Thursday, March 16, 2006

Beware the otaku

Time Magazine has an interesting article about opposition to a new law in Japan against outdated electronics which has Japan's tech fetishists up in arms.

The government is trying to outlaw some of the favorite vintage video games of Japan's otaku, the "legions of nerdy pop-culture obsessives" who congregate in Akihabara, Tokyo's equivalent of Yongsan (or is it the other way around?). As Time reports, they're mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.

On April 1, Japan's Product Safety of Electrical Appliances and Materials Law (PSE), designed to prevent electrical fires, will prohibit the resale of 259 types of electrical goods made before April 2001—including some of the most coveted video-game machines.

Critics say that the law is essentially outlawing the secondary market for everything from VCRs to refrigerators, which will serve to line the pockets of Japan's large electronics manufacturers.

All is not as dark and dim as the otaku netizens proclaim (like that's a surprise). Sellers can submit older products for recertification, and some game platforms—most Nintendo decks, along with later versions of Sony's PlayStation 1 and 2—are spared, but the law's tangle of exceptions and conditions is only adding to the confusion.

Time Magazine quotes Hiroki Kimoto, manager of a shop selling secondhand music gear in Tokyo, whose guitar amplifiers largely fall under the PSE:
We don't know what we're going to do. It's ludicrous. I have never heard anyone having safety problems with these machines, but the whole music culture could be affected.
When these second-hand products end up in Southeast Asian and Chinese shops rather than with Japanese buyers, with their export fully accepted by the Japanese government, we'll know this was a ruse.

[photo: This is the second image that came up when I did a google image search for otaku. This is one of the more, ahem, normal-looking pictures. Take a look at the rest of the images and see what frightening people these otaku are. Please, for the love of God, let them have their second-hand electronics so they'll stay home and not harm the rest of the people in Japan.]

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