There seems to be a bit of a debate these days centered around whether or not being an otaku, the term used in Japan to describe people who obsess over a variety of hobbies, is a socially healthy one. In extreme cases, the otaku lifestyle can limit romantic opportunities, and even renowned anime director Hayao Miyazaki has grumbled about their effects on the industry he earned his fame in.

With all the negativity and marginalizing, you’d think the number of people the label could be applied to would be small, and the number of individuals who’d choose it for themselves to be smaller still. Surprisingly enough, though, in a recent survey of college students, nearly four in ten identified themselves as an otaku.

Japanese Internet portal My Navi recently conducted a survey of 5,663 students, all set to finish college or graduate school in March of 2015. When asked, “Do you consider yourself an otaku?” 39.5 percent replied “yes.”

The demographics were further broken down into four categories, being first split into men and women. The data was subdivided once again into students studying sciences, such as chemistry and engineering, and those majoring in arts and humanities, like economics and psychology.

As expected, the highest concentration was among men in the sciences, at 43.9 percent. However, the gap between this and the smallest group was just 7,5 percent. Despite the traditional image of otaku being a male phenomenon, the group least likely to identify themselves that way was men studying the humanities, at 36.4 percent.

▼ Apparently guys studying to be real-life lawyers can’t really get into Phoenix Wright.

The two middle slots went to women studying arts and sciences, at 39.2 and 38.9 percent, respectively. Moreover, the total difference between men and women who call themselves otaku was a negligible 0.3 percent.

While the word otaku is most commonly used to refer to anime fans, with the proper qualifiers it can be used to indicate a person who spends an inordinate amount of time on any hobby. My Navi asked respondents who fessed up to being otaku to choose the three categories most applicable to themselves.

There’s quite a lot of crossover these days between the themes and creative talent behind anime, manga comics, and video games, the three categories that dominated the list. In fourth place was characters, the mascots such as Hello Kitty who are ubiquitous in Japan in spite of not actually appearing anywhere except on merchandise for people to buy (think of them as the reality star, famous for being famous members of the toy and animation worlds).

Rounding out the top five was movies, which may not strike many in the West as a particularly geeky hobby. But while poking your head into a movie theater in Japan will reveal plenty of couples and groups of friends, a trip to the movies in Japan is expensive, generally costing 1,800 yen (US $17.15). At those prices, it can be hard to get a posse together to go and watch every major release, and the size of Japanese homes, along with social norms, mean having some buddies over for a movie night is uncommon. As a result, hard-core cinemaphiles often end up doing their viewings alone.

▼ On the plus side, they don’t have to worry about sharing the snacks.

The chart also reveals three completely bare patches, as no women in sciences felt they were politics otaku, and no men in either category professed to be crazy about cosmetics. Honestly, though, these categories seem a bit suspect.

The chart is compiled from responses of people who identified themselves as otaku, a word which still connotes an anti-social, inactive lifestyle. Things such as fashion or sports are traditionally seen as making a person healthier or more attractive, leading to increased social interaction. Even if certain people do spend the majority of their disposable income or free time shopping for the trendiest clothes or hitting the gym, many of those individuals wouldn’t identify themselves as otaku to begin with.

▼ Seriously, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are such otaku. Dudes never do anything except play professional football.

Still, there’s no arguing that roughly 40 percent is a big number, and it speaks to both the growing influence of otaku culture, and the greater comfort young people in Japan have with being considered one. It’s ironic that otaku, which originally means “you,” is increasingly coming to indicate “us.”

Source: My Navi News