In the Western world, anime/manga fans are commonly referred to as otaku (Hiragana: おたく, Katakana: オタク). [1] In Japanese however, this is a (mildly) derogatory word for a geek, nerd, or any person who has obsessive interests "to the exclusion of such things as social interaction".[2]

Does the Japanese language have any terms to refer to people of the anime/manga fandom in a non-derogatory manner?

  • I think the term "fandom" ends up as a loanword in Japanese (fandamu, ファンダム). As for specific fans, I've seen that used as a loanword too (fan, ファン).
    – Cat
    Commented Jul 13, 2015 at 22:54
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    Oh, sorry. I meant to imply that you could prepend anime to that. アニメ・ファン, for example.
    – Cat
    Commented Jul 13, 2015 at 23:04
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    Related Commented Jul 13, 2015 at 23:05
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    Just wondering,since you're from the same country as me,but did you ever have someone call you otaku who wasn't into Japanese comics him/herself?My experience here has been that they either know of the word otaku and love japan(ese comics) or laugh at you for liking cartoons (regardless of origin as they don't know/care).My point being that otaku can be both derogatory as not, similar to the word "nerd".It all depends on context and the intention of the speaker. Since there is no non-derogatory equivalent of the word "nerd" either, I don't think there is one for otaku as it can be both anyway. Commented Jul 13, 2015 at 23:30
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    I think this is more so a language question than a culture one, so I'm opting to migrate it to the nice folks at Japanese.SE. Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 0:28

3 Answers 3


The safest neutral phrase is ○○ファン (e.g. アニメファン / 漫画ファン / アニメやゲームのファン / etc), which is widely used both by otaku and non-otaku people. This can be safely used with non-otaku hobbies, too (e.g. サッカーファン, 将棋ファン). This is definitely the first choice, for example when you write a news article introducing (favorably) an otaku event in mass media. Other common possibilities include ○○愛好家【あいこうか】 and ○○好【ず】き, which are suitable in news articles, but people do not use these often in casual settings. Here's an example taken from 徳島新聞:

アニメの祭典「マチ★アソビ」の第13弾と「アニメ映画祭」は最終日の12日、徳島市中心部でコスプレ愛好家によるショーなどが行われた。台風19号の影響で開催期間が1日短縮されたものの、県内外のアニメファンが街に繰り出し、イベントを盛り上げた。(2014/10/13 徳島新聞)

Note that real Japanese "cosplayers" normally call themselves コスプレイヤー, レイヤー or コスプレファン, but not コスプレ愛好家.

オタク sounds derogatory only when this is used by people who have a prejudiced view of オタク. Many otaku take pride in being オタク, and call each other オタク (or オタ for short) all the time. When Tarō Asō, former Prime Minister of Japan, made a speech in Akihabara, he said "秋葉原のオタクの皆さん、こんにちは" and the audience applauded, because he was thought to be a sympathizer of otaku culture in those days. But if a different politician had said the same thing, people in Akihabara might have felt offended.

サブカルチャー(サブカル) is a kind of "academic" term to euphemistically refer to so-called オタク文化. (Wikipedia says that there is a discrepancy between Japanese サブカルチャー and English 'subculture', but I'm not sure about that.) Researchers sometimes use this when they don't feel like using オタク/オタク文化 frequently in their academic papers. Unfortunately, this term is not preferred by otaku people themselves, probably because such researchers do not necessarily understand the otaku culture from the heart, and tend to make pointless "analysis". If you introduced yourself saying something like サブカルが好き, people might wonder if you are really an otaku.

○○マニア used to be a neutral word which simply meant 'a big fan' in Japanese. But recently it often carries a negative nuance in Japan, too. For example you can read this Wikipedia article discussing the difference between 鉄道マニア, 鉄道オタク and 鉄道ファン in Japanese.

  • I agree that サブカルが好き as a phrase sounds very unnatural, but the word サブカルチャー is used fairly frequently as a preferred term in casual speech among the 50~80 members of the manga/anime student club I am a part of at a 国立七大学, not simply in academic writing (none of them write on the subject academically, so far as I am aware), whereas I haven't often heard them refer to themselves as otaku. Of course this is a single microcosm that isn't representative of all Japanese manga fans nationwide, but neither should it be discounted as "this term is not preferred by otaku people themselves." ;-)
    – seijitsu
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 14:20
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    I'm not totally sure what サブカル refers to, but I won't be surprised if, for example, the members of 東京大学アニメーション研究会 likes to externally appear to be サブカル系 than オタク. That's how they survive as an official circle of the university. In addition, I feel サブカル系 has a broader sense and there are many people who can be called サブカル系 (in its original, Western sense) but not オタク系/アキバ系. For example, "下北沢系" people are probably サブカル系 but not オタク.
    – naruto
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 15:08
  • Interesting perspective. I admit I don't know the campus culture at 東大, but my campus has a manga circle, anime circle, gaming circle, Pokemon-specific circle (video gaming/CCG), board game circle, 鉄子 circle, and dozens of others, and I've never gotten a sense that any of the otaku-ish circles feel they have to survive as official circles and/or intentionally make themselves appear academic externally, as if we naturally ought to feel self-conscious to be among the likes of our 華道、書道、居合道、バドミントン、オリエンテーリング、 etc. other circles. A literary manga club is certainly a way to go but we're not that.
    – seijitsu
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 16:11
  • Those are typical 大学公認のサブカル系サークル, and that's where the euphemistic word "サブカル系" is needed for the practical reasons. Identifying themselves as オタク系サークル at university is, er, too direct.
    – naruto
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 16:50

I think 「〜[好]{ず}き」 is a common expression in Japan these days.

If someone likes anime very much, s/he is 「アニメ[好]{ず}き」. The usage example is http://news.mynavi.jp/articles/2015/06/21/ibayashi/

If someone likes manga very much, s/he is 「マンガ[好]{ず}き」. The usage example is https://www.booklista.co.jp/feature/harajyuku/


アニメ[好]{ず}き does not mean exactly the same as アニメオタク. アニメ好き represents a person who really likes アニメ. So, all アニメオタク are some kinds of アニメ好き, but some アニメ好き are not オタク or オタク-level.

〜[好]{ず}き has a broader meaning, so it's used not to precisely categorize people as オタク, ファン etc, or not to judge people's passion and knowledge levels. The word expresses a simple fact that the person is who likes it very much, no more no less. I think that's why 〜好き is preferred in everyday conversation in many cases.

Maybe, Twitter is not a perfect example for everyday conversation, but for a sort of reference, https://goo.gl/DzCYGm

By the way, if アニメ好き is read 「アニメすき」, it means 「アニメが[好]{す}き」 or 「アニメが[好]{す}きな」. What I'm explaining here is 「アニメずき」 which is a compound noun. Tweet examples contain both types.

Some people really hate being categorized as オタク, like this questioner's friend. http://detail.chiebukuro.yahoo.co.jp/qa/question_detail/q14107008004 So in this kind of case, 「〜[好]{ず}き」 is appropriate to use, even though the person's passion and knowledge are オタク-level actually.

The border between オタク and non-オタク is unclear in many situations, and オタク people are diverse. There are beginner-level オタク people, Kami(神)-level オタク people, and between-level オタク people. Some オタク don't accept beginner-level オタク as genuine オタク. It's complicating because many people have their own opinions about the border. So, saying アニメ好き might be useful in avoiding a conflict with a オタク or non-オタク person who has a strong belief about the border and the meaning of the word.

Please note that アニメ好き, マンガ好き and other 〜好き are essentially good words, however, it's possible that people having a prejudice use these words in a derogatory manner as explained by narutoさん.

My answer is a closer look at 「〜[好]{ず}き」, because I think this compound word is acceptable for most Japanese people, commonly used in everyday conversation, and proper in various situations.

  • This is quite true, though the OP's question was "Are there any terms used to refer to people of the anime/manga fandom in a non-derogatory manner?" and I had already included this term within the list of terms given in my answer (to clarify it in my list, I've added "suki/zuki" as yomikata). If you disagree with the rest of my answer, then please make an argument against the other parts of it in order to demonstrate that only 好き out of that list is apt (along the lines of how naruto respectfully did). Without that, I'm not sure of the value of your adding this as an additional answer. ;-)
    – seijitsu
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 14:33
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    @seijitsu Other people seem to see value in this answer. Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 14:47
  • @seijitsu I find this answer of value because it's concise, and doesn't just quote an answer to another (even if similar) question. While your answer is technically an answer to my question, I feel that it was useful to provide a published example to show that the word is commonly used.
    – lesderid
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 17:17
  • @seijitsu That said, your edit did add a lot of useful information, so you got an upvote from me.
    – lesderid
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 17:39
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    @seijitsuさん、I considered if this should be a comment or an answer. Then I realized what I was trying to describe had a different perspective from yours. I edited my answer and made it clear just before now. I also thought that the 「好き」 in your answer is an adjectival-verb example because there was only "suki" for yomigana at that time. So, my purpose was to write about compound noun version 好き from the perspective. My answer is not against other people's answers. The point of my answer is different from yours. Commented Jul 15, 2015 at 0:56

Yes, the preferred term is a person who is involved in "subculture."

From my answer to a related question:

The current generation of young adult anime/manga fans in Japan are still viewed as oddball by others; they have not reached the level of acceptance by society at large that Western otaku enjoy (for example, the popularity of the TV sitcom The Big Bang Theory or that in American people could mention in passing that they're going to a con or RenFair this weekend and many others won't judge them for it). However, the demographic is not as negatively viewed as it was in past generations. Now, they might jokingly refer to themselves as otaku.

But the Japanese adults who are unabashed anime/manga fans do not usually refer to themselves as otaku, but rather prefer using the term 「サブカルチャー」(subculture), or 「サブカル」(sabukaru) for short, to describe their interest and what they are involved in. This term, rather than focusing on oneself, focuses on being part of a group that differentiates itself from the parent culture to which it belongs in particular, intentional ways. This usage of subculture is used not only for anime/manga fans but for other demographics of Japanese people, such as those interested in the occult, clubbing, or reggae, which are likewise not mainstream hobbies in Japan.

This is the main word used by the "Manga and Illustration Research Society" student club at my Japanese university. Excerpt from an email sent on the student club email mailing list:



It was subsequently referred to as


I seriously doubt that the word "subculture" originated among the international students who requested the event since 田村さん mentioned that they had specifically requested an event about 「日本のマンガやアニメ」; likely, the Japanese club member who wrote the email for the club mailing list changed whatever the international students referred to it as (i.e., 「日本のマンガやアニメ」[anime and manga] or 「オタクのカルチャー」[anime and manga fandom]) into 「サブカル」 in order to pitch it to the club members at large.

Other Considerations

I have heard「マニアック」(maniac) tacked onto the name of a specific series title or 専門家 (senmonka = specialization) within the subculture (i.e., 「プリティーリズムマニアック!」("I'm a Pretty Rhythm maniac!" while pointing at oneself) or「ボーカロイドマニアックです」 (I'm a vocaloid maniac) but this is not usually tacked onto 漫画 and アニメ since those are more generally assumed as the base of the subculture. Of course, this is not derogatory but it's casual speech which isn't appropriate for formal occasions.

Rather than call a person something like "is a Pokemon fan," Japanese are more likely to make a statement about the person or the thing the person likes; for example: 「ポケモンに夢中」(Pokemon ni muchuu = is into Pokemon/crazy about Pokemon),「ポケモンマニア」(has Pokemon mania), or phrases like「に興味がある」(ni kyoumi ga aru = interested in),「に興味深い」(kyoumibukai = deep interested in),「好き」(suki/zuki = like), or「いいよね〜」(ii yo ne = is great, isn't it?).

I rarely, if ever, hear the words 「ファン」(fan) and 「大ファン」(dai fan) tossed around to describe oneself or one's friend in this context. I have never heard the word 「ファンダム」(fandamu) used once. 

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    – naruto
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 3:57

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