(left to right: Kai, aka Chosokabe Motochika the 16th century warrior; a French-maid outfitted worker in a "maid" cafe with a cartoon portrait that hangs on the walls of the cafe; in full regalia as a character from the game Super Street Fighter 2 - all photos: Louisa Lim for NPR)
Given the $4 billion spent by Japan's nerds - or Otaku - in 2004, Nerdland is big business; if the large attendance of 200,000 at Tokyo's recent Game Show is anything to judge by, it's becoming positively chic to be a geek according to a recent article on NPR.org. "I'm a nerd. This is Japan's new culture. To me, it's just one of the ways of showing your creativity," explains Kai, a 24 year old office worker by day whose devotion to "costume play" means she now spends her weekends sporting the elaborate sartorial get-ups of her favorite (male) video game warrior. "I don't want to be a
man. I just like cosplay." According to experts that study this subculture, computer gaming is now crossing the line from mere hobby and becoming a way of life. Not only does it offer like-minded individuals a fully formed community, but within its confines, you can assume any identity you desire.
While the external trappings of the super hero are all good and well, some things never change: the hardcore nerd vs. the cute chick. Their headscratching solution to the tongue-tied problem? The maid cafe, where French-maid clad women greet conquering heroes with a friendly "Hello, master" and a curtsy. "Here men live out their fantasies -- being waited on hand and foot by maids whose costumes come straight out of erotic comic books. This fantasy world has been taken one step further, with cartoon pictures of each of the real-life waitresses lining the walls."
Can a revenge of the maids be far behind?
- Lesley Scott