“Otaku Couples: Threat or Menace?” The Otaku Diaries and Relationships

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.

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19 thoughts on ““Otaku Couples: Threat or Menace?” The Otaku Diaries and Relationships

  1. Why so negative, Daryl?
    I’ve seen it succeed before.

    More than once, actually.

    Of course, it requires a good slew of maturity from both sides, which means the chances of your average “otaple” to succeed are reaaaaally slim.

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  2. Weird… I’ve never thought I’d avoid girls who are into anime. Some of my xGFs are into it… And I have a friend now who is into it and she’d be an awesome girlfriend.

    Now, an otaku is another story. I would never date someone who is so into 1 thing that everything else is ignored. This goes for men and women alike. They don’t even make good friends.

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  3. “”Getting together with someone just because you share a hobby makes for a weak and flimsy foundation for a relationship. “”

    True, but this is kind of an extreme statement. Like: “hey you like basketball? me too! zomg.”

    There’s LIKELY common ground for sharing a hobby in the first place. Hobbies tend to be enjoyed by similar people, which is better than no common ground.

    I can’t prove this, but I think 2 random people have less chances of getting along than 2 people with the same hobby.

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    • Oh, I’d like to clear things up. When I meant “foundation” I meant more as a “cornerstone” of a relationship. I think a mutual interest anime can be a great starting point, but that a stable relationship is anything but if that’s all you have.

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  4. “Why so negative, Daryl?”
    He’s just being a stupid jackass, as always.

    Anyway, this whole “sharing a hobby” idea doesnt hold water. In reality very few people actually want to have their hobby shared, most just want it to be respected.

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    • “In reality very few people actually want to have their hobby shared…”

      This rings false to me. I think most people don’t expect to have a shared hobby, most people don’t prioritize having a shared hobby, so they look for some respect for their hobby in a significant other but I don’t think they actively want someone who specifically DOESN’T share their hobby.

      Think about how much time you spend together in a serious relationship, wouldn’t it be better to spend that time doing something you both enjoy, both understand, and both actively take part in?

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  5. Even in the 80s, there were otaple in the American scene–I mean, hardcore Ohno and Tanaka stuff, complete with the role-playing and cosplay sex. But it was rare, likely in part because of what’s been mentioned–the severe gender imbalance in those days (and also the fact fans in the 80s were older, and perhaps, felt less sense of possibility in their personal lives). Ironically, an otaku today who can’t hook up may feel worse about it than they would have 25 years ago, because the scene in general is much more social (one might argue it is now primarily social, as opposed to the “technical” emphasis of otakuisme a l’ancienne mode). In other words, whereas the possibility wouldn’t even occur to most 80s otaku, now there is a sense that it’s possible, but they’re still managing to lose out…

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  6. To continue with the general attitude of hopeless negativism established by Daryl, I have to say that Carl’s last point holds true for me at least. I’m in my twenties and I don’t think of myself as especially unattractive, but I see a lot of fans younger than me or close to my own age of both genders getting together, even temporarily, and I wonder just what I’m doing wrong. It does feel worse to be alone if it seems like plenty of other people are finding companions within the fandom without much trouble. Feeling all alone in a crowd, as opposed to all alone in the night, to quote Babylon 5.

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  7. Frank:

    That’s just your imagination. You’re not doing anything wrong. You’re just part of a different generation. A generation that tends to be more cultured, and yet also isolated. A more *mature* generation.

    Kids these days have and use the communication tools at their disposal in ways that even us, the most tech-savvy, can’t. Their culture is different, their relationships are different, and they are definitely taking advantage of it.

    If you’re alone, and thinking you’re doing something wrong, then let me tell you this: You aren’t. It’s just the ways things happen. Don’t sweat it!

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  8. I may sound a bit cynical, but I’ve always been hesitant to go out with an otaku, on the sole basis that all the one’s I’ve ever met with girlfriends/boyfriends seem to consider it almost a status symbol to have one. They seem to think that it’s their duty to tell this to everybody, and somehow manage to shoehorn the fact that they aren’t single into literally every conversation. It’s even worse when they’re actually together, because then they think it’s their duty to also physically demonstrate this to everybody.

    It’s ridiculous to the point of being abhorrent, but also kind of depressing to me, since I’d really only be truly happy with a girl who shared my interests. But this alone has led me to basically force myself to turn down any otaku that have ever hit on me. I wouldn’t want our relationship to be the subject of every single conversation they have with other people.

    Now if I ever met an Oguie-type girl, this would be an exception to the rule, and I would be the one asking her out.

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    • It sucks you’ve had such rude experiences. But it is folly to let those people’s relationships dictate your own. I mean, what if one of the people that took interest in you was thinking just the same thing about those people?

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  9. It’s always a good thing to have some common ground somewhere. What also helps is not expecting your significant other to share it in the same way that you do. As SDS said, people tend not do the latter more often than they should.

    It also helps to remember that while hobbies can be part of the cornerstone of a relationship, it’s not the be-all and end-all of things too. But it helps.

    Look at me writing here as if I actually have a SO. :P

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  10. “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…”

    For me this was one of the most revealing truths found in Genshiken, how deep connections with others and genuine personal discoveries can take root from what would seem like the least-fertile beginnings. Anime (like comics, film, art or music) can be a fine meeting point for certain kinds of people, and an opportunity to bond and form friendships and even romance. When two people are compatible and ready, these things will happen, regardless of what kind of common interest helped bring them together.

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  11. As a fan who’s been married to another fan for the last fourteen years, I’d just like to leave an encouraging three words: It can work.

    You have to accept that you’re not going to like the same things at the same times, mind you – right now I’m on a tsundere kick while my wife is inexplicably fixated on Supernatural. We’re re-watching Blue Seed together, though, as it’s a mutual favorite.

    I really think that fan+non-fan relationships are more difficult to manage, because there’s a perspective barrier.

    For example: I like mahjong games. When I buy a new one, I can do so without justifying it; she understands that I’m going to buy them just like I understand that she is going to buy Supernatural off of iTunes and then get the blu-rays as they come out. There’s no “why are you buying another one of those games, you already have twenty”, so neither of us feels the need to be defensive about things.

    …it doesn’t mean that I’m not going to get teased about the girl in the maid outfit on the cover of the game package, or that I’m not going to make fun of her Sam Winchester addiction, mind you. :)

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  12. The thing that’s really tough about dating someone who shares your interests is you don’t get as much personal time. That’s the same with any hobby or interest though.

    What actually bothers me is people who feel entitled to a relationship with someone in a hobby circle. The shared interest becomes more of an -obligation- to give it a shot in the first place or to stay in a terrible relationship.

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  13. Pingback: The Otaku Diaries and the Social Otaku « OGIUE MANIAX

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