Otaku – The Good, The Bad, and The Bishoujos

June 16, 2008 at 8:00 am | Posted in Articles, Round-Robin | 14 Comments

For a quick explanation to my readers that aren’t part of the blogging community, I’ve joined an all-girls blogging group. This is the second round of the round-robin (I sat out on the first one). I’m not the only one writing on this topic. Links to the other entries are given below.

Other Participants: Mei, elezend, saimaisama, Hoshi, Fang-tan, Hynavian, biankita, animemiz, nyachan, Susie Q, A Day Without Me, Rachel, j1m0ne, Meows, haruda, townberry

Being an otaku (and what exactly an otaku is) has been on my mind a lot lately. So when “Otaku – Stereotypes and Perception” was announced as the next topic I immediately decided to go for it this round. I have a few posts unfinished in my drafts section that relate to this topic, but all of them are ignoring the big question…what is an otaku?

If Nogizaku Haruka no Himitsu (a light novel and upcoming anime) had its way with its obvious otaku wish fulfillment, otaku boys would get to believe that there are incredibly cute and charming, likely funny, girls that share their hobbies. Well it’s wrong because moe girls don’t exist (that aside, I’m still totally watching this anime). But I think the fact that Nogizaka Haruka exists says a lot about otaku in general.

First, it would be best to answer the important question that I stated before, “What is an otaku?”

Well, I believe the original word comes from the Japanese word for “home” (or so I’d heard) and I looked it up, finding from wikipedia that I heard correctly. As wikipedia puts it, “Otaku is derived from a Japanese term for another’s house or family”.

From that we can see how otaku is used in Japan. Someone who is so obsessed with something that they likely spend most of their time in their house. Of course, otaku doesn’t just refer to anime fans. In Detective Conan, Shinichi is called a mystery-novel otaku. In Full Metal Panic! I believe everyone refers to Sousuke as a military otaku.

However, that’s all in Japan and it’s just things I’ve learned from either anime or articles. To be perfectly honest, I have no idea if all that is properly correct. It’s all just what I’ve heard. Also, despite what plenty of weeaboos think, what happens over there doesn’t necessarily dictate what happens to the rest of us.


USA Otaku
(Or Otaku Around the World)

The definition for otaku in Japan doesn’t necessarily match the one we most commonly use in America (or really all over the world since I talk with people from Canada, Germany, England, Brazil, and other countries). Unfortunately, the web community stretches around noobs, weeaboos, and elitists so I’ve ended up with about six definitions that people connect otaku with.

  • The Japanese definition of the word
  • Anime fans in general
  • Someone who plays bishoujo games and watches harem anime
  • Someone who buys any anime merchandise
  • Someone who likes cartoon porn
  • Rabid fangirls or fanboys
  • Someone who stays locked up in their house (hikikomori)

I’m sure that some of us are already shaking our heads at these silly definitions, but what can you do? There’s just so many people on the internet.

Most of the people I know, as well as myself, fit almost all these definitions (just not cartoon porn and hikikomori). So are these definitions correct? Not necessarily…at least not in the way I perceive otaku. Sort of similar to the otaku definition in Japan, just automatically attributed to anime. I basically use the Akiba-kei definition in my mind.

The definition of otaku changes with the country, but to be perfectly honest, I think otaku are the same. The hardcore fans of anime and manga who either go to Akihabara regularly, or want to go to Akihabara regularly but settle with conventions. As far as matching the Akiba-kei meaning of otaku, we’re not that far apart. The main exception is, of course, the ability to go to Akibahara.


Personal Perception
(Shut-ins vs. the Healthy Crazies)

As for my own personal perception of otaku, I see them in two ways: the quiet fan (who is very likely a little creepy and has a large collection of hug pillows and other means of wish-fulfillment at home) and the fans who are into almost every part of the anime fandom (get crazy excited about the new anime season, spend almost all their money on anime merchandise, and spend months on their cosplay).

Personally, I fit into the second category. I fit into the fun, light-hearted side of obsession that we all like to laugh about. Most people I know online fit into this category as well, but I’d mostly say that’s (to be perfectly fair) because I don’t like the people who fit into the first category.

The “quiet fan” is my own negative stereotype about otaku created by what I’ve seen online. The H-drawings of my favorite anime girls (under the age of 16) probably contributed the most to this awful view I have. Basically whenever I stumble onto hentai when trying to find cute pictures, my automatic reaction is, “gross! Who would like this?” and because I’m unable to understand it at all I end up hating the people who do.

Well, hate is a strong word, so I’ll just say I hate the serious lolicons and rape fans. Everyone else I’m probably just a little creeped out by.

Creep factor aside, I do feel bad for some of them. The ones who become shut-in and all wrapped up in their fantasy world. But to be honest, I’ve never run into an anime fan like this. Most likely that’s because they’re all shut-in and wrapped up in their fantasy world. It can’t be fun, they can’t honestly be enjoying themselves. If they’re guys, wouldn’t they rather talk to a real girl? The one in their dating-sim can’t love them back after all.

I can empathize with them a little. When I had to miss a year of school, I found some comfort in my anime, I’ve sighed when reading my shoujo manga and have gone, “Why aren’t real guys like that?” But I really can’t see the world through their eyes because I like being out in public and sharing my interests with others. I like looking at real guys too. Like I put in the sub-heading, I’m a “healthy crazy.” To others who aren’t like me, they’ll think something’s wrong with me, but I enjoy life. Anime is just one part of it that I enjoy.

Of course, there’s all sorts of levels in between Shut-ins and Healthy Crazies (like un-healthy crazies), but I don’t have much of an opinion on either except more sympathy and annoyance.


The Label
(Geeks and Otaku)

If you sit down an think about it, we anime fans aren’t any different from the geeks of…just about everything else. In fact, I regularly run into anime fans whose other interests include other dorky things (I know mine do).

The main difference is probably that anime has more genres than any other geek collective so there’s more variety in people and opinions (including *gasp* girls!).

But we all definitely share a common enemy in our labels. “Otaku” used for us anime fans. When used by non-anime fans and elitist anime fans you can absolutely feel the dislike in the term. Either it carries, “you watch cartoons, which are just for kids, you’re a loser” or “you watch cartoon porn, your’re disgusting” with it. Either way, it’s not pleasant.

Apparently, it’s very similar in Japan. Likely worse since otaku are common-knowledge over there.

I’m sure everyone by now is familiar with the Stabbing in Akihabara. It made otaku in Japan panic about it being the “end of Akihabara” because they felt it was a specific atack on Otaku. It wasn’t, not at that point anyway.

Of course, the media made it very much about Tomohiro Kato’s love of anime once that became apparent. Because it’s not just in America people. All forms of media are making people crazy all over the world. Video games, television, movies, and anime. Heaven forbid it be our parents or society in general.

To be honest, perhaps my sarcasm is unfair, and maybe some of the blame does lie with anime. Though I very much doubt it. All I know is, I grew up in a happy home and I watch plenty of anime and I’ve never once wanted to kill someone. Then again, Tomohiro Kato, reportedly, “only sings anime songs” at Karaoke. Therefore he’s obsessed with anime and it must have something to do with his killing….or not. Obsession with anything is unhealthy. It doesn’t matter what it is. It shows either someone having a serious problem with what they’re obsessed with, or having problems with the world around them, so they seek solace in their obsession. Since plenty of anime are specifically made for enjoyment and “wish-fulfillment” maybe it’s the latter in this case?

Basically, I think we all find it ridiculous that a love of anime in general makes someone into a killer. Isn’t his love of things involving the military a better target? Maybe more likely it’s this? Inferiorirty and inadequacy problems are common with both killers and otaku (and geeks in general). At least from what I understand, I’m hardly an expert.

This is really nothing new though. I’m sure some have heard of Tsutomu Miyazaki, “The Otaku Murderer” who killed girls from age 4-7 in the late 80’s. Yes, from the name “otaku murderer” you might think he kills otaku, but that name came from his hentai collection. He’s an otaku, so it must have had something to do with the killings.

And when boys go to high school and shoot people it’s all because of the violent games they play.

The way otaku are perceived by the public is pretty ridiculous, but it’s nothing new. Tomohiro Kato will be forgotten one day and things will eventually return to normal (though it seems likely people won’t be able to walk around freely in the streets of Akihabara anymore). It just brings up the reminder that, yes, to those not involved in “the community” otaku in general are weird. But the importance of that idea comes and goes with events.

After all, on the American side of things, Grand Theft Auto IV came out and its biggest controversy has been about the actors feeling they didn’t get paid enough.

If only common sense worked on reporters in America and Japan. Then I’d be spared the drama and panic the next time someone with a geeky habit does something wrong. Then maybe we could all focus more on the victims.


The Term
(The Classic Otaku)

Basically, to finish this all off. Otaku is a term we all use. Some think of it as bad and use it to refer to “weirdos”. Some use it to describe their love for their hobby. And then there’s everything in between (the use of it for purely obsession and etc).

I myself am not always sure how I view the “classic otaku.” There’s obviously the “lol, Konata” type of otaku that we all like to joke around about and identify with. Then there’s the creepy quiet side of otaku that really, I think most of us would like to avoid talking about realistically (at least I do). I don’t really watch many anime that go into this side of otaku, because…well it makes me uncomfortable.

So perhaps my opinion on this whole subject is pretty much based on just what I’ve heard. After all, otaku aren’t really common in my area and I don’t get to hang out with them much. Because the way I see it (to put it incredibly generally) otaku are either people you have fun with, they creep you out, you pity them, or you get to poke a little good-natured fun at them (ex: lol, Nogizaka Haruka is wish-fulfillment).

But I think otaku has one definition and stereotype that can widely be agreed with: geek and/or dork.

Because the “cool kids” play sports and watch MTV…not anime. *sigh* And I’m just so jealous. If only I spent my money on that boxset of Laguna Beach instead of FMP! Second Raid. Oh well, there’s always next time.

This took four days to write with all my rewriting and fixing. Sorry if it seems a little bit…wordy. I had a lot to say.


  1. This was just very interesting. i don’t know what to label myself as( I can label myself b/c its me;I don’t label other people or at least try not too). I play sports, watch tv, play video games and what other normal kids do. But then I watch anime, read manga, and get really obsessed over the current anime/manga I’m reading.True I do think about some fictional boys I wish that were real, but then again, i think of guys a lot in general. I will be going into high school next year, and I’v been thinking alot to myself” I might not know anybody in my new high school, but what I do know , there are probably going to be a lot of hot guys in high school”XD.So I guess I kinda have two lives: The normal one and then the anime/manga obsessed one.
    Very nice post by the way.

  2. Wow.. I really enjoyed reading your assessment on the various types of what otaku is!

  3. […] FuyuMaiden […]

  4. I like how you’ve broken it down. :]] Good organization!

    Lol, healthy crazies. Consider me that kind too, except I’ve yet to cosplay. :P

  5. you made a good point, that otaku is mostly a label that people inside the hobby use for themselves- often with pride. It’s nice, b/c it gives us something to have a community around, but I wonder if the word will ever stop being so underground (hope i don’t jinx it!)- if more people knew what it was it could end up being more negative and used as a taunt against those in the community. then again, I’m always interested in how anime is becoming just a little more mainstream in the u.s. these days, even trendy in some places (!)…sigh dreams of a world where good anime is on primetime in the u.s…

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  12. I consider myself an “Closet Otaku” and not an ordinary one because I keep it a secret so I won’t get the same treatment most Otakus get, and when theres an animecon of the sort I can bust out of my closet and be my self for a change :3 and it’s so much fun but in public or with relatives it’s kinda embarrassing so I hide it inside me… Thats why I think it’s better not to be so “stereotypical” when being an otacu for your own sake. I watch MTV, I did sports before but not now, I listen to hard rock and I play a majority of instruments. however I have 12 videogame consoles so i’m still considered a game geek/freak xD

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