Education for the Net Generation - 3. Akihabara - Let's Foster Resilience - Papers & Essays



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Education for the Net Generation - 3. Akihabara - Let's Foster Resilience


In the media world of the Net Generation, Akihabara is often expressed in katakana ' (Akihabara)' or ' (Akiba)'. Not only on the Internet and blogs, but also in other media, the presence of katakana expressions is overwhelming.

Take, for instance, the TV cartoon called 'Cyber Team in Akihabara'. In spite of being a work produced about ten years ago in 1998, it is still popular with otaku (people with an obsessive interest in animation, manga, and video games, in particular), and DVDs, games, books, and character goods are collected. Fans have come together in websites to form the world of "Cyber Team in Akihabara" which features bulletin boards, an information database, 5-choice quizzes, the "Cyber Team in Akihabara" pollution level check, and other such content. Taking the pollution level check will display your compatibility with an animation character as follows, "You have been polluted 88.45% by the Cyber Team in Akihabara, and are a good match with Hibari Hanakoganei," the name of one of the characters. The characters' eyes are so big that they occupy about one third of the face. They wear clothes made of enamel-like fabric, and their hair looks heavy as if they were wearing a wig. The outline of the story is that every character confronts a variety of events and hardship including attack and ambushes while raising a mobile cyber-pet called "Pata-Pi". The scene in which a Pata-Pi is saved from imminent danger by the owner girl is repeated.

It seems that the otaku who devote themselves to this animated cartoon see themselves as such Pata-Pi as "Tetsuro" or "Densuke" and hope to be saved by the heroines "Hibari (Lark)" and "Tsugumi (Shut)". Although the author's intention is not clear, a pet's name such as "Tetsuro" is closer to a human name and the names of the girls who own the pets are named after small birds.

The suspect in the Akihabara murders gave notice of the crime on a cellphone bulletin board because he wanted someone to stop him. Perhaps, he was under the illusion that, as in the animated cartoon, Lark and Shut would fly down to stop him in a tight squeeze, telling him that they had seen the bulletin board.

Moreover, in the novel of "Akihabara@DEEP" of Ira Ishida (Bungeishunju), young people who are in despair about their future come together on the bulletin board of a twenty-nine year old woman called Yui on the Internet, and there find the hope to live and a future direction. However, Yui, who has saved the lives of many people, is not able to save her own life. At her funeral, even her parents fault her for not working or marrying, and for constantly depending on medical treatment. They accuse her of not doing anything but playing around on the computer without even sleeping. And the photograph for the funeral is not recent, but one taken when she was acting the dutiful daughter as her parents wished. The novel has drawn the pity that even after her suicide, her parents do not try to understand her at all and are unable to recognize the goodness of their child to the very end.

The suspect, who is held responsible for the killings in Akihabara that I mentioned above, was overprotected by his parents until he was a high school student. After he moved to Shizuoka as a contract employee, he had no communication with his family, as if he had been deserted. Values differ greatly as time and generations change, and this is nothing new. Even though he did not turn out as his parents had hoped and lived far from them, surely this incident would not have occurred if he had been close to his family.

In addition, the novel "Akihabara" of Bin Konno (Chuokoronshinsya), set in Akihabara, has spies from the Middle East and other characters, who make bomb threats and wage gunfights. It is likely that the suspect, who I hear was an Akihabara otaku, also read this novel. It is also possible that he gave prior warning with his cellphone, imagining Akihabara to be a place of bomb threats and gunfights, rushed into Akihabara in a truck, and then stabbed people to death.
Although Akihabara is thought to be a town of PC and consumer electronics, in Kaichiro Morikawa's novel "Learning From Akihabara: The Birth of a Personapolis" (Gentosha) , this image takes a back seat to the depiction of it as a town shaped by playful interests that is continuously transformed into a town of otaku, by otaku and for otaku.

In addition many comics and novels are set in Akihabara, such as "I, Otaku Struggle in Akihabara" (Enix), "Akihaba LOVE" (Fusosha), "48 phenomena" (Wani Books), "The Soul of Akihabara Messesano Manager Kon" (Softbank Creative), "Akihabara Lawless Street" (Akita Publishing), "Akihabara Ten Thousand Channel" (Kadokawa Shoten) and "Akiba Man" (Yell Publishing).

In many novels and animated cartoons set in Akihabara, otaku themselves or characters with whom they can empathize often appear. In this respect, many associations can be made between Akihabara or otaku culture and the suspect of the recent murders that took place there. His self-professed anxiety about not having a girlfriend or being a temporary worker seems to have driven him to despair and pessimism. Actually, immediately after the incident, many people posted comments on the Internet saying that even though they could never forgive the acts, they sympathized with the assailant's feelings and a number of copycat murder notices followed. However, it is too simplistic to assume that being an otaku or a temporary worker was a factor that caused the killings for there are a lot of young people who have similar circumstances or are suffering from a more desperate situation, but hardly any of them will ever commit such a crime.

Some people attribute the murders to the cellphone, Internet, games, Akihabara otaku, temporary working system, trying to find a comforting conclusion, which is a kind of mob psychology. However, it cannot be so easy. It was a carefully planned crime, not one that was caused by sudden outrage. He made a detailed announcement. Before the crime, he cleaned his room, and as if distributing mementos, gave a cardboard box full of games to one of his colleagues who had been to Akihabara with him, which was no doubt a treasured possession for an otaku. It is said that a knife was in the cardboard box. Maybe he wanted to tell his colleague about the plans for the crime he was to commit, his despair in the life, his pent-up feelings about the world filled with deception and his distress.

Certainly, regarding the problems of employment, the collapse of pension funds, the budget deficit, none of these can bring hope about the future to the young generation. Did the future look rosy to the children who had lost their parents and survived in burned ruins after the World War II? They rebuilt our society while desperately overcoming gloomy feelings. Everything has its ups and downs. Bad situations will not continue forever. You will only rise if you think you are at the bottom now. The process, the ability, or the result of adjusting oneself well to a difficult situation is called resilience. It is the strength to be adaptable in adverse circumstances, like the flexible strength of bamboo. Of course, the social reforms are also necessary. But formal education and home training are expected to foster resilience in children and young people who grow up in the world of adversity.