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Hey all, i've just started a wicked project on the difference between Japanese and Western otaku for UNI. I've been researching and come across how Otaku is an insult in Japan, connoting an obsessive, antisocial geek. I sometimes get that from my mates who don't like anime, but i sort of wear it as a badge of pride. But i was wandering if anyone relates to Japanese otaku, not just through a love of anime, but through being singled out as geeky and anti-scoial?

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Something I saw a while back was an ep of a British show called Japanorama (I think that was it) where they focused on the Otaku culture. From the impression I got from it otakuness is not in fact an insult in Japan, but rather a way of life. Those who are Otaku's are actually proud of living that style of life. Was a while since I saw the ep so I can't remember much else. But if you're looking for something try and find that ep.

Edit: just searched the series and it's series 2 episode 2 that I'm referring to.

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Cheers, i'll check that out.

Being an Otaku is definitely a way of life, but it is a marginalized, subcultural way of life, structured against dominant Japanese ideologies. I know people thread all the time about being devalued by the mainstream, being cast as liking imature cartoons etc. However, in the West that kind of thing happens all the time. In Japan (as far as i can gather from research) 'otaku' is a pejorative that carries much more weight. What i want to know is if anyone feels a connection to Japanese otaku, not because of loving anime (which is obvious), but because of being devalued, stereotyped as 'obsessive and geeky'.

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I'm not really obsessed with anime. It's just a hobby, and I have tons of others, such a drawing, music, and games. Otakus tend to be obsessive with one thing in particular, and that can pretty much range to anime, games, music, models, or pop idols.

Otakus tend to have a bad rap in Japanese media, such as the news, because a number of crimes have been committed by people who watched anime. By definition, yeah these people were Otakus, but not everybody who watches EVA is going to go out and choke the next girl they see. But Otaku is just a stereotype, just like gangsta or emo is in the state.

There's no real point on stereotyping yourself, or living up to it.

I'm getting of my soapbox, and I probably went way off topic. ;___;

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[COLOR=DarkOrange]I'm obsessed with anime, but check it out.

Okay, the nerdiest otaku in Japan and the power-nerds in America are just as bad as each other. Reclusive, internet-obsessed, only care about nerdy stuff. The difference is the word, really. In Japan 'otaku' might only refer to hardcore guys. In america the words 'nerd' and 'geek' and such mean nothing. We use them OOC so often it's laughable, as is most of the words we use.

And also, in America anyone who's not a geek has no idea what geeks do. They only see the quiet kid who looks weak - not what he does at home other than 'play video games.'

Also, most nerds in America aren't nearly as extreme as Japanese ones. In America, it's uncommon for nerds to be much more than people who play video games, and even then they usually just play the popular games. I know a ton of nerds who are, hobby-wise, only a step away from normal, they just happen to be nerdy-types.

Otaku are much more hardcore and more openly visible. They have [i]entire stores full of anime porn[/i] and anime on TV all the damn time. Everyone knows how crazy they are, and a hell of a lot more of them are hardcore, so it's more serious there.

Really, hardcore nerdiness is kind of a new thing in America.[/COLOR]

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[QUOTE=2007DigitalBoy][COLOR=DarkOrange]
Really, hardcore nerdiness is kind of a new thing in America.[/COLOR][/QUOTE]
Tell that to the Trekkies. :p

~Dagger~

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[QUOTE=Dagger]Tell that to the Trekkies. :p

~Dagger~[/QUOTE]

[COLOR=DarkOrange]Ah, yes, there have always been the Star Wars fans and the Trekkies, but they were much more of a niche thing. There have only recently been a whole ton of hardcore nerds and they are much more openly so. Plus they fit into more categories than just a movie/tv show fan.[/COLOR]

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[SIZE=1][FONT=Georgia]All in all otaku's just a term for a person who is overly-obsessive with his or her hobby (most commonly for manga or anime though). And yeah, they are thought to be antisocial and loner-like.

[QUOTE]But i was wandering if anyone relates to Japanese otaku, not just through a love of anime, but through being singled out as geeky and anti-scoial?[/QUOTE]

I really don't know many people who are both obsessive over anime and a loner. My friends who are into anime tend to be... crazy and talkative. I, myself, am crazy and talkative haha. So, to answer your question, no I'm not really singled out or anti-social in any sort. I'm a geek for sure. I'm an A+ student, I play video games, I read manga, I looooove Star Wars.. I can keep going.. but definitely not a loner.[/FONT][/SIZE]

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[QUOTE=Dagger]Tell that to the Trekkies. :p

~Dagger~[/QUOTE]

[quote name='2007DigitalBoy][COLOR=DarkOrange']Ah, yes, there have always been the Star Wars fans and the Trekkies, but they were much more of a niche thing. There have only recently been a whole ton of hardcore nerds and they are much more openly so. Plus they fit into more categories than just a movie/tv show fan.[/COLOR][/quote]

[SIZE=1]Recent ? Are you kidding ? Star Wars and Star Trek have had their legions of hardcore fans since the late 70s. Seriously, go to a convention for one and I guarantee you that a lot of the people walking around in Jedi robes or Klingon foreheads are going to be in their thirties and older.

Maybe it's become more socially acceptable to be a Trekkie, but that doesn't mean they weren't there in huge numbers. [/SIZE]

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[SIZE=1]Well, it's helpful first of all to make distinctions here (they won't be sharp - let me repeat that for emphasis, these points are NOT ABSOLUTE - but they are useful to illustrate the question). Recently - I'm talking only in the past decade, decade and a half - there have been strong shifts in how geeks/nerds/whatever are seen in the U.S.. I don't want to say it's become [i]fashionable[/i] to be a geek, but it's now a more or less neutral term. Eccentricity in some areas is almost to be expected in people now, although they are also expected to have discretion about it (that is, they can shut up about their interests when they need to). To be a geek can often mean that you have a lot of future job potential.

Now, the Japanese situation is a little different. Again, blanket statements don't always apply, and [i]certainly[/i] not ones about an entire country, but are [i]heuristically[/i] (look it up) helpful. Japan, too, has been changing as of late, especially after the famous [URL=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Densha_Otoko][U]Densha Otoko[/U][/URL] affair. "Otaku" is no longer just an insult: although there's still a stigma attached to the word, it's slowly moving towards the same kind of neutrality as our word "geek." However, I don't think this is necessarily changing the general Japanese stance towards "otakuness" as a whole, but only towards certain [i]surface traits[/i] of being an otaku (like watching anime and being shy).

(It's sometimes said over here, in grand pronouncements, that the Japanese treat animation as an "art form" - as opposed to us, who mainly see it as entertainment for children. I am not sure how this is supposed to work; I often suspect that the people who think this imagine a whole society holding hands and singing "We Are The World" while watching Naruto. While ordinary adults are perfectly willing to enjoy anime on occasion - otherwise there wouldn't be adult-oriented stuff like Hataraki Man and Miyazaki films wouldn't break box office records - the chief audience for the stuff is still children and young adults... and otaku. Everyone else has mostly moved on)

When I talk about "otaku" from here on, I'm not talking about people who are fans of x, y, or z, or who are just "shy" or whatever. I'm talking about a [i]class of people who have a very particular place[/i] (or, better: non-place) [i]in the society[/i]. It's fine to watch anime now and then, but an otaku in [i]this[/i] sense is something else. An otaku is someone who, when given some money and a choice between buying 1) food or 2) a limited edition figurine for some new series, will choose 2. Their [i]entire lives[/i] revolve around fandom - and, I might add, the anime industry as it is today would not exist without such otaku who are willing to feed their lives and most of their finances into supporting it.

Mind you, I am [i]not[/i] making a case about whether this kind of life is itself good or bad, only how it is [i]seen[/i]. The general disapproval of otaku has nothing to do with whatever fandom they subscribe to (that's really only a secondary association), but with the fact that they have broken away from all other social obligations - i.e. from the rest of society. They are seen as parasitic, and from there it's easy to elide otakuness with all other anti-social elements: otaku become perverts, murderers, thieves, if not [i]really[/i] then at least potentially. This is a huge difference from the general American take on extremely isolated "geeks," who are (for the most part) seen as only harming [i]themselves[/i], not living up to [i]their[/i] potential, ruining [i]their[/i] lives. They're seen as a "waste," but basically harmless. A Japanese otaku is really taken as a kind of cancer on the social good.

I mentioned Densha Otoko before, which has become the new test case for how the Japanese treat otaku. In the end, I don't think it's made any big difference. An otaku is seen as useless at best, and at worst a blight on the country; an otaku who is willing to [i]step up and engage the world[/i], such as by saving a woman on a train from someone harassing her, is by definition no longer an otaku in my sense, no matter what shows he may enjoy or how insular he may be. At that point he has become a genuine social element. The shift that Densha Otoko indicates is not towards acceptance of "otakuness," but the recognition that people who have certain [i]traits[/i] usually associated with otaku may not be irredeemable. The guiding principle remains the necessity of social participation and contribution to the whole, so on that level nothing has changed. "Otaku" may become an acceptable word, the same as our "geek," but that doesn't mean that living the life of an otaku (as I mean the word) is suddenly okay. And even so, I add as a coda, it doesn't mean that all the old associations have fallen away; not as long as a professor in Japan who mentions to his students that he watches anime can suddenly find himself out of a job.[/SIZE]

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Guest Lambinate
It seems that an opposition has been established here between American 'geek', and Japanes 'otaku'. The latter is explained as being represented as more diabolical then the former. It's easy for us to deploy a word like 'geek', because we know that being an anime 'geek' is actually a source of pleasure; intelectual stimulation and subcultural identity. We know that a 'geek' is cool and i think that this rubs off on our lesser indictment of American representations of geeks. Yet, it's hard to know much about Japanese culture unless your part of it. That's why its easy to adopt stereotypes arived at from popular media sources. Sure, these representations are true in that they are represntations. But whilst we have a qualitative understanding of American 'geek', we have a purely academic understanding of Japanese 'otaku', which gets us nowhere.

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[COLOR=goldenrod][quote name='2007DigitalBoy][COLOR=DarkOrange']Really, hardcore nerdiness is kind of a new thing in America.[/COLOR][/quote]Hehe, Dagger already beat me to it, but I was going to point out that my mom is a die hard Trekkie. LOL! And that's not recent. That was back before any of you were born no less. ^_~[QUOTE=Gavin][SIZE=1]Recent ? Are you kidding ? Star Wars and Star Trek have had their legions of hardcore fans since the late 70s. Seriously, go to a convention for one and I guarantee you that a lot of the people walking around in Jedi robes or Klingon foreheads are going to be in their thirties and older.

Maybe it's become more socially acceptable to be a Trekkie, but that doesn't mean they weren't there in huge numbers. [/SIZE][/QUOTE]Hehe, seems that you know what I'm talking about Gavin. My Mom's a pretty fair Star Wars fan as well.

But yeah, maybe you weren't born yet DB, or they weren't as out in the open, but those hard core nerdy fans were there.

As for the topic, I'm a pretty die hard fan of certain fantasy authors, enough that most of my friends my age think I'm weird for loving to read books that are as they put it, too thick. But seriously, 300-500 pages isn't thick! XP But since I'm not anti-social I guess I don't really fit into a true nerdy/otaku mold.[/COLOR]

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[quote name='Aaryanna][COLOR=goldenrod]But yeah, maybe you weren't born yet DB, or they [B]weren't as out in the open[/B'], but those hard core nerdy fans were there. .[/COLOR][/quote]

[COLOR=DarkOrange]That's what I meant. Hardcore nerds are only recently big enough to be considered a social class. they used to be the occasional weired guy in your neighboorhood, but now they're extremely common, and you can find them all over the place (myself, for example, am a hardcore nerd more than anyone I've ever met in person, and yet I also happen to be well-known, as well as I know other hardcore nerds even at school.)[/COLOR]

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[QUOTE=Dagger]Tell that to the Trekkies. :p

~Dagger~[/QUOTE]

[color=deeppink]Dude, "Trekkie" is not the preferred nomenclature. "Trekker," please. ; )[/color]

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[quote name='Lambinate]...it's hard to know much about Japanese culture unless your [sic] part of it. That's why its easy to adopt stereotypes arived [sic] at from popular media sources. Sure, these representations are true in that they are represntations [sic]. But whilst [sic'] we have a qualitative understanding of American 'geek', we have a purely academic understanding of Japanese 'otaku', which gets us nowhere.[/quote]I'm missing a lot of this, aside from the broad point (representations are true in that they're representations? "qualitative understanding?"). While none of us are Japanese (anyone want to correct me on this?), I think it's been fairly widely accepted that Japanese society has taken an extremely negative view of otaku and have commonly associated them with criminality and the antisocial. So far as I know this has been the case since the Miyazaki arrest two decades ago. As for the [i]current[/i] situation, I confess to getting my own info mostly from some old industry vets that hang out on the Animesuki boards (the first rule on the internet is, of course, to never trust anyone, but if those guys are fake then they're quite good at it). The situation for otaku, if they are correct, has not much turned around. Anyways, I consider most of this stuff firm enough to treat as fact (here following William James: "the truth is what works")

The question I (maybe not everyone else) treat above is not "what is it like to be an otaku?" That requires much more of a jump than I need to make (and relativism is, I think, a fair objection). Neither is it "what is an otaku?", a kind of question that mostly leads to chasing one's tail. I only ask, "how does Japanese society (on average) tend to treat otaku, and what reasoning does that treatment follow?" You can find, I think, a good quarter-century's worth of evidence for the first part of the question (which someone more dedicated to hard research than me should look up). For the second part, I think it's possible to come up with a plausible explanation. The point is not to get [i]beyond[/i] the "stereotype" of the otaku, but to see how and why it functions, where it came from, how it's changed, etc..

I haven't answered your first question ("I was wandering if anyone relates to Japanese otaku, not just through a love of anime, but through being singled out as geeky and anti-scoial [sic]?") because I don't know how to yet. However, I should point out that if you're serious in saying that we only have "a purely academic understanding of Japanese 'otaku', which gets us nowhere" - that is, we don't really understand them at all - then you already have the answer. It is: no, we don't "relate" to them, not really. Assuming genuine empathy requires real knowledge of the other person, no "geek" over here can possibly relate to these otaku we understand only "academically." The best explanation for any feelings we [i]do[/i] have, then, seems to be that they're just our projections of our own situation. Personally I find this conclusion reprehensible. (I can't shake hope in people's ability to understand each other)

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[QUOTE=Fasteriskhead]

The question I (maybe not everyone else) treat above is not "what is it like to be an otaku?" That requires much more of a jump than I need to make (and relativism is, I think, a fair objection). Neither is it "what is an otaku?", a kind of question that mostly leads to chasing one's tail. I only ask, "how does Japanese society (on average) tend to treat otaku, and what reasoning does that treatment follow?" You can find, I think, a good quarter-century's worth of evidence for the first part of the question (which someone more dedicated to hard research than me should look up). For the second part, I think it's possible to come up with a plausible explanation. The point is not to get [i]beyond[/i] the "stereotype" of the otaku, but to see how and why it functions, where it came from, how it's changed, etc..
[/QUOTE]

[color=dimgray] Japanese society is different from US society, which explains a lot of it. Asian culture in general is very conforming and people who are different are shunned. In Japanese, the word 'different' can mean 'wrong', which is one example of how Asians view offbeat people. The "otaku" would generally not be the most successful kind of people in conservative Asian eyes. Japan is obsessed with education and getting a good job, so how would it look if someone basically quit everything and played some anime online RPG all day and take on a job as a delivery boy to buy more figurines?

Of course then we have to take in Japanese modern pop culture, which can be, pardon me, really freaking weird sometimes. But besides that, it's very westernized and such, and that's probably why the "otaku" in Japan are now becoming gradually accepted. There are more high school dropouts and 'rebel' kind of people, so why not accept "otaku"? Anime is now such a huge subculture, not only in Japan but in other countries too, and that explosive popularity probably has something to do with it. [/color]

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[quote name='Nerdsy][color=deeppink]Dude, "Trekkie" is not the preferred nomenclature. "Trekker," please. ; )[/color][/QUOTE]Perhaps now Trekker is the in thing, but until the media started picking up the word in the 1980's Trekkie's was what we proudly considered ourselves. And even though in the 1991 TV show "Star Trek: 25th Anniversary Special", Leonard Nimoy attempted to settle the issue by stating that the term 'Trekker' is the correct term...those of us who remember it from the beginning still on some level think of ourselves as Trekkie's. ;)[QUOTE=2007DigitalBoy][COLOR=DarkOrange']That's what I meant. Hardcore nerds are only recently big enough to be considered a social class. they used to be the occasional weired guy in your neighboorhood, but now they're extremely common, and you can find them all over the place (myself, for example, am a hardcore nerd more than anyone I've ever met in person, and yet I also happen to be well-known, as well as I know other hardcore nerds even at school.)[/COLOR][/quote]No they've always been considered a social class, much in the same way that Japanese Otaku are. The big difference isn't recognition but rather one of acceptance. It's becoming more acceptable to be a hard core nerd, regardless of what the medium is. Today, it's become a part of society that is no longer shunned or tucked out of sight. Parents are no longer embarrassed that their son has more interest in say anime than girls. People are being accepted for not having 'traditional' interests as far as jobs and activities go. It's a social class that was always there, if not in the form of Trekkie's or Otaku's then in the one of Hippies or Science nerds. And we no longer try to pretend that they don't exist. A social class does not need recognition to exist.

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Well.....
I would call myself a geek,but not really anti-social. I'm the only one of my friends who will talk in a big group of people i don't know.
But I would call myself I geek, I like stupid things and am entertained easily. Plus I am a grade grubber.

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[COLOR=DarkRed]If you would like to do some research on the Japanese otaku, I recommend you watch Densha Otoko. It is relatively short and I'm sure you can watch the episodes in parts on YouTube. The main character is an otaku and it deals with otaku issues and girlfriends. [/COLOR]

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"But i was wandering if anyone relates to Japanese otaku, not just through a love of anime, but through being singled out as geeky and anti-scoial?"

Well, I can't give a big long academic answer about Japanese otaku. My boyfriend is Japanese, so I braved going into his "cave" (aka his office) to ask him about it, but all he said was, "Anime nerds. Worse than you. I need to focus on this."

However, I can tell you that I guess I'm the only one who has felt singled out due to my interest in anime. My school is in a very conservative area. There is an anime club, surprisingly, but the members are definitely singled out. Despite the fact that there are enough members and a teacher more than willing to sponsor the club, every year, it has a hard time getting approval. It's not seen as a "real club." The anime fans are safe amongst each other, and other non-conservative students: artsy types, liberal-types, etc. However, the majority of the students are conservative, and some can be quite mean!

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