Weeaboo? Otaku? What is It‽

(Cover Image Credit: Morgan Billedeaux on theodysseyonline.com) 


In the Japanese live-action series based on a manga, Aoi Honoo (which means “Blue Blazes”), tells the story of Moryuru Honoo. He attends art school in the early 1980s to fulfill his dream of becoming a manga writer. Does this scene make him a weeaboo or an otaku? (Credit: TV Tokyo and all of its respective owners.)

People in this world tend to have very passionate interests: some really like music, others are talented when it comes to computer programming, but the people who are very passionate about anime and manga really stand out, and they go by different terms. Who are they and what are their stories? Well, let’s find out!

Some Etymology

Whether or not you’re an anime fan (you must be if you’re on this blog, come on!), you probably responded with one of two terms: “weeaboo” or “otaku.” Just by using these two terms, the confusion has already begun.

From my understanding, the word “otaku” was the original Japanese word to describe someone who was very passionate about anime. Although it can also be used to describe someone very passionate about ANY interest, it usually refers to someone who is into stuff that can be classified as “geeky.” “Otaku” itself also means “house,” and the reason why this is important is because it refers to someone so passionate about something, they never leave the house and don’t socialize.

When one reads that definition of the term “otaku,” it’s easy to equate it to the word “weeaboo,” a derivative of the English-language word “Wapanese.” The two aforementioned words refer to someone, typically not Japanese, who has an unhealthy obsession with Japanese culture, usually involving manga, anime, J-pop, and other aspects of Japan’s popular culture.

Okay, so now that we have defined “weeaboo” and “otaku,” everything seems pretty groovy. Somebody may ask what all the confusion is about in the first place, and my response is how the two terms actually have rather subjective definitions.

I found out about this subjectivity during a text conversation with a fellow anime-loving friend. He told me that I was an otaku, but not a weeaboo when I asked him if he thought I was a weeaboo. Because I thought the two meant the same at the time, I was confused, but then he proceeded to explain to me that an otaku was someone who has a healthy, tasteful, and strong love of anime, whereas a weeaboo has a strong love for it that is neither healthy nor tasteful.

Y’all can probably imagine my frustration and confusion upon this new taste of information. The problem with classifying various different types of anime fans is that the current terms we have are unclear, so we as a community should either try harder to agree on set definitions or come up with new terms altogether. It won’t be easy, but I trust in all of you.

That was a lie, I don’t actually trust in all of you, but you’re the only ones who can do it. (Heehee xD)

Why It All Happens

Now that all of the word stuff is out of the way, I don’t wanna take up my own challenge of trying to come up with new terms for different types of anime fans; I don’t believe that it’s my job nor my strength to do so. We do know, however, that just like within any fandom-type community, there are fans with varying levels of passion.

Take One Piece as an example: there are casual fans who just wanna watch some One Piece now and again, passionate fans who have seen all episodes and can give constructive reasons why they love it so much, and extremely passionate fans who have all the characteristics of the passionate fan, and also have all of the One Piece manga, all of the figurines, and cosplay as many of the characters.

That said, you probably have different opinions on each type of fan. As for me, I respect all types of fans in different ways and recommend that others do the same. We live, after all, in a very “live and let live” society: do what you want, as long as it doesn’t harm you or others. This mentality is a great strength due to the freedom of choice it provides and its relaxing attitude for everybody.

However, what we do is as important as why we do it; Swedish YouTuber and artist Mattias Pilhede reminded me of this when he made a video about his past days as a weeaboo. His story is packed with many excellent points, one of which is how being weeaboo gets, “universally weird…when someone parades around their taste only to use it for a lack of personality or to fill their insecurities. Taste is stuff that appeals to us, but bad taste is apparent when someone uses it as a replacement for their personality.”

(Psst! Here’s Pilhede’s vid!)

This point is trying to say that an unhealthy obsession with anime and manga may be, but not always be, a result of using it as a means of filling a sort of emptiness. I think it’s more about letting your beneficial interests get out of hand, but regardless, the said weeaboo lifestyle also tends to build up a detachment from reality through unrealistic expectations of Japanese culture, liking something simply because it’s Japanese, consuming anime and manga at the expense of health and/or finances, and sometimes denying their own heritage and claiming themselves to be Japanese when that person is not.

Now, with that smack of reality, I want to make one thing clear: you can consume as much Japanese pop culture as you want, collect as many figurines as you want, and attend as many conventions as you want, but try to interest yourself in other aspects of Japan’s culture and try not to let it get to your head that anime is objectively the best thing out there. I mean, look at me, I like anime so much that I decided to write lengthy articles about it out of enjoyment. Still, I try to take interest in Japanese politics and non-popular media aspects of their culture.

Anime and manga are huge parts of Japanese culture in the same way that animated sitcoms and comic books are huge in US culture, but not the absolute be-all and end-all. Both of those countries have a culture outside of two mediums of entertainment. If people accuse you of being a weeaboo even after trying to love Japan and its pop culture in a healthy way, however, ignore them; their opinions are trash. Anime and manga are awesome mediums of storytelling that are worthy of your passion.


Even after these points, you may decide that you still want to be a weeaboo. Referring to my point beforehand, people can be anything they want so long as it doesn’t harm themselves or others, and that weeaboo lifestyle is entirely up to you! Be one if you want, but know why you’re doing it and how the lifestyle will affect you, others, and your perception of reality; it is freedom of choice, after all!

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