PSA on the use of the Word “Otaku”

I wrote this article over on AnimeChicago, and I figured it would be a novel idea to post it here as well, since I want to get the word out, and I finally got the time to compose something that sounded decent.

Back when Jamie ( and I were hosting Anime Fandom panels at conventions, we always made a point of mentioning that the word “Otaku” is improperly used to describe anime fans. This piece was largely influenced by the growing number of anime fans labeling themselves without fully understanding the meaning of the word. In addition, a recent post, on the Anime Central Facebook group inspired me to finally write about it.

It’s always been a pet peeve of mine to hear anime fans refer to themselves as Otaku. Why? Because it’s slapping a negative label on a group of people that is damaging to the fandom as a whole. It’s NOT a celebratory term.

There was a pretty good essay written by Lawrence Eng regarding the topic, and I think it’s well worth a read. “Otaku” literally means “your home” as well as “you” (formal)”.

Why do we need labels at all? I think that by labeling ourselves, we are part of a bigger problem. When you attach a negative label such as “otaku” to yourself, you are automatically putting yourself in a category or definition, which isn’t a fair representation of the fandom. I am an anime fan, and whether or not that rolls off the tongue well or not, I believe it’s the proper terminology to use.

Then again, if you live the otaku lifestyle(meaning that you have no life, do not socialize and do nothing but watch anime and it IS your life) then I have no problem calling you otaku because it’s what you are.

Not all anime fans are otaku. Not all anime fans wish to be associated with that term. Please don’t just slap that label on anime fans. We are NOT all obsessed, crazed fans. I have seen a LOT of people in the past few years(ever since anime started to try to become mainstream) that have been a real embarrassment to the anime fandom. People who don’t understand our fandom already have a negative impression of the fandom because of various crimes and actions of people associated with the fandom. We do not need any more negativity surrounding anime fandom, we have enough already. We need to start repairing our damaged reputation, and start making people understand the fandom, so people do not look at us and always assume that we are all crazed fanatics.

Slapping labels on people have led to many conflicts in history, and in point have not helped groups of people be understood any more than before they had a label.

Thanks for reading. Share your thoughts in our forum discussion.

Author: Jenn

President, publisher, and blogger since October 2000