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Otaku is often mistakenly defined as the Japanese word for "nerd." That's not quite right, Patrick Galbraith explains in the introduction to his new book, Otaku Spaces. In fact, otaku involves "socially unacceptable forms of play and consumption," which means it has less to do with being the Japanese equivalent of a Trekker and more to do with good old-fashioned hoarding. Galbraith interviews Japanese otaku about their obsessions—they surround themselves with manga, with anime, with statuettes and costumes, and they don't have time for friends because they're too immersed in fantasy to pay attention to something as dull as meatspace.

The book is certainly a beautiful object. Galbraith's interviews are accompanied by Androniki Christodoulou's full-color, full-page photographs of otaku in their homes. A young man clowns around with his extensive collection of fast-food mascot toys (including at least two Hamburglar iterations). A young woman seems to sleep on an angry sea of thousands of DVD and video game cases...

(Keep reading.)