What Makes an Otaku?

While I’ve loved anime for several years now, I never considered myself an otaku. If you haven’t heard that phrase, picture the guy in the expensive World Series seats, with no shirt and a team logo painted on his chest, crying tears of uttermost bliss when his favorite player hits a home run.

Switch that out with anime and boom, he’s your otaku.

Like I said, I love anime, but I never wanted to do the dance from Lucky Star, nor have I ever had any real urge to cosplay, much less the incentive to buy expensive memorabelia that sits on my limited shelf space. Heck, I’m not even into anime posters.

I just like to watch the shows on Crunchyroll, and buy the DVDs if I like them enough. I like anime, not anime stuff, and the culture always seemed too thick and crowded for a casual guy like me to ever fit in.

I don’t have or want a waifu, I don’t want to eat rice balls, and no matter how much anime I watch, I never seem to know what other anime fans are talking about.

All in all, being an otaku seemed like something that wasn’t worth pursuing.

Then I saw Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.

And I finally got it.

The otaku culture is the result, not necessarily the means. There would be no anime nuts if anime wasn’t worth loving. Otakus cosplay, buy overpriced toys, and dance like idiots in public because they love the source material and want to either obtain as many memories of it as possible or ingrain themselves in the material as much as reality will allow them.

It’s about obsession…the good kind, I mean. Like being obsessed with pizza. I wouldn’t leave my wife and kids for it, but I would eat it for every meal.

Man, I love pizza. What was I talking about?

Right, anime.

The original Fullmetal Alchemist bored me by episode two. In contrast, Brotherhood had me salivating by episode two. The characters, the animation, the fight scenes, the world, the “magic” system, and the intricacies of the massive plot had me running back for more every night.

And when I wasn’t watching, I was thinking about watching, wondering where this plot point would go, or how this character would act, or how the good guys would beat the bad guy.


I want to buy the whole series on freaking blu-ray from the most expensive merchant around. I want little Edward, Alphonse, Mustang, Greed, and King Bradley figures on my bookshelf. I want the soundtrack. I wish I was the physical type to cosplay ANY of those characters (maybe Alphonse…).

I hum the opening and closing themes to myself. I ponder how alchemy would work in the real world. And I still get chills over THAT chimera…

I get it now. Being an otaku is about loving something so much you can’t keep it in. Sometimes it’s about who we are and how the show speaks to us individually. Other times, it’s just a constant celebration of good art.

And there’s nothing wrong with that. Sports fans want to go to the biggest games and hang autographed gloves on the wall. Country fans frame CDs and buy their own guitars. Car junkies wash and wax their babies constantly and spend their weekends at auto shows.

Otakus are crazy about anime, maybe a few in particular or all of them. For the first time in my life, despite all the great anime I’ve watched, I finally understand that delightful passion that makes a fan go bonkers.

I’ll probably always be on the outside of otaku culture. Heck, I only got to Brotherhood YEARS after everybody else did. And with a wife and kid, my money can’t go towards feeding my obsession. And I really, really, REALLY don’t want to talk exclusively in Japanese exclamations.

Still, even if I’m just looking in on a bunch of weirdos in wigs, I can still smile and say that I know what it’s like to love something that much.

And that’s one more thing that connects me with another human being.


6 thoughts on “What Makes an Otaku?

  1. I’m not an otaku (I’m actually only familiar with a few anime), but I have the desire to cosplay characters from other works (Princess Azula being one of them).

    “I can still smile and say that I know what it’s like to love something that much.

    And that’s one more thing that connects me with another human being.”

    Yeah, I totally get this! There’s just something special about making connections based on mutual interests. I recently made a couple of new friends thanks to Elisabeth the musical.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yeah, I haven’t finished Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, I got distracted with schoolwork, but it is enough to suck you in. The friggin plot twists were amazing, and
    *five hours of ranting later*


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