What is an otaku outside of Japan? Is he a japanophile? Or is that subject just restricted to the topices like anime, manga, idols and etc?
Why do do I suddenly ask such a deep question?
I am about to help out a local media to answer some questions on otakuism in Singapore. And to be truthful, I don’t know the answers.
Since unlike Japan where the usage of the word otaku is generally frown aupon, Singapore like the rest of the world subscripts to the belief that otakus are godly beings, the best in the class and have amazing abilities.
While at the same time holding onto the non-romantic titles of being a loser, loner and etc… from a commoner’s point of view.
What is Otaku in Japan?
For the uninitiated, Otaku litarely means people of house or people who stays at home… It’s different from being a hikikomori or NEET but the line between them can be blurred out. It’s used to label people passionate about his hobby, particularly Anime, Manga and Idols.
Otaku for the most part are in the working class, with few exceptions like Japan’s previous Prime Minister Mr. Aso Taro, claiming to also being an Manga Otaku. And they are a very big market in Japan*A*.
BUT Otaku in Japan can mean very bad things depending who’s saying it, be it your superiours like parents, the traditional type of boss, strict teacher, and girlfriend, seeing you as a failure, unproductive member of the society or a bump.
OR a new generation of people like highschool students, youths and etc, with a open western based thinking, thinking of them as passionate, talented?, and creative? Since more game designers, mangaka, animation creators are declaring themselves as an Otaku.
Why such a bad thing?
Cos Japan has always dislike failure…
And Otaku has that feel to it, especially to the older people thinking of them as being childish adults not capable of achieving great stuff. Just look at how Densha Otoko depicts Otaku in general and you will know.
Thus in general Otaku is looked down upon, thou that is slowly changing, somehow… but…
Actually, it seems even the Japanese are moving away from the word “otaku” and instead using the borrowed word “maniac” for a more positive spin to describe people deeply passionate about a certain topic not related to their work.
Example, densha maniac, on a popular television variety show, HOKO X TATE, where they pit the Maniacs against the employees of Japan Rail, to see who knows the company better or more recently the Japan Airlines(JAL) episode.
But why the differences overseas?
Cos recent Americans seems to have a love affair with failures and people who are deemed underdogs… Thus when translated, Otaku becomes either a Nerd, Geek or Japanophile.
And in recent years it seems, geeks are considered cool, tech trend setters *B*.
So in Singapore, where the East and the West mixed, where is the word OTAKU going to stand?
I would have to go that, most sees OTAKU to a certain extent with a degrading meaning, seeing an Otaku as childish, crazed or even lecherous being in the eyes of general public.
While this might be changing with more and more positive reports on how these Otakus capitalized on their hobbies or how “Otakus” can be successful people.
Then I have the causal fans whom use the term, most freely, thinking that it’s cool, like unlocking a new achievement on their XB…
And there’s the enthusiasts that refused to be called an Otaku because of their lack in knowledge compared to those in Japan, a common practice in all around Asia maybe due to the humbleness programmed into us…
Thus after a wonderful 600+ words rants, I still cannot define what is Otaku outside of Japan, or perhaps it’s because human changes and with that definitions change too.
Thou in a recent online opinion polls conducted on our facebook*E*, it seem no one mind being called an Otaku, at most depending on who’s calling. And an Otaku should be someone with in-depth knowledge of their subject.
Disclaimer: BTW, I have never said that I’m an Otaku, I’m an enthusiast of Japanese Culture but am not an Otaku, I will fail as one for sure, I have too much to learn.
With that said, why not you chip in as well, by offering your thoughts on the subject. Please keep this civil, I’m not asking for a flaming but is looking for a proper discussion.
I’ll read every responds so please do comment.
*A* According to the a 2005 statistics released by JETRO, the domestic anime industry alone stands at 207.1 Billion Yen just from Anime Sales, while a report by Japan video software association on the 1st half of 2011 shows Domestic Animation for Adults*, DVD and blu-ray sales at 32,746 Million Yen or slightly more than half a billion SGD, taking up 26.1% of all video sales.
And that is a lot of money. And mind you this is only referring to Video sales… Not including merchandise, advertising, and other Anime related sales.
*Yes, majority of the Animes are for adults.*
*B* According to this very Cute infographics by MasterInIT.org, comparing Geeks and Nerd.
*C* In the Video is Shoko-tan, or Shoko Nakagawa, a well know Idol and a key pusher of Otaku Culture in Japan. She’s a singer, a very good one even. Her latest single is “Horoscope” released on the 11th of January.
*D* This is part of an episode of Densha Otoko, a series based on a supposedly true story from 2ch, a popular Japanese discussion board. This series is accredited for making “Otaku” culture famous in Japan.
*E* 2 informal poll conducted on the Ani-Culture Facebook.
Poll 1: Would mind being called an Otaku? At time of writing, there is 38 votes.
Poll 2: Here’s another Question, Sorry for being so long winded. What do you think an Otaku is outside of Japan? At time of writing, there is 11 votes.
The poll will still be ongoing. The polls are not scientific in anyway and is bad methodologically.