['Game Mag Weaseling' is a weekly column by Kevin Gifford which documents the history of video game magazines, from their birth in the early '80s to the current day.]


I finally got around to obtaining a copy of Japanese entertainment (including video games) magazine Otona-Fami when I was in Chicago, so I thought I'd look into it in depth a bit -- especially because it's the sort of mag that we were aiming for with PiQ, although I wasn't aware of it at the time.

The name "Otona-Fami" is a blending of otona (Japanese for "adult") and "Famitsu," and that about sums it up, really. In contrast to Weekly Famitsu -- whose pages are still mainly devoted to previews and strategy features, although the amount of hard-nosed industry news has slowly expanded over the years -- Otona-Fami is almost entirely features, and even what straight-on previews/reviews they deal with are mixed up with the regular columns in the back sections.

Here is a very basic rundown of Otona-Fami's content for the issue I have:

- A large roundup of entertainment-industry rumors and the truth behind them, in fields ranging from movies to American TV dramas to anime and games
- A multi-page nostalgic look back at the history of Shogakukan's grade-divided educational kids' magazines -- the equivalent of a US mag doing a history of Boys' Life
- A long preview of Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth with a long sidebar that traces the history of the rest of the series
- A history of Kappa Ebisen and the Home Run Bar, two long-running Japanese snack foods that are celebrating their Nth birthday this year
- A generic sort of summer movie preview feature, covering stuff like Angels & Demons and Star Trek. Otona-Fami got interview access to all kinds of big-name folks for this feature, from Jackie Chan and Ewan MacGregor to Danny Boyle and Clint Eastwood
- A multi-page history of portable game systems

I haven't seen the latest August issue yet, but looking at the website, they have a feature which strikes me as a really neat idea: a list of top manga that's complete and under 10 volumes, suitable for buying up and plowing through over a spare weekend.

Running columns include:

- "Magic Factory Tour," basically a "How It's Made" for some food product
- A look at some uniquely Japanese shop that you can visit. This month they cover a store that sells nothing but book lights, metal bookmarks and other book accessories (and not books themselves)
- A good 20-page-long list of upcoming movies, games, DVDs and manga

Throughout the magazine are small one-page interviews with idols, movie directors, whatever, covering a product they're either shilling or otherwise really interested in.

What's all this content targeted toward? Well, looking at the list above, it doesn't take a sociologist to see: It's aimed mainly at men and women in their late 20s or 30s, people who grew up surrounded by '80s/'90s culture and still enjoy games and action flicks but have run out of time to follow any of their old hobbies in depth.

Otona-Fami does a great job at what it sets out to do, and it really is just like PiQ, assuming that PiQ had a dozen editors and that many contributors on top. But does this product really have an audience? That's the question. Enterbrain, the publisher, has run the magazine since 2004 and claims a printed circulation of 100,000, but like all Japanese circ figures, the relationship this numeral shares with reality is anyone's guess. (Weekly Famitsu has a claimed circ of half a million.)

While I'm not sure anybody is going to use Otona-Fami as a primary source of information, it does succeed in being interesting to read in many spots -- which is over half the battle these days, if you're going to ask people to pay for your content.

[Kevin Gifford breeds ferrets and runs Magweasel, a really cool weblog about games and Japan and "the industry" and things. In his spare time he does writing and translation for lots and lots of publishers and game companies.]