Learning from the Young Otaku
I was saying a little while back that my kids are learning history by watching Hetalia , and wanting to ask all kinds of questions about world events and politics because the show whets their appetite for more knowledge. Hetalia is a Japanese-produced animated series that personifies countries and illustrates historical events in terms of relationships between the various characters. But the girls are teaching Mom a whole bunch of stuff too. I've had to develop a whole new vocabulary, for example, just to follow their conversations with each other.
Westerners who are fascinated with Japanese culture, particularly the culture surrounding manga (Japanese cartoons) and anime (Japanese animation) often identify themselves as Otaku . These people are part of a sub-culture that has its own unique vocabulary, that I've been fortunate to learn from my adolescent daughters and their friends.
When they say someone will “ fangirl ” over something, they mean this person will get extremely excited and let out a girly shriek.
When they are “ cosplaying ” it means they are dressing up as a fictional character and going through their day as if they were that character. It's a blend of live role playing and performance art, and the term is short for “ costume play .”
“ Shipping ” is a frequent topic of conversation these days. That's the act of pairing up likely (or unlikely?) pairs of characters who might have a romantic relationship.
A “ chibi ” is a cute, diminutive character. “ Chibitalia ,” for example, is a side story associated with Hetalia in which North Italy is portrayed as a younger version called a chibi. If I wanted to comment on the characters in this anime I might say, “ Kawaii !” This means I find them adorable or cute.
Anime Teaching History – and More!
Lest you think the only thing I'm absorbing from my Otaku youth is a bunch of Japanese-inspired jargon, I can assure you the girls are constantly teaching me things about the world at large too. And I've discovered that the girls aren't just learning about the past.
For example, one day last year MamaOzzy3881 was discussing what she'd learned about Estonia. She revealed that technology is quite accessible in the contemporary Baltic nation. In fact, Estonia is known for being the birthplace of Skype, and most of its citizens are very comfortable being plugged in. Most of the country has free wireless internet coverage, so you can even access the internet while travelling on a bus or hiking in a national park. Very cool!
I don't think my daughter would even be aware there is a country called Estonia had it not been for Hetalia . Now she knows a great deal more about the country than any of her social studies courses could ever teach her. And much of it is because watching the show made her want to go learn more about the countries she was seeing in the series!
Note: This article is based on an original by me that was published at Bubblews, and has since been removed
Image Credit » http://cygnus-x-2.deviantart.com/art/Chibi-GerIta-love-339688665