my examples will look in a decade or so, given that Azuma’s already are pretty dated.

This'll obviously never get old though. ;)

This’ll obviously never get old though. Or at least I think it stands a butt-er chance than most other screencaps.

Part 6.5. Final Thoughts

Notes on the notes:
These are a series of notes compiled over time concerning Azuma’s Otaku: Japan’s Database Animals, what I think is one of the most insightful books in the absolutely enthralling subfield that is anime(-related) studies. See Part 1 for context.
All the text formatting is on my end. The bold is meant to highlight key sentences, concepts, and explanations. The italics (oh the the irony of self-negating italics…) is meant to indicate running commentaries in response to bricksalad’s notes (which I’m drawing heavily from) except when indented where it simply is used for emphasis. Portions of his notes have also been altererd where I’ve either rearranged things or inserted some of my own thoughts. Sections that have been explicitly cut out are noted by ellipses (“…”). Any use of a non-italicized ‘I’ is from the perspective of bricksalad, while an italicized one refers to me (Josh).

The first thing I must do is raise an obvious objection: the tale of the grand narrative declining and humans becoming database animals in response is itself a grand narrative. In other words, his theories are broad and universal, yet the broad and universal are supposed to be rejected in a postmodern society.

When Lyotard posited that the postmodern condition was one of skepticism towards grand narratives, he was not expressing anything so grand as what Azuma here stated. It was just a trend: people in general will distrust these grand narratives. It wasn’t saying that all grand narratives are necessarily false. Therefore he avoided self-contradiction. Perhaps it was just subtle wordplay that let him get away with it, and perhaps in other works (I read “The Postmodern Condition”) he defined the postmodern condition differently.

But still, what I’m getting at is that Azuma gets too cocky in his “this is how it is” sorts of statements. As far as I’m concerned, he developed a convenient model for looking at postmodernity, but got too attached to his model to realize the contradiction of using it as a grand narrative. Easing off a bit by pointing out places where his model wasn’t applicable, and perhaps toning down the “animal” rhetoric (even if it’s the future, we aren’t all the way there yet), these two steps could have improved the strength of his arguments significantly. As it is, he comes across a bit like the stereotypical postmodern cynic.

Speaking of being cocky...

Speaking of being cocky…

I (bricksalad) highly recommend this book regardless. I’m sure my blog coverage was a bit opaque and spotty at parts, and Azuma really has a gift for translating jargony complex philosophical concepts into everyday language the lay reader can easily comprehend.

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