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The Otaku Encyclopedia: An Insider's Guide to the Subculture of Cool Japan [Illustrated] [Paperback]

Patrick W. Galbraith
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

3 Aug 2009
With over 500 entries - including common expressions, people, places, and moments of otaku history - this is the essential 'A to Z' of all the facts Japanese pop-culture fans need to know! Otaku: Nerd; geek or fanboy originates from a polite second-person pronoun meaning 'your home' in Japanese. Since the 1980s, it's been used to refer to people who are really into Japanese pop-culture, such as anime, manga, and videogames. A whole generation of people, previously marginalised with labels such as 'geek' and 'nerd' are now calling themselves 'otaku' with pride. The author, Patrick W. Galbraith, has spent several years researching deep in the otaku heartland and his intimate knowledge of the subject gives the reader an insider's guide to words such as moe, doujinshi, cosplay and maid cafes. Insightful interviews with key players - such as Takashi Murakami, otaku expert Toshio Okada, and J-pop idol Shoko Nakagawa - are interspersed throughout the book offering an even deeper look into the often misunderstood world of Otaku. This book offers a fascinating insight into the subculture of Cool Japan - from cosplay to anime, manga, videogames and a whole lot more. This is the definitive guide to the world of Otaku - Japan's anime nerds, game geeks and pop-idol fanboys - no competition.

Product details

  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Kodansha International Ltd; 1st edition (3 Aug 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 4770031017
  • ISBN-13: 978-4770031013
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 13 x 18.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 95,282 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Keine Minderheit prägt die Popkultur derzeit so sehr wie die Otakus - japanische Nerds, die von Games, Mangas und Animes besessen sind. Der in Tokio als Fremdenführer arbeitende Autor erklärt alle relevanten Begriffe der Szene und interviewt bekennende Otakus wie die Künstler Murakami Takashi und die Street Fighter 2 -Meisterin Anno Haruna. --GEE Magazin

About the Author

Patrick W. Galbraith is a journalist based in Tokyo. He specialises in Japanese popular culture, and writes a regular column for Metropolis magazine. He gives weekly tours of Akihabara, the otaku capital of Japan, and is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Tokyo. Foreword by world authority on manga Frederik L. Schodt, author of KI long-seller Manga,Manga - The World of Japanese Comics (1983; GBP 16.99)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The Otaku Encyclopedia is an encyclopaedic dictionary of about 600 Japanese terms mainly from the Otaku subculture. It includes slang, jargon, characters, creative people and companies, and the like.

The main areas covered are manga, anime, cosplay, figures and dolls. Associated areas such as video and tabletop games, or airsoft guns, are also briefly mentioned.

Each term is fully explained with its original Japanese katakana and/or kana.

There are also frequent mini essays or interviews on some of the main personalities of the subculture, such as maid cafe idols, big name otaku, and figure sculptors.

As far as my knowledge goes this is all accurately explained. The author is an otaku-journalist, who having lived in Japan for about five years, is pursuing a PhD in otaku culture at the University of Tokyo. While I can't claim his depth of knowledge, my association with Japan goes back over 15 years. Although not an otaku myself I have been following Japanese and anime/manga culture since the early 1980s.

So I recommend it. If you want to know what "tsundere", "moe" or "gokko asobi" means, this book will tell you. It will also work as a general overview of the otaku scene.

If I have an argument with this book, it is the presentation of otaku as a part of Cool Japan. Good anime is cool. I don't think otaku is cool. Although otaku love anime, otaku itself is mainly a mode of consumption rather than self-expression or creativity. It does not have a cool image in the west, and much less in Japan itself. While the 2005 movie "Train Man" started to rehabilitate the image of otaku, it still remains a slightly weird subculture, especially on the outer fringes.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you have been to Japan or are going, then buy 26 Mar 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Ok, it's not something you might even have heard of, but once there you can't fail to miss it. Teenage girls, and more recently boys walking around in the most amazing outfits, Tokyo or Osaka or most City really in Japan. You start to wonder and this book answers all the questions you could have.

This is the sub culture that most guide books barely touch on, if at all, but it is massive and you will see it. It's part of what makes Japan Japan.

Laid out in a simple A-Z format, I am reading it page by page as opposed to dipping in here and there. It's funny, well written and always interesting. A book like this could easily have been an excuse for fetish pictures, cheap sexual text and basically concentrating on the more sexual side of this culture. Instead the author has treated it seriously but with humour. The A-Z style is interlaced with various short articles on people or parts of the culture, one soon understands that Galbraith is passionate about the subject. He hasn't simply clawed together some views and explantions littered with pictures, but rather has lovingly constructed what must be the most comprehensive study of this amazing underground culture that is as much Japan as sushe is.

A very worth while additional to my book shelf.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fun book about a strange subculture 31 Oct 2010
By Jackal
This is a fun a-z about a special Japanese subculture. It is full of information. Some of it seems a bit dated in the fast moving world of youth culture, but that is always a risk when writing about this subject. One weakness with the book is that you do not get any information about how this subculture fits with the rest of Japanese culture. Overall I can still recommend if you want to understand more.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Modern Japanese pop-culture in a nut shell. 9 Aug 2010
Another great book from Kodansha completely stuffed to bursting with facts, figures and interesting information. The spin on this one is that it is written by a `Gaijin', albeit one who really-really knows his stuff. I bought this book a while ago and keep referring to it on a regular basis, it is absolutely fascinating and very well designed, which makes it a real pleasure to flick through. If you have an interest in modern Japanese pop culture this book is invaluable! Superb.
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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  19 reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "The Otaku Encyclopedia" is a very enjoyable, well-researched and well-written encyclopedia crafted for the otaku in mind. 18 Jun 2011
By Dennis A. Amith (kndy) - Published on Amazon.com
Back in the '90s, a lot of us would learn Japanese slang from Todd & Erika Geers "Making Out in Japanese" or purchasing Kodansha's awesome Romanized Japanese-English Dictionary.

For those of us into Japanese culture, we had issues of "Mangajin" to help us learn Japanese and translating manga, anime and even Japanese music was a common thing for us into Japanese pop culture.

Fast forward to 2011 and times have changed a lot. Manga and anime are easily available through legit and non-legit means, you can find Japanese translated lyrics quite easily and with the Internet, people are even more closely connected to Japan. To the point where Akihabara and forums like 2Chan are easily integrating slang to not just otaku's regular day lexicon but also many fans abroad.

Talk to fans today, may it be going to a convention and them saying I want to "glomp" that cosplayer or interviewing the Queen of Akihabara Haruko Momoi and she keeps dropping words like "moe" during the interview to a guy asking me if I like "tsundere" characters and I do remember a time when me and my staff member were asked to be in a picture and she jokingly said, do a "yaoi" pose. Uh, excuse me?

There are just a lot of slang that people are using, especially for those engaged in otaku culture and you can go to a site like Danny Choo's "Culture Japan" and he will be using a lot of wording that many fans will just understand with glee but for those of us who had to study formal Japanese, we are left scratching our head and wondering, "what the hell is everyone talking about?".

Granted, in Japan, there is a lot of slang...from the people at Shibuya, to the yankii girl (gangster tough girls) of wherever, there are words from Japan's subculture that you're not going to find in "Making Out in Japanese" nor a Japanese dictionary.

Fortunately, Patrick W. Galbraith has written "The Otaku Encyclopedia", an insider's guide to the subculture of Cool Japan.

The book is very useful to the otaku who are interested in learning words, terms, companies, areas and more.

For example, on the first page alone, people can learn the word "akanbe", a common thing that people see in anime or drama when a person makes a gesture by pulling down one lower eyelid and sticking out their tongue. I for one have seen this many times but never had a word for it. But now I know.

I have always wondered how the word "Moe" became to be used a lot in the past few years and sure enough, Galbraith goes to length on the term and where the word was derived from.

But let's say that you want to know what a Vocaloid is? You have heard people make comments about "hentai" and "eroge" and want to know what that is all about? Want to know who this popular company known as "Good Smile Company" is all about? Or heard from a person that he is investing on a Gundam garage kit? You can find it on this book.

But for many people, encyclopedias with terms may not be for everyone, so Galbraith also adds another enticing factor to this book...interviews.

Throughout "The Otaku Encyclopedia", you can find books with people who are knowledgeable about Akihabara, a few professionals who work in the anime industry, a professional who created Comiket, another professional who makes figures, cosplays professionally, a professional gamer, professional maid at a cafe, a true life otaku and an interview with a popular talent/singer. There are a good number of cool interviews throughout this book and also gives us an idea of the concept of otaku.


"The Otaku Encyclopedia" is a wonderful resource for otaku!

And reading this book, especially the foreword and what Galbraith learned while interviewing various individuals for this book, he got to see different perspectives towards otaku culture.

Bare in mind, while "otaku" may be used quite frequently outside of Japan, in Japan, it's a different story as there are people who still frown upon it, while there are people like Galbraith and many others who celebrate otaku and their love for Japanese pop culture. I've been featured in various publications in Japan as a Japanese music otaku and I don't know if I've gotten used to the term.

But the fact is, the more friends and associates that I have in the anime industry, manga industry and various areas of Japanese pop culture, I have grown fond of them and their work and the people who appreciate their work and I noticed certain terminology often used in anime and manga but also with the fandom.

And there are a lot of things that have went on in Japanese pop culture in the past 25-years and more that are explored in Galbraith's book and for me that is what I found intriguing. This is not some guy who just popped out of nowhere and is writing a book, Patrick W. Galbraith is also a well-known journalist in Japan for English speakers through Metropolis magazine and runs the Otaku2.com website. He has researched pop culture and otaku culture and this research is part of his life and what he enjoys covering.

I have no doubt in my mind that people can definitely learn a lot from this book and it definitely helps in learning the various otaku-based slang but also common terminology if you do participate in anime, manga, Japanese figures, etc. type forums or websites and talk with people at conventions and surely, know what everyone is talking about.

With that being said, for those who are new to Japanese culture and are learning to speak or write in Japanese, using these words are good with using among your peers but I still recommend learning Japanese through school, online training or software-based because even for myself, learning Japanese slang from dramas and anime, during the beginning of my career of interviewing Japanese celebrities, I have used slang accidentally with a well-known Japanese talent in the industry and it was taken as an insult but was quickly remedied when we had a conversation of where Americans were picking up these non-PC words. So, it's good to know when to use polite words and slang words and I do recommend for those learning Japanese, to learn it the best way you can and if you could, interact with fluent Japanese speakers and also have Japanese friends to expand your appreciation of Japanese culture, including the pop culture.

"The Otaku Encyclopedia" is a very enjoyable, well-written and well-researched encyclopedia crafted for the otaku in mind.

I can only hope that Galbraith continues to update this encyclopedia with the latest slang (even removing slang that has gone out of style) but if you are an anime fan, manga fan, Japanese video game fan or happen to be a person who has nendoroids, dollfies or Japanese figures in your room, etc. This one is for you!

Definitely recommended!
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars moe-ru hon desu. A definitive book on Japanese subculture. 6 Mar 2010
By Jake Adelstein - Published on Amazon.com
The first time I ever heard the word Otaku, or paid attention to it, was around 1999 or 2000, when there a were a series of muggings in the Akihabara area and the victims were all "otaku". The young punks picking on them called it "Otaku-gari" or Hunting Otaku. Apparently, teenagers and younger, would come to the area loaded with cash to buy dolls, games, and comic books and since they tended to be a little wimpy--they were easy pickings. Words like "moe" (affection for fantasy characters and 2-D objects etc) were things I never understood very well. This book does a fantastic job of explaining the mind of the Otaku, the various influential anime (Japanese animation) films and there are a number of stand alone pieces on Japanese authors and creators that are outstanding. I also enjoyed Patrick's personal stories and his explanation of his own experiences with the subculture. More than a reference book, it's a joy to read and eye-opening.
21 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 4 stars 28 Aug 2009
By Mr. T. P. - Published on Amazon.com
Although I found this book interesting and useful, for both relative noobs and studied foreign otaku, it had a number of flaws which prevent it from being truly perfect.

My biggest annoyance was the occasionally completely unneeded value judgements, referring to things as "creepy," "pathetic," or "disturbing." Galbraith calls himself an otaku, so I don't see why he feels the need to put down other parts of otaku culture. This only occurs occasionally, but to hardcore otaku, it might leave a bad taste in their mouth.

It also has a number of small oddities, like:
- Even though he slavishly sticks to Japanese titles and pronunciations, like "idoru," in the back of the book he uses a few English title translations that were never used in the official English release. For example, in North America, "Bokusatsu Tenshi Dokuro-Chan" was officially released as "Bludgeoning Angel Dokuro-chan," but he calls it "Club to Death Angel, Dokoro-chan." And he uses "Red-Eyed Shana," though the official North American release was titled "Shakugan no Shana." Why?
- Having an entry on "Web Anime," then an entry on "Web Manga-Comics" right under it, with both basically being copy-pastes of each other.
- Not mentioning the otaku backlash against Murakami Takashi
- Occasional typos, "feel" as "eel," etc.

Despite these nitpicks, it's a generally good book. Some of the best parts are the interviews, which can get extremely insightful, especially the ones with director Yamakan and Toshio "Otaking" Tadashi. If you want to submerge yourself into some really niche and obscure parts of otaku culture/history, from imouto cafes to Aum Shinrikyo to riajyuu, this is the book. The printing is nice...it's printed in Japan by Kodansha, in Japanese style, with dust cover and all.

Also, the cover amuses me by being so bombastically moe.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Already an Otaku, but I loved it! 19 Dec 2010
By Chiyamaka - Published on Amazon.com
Really cute book with definitions, I am an otaku but I wasn't offended when certain things were called 'strange', because it's true!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fun book about a strange subculture 31 Oct 2010
By Jackal - Published on Amazon.com
This is a fun a-z about a special Japanese subculture. It is full of information. Some of it seems a bit dated in the fast moving world of youth culture, but that is always a risk when writing about this subject. One weakness with the book is that you do not get any information about how this subculture fits with the rest of Japanese culture. Overall I can still recommend if you want to understand more.

You might also want to check up the companion volume Japanese Schoolgirl Confidential: How Teenage Girls Made a Nation Cool.
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