Otaku is derived from a Japanese term for another person's house or family (お宅, otaku). This word is often used metaphorically, as an honorific second-person pronoun. In this usage, its literal translation is "you". For example, in the anime Macross, first aired in 1982, Lynn Minmay uses the term this way.
The modern slang form, which is distinguished from the older usage by being written only in hiragana (おたく) or katakana (オタク or, less frequently, ヲタク), or rarely in rōmaji, appeared in public discourse in the 1980s, through the work of humorist and essayist Akio Nakamori. His 1983 series An Investigation of "Otaku" (『おたく』の研究 "Otaku" no Kenkyū ), printed in the lolicon magazine Manga Burikko, applied the term to unpleasant fans in caricature. Animators like Haruhiko Mikimoto and Shōji Kawamori had used the term among themselves as an honorific second-person pronoun since the late 1970s. Supposedly, a set of fans kept using it past the point in their relationships where others would have moved on to a less formal style of address. Because this misuse of the word otaku indicated social awkwardness, Nakamori chose the word itself to label the fans.
Another source for the term comes from the works of science fiction author Motoko Arai. In his book Wrong about Japan, Peter Carey interviews the novelist, artist and Gundam chronicler Yuka Minakawa. She reveals that Arai used the word in her novels as a second-person pronoun, and the readers adopted the term for themselves.
In 1989, Tomohiro Machiyama wrote a book called Otaku no Hon (おたくの本 lit. The Book of Otaku ), which delved into the subculture of otaku and has been claimed by scholar Rudyard Pesimo to have popularized the term. Machiyama himself has said that the book's popularity was due to its publishing coincidentally the same year as the arrest of Tsutomu Miyazaki, "The Otaku Murderer."
In modern Japanese slang, the term otaku is most often equivalent to "geek". However, it can relate to a fan of any particular theme, topic, hobby or any form of entertainment. The term otaku can be applied to both males and females. For example, Reki-jo are female otaku interested in Japanese history. While the word is used abroad to mean a fan of anime and manga who enjoys the anime culture, in Japan, the word can be looked down upon as a term for a person with any obsessive interest (not confined to anime and manga) in particular some cases reaching extreme levels such as men falling in love with Dakimakura (Body Pillows). "When these people are referred to as otaku, they are judged for their behaviors - and people suddenly see an “otaku” as a person unable to relate to reality".
Despite the negativity, in Japan the moe-related content was worth ¥88.8 billion ($807 million) in 2003, while some estimated the market could be as much as ¥2 trillion ($18 billion). In 2004 the Nomura Research Institute put the number of otaku in Japan at 2.85 million people. Japan based Tokyo Otaku Mode a place for news relating to Otaku has been liked on facebook almost 10 million times.
The former Prime Minister of Japan Taro Aso also claimed himself to be an otaku, using this subculture to promote Japan in foreign affairs. In recent years some "idol otaku" have been naming themselves simply as Wota (ヲタ) as a way to differentiate from traditional otaku. The word was derived by dropping the last mora, leaving ota (オタ) and then replacing o (オ) with the identically sounding character wo (ヲ), leaving the pronunciation unchanged.
The district of Akihabara in Tokyo has been a notable attraction center for otaku where maid cafes have been set up where waitresses dress up and act like maids or anime characters. Akihabara also has dozens of stores specializing in anime, manga, retro video games, figurines, card games and other collectibles. In Nagoya, students from Nagoya City University started a project on ways to help promote hidden tourist attractions such as the otaku culture to attract more otaku abroad to the city.
The term serves as a label similar to Trekkie or fanboy. However, use of the label can be a source of contention among some anime fans, particularly those who are aware of the negative connotations the term has in Japan. Unpleasant stereotypes about otaku prevail in worldwide fan communities, and some anime fans express concern about the effect these more extreme fans can have on the reputation of their hobby (not unlike sentiments in the comic book and science fiction fandoms).
|“||The otaku, the passionate obsessive, the information age's embodiment of the connoisseur, more concerned with the accumulation of data than of objects, seems a natural crossover figure in today's interface of British and Japanese cultures. I see it in the eyes of the Portobello dealers, and in the eyes of the Japanese collectors: a perfectly calm train-spotter frenzy, murderous and sublime. Understanding otaku -hood, I think, is one of the keys to understanding the culture of the web. There is something profoundly post-national about it, extra-geographic. We are all curators, in the post-modern world, whether we want to be or not.||”|
— Modern boys and mobile girls, April 2001 edition of The Observer
In 2004, Kaoru Kobayashi kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and murdered a seven-year-old first-grade student. Japanese journalist Akihiro Ōtani suspected that Kobayashi's crime was committed by a member of the figure moe zoku even before his arrest. Although Kobayashi was not an otaku, the degree of social hostility against otaku seemed to increase for a while, as suggested by increased targeting of otaku by law enforcement as possible suspects for sex crimes, and by calls from persons in local governments for stricter laws controlling the depiction of eroticism in materials which cater to some otaku (e.g. erotic manga and erotic videogames). Nobuto Hosaka criticised a lot of the hype.
- May 2006 issue of EX Taishuu magazine
- オタク市場の研究(Otaku Shijou no Kenkyuu), 野村總合研究所(Nomura Research Institude), ISBN 978-986-124-768-7
- Pesimo, Rudyard C. (2007). "“Asianizing” Animation in Asia: Digital Content Identity Construction within the Animation Landscapes of Japan and Thailand". Reflections on the Human Condition: Change, Conflict and Modernity. The Nippon Foundation. pp. 124–160.
- Glocom Platform magazine, April 2011
- Japan Focus, April 2011
- "Otaku: Is it a dirty word?". cnnblogs.com. Retrieved 2013-02-08.
- "Japan’s 2-D Lovers: Falling In Love with a Body Pillow". gizmodo.com. Retrieved 2013-02-08.
- "Otaku Business Gives Japan's Economy a Lift". web-japan.org. Retrieved 2013-02-08.
- "Tokyo Otaku Mode has 10 million facebook fans but now what". www.startup-dating.com. Retrieved 2013-02-08.
- Otaku uses manga and anime to improve Foreign Affairs
- Eric Prideaux. Wota lota love. Out on the town with grown men who adore girl idols. The Japan Times, 16 January 2005.
- "Akihabara". japanguide.com. Retrieved 2013-02-08.
- "‘Cosplay’ students promote Nagoya’s highlights". JapanTimes. Retrieved 2013-02-08.
- Eric Prideaux. Girl geeks find manga haven. The Guardian, 1 June 2008.
- Gibson, William (2001-04-01). "Modern boys and mobile girls". London: The Observer.
- "公開質問状". NGO-AMI (in Japanese). 2004-12-09. Retrieved 2008-03-04.
- "Otaku harassed as sex-crime fears mount". The Japan Times. 2005-02-06. Retrieved 2008-01-06.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Otaku|
|Look up otaku in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- "I'm alone, but not lonely" – an early article about Japanese otaku, December 1990
- The Politics of Otaku – a general commentary on the usage and meanings of "otaku" in Japan and internationally, September 2001
- An Introduction to the Otaku Movement (academic paper in English).
- Meet the Geek Elite, Wired Magazine, July 2006
- Michael Manfé – Otakismus (German)
- Kitabayashi, Ken (2004) The Otaku Group from a Business Perspective: Revaluation of Enthusiastic Customers Nomura Research Institute