Sunday, July 31, 2016

otaku オタク

WIP: this article is incomplete and might change in the unforeseeable future.
In Japanese, otaku オタク means a "hardcore anime fan." It also means "you," a second person pronoun, and "your home." As the term became mainstream it started referring to "hobbyists" of all sorts, people with manias for stuff, leading the hardcore anime fans to prefer the spelling wotaku ヲタク instead.

In some cases, otaku is also spelled otaku お宅, and otaku おたく. And it's abbreviated ota オタ.

Some people mistakenly think that fujoshi 腐女子 or otome 乙女 is the female word for otaku: that otaku is a male word, so they'll say stuff like "otome and otaku" as if they were gendered words for the same thing. In reality, the term otaku is gender-less and can refer to an otaku girl too.

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!

Stereotype

The stereotypical otaku is a fat nerd guy, an anti-social creep who's into anime, and who's "gross," kimochi warui 気持ち悪い, kimoi キモイ, lives with his parents, in the basement, never leaves his room, is a "shut-in," hikikomori 引きこもり, "doesn't have a job," mushoku 無職, and doesn't go to "school," gakkou 学校, thus is a "NEET," niito ニート, survives on potato-chips, instant rāmen ラーメン, and carbonated drinks, has no "GF," kanojo 彼女, can't talk to girls, soushokukei 草食系, claims "2D" girls, nijigen 二次元, are better than "3D" girls, sanjigen 三次元, except maybe for cosplayers, because they're 3D girls with 2D hearts, is a "virgin," doutei 童貞, probably "for life," isshou 一生, if he's over "30 years old," sanjuusai 三十歳, he's a "wizard," mahou-tsukai 魔法使い, has a lot of merchandise of his favorite shows, purchases expensive anime DVDs, BDs, is whom fanservice is made for, likes panchira パンチラ, has book cases full of weekly or monthly manga magazines, anthologies, tankoubon 単行本, light novels, dolls, "figures" of characters, figyua フィギュア, wallpapers, "anime pillows," dakimakura 抱きまくら, has enshrined a particular female character he likes and says she's his "wife," waifu ワイフ, who's probably a tsundere loli or JK with big oppai おっぱい from a CGDCT "slice of life," nichijoukei 日常, "four panel," yonkoma 4コマ, comic, sporadically references "lines," serifu 台詞, of random series, obscure memes, tropes and slangs like moe 萌え, zokusei 属性zettai ryouiki 絶対領域, haitenai はいてない, has chuunibyou 中二病, uses degozaru でござる, which is basically samurai lingo by now, is a regular customer at a maid cafe, likes being called "master," goshujinsama ご主人様, thinks he's a "super sadist," do-S ドS, buys doujinshi 同人誌, goes to conventions, dreams of becoming a mangaka 漫画家 or game developer, is a gamer, plays a lot of "games," geemu ゲーム, specially dating sims and visual novels, spends a lot of time on computer talking in anonymous boards and forums on the internet, says "lol," (笑), , wwww, has a snark, cynic attitude toward everything, thinks nothing matters, has a self-depreciating personality due to being overly conscious he's a "failure of a son," dame na musuko ダメな息子, and a disappointing to his "family," kazoku 家族, is "irresponsible" for his actions, musekinin 無責任, has social anxiety, projects his insecurities onto others, thinks any good guy is just pretending to be a good guy and all people are rotten inside like him, thinks all girls are "sluts," bitch ビッチ, for being interested in "normies," riajuu リア充, and not in him, calling them "females," mesu メス, as if they were animals.

In other words, an otaku is:
  • saitei 最低
    The worst.

And when girls look at them, you'll find their eyes can be described as:
  • gomi wo miru you na me
    ゴミを見るような目
    Eyes [that] seem to be looking at trash.
ゴミを見るような目
Anime: Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo! この素晴らしい世界に祝福を! (Episode 11, OVA)

Of course, the above was a rather extreme example of the stereotype. Most of the time an stereotypical otaku character only features some of the things above. But generally they're written like they're very bad people, or, in some cases, very sick people. At best, they're just anti-social or obnoxious with all their anime references.

"Maniac Hobbyist"

Although originally the term otaku オタク only referred to anime hobbyists, people who have a mania for anime, recently, it's also been used to refer to any sort of hobbyists that has a mania for any sort of thing.

Thus you now have a lot of different types of otaku.

For example, the type that likes anime would be an anime otaku アニメオタク, abbreviated aniota アニオタ.

In the anime Sabagebu'! さばげぶっ! there are a lot of "gun hobbyists," with a mania for "guns," juu 銃. This type is called a juu-otaku 銃オタク.

In the isekai Knight's & Magic, the protagonist has a mania for "mechas," or meka メカ, which are the giant robots, like Gundam, etc. So he's a meka-otaku メカオタク.

In the manga and anime Prison School, one of the characters is a sangokushi otaku 三国志オタク, who has a mania for the Three Kingdoms, a piece of Chinese history when China was divided into three.

Another interesting type you may find sometimes in anime is a a tetsudou otaku 鉄道オタク, abbreviated tetsu-ota 鉄オタ, which has a mania for trains. Japan has a lot of trains, and "railways," tetsudou 鉄道, which means some people enjoy staring at the trains a lot, know a lot about them, and end up having such mania.

By the way, not all otaku characters are stereotypically "gross," kimoi, so, those which are "gross otaku," are called kimoi otaku キモイオタク, abbreviated kimo-ota キモオタ.

Because otaku have a lot of bad stereotypes associated with them, some people would rather not be associated with the term otaku, even if they are an otaku. They don't anybody to know. So they don't anyone, they hide, they're a kakureotaku 隠れオタク, a "hidden otaku."

Examples of 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, who's an elite army soldier, that's also an otaku for some reason.

Normally, otaku characters are more like Hashida Itaru 橋田 至 from Steins;Gate.

The shoujo anime Sabagebu! さばげぶっ! has a bunch of female gun otaku for their main characters, and two anime otaku, 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.

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 otaku.

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 rare cases, an otaku is portrayed as a less stereotypical, more normal, socially-functional person who loves anime, manga and games. This happens in 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 otaku would.

Origin

In Japanese, otaku オタク comes from the the word otaku 御宅, which means literally "your house," but actually ends up meaning "your" or even "you" sometimes.

Note the polite o- 御~ prefix, which is usually used when referring to stuff of other people. Just like how namae 名前 means "name," but onamae お名前 normally means "your name."

Similarly, otaku お宅 is a polite way to refer to "your house," or "your household," or "your home," or "your family." For example:
  • otaku no musuko-san
    御宅の息子さん
    Your house's son.
    Your household's son.
    Your family's son.
    The guy one would call "son" in your family.
    Your son.

This otaku is also spelled as otaku お宅, and sometimes spelled in hiragana as otaku おたく. The anime-loving otaku is not spelled with kanji, it's normally spelled with katakana, as otaku オタク, so it's hard to mistake one for the other.

One certain manga actually does a play on the word:
  • Otaku no Musume-san
    おたくの娘さん
    Your Daughter.
    The Otaku's Daughter.
  • A manga about an otaku who suddenly finds out he has a daughter.

Otaku Girl

Although most otaku characters are guys, girls can be otaku too. And the term for a girl who's an otaku is still just otaku. There's no special term for it.

If you really need to specify gender:
  • otaku joshi オタク女子
    Otaku girl.
  • otaku danshi オタク男子
    Otaku guy.

Otaku vs. Otome

Some people think otome 乙女," maiden," means an otaku girl, but that's not true. I'm not really sure why this happens, but I have two theories.

First, there are a lot of dating simulation games that are targeted at otaku. In such games the player, the otaku, self-inserts into a male protagonist and goes around living school-life or whatever dating "beautiful girls," bishoujo 美少女, and stuff, until you confess to your chosen one, or create a "harem," haaremu ハーレム, or something.

The reverse counterpart, targeted at girls, where the protagonist is female, the romantic interests you choose from are "beautiful boys," bishounen 美少年, the harem is a "reverse-harem," gyaku-haaremu 逆ハーレム, and so on, is called an "otome game," or otome geemu 乙女ゲーム, abbreviated otome-gee 乙女ゲー.

Such stuff is also said to be "targeted at maidens," otome-muke 乙女向け.

So maybe because an otome game is the female-focused variant of the average otaku game, the word otome came to be thought as the female variant of otaku.

The second possible reason is the "otome road," or otome roodo 乙女ロード, which is a nickname given to the Ikebukuro 池袋 district of Japan, because it sells a lot of anime stuff targeted at female otaku.

Otaku vs. Fujoshi

Some people think fujoshi 腐女子, "rotten girl," means an otaku girl. This isn't true either. A fujoshi is a girl who fantasizes about guy-x-guy ships: gay romance.

Technically, a fujoshi doesn't even need to be into anime at all, like if she only ships real people. But lots of fujoshi are also into anime. And lots of fujoshi are also otaku. So the two terms overlap a lot.

By the way, products, anime, manga, stories, and whatever, really, "targeted at fujoshi," are called fumuke 腐向け. This generally includes BL, otokonoko 男の娘 and josou 女装.

Even in Japan, Japanese people, who speak Japanese, sometimes mistakenly think fujoshi means female otaku, so don't blame yourself for being a baka gaijin if you made such mistake: everybody can make this mistake. There are too many weird terms for too many weird things!

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