Since the late 1970s, the Japanese word otaku has gradually spread to become known the world over. The term generally refers to a person so obsessed with their hobby—usually anime, manga, or video games—that it adversely affects their health and/or social skills, though it carries different connotations in different parts of the world.
Among those outside of Japan who are well-versed in otaku culture, there are many who proudly admit to being otaku themselves; like a cooler spin on the Japanese otaku, shipped abroad.
On the other hand, the word caries a more sad, perverse tone here in Japan, something that lends itself to the image of a “creepy geeky guy”, with “guy” being the key word. While there are no comparative figures on gender ratios, you could probably say overseas otaku women are much more forthcoming about their self-imposed label than their Japanese counterparts.
But the female Japanese otaku does exist. There are Japanese women who forsake sleep and, with bloodshot eyes, play erotic PC games deep into the night, oblivious to their own deteriorating health. In fact, there might even be more women otaku than men—maybe they’re just better at hiding it.
Numbers aside, what are some of the behavioral differences between Japanese otaku of different sexes? Is there any discrepancy between how deeply a male and female can obsess over anime, manga, or video games?
Wakako Takou over at Excite! Japan spoke with an otaku merchandise industry representative to tackle these questions.
According to the representative, “It is not so much a matter of if there are more otaku males or females, or which of the two is more deeply involved in otaku culture; the difference is in the ‘quality’ of their obsession. For instance, a guy will spend over 9000 yen (about $110) on a cute anime girl hug pillow because they prefer expensive, high-quality material. If the same kind of pillow is made from a cheaper polyester material, it won’t sell.”
Otaku girls, on the other hand, aren’t particular about expensive items (and are probably less interested in fornicating with pillows). “Women are realists,” says our insider, “the most they will spend is 3000 to 4000 yen ($36 to $48) on something like CDs. 300 yen ($3.60) clear plastic folders with characters on them are best-sellers. Female otaku like to buy a number of small things at once.”
Women seem to be more frugal in their obsession. Does that mean men pay more attention to quality? “I think that when it comes to being otaku, men are more emotional and simply are more picky about what they want.“
There are other notable differences in men and women otaku. “Women tend to branch out from their original object of obsession, showing interest in other things related to it, whereas men have a tendency to be more narrow in what they fancy.”
There is also a difference in the way men and women view the voices behind their favorite anime characters. “If a guy likes a character and feels it doesn’t have a suitable dubber, to a certain extent, it doesn’t affect how much he likes her. But for female otakus, feelings toward the voice actor and the character are one and the same, and therefore it is very important that they match perfectly.”
Additionally, males tend to love their characters exclusively. Factors other than that character’s appearance or personality don’t really come into play. For females, character relationships, background, and the overall story-line in which the character is involved in all play a part in her feelings for the character.
“Women mostly like to sit back and watch over the relationships taking place, not placing themselves in the picture. Men, on the other hand, are much more possessive of their favorite character” Another key difference, he adds, is that “a number of otaku women fixate on women characters too. In this case, they are like men in that they tend to like that character exclusively and will purchase expensive items like the men do.”
^It’s not all Boy’s Love!
The rep wrapped it up by saying, “The boom of otaku culture, when maid cafes could be found on every corner, has passed. The otaku sub-culture now seems to have cooled down. There may be a difference in the way men and women are otaku, but I would say that as long as there is the passion to love anime, manga, and video games, in whatever way, otaku culture will stay alive and well.”