sci.lang.japan FAQ / 6. Word meanings

6.2. What is an otaku?

The term otaku for obsessive fans of anime (Japanese animated film), computer games and so on seems to have been started with a column 'Otaku' no Kenkyū (「おたく」の研究) written by columnist Akio Nakamori (中森明夫) in 1983.

Otaku is a polite word that means "you" (see also 9.1. What are the personal pronouns of Japanese?) or "your household" or "your house". Taku means "residence" or "home" and the o- in front of the word makes it more polite. Because of the respect implied the meaning becomes "your home".

たとえば中学生ぐらいのガキがコミケとかアニメ大会とかで友達に
「おたくらさぁ」なんて呼びかけてるのってキモイと思わない。
Akio Nakamori (中森明夫),
"'Otaku' no Kenkyū (2)" (『おたく』の研究(2))

In Nakamori's articles, which express disgust with the fans, he claims that he created the term from the kimoi (see 8.4. What are these adjectives and which aren't in the dictionary?) way that school-age fans of comics and animation would call each other otaku, a formal word for "you" usually restricted to the older generation. Nakamori's series of articles was cancelled by the magazine Tōkyō Otona Kurabu (東京おとなクラブ) (translation: "Tokyo Adult Club") due to reader protests.

In Japan, the word otaku may have negative connotations, and is often associated with weirdness and creepiness. For example, the child-murderer Tsutomu Miyazaki, who owned a huge collection of videos and comics depicting paedophilia, was described as the "otaku murderer".

External links

Akio Nakamori's web site (in Japanese) contains an explanation and copies of the original 'Otaku' no Kenkyū articles.

sci.lang.japan FAQ / 6. Word meanings

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