Sunday, August 07, 2005
The Hated Otaku
This is the hated オタク, "otaku": a person who is obsessed or devoted to a particular hobby or activity, especially on an individual basis. These hobbies include anime (Japanese cartoons), manga (Japanese comics), video games, computers, and collecting of all sorts. And so, here he is, 35 years old, in a toy store, buying model kits for giant robots from the "Gundam" cartoon series.
From the fact that almost all video games come from Japan, and the huge worldwide success of anime movies like "Princess Mononoke" or "Spirited Away" and Pokemon, you might suspect a lot of people would be into playing video games like they are in the US, or watch these anime shows occasionally; it would seem that there might be more of a tolerance for nerdy activities in the culture of Japan. But there is no tolerance. In fact, most people I know greet these types with a particularly virulent disgust. If you mention otaku to a Japanese girl, the response you will almost invariably get is きもい！"kimoi", which is something like "gross!" Girls would never date a guy interested in any of these things, and self-respecting guys are not into them at all. So out of all the guys I knew at Waseda, not a single one of them played video games, or at least, would admit to it.
I take special pleasure in seeing all the lame Americans who came here purely because they like anime made for little kids discover this fact upon their arrival in Japan, and how by revealing their interests they immediately sabotage their chances of ever making any friends or getting any girls. Seeing a Japanese girl crush an anime guy by saying, "No, but my baby brother watches that show..." is pretty priceless.