Why You Probably Aren't An "Anime" Otaku, But Something Else

The term “otaku” has been debated, it’s meaning contemplated and strenuously explained by many, and I’ve been fighting the good fight against improper usage of the word for a while. As you know, “otaku” is used to describe someone who’s obsessed with something, often following the object of obsession (“anime otaku” or “SF otaku”) so I’m going to tell you today in a half language-debate half Japanese-vs-American otaku way, why YOU probably are NOT an “Anime Otaku.”

I’d like to preface this post by stating that I care a lot about classification. A lot of people don’t care about classification, and that’s fine, but if you’re one of those people, you don’t need to read this post. This post is for people with an interest in proper usage of language and terms, and who want to further define their otakudom. For you music fans, it’s for the kind of people who care about the difference between ‘death metal’ and ‘metalcore’. I’ve also gone ahead and taken the liberty of copying a very interesting speech from a guy named Jakehammeran on the importance of classification into a google document if you’re interested.

Now, with ‘otaku’ meaning someone who is obsessed with something, I think it’s rather odd that anyone who watches a whole lot of anime may see fit to call themselves an ‘otaku’. The reason it confounds me is that the greater majority of American anime fans who have seen a considerable amount of shows tend to claim that ‘90% of anime is shit.’ This is a little confusing, only partly because these people obviously haven’t seen every anime ever to be making such a statement, but because if you’re supposed to be obsessed with anime, how come you hate most of it?

I’ve read a million statements along the lines of ‘why do they keep putting out this crap’ or ‘most anime sucks’ but I often want to ask these people why they think that Japanese companies would continually pump out ‘shitty’ anime all the time. The obvious answer is ‘to make money’ but that has another obvious meaning – the Japanese like this stuff. If 90% of anime sucks, then the Japanese have REALLY shitty taste, right? But that’s just not true. The Japanese may like a lot of ‘shitty’ shows, but they like the ‘great’ ones as well, or else those shows wouldn’t get the high budgets and attention they do. The difference is that Japanese otaku are able to like a wider variety of shows while American otaku aren’t.

It wouldnt be an otaku post without an ONV reference

It wouldn't be an otaku post without an ONV reference

And the reason is simply this – in Japan, they have ‘anime otaku’, and in America we don’t. Now, that’s not a definitive statement – my best friend No Name and for the most part, I, myself, am an anime otaku. No Name is very close to the Japanese kind of otaku, and is in some ways a good way to understand them better. No Name has seen — EVERYTHING –. He’s seen more anime than you’ve ever heard of, I promise. Obviously, he could not have seen all of that anime if he hated 90% of what he watched. No Name pretty much likes everything he watches to the point that when we tried to make a favorites list, he came out to something like 100 shows.

That, my friends, is what I would call an ‘anime otaku’. He is obsessed with anime – he will watch anything! Now, of course, he’s an otaku for other things as well (I know, how does he have time to be?!) but no one would argue with his status as an ‘anime otaku’. Now, let’s take, just for example, my cousin, Funeral (like how I choose subjects that I unmistakably know?) Funeral really, really likes anime, and after last year’s otakon, he went through a phase where he wanted to be an ‘otaku’. Eventually, he decided that this wasn’t possible.

Now, it’s not for lack of love of anime. Funeral can fanboy over his favorites like Cowboy Bebop, Gurren Lagann, and Baccano! as well as anybody, but he couldn’t get past his comfort zone with genres. He tried to dip into some of the moe anime or romance, but even as he saw the highness in quality of some of these shows like Manabi Straight and Toradora, he just couldn’t get into them. He decided that he didn’t want to be an ‘anime otaku.’ Funeral, I find, is more of a ‘director otaku’. Whether it be anime or live action (the latter being more his forte) he loves anything that is superbly directed above all else, and even as he is a huge fan of cinema, he still only likes those well-directed movies (and I’ll bet he’d make the statement that ‘90% of movies are shit.’) He is not an anime otaku or a film otaku, or even a music otaku (his biggest interest) because as much as music dominates his life, he only listens to select genres.

I definitely think we should make distinctions between types of otaku, and look beyond the overly broad genre of ‘anime otaku’. And I’m pretty sure that the Japanese do this too. Earlier I said how Japan has ‘anime otaku’, but I’m not saying that everyone who watches anime over there is one. I definitely think that the Japanese are more in-tuned to their individual otakudoms. They have ‘figure otaku’ and ‘cosplay otaku’ and to get really specific, ‘maid otaku’ or ‘gothic lolita otaku’. I think a great way to see this in action is with a pair of videos by otaku idol Shoko-tan where she explains otaku culture and, at one point, many different kinds of otaku (part 1, part 2.)

So what I want you to do is start considering your individual otakudom. I know some of you already do it – The Animanachronism seems to consider himself a military anime otaku, and while Ghostlightning has a variety of tastes, he’s most definitely a ‘mech otaku’ above all else. Eternal and CCY could probably be called ‘moe otaku’, while Baka-Raptor (who I previously called ‘not an otaku’ but may be able to remedy with this new definition) should most definitely be called a ‘ShizNat otaku.’ Now you must ask yourself, specifically what kind of otaku are you? (Alternatively, if you want me to give a name to your otakudom, just comment and link to your blog, and I’ll give you some kind of absurd genre name.)

(Incidentally, I’m definitely a ‘post-avant-garde blackened doom otaku.’)

Further Reading:

1. What are you Otaku for? An exploration of otaku not related to anime at all.
2. Anime Generalism – True Otakudom? I talk about how a real anime otaku will only hate things for weird reasons.
3. My post on the different levels of otakudom with an infamously silly title.
4. Projected Responses to Background Sex in K-On! – A study of the mindset of otaku.
5. Ghostlightning has a lot of interesting ideas on how anime creators are otaku for each-other and his own coming into otakudom.
6. The Otaku Diaries project by Reverse Thieves is finally coming to life, and tha’ts going to be the most fucking awesome image of otaku ever. Also, I participated!
7. Ogiue Maniax talks a lot not only about otaku, but more about fujoshi. He’s ALWAYS worth reading.
8. Mistakes of Youth writer Wildarmsheero is like an ‘otaku otaku.’ He’s the only person as good if not better than me to read for studying the otaku mindset.

29 thoughts on “Why You Probably Aren't An "Anime" Otaku, But Something Else

  1. The difference is that Japanese otaku are able to like a wider variety of shows while American otaku aren’t.

    The problem with Japanese otaku today is that this is predominantly untrue. Toshio Okada wrote a few books specifically addressing the annoyance that contemporary otaku are cornered into their niche viewing circles (eg., moé). However, I think the problem with American “otaku” is that most fans basically just don’t watch more than a handful of shows, and they don’t bother attempting to watch more.

  2. Hmm, ‘military anime otaku’ probably isn’t too far from the truth. I’m not sure I think about this very much, but I suppose I’d instinctively call myself a fan of mecha/military stories in anime. I’m don’t know if I’m obsessive enough to say ‘otaku’, and in any case I think ‘fan’ approximates closely enough. Unlike a lot of people who watch anime, I’m not very interested in Japan, so I don’t feel the pull of loanwords as strongly.

    (Though, to be fair, in the last couple of days I’ve watched and enjoyed Air and half of Paradise Kiss, so this isn’t purely about the giant war machines!)

    In defence of those who would claim a wide-ranging interest in anime that isn’t restricted by genres, but still say that ‘90% of anime sucks’ (not an opinion I can agree with, because I lack the taste to tell what sucks and what doesn’t), couldn’t their contempt for a lot of what’s out there be a result of the strength of their love for anime as a whole? In my experience, people don’t call for improvement unless they care.

  3. @alex leavitt: I’ll concede to that, and that’s also why I went on to talk about the different kinds of otaku, because I am aware that most Japanese otaku probably don’t like everything, but the more important point I wanted to make was that they may not have the same reasoning as us – we too often judge shows by what we consider quality, while they have their own standards that may be based on any unique otakudom. And yes, American otaku don’t know how to broaden their (fucking) horizons and realize how much of the bigger anime picture they are missing. But in any case, I’d still say there are probably more Japanese otaku with broad interest than American ones, since people like No Name and I seen to be ‘the few, the proud’.

    @Iknight: Sure they care, but they complain because they don’t like all anime, and want it all to be like the stuff they do like. It’s like a huge music fan who says that ‘pop sucks’ and wishes more music could be like their favorites. Yes, they complain because they love music, but that complaining is their desire for all music to fall into their ‘music otakudom.’

  4. After first watching Lucky Star, I wanted and I actually called myself ‘otaku’, without really knowing what it means. What I thought back then was, that ‘otaku’ is somebody who watches anime.

    Now I not anymore consider myself as ‘otaku’, and do not want to. My tastes differ, any instead of sticking to genres, I just decide by… well, by like I the anime or not. That brings problems with choosing what to watch though – since to choose I need to see the first episode.

    So… if it’d be to call me somehow, what’d it be? ‘Anime connoisseur’?

  5. @Gargron: simply ‘anime fan’ may suffice, or if your taste is not even limited to anime, you don’t need to specify that you are a fan of anime. If you only like a few anime and haven’t seen a lot, then you may simply not have the experience or knowledge to call yourself an otaku (no offense). Your blog says ‘we love maids’ though. Sure you aren’t a meido otaku?

  6. The point of fans having more focused interests, or sub-interests, in their hobbies stands, sure, and sometimes this distinction between themselves is important, but I don’t think going as far to the level of dissecting hairs is all that useful. So I’m a sports fan, an adequate description. I’m a basketball fan, so that’s a more precise description. But should I say I’m a point-guard fan, a jump-shot fan, a bounce pass fan, a team-defense fan, to such meticulous and insane detail that it would no longer be useful to have such categorizations?

    Also, I contend against your point that being an otaku of something means to unequivocally love everything about it. Back to my basketball fandom, I can’t say some players and teams are better or worse (sometimes much better or much worse) than others? Doesn’t that just mean I have no taste or standards? Or that only makes me a fan of good basketball, instead of basketball in general? Your friend No Name himself was able to pare down a list of ~100 favorites out of over 2000 titles. That’s over 90% titles he liked less than others. What’s the difference from someone, limited by time and responsibilities, who has only seen 100 shows and picks a dozen or so favorites?

    Fandom shouldn’t be strictly defined by how much time one has to devote to a single obsession. That creates a “my nerd-fu is better than yours” mentality. As the great ghostlightning would say, aren’t we all equally free to remember love?

  7. This post pretty much sums up my grief with the current generation which believes they have seen everything with Naruto and Bleach, overmarketed, overpopular series from JAPAN omg, and this doesn’t apply just to US ohtahkoohs. Spouting wapanese words and memes, and successfully imitating Naruto’s hand moves when he creates Kage Bunshins nowadays is enough to make you an “anime otaku” all over the world.
    Geez. I don’t know, I have quite a few figurines, mangas, artbooks, CDs, VHS/DVDs and other anime/Japan-related stuff and yet I don’t particularly consider myself an anime otaku. More like an anime enthusiast. I believe I am light years away from being a full-fledged otaku, although sometimes I like to venture myself in that area for the lulz (cf. my Hisui birthday post).

    I’d be interested in what kind of otaku I look like in your eyes though, digiboy. :P

  8. @kaidan: By definition, ‘otaku’ is ‘OBSESSION’. It IS a nerd-fu thing in ways, even though realistically, like nerdiness, it’s more used as an insult to how obsessed you are. Otaku is pure dedication and obsession – it’s a step further than ‘hobby’ and ‘passtime’. It’s something you rally feel passionate about and dedicated to. When you were a basketball fan, were you really obsessed? I can tell you now, a lot of the people who get into sports are far more obsessive over a particular team than the whole of the sport – that’s why there are places in malls around here called ‘the Redskins store’ – if you are an obsessive Redskins fan, you are probably a Redskins otaku. Can you be an otaku of the whole sport? Yes, but that really does mean obsession, and a love of every aspect. And if you really were a true obsessive fan, and only liked good teams, then yes, maybe you are otaku for ‘good’ basketball, since a ‘basketball otaku’ probably wouldn’t need the teams to be good to enjoy the game.

    @natsuneko: lulz at your rant, but true. I can’t really guage your otakudom though since I don’t read your blog, but I may be able to get back to you with an anwer later.

  9. Pingback: The Issue of Language in a Cross-Cultural Community « GAR GAR Stegosaurus – because I always watch the contrails disappear

  10. @baka-raptor: I wasn’t invited to that party, IIRC EDIT: Either that, or it just didn’t interest me, since it looks pretty silly and i didn’t even give a heartful reply

  11. my feeling on japanese otaku is that they watch everything, but will diss 90% of the stuff, although, as you said, if they’re watching they must be enjoying.

    If you think it’s silly to have a point-guard fan and a threepointer fan, well, Japan is the country for that. They have the narrowest, most twisted fandoms over there.

    I think one really easy way to tell who’s an otaku is to see if people call you (or would call you) an otaku. I am sure nobody in anime fandom (Japan or West) would call me an otaku if they knew my anime viewing patterns etc.

  12. “my feeling on japanese otaku is that they watch everything, but will diss 90% of the stuff,”

    I’d like to know where you got this information from. Sounds interesting. :P

  13. “my feeling on japanese otaku is that they watch everything, but will diss 90% of the stuff, although, as you said, if they’re watching they must be enjoying.”

    And how is that different from English language bloggers, who seem to spend most of their posts bashing the popular shows they don’t like, but are still watching them to completion anyways?

  14. @Michael: Those people tend to be trolls, and either lying about finishing the show, or lying about hating it, but I’d think the latter is in the minority. Almost EVERY American blogger seems to concede to the idea that ‘most anime sucks’ to the point that it’s regarded as actual fact by many and often stated as such (I could point out examples, but I don’t feel like they’d give the necessary scope.)

  15. I’m an anime otaku, but I think that I’d have to meet metrics and milestones and what not is rather silly! No Name is an exception rather than a rule. Fanboy I think is a particular apt term for me, and I’m totally fine with it (mecha, particularly Macross).

  16. Psst, if we’re fast enough, we could spin our disagreement on this into some full-blown blogosphere drama and boost both of our page-views, as people hurriedly pick sides and spam our brains out.

  17. @GL: I don’t think he’s the rule so much as the eventuality of the rule. A real anime otaku will be like him one day.

    @ADWM: Ufortunately, I hate blogosphere drama. And I don’t want to have to read any post called ‘my take on otakudom by Omysith.’

  18. Well, I daresay that there isn’t a soul who would actually lay claim to liking blogosphere drama. Anyway, I think the posts about why one of us is a total asshole would be a bit more troublesome than the one you mentioned, if last summer’s rumble between Sasa and itsubun is indicative of anything.

  19. @ADWM: I don’t know who Sasa or itsubun is :p You should keep in mind, I really don’t read anime blogs. I read maybe 10 total.

  20. @21stcenturydigitalboy: “Fan” is more like something masses-related, while I prefer to stay individualistic. I am concentrated on anime though, regardless that I’ve seen more films and read more books than watched series. I understand and am in no way offended that I can not call myself ‘otaku’ – though I’m doing everything to widen my experience, read: marathoning older anime.

    P.S. Sure you don’t want to enable the ‘reply’ functionality?

  21. @gagron: That’s exactly what I like to hear :D Happy trails, future otaku! also, I don’t know how to make that function work. I’ll keep trying.

  22. @21stcenturydigitalboy: Thank you, I’ll do my best (and will try not to go blind) :3

    To enable the replies, (I hope you’re using WP 2.8), go to ‘Settings’->’Discussion’ and under ‘Other comment settings’ enable the option ‘Enable threaded (nested) comments’.

    • Test reply

      Update went smoothly I believe[completely forgot about it, and digitalboy didn’t even tell me]. I also enabled the reply thing. :D

      @digitalboy: Tell me if anything goes wrong.

      • Of course not, since I didn’t know :p you know how I am about ignoring update notices haha

        Also, I actually remembered that I hadn’t turned the replys on purposefully, but I’m fine with having them on now seeing how well they work for GL

  23. Pingback: Allow Me To Make The Otaku Elimination Game’s Job Much Easier For Them « Fuzakenna!

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