It’s funny, I just watched an episode of MTV’s “Made” today and the girl that wanted to be made over was a total otaku/anime freak/Japanophile.
I often tried to explain this to people who are not even remotely interested in Japan. The following is just my two cents here.
I think it’s because Japan still offers an aura of foreign-ness without being completely while still having many qualities of home. It’s not as foreign as living in a hut in Kenya, but it’s not as common as going out into our backyard. It’s a highly technological, first-world country, but it’s not America.
I think that quality in itself provides a sense of reclusion to the Japanophiles that are not so readily accepted here. A lot of them seem to just hold out for the day that they save up enough money to go fly over to Super-Happy-Fun-Anime-Foreign-Cute-Land in hopes of playing all of the new games, reading all of the new manga, and being worshipped by the Japanese because they have worshiped their comics and cartoons for so long. Needless to say, the majority of these kids never actually go to Japan and the small percentage that do are in for the rude awakening that Japan is not all marshmallows and unicorn giggles like they expected it to be.
As I’ve probably mentioned too many times, I studied abroad in Japan. It was something that I had wanted to do since a middle schooler. I’ll admit, it was my curiosity of poorly-dubbed anime that got me interested. My best friend from middle school, B, had the exact same interest as me in Japan. As we grew older, they diverged. Whereas I was interested in Japan for the culture, history, and language B liked it for the anime, manga, and cutsey things. She was one of the stereotypical Japanophiles that thought Japan would be loving foreigners and just a fairytale land, while I went into the situation with realistic expectations. In the end, B didn’t go to Japan, as she couldn’t handle the language classes at college. She still continues her love of manga and anime and found other people who were the same and became even more enveloped with it. Due to our growing differences we grew apart.
The otaku that did make it through the course were given a rude awakening when they got there and saw that anime and manga wasn’t plastered everywhere and that the place wasn’t what they expected. Those that came in with more realistic expectations saw that it was like any other country with both good and bad points. When I think about my otaku friends that experienced the most culture shock, I sometimes wonder if they had preferred to never have gone and keep their fantasy of Japan alive in their minds.
Some people love it because it’s expected of them. Some love it because it’s a fad. Some love it because they are genuinely interested.
Again, there are people who like Japan for more than it’s anime, not all otakus are stupid and drop out of language classes, YMMV, blah blah etc. etc. This is just my two cents.