Anime Fans: Would You Rather Be Weeaboo or Otaku?
The anime culture has its own language. Many of the words in that language are either straight from Japanese or Westernized versions of Japanese words. But there are some words that are completely made up out of thin air. Take the two words ‘weeaboo’ and ‘otaku’. If you are familiar with them and you had to choose to be one or the other, which would you choose?
Both words are used to describe people who are obsessive about anime, manga, and Japanese culture. The difference between them is one’s level of obsession. You can be an otaku and lead a fairly normal life. But if you are weeaboo, you have taken otaku to a whole new level.
The Simple Definitions
The actual word ‘otaku’ is a legitimate Japanese word. The Japanese understand it to describe nerds in general. Any type of nerd in Japan is considered otaku. In the West, we reserve the word to describe anime and manga nerds. They are different from sci-fi nerds, computer nerds, and so forth.
The word ‘weeaboo’ doesn’t exist in Japanese. It is a completely made-up word here in the West. Its origins, though not known exactly, seem to point to a desire to refer to an extreme obsession with Japanese culture without using a derogatory term.
If you are weeaboo, you are obsessed with all things Japanese. It is not just anime and manga. You love everything and anything about Japan, its people, and its culture – to the point of being unapologetically obsessed.
A Milder Obsession
A lot of anime fans talk about the otaku concept as though it is expected and no big deal. They consider it a milder obsession than weeaboo. An otaku person probably would rather watch anime than anything else on TV. They may own a closet full of Umai anime T-shirts and sweatshirts. But when the person is not consuming anime or manga, they engage in normal life.
You see similar levels of obsession among sci-fi fans. You might have one person who is obsessed with all things Star Wars. His friend is a huge fan of Star Trek. Both have T-shirts and DVDs. They might even go to Comic Con dressed as their favorite characters. But they also lead normal lives that involve things that have nothing to do with their respective sci-fi universes.
Everything is Japanese
By contrast, a person considered weeaboo is so obsessed that everything in their life is Japanese. The person dresses in Japanese styles. Japanese artwork adorns all the walls at home – and maybe the work cubicle, too. Japanese cuisine is featured in every meal.
The telltale signature of weeaboo is defending all things Japanese on every occasion. A truly weeaboo person would root for Japan in the World Cup soccer tournament. They would root for Japan in the Olympics. If Japan makes the news for doing something the rest of the world does not like, the weeaboo person will defend Japan against all criticisms.
To Each Their Own
Now that you know the difference between weeaboo and otaku, here is the money question: does it matter to you either way? When I was growing up, we had a saying: to each their own. It reflected our belief that people ought to be able to do what they want to do without any hassles from others – as long as they do not bother other people, that is.
If you want to be weeaboo or otaku, go for it. Feel free to obsess over Japan and its culture to whatever degree makes you feel good.