Akio Nakamori first oublically wrote the Otaku-Zoku meaning the Otaku tribe. He worte about the way that Otaku takes form by obsessions. Usually Utako are about the way people gets addicted to anime, manga or video games.

Otaku can be defined as a person who has an extreme devotion to a hobby or one specific thing like a actor or a specific character in an animation. It refers to someone who has a obsessive interest. In Japan Otaku is an insult implying that you are some kind of nerd and have absolutely no social skill. Otaku can also be referred to as someone who only leaves home to eat or to shop if they leave home at all because they have such an obsession with their hobby that they only spent time on that. An Otaku person has nothing better to do than to watch anime, playing video games or surfing the internet usually to find something about their obsession. Sometimes Otaku can be used amongst friends to make fun of each other in a semi-humorously way. The Otaku tribe is normally very antisocial and isolated from the world.

Today we still have to do with Otaku but only to a larger extent. From the youngest boys and girls to the oldest man and woman you still see addiction and obsession of video games, stories, series, action figures and the list can go on. In our lives today it is easier to become obsessive about something because there are so many different collective items and things available to buy and there are a constant development in anime, manga and kawaii items. I have a few examples of Otaku’s rooms that will clearly show you that their obsession is all they do and see the whole day.

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Kawaii in Japan took off in the 1970’s when the cute brand “Hello Kitty started to develop by Sanrio Corp. The origin of Kawaii also comes from the fans of cute manga and anime characters that dress up in Victorian clothing or the Lolita style. Over the last ten years there was a radical growth in the Kawaii culture since the internet developed in such a “showcase” to the world and also because of the cute items more widely available in urban centers. This creates an opportunity for people to dress up but this can also cause conflict amongst people because of the competition on who has the best Kawaii item etc.

Kawaii is a Japanese meaning for something that is pretty or cute. This goes with a charming and loving personality. It’s purpose is so that one “can love” according to the Japanese. This term is especially used by anime and manga fans.

The influence of Kawaii can be seen all over today especially on television and in magazine advertisements. It perceives one’s mind to buy an item just because everybody has it and it is “cute”.
Fashion and accessory designers was influenced by Kawaii and they saw the opportunity to develop goods that everybody will buy just because it is cute and adorable. Most kawaii items are being bought just for the esthetic reason and not for a utilitarian purpose.

I walked into a small accessory store not too long ago and I saw a basket standing there with different scrunchies – the exact same ones that you are thinking about that you wore in primary school just because you mom put them in. They are developed into a Kawaii item and everybody just love them. Scrunchies are back in various colors and patterns and it takes me back down memory lane where I used to wear only the colors that my school allowed.

Not only scrunchies are developed into Kawaii items, there are many other objects that were once boring and old and now it is funky with ruffles, bows, sparkles, polka dots, floral prints, glitter and gold. Different nail art are very popular for girls and even young adults. Cellphone cover design took over the world and you can buy a cover in any color, pattern, style or shape and so I can go on telling you about almost every buyable item that turned into a Kawaii item.

To link back to the origin of Kawaii culture with the starting of Hello Kitty you can think back to the last time that you went into a toy store or an accessory store or even a clothing store. You most probably saw something with a hello kitty on it or even a hello kitty soft toy. Almost every girl has something hello kitty in her room or atleast somewhere in her life because it is a Kawaii item and everyone has it. Hello kitty was the popular Kawaii item back then and still remains as the item every girl must have.


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Manga developed over hundreds of years.  A series of drawings of animals in the 12th and 13th century is believed to be the first sign of the manga style in Japan.  It started with drawings on temple walls, on wooden blocks and finally on woodblock prints that were collected in forms of books.  In time the captions of the books became stories and the art became part of the depiction of the story that was told.  By the early 20th century, manga became the main form of literature in most of the Japanese society. As a result of this literature Manga started to produce different types of stories such as fiction and non-fiction, science fiction, love stories and sport.

Manga is defined as a Japanese genre that consists of comic books and graphic novels mostly just in black and white with stylized characters and big doe like eyes.  Manga’s literal meaning is “humorous picture” originating from the humorous pictures of birds and animals in the 12th century.  The techniques used such as how to draw a character’s legs, still appear in the same place in contemporary comics.

From my point of view, manga is still seen in today’s designs.  We are still aware of comic books collected by children and even adults that have an interest in comics. Even movies starts with comic strips or the idea of a story that follows frame by frame.  In the 20th Century comic strips was used by newspapers and magazines to gain readership, but the main contributor to the development of manga is the monthly or weekly comic magazines.  Comic strips are used mostly for entertainment through story telling.


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Looking at the history of anime we see that anime only started in the beginning of the 20th century.  Japanese filmmakers experimented with animation techniques that were first explored with in the West.  In the 1970’s, anime developed further and separated from the Western roots by developing unique genres such as Mecha.  In the 1980’s anime was accepted in the mainstream of production and in the 1900’s and early 2000’s anime had an increased acceptance in the world’s markets.  The earliest known anime was produced in 1907. It consists of fifty frames drawn onto a strip of celluloid.  The creator is still unknown and it doesn’t have a title.  The first popular anime series was Osamu Tezuka’s Astro Boy in 1963.

Anime can be defined in many different ways in terms of how people interpret it.  Anime is a Japanese style of motion-picture animation, characterized by highly stylized, colorful art, futuristic settings, violence and sexuality.  It is also defined as a style of animation originating in Japan that is characterized by colorful graphics depicting vibrant characters in action-filled plots with fantastic or futuristic themes.  What is important is that the Japanese use the word Anime to refer to all animation and this makes it easy to understand how Anime still has an influence on Western design today.  Anime is Japanese-inspired but not necessarily Japanese.  Japanese see “Beauty and the beast” and “Flinstones” as anime which brings me to how I see anime in our lives today.


As far as I am concerned anime was only popular in Japan when it was discovered and first designed.  Today anime is famous all over the world and even though it is in the Japanese language they are now designed with sub titles so that anyone can follow the story.  Anime is not only the Japanese form of designs and stories it can also be seen as all the other animation that is going on. Anime is the root of animation.  Today animation is clever designed because for children it is nice to look at and to see all the characters and funny things they do but the humour in animation story telling is sometimes very clever and makes it interesting for adults to watch animation with their kids.  Animation is not only in cinema, I-max or on television, it is part of books, gaming and advertising.  Animation is used all over the world for great entertainment and will remain a part of our present lives and will also form the future.

Japanese animation has its roots in Manga or Japanese comics which I will discuss in my next post.

The Japanese influence on western design

In the history of graphic design a big part handles on the Japanese art and how it affected the movements that followed.  Japanese art consisted of off centered arrangements and no perspective, vibrant colors and plane surfaces.  The Ukiyo-e prints consists curved lines and textural contrast with patterns and also flat plane colors.  Art Nouveau is one of the movements that was inspired by the Japanese art and made use of curved lines and flat colors and they added floral motifs.

Towards the end of the Tokugawa period from 1603 to 1867 Japan began to open foreign trade.  The exchange of ideas and technologies was tremendous in both directions and here I make the conclusion that Japanese art influenced design to how it seen and used today in the modernist ways and in different styles.

A few of my next posts will handle on different Japanese terms and how it influence contemporary western design.