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Otaku (おたく/オタク) is a Japanese slang term used to describe someone who has obsessive interests in specialized subcultures and hobbies, particularly in regard to anime, manga, pop idols and video games. With the international success of Japanese cultural imports, the term has gained recognition among manga/anime/j-pop fans overseas. In English, it is usually used to refer to an obsessive fan of anime/manga and/or Japanese culture generally, and to a lesser extent Japanese video games.
While the term “Otaku” is somewhat comparable to the Western-derived word “Maniakku” (literally meaning maniac), the nuance of “Maniakku” is significantly softer and less likely to cause offense than “Otaku”. Yet another relevant term is “Hikikomori,” which refers to the broader social phenomenon of extremely self-reclusive lifestyles in Japan.
Subtypes of Otaku-dom
anime/manga otaku (fan of anime / comic books)
cosplay otaku (fan of anime character costumes)
gēmu otaku (fan of playing video games)
wota or idol otaku (fan of Japanese teen idols)
tetsudō otaku or denshamania (railfans)
gunji otaku (military geeks)
Otaku Culture: Architects of Internet Memescape
While the term still carries unfavorable connotations of social ineptitude, many otaku followings in the East use the term to describe themselves and their friends semi-humorously and some even use the term proudly, attempting to reclaim it from its negative connotations. In a way, “Otaku” has become an internet caricature that internet users can both exploit and embrace at the same time.
Derivatives: Internet Fiend (인터넷 폐인)
Internet Fiend (인터넷 폐인) is a modern Korean slang that refers to people with highly visible symptoms of internet addiction, such as playing MMORPG for days without sleep or heavily rearranging one’s lifestyle and living space for optimized internet surfing. With an interweb culture highly conducive to breeding addicts, the term is often used for humorous effects and widely embraced by Korean internet users. Also, similar to The Solo Regiment meme, a caste-like system of internet fiends was introduced (shown above; clockwise from top) and reposted via Korean blogs.