otaku, doujinshi, and gamemodding

Mizuko Ito [↵keitai-scholar and sister of blogosphere-legend ↑Joi Ito] introduces us to Otaku Media Literacy—if one would replace ‘anime otaku’ by ‘gamemodders’ and add one or two adjustments, her text still would be ‘the truth’. Here’s an excerpt:

[…] Overseas anime otaku—fans of Japanese anime—represent an emergent form of media literacy that, though still marginal, is becoming increasingly pervasive among a rising generation. Anime otaku are media connoisseurs, activist prosumers who seek out esoteric content from a far away land and organize their social lives around viewing, interpreting, and remixing these media works. Otaku translate and subtitle all major anime works, they create web sites with hundreds and thousands of members, stay in touch 24/7 on hundreds of IRC channels, and create fan fiction, fan art, and anime music videos that rework the original works into sometimes brilliantly creative and often subversive alternative frames of reference. Curious? Check out sites such as animemusicvideos.com, cosplay.com, or animesuki.com. to get a sense of this burgeoning subculture.
    Although fan cultural production is denigrated by media professionals as “merely” derivative and lacking in originality, it is worth considering what forms of knowledge, literacy, and social organization are being fed by these activities. To support their media obsessions otaku acquire challenging language skills and media production crafts of scripting, editing, animating, drawing, and writing. And they mobilize socially to create their own communities of interest and working groups to engage in collaborative media production and distribution. Otaku use visual media as their source material for crafting their own identities, and as the coin of the realm for their social networks. Engaging with and reinterpreting professionally produced media is one stepping stone towards critical media analysis and alternative media production. […]

Another related phenomenon—I do not dare to say the above’s historical forerunner, but the association seems plausible—from Japan also has strong resemblances to gamemodding. Here’s a description by Lawrence Lessig [this time replace ‘doujinshi’ by ‘gamemods’]:

But my purpose here is not to understand manga. It is to describe a variant on manga that from a lawyer’s perspective is quite odd, but from a Disney perspective is quite familiar.
   This is the phenomenon of doujinshi. Doujinshi are also comics, but they are a kind of copycat comic. A rich ethic governs the creation of doujinshi. It is not doujinshi if it is just a copy; the artist must make a contribution to the art he copies, by transforming it either subtly or significantly. A doujinshi comic can thus take a mainstream comic and develop it differently—with a different story line. Or the comic can keep the character in character but change its look slightly. There is no formula for what makes the doujinshi sufficiently “different.” But they must be different if they are to be considered true doujinshi. Indeed, there are committees that review doujinshi for inclusion within shows and reject any copycat comic that is merely a copy. (Lessig 2004: 25-26)