Otaku is defined by the wikepedia as a Japanese term sometimes used pejoratively to refer to people with obsessive hobbies, most commonly manga or anime. If either of those last terms are not familiar to you it is time for you to learn.
Bookstores in the US now have manga available in their graphic novel’s sections. While it is not as hard as it used to be an anime and manga fan as it used to be back in the 90’s, it still carries the stigma associated with the genre. Like martial arts, often mistaken for a way to learn to beat people up, manga and anime are equated to either overly cutesy characters or animate porn.
As you might have noticed, I gave up on finishing the world is flat and have placed a manga as my current reading. The book was just way too boring and since I have not been in an airport in a while, I have not had a chance to finish that book. I completely lost interest even though it was a pretty good book. I actually purchased my first manga book and chose Genshiken as the first series I will actually own.
The series starts with the main character coming to terms with who he is, an anime geek. In Japan, an otaku is someone that is addicted to pretty much any hobbie… kind of like the word geek here can be attached to any hobbie to emphasize complete and at times sick devotion. The term otaku here in the us, is more used by anime and manga fans to express their devotion to the hobbie.
When I wrote this post I had not come to terms with my otaku nature just yet. Even though I expressed my love for anime since I was young, I was not completely out about how much I truly think it is a form of art just as relevant as movies are; and at times even more relevant.
Most people think of anime as just a series of cartoons that have a lot of sex mixed in. People do not realize that outside the U.S. sexuality is not as taboo as it is here. Sexuality does not equal perversion, and while there is a genre inside of anime called hentai that can be quite perverse, most anime that have some sexuality on it do it for humor than for stimulation.
The story telling in anime is at times far more complex than anything that hollywood has to offer. The way images are used to replace dialog is something that its hard to get used to at first, but then you start craving. A reflection of the moon on a lake, or the perfect blossom of a cherry tree carry a lot more feeling than overinflated dialog.
24 and Lost are all the rage now. Storylines that twist and turn have been an element in manga and anime for quite some time now, yet to the American audience almost seems like a new concept. The way characters in the Matrix moved and how the whole world looked was heavily influenced by anime. In Japan anime and manga are as big as Hollywood is here.
There are many reasons to love anime, but I think discovering it on your own is a lot more fun. I have had a couple of people ask me where they should start and I do have a couple of recommendations. If you like comic books, or did as a kid… I say start with manga. You can get it online, but the best way is to take a trip to your local bookstore and browse the anime section. I would recomend Rurouni Kenshin if you like history, Cowboy beebop if you like Sci-fi, or Genshiken for an introduction to humor in the manga world. If you prefer movies, I would say that you need to rent Ghost in the Shell if you like sci-fi, My Neighbor Totoro for just a simple story or Akira but be careful with this one… you might not get it the first time you watch it. I think anyone that can appreciate art and good storytelling will be able to enjoy anime. Just be open minded and when you see something that you do not understand feel lucky that you are discovering another culture.