Comfy discussion of the preface to Denpa Otoko

My physical copies of (most of) Honda’s essays.

Refer to: https://artificialnightsky.wordpress.com/2020/10/01/denpa-otoko-intro-preface/

Additionally, this translation and my Google doc of materials are currently being organized into a more concise reference page on my site, but for now see the bottom of this post for a collection of a few links if you’re curious: https://artificialnightsky.neocities.org/honda-san/kimomen.html

Prior to publishing this book, Honda Toru was maintaining a website called “Shirohata” (White flag i.e defeat flag) and would write extensively on AV equipment, professional wrestling and eroge, oftentimes in a tongue-in-cheek style to play-up his persona. He would use the archaic “ori” pronoun, which to my understanding, is a play on “Ore” not too dissimilar to “atashi” or “wasshi” but in a parodic slant. Call-backs to his 2channel and early Japanese internet influences are ever-present in his blogging days, including the pseudo-ironic presentation and overabundance of ascii faces, which often appear in his professional writing. However, beneath the pile of ascii art and self-deprecatory humor, one will find a genuinely passionate man who believes everything he says. The obi, which is like a little paper ⅓ or ¼ the size of the dust jacket and usually has advertisements on Japanese books, from the first print version of Denpa Otoko originally wrote: 

“The necessity of women in reality is no longer. To seek true love, we must travel to 2D. Sore-loser women are not moe and trash! m9(^Д^)プギャー Overwhelming support from motenai otoko gathered at the site “Shirohata” and the chairman has finally made his move! Kimomen/NEET/Those without a girlfriend, the era for the denpa-kei otaku delusions to be revealed is now, we are (=kimomen) who have been the last left behind, and the supreme pure love is?” 

TL Note: m9(^Д^)プギャー represents a person pointing and snickering intended to belittle the other party. For instance: “You can’t understand something so simple? m9(^Д^)プギャー” (https://dic.nicovideo.jp/a/m9%28%5E%D0%94%5E%29)

This gives the potential reader a questionable impression of this publication, even beyond the subject matter. My copy had an obi that read: “New publication! Pure love is “moe.” Revolutionary otaku essay conceived!” Which is rather tame, but was used likely to give a less offensive first impression to a riajuu, though I don’t exactly think they were the target audience, but I digress.

The preface opens with Honda giving some commentary on what gave him the urge to write this book in the first place. It should be noted how his editor, Satou-san(?) played a relatively important role and can be backed up in an interview with excite.co.jp in 2005, where Honda discussed how he first met Satou-san and how he was given the right-way to write after the editor read his 100 page draft.

Honda goes on to mention The Backbite of a Coward, and I want to give a bit more insight into this. Makeinu no Toboe is often translated to this, but it literally means “backbite of a loser dog.” However, makeinu is often used as a slang term to refer to 30+ unmarried women, often considered failures for being unmarried, popularized by an essay by Sakai Junko later turned television drama, which Honda allegedly read as reference for his own manifesto. It’s interesting to see how Honda brought this to the table since makeinu are essentially the reverse side of the coin for what he chooses to discuss, but he uses it as a jumping-off point to highlight this group’s double standards. In this way, Denpa Otoko can be seen as an otaku version of Makeinu no Toboe as much as it is a challenge at everything Densha Otoko brought to the table. This gives a good idea of where he believed otaku to stand in Japan, circa 2005. Further reading here: https://patrickmccoy.typepad.com/lost_in_translation/2005/01/word_of_the_wee.html

The subsequent critique is full of rhetoric from Honda’s blogging days, mixing up serious discussion with internet jokes and widely exaggerated claims only to back them up soon thereafter for shock-factor. I personally enjoyed his dialogue regarding the hypocrisy of makeinu that highlights how they are seemingly desperate to find an honest man, yet their only caveat is that otaku men are no good. Obviously otaku themselves are not immune to this critique and have received much criticism as a result. However, Honda then introduces us to nounai ren’ai, which I have translated as “Imaginary Love” (lit. love within the brain) and is an essential pillar in Honda’s personal philosophy. The difference between the complaints of makeinu and otaku is that the latter group has found solace in alternatives, while the former group endlessly wallows in self-pity while never attempting to address the heart of the issue. From one perspective, otaku are exactly the same as the former group who refuse to blame themselves and instead blame the world. But one must ask if it really is possible to change the world or should we instead change the rules we play by. In much the same way a riajuu adapts to social rules, otaku bend the same rules around their lifestyle and choose to not participate in the “Love Market” in the first place. This will be discussed later in which Honda explains the commodification of love through Love Capitalism as well the overbearing importance of finding love, which unnecessarily inflates the importance of relationships, and is a fairly widely documented social problem in modern Japan. 

The last paragraph leaves with a heartfelt bit of pathos to reform any questionable opinions one might have developed about Honda in the opening paragraphs. When approaching a difficult subject, he laced his claims in humor to lighten the blow a bit and wants to explain this here, because Honda would rather maintain a lighthearted and conversational flow instead of constantly bringing the mood down like the reference books he read prior to writing his own manifesto. The truth is, this subject matter is a bit too out-there and oftentimes questionable from a reasonable perspective. I think the attempts to mix in some humor blurs the line between fact and fiction that might work in a detrimental manner for Honda at times, but the truth is that there is no dishonesty in any of the claims. The hardest point the address when initially approaching the conclusion my “Love is Dead, Long Live the Otaku” paper was to decide if Honda wrote the book as a joke to appeal to a certain subgroup of dokuo (毒男) otaku, or if he genuinely believed everything he wrote. Ultimately that’s up to the individual to decide, but personally, I find it hard to believe that one guy can write a half dozen hundred-plus-paged “essays” arguing the importance of 2D love without believing a bit of it himself.

“Professional Workflow”

Down the Rabbithole

Centralized Archives

Internet Archive Collection: https://archive.org/search.php?query=creator%3A%22%E6%9C%AC%E7%94%B0%E9%80%8F%22 

My Mega backup of various stuff (not comprehensive): https://mega.nz/folder/Do8AUayT#tIGDqGOZgVThz8MGZ1sHTw

Starting Points

Interviews

Video Interviews

Websites

Professional Stuff

About parzival

Thinking about things that ought to be left unremembered.
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1 Response to Comfy discussion of the preface to Denpa Otoko

  1. Pingback: Translating Denpa Otoko: Translator’s Introduction & Preface | Artificial Night Sky

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