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Sunday, May 14, 2006

Editorial: To Otaku or not to Otaku

There was an article recently where a female mangaka took some swings at the moe culture and accompanying otakus. This naturally lead to omega debating on the ANN forums where some interesting things were mentioned, that I figured I'd delve into because I lack anything vaguely original.

Now "what is moe?" aside, what else was brought to light by a number of people was the puported fact that being an okatu in Japan is considered much closer to being hikkikomori, as opposed to it's more positive (and sociable) western outlook. I don't know if this is true, but we'll assume for the moment that this definition is correct and that the parties know what they're talking about. This then raises a couple of questions.

Firstly, is being otaku looked at differently between those who actually Are, and those who are just regular schlubs working 5-8 at an office? Public perception has to be taken into account. Just like most consider being a pervert a bad thing, within the pron "scene" it's a label of pride.

Yes folks, sometimes ecchi Is appropriate.

So let's do some more assuming and say that it's not considered a cool thing among these poor guys locked up in their parent's basement afraid of the world. This then brings us to the larger question: does it matter?

The above image really has nothing to do with anything, but it says "Otaku" on it, so hey

If the public perception in the west of otaku is no much more than being a geek (to use a term that's lost a lot of it's negative edge in the past decade), then is there anything wrong with us using it to describe one another, even if it means something less endearing in it's mother country? It does work, and the chance of being snapped by a Japanese citizen on your gaijin stupidity would be pretty low. And the useage of words is always constantly changing after all... but then again, is one allowed to do that with words so far removed from english?

And wouldn't taking such liberties with the Japanese language go against what you're trying to define yourself as in the first place?

Of course this is assuming a lot on the validity of it's original meaning, but nevertheless I think this subject is something to think about for more than just the term otaku, because how many of us really know what these other words we're throwing about mean? Can we be positive that our translation sources are giving us the 411 and not just a big ol' game of Chinese Whispers?

Obviously, I don't have any answers (I can't even admit to doing a whole lot of digging aside from that original thread), and I feel too inept to actually refer to myself as otaku anyway, but I do know that I'll be thinking twice next time I use my catchphrase Loli Pantsu Love-Love in a post.


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