Until relatively recently, most of the commentary on otaku in the West has been from the outside looking in. That is, the commentary came from people studying or observing otaku, but not from people embedded in the culture.
Patrick W. Galbraith’s Otaku Spaces is an early departure from this paradigm. Rather than making commentary on otaku culture by passively studying it through a cultural critic lens, Galbraith, along with photographer Androniki Christodoulou, meet the otaku right where they live.
Otaku Spaces is comprised of a series of interviews with various otaku and other collectors, accompanies with photographs of their rooms and collections. In addition, it includes photo-tours of otaku cultural centers like Akihabara, Nippombashi, and Otome Road, as well as interviews with cultural academics on the development of otaku culture.
The idea to talk directly to otaku about their passions and hobbies is simple, but brilliant. Through the interviews and photos, the reader gets a sense of who these people really are, both in and out of an otaku context. Amongst the interviewees are a thirty-three-year-old internet company employee with a collection McDonalds toys, a twenty-eight-year-old housewife with over 300 anime figures, and a fourty-two-year-old electrician who owns, among other things, a ~$500 life-sized doll of Rei Ayanami from Evangelion.
In addition, Galbraith interviews a couple of potentially more well-known otaku, including K-1 fighter Yuichiro Nagashima, famous for entering the ring dressed as characters like Haruhi Suzumiya and Reimu Hakurei, and Danny Choo, who now works with the Japanese government to promote Japanese pop culture overseas.
Otaku Spaces humanizes otaku culture in a way that was rarely seen before, giving names, faces, and personalities to the individuals within an often-stereotyped group. It shows that otaku are, in many respects, just otherwise normal people with interesting hobbies. It comes highly recommended for anyone who’s interested in studying otaku culture, both formally and informally.