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In the early 2000s, 4chan became the site of increasingly heated exchanges between those who were anime and manga fans, and those who, er, weren’t. Or perhaps they were just trolls. Well, trolls or not, their slur of choice was “Wapanese” – short for “Wannabe Japanese.”

But why am I telling you all this? By mid-2005, the name-calling was getting out of control. The 4chan moderators intervened by using a word filter that replaced every instance of “Wapanese” with “Weeaboo” – a completely made up word that eventually subsumed the meaning of the word it was meant to censor.

weeaboo

Nicholas Gurewitch coined the word “Weeaboo” in his Perry Bible Fellowship comic strip.

So What’s a Weeaboo?

The meaning of Weeaboo is admittedly pretty loose – although it is always used in an overwhelmingly negative sense.

so japanese

Weeaboo also has many interpretations as there are supposedly defining features. I say supposedly because many of these overlap with the features of otakus, cosplayers, and just plain vanilla anime fans. Plus some of them are just too silly (cough racist cough) to be taken seriously: a white person who is obsessed with Japanese culture? A white person, really?

reverse weeaboo

Just to give you guys some idea of the variety of “defining features” of Weeaboos.

So how do you identify a Weeaboo? Because you know, if the first step in solving a problem is admitting you have one, the zeroth step must surely be to realize you have a problem in the first place.

To keep things simple for all of us, here are what I think are the top three telltale signs of a Weeaboo:

#1. Anything Japanese is immediately the BEST THING EVAR

You’re probably a Weeaboo if you believe that just because something is Japanese in origin, it automatically trumps anything and everything from anywhere else. In fact, you believe this so strongly that you begin to hate and even reject your own culture, cuisine, language, and what-have-you.

crying

You also probably have a highly romanticized view of everything Japanese  – so highly romanticized that you cannot even imagine that Japan, like any other country, has negative aspects too. So highly romanticized, that the fact that much of the Japanese culture you so admire is in fact of American influence is unthinkable. Osamu “the Father of Manga” Tezuka, inspired and influenced by Disney? Blasphemy.

Take-home message: It’s entirely possible to have an interest in Japan and Japanese without being a Weeaboo. Just don’t automatically like something just because it has a “Made in Japan” sticker on it.

#2. Kyaa! That’s So Kawaii Desu!

Weeaboos have such a highly romanticized view of everything Japanese because they refuse to look past the shiny surface. This means that attempts to learn the language are half-hearted at best.

If you’re a Weeaboo, what Japanese you know has been gleaned almost exclusively from a near constant stream of anime. But that doesn’t stop you from using what little you know whenever you get the chance, so you pepper your sentences with random Japanese words and -chan and -kun everyone. Omg Rosie-chan is such a baka! Yeah, I’m practically fluent. Um, no. You’re just butchering the language.

i know three japanese words

By the way, intentionally using Japanglish for comic effect or sarcasm is not a true mark of a Weeaboo, so exercise caution and commonsense with this one.

Take-home message: When you’re learning and you don’t know the Japanese equivalent for some word or expression – go ahead with what you do know. But don’t just bastardize the language because you’re too lazy to learn it properly.

#3. Anime, Anime and more Anime (Plus Manga for Good Measure)

As I mentioned previously, Weeaboos watch anime near-constantly. But that’s not all. If you’re a Weeaboo, anime is your life. You want to be anime. So you start, for example, dressing like your anime character – not just at Comic Con, but everyday. Cosplaying becomes your normal way of dress.

If you’re a Weeaboo, you probably also think that when it comes to your beloved anime, you’re surrounded by morons. Morons who watch dubbed versions your beloved anime. Morons that don’t understand how superior anime is compared to that Adventure Time rubbish. To drive home just how ridiculous this is, here’s a reverse-Weeaboo gem:

reverse-weeaboo

You may have a perfectly good reason for preferring, say, Studio Ghibli to Disney. Disney characters always seem to be entirely good or bad, whereas many moral shades of gray are handled with deft and ease in Ghibli films. But if you think non-Japanese cartoons and comics are inferior, by mere virtue of not being Japanese – well, you’re probably a Weeaboo. That also brings us full circle back to tell-tale sign #1.

Take-home message: Love anime and manga? Good for you. Bite someone’s head off for daring to call anime cartoon? Yeah, better rein in that obsession.

Hang On. You’re Talking About Otakus, Not Weeaboos!

I did mention earlier that the defining features of a Weeaboo overlaps those of an otaku – or at least, the popular interpretation for otaku. The reason why is simple: every Weeaboo is an otaku, but not every otaku is a Weeaboo. Mind = blown yet?

An otaku, strictly speaking, is someone who has an obsessive interest in something. That “something” could be anything from planes, trains, and automobiles (google itasha, guys), to, most commonly, anime and manga. So I guess its fair to say that Weeaboos are simply the more fanatic otakus of the anime-loving variety. Still, it’s not exactly easy to tell them apart, I reckon. Check out the following video, for example:

Otaku or Weeaboo? I could be swayed either side.


So, what do you think are the tell-tale signs of a Weeaboo? How would you define a Weeaboo? Have you got any foolproof tips for telling otakus and Weeaboos apart? Let us know in the comments!


DISCLAIMER:
Don’t take this post too seriously – it is meant to be tongue-in-cheek.

Header image by Brittney Le Blanc

  • Ocarinaofdeath

    Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve always classified weeaboo as the people that watch shows like bleach and naruto religiously, and worship anything japanese, whereas otaku are more of the people that obsess way to much and own miles upon miles of merchandise and manga, and speak perfect japanese. but maybe that’s just me.

  • Fedup

    For the last damn time, otaku is a derogatory term. I know it’s been adopted/accepted or what the fuck ever, but in my mind people who use it still look like morons.

    Regardless, here’s how I separate “hardcore fans” from weeaboos. If I were to meet you in public and your behavior is so obnoxious I want to punch you in the face? Weeaboo. If you’re just a little excitable/into what you like? Fan.

    However many so-called “Otakus” seem to feel justified in acting like asshats just because of what they like and because “it’s obscure!” or “other people just don’t get it!” If someone tells you that you are acting like a freak, don’t blow it off as “them not understanding your love!” That, to me, is what makes a weeaboo. Act like a civilized person and I don’t care what you’re into.

    He’s another good rule of thumb, if you REALLY can’t tell the difference, there isn’t a difference (as it pertains to this subject matter only, don’t start making other comparisons, general statements are not all-consuming). What I mean is, if you’re so irritating that people call you weeaboo, you are being one.

    Also, “wanting to learn Japanese” doesn’t excuse you from using weeb-cabulary. Nor do your intentions make you stable. I know a girl (a friend of my husband) who waited until she was 22 to get her GED because she wouldn’t spend the 60$ to get it, because she couldn’t sacrifice going to ONE anime convention to save money. Now that she finally has it guess what she wants to go to school for? A Japanese degree. Why? “Oh not because of anime!” But because she is convinced she will become a super-famous(her words) novelist in JAPAN where they will worship her for her deep ideals.

    I write for a living. I’ve offered to critique her work, the shit is illegible. She took my critique (which was actually gentle–she is still my husband’s friend) and threw it in face stating that “I’m just trying to hurt her!” She’s also been “studying” Japanese for about six months now. She still uses honorifics incorrectly and sprinkles “kawaii” into her statements.

    The point of this story is, when people say “you’re acting like a weeb, come back to Earth.” Her response is, “it isn’t weeaboo because I’m actually trying to LEARN the language and I don’t want to be a manga-ka or something unrealistic. I’m just going to be a famous novelist.”

  • bri bolcato

    Man this made me realized that I need to lay off the anime. I started to watch anime and read a let bit of manga ,but after reading this I will cut the days of watching anime to once a week, and reading manga too. Thank you for posting this.

  • Shouu

    A good rule of thumb is you are a weeaboo. period.
    If you like Japanese stuff in an even slightly more than normal way, you are one.
    If you’re actually japanese, and you live in Japan, then conrats, you’re allowed to be an otaku

  • Abzawasabi

    Not all britons are super-posh. i’m from England… I might as well pretend all Americans are cowboys, and all asians are anime characters. See how you like it. But yeah, that is pretty hilarious xD weeabritish ohohohohdesu LOL!

  • jiro

    Otaku is a very anti-social person who stays home and cares for only one thing. Has a very unhealthy obsession with something to the point of disregarding all other aspects of life. In this regard this one thing is Japan/anime/manga but can literally be anything. So essentially the only difference between an otaku and weeaboo is that an otaku doesn’t want to be Japanese; however, u still have an unhealthy obsession with Japan/anime/manga

    Being an otaku is not a positive thing and one should not take pride in calling themselves such.

    Just be a fan and have a life

  • Jenna Merritt

    lmfao awesome video.

  • Anonymous

    Hi!
    I’ve been reading through a couple of opinions debating what exactly a ‘weeaboo’ is, but I’m not quite sure where I fit in. Could someone give me an idea of whether I’m a weeaboo, otaku, general anime fan, etc?

    let me give you some info on my characteristics.

    I enjoy reading manga, watching anime, cosplay- anything to do with those topics. I do get excited whenever I see something related to an anime I like. This is due to the fact that where I live, anime-related items are pretty hard to come by. I have several friends who are interested in anime/manga/cosplay (I’m just going to call it AMC rather than typing it all out).
    Two of these friends are particularly close male friends who are very much like brothers to me. I sometimes refer to them by the ‘older brother’ honorific- “onee-chan” ( I don’t know if I spelled that correctly), which they are both comfortable with. I avoid using it while speaking to non- AMC fans though. It just looks corny to them.

    I do have a bad habit of dropping in the “kawaii” word and saying “daijoobu?” (sorry for horrible spelling) to my AMC friends.

    As for the subs/dubs war, I really don’t mind either. I enjoy watching subs because frankly, Japanese voice actors are comical. They always add in strange little “EHH?!?!” ‘s and are very expressive with their voices.

    However, I don’t mind dubs. It’s actually really convenient to have an anime in your own language. I’ve found that dubs mean I can watch the anime, get up, raid the fridge, and still listen to the speaking so I don’t miss anything.

    I have been to ONE anime convention. That was by chance- I happened to be in town on the day and went. No, I didn’t cosplay. I have cosplayed before, though(- yoruichi from Bleach, if anyone cares).

    So yes, that’s me. Which do you think I am?
    Thank you for taking the time to read everything, hahaha!
    Sorry if anything in here offended you.

  • Anonymous

    Oh yeah, and I have been called a weeaboo by one of my AMC mates. I wasn’t sure if he meant it or not.

  • Cfy Dailies

    I say only those that are obsessed and refuse to reason,not those who enjoy a different culture.I like my culture but i like japanese culture too.

  • Hetalian365

    I think I am one… I don’t really want to be. I sometimes fangirl. I feel bad about being a Weeaboo to the people around me. I’m not sure, but I guess I consider myself one. I watch more than one anime of of course, and I love anime. I don’t obsess over Japan and I don’t try to speak Japanese though. My mum gets me anime merch, and cds and manga. I don’t talk about it all the time either. I felt bad at first when I bashed someones ship and now I respect peoples opinion. Maybe I am turning into an Otaku slowly? Ehhh… I don’t know. I just really hate to annoy people.

  • http://www.jlist.com Peter Payne

    I prefer the term Ota-KING.

  • Ndasuunye

    how is that racist? Aside from insulting japanese and their culture? I see no other specific races being insulted here

  • Ndasuunye

    that’s not a weebo…that’s just a hypebeast moron.

  • Ndasuunye

    well technically speaking, he is Japanese. He is politically what you’d called American-Japanese (you’re not used to that one are you). Genetically, he’s whatever his parents are (America is just a melting pot of mostly Europeans and African descendants).

  • Ndasuunye

    How can anyone be a “weebo”? Japan is so fucked up, they will blackball you if you were once an associate of a failing company all because you were an assocciate thus “MUST” have a hand on their failing finances. Rape is wrong but not outright faulted upon the man’s fault (I’m just talking heterosexual rape here on the man’s side) and faulted upon the woman. And the Yakuza has their hand so far up the goverment’s ass, the government shits them money to keep the fuck out of certain areas. And their ciricular system is far too harsh, it’s a wonder and a blessing that many of the upcoming youth survive. I’d enjoy it as a tourist and I always try to learn any language of a country that I can before I go. Of course, probably not chinese because that language is IMPOSSIBLY hard.

  • Myra Esoteric

    Sorry I just drifted in. But I’m a Chinese (Mainland, so you can’t blame colonialism) who is really into Western culture and appropriates it. So what’s with this ‘be happy where you’re from’ deal? Seriously there is cool stuff that is not associated with “our cultures”… weeaboos and reverse weeaboos are at the forefront of cultural exchange and people are just uncomfortable with change. W/e

  • Addie

    Tadanobu Asano isn’t an anime character.