Giza Giza Kawaii! (or Why Shoko Nakagawa is the Otaku's Perfect Girlfriend)
The world's most famous Otaku makes an appearance at Anime Expo and dominates in typical Shokotan fashion, stealing hearts across America. Kanara Ty fangirls over the ultimate fangirl.
Published: Friday, July 25, 2008
Prior to Anime Expo, I first learned about Shoko Nakgawa (or Shokotan, as her fans affectionately call her) through the now-defunct TV Tokyo variety show, Mucha Buri, hosted by Johnny and Associates modern Enka group, Kanjani 8. The show's premise had the group members going far and beyond Japan to grant the wishes of their guest. On one of the two episodes she appeared on, Shokotan requested a new set of nunchucks. In return, the Kansai boys presented her a customized pair of nunchucks encrusted with Swarovski crystals and it even had the voice of one of her idols, Japanese action star Kurata Yasuaki. Prior to receiving her gift, she was also presented with a cardboard stand and printed bedsheets of a life-size version of Kurata-san. I mean, I've seen fangirls spazz over their idols, but those all pale in comparison to Shokotan's reaction of cooing and curling up next to the printed Kurata-san on a queen-sized bed. I concluded she was a bit of a nutty idol, but after Shokotan's full-on domination at Anime Expo, I was led to believe something entirely different.
Japanese idols based out of Akihabara already seem to epitomize the Otaku dream girl. I haven't been too impressed with the gals out of Akiba lately, but after I walked out of the Nokia Theatre, I was truly convinced that Shokotan is a living and breathing epitome of the everyday otaku's perfect girlfriend. If you haven't fallen in love with Shoko Nakagawa yet, I'll give you a couple reasons why you should worship Anime's current "It-Girl."
1. Shokotan is Much More Talented than Your Average Japanese Idol
Normally, Japanese idols are a triple threat in the industry: they take on voice acting roles in various anime shows or join a variety show cast, they perform to thousands of screaming fans at live concerts, and lastly they appear in magazines ads, billboards, or photobooks, looking either undeniably cute or undeniably sexy.
Shokotan, however, kicks ass on all that -- and even more.
She first entered the industry in 2001, after winning an Idol audition and was crowned Miss Shonen Magazine. She started out as a gravure idol (bikini model), who also specialized in cosplay photoshoots featuring various anime characters. Shokotan became a regular cast member on various variety shows such as Osama no Brunch. In 2006, she debuted as a singer with her first single "Brilliant Dream." To date, she's released six singles, two-mini albums, and one full album of covers of anime theme songs, as well as her original work. In addition to her live concert at Anime Expo, Shokotan also held out a sold-out debut concert in Tokyo.
If her career as a performer were to end today, she'd still have a career as a skilled cartoonist and illustrator. Unlike most idols, who just do the song and dance, she's well recognized for her work, being featured on television, having a series featured on her talent agency's website, and being part of the illustrator group, Jump Damanshii. During one of her encounters with Hong Kong actor Jackie Chan, she presented an illustration of the action star to him, which he has hanging in his office to this date.
Lastly, Shokotan currently holds the "Blog Queen" title, meaning she's quite the excessive blogger, holding numerous records for her multiple blog posts. Not that anyone's complaining, since as of February 2008, her official blog, Shokotan*Blog, had one billion hits. She tends to talk about the things she loves in her life: her four cats, Nekomura, Mami, Luna, and Raijiro, whose names are all associated with some of her favorite anime. Mamitsu is Shokotan's favorite feline due to the fact she's most often seen in photos and even has her own fan following, as well as her own photobook. Since Shokotan's also an avid cosplayer, she takes pictures of all the costumes she wears to photoshoots -- or just for fun. With all the media attention surrounding her blog, she's had to deal with a number of controversies: removing screenshots she's taken of video games and song lyrics due to copyright issues, as well as her blogging style, in which she implemented a particular slang (VIP) straight from the Japanese 2Channel internet forum and was immediately recognized as a someone who cultivated this blogging style, making the original creators not too pleased with the situation.
2. Shokotan is a Better Otaku than You'll Ever Be
It's safe to say that Shokotan is probably the world's most famous Otaku.
Since she received her first copy of the popular manga/anime, Gegege no Kitaro, from her late father, famous 80s singer Katsuhiko Nakagawa, Shokotan has immersed herself in the anime and manga community. Her knowledge of older anime/manga, idol music, and video games rivals many of today's extreme otakus. Once, Shokotan gave a harsh lesson on Otaku studies to Japanese personality Akiko Wada, and even had the presumptuous Wada dress up as Rei Ayanami from Evangelion to her Asuka, from the same series. She also has an extensive knowledge about tokusatsu shows, even once citing the Pink Sentai Ranger as her hero and in true otaku fashion, stayed out all night in line to be one of the few sitting in the first row during a live show for the Sentai series. In addition, she fangirls over Bruce Lee and the Hello!Project idols.
Shokotan's Otaku antics have brought a lot of attention to her in the sense that she's also seen as a comedienne. She doesn't seem to care what the world thinks of her -- as long she can keep doing this as a career, she'll probably do this forever. I cannot help but think that her true selling point is the fact that she's made a career of something that's not just her hobby, but that's become her whole life and existence. She's a Japanese idol who banks on the very fact that she's a self-proclaimed otaku. Who doesn't dream of making a career out of what they love? When Densha Otoko cultivated a more positive image for Otakus a couple of years back, Nakagawa took that same momentum and progressed it even further. While she isn't the first Japanese idol to take an interest Otaku culture, she's definitely the first person to completely immerse herself in the culture and be proud to live and tell about it.
3. Shokotan is a Cultural Icon Set to Change the Industry
While it is probably still too early in her career to call her Japan's most successful idol, I'll take the plunge and say she's probably one of Japan's most humble.
Shokotan took her otaku-domination to this year's Anime Expo, participating in not only a live concert, but also as a judge at this year's Anime Expo competitions: AX Idol and Masquerade. Despite her high profile as a Japanese idol, she made it a point to meet AX attendees and take pictures with them. It's unusual for someone of her popularity to walk an anime convention as freely as any other attendee. The idol updated her blog during the four days of Anime Expo, documenting all the interesting events and people she came across. She appears quite humble and is incredibly fascinated with what American fans contribute to the Anime and manga industry in North America.
When she engages in these types of activities, it really sets her apart from other Japanese idols. I truly believe she takes her career (or hobby) very seriously and is the kind of person who is set to become a leader in changing the industry. Nakagawa has emerged as a truly different kind of star whose geekiness seems to have won over many hearts in Japan (and elsewhere). The blogging has become such an effective marketing tool in Japan, and if Shokotan continues to use that to her advantage, as well as develop new ways of marketing herself as a multi-talented idol, I think she can make a huge contribution to the industry by revitalizing the female idol image.
As much of a nut I think Shokotan is, I think she's won my heart as well.
For more APA coverage of 2008's Anime Expo: