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From “Game-like Realism” to the “Imagination-oriented Aesthetic”: Reconsidering Bourdieu’s Contribution to Fan Studies in the Light of Japanese Manga and Otaku Theory

Zoltan Kacsuk


Following Casey Brienza’s call for drawing on Japanese “otaku theory” in order to further comics studies, the present article demonstrates how the wider interrelated discourse around anime, manga, and otaku can be productively related to fields such as Western fan studies. Focusing on Azuma Hiroki’s book The Birth of Game-like Realism this paper both highlights the theoretical richness of works which have yet to be translated into English, and emphasizes the importance of manga research – in this case Itō Gō’s book Tezuka is Dead – beyond the confines of manga/comics studies. Building on a novel reading of Azuma’s framework introduced in the present article the now mostly overlooked tension in fan cultural practices pointed out by Henry Jenkins in Textual Poachers in relation to Pierre Bourdieu’s concepts of pure and popular aesthetic disposition is reexamined. Drawing on the framework of game-like realism, this paper introduces the imagination-oriented aesthetic disposition, and demonstrates how this disposition could account for the mix of characteristics found in fan practices. The relevance of such a reevaluation of Bourdieu’s possible contribution to fan studies lies in the potential to move beyond the currently dominant frameworks of psychology and psychoanalysis when addressing the problem of fantasy and reality in relation to fan engagement.


fan research; imagination; manga studies; otaku studies

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13185/KK2016.02615