musings of the enigmatic

December 7, 2009

“call to wonder”: the word “otaku”

Filed under: Call to Wonder — thenightsshadow @ 1:46 pm

The Otaku Elimination Game (seen here) has now hit its fifth round, and with it, three more eliminations have occurred. While I agree with the rating, I always take the time to inspect each blog afterwards, whether pass or fail, to find out what kind of ideas the person has, and whether I can draw anything from them. And one statement always stands out, though it clearly is always misused:

“I am an otaku!”

Derisory I may be, but those are some of the most blasphemous and yet misunderstood things to say in the segment of the blogosphere I am a part of.

Too often, people set labels on themselves (or even worse, others set it upon them) and then proceed to wear them. Proudly. All the while, these labels get misused because they are seen by others, misunderstood, then interpreted based on first glances and a lack of interpretation.

I would like to attempt a correction at such, even if it entails doing something that this blog normally tries to never do: “react to an issue that is interpretable as popular (another catchphrase, but that’s another topic) out of pure want or need.”

My reason for making this blog was to portray my thoughts, but when someone else does that well enough for me (except for the odd point, we share a lot more thoughts in common than I thought possible), well, I feel I have to resort to what I’m good at.

And that, in and of itself, is a strategy that works in life but fails in a number of issues, including “otaku”ism, if that can be considered a word.

Too often, I feel that the word “otaku” has been used and abused, just like many words of the English language. What is “good” but a malleable feeling that expresses a neutral state? Could the average English-speaker define what is meant by the word “good”? Not likely. But, I want to point out, they WILL know on average the meaning to what THEY define as “good”. But the dictionary definition they don’t want to bother with since it doesn’t represent what they mean to convey.

I think the same happened here with “otaku”. I have this gut feeling that what actually happened that started this mistaken outbreak in the English-speaking community was a person who decided
that the word “otaku”, after finding out about what it entailed, fit him/her. Others visiting saw things that thought meant “otaku”, and a copycat sensation was born.

My personal definition of “otaku” is just as flawed as most other bloggers’ are, so I will not be relaying that to you. However, I feel that what many consider “otaku” should be better known by another term: enthusiast. Let me show you what I mean.

My specialty in the anime blogging realm happens to be within the realm of music.
- I can basically watch screencaps instead of the actual anime, and yet understand what happened, how the characters act, and how they would react in hypothetical situations by merely listening to three things: that character’s Character Song(s), the Opening Theme(s), and the Ending Theme(s).
- Using a combination of the Opening Animation(s) and Opening Theme(s), I can tell with a certain degree of specificity what will happen over the course of the season.
- After listening to a sample character voice plus that character’s Character Song(s), I can envision a life as that person for a day, and how that character would react in my shoes.

See, unlike almost all other anime bloggers, I don’t claim to be an otaku at anything. I don’t even to claim to be an enthusiast at anything save Music, and even with what I can do, I doubt my “Music Enthusiast” level is anywhere close to parity. Get the picture? What I can do is beyond most everyone’s reach, and yet I’m 100% positive that I’m not even close to approaching the mid-level of Anime Music Enthusiast.

It is my belief that “otaku” is a form of dedication; the highest attainable. There’s a huge difference, in my opinion, between watcher/partaker, fan, enthusiast, and “otaku”. Each of those, in that order, is an ascending climb towards the highest amount of dedication. Three years ago, I was a full-on hardcore anime enthusiast. Today, I’m an anime music enthusiast, and falling fast. The point here is that “otaku” is a way of life, not unlike many martial arts. And if you don’t live it, put up or shut up.

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