What’s in a word? That’s what the prolific and internationally known Asian-American artist Omocat has been faced with lately. In the midst of her recent “shota” t-shirt release (pictured here), the artist’s intentions have in instances been taken widely out of context. Embraced by Japanese fans that understand the context, some others have used it as a brutal platform for Western backlash. In this instance something got lost in translation between hemispheres, and it is increasingly important that we explore the context and origin of the Japanese word shota and, above all, what this illustrates about western views on sexuality and gender.
Omocat’s continuum of work includes illustration, comic-books, clothing and merch with her designs. Her imagery and content is often based on shota (which loosely translates to mean “pretty boy”) or loli (an expansive style and sometimes fetish originating in Nabakov’s Lolita). All of these artistic expressions stem from Otaku, an umbrella term for the Japanese manga-centric subculture that also informs the work of artist Takashi Murakami. It is important to note that Omocat is quite vocal and literal within the work on her feelings towards social justice and self-empowerment in gender and sexual identity, with a strong personal stance against bullying. This is illustrated fully in her comic “Pretty Boy,” featured here. Omocat is even working on a collaborative artistic effort against bullying set to launch later this fall.