Am I Otaku or even weeaboo?
This is a question I’m asking myself more and more lately. I mean, I guess I fit some of the definitions. I like JPop – enough so that I’m maintaining an entire website about it, and other pop culture things. I’m familiar enough with different idols to have a semi-intelligent conversation about them (can you ever have a truly intelligent conversation about a Japanese idol?). I even have some anime figures sitting on my dresser, and some of them I can’t post to Facebook because they would violate community standards.
I could post them here, but I’m not really wanting to make it “that” kind of site right now. It’s nice, though, not having to worry too much about WordPress’ content standards.
I still think the answer’s no, though it’s a much closer thing than it used to be.
In my opinion, the thing that truly makes Otaku is the community identity. It’s not a matter of liking a certain Japanese thing, it’s not a matter of knowing more than one oughta about Japanese pop culture, it’s about identifying with a community of people who shares that common interest. You’re kind of otaku when you identify as otaku, and when the rest of the community accepts you as otaku.
Quite frankly, neither apply to me.
I have never identified as otaku, and I still don’t. That’s because I quite deliberately want to remain arms length from that community. It’s not because I don’t like them or dislike them at all – if I felt that way, I would have never bothered to create Texihabara and invest what I have into it. It’s because I don’t want to be beholden to what other peoples’ idea of what acceptable otaku behavior is. And vice versa – they don’t need to listen to me if I don’t like something.
I don’t like a lot of J-Pop, but I like some. I don’t like a lot of Anime, but I like some. I don’t like a lot of manga, but I like some. I don’t like a lot of kawaii stuff, but I like some. I think anime conventions are a waste of time and I don’t think I would ever be caught dead cosplaying as anything but a forty-mumble-mumble year old non-otaku That doesn’t mean I think you’re wrong for liking what I don’t, not at all! But it does mean that I, personally, don’t have to like it, and by not being a part of the community, I feel zero peer pressure. I don’t feel the need to cosplay, because there’s no one to try to pressure me into it (btw, peer pressure doesn’t work on me, for the most part, but it’s the principle of the thing).
Might I someday host a cosplay contest on Texihabara? Sure! I could do that, and I would even do that. But I wouldn’t do it as part of the community, I’d do it as an homage to the community I’m catering to – that I don’t consider myself a part of. That makes me fair and impartial, it also makes me respectful to things and people I’m not a fan of. But what it doesn’t make me is a sellout, because I was never enough of a part of the community to sell out in the first place. I’m making a product for people who might be fans in a way that I’m not.
And might I someday attend an anime convention? Sure. But if I did, it would be as a businessman, and not a fan. I’d be promoting something. Maybe Texihabara, maybe some product otaku might like, who knows what else. Maybe I’d even buy a figurine or a manga or something if it caught my interest. But I’d never do it as a spectator. To me, that would be a waste of time.
Someday I will probably need to hire an actual otaku, just to tell me what I’m doing wrong. I’m good with that. But me? I don’t think I will ever consider myself one. Even if I do like a lot of the things that otaku like, and cater to their likes and dislikes as best I can.