In English, an otaku (plural usually otaku, since Japanese words are not pluralized using an "s") is a variety of geek (or an overly obsessed fanboy / fangirl) specializing in anime and manga. A simplistic English translation might be 'culture hermit'.

While in Japanese the term otaku has negative connotations, in English the connotation differs from person to person. Some fans consider the word to have a positive one, while others consider it to have a negative one. Wapanese and Japanophile are derogatory terms that are sometimes used.


In English

The word is a loanword from the Japanese language, in which it is derived from an honorific term for another's house or family (お宅, otaku) that is also used as an honorific second-person pronoun. The modern slang form, which is distinguished from the older usage by being written only in hiragana (おたく) or katakana (オタク), appeared in the 1980s; it appears to have been coined by the humorist and essayist Akio Nakamori (中森明夫, Nakamori Akio) in the 1983 series "An Investigation of Otaku" (おたくの研究, otaku no kenkyū), who observed that this form of address was unusually common among geeks and nerds. It entered general use in Japan around 1989, and may have been popularized by Nakamori's publication in that year of "The Age of M" (Mの時代, M no jidai), which applied the term to the (then) recently caught serial killer Tsutomu Miyazaki, who turned out to be a loner obsessed with pornographic anime and manga (which is often called hentai in the Western hemisphere) and who lived out his rape fantasies on living women he lured to his home.

In Japan

In modern Japanese slang, therefore, an otaku is an obsessive fan of any one particular theme, topic, or hobby, sometimes to the point of mental instability. Perhaps the most common uses are anime otaku (one who sometimes enjoys many days of excessive anime watching with no rest) and manga otaku (a fan of Japanese comic books). Japanese culture has many other varieties, such as pasokon otaku (personal computer geeks), gēmu otaku (playing video games), and otaku that are extreme fans of idols, heavily promoted singing girls. While these are the most common uses of otaku, the word can be applied to literally anything. Thus, one could have music otaku, martial arts otaku, cooking otaku, train otaku (metrophiles), etc.

A subset of otaku are the Akiba-kei (アキバ系), men who spend a lot of time in Akihabara in Tokyo and who are mainly obsessive about anime, idols and games.

Sometimes the term is used to describe something pertaining to the subculture that surrounds anime, idols and games in Japan. This subculture places an emphasis on certain services (see fanservice) and has its own system for judgement of anime, dating sim and/or role-playing games and some manga (often dōjinshi) often based upon the level of fanservice in the work. Another popular criterion–how ideal the female protagonist of the show is–is often characterized by a level of stylized cuteness and child-like behavior. In addition, this subculture places great emphasis on knowledge of individual key animators and directors and of minute details within works. The international subculture is influenced by the Japanese one, but differs in many areas often based upon region. (See also: Superflat, Moe, Hiroki Azuma.)

Since anime in Japan isn't as widely accepted as manga, the otaku subculture has much influence over the mainstream anime industry in Japan. The area where otaku have the most influence in manga tends to be with doujinshi. Manga published in the United States are more influenced by their respective otaku subculture than they are in Japan. This is because most people who read manga have some ties to the subculture in the US whereas in Japan everyone reads manga.

Note that in general Japanese usage, the definition of otaku is the aforementioned "honorific term for another's house or family (お宅, otaku) that is also used as an honorific second-person pronoun." This basic usage of otaku is as common as any other basic Japanese pronoun such as Me, You, Them, etc. It is likely that most people older than 30 in Japan, especially those without special interest in comics (manga), will not be aware of or be familiar with the definition of otaku connected with anime/manga. Thus, the definition of otaku connected with anime/manga is very much a specialized usage of the word.

See also: anorak.

Japanese loanwords

Otaku culture outside Japan often makes extensive use of Japanese loanwords. This can create an effect that is similar to Engrish, where the otaku will use Japanese phrases in conjunction with English. Such "reverse Engrish" can lead to the loanwords taking on different meanings from their original Japanese use (for example, otaku). (What is even worse is differentiation from the Japanese and English meanings when one is learning Japanese.) Use of these loanwords are sometimes known as otakuisms, and they are (ideally) used when precise English equivalents to concepts or terms either do not exist or sound awkward. Otherwise they are sometimes preceived as cliquish and annoying.

Because many otaku loanwords come from sources such as bishōjo with characters who employ "feminine" vocabulary (especially words usually reserved for very young girls/women), this has the effect of causing some fans to sound like young girls when they try to mimic the Japanese phrasing.

Anime and manga are two words that were once solely otaku vocabulary, but are becoming more and more common in everyday English. Before the term "anime" was adopted into English, Japanese animation was simply called cartoons or "Japanimation" (e.g. Speed Racer). This was later downplayed to reduce identification with all anime as children's fare or humorous, although there is much anime in Japan that is geared towards a young audience. Similarly, until recently, comics in America were typically associated with young readers while manga in Japan is popular with all ages.

List of common words otaku people know

  • anime: used when referring specifically to the Japanese animation style
  • baka: stupid/idiot/fool
  • bishōnen / bishōjo : in both noun and adjective form, "pretty young man" or "pretty young woman". Increasingly shortened in English to "bish" or "bishy" (almost exclusively for the male form.)
  • domo: informal way of saying "thank you", the full phrase is domo arigato gozaimasu
  • demo: but
  • hai: "yes", "okay" (in Japanese, "hai" doesn't always mean yes; it may mean, "I hear you.")
  • hentai: perverted. In the West, used to describe porn anime (or perverted anime or manga porn) especially used to describe pornographic genres: hentai anime, hentai manga, hentai game. Note that in Japanese usage, "hentai" (変態) only means "abnormal" or "transformation".
  • Japanese honorifics (—chan, —kun, —san, —sama): respectively a diminutive honorific (especially for girls); one's juniors; one's equals or superiors; and one's high superiors. In Japan the use of these titles is highly subjective and subtle, therefore if one's relationship to another person is unclear, —san is the default honorific.
  • kanji: Chinese characters used in Japanese language. Japanese has three alphabets - hiragana, katakana, and kanji. Romaji, which means "Roman characters", is widely used on TV and advertisements.
  • kawaii: cute. Used especially to describe bishōjo-type cuteness. This differs from Japanese, where the slang word moe (萌え) is used among Japanese otaku to describe bishōjo cuteness, and kawaii (可愛い) is the generic word for cute.
  • kitsune: fox
  • manga: used when referring specifically to the Japanese style of comics or graphic novels
  • nani?: "what?" or "yes?"
  • neko: cat
  • oekaki: a drawing-based messageboard system for anime fans to showcase their attempts at recreating their favorite characters
  • omake: something you get for free when you buy something.
  • onegai: please, or a wish.
  • oniisan: older brother
  • oneesan: older sister
  • otaku: geek, fanboy, fangirl; a term for anybody with a strong passion for a hobby or thing
  • senpai: mentor, superior
  • sensei: "teacher" or "doctor", also used to refer to manga authors and other creative artists held in high esteem. More conservative Japanese consider the latter usage to be an over-usage of the respectful title.
  • shitajiki: pencil board.
  • sugoi: literally, "amazing." An expression of wonder or enthusiasm similar to "awesome!"
  • yaoi: genre for anime/manga having gay themes
  • yuri: genre for anime/manga having lesbian themes
  • wai-wai: the sound of an excited cute person

External links

de:Otaku es:Otaku fi:Friikki fr:Otaku it:Otaku ja:おたく pl:Otaku ru:Отаку sv:Otaku


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