Thursday, May 01, 2008

Returning to the Source of "Otaku"

When an anime fan proudly describes themselves as an otaku I usually wince a little. I realize that language evolves, especially around loan words—the term anime is a classic example—but I've always found it odd that a word with such negative connotations in Japanese is worn as a badge of honour in the English-speaking world. I usually point to the case of Tsutomu Miyazaki (no relation to director Hayao Miyazaki), who molested, killed and mutilated four girls in the late 1980s. Among his massive video collection were pornographic anime and slasher films, and he was something of an outsider; the Japanese public linked the term otaku with dangerously antisocial behaviour.

However, the term existed before then; less sensationally, but still negative. Over on Néojaponisme, Matt Alt has translated the first two parts of a series of articles in which the term "otaku" was first applied to extremely obsessed fans with few social skills. The articles, written by Akio Nakamori, first appeared in 1983, and you can read them in "What Kind of Otaku Are You?" and "Can Otaku Love Like Normal People?".

[Cross-posted from Frames Per Second.]

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