Photo/IllutrationA signboard that reads “Considerate of otaku” is set up on the first floor of a building housing a dating agency in the Akihabara district in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward. (Hirokazu Suzuki)

  • Photo/Illustraion

“Otaku” geeks hoping to turn their obsessive subculture interests to their advantage in matters of the heart are fueling a trend for matching services offering drinking parties and group dating events across the nation.

The idea to turn otaku’s often tricky quest for love into a business proposition was the brainchild of a company president who knows how difficult it can be.

Hiroshi Takeuchi, 38, says he is an otaku himself who is into anime and manga. His company, Hiroshi Planning, based in Osaka’s Naniwa Ward, organizes cosplay events and other activities.

Speaking about why he started the matchmaking party, he recalled, “I myself wanted a girlfriend. Otaku hardly have a chance to find a nice partner, so I wanted to help.”

Hiroshi Planning hosted a “machi-con” large-scale community-based matchmaking party exclusively for otaku called Otapa! on Sept. 10, with 44 men and 42 women ranging in age from 20 to 35 joining the event at a venue in Osaka’s Chuo Ward. Male participants paid 8,000 yen ($71), while female partygoers were encouraged with the lower fee of 2,500 yen.

They struck up conversations as they shared their own lists of favorite anime and video game titles and other information.

“What made you become crazy about anime?” one woman asked a male attendee.

“I loved ‘Sailor Moon’ when I was in elementary school,” he replied.

“I know,” the woman concurred. “Which one do you like?”

Initially, the Otapa! party had been held twice a month only in Osaka. But now, it is held four times a month also in Tokyo and Nagoya.

Participants need to take a “diagnostic test” when they register online to see if they are otaku or not. They can join the events alone, and also often make friends with like-minded fans of the same sex through their mutual interests.

“Usually, I can’t tell women I just met that I like ‘Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon,’ but when I gathered up the courage and said it, she accepted it just like that,” a 28-year-old man said with a smile.

Machi-Con Japan, a website which offers marriage-seeking activities and matchmaking parties, and also hosts dating events across the country, started “Ani-con” in collaboration with anime channel Animax Broadcast Japan Inc. three years ago. At first, the event had been held once every four months in Osaka, but has since grown to be held every month.

“Compared with other machi-con events, it seems that (Ani-con) continues to liven up even after it is over because participants go out and sing anime songs or do other activities together afterwards,” said Mai Ueda, 24, who works at the Osaka branch of Machi-Con Japan operator Linkbal Inc. The company also plans to organize similar events across Japan.

There is also a matchmaking agency devoted to otaku.

Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward-based ToraCon, which describes itself as a “dating agency considerate of otaku,” has seen an increase in its membership, with a man in his 20s becoming the first member to marry with the help of the company in August.

ToraCon aims to expand its business nationwide starting from Akihabara, the nation's center of otaku culture, in Tokyo.

ToraCon was launched by the founder of “dojinshi” fanzine distributor Toranoana Inc. as his personal project in February before it was turned into a stock company in June. Of about 130 registered members of ToraCon, 70 percent are men and 30 percent are women. Participation fees vary depending on the level of support the member receives, ranging from 98,000 yen to 210,000 yen.

Monthly fees range from 10,000 yen to 15,000 yen. Members can search for potential partners from about 58,000 registered members because ToraCon is affiliated with one of the nation’s largest matchmaking service providers. They can also get advice on dresses and hairstyles.

“Otaku tend to value their hobbies while they also respect others’ hobbies as much as possible,” adviser Keiji Yoshihara, 38, said. “We want to highlight the good sides of their personalities.”