Bits of Understanding: Repression & Dominance

As our class saw in a Genshiken screening during our class on otaku masculinities, the concept of “otaku fictions” have to do both with the perception through which otaku audiences, particularly male ones, really have and are portrayed to have. Anime like Genshiken provide the otaku members of their audience with a variety of relatable characters, from the newbie who seems shy of his otakuness to the sempai who have fully embraced stereotypical traits of an otaku. These traits range from staying inside all day watching anime to less more characteristically perverse hobbies, like collecting sexually compelling anime figurines with realistic panties. As Thomas Lamarre contemples in his paper Cool, Creepy, Moé: Otaku Fictions, Discourses, and Policies, generally otaku characters in anime hide their otaku-ness, ashamed, fearful of exposure. Therefore, living a double life between social repression and secret indulgence in vices plays a huge role in otaku culture and understanding– a role that impacts their understanding of eroticism.


Feminist scholar Naito Chizuko has expressed in her work that otaku passion for dominance over females, particularly in the genre of lolicon, became more socially acceptable in the 1990s when the Japanese economy when women began to have higher class jobs in large part to social mobilization and government reforms. She argues that a “crisis of masculinity” occurred as men found it more difficult to attain high level political and corporate positions. Otaku fantasies reinforcing dominance and power became a way to establish a sense of masculine authority, for example, “in Lolicon fictions in which the female characters are so childlike and powerless that young men are called upon to take charge and protect them. [Consequentially], such male otaku fantasies reproduce received class and gender inequality.” In summation, feeling repressed (even if that repression was a move towards gender equality) resulted in a rise of consumption and creation of media portraying situations with inherent masculine dominance, particularly among anime and manga– products already seen as stereotypically otaku and thus a way to secretly indulge in “sin.”


Lamarre refers to Nogizaka Haruka no himitsu whose main character, Nogizaka Haruka, is a secret otaku, and Oreimo whose main character, Kosaka Kirino, is also a secret otaku who is obsessed with erotic games for young men. Both of these female otaku characters display a subconscious desire to be just like the sort of girl who would appeal to male otakus, both within their own world and to their real life consumer audience, addressed to male consumers. This is just one example of the overlap between both the social perception of a female otaku, and the image within media of females addressed to male otaku. As Lamarre theorizes, “In a psychoanalytic way, one might say that projecting the repression of otaku desire onto girls allows the male consumer to enjoy repression by displacing it.” Conceptually, repression of females in itself can become an expression and release of otaku desire.


-Naitô, Chizuko. Summer 2007. “Kikan bukku rebyu: Okinawa o meguru kioku no tsubo.” Shosetsu Tripper.

-Lamarre, Thomas. 2013. “Cool, Creepy, Moé: Otaku Fictions, Discourses, and Policies.” Diversité urbaine, CEETUM, Groupe de recherche.

-Wai-hung, Yiu and Chan, Alex Ching-shing. January 2018. “Kawaii” and “Moe”—Gazes, Geeks (Otaku), and Glocalization of Beautiful Girls (Bisho¯jo) in Hong Kong Youth Culture.” Duke University Press.

One thought on “Bits of Understanding: Repression & Dominance

  1. Andy,

    Really interesting analysis here of otaku desire. I wonder if you might discuss more about the process that occurs when a male otaku identifies with a repressed female character. Why/how does her gender allow male viewers to enjoy/experience their own repression? And is there something more happening here? Can a male otaku identify with a female character in other ways, i.e, not merely by shifting repression onto her or expressing power over her?


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