The word ‘Otaku‘ as its American counterpart ‘Nerd‘ are gaining increasing popularity among teenagers and grown-up adults. Let’s investigate the otaku meaning in contemporary society, its usage and the psychology behind this term.
Table of Contents
What is the meaning of Otaku?
Nowadays, the use of the term Otaku denotes a person with a strong passion for a particular theme, topic, hobby or form of entertainment. It is usually related to a negative sentiment as an otaku person is often unable to relate to reality or to create connection with his/her peers. The word entered English as a loanword from the Japanese culture and it is commonly interchanged with the terms ‘nerd’ and ‘geek’.
From which word is the term Otaku derived?
The term Otaku derives from the Japanese language and identifies another person’s house. In its original meaning, the word Otaku has a metaphorical value and it is used in a honorific speech as a second-person pronoun. In fact, this usage the word ‘Otaku‘ has the literal translation of ‘you’.
The negative connotation of Otaku word.
As we learned, the word Otaku didn’t have a negative connotation inside its first meaning. In fact, till 1970’s the term was used to refer to second-person in a honorific way (Animators Haruhiko Mikimoto and Shōji Kawamori have welcomed this usage since late 1970’s). Unfortunately, in 1989, the case of “Otaku Murderer” gave a negative connotation to the fandom from which it has not fully recovered. In fact, the usage of “(interest name) Otaku“, however, is used for teasing or self-deprecation, but the unqualified term remains negative.
The definition of Otaku according to University of Tokyo.
The University of Tokyo has conducted a research on contemporary Japanese culture and Patrick Galbraith, one of the researchers, who wrote the book An Otaku Encyclopedia, give a similat definition for Otaku:
People who are perceived to let hobbies get in the way of taking on ‘adult’ roles and responsibilities at work and home are often called otaku.”
P.Galbraith – An Otaku Encyclopedia
What is the difference between Otaku and Nerd?
In the common language, the terms ‘Otaku‘ and ‘Nerd‘ can be used as synonyms. Since these two words comes from two very different cultures (‘Nerd’ from American culture and ‘Otaku’ from Japanese one), the connotation of the two words can have a slight different meaning. If the speaker is an American or European native, the term ‘Otaku’ may specifically mean an deep or obsessive interest in anime and manga. On the other hand, according to Japan mindset, an otaku person would be interested in one particular anime series or one particular sub-genre; the term covers any obsessive hobby.
The evolution of the perception of Otaku today.
In last 5-10 years we’ve seen a strong comeback about the perception which surrounds the Nerds. Nowadays, the word ‘Nerd’ is more a compliment than an insult in USA. This progress has a lot in common with the change in contemporary POP culture: the ‘Nerds’ had they revenge with the popular success of the awarded sitcom Big Bang Theory and wordwide cutting-egde developed by Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX. As happended for the ‘Nerds’, also Otaku term is regaining a positive meaning among West and East citizens: there’s an increasing trend to admire someone who has passion about something and it is something which crosses a lot of gender gaps.
How many types of Otaku do exists?
In order to prove that the term Otaku does not refer specifically to an anime/manga oriented person, we provide a list of the most common Otaku types.
Anime Otaku: Anime enthusiasts who enjoy collecting and watching anime. While a lot of people might enjoy watching anime, otaku take it to another level and are viewed even nerdier than their manga-loving counterparts. Some people become more obsessed with a certain aspect of anime than others, leading to other types of fan obsession like figurine collecting. A true otaku should have visited Akihabara at least one time.
Manga Otaku: Manga is a strong industry in Japan. That’s why is easy to find a manga to indulge your personal interests, no matter how niche – for example, war stories for gunji-ota (military otaku) or yaoi manga for kifujin (fans of homoerotic manga). Those otaku with a strong interest in manga might have a collection of thousands of volumes (beyond 1000 volumes).
Gamers Otaku: Someone who lives and breathes video games, owns multiple consoles or worships one brand, religiously following the new releases, playing lots and lots of games. Video game otaku are not limited to one kind of platform: smartphone game otaku and handheld/portable game console otaku are also common. Some video game otaku may have more online friends than real-life friends, and this might lead to the idea that video game otaku tend to be loners.
Figure Otaku: Figurine otaku often overlap with video game or anime/manga otaku, as many figurines are created to represent characters of these artistic works. However, figurine otaku focus mostly on collecting figurines to be displayed in dedicated showcases, taking great care of them.
Military Otaku: Military Otaku or Gunji-ota includes people who are into the military or aspects of the military, like weaponry, specialized vehicles and uniforms. This also covers those who are into gundam, the enormous militaristic robots from Gundam Series and similar war or fighting machines.
Train otaku: very peculiar category which includes people who develop a passion for this means of transportation. Densha otaku, sometimes also called tetsudouotaku will be your best source to know if any uniquely decorated trains are running the tracks and at which specific times!
Cosplay Otaku: Costume play or Cosplay is an activity where people dressed up as their favorite characters. They cosplay everything from anime, cartoon and video game character. Every year there are different conventions held in Japan for cosplayers to showcase their talent in dressing up as the character their portray.
Idol Otaku: Idol Otaku are people into boy band or girl bands in Japan. They are members of their fan club. They buy their CDs and every available merchandise that the band will release and basically present in all their concerts. You see them doing in-sync choreographs during concerts and always present in meet and greet.
3 Anime about the Otaku meaning and world.
As in presticebdt.com we have a dedicated section to anime discussion and reviews, we can recommend 3 anime series which involve explicitly otaku characters and their psychology:
Wotakoi: Love Is Hard for Otaku
Ultimate otaku teacher
Otaku no video
Wotakoi: Love Is Hard for Otaku.
Anime is not just about being an otaku or not. In the first season, we witnessed these four love lives, and the series contains many romantic elements. What unites them in common is that they are otaku. But they’re all a different otaku. For example, Hirotaka is a game addict, Hanako is a cosplay addict, and Momose and Kabakura are more anime and manga otaku. In Wotakoi storyline, you’ll explore the wide world about Otaku lifestyle. Multiple references to anime manga characters and popular videogames are wisely inserted in the animated series. You’ll quickly find out that being an otaku is not that bad: all the characters develops a special sensitivity towards their peers and you’ll discover that Otaku people are only common people with special dedication to something.
Ultimate otaku teacher.
The plot of Ultimate otaku teacher focuses on Junichirou Kagami is a young published physicist, a genius, and a hopeless otaku. At the mercy of YD, a self-diagnosed illness which causes him to only be able to do what he “Yearns to Do,” Junichirou foregoes his scientific career to maintain and improve his anime blog. However, when he gets hired as a high school physics teacher. Despite the fact that Junichirou has no motivation to teach the standard curriculum, he may still have something of value to teach his students outside of academics. With his class in tow, Junichirou embarks on an unlikely journey filled with life lessons such as acceptance of others, how to make lasting friends, and what it means to live a better life by doing what you yearn to do. In case you enjoy anime with teachers as main characters, probably the best is Great Teacher Onizuka (GTO).
Otaku no video.
Otaku no Video is a very insightful and introspective movie that contains both a slightly parodical animated version of the origins of studio Gainax, and live recorded interviews conducted by Gainax of former (and current) Otaku of the time (1991).
Very nontraditional in many ways, it’s not completely anime, and not completely live action, but a blend that presents relevant cultural information regarding the Otaku. Otaku no Video addresses all aspects of an otaku lifestyle. Ken Kubo is a young man living an average life until he is dragged into a group of otaku. Slowly, he becomes more like them until he decides to abandon his former life to become king of otaku—the otaking!
Mixed in are live-action interviews with real otaku, addressing every aspect of hardcore otaku life. Not only are anime and manga fans included, but also sci-fi fans, military fans, and other groups of Japanese geeks.
And you? Do you feel being an Otaku? Does it have an impact on your personality and personal relationship?