“I may not be popular, but I live on.”
These are the words of Toru Honda, a Japanese cultural commentator and self-identified otaku. Despite his obscurity in the English-speaking otaku world, he did attract buzz in Japan about ten years ago for his controversial ideas. He also coined the phrase “2.5D dimensional space”, which is pretty useful for understanding maids and idol culture. For that, at least, he deserves more discussion in English than he has currently received.
Honda first came to fame by pissing over Densha Otoko, the film that made otaku “cool” in the eyes of the mainstream Japanese public. As far as Honda was concerned, the protagonist of Densha Otoko was a traitor to otaku. By renouncing his otaku ways and becoming a “normal” lover, Densha Otoko merely fed into a system Honda calls “love capitalism”, wherein a man’s attractiveness is measured by his economic worth.
Honda himself has renounced romance and other human relationships, choosing instead to live vicariously through his love of moe and cute anime girls. Giving up 3D for the sake of 2D is what he calls the “Love Revolution”, an act of rebellion against the vicissitudes of capitalism.
At first glance, it’s easy to be dismissive of Honda. He seems to play up the “kimoi otaku” stereotype for effect, all the while dressing up his thinly veiled misogyny with pseudointellectual references to Western philosophers. But when he talks about his own life, I could start to see where his attitude comes from. At the very least I think there’s some worth in translating his words, especially to put a human face on the people who argue passionately for the superiority of 2D anime girls.
This post is a translation of an interview with Toru Honda on Mammo.tv, an educational site aimed at high school students. The focus is on philosophy and not on otaku particularly, but I think you can see how his attitudes as an “otaku” were formed, and how they’ve been influenced by his experiences and the philosophical texts he’s read. I’ll leave it to you to make up your mind about him.
And now, without further ado…