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.
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?
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.
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