In Part 7 of the Otaku Diaries, the Reverse Thieves tackle dating and relationships, topics that are stereotypically divorced from anime fandom and geekdom in general.
One of the questions asked of its participants was how necessary it was for the people they date to like anime, and the majority said that they would at least see it as a plus, while no one said it would detract from the dating experience. I’ve seen anime fans online talk about how they would never date another anime fan, that stance is usually born out of the idea that being an anime fan entails being host to a variety of negative traits that don’t necessarily have to do with anime. They’ve just created an image in their heads that otaku are physically unappealing, loud, obnoxious, and simply unattractive. However, rarely does it have to do with the actual love of anime. In the end, who wouldn’t a companion with whom you could comfortably share your hobbies and passions if even a little? Japanese has a term for an otaku relationship: “otaple,” or “otaku couple.”
One thing that I want to take into consideration is the history of anime fandom in the west, particularly the fact that in the earlier days of anime fandom in the US, anime was primarily a men’s club, and the idea of girls being into anime and manga in large enough amounts that guys could find a girl to share in their love of anime was a far-off dream. This is a typical scenario for pretty much any sort of geekish hobby. And then people discovered that girls were capable of enjoying comics, and we got to see the reaction that happens any time a new group enters an existing fandom, whether it’s girls coming into anime, new people on an internet forum, or those rascally Star Wars fans entering the established world of science fiction: “They’re liking my hobby, but not the way I expected/wanted them to!” It’s possible at that point to wake up from the dream disgusted, but it’s also possible to see opportunity. Of course we are about a decade removed from that initial occurrence, but it still happens time after time, when the image we’ve built up in our heads does not match the reality.
In the eyes of anime fans the otaple status can be considered a Holy Grail or a Pandora’s Box, and from what I’ve seen it largely has to do with how they view the concept of the otaku relationship. Getting together with someone just because you share a hobby makes for a weak and flimsy foundation for a relationship. This is the source of the more negative view of otaku relationships, the idea that you ignore the flaws of the other just because they “like anime,” even when you are not actually happy about it. But when mutual love of anime is a vehicle for connecting on a deeper level, when it is used to support the foundation without being the foundation, that is when the otaple succeeds.