Monday, July 27, 2009

Being "Otaku" is not cool

For those of you who don't know, an otaku is someone with a deep interest, often in something like manga, anime, video games, or the like (I have heard of sports otaku, too, so it can be virtually anything). I've known foreigners to label themselves freely with this term - a Japanese badge of pride, in their minds. Hey - it's just like a nerd or a dork, right? No, not quite. I think it's important to clarify this for as many people as possible. Try coming over here or encountering a Japanese person in your respective country and telling them "Hey, I love anime. I'm a real otaku - har har!" They will not laugh. If you're lucky they will chuckle or smile uncomfortably. Otaku has a different connotation in Japan - an extra strong anti-social element and the likelihood of unhealthy obsession. This guy is a good example of an otaku.

I don't know what you're into - maybe you really like anime, and you go to all those conventions: Otokan and Comicon and the whole shibang. Wear your "Otaku" t-shirt to those if you must, but please realize the true meaning of the statement you're making about yourself. Remember that the word is Japanese. Would you wear a t-shirt that says, in English, "I am someone who escapes from reality through my particular flavor of obsession"? Probably not.

Or maybe you would. Freak.


  1. Wow, interesting article. In a way, you pity these poor fellas...but even they acknowledge their own obsession. "I want the world to just leave me alone" is near-haunting in that article.

    I don't know how you feel about it, Paul, but if they're not hurting anybody, (i.e. making the jump from naked cartoon girl obsessions to actually seeking child porn/sexual relationships with children) I say live and let live. And I guarantee, if you printed "I am someone who escapes from reality through my particular flavor of obsession" t-shirts in America, they would sell like hotcakes.

    If anything, this article has taught me not to feel shame about what I do with my Samus Aran action figure late at night.

  2. Also, I just posted the link to the article at the Cafe. Seems like a key audience to read such a piece. I have no idea what kind of response it'll get, but it might be worth checking out.

  3. Sure, sure - live and let live. My point is, though, that there is a difference between saying you're a nerd in America and an otaku in Japan.

  4. This is an interesting great article!
    I'm a Japanese guy, and just wondering whether foreign people will understand this - the true meaning of Otaku - or not!!

  5. Thanks, Tomo.

    Any thoughts or opinions about the term "otaku" to add from your perspective?