Anime addicts' guide - What does Otaku mean?

Have you heard of the expression otaku? Do you know its true meaning? How did this term come about? In this article, we will do a deep analysis on the word otaku and the people who earned this nickname both in the West and in Japan. We will also see the influence of the community otaku in Japan and the West.

The word otaku [オタク] is a Japanese term used to refer to people who are addicted to something. Over time this word began to be used frequently to refer to fans of anime, manga, novels and games. Prepare to immerse yourself in the true meaning of otaku, to help we leave a summary below:

What about those addicted to Japanese or Korean culture? Those who are crazed in Japan are called Weeaboo. The addicts in Korea and K-POP are called hallyu phenomenon.

The meaning of the word Otaku

Originally the word otaku (お宅) was a respectful treatment (sonkeigo) used in the second person, to refer to your home, house, person or family. This word has also been used to refer to husband and organizations.

  • Example: I'll call you at home tomorrow (Ashita otaku ni ukagaimasu [明日お宅に伺います]);

The ideogram of the original word is taku [宅] which literally means home. Over time this word began to be used in a negative way to refer to people who live at home watching anime, playing games, surfing the internet, etc.

otaku One of the main Japanese alternatives is the words Geek and Nerd, but more derogatory. In the dictionary, he is described as a person who has a deep interest in certain hobbies, but lacks knowledge and sociability in other fields.

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Otaku can also be used as a suffix for people who like a particular hobby for example tetsudou-otaku [鉄道オタク] which means something like a train addict or mekaotaku [メカオタク] which means addicted to Meka.

Otaku - what is it? What true meaning?

The Origin of the Word Otaku

In the 1980s Akio Nakamori and other prominent authors started using the honorific otaku to refer to criminals and serial killers, anime addicts, hentais and things like that. And since the Japanese are superstitious, they stopped using that word on a daily basis, thus becoming a bad word.

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Over time this word started to be used to refer to people with obsessions for something. Not only anime and manga, but anything, cars, football, games, computers, etc.

Suppose someone likes football, they have team t-shirts, they idolize the team, they are present in every game, they put football as the first place in life. It can be called otaku.

In Japan it is possible to find thousands of people addicted to anime and games, which are considered otaku, and they take this lifestyle seriously, making cosplays, spending money on products, living a normal and fun life, doing what they like.

Otaku - what is it? What true meaning?
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Why are Otakus excluded from society?

In 1989, the murder of a young woman in the Saitama region was sensationalized, as the criminal was a video collector, every case was enlarged, distorted and publicized in the media, putting the name otaku as a dangerous person who commits crimes.

The negative campaign was done in style. Even today, people play otaku because of the media's influence in that incident. Of course, this is not the only reason that otaku are despised in both Japan and the West.

The media blames the otaku for the fall of Japan birth. Japanese TV often claims that otaku do not want real relationships, and are quite antisocial and hikikomori.

Another criticism against otakus is the huge consumption of erotic content in comics, games and animations, where you can find tentacles, lolis, etc. Yes, I have found several articles on Brazilian websites that talk about this subject. Japan is one of the countries that most consumes material of this type, and more than half are animations.

Westerners also often blame anime and games for a variety of problems in Japan and the western Otaku community. Few realize that the problem is not in animations and games but in addiction.

A person can be addicted to anything like movies, series and books. Otaku itself is used to refer to any type of person addicted to something like cars, toys, trains, computers, etc.

Otaku - what is it? What true meaning?

Why is this thought wrong?

The problem is that not all Otaku are antisocial, they tend to be related, live a normal life, work and have other dreams. The fact that a person is addicted to something was not necessarily to be bad.

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In Brazil many are addicted to something, some live in the gym, others live drinking, many choose different priorities in their life and have fun with what they like. The fact that a person likes something does not determine his behavior.

Japanese are shy and antisocial by nature, the country's culture puts a lot of pressure on society to follow strict rules. Many end up becoming not just otakus but hikikomori NEETs who are isolated young people who live trapped indoors.

Otaku - what is it? What true meaning?

Otaku in the West

In the West, the word does not have the same connotation as Japan. Here it is usually used only to identify people who like anime. Otaku in Brazil also use the expression otome to refer to women who are anime fans, but it is worth remembering that otaku is not a masculine word, but unisex.

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The amount of otakus outside of Japan is increasing a lot. The western population is neither prepared nor used to these types of people who call themselves otaku, they do not understand why they dress up and like this type of animation. Something understandable, since even today comic fans are branded as nerds, and criticized for dressing up.

Otaku - what is it? What true meaning?

The otaku are criticized in the West for the prejudice of thinking that animations are children's or children's. They do not know the depth of a story written by Japanese and do not realize that animation is just an art style like manga.

Others think that anime are crazy, full of powers, macumba, bitching, clichés, etc. They forget that there are genres and that anime are created on top of Japanese culture, made for Japanese people who think and lead a different lifestyle from Westerners. Western Otaku also admire and enjoy Japanese culture.

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Otaku - what is it? What true meaning?

What does being an Otaku involve?

For a person to become an Otaku, just addict something and put it as a priority in your life. It is clear that in both the West and Japan the term Otaku started to be used for people who have similar tastes. Otaku 99% will probably like at least 5 things from the list below:

  • Anime - Japanese animations;
  • Manga - Japanese Comics;
  • Light Novels - Romance books;
  • Visual Novels - Relationship games, romance and conversations;
  • RPGs - Role-playing games;
  • Cosplay - Character fantasy;
  • Japanese music - Mainly from anime;
  •  OST - anime background music;
  • Action Figures - Action figures of the characters;
  • Games - All types of games in general;
  • Japan - Otaku foreigners appreciate Japanese culture;
  • Series - Otaku also watches series;
  • Computers - Most live on computers;
  • Maid Café - Maids coffee;
  • Cosplay Coffee - Themed cafes;
  • Cats - It is rare that someone does not like cats, some even dress up;
  • Moe - Cute stuff, cute anime and characters;
  • Cute things -  Cuddly toys, caps, character toys;
  • Weapons and accessories - shuriken, Katana and etc;
  • Eroge - erotic games and visual novels;
  • Hentai / Yaoi / Yuri (erotic animations);
  • Doramas - Japanese dramas / series / novels;
  • Dakimakura - Printed body pillows;
  • Itasha - Cars with prints;
  • Cards - Collect anime cards;
  • Nico Nico - YouTube of otaku;
  • Akihabara - The otaku center in Japan;
  • Waifu - Most Otakus have a waifu;

This list even shows some things that are considered questionable. The point we want to make is that, watching anime doesn't make you an otaku. There are crazy otakus, and they have problems, but it is a subject that must be understood and respected.

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Otaku - what is it? What true meaning?

Knowing the otaku life

I recommend some animations and manga, which depict the life of a otaku or something related, I'll leave a list here:

  • Ore no Imōto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai
  • Shirobako
  • Renai Shimasen ka? (Manga)
  • Genshiken
  • Seitokai no Ichizon
  • Steins; Gate
  • Danna ga Nani wo Itteiru ka Wakaranai Ken
  • Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu

Watching the anime or manga mentioned above, you can understand a little more about the life of an otaku, and how it can be interesting. Of course there are crazy and hobby-obsessed people like in the video below. Be careful not to become one of those.

What do I think about the Otakus?

We came to the conclusion that otaku cannot be called atoa, anti social, or virgin, for spending time buying products, cosplaying and watching anime. There are many people who do this, and they have their jobs, their responsibilities, and their social life.

There are crazy otakus in the extreme, but we can't just base our criticism on them. Otaku is a word that refers to people who like something very much. Everyone has a passion, this is normal, just have control, something that the Japs do not usually have.

Personal opinion: Well, I'm Kevin, and in a way, I don't consider myself an otaku. I like anime, I have figures, manga and I go to events. I have already stayed in Akihabara, and I went on a Maid Café. 

I appreciate some Japanese otakus, but I also question the majority, I think they go overboard. But if I had money, my room would be full of figures, posters, video games, etc. It is not for this reason that I will stop having a social life.

Otaku - what is it? What true meaning?

Otome - The Female of Otaku?

Many Brazilian otakus mistakenly associate the term otome as a female version of otaku. In Japan the word Otome [乙女] actually means “maiden”, in the context of a pure and virgin girl, nothing related to the word otaku.

Some Western Otakus claim that this term originated because of a street called Otome Road in Tokyo, where there were several stores selling products for otaku, but which was predominantly for girls.

Although Otome refers to anime fans in the West, it is worth remembering that in Japan the word Otaku is unisex. We recommend reading our article on meaning of the word Otome to understand more about it.

Anime addicts' guide - what does otaku mean?

Videos about Otaku

To finish the article I will leave some videos talking more about this meaning. I hope you enjoyed the article. If you liked it, share it with friends and leave your comments. In your opinion, what does it mean to be an Otaku?