You must’ve heard about a hundred definitions of an otaku. I don’t self-identify as an otaku (please just call me an anime/video game fan), but I’m here to clear up some misconceptions.
According to Wikitionary, the etymology (word origin) means “nerd”. Originally, it’s attributed to a person’s household, which makes sense because a lot of them spend their time there (no offense, it’s just a generalization).
Let’s check out an excerpt of the meaning at UrbanDictionary.com, which is the Oxford/Webster dictionary of the internet (not).
“…Usually an otaku person has nothing better to do with their life so they pass the time by watching anime, playing videogames, surfing the internet (otaku is also used to refer to a nerd/hacker/programmer). ”
This definition has some truth to it, but it comes from a really negative perspective. Yes, otaku “pass the time by watching anime, playing video games, and surfing the internet.” The “nothing better to do with their life” is subjective.
I don’t think it’s right to judge other people’s hobbies so harshly, as long as it’s not infringing on other people’s rights. I believe there is certainly other worse hobbies you can have that are more detrimental to your health.
Otaku (Yes, the plural of otaku is otaku, no “s”. I just checked, haha) are people who are hooked on and obsessed with anime and manga. That’s just a basic definition, but you can be an otaku for other things, such as cosplay, figurines, video games, light novels, visual novels, etc.
I guess the best synonym for an otaku is a “geek” here in America, but I believe otaku take it to a more extreme degree. It can actually be a derogatory term in Japan to how hardcore they take their interest/past time.
My friend and I have this joke where we give you a “level” of otaku. We don’t take it serious, but it’s fun to think about. Remember, I’m just being facetious.
Level 0 – A normal, functioning human being. This person is able to hold a conversation for a decent amount of time. Probably likes sports and working out like normalcools do.
Level 1 – Watches very little anime, most likely the mainstream shonen (Naruto, Bleach, One Piece, Fairy Tail) ones. Probably knows about anime because of Toonami. Possibly labeled as a “weeaboo”?
Level 2 – Watched the ’90s anime when they were younger. Watches some current, top anime series on sites like CrunchyRoll. Talks about it with friends, but doesn’t flaunt their hobby to strangers. Will talk about it for a bit if it’s brought up.
Level 3 – Watches a good amount of series. Talks about it with friends and has a few anime memorabilia. If they hear someone talking about anime, they would talk about it for some time and move on with their day. They play the video games and have some manga on their bookshelf.
Level 4 – Watched a lot of anime series (50+) and is up to date with the current season. Goes to cons and probably cosplays. If you mention their favorite anime, they would be able to talk about it for a looooong time. They play visual novels and read the light novels.
Level 5 – Watched an incredible, massive amounts of anime and has seen animeyou’veneverheardof (pshh, hipster, jk). Will go back to anime they’ve watched previously and marathon it like it’s nothing. They have the waifu pillow and the mouse pad with the “cushion” (you know what I’m talking about). Their entire shelf is anime figurines, plush dolls, manga, and h-games.
Level 6 – ??? I haven’t decided a description for this one. I’m making this up as I go along.
(This is a placeholder for the obligatory “Level OVER 9000” joke, but I refuse to make that. That would be clichéd, right? Does anybody like meta humor?)
Ok, I need to study for my final exam for Psychology (grrr, summer school). Don’t get otaku confused with NEETs and hikikomori. That will be a post in the future. Until next time!
tl;dr: An otaku is someone who is obsessed with a particular entertainment medium.