Otaku Are People Too
As I took my time walking along the cement path to the grassy area, I could only think of myself as beaming with confidence. And yes I had plenty of it! But come on, what person doesn’t glow with pride after completing anything they put their heart into? Maybe I’m just like that but I doubt it.
I continued this normal pace until I reached my chosen spot. My photo shoot location for my much loved Cardcaptor Sakura dress. After hours of hard work it was done and done well if I do say so myself. If you are a cosplayer you know exactly what kind of feeling that is, or maybe if you’ve ever done an awesome fan art and gotten several great comments regarding it. No matter what, that overwhelming feeling of achievement is booming.
But for this particular day and time something had become unsettling. When the camera began snapping with tons of great photographs, I noticed that the park locals had been taken back by my obviously abnormal attire. Again, this is nothing more than a natural reaction that I’m sure many of you have experienced. It’s not uncommon to be shocked, curious, or even humored by someone dressed in such bizarre clothing.
For anime fans that cosplay or wear accessories from their favorite shows, many are used to these stares and whispers that surround them. Personally, I’ve grown used to this and sometimes I don’t even acknowledge it.
Back on the subject, many people had started walking by, spouting unwanted comments and whispering about what exactly I was up to. Having my personality, I ignored them and went on with focusing on the camera lens…Until some very curious girls decided to have a talk with me. They asked the usual stuff like what are you doing, what is this for, what’s anime, etc. I answered properly until they asked me what theOtaku.com was. Don’t get me wrong, I explained that it was a site with things anime fans found interesting but I couldn’t really explain what an “otaku” was.
Many of you have most likely heard it as meaning several different things. One definition that is used is referring to the word in a literal sense meaning “anime nerd”. Another simply meaning that it’s a stereotype no different from being called a “punk” or a “prep”.
On a personal level, I hate stereotypes and labels, so I only think of it as meaning someone who has a love for anime and manga. But hey I could be wrong, right? And apparently I am wrong according to a documentary I received as a Christmas gift.
The documentary is called “Otaku Unite”. From the title and summary on the back, one would assume it was a cool DVD on what goes on at conventions, masquerades, and perhaps commentary from the people the title refers to: the fans that make it all possible. Eager to see what fellow fans thought, I slapped that bad boy into the DVD player and began viewing a series of ridiculous acts that would make me rethink what it means to be an otaku.
This unusual film started with a short presentation on a little makeshift wrestling match between somewhat popular characters a small group had composed. It had nothing to do with anime though it was seen as a Japanese production. I didn’t think anything of this since it wasn’t what the documentary was about.
After about ten minutes, the small preview was over and the real thing came on! It began with how anime was introduced to the United States and how one of the first English dubbings changed fans’ lives forever. It also talked about how dubbing was practically seen as a sin from several viewers. This portion of the video was inspirational and personally I enjoyed seeing the different sides on the sub/dub issue.
However, in spite of how cool it was to see the beginning of what all us otaku love, there was one problem I had with the commentary…It was from maybe two or three people that weren’t fans but rather industry workers. People that worked on the first dubs and people that only said what they assumed fans thought as a reaction to the anime. Where were the real fans and why were they assuming that all otaku had felt one of the two very narrow ways about the subject?
The later question was never answered as they neglected to speak to others on the matter. As for the first, the subject finally led to the fans! Footage of cosplayers, con-goers, artists, and talk of the secrets behind masquerades. Great stuff…Except that only a selected few were spoken to in one minute intervals.
Again, the crew skipped back to these so called “professionals” that were given as much time as they needed to speak their part on what fans were like and what an “otaku” was. At first it was seen as people that enjoyed anime but quickly turned to the “actual” definition of the word meaning “hermit”. Apparently the Japanese see otaku as a bad thing and refer it as a negative word rather than our more positive English adaptation.
One man in particular went so far as to say that the word meant what it meant. You can’t make a word positive because its definition is the same in the language in which it originated from. Regardless of this opinion, the crew turned to a quick word from a fan that gave a more upbeat take on what the word meant.
Not to long after hearing these comments, I began to feel a knot twisting in my stomach. Who was this guy to preach to fans about what they made into their own unique culture? Throughout time words from all over the world have been revamped into something completely new! For the sake of keeping this friendly, think of the “B” word, in some situations it’s seen as an ugly name, however, women have transformed it into a very empowering word.
When looking beyond this one person’s idea, I still had an enormous problem with what this documentary was perhaps, unknowingly, accomplishing. Sure they were making strong points that would help support the fact that otaku is more of a culture than a word. They allowed the viewers to take a peek inside a convention, a look at a panel, and several clips of wonderful people that put effort into creating beautiful assorted arts all in the name of what they love.
Still this documentary had a problem, without knowledge of what an otaku is, it led its audience to believe that otaku are some kind of other species. Putting a strict definition or rather a label, it defined thousands of fans as doing specific things without the concept that otaku are people just like everyone else. Yes many of us, including myself, love to write fanfics, draw fan art, make fan comics, read manga, cosplay, and create our own ideas of what it means to be an otaku. We do this and it makes us a little different, our interests are a little different from other people. And even though we share a common love, all of us have interests aside from anime. I love basketball, animals, car shows, being with my family, and learning new things. You all are different and otaku does not define you as what this documentary is saying.
I believe otaku isn’t a label or a stereotype. I truly believe it is someone who is a fan of anime and a unique culture that many great people worked to create. In all honesty I saw this documentary as pointing to the untrue thoughts that otaku are another type of being entirely. When people make rude comments about our costumes, or see us as weird for wearing a steel plated headband, do they believe that we don’t get hurt by that? That we don’t like anything else just because we attend conventions?
It’s human nature to stare and react to something unfamiliar but remember that otaku are people too. Our feelings are just as natural and we are not a different species…we’re just a little different.