Otaku: Is it a dirty word?
Another gaijin in Akihabara is par for the course in Tokyo's mecca for otaku.
September 12th, 2011
11:21 AM ET

Otaku: Is it a dirty word?

There are a lot of words in the world to describe a person with a love of Japanese culture.

Anime nerd. Weeaboo. J-culture addict. Japanophile.

And of course, a word that originated in Japan: Otaku.

For a member of the J-culture movement in America, "otaku" may have seemed like a password that allowed access to a secret club, in which all the other members understood the strange language that was being spoken and one could feel at ease.

T-shirts popped up proudly bearing the word in America, worn by fans to conventions and in daily life.

In the meantime, you’d hear on occasion the reaction of a Japanese native who was anywhere between puzzled and disgusted to see people flaunting the word on their chests like a banner of pride. Murmurs of  confusion wouldn’t be uncommon. If you overheard it, you’d think, “Wait - but didn’t these trends originate in Japan in the first place? Why would a native react that way?”

In Japan, otaku is a dirty word.

While the word first tumbled out of the mouth of Lynn Minmay during an episode of the seminal sci-fi/mecha anime “Macross” in 1982, it was the work of a man named Nakamori Akio that cemented the term into place.

His series “An Investigation of Otaku” ran in a manga magazine in 1983, and while it was originally used as a second person pronoun in its original context, eventually the term was adapted for slang use and became widespread.

So what does otaku actually mean? In Japan, the word can be most closely equated to the English word “geek,” but the meaning is not as simple as that. Otaku is also defined in Japan as a word that defines a person who has obsessive interests, and can apply to a wide variety of topics, including anime, manga, cosplay, collectibles and more.

Each of these has its own term in Japan, such as “tetsudou ota” (meaning train otaku) and “gunji ota” (meaning military otaku and including interest in military weapons, vehicles and more). A series of videos from popular Japanese idol Shoko Nakagawa sheds some light on the details of these different types of otaku, as well as providing some Japanese perspective.

Japanese culture enthusiast and website founder Danny Choo shared his thoughts on the use of the word: “I think folks outside of Japan use the term otaku to generally refer to folks who enjoy anime culture by watching, consuming and being creative with anime culture through cosplaying or drawing fanart. Generally speaking, more folks outside of Japan would call themselves an otaku. In Japan, otaku is used in the same sense – a person who enjoys anime culture. In Japan however, less people are willing to admit that they are an otaku as they generally care about what others think.”

Danny also believes that the market for otaku media and collectibles is driven by a large percentage of women, as well. “Out of the otaku population, female otaku have the most spending power, which is one of the reasons why you see an increase of boy love publications and anime featuring good looking guys.”

Boy Love publications, also known as yaoi, are manga and anime featuring two males as each other’s main romantic interests. As of 2010, this market generated 21.3 billion yen in revenue.

What’s wrong with having a hobby, then?

Essentially, nothing - but understanding the difference between the American and Japanese usage of this word is critical for any fan of J-culture.

The dark side of the word’s definition refers to the level of the obsessive interest reaching extreme levels. For instance, the word became better known in American culture when attention was drawn towards a trend where Japanese men chose to actually marry collectible pillows with images of their favorite anime characters on them (called “dakimakura” or “body pillows).

Some believe that Japanese men choosing to “marry” fictional characters signifies their inability to relate with people in the real world. When these people are referred to as otaku, they are judged for their behaviors - and people suddenly see an “otaku” as a person unable to relate to reality.

"Right or wrong, the negative perception of otaku is that people are taking individual play and consumptive pleasure beyond acceptable limits, up to the point of upsetting their social functioning," says Patrick W. Galbraith, who conducts research on contemporary Japanese culture at the University of Tokyo and wrote the book An Otaku Encyclopedia. "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."

Despite what Japanese may think about the connotation of the word, they still make billions of dollars off the otaku market. Animate, a multi-story retailer located in 92 different locations in Japan, sell every variety of anime related goods and are highly profitable.

Japan’s Akihabara district, known as a mecca for otaku goods, is a popular district shopped by natives and tourists alike. America also flourishes with its sales of Japanese import goods, sold through online shops such as Play Asia and J-List. There are also countless anime-themed conventions in Japan and the U.S. every year, which are also highly profitable.

There’s no question about it: The anime fan industry makes money, and it caters to people who may or may not identify as otaku. Regardless of whether or not they relate to this word, they still enjoy watching anime, cosplaying, meeting friends with the same interests and sharing the things about the culture that give them happiness.

Being an otaku in Japan or in the states has its own set of similarities and differences, but the vibrance of the culture and the people that choose to participate in it does seem to be present in both places.

How do you feel about the word otaku?

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Filed under: Otaku
soundoff (155 Responses)
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  11. Flora

    It's the same over here. For how many decades was it that labeling someone a geek/dweeb/nerd/dork was a one-way ticket to FacePoundtown? We also used to think that a geeky teen would do nothing but stay in their parent's basement & read comics to their no-girlfriend. "Geek" as an acceptable everyday term is a very recent phenom, don't forget that. For me, I will continue to label myself as an otaku. I read manga & watch anime regularly, I've very often had a crush on anime characters (never wanted to marry one, though), collected everything from cards to CD's to books, wrote fanfiction, but the whole I knew very well where the line between "real" and "fantasy" existed.

    For the longest time, geek had a negative conotation here in the States (as I've said). But we took the word as our own, rocked it, and now it's no longer anywhere near the insult it used to be. It's the age-old reversal strategy – when you take something that was once meant to be an insult & rock it as your own, it loses all sting and some may even try to copy it. (Known successes – Black (used to be an insult to call someone that), redneck, etc.

    April 8, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
  12. anon e. moose

    >not marrying your waifu pillow


    October 5, 2011 at 1:28 am |
  13. POMF

    Wah! What are we going to do with the nerds?

    October 5, 2011 at 12:53 am |
    • AJ

      There is a line between weeaboo and otaku, and i think you've crossed the line into the weeaboo zone. very bad.... (im afraid CNN has the wrong definition of weeaboo)

      January 24, 2012 at 10:32 pm |
  14. R


    October 4, 2011 at 11:23 pm |
    • Somewan

      I think sometimes otaku like you take it too far. Hating on real women makes you think it's okay to be obsessed with 2D. It's like having a crush on a cartoon character – it just doesn't work.

      October 4, 2011 at 11:34 pm |
      • R

        I love her. You can't change that.

        October 5, 2011 at 12:03 am |
      • u lose

        Haven't u seen the world god only knows he has a harem by ch 150 and he is pure otaku pure 2d girl lover

        October 3, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
    • Somewan

      Who do you love?

      October 5, 2011 at 12:49 am |
    • baka gaijin

      Come on /a/non, you can do better than that.

      October 5, 2011 at 12:59 am |
  15. Pico

    >calling yourself an otaku
    I seriously hope you're buying country grown vegetables

    October 4, 2011 at 10:36 pm |
  16. Pedro-The Comic and Anime Enthusiast

    I used to comment frequently in CNN's "Political Ticker" from 2006-2009 and noticed all the articles these fools had were articles pertaining to catfights between politicians, republicans, and Obama's vacation breaks. But boy CNN got a whole lot lamer with their "Geek Out" section.

    Also loving a certain aspect of a pop-culture does not make you an enthusiast of the whole. I love American comics and I'm from Brasil. Does that describe me as an "Americanophlle" or "Gringoo" because I love a certain aspect of that culture? Similarity, I enshrine that same love to Anime and Manga, so does that make me a "Japanophile" or "Weeaboo" because I love a certain aspect of that culture? What about Korean Drama? British Sit-coms? Am I bad or "weird" person for enjoying all of these?

    Its time we look beyond those fragile boundaries and seek multiculturalism. We shouldn't reap the the chains of our fated lands. Its time to break them.

    October 4, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
  17. Billu

    i thought japan got wiped out by an earf quake and then them nuculur plants blowed up....what is this i dont even

    September 30, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
  18. David

    In Japanese society, calling someone an otaku in public isn't something you want to do. I've seen plenty of their TV shows, movies, and anime that support that calling someone otaku is an insult. Also, I've read interviews with its citizens. It's pretty much along the same lines as saying someone is an reclusive outcast, freak, or perverted. It's pretty odd that they have such a stigma to the hobby when so many Japanese and people around the world are devoted to it. I hate to say it, but it's not that much easier to be a fan here in the states. I much rather be a avid sports fan...anything other than anime. It's not the easiest hobby to have, but I know I will never stop craving animation with such high quality in every sense of the word. I've seen movies and TV shows animated that Hollywood could never match in their wildest dreams.

    September 23, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
    • Andacar

      Such as? I've seen anime in one form or another for nearly 40 years, and I can't think of a title offhand that fills that description. And which "high quality" things are you refering to? The horribly stereotypical characters? The blatant racism and sexism? The terrible animation? Sure, there have been some excellent, first rate films coming out of Japan for decades. Nobody with any sense can deny that. But only the most rabid anime fanboy would say that anime surpasses anything Hollywood could ever do in every respect. Where do you think Miazaki got all his ideas?

      September 28, 2011 at 10:22 pm |
      • baka gaijin

        Just stop. You have no clue what you're talking about.

        October 5, 2011 at 1:03 am |
  19. maybeajoke

    It means Jackass? Hard to believe this mess.

    September 23, 2011 at 8:02 pm |
  20. Paul

    There is one reason Otaku is a dirty word in Japan. Read this wikipedia article and you will understand. I am surprised the author does not know this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsutomu_Miyazaki

    September 19, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
  21. SixNine

    Reading half of the comments all of you put on here, it's no wonder that the word has such a negative stigma to it. If the otaku in Japan are half as bad as you, God help them.

    But I digress. I'm a huge anime fan, but after reading this, I think that I'll take care to be careful who I tell that I'm an otaku.

    September 19, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
  22. Anon # 41751

    Not sure if troll or just very, very retarded.

    September 14, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
  23. Anonymous

    "The dark side of the word’s definition refers to the level of the obsessive interest reaching extreme levels. For instance, the word became better known in American culture when attention was drawn towards a trend where Japanese men chose to actually marry collectible pillows with images of their favorite anime characters on them (called “dakimakura” or “body pillows)."

    Do... Do you have any idea what a "waifu" is?

    September 14, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
  24. Imouto

    Onii-chan, don't cum inside my pussy! I'm going to get pregnant from your dick-milk!

    September 13, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
    • KajinPL

      No more hentai for you, Otaku.

      September 13, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
  25. KajinPL

    I consider myself a nerd anyway so if "Otaku" is meant for a person that takes it to the extreme then I guess that doesn't apply to me even though I think most of the stuff most Otaku's do is cool. A lot of Japans terms have multiple meanings so that doesn't surprise me at all. I'll just watch what I say and do should I ever visit Japan.

    September 13, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
    • anonymous

      Please, dont huddle us otaku in with all you other HUUR DUUR IM SUCH A GEEK! folks. We are not like you.

      Go away.

      September 14, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
  26. A

    Not sure of troll comments or actual weebs...

    September 13, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
  27. sundai

    Ia am islutulated by this NIIGGGER term we are sundai NUGERGER

    September 13, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
  28. ps3chick

    Normally, any kind of nerd is sidelined and has to deal with the stigma of being a part of a culture that is difficult to understand by outsiders. I think American otaku are embracing the image, and some may even understand the darker connotations of the word. Similar to being a "gamer" or a "trekkie", these are not always pleasant labels when used from the outside; but for those who are proud of their passion, its a badge of honor. You kinda take the bad with the good and find the things you love about your hobby.

    September 13, 2011 at 1:08 pm |

      (don't hit on me silly boys)

      December 3, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
  29. Fujoshi

    I'm fine with it...just wouldn't wear an otaku tee shirt in Japan 🙂

    September 13, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
  30. Mint

    YAOI! A slap in the face for people who think that women aren't just as, if not more perverted as men. Mmm, sudden urge to go rewatch Ai no Kusabi now... yes...

    September 13, 2011 at 11:30 am |
    • That Guy

      Yaoi is terrible! And it's not even because of the gay sex.

      September 14, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
      • Christie Gordon

        Don't mess with the Yaoi Fangirls, LOL. I have to say if having an anime obsession means I'm an Otaku, then I'm damn proud to say I'm an Otaku. I'd also consider myself a geek, too.

        September 15, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
  31. Jon

    Being a western otaku or a geek is something to be incredibly proud of. It is a lifestyle and more often than not, we are incredibly contributors to our local societies. This year we created an online community for all of us Ogeeku, so we can share thoughts, discussions and fun for the things we love so much. Ogeeku.com

    September 13, 2011 at 10:57 am |
  32. Tsundere

    Stupid blog. I am not reading you b-because I like you or anything. S-so don't get the wrong idea. Got that?

    September 13, 2011 at 10:47 am |
  33. OPHIUCHUS111

    If a Japanese person called me Otaku, I would be so depressed. It would be such a disgrace and dishonor on my image and reputation to even be called such a word. I love anime, manga, BDSM, yaoi, etc, but I keep it at a safe level and I do not allow myself to get obsessed and mind freaked over it. Btw, CNN got even more awesome when they mentioned YAOI [^u^]\w/

    September 13, 2011 at 2:05 am |
  34. Yosuke Handsomemur/a/

    You sicken me, I am offended that you are implying that my love for my wonderful and beautiful waifu is not pure and totally real. I am no worse than any religious person, arguably better actually because I at least understand that my waifu is not real, whilst religious people are convinced that their god is real.

    I do not view her as a sexual object, I love her.

    September 13, 2011 at 1:34 am |
  35. Carl

    Most Japanophiles are clueless about what the real Japan is like. I knew one person that was obsessed with Anime. She got to do a study abroad for a year in college in Japan. Turns out she hates rice and seafood. She also found that most people led normal lives, had normal jobs, and while a lot of people may read Manga, it is just a mild diversion (like subway reading or the like).

    September 13, 2011 at 1:07 am |
  36. dmb920

    lol wat i dont even

    September 13, 2011 at 12:54 am |
  37. Eugène

    By the accident of birth: to whom, in what family, religion, race, culture, country and continent, there is little choice. The realization of one's fulfillment comes in making the choices that allows the self to achieve the goal of selfhood: some find it in vocation, others in avocation. That fulfillment may take the form of embracing another culture: the authenticity of that commitment is a personal path: criticism seems directed by envy or jealousy of the passion of that embrace.

    September 13, 2011 at 12:43 am |
    • /a/nna

      Can't be helped.

      September 13, 2011 at 12:46 am |
  38. Apache27

    I always thought anime was just legal kiddie-porn, what with all the wide-eyed girls with short skirts and gigantic breasts. Makes the Twilight vampire fans look normal.

    September 13, 2011 at 12:40 am |
    • Animepro

      It's not legal kiddie-porn, It's some of the best animation from a country superior to ours with deep, intricate plots that a BAKA GAIJIN like a you wouldn't understand. Watch for a second.

      September 13, 2011 at 12:45 am |
      • Kanon

        Am I kawaii? ~uguu

        September 13, 2011 at 12:48 am |
      • JC

        Yeah, right. Their culture isn't superior or inferior to ours; it's just different. At times, very different.

        September 13, 2011 at 1:19 am |
    • Peter Pane

      You are 食わず嫌い kuwazu-girai or "hating something without having eaten some first." Go look at an anime like Kimi ga Nozomu Eien / The Eternity That You Wish For. It's about a love triangle between two girls and a boy, very dramatic. While the firs girl is waiting for the boy so they can start their date, she's hit by a car and put into a come for years, which he blames himself for. It's fascinating, despite their being - gasp! - sex (in the original game, not in the mainstream anime).

      September 13, 2011 at 10:52 am |
      • Sailor Mac

        Wasn't that released stateside as Rumbling Hearts? Or am I thinking of another anime with a similar plot?

        September 14, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
    • neoritter

      That's called fanservice in an anime. And it's mostly a Japanese trend in anime lately. Though American viewers are starting to follow suit for some reason.

      September 13, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
  39. EWGuy

    Oh, the rich *irony* of a Japanese word being absorbed and misused into English! I spent the latter half of the 1980s watching the exact opposite happen while living in Japan as a gaijin. It was actually quite fun, too!

    September 13, 2011 at 12:34 am |
    • neoritter

      Ganguro girls anyone?

      September 13, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
    • Jennifer

      Sounds pretty bad. Last time Suncoast did it, they ended brnuakpt in less than half a year. Not that I personally begrudge it, I got to hear Yoko Ishida live. But as far as store is concerned it means that they are either desperate or want to exist anime market.

      October 12, 2012 at 8:20 am |
  40. Pico

    I want to feel the pleasure of being cummed inside.

    September 13, 2011 at 12:32 am |
    • Boku


      September 13, 2011 at 12:37 am |
  41. whoNEEThere

    I am a true NEET and otaku for life. I have read more than 20 manga thomes and compleated over 30 animes in my life, so I'm pretty hardcore on the subject. I also want to say that I AM PROUD OF BEING OTAKU and want to go and live in japan.
    Pease, love and long live GLORIOUS NIHONGO LOL XD

    September 13, 2011 at 12:32 am |
    • U

      Kindly die in a fire.

      September 13, 2011 at 12:40 am |
    • Eugène

      Go for it...life without passion is life not lived.

      September 13, 2011 at 12:44 am |
  42. Rob

    > While the word first tumbled out of the mouth of Lynn Minmay during an episode of the seminal sci-fi/mecha anime “Macross” in 1982...

    "Otaku" did not originate with Macross. It was used frequently back then for what its original purpose was – it literally meant "your house" and was used as a way to refer to the person you're speaking to without directly confronting them. The concept is still in use for other words ("omae", "kimi", etc.) but "otaku" has been co-opted for its current purpose because the people who watched anime tended to be shut-ins at home.

    September 13, 2011 at 12:24 am |
  43. Ross

    Here in LA, I see a lot of creepy middle-aged white guys who hang around coffee shops and bus stations, trying to strike up awkward conversations with Japanese girls who are, like, their daughters' age. Do they fit the "otaku" category?

    September 13, 2011 at 12:18 am |
    • Melissa

      Umm depending on the daughter's age.... I say the correct terms would be 'Want-a-be Sugar daddy' or 'petophile'...

      September 13, 2011 at 12:27 am |
    • Ruby

      Probably not. That happens everywhere. It's called "Guys awkwardly trying to speak with a woman". If they were white, good-looking men, would you make the same assumption?

      September 13, 2011 at 12:35 am |
      • Ross

        Ruby, if they were young and good-looking, I wouldn't make the same assumption. In the case I'm describing, there's a weird mixture of fetishistic orientalist fantasy and middle-age crisis gone wrong.

        September 13, 2011 at 12:57 am |
  44. Boku

    I personally am offended you would suggest that my love for my waifu is wrong and unpure. Azusa-chan is a beautiful youngwoman who I want to spend my life with. Is that so wrong? Is it so weird? Only to those with closed minds.
    I understand the concept of love more than any of you normals when it comes right down to it, because unlike you I don't try to find taboo or sickness in something so sweet.

    September 13, 2011 at 12:07 am |
    • Mugi

      She is a cartoon, not your waifu. You aren't special to her, at least a dozen people share the same waifu.

      September 13, 2011 at 12:22 am |
      • Some black guy

        Sup Mugi.

        September 13, 2011 at 12:36 am |
    • Pork Ranger

      Jackass, if she was real she would not love you..

      September 13, 2011 at 12:24 am |
    • Kim

      I may have to rethink getting my son the naruto boxset now.

      September 13, 2011 at 12:51 am |
    • Sydney Australia

      You poor pathetic otaku's. Drooling over some animation or cartoon girlie with huge hooters.......
      I'll take my dog anyday!


      September 13, 2011 at 1:03 am |
  45. ann

    Hmm I barely made it through the article and I usually love to read about just anything. That was super boring.

    September 12, 2011 at 11:56 pm |
  46. mark

    doesn't cnn have any real news to report on?

    September 12, 2011 at 11:40 pm |
    • Rob

      What, you couldn't have clicked on any of the other 50 links on CNN's homepage?

      September 13, 2011 at 12:25 am |
  47. Melissa

    There's a diffrence between someone who reads and enjoys anime/manga and people who actually dress in cosplay and go to conventions. I seriously don't like being lumped into the same catagory. It's like the diffrence between castual history buff who reads alittle more then normal and the people that feel the need to go out each weekend and reinact the battles and complain about not being allowed to use live amo...

    September 12, 2011 at 11:35 pm |
    • Just sayin'

      Just like I dislike being lumped with the shower-haters, screaming obsessive teenagers, and people who think they can speak Japanese but really can't just because I go to a convention and wear the same simple costume every year :/.

      September 13, 2011 at 12:35 am |
      • Just sayin'

        Also in continuation the conventions are once a year – few people go to conventions every week like you describe and many people (like me) just use them to buy stuff.

        September 13, 2011 at 12:37 am |
    • D

      Let's clarify this a little further: There's a difference between a person who enjoys the occasional history book, a history buff, a person who reenacts famous battles in costume, and a person who is convinced that they're actually from or a part of the time period or event.

      I cosplay, as do many of my friends, because we enjoy sewing and doing improv (our love of the anime or manga that we're cosplaying is icing on the cake). We enjoy a good challenge – cosplay is like model making or doing a puzzle, combined with an acting hobby. Some people who cosplay do take their characterization much too seriously; just as you don't want to be lumped together with "undesirable" manga and anime fans, please don't lump all cosplayers together.

      There are maladjusted people and healthy people in every hobby or field of interest.

      Also, conventions are just places to meet people with similar interests. Saying "don't lump me with fans who go to conventions" is like saying "I enjoy business on occasion, but please don't lump me with those crazy people who go to business expos to network and hand out business cards". Most con-goers also only go once a year. Perhaps you should try to understand people before you decide they're shameful?

      September 13, 2011 at 12:54 am |
    • EcchiKitty

      In the same way, there is a line between those who enjoy cosplay and attend conventions, and those who obcess over such things.
      To take a few days now and again to attend a convention is one thing. To lose your job because you're too busy attending conventions is quite another.
      In a similar fashion, there's the guy who supports the 2nd amendment, has a gun or two, and visits the shooting range occasionally. Then there's the guy with the collection of guns who heads to the range twice a week. And finally there's the guy who sleep on a cot at the range, cuddled up to his rifle. Any hobby can be taken further, and can then be taken too far.

      September 13, 2011 at 12:56 am |
  48. old school

    Myproblem is when people describe themselves as Otaku and only follow the major stuff like Ouran Host Club, Naruto, and Dragon Ball. These people haven't even scratched the surface of anime in its diversity and culture.

    There are anime fans now who have never heard of the greats like Akira and Cowboy Bebop. To truly understand anime and japanese culture you need to delve a little deeper into the anime world with series like Serial Experiments Lain, Gundam Wing and Boogie Pop Phantom.

    An otaku need to know more than the famous series to be taken seriously by old schoolers like me.

    September 12, 2011 at 11:25 pm |
    • 1nd3p3nd3nt

      cowboy bebop!
      one of the greatest ever.
      akira i woulda thought was mainstream, kinda like the basics of anime. Similar to ninja scroll. or inuyasha.
      cowboy bebop though, great tunes, great drawing, great story.
      vampire hunter D had some nice following too, i thought.

      as a non-Japanese person, I find it hard to believe most people aren't in love with ninjas. Ninjas and katanas are just too cool.

      September 12, 2011 at 11:37 pm |
      • CelticHunter7

        Learn your history. Ninjas were common, lower caste fighters, Samurai were noble warriors. At their height of power in 12th century Japan, Samurai were somewhat analogous to European knights: They were considered nobility, worked for noble higher-ups, and were renowned for their great bravery and code of honor. Ninja, on the other hand, were well-disguised mercenary assassins governed by no code save secrecy.

        September 13, 2011 at 1:11 am |
    • Melissa

      Isn't Gundam Wing like mainstream? Not that I don't think it's awesome but it was actually on Cartoon Network a few years back just like Dragon BallZ.

      Anyways a sign someone is actually into Mangas to beyond the casual (at least in my opinion) is if they've actually read things like Gantz or 1/2 prince or Fairy tail or Hikaru no Go.. or the entire series of Detective Conan.

      September 12, 2011 at 11:46 pm |
      • old school

        I Loved Hikaru no Go bsene anime fans haven't heard of anything older than Inuyasha. I became an anime fan when Candidate for Goddess was on Cartoon Network. Now all any of the new anme fan know is Naruto and Bleach. I get that these series are ok but these people are treating it like that is everything that anime is about.

        I miss Outlaw Star, Cowboy Bebop, and the out there series like Serial Experiments Lain, Texnolyze, and Paranoia Agent.

        September 12, 2011 at 11:56 pm |
      • old school

        I Loved Hikaru no Go but some new anime fans haven't heard of anything older than Inuyasha. I became an anime fan when Candidate for Goddess was on Cartoon Network. Now all any of the new anme fan know is Naruto and Bleach. I get that these series are ok but these people are treating it like that is everything that anime is about.

        I miss Outlaw Star, Cowboy Bebop, and the out there series like Serial Experiments Lain, Texnolyze, and Paranoia Agent.

        September 12, 2011 at 11:56 pm |
      • common dense

        nichijou, azumanga daioh, lucky star, minami-ke, etc. It's like an anime version of Signfield

        September 12, 2011 at 11:59 pm |
      • Melissa

        One series that should be longer..... Trigun! Though Death Note is a close second if didn't kill off errr someone *cough*.

        September 13, 2011 at 12:04 am |
    • Rob

      Son, in my day we laughed at the Akira and Cowboy Bebop fanboys the same way you laugh at Naruto/DBZ fanboys now. Get off my lawn.

      September 13, 2011 at 12:30 am |
      • Jaime

        Yes. "Get off my lawn." That post wins, end of story.

        September 20, 2011 at 11:35 am |
    • EcchiKitty

      Betty Boop and Mickey Mouse. Big eyes, small mouth, high squeeky voice. Astro Boy, the orginal, not the new CGI thing.
      You want old school, go Old School.
      You want Otaku cred, watch it raw. No dubb, no subtitle, raw. Bonus points, watch it in a tiny apartment in Japan.

      September 13, 2011 at 1:01 am |
    • Juju

      > Calls Lain and Gundam Wing non-mainstream
      > Thinks self is OLD SCHOOL for liking Akira and Cowboy Bebop

      "He thought the biggest mecha franchise in the world is non-mainstream!"

      Seriously, I'm probably younger than you, but get off my lawn. Akira is from the EIGHTIES. Calling it old school is like being a forty year old who thinks he can fit in with all the cool guys at the retirement home.

      Can't wait to see your comedy routine, your material is GOLD.

      September 13, 2011 at 1:53 am |
  49. Pondy

    Is this zhit for real???

    September 12, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
  50. GT

    I went there expecting to see some hardcore stuff (I've seen some hardcore stuff in other countries – Red like kinda stuff)... I was sadly disappointed.

    It was thousands of dorks drooling over young girls serving cookies and tea, seriously.

    I felt like a big time creeper just being there. That is all.

    September 12, 2011 at 11:17 pm |
    • drh1214

      sounds a lot like Hooters xD

      September 12, 2011 at 11:38 pm |
      • drh1214

        but hooters has beer and wings and football.

        September 12, 2011 at 11:38 pm |
      • common dense

        You got to Hooters to watch football? Seriously? A bunch of hot girls or a bunch of fat guys on top of each other..hmm...

        September 12, 2011 at 11:43 pm |
      • common dense


        September 12, 2011 at 11:43 pm |
    • common dense

      the bigger question is why where you near young girls serving? Are you into that kind of thing? You pedo

      September 12, 2011 at 11:41 pm |
      • ajk68

        The "maid thing" is a significant part of Akihabara. When I was there, I definitely had the feeling there was a deviant component to it – but I didn't try to find out what that was!

        September 13, 2011 at 12:38 am |
  51. bobroberts

    I thought Otaku had a bad connotation in Japan in part to a series of murders commited by an anime obsessed fan?


    September 12, 2011 at 11:12 pm |
  52. Otacon

    Can love bloom on the battlefield?

    September 12, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
    • Naomi

      No Otacon, I was just foolin' you.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:07 am |
  53. C

    It's interesting how the word is received here in the U.S. People have it on their shirts, girls say the way they do now "I'm an otaku!!" Even fairly mild anime fans will call themselves otaku. But if you read enough manga and watch enough anime, you'll hear the word spat eventually. The Japanese are less accepting of the individual. Some people say it is why they got through the recent disaster so well. So it is good and bad. But their dislike of the deviant is an important part of their culture. Otaku, as common as they are, don't always appear the model student or adult (Even if they pretty much are). They aren't always just into anime, either. There are train otaku, doll otaku, idol otaku. Anything you can be unusually obsessed with can make you otaku. When going to an arranged marriage meeting, if you let something spill about your otaku-ness, it will probably stain you a little and make your mom nervous. That is the kind of word it is. It really is what nerd was until Bill Gates somehow made it sexy. So when I see it on shirts here in the U.S., it is kind of funny. Some of the implications get lost in translation. Like the "e" in saké, we see what we want to see in things and mispronounce it as saki. It's OK. It's America, right?

    September 12, 2011 at 10:48 pm |
    • Evat

      Well said!

      September 13, 2011 at 1:13 am |
  54. random

    i don't know any 'otaku' that actually use the term otaku.. lol..... maybe like 10 years ago when it was relatively new to western anime fans..... this article is a little late.. most anime diehards already know the meaning and would prefer not to carry the title.

    September 12, 2011 at 10:47 pm |
    • EcchiKitty

      Depends on your group. Local anime club for a while fell out of the habit of useing the term 'otaku' because, as has been mentioned, it carries a negative conotation. Then someone made some T-shirt for 'otaku army' that were popular, and the word is back in vogue.
      Language is always changing. We (currently) choose to accept the word 'otaku' as a lable to take pride in. Give it a century or two, who knows what the word will mean then?

      September 13, 2011 at 1:11 am |
  55. Sensei

    Otaku means home. Calling someone that means the person is so involved with gaming or watching anime, that they never leave their home. You would know that if you did actual research before reporting. ばかな外人。

    September 12, 2011 at 10:37 pm |
    • Ann-Marie

      I thought it actually meant "your house," meaning someone who is so obsessed with something he never left his house.
      I hate to say it, but kind of like someone with severe Asperger's, and before you jump on me for that, I married a man with Asperger's, and have two wonderful children with it to one degree or another. I love them dearly even if they are all otaku to some extent.

      September 12, 2011 at 11:01 pm |
    • PhaReal

      オタク that is otaku my friend and the report is correct! it means "Geek". You look stupid right now

      September 12, 2011 at 11:03 pm |
    • sigh

      You're so obviously pretending to know Japanese it's not even funny.

      September 13, 2011 at 12:53 am |
  56. jumpdart

    otakon baltimore

    September 12, 2011 at 10:35 pm |
  57. GrahamT

    It is true that "otaku" in Japanese, has a nuance of poor social interaction and usually intensity in one specific area that almost dominates ones life. Being called otaku in Japan is not a complement. Otaku when taken a step further is "hikkikomori" which is self imposed isolation from society, and issue Japan is facing with it's young of today.

    However as in most different countries, cultures a word is taken and used in a different context. The Japanese do this with English words. So word of advice to English speakers new to Japan, don;t walk round saying you are otaku, or "Boka wa okaku desu..."

    September 12, 2011 at 10:34 pm |
  58. narbonne

    Maybe I'm way off, and I'm not trying to be offensive, but for the sake of understanding, is Otaku more comparable to the American negative phrase of 'wigger' then 'geek'? Just wondering, because obviously 'wigger' is a much more negative word the 'geek' here, which I don't find insulting at all. Thoughts?

    September 12, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
    • heman

      narbonne you is a undiscovered genius!!! Let me give you another anology: driving toyotas and honds and such has proven the economic harakiri of america!!! are you unemployed? well, you will be soon...

      September 12, 2011 at 10:50 pm |
  59. T3chsupport

    Being an obsessive fanboy is the American Way. This was all said like someone was going to start giving a crap that someone knew they prided themselves as geeks. Some people have weird passions.

    September 12, 2011 at 10:25 pm |
  60. Travis

    Otaku in Japan is pretty much in the same place the word "geek" was a couple generations ago. I expect it won't be too long before the negative connotation starts to fade.

    September 12, 2011 at 10:25 pm |
  61. Sam Walton

    I think you all need to get an effing life. There, I said it.

    September 12, 2011 at 10:18 pm |
  62. FedUpwithLA

    Forget about the anime, the women are cute, and that's the important thing. They could also be dangerous, too, so watch out! But, all in all, Japan is okay. How did we ever get into a war with these people only seventy years ago?

    September 12, 2011 at 10:15 pm |
    • Zac

      Because they bombed Pearl Harbor? I would think the surprise attack that almost wiped out our entire navy in one fell swoop might do it.

      September 12, 2011 at 10:41 pm |
    • heman

      lets put it this way:if they had discovered the a bomb first you would not exist! get it dumb ass???

      September 12, 2011 at 10:45 pm |
      • Yavuz

        I don't think so it's possible.. :X I'm not sure.. but u might want to check if annoye posted the cinematic cut-scene of the game.. I'm not sure if there's one for ff7 but I know there are for ff13.

        October 12, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • CityZen

      "We" didn't go to war with "Japan". Rather, the leaders these two countries went to war with each other, both using the rest of us as their chess pieces. Leaders of all countries do really stupid things sometimes, but you usually can't blame any random citizen for the actions of their leaders. It's not like there was a majority vote in Japan to attack the US. Even sillier is to judge a group of several billion people by the actions of a few dozen nut-heads who aren't group leaders.

      September 12, 2011 at 11:06 pm |
  63. Jim

    When I think about Otaku, I get very hungry and want an O-taco with a ko-sprite.

    September 12, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
  64. Noxious.Sunshine

    I like anime & a lot of aspects of Japanese Culture (clothing, music, food, etc) ... I dont think of Otaku as a dirty word..

    It's kunda the same with Spanish, you would -never- say "chinga tu madre" to a Mexican unless you're feeling suicidal.
    The English equivalent "motherf**ker" isnt as big a deal.

    September 12, 2011 at 10:04 pm |
    • CityZen

      Isn't a big deal? Probably depends upon who you ask. I think most would say it is.

      September 12, 2011 at 11:08 pm |
  65. Crimzonite

    Personally, I find it a little offensive when people automatically use "otaku" to refer to anime fans in the West, as if anime is the only thing Japan has. I consider myself an otaku of practically everything related to Japan. For example, I've watched my fair share of anime, but I've also watched a large number of live action Japanese television shows and movies, many of which even long-time anime fans probably haven't even heard of. And believe me, I've known some people who have been anime fans for years (even decades) that haven't even bothered to take that extra step. I'll admit that anime is popular in the West right now, but there's plenty of good stuff in Japan and sooner or later everyone else is going to discover that.

    September 12, 2011 at 9:12 pm |
    • heman

      crimzonite, you is retarded!! and I mean that in a kind way.

      September 12, 2011 at 10:44 pm |
    • fretlessbass

      nah, he's just autistic... right? 😛

      April 9, 2012 at 12:24 am |
  66. Robert Barba

    I don't see the word as pejorative; American (and those in other countries) otaku have known that word to be nothing more than "fan" – and if you want to get technical, words such as geek, nerd and even fan itself (short for fanatic) have equally dark beginnings. Words change, even words we get from Japanese, like tycoon (wealthy individual, originally from taikun, referring to the shoguns.) Being an otaku is not bad. Being a bad otaku is bad, and would likely be that way regardless of the person's interests.

    -Rob Barba
    Convention Chair
    Anime USA 2011

    September 12, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
    • Kyle

      That was the whole point of the article, what the word means in original context, what it means in japan now, and what it means in america. A true american otaku should feel ashamed to be called otaku. I've seen plenty of examples of people taking their hobbies to extreme levels, where they spend more money then they have on their obsession and quite honestly agree with the japanese usage of the term. I think lots of times it's easy to be attracted to an otaku, because you equate their obsession with passion and fidelity. But eventually you see them as simply narrow minded individuals who are afraid of attaching those kinds of feelings toward reality.

      September 12, 2011 at 10:34 pm |
  67. Jason K

    Again, this is largely a difference between the older and younger generations and the urban vs. rural generations in Japan. Also, consider the implications of words that can change and sometimes be lost in translation. For instance in Greek you have mulitple words for love that specifically speak of the type of love referred to. In English, this is not the case and context is needed. Calling an American gaikokujin for instance is generally a lot more polite in the eyes of a nihonjin than the shortened term gaijin. Otaku has similar problems in that context is needed and often times not given in Japanese language where it is often inferred. One group of nihonjin may be thinking "geek" or "nerd" while anothers are thinking of "juveniles" or "despots".

    September 12, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  68. Demiricous

    Wow I am an anime fan and have gone to anime conventions and Ive never heard or seen anyone say otaku. Maybe its a california thing. Or I'm not a true fan although my stack of boxes full of anime dvd's yes I buy them not just rip off the internet says different.

    September 12, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
  69. KajinPL

    Well since the word "fan" technically isn't a good description I think we should go with "enthusiast". Sounds a little more official instead of nutjob.

    September 12, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
  70. zane

    This is the same culture that finds it rude to sneeze. While I respect other cultures, with an American background though calling someone otaku with the meaning of this article is not offensive to me.

    September 12, 2011 at 2:10 pm |

    I like to eat poop when I'm hungry and bored. Just sayin.

    September 12, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
  72. non animie

    Fan is short for fanatic

    September 12, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
  73. M

    It's been on the "dirty word" incline... and is maybe already a synonym for weeaboo.
    Nowadays in the anime-manga-online subculture it's seen as negative, referring to a person who is 1) obsessed with anime/manga AND 2) incapable of carrying on a "normal" conversation free from unnecessary references to anime/manga/Japan. Most often they also 3) have bad personal hygiene.

    I'd say Danny Choo is the only one keeping the word "otaku" from completely falling off the deep end.

    September 12, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
  74. Mijan

    Different words come to mean different things in different places, including words adopted from other languages.

    I'm a sci-fi fan geek, and not so much into anime and manga, but I do run security for a major anime convention in the midwest. Simply put, if the fans who attend the anime convention want to call themselves otaku, I don't really care, as long as they don't shoplift, and they take at least one shower a day.

    September 12, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
  75. Sailor Mac

    If I remember correctly, "Otaku" became a dirty word in Japan after police raided a murderer's apartment and found it crammed end-to-end with manga and anime goods, leading to him getting the nickname "The Otaku Killer" in the press. I think the word was adopted by the U.S. fandom before that was widely known, and the word is now so entrenched – it's even incorporated into con names, like Otakon and Otakuthon – that it's unlikely to go away no matter what it "really" means in Japan. (I've heard there's a movement to reclaim the word among Japanese fans, too).

    September 12, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
    • M

      It was dirty far before that, but that incident was a fresh nail in the already loaded coffin.

      September 12, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
  76. KajinPL

    Hmm.....interesting. Japan certainly takes their terms more seriously than we do. Our mean is just "fanboy" or "fangirl". Their meaning is "extremist". Then again, just about anything can cross the border of fantasy and reality.

    September 12, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
    • Just saying...

      Yes, but "fan" is short for fanatic.

      September 12, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
      • KajinPL

        Point taken.

        September 12, 2011 at 1:14 pm |