The Difference Between “Otaku” and “Weeaboo”

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From what I understand. In 460 words or less.

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The term “otaku” is an honorific form of the Japanese word for “(your) home”. It was first used by Nakamori Akio, a columnist, in the 1980s to refer to people who spend a lot of time at home, have poor social skills and surround themselves with their own hobbies and interests everywhere they went. The term took on a more sinister and derogatory meaning after the Miyazaki Tsutomu murders of 1988-9. After his arrest, a search of his home revealed a large collection of pornographic manga and anime. A moral panic ensued and it was assumed that people with similar interests were potential murderers. It was not until the 2004 drama series “Densha Otoko” that the term took on a more positive image. Based on a true story, it portrayed “otaku” as misunderstood hopeless romantics. In addition to the drama, the popularity of Japanese popular culture overseas has caused the term to lose much of its stigma and many people in Japan now readily identify as an “otaku”. Currently, the widely excepted definition of “otaku” is “someone who is fervently obsessed with something”, most commonly anime or manga. There are many varieties of otaku, including train “otaku”, military “otaku”, etc… However, academics are still divided on how to most accurately define “otaku”. In America, the term “otaku” is used as a “badge of pride” by fans of Japanese popular culture.

PBF071-Weeaboo

“Weeaboo” is an insult that originally appeared as a nonsense word in the comic “Perry Bible Fellowship”. In 2005, it took on the meaning of the term “wapanese” when it was used as its filtered replacement on 4chan. “Wapanese” is a portmanteau coined in 2002 that is formed from the words “wannabe” and “Japanese”. As the phrase “wannabe Japanese” suggests, the term “weeaboo” is used to brand and label the Japanese popular culture fans who want to become Japanese while disparaging their own culture and heritage by the people who find their behavior annoying or irritating. Often, this desire to become Japanese is based on a very basic and/or misguided interpretation of Japanese culture pieced together from popular culture products like anime, manga, etc… Despite their lack of knowledge, these fans will usually have no desire to seriously study the culture or learn the Japanese language. Instead, they will flaunt what little knowledge they do possesses by cosplaying all the time or using broken Japanese/common Japanese terms (“baka”, “kawaii”, etc…) in their everyday speech, much to the frustration and chagrin of those around them. In addition, these fans usually believe that anything Japanese is automatically superior and will endeavor to surround themselves in Japanese products, from snacks to home appliances. Note that this term is commonly used fallaciously in a derogatory manner to insult any fan of Japanese popular culture.

Personally speaking, I believe that people should be allowed to enjoy what they want to enjoy without persecution as long as it doesn’t cause anyone any harm. In fact, I wonder how many “weeaboos” are actually self-aware, but are doing what they are doing just because they’re having fun, just like Rikka and the gang from “Chuunibyou”. Regardless, labels will continue to exist as long as people enjoy discriminating against others.

How about you? How do you define “otaku” and “weeaboo”?

4 Responses to The Difference Between “Otaku” and “Weeaboo”

  1. alexeon says:

    You pretty much defined otaku and weeaboo pretty well. The only thing I’d add is that many weeaboos call themselves otakus as part of their usage of that tiny fragment of Japanese they actually know and it makes other people cringe (me, for example.)

    I think finding weeaboos annoying and cringey is not discriminating. There are black weeaboos, Asian weeaboos, Hispanic weeaboos, and white weeaboos, and practically anyone else (except Japanese weeaboos, those are by definition impossible.) What ties them together as weeaboos is their actions, not anything else, so I don’t think its discriminating to say weeaboos in general are annoying.

  2. Actar says:

    @ alexeon: Yo! Long time no speak! (>.<) Since I started up my Facebook, I haven't really had the motivation to post here. (^.^;) Still have a ton of stuff that I just want to get out of my system and backlog, like my trip photos that I just need to get down to. (^.^;)

    Regardless, regarding your point, I think some clarification is in order. While finding weeaboos annoying or cringey is not discrimination in and of itself, calling them weeaboos or insulting them is. And that's because what can be considered "annoying" or "cringey" is subjective. Most of the time, something is not considered discrimination unless one acts on it.

  3. alexeon says:

    @Actar, yeah, I’ve been pretty busy since I’m taking some Summer classes so I haven’t been commenting on Facebook that much, though I do see your posts on there sometimes.

    We have a definition of what is a weeaboo, as you pointed out on your post. Cringey is a more subjective term, but as far as weeaboos go, if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck…

    I want to clarify that while I may consider someone to be a weeaboo and even embarrassing to be near, I wouldn’t insult them. Do I wish they would change their behavior? Yes. Would I be a dick about it to them? Probably not if I wasn’t involved. I went to the Anime Expo at the beginning of the month and there are a number of such people.

  4. leia says:

    woah, i remember watching your videos way back. its great to know that youre still active! i agree with you, but i find that weaboo is used more than wapanese – but it might just be the sites we visit.

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