Weeaboo and Otaku, 2 terms that anyone who remotely involves themselves with anything Japan-related knows about. These two labels are specifically related to Japanese culture since not only do the labels have Japanese linguistic origin, but they also are associated with Japanese media.
In today’s article, we aim to educate you on the differences between the 2 and help you understand these terms with the goal of coming out of this with a clearer idea of where you may stand.
What Is a Weeaboo?
A weeaboo has 2 different meanings; General meaning and derogatory meaning.
The general meaning is a person with an obsession with Japanese culture, particularly anime, manga, and video games.
This may involve copying Japanese fashion, using Japanese words and phrases, and attempting to adopt Japanese customs and mannerisms. A weeaboo may also express a strong desire to visit or live in Japan without knowing, or with very little knowledge of what life in Japan entails.
The derogatory meaning was a term developed in the early days of anime in the west. During these times, people would call you a weeaboo for simply liking anime. Over social media platforms and forums, you can see the term “Weeb” (short form) being used in discussions. This term usually carries a negative connotation whenever it is used.
Some aspects that may put you in the weeaboo category are:
Obsession: You are obsessed with Japanese culture to the point where you start denouncing your home country and culture in favour of Japan’s. You have a narrow lens when it comes to anything Japan-related and ignore the negative aspects of Japan. You think you know more than Japanese people when it comes to their cultural aspects.
Bias/Fetishizing Japan: Whenever someone brings up countries, you believe Japan is superior in all ways. You believe anime and manga are peak forms of media and nothing else compares. If someone brings up Japan’s wartime activities, you denounce it as fake and go through the process of making misinformation up to defend Japan. You may also have a fetish for Japanese people. You think they have anime voices and expect them to behave like anime characters.
Cringeyness: You may substitute your everyday lingo for Japanese words/phrases you hear in anime (often, you use them incorrectly as well). While a common trait among western weeaboos, you try to have the personality of an anime character.
While the above-listed aspects are negative, being a weeaboo is kind’ve like the gateway into becoming an otaku. Usually, a weeaboo phase starts in someone’s youth and over time, they gradually become an otaku. From my own personal experience, I guess I was a weeaboo at some point with an obsession with Japanese History/Cars, however, that gradually changed as I got older and was able to recognize that Japan as a whole is not some paradise, but instead has its own distinct identity.
What is an Otaku?
An otaku is a Japanese term used to describe someone who is extremely knowledgeable and passionate about a specific subject or hobby. In Japan, the term is commonly used to refer to people who are fans of anime, manga, and video games, etc… Otaku culture has become a significant part of Japanese popular culture, and there are many conventions and events that are dedicated to these interests.
There are various types of otaku, so here’s some examples to give you an idea of how malleable it is.
Anime Otaku (Ani-Ota): These are fans of anime, who often watch and collect anime series and movies. They may also attend anime conventions and cosplay as their favourite characters.
Manga Otaku: These are fans of manga, who often read and collect manga comics and graphic novels. They may also be interested in anime adaptations of their favorite manga series.
Video Game Otaku (Ge-Ota): These are fans of video games, who often play and collect video games. They may also be interested in the culture surrounding video games and attend gaming conventions.
Idols Otaku (Doru-Ota): These are fans of idols, who often follow and support specific idols, groups or bands, buying merchandise, attending concerts and events.
Tetsudou Otaku (Tetsu-Ota): These are fans of trains, who often follow and collect information about trains and railroads, buying model trains and visiting train stations.
Gundam Otaku: These are fans of Gundam, who often build and collect plastic model kits of robots or mecha, from the Gundam series.
Differences Between The Two
The main difference between a weeaboo and an otaku is the connotation of the terms. Weeaboo, is a derogatory term used to describe someone who is overly obsessed with Japanese culture and is seen as being culturally insensitive or disrespectful, whereas otaku is a term used to describe someone who is knowledgeable and passionate about a specific subject or hobby, and it is not considered derogatory.
Another difference is the focus of their interest. A weeaboo tends to be more interested in mimicking or appropriating Japanese culture, while an otaku is more interested in a specific hobby or subject, such as anime, manga, video games, idols, trains, etc…
Additionally, otaku is a term widely used in Japan and considered a subculture, while weeaboo is a slang term that was developed in the west to make fun of someone who is into anime culture.
Taking Pride In Being Either a Weeaboo or Otaku?
Many people who identify as otaku take pride in their knowledge and passion for their specific hobby or subject. They may attend conventions and events related to their interests, and enjoy meeting and interacting with other people who share their interests. There is a sense of community among otaku, and many people find friendship and support through their shared interests.
It is important to note that being an otaku is not something to be ashamed of and it’s important to remember that interests and hobbies are a personal choice, as long as they don’t harm others and it’s respectful to the culture and society.
As for being a weeaboo, due to its negative origins, people tend to avoid this label as it moreover acts as an insult. However, in recent years, fans of anything Japan-like have started re-claiming the once derogatory term and now are using it themselves in a better light.
Whether you’re an otaku or a weeaboo, at the end of the day, you’re still you and not some alien. We all have personal interests that makeup who we are, whether it be learning Japanese or decking out our rooms with as much anime-themed merch as possible. Being an Otaku is not only being a fan of anime/manga, but being a dedicated fan in general to a certain hobby/interest.
I myself would be a Car Otaku, simply because I heavily invest my time in going to car meets, working on my car, and consuming car-related media. Being a weeaboo may be bad at first, but you eventually grow from that phase into an otaku. Keep in mind that being a weeaboo for too long is not the best choice, but as we have it in this modern day, the term does seem to be changing to be in a more positive light.
We hope you learned something today about the 2 terms and how they can apply to you. Remember to be proud of whichever you fit into and to respect others despite where their interests may lie when it comes to being an otaku or weeaboo.
Be sure to keep checking out our articles for anime recommendations and Japanese cultural nuances.