The very first thing I’d like to open up for discussion is the meaning and myth surrounding the word “otaku” itself. Literally a formal and rather archaic pronoun for “you” (perhaps translated as “thou”), it implies distance from the subject, and is used in relationships that are not very close.
Whatever its original meaning, the word “otaku” has come to mean anyone who is a hardcore enthusiast or fan of any particular subject, including anime, comic books, video games, etc.
The article The Politics of Otaku, by Lawrence Eng makes reference to varying interpretations of the word, from “passionate obsessive” to information fetishists” to his own “self-defined cyborgs”, all of which (to me, anyway) seem slightly offensive. I myself have heard the term translated as “maniac” (in the official English subtitles of the anime Full Metal Panic), which also suggests some sort of strange and disturbed person. This Wikipedia definition also includes a lovely image of the stereotype of the otaku.
In light of all this, why on earth would fans use such a term to describe themselves? The infamous pedophile and serial killer Tsutomu Miyazaki was closely associated with this title, and was perhaps the instigator of its negative connotations, and yet North Americans still refer to themselves as an otaku! Do you use the term yourself? What does it mean to you? Where you aware of these meanings? Do you have more information about the term to share? Knowing this, would you continue to call yourself an otaku?