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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Kritika Kultura
Department of English
School of Humanities
Ateneo de Manila University

The Philippine Commission on Higher Education (CHED) declares Kritika Kultura as a CHED-recognized journal under the Journal Challenge Category of its Journal Incentive Program.

International Board of Editors

Jan Baetens
Faculty of Arts
Katholieke Universiteit te Leuven (Belgium)

Joel David
Professor of Cultural Studies
Inha University (South Korea)

Michael Denning
Professor of American Studies and English
Department of English
Yale University (US)

Faculty of Cultural Sciences
Universitas Gadjah Mada (Indonesia)

Regenia Gagnier
Professor of English
University of Exeter (UK)

Leela Gandhi
John Hawkes Professor of the Humanities and English
Brown University (US)

Inderpal Grewal
Professor of Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies
Professor of South Asian Studies, Ethnicity, Race and Migration Studies
Yale University (US)

Peter Horn
Professor Emeritus and Honorary Lifetime Fellow
University of Cape Town (South Africa)
Honorary Professor and Research Associate in German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

Anette Horn
Professor of German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

David Lloyd
Distinguished Professor of English
University of California, Riverside (US)

Bienvenido Lumbera
National Artist for Literature
Professor Emeritus
University of the Philippines

Rajeev S. Patke
Director of the Division of Humanities
Professor of Humanities
Yale NUS College (Singapore)

Vicente L. Rafael
Giovanni and Amne Costigan Endowed Professor of History
University of Washington (US)

Vaidehi Ramanathan
Department of Linguistics
University of California, Davis (US)

Temario Rivera
Professorial Lecturer
Department of Political Science
University of the Philippines

E. San Juan, Jr.
Philippines Studies Center (US)

Neferti X.M. Tadiar
Professor of Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies
Barnard College (US)
Director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race
Columbia University (US)

Antony Tatlow
Honorary Professor of Drama
Trinity College Dublin (Ireland)