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The Name of the Thing

It’s a common superstition that the names have power; specifically the power to shape the thing to which they are given. Sometimes we see this with people- people with the same name might behave similarly.

If a name has power to give shape to something as concrete as a person, how much more influence does it have as something as insubstantial as an idea? Even disregarding any mystical elements certainly what we call something influences our first perception of it. A rose by any other name might smell as sweet but if you called it a crap-blossom people who had never smelled one would have a very definite impression of what it might smell like.

I have no idea who started calling us ‘Otakukin’, and if their intention was good bad or indifferent. Regardless of origin or objective the title stuck. Many people have proposed alternatives, Fictionkin being the most successful of the lot, is slightly better, but none of them as are broadly used and recognized as ‘Otakukin’.

So what exactly does that name mean? Is it even appropriate? Let us examine the verbal roots of the word.

 ‘Otaku’ is, as many people are already aware, is Japanese in origin. As far as I can tell the original Japanese meaning of the word was something like ‘wasted youth’. The modern meaning is ‘fanatic’. In Japan one can be an Otaku (fanatic) about anything. Candy wrappers, stamps, porn, trains, what have you. 

The meaning narrowed when it was imported into English vernacular, being an artifact of the growing anime subculture. The term here is generally understood to mean ‘a very, very obsessed anime fan’. The term is used both negatively, by people outside anime fandom to refer to those inside the fandom; as in “That guy is a loser, he’s such an otaku, all he does is fap to Sailor Moon pr0n”, and positively or mock-positively by those inside the fandom to refer to themselves. “I am a hard core Otaku, I own the entire run of Speed Racer in the original Japanese!!!”

Regardless of what anime fans in specific may attest to the term ‘Otaku’ was originally negative in connotation, and is still in the common understanding. Being an ‘Otaku’ is not seen to be healthy.

So, right off the bat someone seeing the term ‘Otakukin’ for the first time will associate us with rabid, drooling anime fanatics with poor hygiene and worse social skills. Its a stereotype, but it is what most people think of ‘Otaku’.

And what of ‘Kin’?

Kin means family. It implies relatedness, homogeny, sameness, a familial relationship, relatives, people who are intimated related to one another in a deep and meaningful way, people of the same race, etcetera.

The term comes to Otakukin directly from another neologism- Otherkin. The ‘kin’ in otherkin at least made some sense- people with the title otherkin are ‘kin’ related, to something ‘other’ than human. Not all Otherkin were ‘kin’ to one another (Elves and Dragons aren’t notorious for inviting one another to Thanksgiving dinner) but they are kin to ‘something else’.

The ‘kin’ in Otakukin does not make as much sense. The first thing it implies is that we are kin in some way to Otaku.

Are we reincarnated fanatics?

I saw someone on the internet assume from the word ‘otakukin’ that we thought we had been Japanese in our past lives.

Otakukin are also even less likely to be kin to one another than Otherkin are. While there are a fair amount of dragonkin and elfkin and demonkin and what not, but very few Otakukin have their origins reflected in the same fiction, and those that do usually come from variant worlds.

Otakukin unfortunately is a name that immediately gives both a negative and erroneous impression of our beliefs.

Even more unfortunately, it’s probably too late to do anything about it.