Social rules can unlock 'hidden youth'
Parents are the key to combating the antisocial and sometimes violent behaviour of young dropouts - dubbed "hidden youth" or otaku - says the artist whose work drew international attention to the phenomenon.
"Superflat" artist Takashi Murakami said parents should not try too hard to be friends with their children but rather should teach them social rules.
Murakami, whose work is said to symbolise the shallowness of Japanese consumer culture, spoke amid concern in Hong Kong and Japan about growing numbers of young people who quit school and become recluses at home, spending their time playing video games with occasional outbursts of violence.
"When parents communicate with kids, they look like friends," Murakami said. "There is no hierarchy [or] barrier. Is this good or bad? I don't know. But my experience in Japan [says] this is bad.
"[Parents] must tell the kids what the social rules are. This process is very complicated and not interesting. Many parents don't want to touch this."
The otaku phenomenon has been linked to social exclusion, health problems and extreme violence against families and others. Tsutomu Miyazaki, dubbed the "Otaku murderer", killed and mutilated four girls aged four to seven between 1988 and 1989. He blamed his collection of 5,763 videotapes, including anime and slasher films, for his crimes.
Murakami, who is preparing new work for a solo show at Galerie Perrotin in Hong Kong in May, said he realised the breakdown among young people by working with them.
"My studio [has] many young artists and many young people. Every time I have conflicts with them, I scream, I speak, I teach," said the artist, an avid promoter of young Japanese artists through his culture enterprise Kaikai Kiki.
"[At] that moment I got the idea: you have big talent and you are very nice people, but you don't have any education, you don't understand social rules," he said of his young charges.
Drawing on anime and otaku culture, Murakami invented his contemporary art movement called "Superflat" that uses two-dimensional pop-art images to illustrate cultural emptiness.
His art, which earned him a solo exhibition at the Chateau de Versailles in 2010, made otaku well known outside Japan.