Awesomesauce / Games / Geek / Hyperculture

Otaku Back to Akihabara City…

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Otaku is a term that has entered the American lexicon within the last decade. What is it?  Is it just like a geek?  Is it something different?  Where did it come from?  The answer to the latter question is Japan. Once an honorific term and formal second person pronoun, Otaku has since become a somewhat derogatory term—think “Trekkies”—for obsessive fans of anime, manga,tokusatsu (Sci Fi), computers and hentai (anime porn). Its origin is disputed, but it’s believed to have entered the Japanese lexicon around 1983 when geeks began using it to address one another. It acquired stigma six years later with the arrest of a hentai-obsessed serial killer.  Author William Gibson is credited with popularizing the term in the West. He felt these “connoisseurs” were integral to the “extra geographic” hyperculture of the information age and were not to be dismissed as superficial. In Japan, geeky youth are flaunting the title as a positive reclamation, but for many it remains deeply insulting. Otaku culture sparked the 2001 essay, “Superflat Japanese Postmodernism”, and spawned the popular and really quite good 2005 romantic film, Densha Otoko (Train Man). In the US, Otaku is not used for a generalized geek as much as it is sometimes used in Japan, but is mostly reserved for Anime, Manga, and Japanese games fans.

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