Sunday, July 31, 2016

Otaku オタク & Otome 乙女

Have you ever been called an otaku オタク or otome 乙女 and had no idea what the word meant? Or, maybe, you've started calling other people otaku but now you're not really sure you know what it is? Well, worry no more, I'll tell you exactly what otaku means.

Western Meaning

In everywhere but Japan the western world, specially around the anime fandom, you call someone an otaku when he really, really likes anime.

For example, imagine there are three kinds of guys.
  1. The guy who has never watched anime.
    You don't hang with him because you have nothing in common.
  2. The guy who has watched a couple of Japanese cartoons (anime) on the TV
    Perhaps a person such as yourself, perhaps not.
  3. The guy who can tell you the 10 animes he considers the greatest anime of all time and another 10 he considers so bad it's almost a sin against the sanctity of anime.

That last guy? He's an otaku. Like all other otaku he'll constantly rant that:
  • some anime are better than others but sell badly and won't get a second season.
  • some anime suck but they are too popular and have a second season
  • some anime producers are "saving anime"

An otaku will also often blurt out some non-sense lines, like:
  • "Your favorite anime is shit"
  • "Your waifu is shit"
  • "Put your grasses on"
  • "I ship it"
  • "Cory in The house is best anime"

And so on.

Otaku Meaning in Japan

In Japan, where the word otaku オタク (sometimes wotaku ヲタク) comes from, the word otaku doesn't mean the exactly same thing as it does outside of Japan.

What happens is that, in Japanese, an otaku オタク isn't someone who likes anime. It's someone who likes... something. It's someone passionate and knowledgeable about their hobby. Most of the time it is anime, but it can be other things.

For example, "gun otakus", jyuu-otaku 銃オタク, are people who like and know a lot about guns, firearms, pistols, rifles, etc.

If you watch anime and call yourself an otaku you might be thinking, "how did I not know of this?!" Or even "how does nobody else know about this?!"

Think about it, where did you hear the word otaku from the first time? Probably from some other anime watcher. Who heard it from another. And another. And another. And so on. And then everyone watched anime and saw the word otaku show up in the anime to describe some anime otaku character and everyone was like "Hah! So that's what an otaku is!"

There you go.

Otaku Characters in Anime

In anime, otaku characters are always shown as stereotypes, as they should be, because it's not fun if you have a character who only says he is a thing he doesn't seem to be.

(I'm talking about you, Itami Youji from GATE)

These stereotypes are often of a fat nerd guy who's a hikikomori 引きこもり, who spends most of his time shut-in inside his own room, which by the way is decorated with manga and anime merchandising, such as dakimakura 抱き枕 pillows and character figurines, and he stays in there watching anime and playing visual novels about dating 2D girls on his computer while surviving on potato-chips, instant ramen and carbonated drinks.

Does this sound like anyone? Huh? Huuuuh?? Does it? Huh??? Nope? Really? You sure?

Well, I'm talking about Hashida Itaru 橋田 至 from the anime Steins;Gate, of course.

On the other side, "otaku girls", or otaku joshi オタク女子, are often portrayed with the very same stereotypes the guy characters have, except for being fat, for some reason. In worst cases an otaku girl is also portrayed as a fujoshi 腐女子.

Examples of Otaku Characters

In the anime Sabagebu! さばげぶっ! which is a shoujo anime with gun otakus for their main characters, there also happens to be, besides the gun otakus, two anime otakus, one of which is a male otaku, and another of which is a female otaku. So it's basically Otaku: The Anime at this point.

Otaku オタク - two anime-otakus from an anime about gun-otakus - the characters Karaage Lemon からあげ☆レモン and Goutokuji Kayo 豪徳寺かよ from the manga and anime Sabagebu! さばげぶっ!

In some anime, the otaku characters are useless members of society, NEETs, and in these cases they also often happen be geniuses for some reason. Like the brother and sister kuuhaku 「」 from the anime No Game No Life ノーゲーム・ノーライフ.

In Kuragehime 海月姫, a number of characters, including the protagonist, are female otakus.

In Knight's & Magic ナイツ&マジック (yes, Knight's, I don't get it either) the protagonist is a meka-otaku メカオタク, a sort of otaku that specializes in mecha anime, manga, games, robot toys, and so on.

In other cases, they may be portrayed as less stereotypical, more normal, socially-functional people who love anime, manga and games. Such is the case of the anime Durarara!!! デュラララ!! with the duo of characters Karisawa Erika 狩沢 絵理華 and Yumasaki Walker 遊馬崎 ウォーカー who often make references to names of anime they have watched while talking to each other, like a couple of real otakus would.

Otaku Origins in Japanese

In Japanese, otaku オタク actually comes from the the word otaku 御宅, which means "your house".

Yeah. I said the "your house". You know that building? Where you live? Yeah. That sort of "your house".

Though it's not often used to say literally "your house". It's used to say things like "your son", otaku no musuko-san 御宅の息子さん, instead.

Either way, how did "your house" or "your" become the otaku we know today?

It's simple. Have you ever heard the phrase "in your alley"? Meaning within your abilities, or in your field of expertise, and so on? Now imagine that, instead of "your alley", we said "your house."

That's how otaku 御宅 came to mean otaku オタク.

Otome 乙女

An otome 乙女 is the female version of otaku when said outside of Japan.

Inside of Japan otome is just another way to say "girl," just like the word shoujo 少女, or onna no ko 女の子, or joshi 女子, or musume 娘, or whatever other word means "girl" in Japanese. Seriously there are way too many ways to say this.

My personal guess is that otome, as used outside of Japan, as the female version of otaku, started being used this way because of the word "otome game," otome geemu 乙女ゲーム.

Otome games are games "made for girls", otome-muke 乙女向け. Most of which are dating sims where there's the main character, a girl, and an inordinate amount of bishounen 美少年 characters surrounding her. That is, they're essentially about a girl in a "reverse-harem", gyaku-haremu 逆ハーレム.

In Japanese, just like the otaku word is used for whatever kind of otaku, the otaku word is also used for whatever kind of gender, be it male, female, or Hideyoshi. To say "otaku girl" one would say otaku joshi オタク女子, otaku shoujo オタク少女, etc instead of just otome.

Maybe, if you really wanted to say otome anyway, you could get away with saying otaku otome オタク乙女, but that's kind of silly. Just say otaku instead.

1 comment:

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  1. "In your wheelhouse" is an even better way of saying it than "in your alley", which I think should actually be "up your alley" and kind of means a topic that you are interested in while "in your wheelhouse" is a topic you are knowledgeable about. A wheelhouse is a building on top of a ship that has the ship's steering wheel in it.

    After checking it seems I'm basically correct about this.