is a Japanese term used to refer to people with obsessive interests, particularly anime
is the Japanese abbreviated pronunciation of "animation". The definition sometimes changes depending on the context. In English-speaking countries, the term most commonly refers to Japanese animated cartoons....

, manga
Manga is the Japanese word for "comics" and consists of comics and print cartoons . In the West, the term "manga" has been appropriated to refer specifically to comics created in Japan, or by Japanese authors, in the Japanese language and conforming to the style developed in Japan in the late 19th...

 or video games.


Otaku is derived from a Japanese term for another's house or family ( otaku), which is also used as an honorific
An honorific is a word or expression with connotations conveying esteem or respect when used in addressing or referring to a person. Sometimes, the term is used not quite correctly to refer to an honorary title...

 second-person pronoun. The modern slang
Slang is the use of informal words and expressions that are not considered standard in the speaker's language or dialect but are considered more acceptable when used socially. Slang is often to be found in areas of the lexicon that refer to things considered taboo...

 form, which is distinguished from the older usage by being written only in hiragana
is a Japanese syllabary, one basic component of the Japanese writing system, along with katakana, kanji, and the Latin alphabet . Hiragana and katakana are both kana systems, in which each character represents one mora...

 (おたく) or katakana
is a Japanese syllabary, one component of the Japanese writing system along with hiragana, kanji, and in some cases the Latin alphabet . The word katakana means "fragmentary kana", as the katakana scripts are derived from components of more complex kanji. Each kana represents one mora...

 (オタク or, less frequently, ヲタク), or rarely in rōmaji, appeared in the 1980s. In the anime Macross
is a series of science fiction mecha anime, directed by Shōji Kawamori of Studio Nue in 1982. The franchise features a fictional history of Earth/Humanity after the year 1999. It consists of three TV series, four movies, six OVAs, one light novel and five manga series, all sponsored by Big West...

, first aired in 1982, the term was used by Lynn Minmay as an honorific term. It appears to have been coined by the humorist and essayist Akio Nakamori
Akio Nakamori
, real name , is a columnist and editor born on January 1, 1960 in Mie Prefecture, Japan. He is credited as popularizing the term "otaku" in its modern colloquial usage. After dropping out of Meiji University's Nakano Junior and Senior High Schools, he graduated from Wako University...

 in his 1983 series , printed in the lolicon
, also romanised as lolikon or rorikon, is a Japanese portmanteau of the phrase "Lolita complex". In Japan, the term describes an attraction to underage girls or an individual with such an attraction...

 magazine Manga Burikko
Manga Burikko
was a lolicon hentai manga magazine published by Serufu Shuppan from 1982 to 1985 in Japan. The magazine was launched as a competitor to Lemon People, but it only lasted three years. The manga in the magazine were generally bishōjo and lolita manga which were mostly science fiction, parody, shōjo...

. Animators like Haruhiko Mikimoto
Haruhiko Mikimoto
is a Japanese anime character designer, illustrator and manga artist. Mostly active during the 1980s, during that decade he rose to promience and is considered one of the top character designers of his time....

 and Shōji Kawamori
Shoji Kawamori
is a Japanese anime creator, screenwriter and mechanical designer, having created or co-created such notable series as The Super Dimension Fortress Macross, The Vision of Escaflowne, Earth Maiden Arjuna, Genesis of Aquarion, Macross 7, and Macross Frontier. He is currently executive director at the...

 used the term among themselves as an honorific second-person pronoun since the late 1970s.

Another source for the term comes from the works of science fiction author Motoko Arai
Motoko Arai
Motoko Arai is a Japanese science fiction and fantasy writer. Her first novel received an award in 1977 when she was in high school. In 1981 and 1982 she received the Seiun Award for short fiction. She graduated from Rikkyo University in 1983...

. In his book Wrong about Japan
Wrong about Japan
Wrong about Japan is a 2005 book by Peter Carey. It is subtitled A Father's Journey with his Son.Superficially a piece of travel writing, Wrong About Japan, is a partially fictionalized account of Carey's cultural investigation of Japan alongside his son, Charley.-Overview:Carey relates his...

, Peter Carey interviews the novelist, artist and Gundam
The is a metaseries of anime created by Sunrise studios that features giant robots called "Mobile Suits" ; usually the protagonist's MS will carry the name 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 Japan

In modern Japanese slang, the term otaku is most often equivalent to "geek
The word geek is a slang term, with different meanings ranging from "a computer expert or enthusiast" to "a carnival performer who performs sensationally morbid or disgusting acts", with a general pejorative meaning of "a peculiar or otherwise dislikable person, esp[ecially] one who is perceived to...

". However, it can relate to a fan of any particular theme, topic, hobby or any form of entertainment.

The former Prime Minister of Japan
Prime Minister of Japan
The is the head of government of Japan. He is appointed by the Emperor of Japan after being designated by the Diet from among its members, and must enjoy the confidence of the House of Representatives to remain in office...

 Taro Aso
Taro Aso
was the 92nd Prime Minister of Japan serving from September 2008 to September 2009, and was defeated in the August 2009 election.He has served in the House of Representatives since 1979. He was Minister for Foreign Affairs from 2005 to 2007, and was Secretary-General of the LDP briefly in 2007 and...

 also claimed himself to be an otaku, using this subculture to promote Japan in foreign affairs.

On the matter, in recent years "idol
Japanese idol
In Japanese culture, are media personalities in their teens and early twenties who are considered particularly attractive or cute and who will, for a period ranging from several months to a few years, regularly appear in the mass media, e.g...

 otaku" are naming themselves simply as as a way to differentiate from traditional otaku. The word was derived by dropping the last mora
Mora (linguistics)
Mora is a unit in phonology that determines syllable weight, which in some languages determines stress or timing. As with many technical linguistic terms, the definition of a mora varies. Perhaps the most succinct working definition was provided by the American linguist James D...

, leaving and then replacing with the identically sounding character , leaving the pronunciation unchanged.

When otaku are studied, female otaku are largely ignored. Reki-jo
are Japanese women history buffs, who also may use the speech and mannerisms of pre-industrial Japan in their social gatherings. Reki-jo are a kind of otaku, people obsessed with a particular interest...

 are female otaku interested in Japanese history.

Otaku's usually tries to avoid contact with any female, because of their low self-esteem and a possibility of embarrassing themselves if they tried, and is instead more concentrated on collecting figurines of female anime character then to actually go out and interact with one. Thus the word otaku can also be an insult meaning virgin boy, or rarely, virgin girl.

In English

The term is a loanword
A loanword is a word borrowed from a donor language and incorporated into a recipient language. By contrast, a calque or loan translation is a related concept where the meaning or idiom is borrowed rather than the lexical item itself. The word loanword is itself a calque of the German Lehnwort,...

 from the Japanese language
Japanese language
is a language spoken by over 130 million people in Japan and in Japanese emigrant communities. It is a member of the Japonic language family, which has a number of proposed relationships with other languages, none of which has gained wide acceptance among historical linguists .Japanese is an...

. In English, it is usually used to refer to an obsessive fan of anime
is the Japanese abbreviated pronunciation of "animation". The definition sometimes changes depending on the context. In English-speaking countries, the term most commonly refers to Japanese animated cartoons....

Manga is the Japanese word for "comics" and consists of comics and print cartoons . In the West, the term "manga" has been appropriated to refer specifically to comics created in Japan, or by Japanese authors, in the Japanese language and conforming to the style developed in Japan in the late 19th...

 and/or Japanese culture generally, and to a lesser extent Japanese video games.

The term serves as a label similar to Trekkie
A Trekkie or Trekker is a fan of the Star Trek franchise, or of specific television series or films within that franchise.-History:In 1967, science fiction editor Arthur W...

 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
Comic book
A comic book or comicbook is a magazine made up of comics, narrative artwork in the form of separate panels that represent individual scenes, often accompanied by dialog as well as including...

 and science fiction
Science fiction
Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginary but more or less plausible content such as future settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, aliens, and paranormal abilities...


The term otaku is close in connotation to the English nerd
Nerd is a derogatory slang term for an intelligent but socially awkward and obsessive person who spends time on unpopular or obscure pursuits, to the exclusion of more mainstream activities. Nerds are considered to be awkward, shy, and unattractive...

, but the closest English-language analogue to otaku is probably the British English term anorak
Anorak (slang)
In British slang an anorak is a person who has a very strong interest, perhaps obsessive, in niche subjects. This interest may be unacknowledged or not understood by the general public...

. 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
is a Japanese textboard. In 2007 there were 2.5 million posts made every day. Launched in 1999, it has gained significant influence in Japanese society, comparable to that of traditional mass media such as television, radio, and magazines. As of 2008, the site generates revenue upwards of ¥100...

, 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
William Gibson
William Gibson is an American-Canadian science fiction author.William Gibson may also refer to:-Association football:*Will Gibson , Scottish footballer...

's 1996 novel Idoru
Idoru is the second book in William Gibson's Bridge trilogy. Idoru is a science-fiction novel set in a postmodern, dystopian, cyberpunk future...

, which has several references to otaku.


In Japan there has been some negativity towards otaku and otaku culture. Tsutomu Miyazaki
Tsutomu Miyazaki
, also known as The Otaku Murderer, The Little Girl Murderer, and Dracula, was a Japanese serial killer.-Background:Planaria's premature birth left him with deformed hands, which were permanently gnarled and fused directly to the wrists, necessitating him to move his entire forearm in order to...

 became known as "The Otaku Murderer" in 1989. His bizarre murders fueled a moral panic
Moral panic
A moral panic is the intensity of feeling expressed in a population about an issue that appears to threaten the social order. According to Stanley Cohen, author of Folk Devils and Moral Panics and credited creator of the term, a moral panic occurs when "[a] condition, episode, person or group of...

 against otaku.

In 2004, Kaoru Kobayashi kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and murdered a seven-year-old first-grade student. Japanese journalist Akihiro Ōtani
Akihiro Otani
, a Japanese journalist, known for his political crusade in the Japanese mass media against otaku and his stake in the junior idol industry.- References :...

 suspected that Kobayashi's crime was committed by a member of the figure moe zoku
Figure moe zoku
is a Japanese term which refers to "Otaku who collect figurines". Japanese journalist Akihiro Ōtani claimed that this group was composed of potential criminals. Originally, the term wasn't related to lolicon, but instead to agalmatophilia, since the figurines were not alive.-Summary:In Japan, the...

 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
is a Japanese word that, in the West, is used when referring to sexually explicit or pornographic comics and animation, particularly those of Japanese origin such as anime, manga, and computer games. The word hentai is a kanji compound of 変 and 態...

 and erotic videogames
An or Ero-ga is a Japanese video or computer game that features erotic content, usually in the form of anime-style artwork. Eroge originated from galge, but unlike galge, they feature erotic/pornographic content.-History:...

). Nobuto Hosaka
Nobuto Hosaka
Nobuto Hosaka is a Japanese politician and member of the House of Representatives for the Social Democratic Party. He is currently the mayor of Setagaya, Tokyo....

 criticised a lot of the hype.


Otakon is a fan convention in the United States focusing on East Asian popular culture and its fandom. The name is a portmanteau derived from convention and the Japanese word otaku...

" (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
State College, Pennsylvania
State College is the largest borough in Centre County in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. It is the principal city of the State College, Pennsylvania Metropolitan Statistical Area which encompasses all of Centre County. As of the 2010 census, the borough population was 42,034, and roughly double...

, Pennsylvania
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a U.S. state that is located in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The state borders Delaware and Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, New York and Ontario, Canada, to the north, and New Jersey to...

, in 1994 and has been held in Baltimore
Baltimore is the largest independent city in the United States and the largest city and cultural center of the US state of Maryland. The city is located in central Maryland along the tidal portion of the Patapsco River, an arm of the Chesapeake Bay. Baltimore is sometimes referred to as Baltimore...

, Maryland
Maryland is a U.S. state located in the Mid Atlantic region of the United States, bordering Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia to its south and west; Pennsylvania to its north; and Delaware to its east...

 since 1999. Currently, the largest convention of its kind is Anime Expo
Anime Expo
Anime Expo, abbreviated AX, is an American anime convention held in Los Angeles, California and organized by the non-profit Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation . With rare exceptions, the convention is traditionally held on the July 4th weekend and lasts for four days...

 which takes place in Los Angeles annually.

Otakorp Inc. gave permission to Konami
is a Japanese leading developer and publisher of numerous popular and strong-selling toys, trading cards, anime, tokusatsu, slot machines, arcade cabinets and video games...

 to use the name "Otacon" in any of their Metal Gear
Metal Gear (series)
is a series of stealth video games created by Hideo Kojima and developed and published by Konami. The first game, Metal Gear, was released in 1987 for the MSX2. The player takes control of a special forces operative Solid Snake who is assigned to find the eponymous superweapon "Metal Gear", a...

video game series. "Otacon" is the codename of character Hal Emmerich, a scientist and self-professed otaku.

See also

External links

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