For the uninitiated (you lucky people), I guess I'll start with an explanation of what an Otaku is, or at least what my perception of one was. On the forums I frequent, an Otaku was always thought of as the obsessive, normally Japanese nerd. The sort of guy who could tell you the name of the voice actor in that obscure anime or the release date of an early Final Fantasy RPG. For some westerners, it was seen as an ironic badge of honour. A way to climb to the top of the geek hill. Not something I ever aspired to, (if you could even call that aspirational) for me it became something I was aware of without ever really looking into it. I just laughed knowingly at the references I read in games and books. Only in recent years did I think about it again, when talking to Japanese friends of mine. I discovered just how negative a term it actually was in Japan, describing people who are mostly regarded as socially deficient oddballs. The sort of people who take their love pillow away on a romantic weekend.
However, in recent months, I've read two things that have really resonated with me. One became the title of this blog and the other, which I'll have to paraphrase, describes an Otaku in a different way. It talks about them as people who are only able to deal with and understand things by first researching and learning about them. They are driven by curiosity and often have a deep knowledge that serves no single, obvious purpose. Their curious nature leads them from one thing to another; with a lyric in a song leading to a book, which then maybe leads to a movie, which eventually points them to a new videogame and so on. A constant chain of discovery.
It was like someone was describing me. It made me realise, that perhaps, I had been an Otaku all this time. I've certainly always found it easier to deal with something by doing my homework first. I feel at edge if I don't know as much as I can about a given situation, area or event. I approach life in quite a logical, structured fashion and I think that this has been the only way I have ever been able to deal with things. And it helps. It allows me to build a nice shell around myself, and using this knowledge and research, better equips me to deal with the outside world.
It's far from ideal of course and often means that the things you can't learn about through curiosity and research, such as sports, relationships and life can all feel quite alien. All areas in which I feel worryingly unprepared for. I guess this is at the forefront of my mind as I struggle to make friends out here; something which is compounded by my inability to talk to new people. Again, it's not something I can prepare for and as such, will always be very difficult. It's not all bad, though. Part of me likes thinking like this. I love to learn and know about a wide range of subjects and I'm genuinely curious about other people. It also allows me to rationalise problems and situations, which I've always found useful when other people ask me for help.
I suppose I'm writing this as I wonder how many other people out there feel this way too. I know it's not easy for anyone in this big old world, but does everyone look at things the way I do? Would they admit it if they did?
Actually, while I was preparing this post last week, I read an article about geek culture which came to the conclusion that we are living in a world were everyone is an Otaku about something. The proliferation of the internet and the information contained within means you're a mouse click away from anything you could ever want to know. Instant Otaku's. I think the article missed the point somewhat and I don't think it comes close to nailing the true essence of what an Otaku is – someone who will forever be on the outside of everything, looking in.