To some the word otaku may be seen as an insult, as it brings to mind someone lazy and disinterested in anything other than their chosen obsession. But to us in South Africa, it is something that we have become proud of. To us, being an otaku means having a passion that inspires us; it is simply another way of saying "geek." South Africa is an ever growing hub for pop cultures, fandoms, and all sorts of interests. As a country, we are generally a passionate people who love to share their passions with those around us.
This has been a longtime tradition of otaku around the world. But what is it that makes South African otaku so passionate, what makes any of us so passionate about being an otaku? We have create an unconventional list of the more subtle reasons we love being otaku in South Africa.
Our great variety of anime societies
For anyone who watches a wide enough range of anime, or is just jacked into the system enough to know, Genshiken (GENdai SHIkaku bunka KENkyukai) literally translates to ‘the society for the study of modern visual culture’. This term encompasses anime, gaming, manga and geekdom in all its flavours. In South Africa, almost every major university has an anime society – the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) society is even called ‘Genshiken’! These pockets of otaku pool their collective effort and time into gathering anime DVDs, figurines, comics, and crafting marvelous cosplays. This sense of community and achievement is part of the passion and love of anime and otaku culture.
Our fantastic anime events and community
Outside of the university space, companies like AWX, All Otaku and Legion Ink are a few companies backing this budding market. With the help of such companies, individuals have taken it upon themselves to assemble large and small conventions that showcase cosplayers and allow shops that are often too far from the consumers to set up their merchandise for all con-goers to sample and get to know what is out there being sold across the country－all the while blasting the One Punch Man theme song for everyone to (attempt) sing along to.
It's at conventions like this that we get to see the formidable force that is the otaku community. We are a polite sort (probably something we learned from the shows we watch), but god help you when you get between an otaku and the last copy of the 3rd Soul Eater manga. I did once, we had to toss a coin for it, and to my dismay, I lost. This kind of comraderie is probably the greatest thing about being an otaku. Friends can be found anywhere when you have a fandom in common.
The two most notable conventions are Con.ECT, which was founded and run by a cosplayer who was still half way through high school with some support from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s facilities. Their event is a standing testament to the culture being supported by the community. And secondly, done on quite a massive scale as far as community-based events are concerned, is UCON! Hosted and managed by UCT’s Genshiken, UCON drew in a crowd of roughly 1600 people on its first day, as hot as it was people came in swarms. The event itself had several local manga artists release their first issues with great responses and feedback. Another amazing event worth mentioning is rAge Expo, which not only hosts anime and cosplay related events and stalls, but is also a big backer of the gaming culture in SA.
Our cosplayers are amazing
South Africa has a remarkable number of cosplayers including casual and full time cosplayers. Enough so that there are a number of cosplay picnics that happen throughout the year. A sunny afternoon dedicated to people showing off their design and crafting progress, all the while gathering tips, tricks and trade secrets on how to get even the most complicated outfits on a student budget. Within the sub-community, not everyone has a talent or interest in dressing up. Some people have dedicated their time, money and energy into provide various resources to those that do. They automatically become a hub for bulk orders of wigs, special contact lenses and special pre-made pieces that are difficult or too expensive to attempt to craft by oneself. But even with that short fall, there are crafters that work solely on creating that very niche piece that you need to complete your outfit. Beyond even that their a small companies whose directive is to bring all these geeky things right to your doorstep, the likes of CosBox and GeekCrate do their best to offer monthly mystery drops directly to you for a minimal fee.
Kinpatsu Cosplay, a South African cosplayer!
We foster creativity
Moreover on the side of creators, while manga is consumed almost as much as air－the sheer number of budding artists that focus their talents onto creating manga can be seen in the South African Manga Artists Facebook group. With well over a thousand active members posting their progress daily, it is without a doubt that the influences of not only Japanese artwork but also their way of storytelling has made its black and white impact.
From the South African Manga Artists group we could see nothing but support, as a lone individual took time to make a chain of pages entitled ‘in SA’, dedicated to furthering each fandom exclusively in the South African viewership. ‘Naruto in Sa’, ‘Bleach in SA’, ‘Dragon Ball Z in SA’ and all other connected pages hosted ‘in SA FanArtFriday’ at the end of each month giving entrants the chance to showcase their work and stand a chance to win a manga volume of the page entry.
All in all, the community is striving in all aspects to emulate what they love about Japan and the appreciation and study of Japanese modern visual culture. But more than anything, we love meeting up and being all otaku with people who love the same things that we do!
About All Otaku
We at All Otaku are excited to be a part of the MyAnimeList team. We are enthusiasts of anime, manga and all things geek in South Africa. From local events and news to exciting reviews and weekly articles, you can catch it all on our site.