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.


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.


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:


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!

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

Header image by Brittney Le Blanc

  • Reptic

    Hmm… I think a good rule of thumb perhaps is that weeaboos actually wish they were Japanese and sort of reject their own culture, whereas most otakus really like anime (and probably think it’s superior to other forms of animation) but I don’t think they would go that far. That’s just my opinion, though.

  • rick sheahan

    I always have to end up explaining what the word ‘weeaboo’ means to new girlfriends. I guess it’s just an integral part of my life! Maybe I’m just trying to mask my own weeabooism. I mean, why else would I be on on tofugu…?

  • FoxiBiri

    That guy’s firery Spongebob collared shirt is just awesome xD Right on the money lol!
    What you said about weeaboos being the more fanatic otakus of the anime-loving variety sounds right but I also think they’re classified by being more ignorant.

  • crowbark

    Is there an grown-up version of Weeabooism, where you obsessively seek out the most authentic Japanese restaurants and groceries, you’re learning Japanese so that you can catch all the nuances in Koreeda’s films, and sometimes, maybe, you pretend your Target-brand body pillow is Tadanobu Asano? Because if there is, I have … a friend … who might have a problem.

  • HatsuHazama



  • 古戸ヱリカ

    That sounds like the classiest weeaboo ever. I just imagine they’d have a monocle and a wine glass full of sake, and be all like “I say, old chap, that sounds ever so kawaii! Ohohohohohodesu!”

  • crowbark

    Not a monocle, my friend – pince-nez all the way.

  • Lisa

    I think I may just be an anime otaku, not a weeaboo, but, what do you think?

    I cook mostly Japanese food because I like the taste, and also because it generally doesn’t contain any gluten, to which I’m mildly sensitive. It’s even in my twitter icon pic.

    I drink a lot of Japanese tea, and some Indian tea, because damn, that stuff is tasty.

    I practice Aikido. This is one of those life-list things; bullied as a grade-schooler, I always wanted to learn a martial art someday. When I hit middle age I figured if I didn’t do it now, I never would. Aikido is an art that can be comparatively mild on the body for an older person, and that is more defensive than aggressive, which suits my disposition.

    My family room is decorated with Japanese post-war uchio-e because I’m too poor to waste money on art and my dad had it languishing in his garage ever since a trip to Japan in the 1960’s.

    I own the complete animes of Noein, Tactics, the first series of Saiyuki, and Samurai Champloo, and anime makes up about 30% of my Netflix diet. The only manga I buy is Tactics volumes (which come out about once a year), because I like all the fairy-tale creatures that come up in it.

    I’ve studied almost 2 years of Japanese, for fun at a Jr. College, because I thought it would help me enjoy anime more and because it would be nice to be able to have simple conversations with Aikido teachers who come from Japan occasionally to teach seminars. When I was young, languages came easily, but with Japanese I’ve had a really hard time.

    I drive a Honda because they’re a reliable brand.

    So, I have a lot of Japanese stuff in my life, but it’s not because I want to be Japanese. It’s for a lot of separate reasons.

    Bad stuff about Japan? Stiflingly inflexible social structure. Misogyny. Cetacean murders. Racism…They’re nice people as individuals but can ‘go off the rails’ in large groups. Imho.

  • kuyaChristian

    I frequent this blog to read user-submitted horror stories of weeaboos and sometimes the horrors of weebs in conventions. Pretty interesting. Boils my blood whenever I see weebs.

  • peppergrass

    Maybe it’s because I’m over 40, but I know pretty much zero about anime and manga, never did any cosplay, no interest in any of that. I do like most of the Studio Ghibli films, have studied some Japanese poetic forms, and am attracted to a lot of Japanese design. I’m learning more about Japanese cuisine, and have begun learning the Japanese language because I’d love to travel there one day and perhaps teach English for a year or two. I’d also like to be able to enjoy haiku/hokku in its original language.

  • pickaname

    You forgot those almost-cosplayers, who moan about their eyes not being enough asian, when they should worry about their fat butt first.

  • ^__^

    I think people may like the Japanese culture (or some other culture) because they identify with it more than their own culture. Maybe they enjoy the food better, agree with the different views (a different and enlightening perspective), or started a cultural activity (such as martial arts) that they really enjoy, which gets them interested in foreign movies and/or culture.

    However, I think we tend to subconsciously view the new culture as “perfect” and superior to all other cultures because we don’t want the enjoyment in experiencing and learning more about the new culture to be destroyed. We don’t want others to say bad things about the culture because we then have to reconsider our views and adjust them accordingly.

    What many people don’t realize, however, is that no one is perfect. In my opinion, each person needs to concentrate on what they believe and enjoy as an individual regardless of what others think and say about those beliefs and experiences. As long as each person has no regrets for their views and actions, they should be happy and not care what anyone, no matter the reason, says.

  • BA Matthews (Fey)

    I may be a recovering weeaboo. I must admit, I love Japanese culture, not just the anime. I have a few sets of Fox ears and cosplay items but no full outfits. I watch almost equal amounts anime to english tv shows (not because they’re anime but because they actually have a plot and many English shows right now don’t). I tried to learn the language because I had ideas of becoming a manga artist (though that fell through) and because it just sounds so gorgeous (I’m telling you, Spanish and Japanese are just sexy languages). I’m not kick ass on “it’s better because its Japanese” though my friends still say that I obviously should have been born in Japan. *Baby Steps*

  • moemura

    I think this is an appropriate place to plug former otaku finch, the advice animal who is filled with embarrassment over their past weeaboo tendencies:

  • Ashley Haley

    Very well-said.

  • maybe more

    If you have to ask if you’re a weeb, you’re probably a weeb.

  • 太ったアメリカ人

    Hmm, I don’t know. I love Japanese music except for most J-pop. I’m not into anime or manga, but I did recently watch the entire first Naruto series in less than a week. I don’t collect Japanese trinkets & stuff, but seek out info, photos, and videos of Japan online every chance I get. I find Japanese girls to be beautiful, but not generally moreso than any other given nationality. I eat the hell out of sushi, but have never bothered to try nabemono (yes I’ve bought pocky). I build a ton of Japanese model kits, but none are robot warriors. And I’m trying to learn Japanese for no productive reason I can come up with. So, weeaboo, otaku, or just a baka gaijin?

  • MrsSpooky

    I think Reptic has it: “I think a good rule of thumb perhaps is that weeaboos actually wish they were Japanese and sort of reject their own culture, whereas most otakus really like anime (and probably think it’s superior to other forms of animation) but I don’t think they would go that far. ”

    I do vastly prefer Japanese anime over the domestic variety and I do vastly prefer it in the original language – for a number of reasons, not because that language happens to be Japanese. I am learning Japanese including how to read it – I have some Cowboy Bebop art books I can’t read, and I’ve been WANTING to learn a second language and wasn’t getting anywhere with Spanish, Russian or Irish Gaelic, so thought Japanese would be cool. Right now learning Japanese is my hobby that anime helps with. I have anime posters and wall scrolls, manga, anime and figurines and plushies all over the house. I also have a shileleigh – still very proud of being Irish.

    That said, I’ve been called a ‘weeaboo’ more than once by people who only know me from messages I’ve posted on an anime message board. Personally, I think of “weeaboo” as being the mating call of the pimple-faced online douchebag. xD

  • MrsSpooky

    BTW, this was an awesome posting, thanks! From the sounds of things, people are called “weeaboos” by people who are annoyed by someone’s obviously love for Japan and things Japanese. I wouldn’t consider being called “weeaboo” by someone as being proof that you are.

  • Fee_Fi_Fiona

    No self-respecting Weeaboos would waste time on girlfriends when there’s so much anime to watch! LOL

  • nagz

    strange for me, i am neither but still can be very obsessive and why?

    i love japanese cookery but i Hate seafood, always hated it (to top that, i excluded meat from my diet for some time now). I love a few ghibli films (about 2-3) but generally i LOATHE anime/manga, like this, with capital letters. i just… don’t like them, find them irritating. japanese horror? oh yea, everyone loves them.. Except for me. silly real action movies like survive style 5+ (thanks for that!) and funky forest are the keepers for me. what else.. japanese cars? i am not a car person at all. “oh, it must be the language… you know, the vocabulary, or how it sounds” – i don’t know Any of those, i could recall about 6 japanese words if i must but i am at about kanji nr. #1300 in the RTK1 book, mastered all so far. why? because why not, good for a braintease. Also interested in japanese aesthetics, japanese buddhism and some other aspects – but still, find their history a bit shaky.

    Am I a weird person?

  • nagz

    “haha you’re a rice king then! you love asiam women”
    well honestly, if i Really had to generalize and pick a woman of all explicitly separated races, i’d pick asian women last :)

  • Fee_Fi_Fiona

    Most definitely not a Weeaboo, IMHO. Japanophile maybe?

  • This guy called Drew

    Personally, as for anime, I only find it better than western cartoons in art style. For food, I just like the taste. Music and learning the language itself, you ask? The language is pleasing to the ears and, in writing, is pleasing to the eye.
    By the way, I’ve actually been WAITING for you guys to make this kind of post. lulz.

  • Fee_Fi_Fiona

    “However, I think we tend to subconsciously view the new culture as “perfect” and superior” Ah yes, the old greener grass thing.

  • Fee_Fi_Fiona

    Hey if there’s a particular topic you want us to write about, let us know! I’d definitely try to accommodate if I can : )

  • Fee_Fi_Fiona

    Totally agree on the haiku/hokku front. Poetic descriptions just don’t translate very well.

  • Lisa

    Japanophile? Maybe. As stated, there are elements of Japan that I don’t like, though my overall opinion is favorable.

  • Brittany

    I am so glad I’m not any of that. I don’t know how anybody can really live like that.. (watched the ‘weaboo’ video, and the ‘otaku’ video.) I love anime, generally because the art is usually better than American cartoons. I’ll admit I get upset or start yelling at the show but… other than that, that’s it.

    Also, I am learning Japanese. However, all the sites I go on to learn it, there are people saying, “Oh, that’s so not kawaii!” or “That is not how you say it, baka desu.” Then, there are others that keep repeating ‘desu’ at the end of every sentence and claiming themselves as ‘totally kawaii desu.’. The Japanese language is easier to learn, and personally, it’s a very beautiful language but if people are going to just straight up disgrace the language by doing all this….

    Should I even keep learning?

  • Jeremy Rawley

    I used to be a huge anime fan but I’ve never been to any cons nor have I ever been a weeaboo. I still watch anime, just not as much as I used to. If they think anime is all far better than Western product, they need to remember that Japan makes as many bad cartoons as we do. (Moe, ecchi, visual novel adaptations that aren’t based on Nasuverse/Key properties, and long-running shounen epics are holding the medium back.)

    The people who claim that Japan can do no wrong should go look up the following things: Comfort women, Bataan Death March, Unit 731, Korea under Japanese rule, Rape of Nanking, Manchukuo, Yasukuni Shrine, and Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. They’ll change their tune–that country needs to take a lesson from Germany and go through some de-Nazification. (Turkey, too, given the Armenian genocides and their government’s treatment of Kurds.)

    And what’s with the body pillows and people marrying anime/game characters? Is Japan really that ronery of a country? You can’t have sex with anime and video game characters!

  • 古戸ヱリカ

    You know, going too far in the opposite direction is just as bad.

  • This guy called Drew

    Personally, I’m mostly into the language right now, so some reviews of different sources and an updated language learning resources post would be great! Maybe even a resource center if you’d like to get all fancy.

  • This guy called Drew

    lulz I just noticed I said “personally” as the beginning of my post twice in a row.

  • 古戸ヱリカ

    One of the posts links back to Tofugu. There is no escape!

  • Milán Marsi

    Ehm, well… I don’t know if the bingo table or the points above are definitive or not, but if they are… I have a problem.

    By the way, to be honest I can’t understand what’s the problem with preferring japanese subbed versions to the dubbed ones. I mean the only anime I’ve watched that was really good in english was Death Note. That being said, I think it was even better than the original one, they nailed L’s voice. I’m not saying that anyone who watches only dubbed anime are “not true fans” or even “idiots”, it’s just that I think the original things are mostly better than the translated/dubbed ones. I’m not a native english speaker but I read and watch american things in english whenever I can because they’re vastly superior to their localized counterparts.

    Just my two cents though, if you can sense even the slightest weeabooism from my comment, then I need to see a therapist… anyone knows a good one?

  • 古戸ヱリカ

    Now I feel embarrassed reading such personal stuff.

  • Julie

    Just for using the phrase “baka gaijin” I’d call you a weeaboo.

  • Sarah-chan

    OMG I said “yes” to almost all the things on the bingo board

  • Copola

    I am commenting on this because I don’t really agree with this article.
    My view on a weeaboo is that they are obsessed with Japanese culture past a certain line. A regular Otaku appreciates Japanese culture but doesn’t go around town calling everyone blah-san and blahblah-chan. That’s the first sign of the weeaboo. Yes, saying kawaii in public or with your friends and you aren’t speaking Japanese makes you a weeaboo.
    After that go to their grammar weeaboo’s really stick out to me when they type. “;A; NO WAY MAI FAV ANIMES WERE CANCELED, NYA???” I know this because I used to be a weeb, looking back I almost can’t believe it but it’s true.
    Lastly I personally believe you are not an otaku if you only watch main-stream things in English. If you don’t watch any anime as it comes out or if you don’t look out for new anime seasons, you obviously aren’t a very serious anime fan and added with any of the above plus the occasional “DEATH NOTE IS TEH BEST ANIME”, you’re a weeaboo. Its okay to like watching anime, and if you actually like it then you will be on the lookout for currently airing anime, that isn’t considered weeaboo.
    Also having an anime character as your facebook profile picture… Thats about as weeb-y as you can get.
    Going to conventions and cosplaying doesn’t automatically make you a weeaboo, but I’d say about 50% of the people that do go are weeaboo’s.

  • ZXNova

    That weeaboo chart before is kind of dumb, cause *cough*whatifyou’retryingtolearnjapanese*cough* There isn’t anything wrong with knowing the honorifics and phrases. Also, I purposely consider a weeaboo a person who rejects their own culture and wish they were absolutely Japanese, and just want to be Japanese so bad, and stuff. And usually, they only watch one particular Anime and completely obsess over the series. Like Hetalia. Weeaboos may go either way on the dub/sub wars. (I personally prefer subs, cause learning Japanese, my choice though) A person who wishes their life was an Anime isn’t necessarily a weeaboo, but rather an extreme Otaku or a hardcore cosplayer. Weeaboo needs to have a more solid definition, yo.

  • Lion

    Proud weeaboo since I discovered what vajayjay is. Gross!

  • Kitty Amrita

    My basic rule is: if you feel compelled to prove you’re not a weeaboo, you are one.

  • lychalis

    that sounds more like weeabritish speak and I must start doing it :3

  • lychalis

    Heh, I don’t consider myself a weeaboo, although I keep wondering if I am, cause I do like anime, but don’t watch a lot of it and thus am mostly ignorant of it. I’m properly trying to learn japanese, although thanks to nano and essays I’ve fallen behind (catching up over the weekend ^^)

    I’m really fascinated by japanese culture and history, and am planning on researching the mythology at some point soon (because I was interested in mythology anyway, wot) – and in fact that’s why I find this site so handy, as I can learn about japan through articles/blog posts written in an entertaining and accessible manner. (In fact, I’m not entirely sure where this stemmed from, it just always seemed cool and/or interesting and then one day BAM OHAITHAR WEEABOO)

    Also, mainly due to the fact that I’ve always wanted to learn a martial art, I am currently learning jujitsu at my university, although the low price is big win, too – because it’s just a little more immersion, I guess?

    Also, I am set on going to Japan once I graduate, but I want to be sure I can speak the language decently first “^_^

    But yeah, I’m aware that there’s bad stuff about japan, for starters winters would be the worst for me since I like being warm, and also my mum seems to have put me against japanese cars by constantly telling me that they’re rubbish, emotionless and yeah just don’t buy them – but really, I can’t figure out what’s wrong with them. And finally, apparently if I go to japan and attempt to teach english (I won’t. I’d be rubbish), I’ll get murdered. Wheeeeee.

    In other notes, Japanese sweets beat English sweets any day. :D

  • lychalis

    pretty good rule of thumb, I reckon

  • 古戸ヱリカ

    I’m actually a little terrified of cars that aren’t emotionless. Unless that car is K.I.T.T., then it’s OK.

  • 太ったアメリカ人

    Well, at least now I know…

  • Lisa

    Now that I’ve googled Tadanobu Asano’s picture, I may emulate your “friend”‘s fantasy…

  • Lisa

    You do realize “baka gaijin” was a title of a recent article here….so maybe not so much ‘weeaboo’ as ‘tofugu reader’.

  • Lisa

    Lol! I would *like* to cosplay (if I could find a character in my age demographic) because, who *doesn’t* like a costume party. But my weight has convinced me otherwise.

    I have seen pictures of cosplay gone bad, and sadly, what has been seen cannot be unseen. I’ll not contribute to that!