It is safe to say that at least some of our customers are hard-core fans of anime, manga, and all things Japanese. There is a word for that in Japan: otaku. Have you heard about the word and its meaning to the Japanese? If so, how do you feel about it?
It's funny how different cultures can view the same thing through different eyes. In Japan, being referred to as otaku is not good. The term itself is somewhat derogatory. That is not the way it is here in the U.S. Not only is otaku not a negative thing here, but some people also actually wear it as a badge of honor.
Maybe you love our anime T-shirts, hoodies, and artwork but don't consider yourself otaku. On the other hand, perhaps you proudly refer to yourself as such. Your understanding could be different in light of our cultural differences with Japan.
To the Point of Being Dysfunctional
The biggest difference between how American and Japanese audiences view otaku is rooted in the level of obsession one demonstrates. In a generic sense, being otaku is being a hard-core fan of anything relating to Japanese culture. But in Japan, it goes further than hard-core fandom. In Japan, being otaku is also being dysfunctional.
Otaku people are so obsessed with something that they are not able to function in a normal society. It might be video games. It might be music, sports, or even anime and manga. A person considered otaku eats, sleeps, and breathes whatever they are obsessed about to the detriment of personal relationships, work or school, etc.
A group of Japanese teens whose love of anime and manga led them to purchase clothing, apparel, and accessories from Umai would not be considered otaku if they lead normal, productive lives. It is only when one crosses into the realm of dysfunction that otaku is applied.
Otaku and Western Culture
In the West, we use the term a lot more loosely. We refer to people as otaku just because their passion is anime, manga, or Japanese culture in general. A lot of our customers would be considered otaku by Western standards because they have closets full of anime T-shirts.
Our looser definition of otaku is that which allows us to apply it as a badge of honor. People can call themselves otaku with pride, letting the world know that they are big fans of some aspect of Japanese culture. With the term comes a bit of fraternity as well. Fans of anime and manga, for example, enjoy a unique kind of bond similar to fans of other pop-culture phenomena.
Although there are no hard and fast definitions of otaku in the West, some people draw the line at cosplay. It's one thing to follow anime TV series and read manga illustrated novels, but it's entirely different to live your life dressed up as your favorite anime character. Then again there is also a difference between engaging in cosplay for a weekend convention and doing it every day.
Whatever Works for You
For the record, Umai doesn't take a position one way or the other. Our philosophy is simple: whatever works for you is fine with us. Our main goal is to continue producing high quality anime posters, phone cases, clothing, and accessories featuring our original artwork. We know that's what our customers want.
As for you, how do you feel about the whole otaku thing? Do you tend toward the Japanese or U.S. definition of the term? Or maybe your definition is somewhere in the middle. No worries. It's all good.