Ever since I was in junior high school, I have always been called and considered myself a “weeb”. The term itself derived from the derogatory term “Japanophilia” which gives birth to another term “Wapenese” or “wannabe Japanese” for people who—for lack of a better word— “love” Japanese things and culture to an abnormal extent. It is now shortened into “weaboo” or “weeb”. Of course, that definition is mainly used for mockery, but now it is synonymous with people who love and watch anime, a Japanese cartoon. This results in some “anime enthusiast/lover” feeling offended and raging and telling people that they are not a “weeb” and people need to stop calling them one. Now, I can be considered as one of those “enthusiast/lovers”, but I do not feel offended or triggered by the term. As a matter of fact, I embrace it. This leads to my question: is it wrong to be something that you are? In this case, being a “weeb”?
The word weeb comes around the corner to mock those who like Japanese culture to the point that is unhealthy for them, but nowadays it is not the case anymore. As the world progresses, so does the word’s meaning. The term has broadened itself to mean something more than just a Japanese wannabe. Now it is synonymous with what the Japanese call anime enthusiasts or “otaku”. Otaku is a Japanese word. According to Google, it means “a young person who is obsessed with computers or particular aspects of popular culture mainly anime and manga to the detriment of their social skills.” Basically, a complex version of introverted nerds. In Japan, the word “otaku” is derogatory, but outside Japan, it is seen as “gue banget” for people that have similar habits and activities. People who watch anime, play Japanese games, and consume all those Japanese entertainments proudly call themselves “otaku”, but do not want to be identified as “weeb”. This is kind of weird to me.
I mean, how are they different? Sure, in essence, they are different in many ways. The word weeb came from the West while otaku from Japan. Weeb specifically refers to non-Japanese people while otaku is the Japanese equivalent of such people. If you see it from that perspective, yes, otaku and weeb are different since weeb means that you are a “non-Japanese” overly obsessed with Japanese culture. However, what makes otaku an otaku is the Japanese entertainment they consume: anime, Japanese game, Japanese console, all those stuff come from Japan. So, essentially weeb and otaku are the same. The words just came from different languages. So why do many people prefer calling themselves otaku rather than weeb? Personally, I do not know.
Perhaps there is a bias in the languages. The roots of the languages are different: one is from Japan and the other is from the West. It might create a bias for those who prefer the Japanese term since they will always lean to the Japanese culture more and not the western one. Hence the reason the term exists in the first place. However, this is not yet proven and is just my speculation. It also might depend on which term is coined first. As far as I know, the term otaku came first in 1983 and weeb quite later in 2005, hence making people recognize the words otaku more than the western counterpart. Or perhaps, it stems from how social media and the entertainment industry portray them. Maybe the westerners portray weebs as “bad” and the Japanese portray otaku as “good”, I’m not sure myself. But the question remains, should they be ashamed of being called weeb when they identify themselves as otaku? I do not think so.
To be honest, just by looking at their definitions, neither otaku nor weeb is any good of a nickname for you, but I think you should not be ashamed of that. Instead of being ashamed of genuinely liking things that you like and what makes you unique among others, embracing it is a better choice. I see this as an opportunity to change the bad meaning of the word weeb into something more friendly and positive in connotation. As a matter of fact, when you see it from the greater lens, “weeb” is just otaku but on an international level. I am a weeb myself and I am proud of it. If you are one, you should be too. 😎