Day: December 1, 2009
It feels like there are two simultaneous definitions of “otaku”. One of them means “enthusiast”. If you freakin’ love everything about trains and model trains and trainspotting and train trips and whatnot, you would be a train otaku. The other definition defines otaku as being socially withdrawn, often creepy anime obsessives that don’t have “real lives”.
The first definition often gets conflated with the second definition in English. This is what leads to people outside of Japan labeling themselves as otaku because they like anime a lot. They are fans of anime, and in the same way that they would call themselves fans of a band or a sports team or a movie, they call themselves fans of anime. The tinges of the second definition come in when the term gets used a bit as a badge of pride, since many of the same descriptions are stereotypically applied as well to “nerds” or “geeks”, however those concepts in America are not remotely as negative. This lack of negativity with the seemingly equivalent English words like “nerd” and “geek” arise from radically different social and economic conditions in both American and Japan, which are what I will outline in this post.