Harada Mariru
April 6th, 2012
06:47 PM ET

Wonderland: The otaku's bedroom

A peek into an otaku's bedroom or living space can be a bit of a surprise for the average person.

But it's not unusual for fans of anime and manga in Japan to decorate their small rooms even more elaborately. Otaku rooms can be covered in posters and pillows or shelves with hundreds of collectible figurines, all emblazoned with favorite anime or manga characters. Some fans make a point of collecting as much merchandise associated with the object of their affection as they can, and making sure it's all on display. It's a form of decorative expression that many otaku in the rest of the world have also adopted.

You might have seen it in the Japanese drama "Train Man," the main character's bedroom is crammed floor to ceiling with shelves of statues and figures from popular anime series like "Mobile Suit Gundam" and stacks of manga.

Let's be clear: This is not "normal behavior" in Japan. While the otaku population is strong there, Japanese who get involved in any fandom to this degree earn a certain amount of disapproval from others. Some are reserved about letting people see their personal space because of it.

In his new book, "Otaku Spaces," author Patrick W. Galbraith digs even deeper into the way otaku choose to decorate their surroundings, and the reasons why they choose to do so in the way that they do. Just like American collectors, comfort plays a key role in why they choose to collect.

"Whether we look at bedrooms, stores or even neighborhoods where otaku hang out, it seems almost as if there is a colonization of space by interests," Galbraith said. "Whatever it was that interested them, they could encounter it anywhere and anytime in daily life, increasing feelings of intimacy. The more they consumed, the closer they felt to favorite series, characters or moments."

There's nothing weird about collecting things - in fact, most people do it. Whether it's DVDs, video games, stamps, vintage lunchboxes or even rare Star Wars figures, there's something attractive about the lore of the hunt, finding that oh-so-rare item. FULL POST

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'Mass Effect,' indeed: How one game changed the industry forever
Command Shepard pursues his destiny in popular sci-fi videogame series "Mass Effect 3."
April 5th, 2012
01:03 PM ET

'Mass Effect,' indeed: How one game changed the industry forever

Editor's Note: Colette Bennett is CNN Geek Out's main Otaku writer. She has written for several gaming blogs, including Kotaku, Destructoid, Gamasutra, GamesRadar, Touch Arcade and GameSugar. She also runs a personal blog on gaming, which can be found at blowinthegameslot.blogspot.com.

Today, the gaming industry was permanently changed by a single step, proving that fans, if they voice enough dissent, have the power to change the ending of a published game.

BioWare, a subsidiary of gaming powerhouse publisher EA and creator of the popular "Mass Effect" series, announced today that it will release an "Extended Cut" version of the final installment in the series, "Mass Effect 3." Normally, that wouldn't be news, as downloadable content for released games has become somewhat of an industry standard.

However, the voices of displeased fans are what drove this decision.

Shortly after its release, people who faithfully played every title in the series started to complain that the ending was a disappointment.  The heart of the dissent settled around the sentiment that it strayed from a key feature of the previous installments in the series: that they had challenged players to make carefully crafted decisions that seemed to closely affect the direction each person's game took. But in the end, those decisions were for naught.

A recent survey found that 58% of the fans who played "Mass Effect 3" hated the game's conclusion.

"It made me, the player, irrelevant," says devoted series fan Ian Hoopes.

"I played more than 100 hours of a video game series that went through ups and downs," Hoopes explains. "I developed huge attachments to characters, especially Garrus and Tali, and I valued their feelings and opinions, which I felt were truly developed. In my experience playing the game - over 100 hours spent on "Mass Effect 3" and five additional years of "Mass Effect" gaming - the ending tried to distill the entire journey into three rigid, ambiguous decisions that made me feel left out in the cold."


Japanese live action adaptations are always awesome
"Rurouni Kenshin" will show in movie theaters in Japan at the end of August.
March 30th, 2012
11:57 AM ET

Japanese live action adaptations are always awesome

When it comes to classic stories in manga, it's almost a sure bet that you'll eventually see your favorite Japanese actors and actresses take to the screen to adapt them to live action.

That's why fans of the Shonen Jump martial arts manga "Rurouni Kenshin" are excited about an upcoming live action adaption of the series. It's slated to come out in October 2012 and stars up-and-coming actor Takeru Satoh, whose face you'll remember if you're up to speed on your J-dramas.

This adaption is hardly setting a trend, though - in Japan, if a manga becomes popular, it's likely to pop up in various other adaptations. It's not unusual to see anime, video games, light novels and even theatrical stage productions of popular franchises spawn after an audience proves they love a manga story.

One example is the popular science fiction manga "Gantz," which tells the story of two friends who die in a train accident and become involved in a cutting-edge game in the afterlife in which they are forced to hunt aliens. "Gantz" quickly became a bestseller and was published in English by Dark Horse in 2007. It has also seen adaptations of every type, the latest being two live action films starring popular Japanese actors Kazunari Ninomiya (also a member of boy band Arashi) and Ken'ichi Matsuyama (best known for his role as "L" in the live action adaption of "Death Note"). FULL POST

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The truth about 'The Hunger Games:' Katniss is better than Bella
Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence, left) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) before a fiery debut at the Hunger Games.
March 23rd, 2012
08:15 AM ET

The truth about 'The Hunger Games:' Katniss is better than Bella

Editor's note: Colette Bennett, aside from being Geek Out's main otaku, is an obsessive fangirl. Recently, her love of "The Hunger Games" series led her to call it the "thinking woman's YA series." As fans across the country camp out to buy tickets to "The Hunger Games" movie premier, Bennett explains the singularity and relevance of Katniss worship.

In the era of obsessive young adult literature fandom, a new heroine towers above all the others - Miss Katniss Everdeen.

Friday marks a great day for avid fans of "The Hunger Games," as they anticipate public vindication for their devotion to the book's 17-year-old lead character, who has a handsome boy on each arm and a political uprising to lead.

The first movie adaptation of the popular book series opens Friday night, and the trailers have already whipped fans into a frenzy. The madness is sure to soar this weekend once moviegoers get their first real taste of Katniss. Fans will grab their friends and emit high-pitched squeals. Surely the sight of Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth will have some girls reaching for their smelling salts.

"It's sooooooo good," is a phrase that easily falls from "Hunger Games" fans' lips. But what makes people (especially women) love it?

As I watched the fan frenzy build up around Suzanne Collins' young adult trilogy over the last year, (it debuted in 2008 and spent 100 weeks on the New York Times best seller list) I remembered the similar, passionate fan reaction to another series: "Twilight" and its self-named fanbase, the "TwiHards."

It's easy to spot the similarities between these two fandoms and the objects of their affection: both "The Hunger Games" and "Twilight" focus on a central female character and two handsome young men fighting for her affections. Many fans of "Twilight" also praise "The Hunger Games." They proudly show off their Mockingjay hoodies and choose which boy to root for in the battle for Katniss' affection. (Instead of Team Edward of Team Jacob, there's Team Peeta and Team Gale.)

The thing is, "The Hunger Games" is nothing like "Twilight." It's much better, and the fans know it. FULL POST

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'Journey' and the rewards of contemplative gaming
A scene from "Journey."
March 9th, 2012
11:55 AM ET

'Journey' and the rewards of contemplative gaming

When it comes to the words "video games," most people think about a fast-paced, action-oriented setting, possibly with lots of shooting and maybe even some splashes of blood for good measure. But gamers don't only crave that type of experience - in fact, both gamers and critics alike give rave reviews to titles that cultivate intellectual and even spiritual gaming leanings.

March 13 marks the official launch of the fourth game from indie studio thatgamecompany, known for their interesting and beautiful titles that defy conventional standards. Called "Journey," this "interactive parable to experience a person's life passage," as it is described on the official website, places the player in the role of a silent robed figure standing alone in a sea of glimmering sand dunes.

In the distance, a great mountain is silhouetted against the sky with a glow of light at the peak. Your destination is to reach that place, and learn what it may contain. The metaphor is clear: This is our life journey, and we will walk it to pursue whatever may lie at its end.

Unlike most current games, "Journey" is a very pared down, simplistic experience. In fact, the game only contains one word of text: The opening title. Beyond that, there is no dialogue, only the sound of your character's feet slicing through the sand as it presses forward. From start to finish, everything about this mysterious and beautiful experience is entirely open to interpretation, and the overall feeling of playing is one of serenity and peace. FULL POST

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