Western otaku are failing fundamentally at one of our core responsibilities. We have a responsibility to take ownership of our subculture. Instead, we’ve consistently relied on outsiders to serve otaku culture fairly.
Much in the same way that otaku have no political allies, businesses not built with the subculture in mind can’t be 100% relied upon. Otaku culture is far too peculiar. It’s the red-headed stepchild of “nerd culture.” Subculture spaces are welcoming to otaku culture, just as long as it doesn’t get too weird.
The problem is: Otaku culture gets weird (by other culture’s standards) very quickly.
Recently, news came out about the Monster Girl Encyclopedia’s Fandom wiki page being shut down. The story is that Fandom was bought by another company that wants to sanitize its content. Fandom is a service that lets people make wiki sites about their favorite pop culture.
As a proud owner of the Monster Girl Encyclopedia, seeing this news is more than a little disappointing. More disappointing, however, is the thought that such a website was still relying on Fandom.
There’s a risk involved with relying on others, especially culturally. While relying on a service like Fandom seems like a safe bet, literally anything can happen to that company. In this case, they got acquired by a company with a differing goal and philosophy. They could’ve shut down, or had a change in leadership and the result would be the same.
We’ve seen this with services like Steam, which bars certain otaku games for seemingly arbitrary reasons. There are certainly advantages to using established services, but what are those advantages worth compared to the way these services treat otaku culture?
How much of your money is going back into the culture?
That is to say, how much of what you spend goes to other otaku? How much of your money makes it to people who appreciate the same culture you do?
Furries have this down pat. They have their own economy. Not only do they have their own art sites and such, they have their own versions of other normal services. There are furry web hosting services. There are furry social networking sites. There’s at least one furry coffee brand.
Say what you want about the many shortcomings of the furry fandom, but they keep their money within their culture. Western otaku culture is far behind, and for no real reason.
Western otaku barely even have a say in our culture’s major businesses. Keeping in mind the attitudes shared by some industry staff, how big a seat at the table can Western otaku really be said to have?
Take the convention scene. From the ahegao clothing bans in 2019 to the culture of shaming and mandates that grew in 2020 and 2021, convention culture is moving in a direction many Western otaku don’t like. They’re, however, powerless to stop it because they don’t have a seat at the table.
Much like the MGE community with Fandom, they relied too much on something they didn’t build always being there for them.
Otaku need our own economy. We need a way to enrich the culture financially. The success of otaku culture should make otaku richer. Right now, it doesn’t.