Recently, as I was writing my ‘history with anime’ post, I stumbled upon an interesting conundrum : why do people want to be linked to the word, ‘otaku’?
I mean, come on. The word was never a badge to be proudly displayed at first. To quote Simon Richmond’s ‘Rough Guide to Anime’ , “the sterotypical image of an Otaku in Japan is of a person who is highly knowledgeable about their chosen field, be it a particular manga character, computer game, anime or toy, but also somewhat socially inept, i.e. a nerd.” Flashback to the time when the word was just introduced. The kanji used, if translated to Chinese (I’m too lazy for Google Translate) roughly translates to someone who seems to never leave his home, much like a hikikomori. The word was latched onto the media in Japan when they wrote about fandom, and soon its popularity skyrocketed. From just a simple form of address, it’s become a term that even people not involved in the fandom know it. In fact, Oxford even added the word, ‘Otaku’, to its dictionary quite a long time ago.
But when you think about its origins, one must really wonder how it became a term to be embraced by anime and manga fandom alike. Ever since the Miyazaki Murders, or the ‘Otaku Murders’ of 1988 were reported, with Miyazaki being an otaku interested in horror and hentai, the word started to become a derogatory insult, a term of negative connotations. In some regions, it’s still considered a insult, and not a badge of honour. The word otaku has often been used for negative reasons. In fact, I believe that when you tell most people of the older generation about otaku, they see this image:
Yet you see numerous fans from overseas enthusiastically using the word ‘otaku’ in a friendly way to describe themselves and their friends. We still have people who use it as an insult, with negative connotations beyond our imagination like , (I quote) “to become 2D”, written by an American (I presume) on her blog.
Some people have an idea of ‘otaku’ as males who obsess over 2D depictions of adorable little girls. No joke there. People who don’t understand the word hardly even link this word to females! They have the idea that all otaku must be male! Some people even continue to relate the whole of Japan to WWII, as my anti-Japan pro-America friend likes to demonstrate by insulting every thing that involves Japan and calling them a bunch of ‘terrorists bent on world destruction/domination.’ I kid you not, and I’ve tried not to argue with him on several occasions, mostly due to the fact that I know I could never get him to understand. People like these most likely use the word in a derogatory sense, but really, does anyone often use the word as an insult any more these days in your own countries? I doubt so.
Richmond writes that the word has ‘even [been] adopted into the name of several magazines and websites devoted to anime and fandom.’ Don’t be alarmed, this blog won’t be renamed Otakuvalence or is it Otakuguity, but I’d like to talk about the blogosphere now.
Oh, not this shit again-
I love writing about the blogosphere. I can’t help it.
Anyway, a quick search through AnimeNano’s blog directory would reveal that a large amount of blogs have incorporated the word, Otaku, into their titles. I know a few bloggers who have done the same, including SilentSerenata and Arianna Sterling. With titles and the word otaku, we directly think : anime and manga. And perhaps that’s why the word has gained such popularity : it’s more than how Oxford defines it, more than just that.
noun (plural same) (in Japan) a young person who is obsessed with computers or particular aspects of popular culture to the detriment of their social skills.
But I suppose we, as fans outside of Japan, not subjected to their media, have come to embrace this term as a simple way to express our fandom, not an insult. It’s a word that involves the user into a different clique, a community of people who wear this badge as a way to express their own fandoms.
Much like the Nazis. Much like a group identity the users can identify with, people who won’t mock them, people who would understand them. Much like using the word aniblogger to describe a blogger about anime, the word conveniently relates fans to one another. No wonder it’s become such a badge of honour among fans.
In our technologically advanced world, I guess the word, ‘nerd’ has taken on a whole new life of its own as well. The word, ‘nerd’ seems to have become a term for great fan. No wonder my friend confused it for a compliment. (Albeit too late, after calling numerous people nerds.) The word is now an identity. It’s kind of hip when you think about it. It oozes this feeling of cliques and identity, of a bizarre sense of coolness. Who isn’t a nerd nowadays? Video game nerds, Glee nerds (or Gleeks), Literature nerds, and so on – almost everyone is a nerd in some way or another! It’s become a overlapping identity as well , to the extent where the word seems to have lost some of its underlying notions and break out of its stereotypes : America portrayed nerds as spectacle-wearing, acne-ridden people with buck teeth with awkward clothing and bad social skills who’d get bullied often in the past : now we see that slowly, we are breaking out of that stereotype – plenty of people can be ‘nerds’ yet not fit that stereotype. We fans, if you will, are getting more and more social, with this stereotype slowly fading, it’s no wonder why we started embracing the term, ‘otaku’. Its negative connotations have given way to this hip trend, this sense of fandom and love for the world of anime and manga.
So perhaps I should be less anal retentive about the word. Perhaps I should be okay when people use that term on me,since I myself, am a huge fan after all, no hiding that. So maybe I am an ‘otaku’, after all.
Time to loosen up, Valence.
I like shows like these and there’s nothing wrong