While there are casual anime viewers and regular fans, there are also those who take their love for anime a step forward and actually become otaku. Otaku, or die-hard anime fans, might seem weird to some people and in this article, we are going to explain if (and why) anime are watchers so weird.
Anime watchers aren’t weird at all. They just love a culture and a form of art that is very different from what we can see in the West. They are different in their affinities and their expressions, but they’re not weird. Otaku culture is a relevant cultural phenomenon and it needs to be accepted as something normal.
Since otaku culture is the root of all the “issues” associated with anime and weirdness, we are going to dedicate the rest of this article to explain what otaku culture actually is, how it manifests and why people might think it’s weird, when it is actually not weird at all.
What Is Otaku?
Originally, this expression did not have the meaning that we can give it today. Otaku, in Japanese, means simply “your house” and is, therefore, by extension, a polite way of addressing your peer or simply someone else, as it can also mean “you”.
It would seem that this twist has been very popular among lovers of anime and manga and, by extension, that the meaning of the term has evolved to refer today to anyone devoting themselves to a hobby, most often done in the interior – the term subsequently acquired an ameliorative connotation.
It designates today (at least in Japan) a person who is simply a fanatic of contemporary Japanese culture, especially in the fields of manga, anime, and video games, who withdraws into himself and lives only for one of the following passions: doll, cult of an “idol” (singer, actor), computers, video games, etc.
In Japanese, the spelling makes it possible to distinguish the two aspects: お 宅 (otaku), it is “at home”, while オ タ ク (otaku), it is the monomaniac enthusiast which is discussed in our article.
In fact, many older people in Japan only know the first meaning, since the second meaning is of more recent date and has, therefore, not become widespread in Japan (that is, also, why it is written in katakana, and not in kanji).
Moreover, in the sense of a monomaniac, it is often used with a word specifying it. For example, an anime fan will be an otaku or aniota anime, an idol fan will be a wota, an unhealthy otaku will be a kimo-ota (for kimoi otaku, itself for kimochi warui otaku).
A more recent term has begun to impose itself to describe a person who remains cloistered at home, that of hikikomori. This word was popularized in the West thanks to an NHK series that describes with humor and realism the different aspects that characterize these individuals. But the term otaku remains widely used even though it has evolved.
In the 21st century, this term still describes an individual obsessed with an exclusive passion that serves as a bulwark against a society that he refuses, but without being locked up at home and cut off from all social relations as a hikikomori would be; this is the main difference between the terms.
Indeed, the development of new means of communication has helped to develop a real otaku community that it is common to see physically meeting in clubs or associations, or even organizing events to promote their passion. These groups have also become real economic players with considerable weight. Initially, the otaku was viewed by the Japanese as a misfit.
Since the creation of Studio Gainax (Neon Genesis Evangelion, …), composed exclusively of otaku, this point of view tends to evolve. This studio has also made two OVA episodes with otaku heroes: Otaku no Video, followed by More Otaku no Video. In the early 2000s, Genshiken as well as Otakus in Love, Densha otoko, NHK ni yōkoso! and Lucky ☆ Star also addressed the subject.
Otaku girls (KONJOH natsumi) is a recent manga that tackles this subject with humor.
Due to the social evolution through the years of the community of Japanese culture enthusiasts, the majority of them now consider themselves otaku, defining this term by anyone passionate only about anime, manga, or Japan without connotations of social isolation.
Two definitions of the term “otaku” therefore remain today: the old, pejorative, and the new, born of social progress.
In 2006, Takuro Morinaga estimated the global otaku market to be between $ 26 billion and $ 34 billion.
Why Are Anime Watchers (Otaku) So Weird, While They’re Actually Not?
As we have said on multiple occasions in this article, anime fans and otaku are not weird at all. They might take it a bit far at times, but that is just an expression of their affinities.
These people tend to show their love for the medium, but also their individual aesthetic affinities through differently colored hair, uncommon clothes, and behavioral traits, but there’s nothing weird about that.
Different? Certainly, but differences are something we should always aim to accept and respect, and never something we should label as weird or simply throw away.
In that aspect, you simply have to understand that everyone has their own view of the world and as long as someone’s worldview doesn’t harm you or anyone else directly, you’re not entitled to belittle it in any way.
Being an otaku means that you’re creative, innovative, imaginative, and different, and all of these traits are more than great in our book. And they should be in yours, too.