Challenges to Otaku Culture: Bullying

Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be exploring the top five threats to Otaku culture.

Top Five Challenges to Otaku Culture:

  1. Bullying of Adolescent Otaku (today)
  2. Body Shaming (Hopefully to be posted on the 19th)
  3. Deletion of Racial Differences (hopefully posted before Christmas) 
  4. Reinforcement of Anti-Social Behaviors and Social Withdrawal: NEETs, Boomerangs, and Shut-in Hikikomori (hopefully posted before year-end) 
  5. Misogyny and Madonna-Whore Complexes (hopefully posted before year-end)


Bullying of Adolescent Otaku

The first issue Otaku must face is that of bullying. During adolescence, it appears that a high proportion of Otaku are bullied. According to an informal study, it is possible that half of all teenage Otakus have experienced bullying. Otaku are different from their peers in the area of socio-linguistic development. With language, one produces what one consumes, and Otaku’s consumption of Japanese-based media alters their sociolinguistic pathways: even if they are reading subtitles or listening to a dubbed translation, exposure to different beats of conversation and context create a diversity in modes of expression.

Think of the lingual cortex as a dense forest. Ideas and language used to express them are pathways which one has forged through the trees and brush. (Those with more linguistic talent are armed with machetes for cutting through the creepers.) The more one walks these paths, the more one expresses these ideas, the quicker and easier the travel becomes. TCKs and Otaku foster pathways that their mono-cultured peers do not, so the pathways the peers take are more quickly navigated, and Otaku sometimes have to back off of one path to jump to another to be on the same page as their peers, resulting in a language delay. In some cases, the slower processing time to navigate between several paths is so impactful that some Otaku, much like their TCK peers, will default to a deferential personality type rather than struggle with awkward time gaps in dialogue. Certainly, this difference in socio-linguistic development (or, for sociologists out there–deficit in social capital) is not the only reason why a person may be targeted by a bully, but these circumstances do not help a temporarily bad situation.

As Otaku mature, bullying becomes less of an issue, but the negativity remains. Adult Otaku face adversity from within and without: many have internalized the negativity they faced as a child and/or the social stigma they face as an adult. On the popular crowdsourcing definition site,, four of the top five definitions of “otaku” are negative. The most popular definition, with thousands of up-votes, characterizes Otaku as people who “don’t have a life.”

This begs the question if other “fans” also don’t have lives when celebrating their passion. It is a common argument in the nerd community: if sports fans aren’t put down for spending hundreds of dollars and days of their lives enjoying and supporting their teams of choice, then why do we dismiss Otaku for their enthusiasm of anime, videogames, or cosplay? First of all, Otaku are once again disparaged for simply being outside of the norm. Secondly, and more specific to US American culture, is that we don’t value play. In the early 1900s, German scholar Max Weber wrote a cogent treatise on the intersection of capitalism and the Protestant faith. His analysis of  has become one of the top ten texts read by all US social scientists. He exposes that in cultures rooted in the Protestant faith, such as the USA, the idea of a “vocation” mitigates importance on work and being “occupied” by work. Our Protestant work ethic means we live our lives for our vocation, and hobbies are undervalued. Applied to the matter at hand, Otaku spending time enjoying their passion is seen as “destructive” to their professional life.

Most Otaku now are educated and have the knowledge and skillset to examine such negativity analytically, and the vocabulary both to express their experiences and to educate the younger generation on how to deal with adversity. Once again, anime cons prove to be examples of the best of Otaku culture, as many have had workshops and panels on combating otaku stigma and overcoming bullying.

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