It’s surprising how easy it can be to push a false narrative to the level where it becomes accepted by default by many within a population, despite not representing reality.
The word “otaku” has interesting origins and, despite being nominally identical to the English “geek” or “nerd,” has a particular connotation here in the West. Those who call themselves “otaku” are often quickly corrected by ostensibly more experienced fans, who point out that the word is some kind of slur in Japan and has an overwhelmingly negative stigma.
- Otaku are normal people who are just really passionate about their hobbies.
- Stereotypes of otaku exist, but are outdated. Otaku are too diverse a group to generalize.
- Bad examples of otaku exist, but they’re outliers and most people are fine with otaku in general.
It’s a far cry from the heavily stigmatized narrative we see from many Western fans. I know of some English-speaking circles in which “otaku” is equivalent to “degenerate.” The false narrative surrounding the word fosters a hostile environment that ostracizes people based on how they choose to identify themselves. Those whose tastes align with Japanese anime otaku (Moé anime, visual novels, figure collecting) and, as a result, identify more with them are looked down upon, because, according to the narrative, “otaku” are a bad thing in Japan.
Otaku aren’t some clone army of mouthbreathers that exist to be scapegoated by the media and jaded anime fans. They’re a diverse group. Some of them are even politically active. There’s a lot more to otaku than what people with an agenda want you to see.
(You can read more about the issues surrounding the word “otaku” in the first issue of NYAAN – The Magazine)