Wotagei, Japan’s unusual form of otaku dancing, is spreading across the seas and capturing the hearts of foreign idol and anime fans, causing them to contort their bodies in strange but rhythmic formations. Read on for more about this unique performance art and watch some videos of afficionados in action.
What is wotagei?
Wotagei is basically a form of dance-like cheering that’s done in support of an idol at their concerts, and has grown into its own unique culture. The name comes from a combination of the words otaku and gei, which means performance or skill–the same “gei” that appears in the word geisha. It’s kind of like an otaku version of para para but instead of being linked to clubbing and fashion it comes from the idol scene in Akihabara where cute young girls perform to legions of young and middle-aged men. Wotagei routines are based around simple moves and Japanese phrases that have become standardized.
Each song by a particular idol will have its own specific routine for fans to perform, and people will often have pen lights with them that will be a different colour depending on the artist or song. Some fans will even have matching T-shirts or jackets. Everyone who shows up to these events already knows the correct moves for each song which creates a nerdy club of exclusivity where you’re not a real fan unless you can join in. The moves are fairly simple on their own but once strung together it can get quite complex and intense. Most importantly, you’ve really gotta put your heart into it! And make sure you have plenty of space or you could poke someone’s eye out.
▼ Wotagei “for beginners” actually looks quite difficult to me
▼ The ‘Narcissus’ move is a ‘soul explosion’, or a strange contorting of the body to express that you’re overcome with emotion. It can be used at any point in a routine. If you see someone doing this at an idol even they’re probably not, as you might first think, having a seizure; their soul is just exploding with uncontainable emotion.
There are more and more opportunities to see wotagei in action in Japan at idol and anime-related concerts, and it seems like it’s catching on outside Japan now too. It’s still very much Japanese-influenced though as the mysterious moves and shouts have been exported as-is, and it’s predominantly popular with people who were already interested in Japanese anime and idol culture.
▼ At Japan Expo 2014 in France we see Rio Hiiragi and wotagei group PCF leading fans in an enthusiastic jump-athon.
▼ And it’s people of all nationalities who’ve fallen under wotagei’s bizarre spell. Here we’ve got a performance in central park, New York, by an American, Indonesian, Mexican, and French person.
The future of Wotagei
While there are many idol and anime song events that encourage wotagei, some places have banned it as it can be a nuisance, with overenthusiastic wotagei groups spoiling it for others who are simply there to enjoy the artist. This style of cheer-dancing was born as a way to support idols and participate in events but it’s now developing separately from that. People are discovering the fun of creating and uploading routines to YouTube and perfecting their skills themselves, and are coming up with some really cool stuff.
▼ Group Katotsuyo makes great use of their glow sticks in this nighttime performance.
▼ Team PCF performs wotagei to the Shingeki no Kyojin anime OP.
What do you think of wotagei? Have you ever tried it? Let us know in the comments section below.