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“Otaku” is a very formal Japanese word; normally used by housewives, it is an unusual way of saying “you” or “your house.” Videophiles in the 1980’s used the word excessively, especially to refer to “your video” (“Otaku no video”). They used the term enough that they were eventually referred to by the public as “Otaku-zoku” (“Otaku Tribe”), and later just “Otaku”; the word took on the rough meaning of “maniac” or “hardcore fan.” Thus, the title Otaku no Video has another meaning: “Otaku’s Video” or “Maniac’s Video.”

Unluckily, most Japanese heard of the term “Otaku” because of Miyazaki Tsutomu. Miyazaki was a serial killer who preyed on children, and also happened to be a pornographic video collector (Otaku). Because of this, the term “Otaku” developed a gruesome connotation for some time. The word eventually lost much of this grotesque stigma, regaining its generally lighter connotation.

In Japan, it’s possible to be an Otaku in just about any hobby, niche, or genre. This is illustrated both in the “Portrait of an Otaku” interview segments, as well as in the quirks and specialties of the characters in the main feature. In Japan, there was a TV quiz show called Cult Q, which was essentially a game show for Otaku of all stripes. All areas of expertise wereon the table, fromtropical fish to ingredient labels of over-the-counter drugs!

The term “Otaku” has since migrated to North America, where its meaning has generally been restricted to mean “dedicated fan of Japanese animation.”