Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Sometimes It's Sweet To Be A Geek

Japan is always a place where good ideas can take root, and this one is no exception:

A small movie theater outside Tokyo is offering cheaper tickets to so-called geeks - known in Japan as "otaku" - for a summer romance movie about a nerdy guy who falls in love.

All that's needed to get the discount - 100 yen (US$0.90; euro0.73) for students and 400 yen (US$3.60; euro2.93) for adults - is ask for "one ticket for a geek" at the booth for the Japanese movie "Train Man."

"Customers are getting a kick out of saying it," said Koji Nitta, sales chief the Fujisawa Chuo theater, south of Tokyo. "There are only a few who look like typical geeks, though."

The ticket promotion, which Nitta credits with raising sales at the theater, is part of the changing image of Japan's "otaku," who have long been seen as social misfits obsessed with comic books and animated videos.

As an aside: we call them "fanboys" here in Canada, even though there are also females among them. There was even a convention in Toronto last weekend about them -- but then, if you're reading this, you know about that already.

"Otaku" culture has become a legitimate field of research in Japan, and a study last year estimated that sales generated by goods targeted at the country's 2.8 million nerds totaled 258 billion yen (US$2.3 billion).

The movie, "Densha Otoko" in Japanese, takes so-called geeks into a genre they're not usually associated with: romantic love. The 22-year-old otaku hero turns to a favorite geek refuge in search of girlfriend advice - the Internet.
[The above link will take you to a blog that reviews the TV series that inspired the movie -- VW.]

Offering a discount seems to be widening the types of people eligible to be otaku: Nitta said about 70 per cent of the theater's customers now claim to be geeks.

Discounts for geeks. Now that's an idea that really needs to catch on ...