Otaku are people who are literally obsessed with certain manifestations of pop culture, generally manga, anime or video games. Indefatigable collectors: manic, in fact.

In our country, on average, only the experts in Japanese things (not necessarily otaku) or those who deal with comics and cartoons know the meaning of the term, nor the editorial production has delayed specifically on the subject (if we exclude Generation Otaku by Azuma Hiroki, published by Jaca Book or the novel Train Man, by Nakano Hitori, published in 2007 by Isbn and which has an otaku as its protagonist).

Elsewhere, however, there are Westerners who study otaku, sometimes even enthusiastically embracing their spirit. This is the case of the American Patrick W. Galbraith, anthropologist and researcher, who recently published the book Otaku spaces.
The term otaku originally meant "your home" and was originally used as a second person honorific pronoun. It is in the Sixties that it acquires a new value: science fiction enthusiasts use it for the owners of rare books, as collectors.

But it is subsequently that the word takes on a completely different connotation. When, for example, the science fiction writer Arai uses it in an essay: this could have led to the emulation of fans and the total distortion of meaning compared to the beginnings.

As mentioned, it is not a neutral word in Japanese: it indicates someone separated from the real world, projected into a universe of fantasies and monothematic fixations, often with connotations of sexual deviance.
Even today it is difficult to dismantle the negative imagery that surrounds the otaku in Japan and which is closely intertwined with the terrible news stories that shocked Japanese society in the late 1980s.

In that period, in fact, the crimes of the serial killer Tsutomu Miyazaki who killed and abused four minors were discovered. A huge collection of horror films, anime, as well as video fragments and images of his victims was found in his home. From here to the psychosis towards the otaku it was a short step. Journalist Akio Nakamori referred to the killer as an otaku and the label became final.
For years in the Japanese imagination, an otaku was thought of as a pimply and overweight four-eyed person who does not wash and does not socialize. He stays indoors watching anime, reading manga or playing video games, collects models and posters and dreams of getting married to his waifu, the 2d female character he fell in love with.

There is also a female caricature: a shy girl, with a dark and unattractive appearance, who hides an unbridled passion for shonen-ai and yaoi (homosexual stories between boys) and spends her days playing dating sims ("simulator of appointments ").

For a country like Japan, where public opinion has a considerable weight in everyday life, an otaku is a geek with obsessive obsessions.

Despite everything, otaku culture has a respectable place in the Japanese economy: just think of the famous Akihabara district, which owes part of its fortune to merchandising enthusiasts.
The otaku culture is not limited to manga or video games, but extends to all passions.

In this regard, we cannot fail to mention the idols, boys and girls who, as soloists or in groups, perform in concerts or television shows and who have countless followers of both sexes. Their world revolves all around the fans: the meetings, the signing-copies and the sale of merchandise are almost always sold out thanks to the otaku, for which the idols represent the ideal boy or girl.

The otaku culture is more varied and complex than you think and is not all that well regarded in Japan, but things are slowly changing and society is starting to accept it as an integral part of the Japanese identity.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Hetty Eliot
    Nov 20, 2021 @ 20:02:06

    The depiction of females is just….. disturbing.


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