The Akihabara neighborhood of Tokyo, a popular gathering site for otaku

Otaku (おたく / オタク?) is a Japanese term used to refer to people with obsessive interests, particularly anime, manga or video games.



Otaku is derived from a Japanese term for another's house or family (お宅, otaku), which is also used as an honorific second-person pronoun. 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 the 1980s. In the anime Macross, first aired in 1982, the term was used by Lynn Minmay as an honorific term.[1][2] It appears to have been coined by the humorist and essayist Akio Nakamori in his 1983 series An Investigation of "Otaku" (『おたく』の研究 "Otaku" no Kenkyū?), printed in the lolicon magazine Manga Burikko. Animators like Haruhiko Mikimoto and Shōji Kawamori used the term among themselves as an honorific second-person pronoun since the late 1970s.[2]

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.

"Densha Otoko", Famous otaku story

In Japan

In modern Japanese slang, the term otaku is most often equivalent to "geek".[3] However, it can relate to a fan of any particular theme, topic, hobby or any form of entertainment.[4]

The former Prime Minister of Japan Taro Aso also claimed himself to be an otaku, using this subculture to promote Japan in foreign affairs.[5]

On the matter, in recent years "idol otaku" are 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 (?) with the identically sounding character wo (?), leaving the pronunciation unchanged.[6]

When otaku are studied, female otaku are largely ignored.[7] Reki-jo are female otaku interested in Japanese history.

In English

The term is a loanword from the Japanese language. In English, it is usually used to refer to an obsessive fan of anime/manga and/or Japanese culture generally, and to a lesser extent Japanese video games.

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).[8]

The term otaku is close in connotation to the English nerd, but the closest English-language analogue to otaku is probably the British English term anorak. Both of these English-language terms have more emphatically negative connotations of poor social skills and obsessive interest in a topic that seems strange, niche or boring to others. It is not applied to a socially awkward intelligent person who appears fairly "normal," and merely has an interest in certain typically 'geekish' pursuits (video games, comic books, computers, etc.).

While otaku in English-speaking contexts is generally understood to mean geek or even fan, this usage is not widely known in Japan and hence casual use of the term may confuse native Japanese speakers. Self-identification as an otaku may seem strange to them, and they may be offended if a non-Japanese speaker calls them an otaku.

To indicate that one is talking about the Japanese definition rather than the English loanword, the spelling wotaku (ヲタク) is sometimes used. On Japanese forums such as 2channel, however, otaku (オタク) and wotaku (ヲタク) are used interchangeably, depending on the mood and personal style of the poster.

The term was popularized by William Gibson's 1996 novel Idoru, which has several references to otaku.

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.[9]
— Modern boys and mobile girls, April 2001 edition of The Observer


In Japan there has been some negativity towards otaku and otaku culture. Tsutomu Miyazaki became known as "The Otaku Murderer" in 1989. His bizarre murders fueled a moral panic against otaku.

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.[10]

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).[11] Nobuto Hosaka criticised a lot of the hype.[11]


"Otakon" (short for "otaku convention") is a convention organized by Otakorp, Inc, a non-profit organization. Otakon is focused on anime, manga, East Asian culture, and its fandom. The second largest convention of this type in the US and the largest on the east coast, it began in State College, Pennsylvania, in 1994 and has been held in Baltimore, Maryland since 1999. Currently, the largest convention of its kind is Anime Expo which takes place in Los Angeles annually.[citation needed]

Otakorp Inc. gave permission to Konami to use the name "Otacon" in any of their Metal Gear video game series.[12] "Otacon" is the codename of character Hal Emmerich, a scientist and self-professed otaku.

See also


  1. ^ May 2006 issue of EX Taishuu magazine
  2. ^ a b 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
  3. ^ Glocom Platform magazine, April 2011
  4. ^ Japan Focus, April 2011
  5. ^ Otaku uses manga and anime to improve Foreign Affairs
  6. ^ Eric Prideaux. Wota lota love. Out on the town with grown men who adore girl idols. The Japan Times, 16 January 2005.
  7. ^ Aoyama, Tomoko (April 2009). "Eureka Discovers Culture Girls, Fujoshi, and BL: Essay Review of Three Issues of the Japanese Literary magazine, Yuriika (Eureka)". Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific 20. http://intersections.anu.edu.au/issue20/aoyama.htm. 
  8. ^ Eric Prideaux. Girl geeks find manga haven. The Guardian, 1 June 2008.
  9. ^ Gibson, William (2001-04-01). "Modern boys and mobile girls". London: The Observer. http://observer.guardian.co.uk/life/story/0,6903,466391,00.html. 
  10. ^ "公開質問状" (in Japanese). NGO-AMI. 2004-12-09. http://picnic.to/~ami/ool.htm. Retrieved 2008-03-04. 
  11. ^ a b "Otaku harassed as sex-crime fears mount". The Japan Times. 2005-02-06. http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fd20050206t3.html. Retrieved 2008-01-06. 
  12. ^ Chemistry Encyclopedia entry for Otakon

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Otaku — (jap. おたく, オタク, ヲタク) bezeichnet im Japanischen Fans, die ein großes Maß an Zeit und Geld für ihre Leidenschaft aufwenden und ihr mit großer Neigung nachgehen. Es wird ähnlich wie die englischen Wörter Nerd oder Geek benutzt. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Otaku — (おたく en hiragana, ou お宅 en faisant usage du kanji) est une personne qui consacre une certaine partie de son temps à une activité d intérieur comme les mangas, animes, les idoles japonaises, ou encore les jeux vidéo. Le terme japonais est composé… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • otaku — Bendroji  informacija Kirčiuota forma: otãku Rūšis: naujai skolintos šaknies žodis Kalbos dalis: daiktavardis Kilmė: japonų, anglų k. perraša otaku. Pateikta: 2014 11 02. Reikšmė ir vartosena Apibrėžtis: japoniškoji subkultūra, kuria persiėmęs… …   Lietuvių kalbos naujažodžių duomenynas

  • otaku — /ō täˈkoo or takˈoo/ (derogatory) plural noun In Japan, socially inept young people with an obsessive interest in computer technology …   Useful english dictionary

  • Otaku — El barrio Akihabara en Tokio es un lugar popular de reunión para otakus. La palabra OTAKU es un término japonés para referirse a la gente que posee interés particularmente en el anime, manga. En el mundo occidental, el término de Otaku es… …   Wikipedia Español

  • Otaku — Un otaku (おたく) es conocido fuera de Japón como un nerd con gusto bastante marcado por anime y/o manga. En su país de origen, el significado es mas cercano a la definicion de friki,una persona que se repliega sobre sí misma y vive únicamente para… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • otaku — Person who really**3 is hooked on Japanese comics. She can t stop reading those Ranma 1/2 issues. She s a real otaku …   Dictionary of american slang

  • otaku — Person who really**3 is hooked on Japanese comics. She can t stop reading those Ranma 1/2 issues. She s a real otaku …   Dictionary of american slang

  • otaku — {{#}}{{LM O46411}}{{〓}} {{[}}otaku{{]}} ‹o·ta·ku› {{《}}▍ s.com.{{》}} Aficionado al manga y a otros productos de animación japoneses …   Diccionario de uso del español actual con sinónimos y antónimos

  • Otaku no Video — DVD cover of North American release of Otaku no Video. おたくのビデオ (Otaku no Bideo) …   Wikipedia

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