come in many flavors, but one thing can be said for each and every one of them. They've each staked out their own favorite thing, and they obsess over it relentlessly. Regardless of other intelligence, an otaku
will have an obsessive, unhealthy, and almost encyclopedic knowledge of their chosen topic.
There are almost as many flavors of this type of character as there are things under the sun, but a few of the major ones are:
Essentially, someone could be an otaku
about just about anything: politics, sports, history, etc. When otaku
is used by itself by a Westerner, 99% of the time it will mean "anime/manga otaku".
is an adequate translation. However, in modern use, both words may carry a shadow of the right connotations of obsessive interest and/or social ineptitude; see the geek
pages for details. Think of the older, more pejorative senses of geek
and you're on the right track - the British term anorak
is also a close translation. In Japan, the term Otaku does not carry a positive meaning, at all.
A semi-related term is hikikomori
, which refers to a teenager or young adult who withdraws completely from society for an extended period, typically isolating themselves within their parents' house and become psychologically fixated to particular hobbies; hikikomori in media are usually otaku of some sort. Hikikomori are also critically viewed as lazy and outright creepy, which doesn't help the perception of otaku much. Especially after 1989, when serial killer Tsutomu Miyazaki was shown to be both an otaku and hikikomori, leading to a moral panic.
Otakuism is associated with men, with the notable exceptions of the Fangirls
, Wrench Wench
, the Cosplay Otaku Girl
, and creators of a certain kind of comic
. However, females seem to be either getting more common lately or becoming more relaxed about showing it.
The term itself comes from the very polite form of "you", which can come off as socially awkward. The best guess as to how the term became associated with obsessive fandom is that the word was an inside joke among the production staff of the anime series Super Dimension Fortress Macross
in 1982, and that they would have characters (notably Lynn Minmay) use the over-polite form of address, even when inappropriate. Fans picked it up and used it in conversation between each other even well past the point when they would use other forms of "you", such as "kimi" or "Anata" or "omae". A writer for a Japanese magazine noted the meme and wrote an article that cemented the term as being used for obsessive fans.
See also: Occidental Otaku
. Compare: Loony Fan
(who are more weird than obsessive)
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Anime and Manga
- Kung Fu Panda has a rather hilarious take on the otaku phenomenon, with Po as a Furious Five enthusiast. Not only does he know all the tales of their exploits, recognize each sacred or amazing artifact in the temple with ecstatic glee, and pour out gushing praise of Crane in his bedchamber to the point he hovers outside the door waiting for the master to speak again, but he confesses to them that he has all their action figures—which of course are much smaller than the real thing, except Mantis who is "the same size." The fact he is chosen to learn kung fu at their side and becomes the Designated Hero is probably an example of an Ascended Fanboy as well—the artifact-examining scene certainly smacks of it.
- The title character in Muriels Wedding is a hard-core marriage otaku, who makes it a point to go to every dress boutique in Sydney with fake stories about comatose family members to score pictures of herself in various wedding dresses.
- In the Discworld novel Going Postal, Apprentice Postman Stanley Howler is an obsessive pin collector, to the point (no pun intended) that all the other collectors in Ankh-Morpork think he's "a little weird about pins". After the main character invents postage stamps, Stanley takes up stamp collecting... with pretty much the same obsessiveness he had for pins.
- Don Quixote makes this Older Than Steam. Even before he goes crazy enough to actually try to become a knight, he's arguing with his friends over which knights are the strongest, overthinking all the technical aspects of the chivalry stories, and even being tempted to write Fan Fiction of one of his favorites. Disturbingly similar to some modern-day fandoms...
- You can see this quote in Chapter I, Part I:
You must know, then, that the above-named gentleman whenever he was at leisure (which was mostly all the year round) gave himself up to reading books of chivalry with such ardor and avidity that he almost entirely neglected the pursuit of his field-sports, and even the management of his property.
- In World War Z, there is an Otaku of the hikikomori type who is so obsessed with studying the Zombie Apocalypse on the Internet that he doesn't treat it as something to worry about until it reaches his apartment building, stuck with useless information and trapped in a very zombie-friendly Japan. He manages to survive, finds a genuine katana from a WW 2 veteran's flat, and takes a level in badass.
- And then he gets trained by a blind swordsman, and gains a couple thousand more levels in badass.
- Annie Wilkes of Misery fame may be the best example of this trope, at least in the west. She's also an Axe Crazy Hikikomori.
Live Action TV
- Western (sort of) example: Hiro from Heroes.
- Densha Otoko centers around a group of otaku who meet over an online message board, and their attempts to get one of their number to win the heart of a lady.
- The geeks in Freaks and Geeks as well. One episode has them cosplaying for a convention as Luke Skywalker, Yoda and the Fourth Doctor.
- Kamen Rider Fourze uses the term several times, in reference to female lead Yuki Jojima (an outer space and rocketry fangirl) and Goth girl Tomoko Nozama (a fangirl of insects and the urban legend of the Kamen Rider).
- Kaine in A Profile is an anime and dating sim otaku, and quite open about it. Despite this, he's even more popular than the main character.
- Takumi Nishijō, the protagonist from Chaos;Head, is a hikikomori and a massive otaku (Dolls, Anime, and Gamer) to the point of spending all of his time in his room (a cargo container on the roof of a building) and vastly preferring the company of his anime-based dolls to any real girls; this preference exhibits itself most strongly (besides his constant exclamations to that effect) by him dreaming/hallucinating about his favorite doll being real, alive and talking to him in virtually every episode (as well as being married to him, iirc). Ironically enough, it turns out that Takumi himself is a hallucination-made-real, answering the age-old question, "Can dreams dream?" with a very emphatic "Yes." Evidently, the trouble is getting them to stop.
- Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons.
- The Powerpuff Girls episode "Collect Her" features a negative example in the from of Lenny Baxter, a fan who spent much of his spare time collecting Powerpuff memorabilia. When Lenny finds out he has obtained every known piece of merchandise, he goes insane at the prospect of not being able to add more items to his collection, leading him to steal the girls' personal belongings and, eventually, kidnapping the girls themselves.
- Shoko Nakagawa, famous blogger, cosplayer, and TV personality in Japan. You may know her for singing the opening and insert song for Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann.
- "Seito Sakakibara" (his real identity is sealed) was a fourteen-year old Serial Killer and otaku. In his late twenties today, he's most famous for decapitating a mentally handicapped ten year-old and spiking the child's head to his school gate. "Sakakibara" contributed a lot to the moral panic that were mentally unhealthy.
- Tsutomu Miyazaki, also known as the Otaku Killer, was a Serial Killer and an anime and horror film otaku who preyed on little girls. There's a lot of debate on whether or not he liked anime at all. The horror movie collection is true, though.