There are a few words every anime fan is familiar with. Common Japanese phrases like itadakimasu and senpai may come to mind—but these aren’t the terms we’re talking about. Perhaps the classic sub vs. dub debate is your next guess, but alas, this is not today’s topic, either.
Today we’re talking all about anime fans' most oft-used labels: weeb and otaku.
That’s right. We’ll be discussing the clash of anime titans (and no, we don’t mean the ones that Eren Jaeger fights): weebs vs. otakus. Some fans wear these titles proudly, while others find them a little confusing. No matter which side you stand on, read on to learn more about two of anime’s biggest buzzwords!
What is a Weeb?
The word weeaboo (often shortened to weeb) is a term that’s incredibly specific to Japanese culture. Stretching beyond anime, the title “weeb” is given to individuals who are passionate about all things Japanese.
Typically, the title “weeb” is applied to people who are not of Japanese descent. Essentially, weebs are considered outsiders who have a strong appreciation for many facets of Japanese culture—both modern and traditional. In addition to anime, the interests of a weeaboo may also include:
- Japanese fashion trends
- Japanese video games
- Japanese cuisine or snacks
- Japanese traditions
- The Japanese language
- Any Japanese media
- Anything considered “kawaii”
The bottom line – While a weeaboo most likely enjoys watching anime, they typically have a wide array of interests related to Japanese culture (despite not being Japanese themselves).
Is Weeb a Derogatory Term?
So here’s the thing: the origins of the term “weeaboo” are considered derogatory by some people. This is due to the fact that the title may be given to a person who is considered to be “too obsessed” with Japanese culture.
Over time, however, many self-proclaimed weebs have come to embrace this term. An individual who adorns this title may simply be proud of their knowledge and appreciation for everything Japan has to offer. Here at CultureFly, we’re all about embracing this lifestyle—so we say wear your weeaboo identity on your sleeve! Whether you embrace yourself as a weeb through an anime box or a closet full of Japanese fashion, we support it.
What is an Otaku?
Okay, now let’s jump to the other side of this discussion and talk about the term “otaku.” In Japanese, the word otaku roughly translates to a person who is a “pop-culture enthusiast.”
In the Western world, however, the word has gained a more specific meaning related to anime—an “otaku” is a person who loves anime.
- As an otaku, you’ll typically be well-versed in anime history and storylines.
- You’ll also have a strong appreciation for the anime art style. Otakus often have tons of favorite series, and they may even have a crush on an anime character or two.
Simply put: an otaku knows much more about anime than the average fan. They may know the best anime fight scenes or every last detail of a final episode. While they may enjoy other, non-animated entertainment, too, there’s no denying their love of the anime genre.
The bottom line – Although many of their interests will overlap with weeaboos, the main difference is that otakus focus on anime. An otaku may be a fan of both Japanese and Western-produced series and movies.
Is Otaku a Derogatory Term?
Similar to weeb, early usage of the term “otaku” comes from controversial origins. While the word “otaku'' already existed in the Japanese language, the title was popularized by a 1983 article in Manga Burikko. Author Akio Nakamori used the word otaku to shame shy, introverted pop culture lovers.
As time went on, however, the title of “otaku” began to evolve. Today, many people refer to themselves as otakus proudly. In both Japanese and Western culture, otakus have found strength in numbers. Anime conventions, fandom groups, and online message boards are just a few examples of safe places for otakus to embrace their interests and share experiences with one another—without fear of being judged.
If it wasn’t obvious already, CultureFly firmly believes in embracing this title. If there’s one thing we love more than anime, it’s people who love anime. So fly your otaku flag high, fellow fans!
How to Know If You’re an Otaku or a Weeb
As we’ve covered, otakus are enthusiasts of all things anime. Weebs, on the other hand, have a wider scope of interests specifically related to Japanese culture. The word “otaku” is also more commonly used in Japan, whereas “weeb” is directly related to non-Japanese individuals.
Now that you know the difference between an otaku vs. weeb, you may be wondering which you are. To figure this out, we invite you to take a little test.
If any of the following apply to you, you may be a proud otaku:
- You have an extensive collection of anime plushies
- You like to cosplay
- You watch both Japanese and Western anime
- You’ll watch a dubbed or a subbed anime
- Your room is decked out with anime posters
- You aren’t particularly interested in other aspects of Japanese culture beyond anime
If you’re passionate about all things related to Japanese culture (including or not including anime), then otaku might not be the most accurate title for you. Those who do one or more of the following may fall into the weeb category:
- You love trying Japanese treats—like pocky or Jagariko potato sticks
- You subscribe to a monthly Japanese snack box
- You’re learning Japanese
- You won’t watch a non-Japanese anime
- You read manga
- You’re planning a trip to Japan (or want to)
And of course, you don’t have to choose between these two camps. Feel like you’re an otaku and a weeb? That just means you have more to explore!
How to Celebrate Being a Weeb or Otaku
Being a weeb or otaku is great, but how does one channel these interests? Here at CultureFly, we’re all about nurturing your inner anime enthusiast. If you’ve dipped your toes in the water and are now ready to live your best weeb or otaku life, we recommend trying out some of these fun activities:
Visit Your Local Japanese Neighborhood
Japan may be a long plane ride away, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the culture close to home. If you live near a major city, try visiting your local Japanese neighborhood for a fun outing. In places like Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo or Columbus, Ohio’s Japan Marketplace, there are plenty of ways to celebrate your inner weeb or otaku.
Check out a traditional Japanese grocery store for rare snacks or grab some delicious food from a nearby ramen bar or sushi restaurant. Many Japanese neighborhoods are also home to expansive bookstores that carry Japanese literature, manga, and even adorable anime plushies.
If you’re strictly an anime-only fan, try branching out by reading manga. Many popular anime are actually adapted from manga series like Death Note, Hunter x Hunter, and One Piece. If you’ve never read manga before, it can take a while to get used to the format. Manga is read from right to left—unlike Western comics which read left to right. Once you get past this difference, however, catching up on manga is a great way to expand your interests. Most manga actually go beyond the storylines of their anime adaptations, making them even more enthralling!
Attend an Anime Convention
Conventions are one of the best ways to indulge in your favorite anime fandom. In the United States, some of the biggest anime conventions include:
- The Anime Expo in Los Angeles, California
- Anime Masturi in Houston, Texas
- Anime Weekend in Atlanta, Georgia
- Anime Central in Rosemont, Illinois
- Anime Boston in Boston, Massachusetts
- Sakura-Con in Seattle Washington
- Anime NYC in New York, New York
Anime conventions have so much to offer for hardcore fans. Cosplay competitions, previews of new series, and even live performances are just a few of the events you’ll find at these fun-filled gatherings!
CultureFly: A Home for Otakus and Weebs Alike
Of course, the best way to celebrate your love of anime is with CultureFly!
CultureFly is a pop culture store and hotspot for all things anime. Weebs and otakus alike are welcome to feed their fandom with our pop culture collectibles. From stylish clothing to unique collectibles, we’ve got you covered for all types of anime merchandise.
Searching for the best way to enjoy CultureFly? Look no further than our anime box subscription and collector boxes. These boxes are curated with exclusive products perfect for any diehard anime fan.
Starting at $35.99 per month, our subscription boxes come with everything you need to feel like a true weeb or otaku. Customers will receive their boxes on a quarterly basis. Each season, you’ll get access to exclusive figurines, apparel, and even a few surprise items. Don’t want a subscription? Enjoy a one-time collector’s box packed with unique collectibles too! Every product you get from CultureFly is handcrafted by our in-house production team. This means you’ll get fan merch that nobody else has.
Get the most out of your favorite fandom, and start your newest collection today—with CultureFly!
CBR. Otaku or Weeb? The Difference Between Anime Fandom’s Most Famous Insults. https://www.cbr.com/otaku-or-weeb-the-differences-insults/
Largest. 10 Largest Anime Conventions in the United States. https://largest.org/entertainment/anime-conventions-usa/