As the introductory piece to the series, I asked an Otaku near and dear to my heart to gather some friends who would be willing to answer my questions about being a Black Otaku, and how the obsession with some or all aspects of Japanese culture shapes their lives. Jay obliged me; he and two other Otaku agreed to answer my questions. In the interest of privacy, one name has been changed, and responses have been edited for clarity.
|As time has gone on, “black otaku” have risen in numbers and are quite diverse.
Former NFL player and current wrestler-in-training Brennan Williams
is an example.
AJ: How do you define Otaku?
KEITH: Someone who has a sole obsession with anime and manga.
AJ: Does being Otaku prevent you from interacting with other people?
JAY: Yes. For most of my life, being a nerd wasn’t popular. It was hard to express my interest with other people. Over time, my interests grew to other things, and being a nerd became popular. This helped, and now it doesn’t make a difference when talking to someone “normal” or Otaku.
KEITH: Yes, it just makes you want to interact with people like you.
JEILYN: Yes, because I get tired of explaining myself, and tired of the judgment. I am the only of my friends who is an Otaku and I never have anyone to watch anime with, or talk about the manga I’m reading, or go to conventions or concerts with. It can be isolating, and after a while, you get used to it because you like what you like and that’s that.
AJ: That seems like it can get kind of lonely.
JEILYN: It does. It used to bother me, but you get used to it. You also build friends in the community on social networks or seeing the same people at events, so it gets bearable, but other people just don’t understand, or always want to.
AJ: Would you date someone who is not Otaku? How do you feel that affects your relationship for better or worse?
JEILYN: I would. A couple doesn’t have to like the same things. He just needs to understand that my likes are just as important as his and be open to learning and teaching.
KEITH: If I date an Otaku, would I ever leave the house? I don’t know for sure. But I would date Otaku and non-Otaku.
JAY: I would date an Otaku, but our interests would be limited and our horizons wouldn’t expand… that might cause problems in the future. Our relationship wouldn’t last long.
AJ: Have you experienced discrimination because you’re an Otaku? Do you find yourself hiding it because of other people’s reactions?
JAY: Started out hiding it, because I didn’t feel like I belonged to the Otaku crowd or the general Black crowd. I was sort of in limbo, but eventually I started showing it. Like I said before, the rise of the nerds made this a lot easier, this acceptance.
KEITH: I hid it. But once I found friends with similar interests, there was no point to hiding it.
JEILYN: Nope, I’m just weird that way. I like what I like.
AJ: Do you feel that anime and manga has given you an unrealistic idea of how relationships work?
JAY: Yeah…for a long time, I had no idea that girls were objectively sensual… like, I always thought that they just were, and men knew it, but that women had no control over how sensual they are. Anime is like that. A guy will be staring at a girl for no reason, she’ll blush, be confused, and then get mad.
|A scene from the series The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-Chan,
a spin-off of the popular Haruhi Suzumiya series.
It wasn’t until I actually started dating that I realized women are in total control of how attractive they are, that women can be totally aware of how something will affect a man, and that they basically rule the world. It sounds shitty but that’s how it was, I didn’t have any romantic frame of reference.
JEILYN: No, but they definitely give me unrealistic expectations (laughs). I doubt my boyfriend will chase me through two video games, or be as brilliant as L (Ed. Note: Those are references to the series Sword Art Online and Death Note, respectively).
AJ: In a nutshell, how would you say being Otaku affects your life?
JEILYN: It doesn’t. It’s just a preference, like almond milk or brown rice.